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#1948 - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - Editor: Jerry

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  • Jerry Katz
    #1948 - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - Editor: Jerry Highlights Home Page and Archive: http://nonduality.com/hlhome.htm Letter to the Editors: Click Reply on
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      #1948 - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - Editor: Jerry
      Highlights Home Page and Archive: http://nonduality.com/hlhome.htm
      Letter to the Editors: Click 'Reply' on your email program, compose your message, and 'Send'. All the editors will see your letter.

      Vicki Woodyard

      Swami and I have a prayer together every morning; it is for our own centering that we pray.  Swami feels that being off-center is a bigger sin than almost anything else.  He insists that we sit on folding chairs with our backs straight and our head bowed. We let our hands hang loose in our laps.

      Silence is the centering mechanism for both of us.  It is like putting a level on a crooked picture.  The silence levels the inner life right up because what is off-bubble is screaming for your attention. It feels like a brown shoe in a white shoe world.  We look at the brown shoe and with focused energy on it, we breathe it out and let it go. We continue breathing until there are only white shoes left.  Don't take this too literally; since Swami usually wears slippers.

      As we sit in silence together, I feel the love that Swami exudes with every breath he takes.  This tiny man has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  How I drew him to me is the biggest mystery of all.

      The silence extends into the other rooms of the house.  Our bedrooms, the hall, kitchen and living room are touched by the soundlessness arising from within our hearts.  My heart is not as big as Swami's but it is beating in harmony with his.  That gives me hope and the knowledge that for everything there is a season.  Swami's silliness over celebrity is just another game for the old man.  He knows how radically all who love him are changed.  It is nothing that he does, of course.  You know this by now.  It is what he is that changes people.

      When we stand up, we hear our bodies creaking.  Swami is the first to break the silence.  "Well, Vicki," he says with vim, vigor and vitality, "let's eat!"  I head for the kitchen, knowing that the cinnamon rolls are begging to be buttered. I can hardly wait.

      P.S.  For those of you who don't know or keep forgetting, Swami is a fictional character and I take no responsibility for what he does when I am off duty.  If he gets under your skin or into your heart, don't tell me.  Tell him.  Talk about a guru throwing you back on yourself....

      Vicki Woodyard


      The Pleasantries of Krishnamurphy
      a work in progress
      by Gabriel Rosenstock
      Krishnamurphy and the Mullah
      The Mullah Nasrudin called on Krishnamurphy.
      'I would like to have a look at your followers,' he said.
      'Line up!' said Krishnamurphy.
      The Mullah whistled in astonishment and stood in silence for a while.
      'What a sorry lot! In heaven's name, Krishnamurphy, what are you feeding them on?'
      'Well, you know … they need to be sharp, so … we don't fill our bellies here, Nasrudin!'
       ' Rubbish! I am inviting all of them over to my place this evening for a proper meal.'
      'OK,' said Krishnamurphy, 'I might get a little peace around here.'
      The Mullah and his donkey went off in a cloud of dust.
      'Well?' said Krishnamurphy when the disciples returned later that evening, 'how was the meal?'
      'It was meant to be mutton,' said a disciple, 'but it wasn't.'
      'It was a ram!' shouted another. They all seemed to be either excited or deflated to an unusual degree.
      'A bloody old ram!'
      'Yes, the Mullah's pet ram had died of advanced arthritis - '
      'And sundry other ailments -  '
      'Tough as old boots he was!'
      'Chewing for an hour I was …'
       'I got horribly sick …'
      Krishnamurphy interrupted this sad litany.
      'Dear oh dear. Did he not offer any sauces or condiments?'
      'I beg your pardon?'
      'Ash!' said an ashen-faced disciple.
      'Vibhutti, sacred ash!' said another.
      'Nonsense. Nothing of the kind. Some kind of fine volcanic ash. Disgusting!' said a third.
      'Totally weird, man!' said a fourth.
      'Hmmm …' said Krishnamurphy. 'How very strange. Did he - at least - offer some spiritual fare, some words of wisdom, perhaps?'
      'Nothing. Zilch!'
      'Just giggled. The man's insane!'
      'Yeah, just giggled all the time, watching us eat. Didn't touch it himself, of course. And when we got up to go, all he said was, 'Better than Krishnamurphy's ashram, eh?'

      ~ ~ ~

      The Buddha
      Disciple:  Why is the Buddha called 'The Awakened One'?
      Krishnamurphy:   Because he anticipated all of you sleepy heads!

      Disciple:               What is the meaning of your haiku,
         fuchsia -
          tears of Christ
           visited by wasps
      Krishnamurphy:    Which bit don't you understand?
         War and Peace
      Disciple:   Why do we have wars?
      Krishnamurphy:  'The world is enveloped in ignorance,' so says the Ajitamanava Puccha.
      Disciple:   Can we end wars?
      Krishnamurphy:   When the world is no longer enveloped in ignorance.
      Disciple:   That might take some time.
      Krishnamurphy:    I have all the time in the world.
      The Forest Sages
      Disciple:   In your wonderful discourse on the -
      Krishnamurphy:  Stop right there! No praise, please. The Muni Suffa says, 'Tranquil indeed the sage who steadfastly walks alone, unmoved by blame and by praise'. You were saying?
      Disciple:  In your … not so wonderful discourses on the forest sages of Thailand, you mentioned Ajan Chan. I'm just wondering, is he any relation of Jackie Chan?
      Krishnamurphy:  Best question I've heard this morning!
      Disciple:   What should I be doing?
      Krishnamurphy:  What do you mean, what should you be doing? Scratching if you have an itch, chanting if you are into bhakti, repairing the toilet if you have any interest at all in this ashram. Need I go on?
      Disciple:  I mean, I'm not sure what I'm doing here, listening to you.
      Krishnamurphy:  I'm not sure what I'm doing here, talking to you.
      Disciple:   But surely -
      Krishnamurphy:  Yes?
      Disciple:  Seriously, what is it I should be doing? What should I do with my life?
      Krishnamurphy:  Butcher? Baker? Candlestick maker? Your choice! You could be President of the United States of America! You could be me, up here, and I could be listening to you. Does it matter what you do? The Dhammapada says: 'Engineers fashion wells, carpenters fashion wood, the wise fashion themselves.'
      Disciple:  Ah, thank you! I think I will become a fashion designer!

      Seeking the font of wisdom

      Psychologists explore traits, experiences that enable some to transcend self

      05:45 PM CDT on Sunday, October 10, 2004

      By KAREN PATTERSON / The Dallas Morning News

      HONOLULU – Some pretty smart people are trying to figure out just what wisdom is.

      One definition of wisdom, for instance, focuses on its practical side – a mastery of day-to-day life, the ability to make good judgments and grasp limitations.

      Another is more abstract, suggesting that wise people see beyond their own affairs to humanity's greater whole.

      Psychologists are peering into the many facets of wisdom, trying not only to sort out various ways to define it, but also to answer questions such as whether it is related to spirituality, gender, culture or even childhood experiences.

      "In the last 10 to 15 years there's been a lot of interest in wisdom," said developmental psychologist Carolyn Aldwin of Oregon State University. Dr. Aldwin helped lead a series of studies known as the Wisdom Project, based at the University of California, Davis.

      One clue to comprehending wisdom can come from the sort of people who are widely considered wise, said Linda Kelly of Cal-Davis. Surveys asking for the names of wise people repeatedly turn up spiritual figures such as the Dalai Lama, the pope, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa, Ms. Kelly said this summer in Honolulu, at a meeting of the American Psychological Association.

      But few studies examine whether spirituality and wisdom are connected, she said.

      Spirituality is not the same thing as religiousness, Ms. Kelly noted. Spiritual people have been represented as "seekers," she said. They are explorers who create their own sense of truth. And they are not bound by religious tradition in connecting with the sacred, whether it be God, nature, or some other higher power.

      By contrast, religious people have been characterized as "dwellers," Ms. Kelly said. They are inhabitants of the space created by established religious institutions, and they relate to the sacred through being part of a community of like-minded people.

      To test whether religiousness or spirituality could predict practical wisdom, Ms. Kelly and her colleagues studied almost 1,000 Cal-Davis alumni, ages 23 to 74, for signs of either trait. The scientists also assessed the subjects' coping skills, and such things as their feelings of mastery over life's events.

      As it turned out, feelings of mastery were the best predictor of wisdom – followed by coping skills that involved taking positive actions; advancing age; not attending religious services; and spirituality, which the team found contributed modestly.

      "It does appear that there is some sort of relationship between spirituality and practical wisdom," Ms. Kelly said. As seekers, spiritual people "tend to search for knowledge, which is similar behavior to those who are described as being wise."

      Other research presented in Honolulu supports the idea that women may be more likely to exhibit another factor that appears related to wisdom, a quality known as self-transcendence.

      Self-transcendence is the ability to stop being preoccupied with one's own life and instead focus more intensely on others and the whole of humanity, said Patricia Jennings of the University of California, San Francisco.

      Several studies have suggested that women are more likely than men to be self-transcendent, said Dr. Jennings. She and colleagues from Boston's VA Healthcare System and Fordham University tested that idea in an exclusively aged population.

      Some 1,100 older participants – more than two-thirds of them men – gave information about their lives today compared with 10 years ago. The survey measured self-transcendence with statements such as "I am more likely to engage in quiet contemplation," and alienation with statements like "I feel my life has less meaning."

      The women (whose average age was 69) indeed tended to be more self-transcendent than the men (average age 73), the study found. Some experts have suggested that women may score higher for self-transcendence because an ability to relate to and feel for others is central to their own identities, Dr. Jennings explained.

      Other results indicated that men experience self-transcendence differently than women. For instance, to the researchers' surprise, men who were more alienated were also more likely to be self-transcendent.

      Cultural differences

      Scientists are also exploring how wisdom differs across cultures. In Western societies, wisdom seems more directed at logic and pragmatics – that is, how best to achieve the good life, said Thao Le of Cal-Davis. Eastern cultures appear more concerned with transcendent wisdom – with its focus on transforming consciousness, and setting oneself free of objects and beliefs. "It's about personal insight, developing self-knowledge, and even questions of does the self really exist?" Dr. Le said.

      She evaluated two groups of about 100 subjects each – European Americans and Vietnamese immigrants – for qualities of practical and transcendent wisdom, expecting that the European group would score higher for practical wisdom, and the Vietnamese higher for transcendent wisdom.

      She also suspected that people with either type of wisdom would be more likely to have positive personality traits such as openness and values such as benevolence, and less likely to have traits like neuroticism and values centered on power, conformity and security. "Wisdom is really about change and transformation," Dr. Le said.

      The study found that people with higher levels of openness were more likely to have practical or transcendent wisdom, and that the more people embraced values like conformity and security, the less likely they were to rate highly for practical or transcendent wisdom.

      The European Americans scored higher on practical wisdom, but no difference was found between the groups in transcendent wisdom, once education levels were taken into account.

      While there are some ethnic differences regarding wisdom, Dr. Le concluded, "there seems to be some evidence that it is universal."

      Beginning of wisdom

      Yet psychologists aren't just trying to see where to find wisdom. They hope to trace where wisdom begins. Some researchers, for instance, have explored whether it's rooted in childhood experiences.

      Adversity in childhood has consistently been linked to problems in adulthood. But many people who undergo traumatic events at any age find them transformative in a positive way, said Loriena Yancura of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

      "So what makes the difference between these two outcomes?" Dr. Yancura asked. She and colleagues suspected that childhood adversity with no real support from friends or family would lead to alienation, while adversity with support would foster self-transcendence.

      The team studied data on the childhood experiences of almost 600 men ages 57 to 96. Were they ever quarantined for an illness? Did they suffer poverty? Parental divorce? Death of a sibling? Serious illness or injury? Verbal abuse? Whippings?

      And, did they get emotional support from parents or grandparents, teachers, siblings or friends?

      Six years later, the subjects' levels of self-transcendence and alienation were measured. Was their peace of mind harder to upset than it used to be? Did material things mean less than they once did? Or did the subjects feel lonely, or that life lacked meaning?

      The older the men were, the more likely they were to be alienated, Dr. Yancura reported, but the more support they received, the less likely they were to be alienated. Also, the more support they had, the more likely they were to be self-transcendent.

      In short, childhood adversity by itself doesn't influence wisdom-related psychological growth in late life, Dr. Yancura said. And, she added, positive experiences, such as support from others, "had surprisingly long-term effects."




      The language of powerlessness
      by David Lewis, Collegian columnist
      October 14, 2004

      There is a growing trend of mainstream American culture taking over the subcultures that criticize and oppose it. By providing a forum, capital, and a broader audience, the mainstream lures fresh and potentially revolutionary subcultures into its folds until the two are no longer distinguishable. In the same way that the white mainstream stole jazz, blues, and rock from African-Americans over 50 years ago, the artistic expressions of the disenfranchised American youth are systematically hijacked by the industry of popular culture, and then subsequently sold back to the youth for profit. This is what became of the hippy, skater, grunge, and even house/techno and rave cultures. Similarly, the central elements of hip-hop, rap, graffiti, and break-dancing, have been so entirely commercialized that one can legitimately argue that hip-hop no longer belongs to itself.

      The trend toward commercialization can be viewed as an inevitable function of capitalism or as a systematic attempt to undermine potential forms of empowerment. Either way, the result is still the same. People without a voice naturally must begin to develop a form of expression to speak for them. The minute that form of expression cultivates enough popularity to come under the radar of the mainstream, the massive corporate pile-on ensues. Cultures that lack the means to become established and self-sustaining are unable to defend themselves against the swarm of speculator jackals that hunger for the next fad to market and resell. Most of these subcultures were not intended for such a broad audience, and they are not equipped to explain their message to a mainstream society that doesn't want to listen and wouldn't understand anyway.

      Subsequently, these subcultures make their peace with being misunderstood by accepting the proverbial bone that pop culture offers them essentially in exchange for their souls. It is not a fair deal. Speaking on behalf of countercultures in general and hip hop specifically, we shouldn't be forced to sell out simply because our form of expression is meaningful only to us. It happened to become popular to an audience that it was not even intended for. The irony is that we do want our subcultures to be economically viable and self-sustaining, but without losing the messages at the cores of their identities. We do want success, but on our own terms. We do not want to be ruthlessly exploited and have our culture re-packaged and resold while excluding the most important aspects.

      The reason this process is so exploitative is because of the fact that the subculture itself does not receive a fair cut of the profits compared to the big corporations, and the fact that the subculture is stripped of any power that it once contained. Since the need to gain power and a voice was the central motivating factor in the creation of the subculture, it is understandable that we should be bitter when this power and message is gutted and the skin is sewn back together and sold for profit.

      Within this context, it is a natural extension to see and understand the way in which our language and the tools we use to construct our realities are also taken over by the mainstream culture. A form of dollar destruction, pop culture pimping, and mass market mugging that is often overlooked is the way that the language of counterculture has been turned against itself. The language employed by the intellectually marginalized has become so cliché that the most important conversations sound tired and inane. Pointlessly overused to the point of near-extinction by pundits who misuse our language and misinterpret its significance, it is now practically impossible to discuss the state of the world in any meaningful way without sounding played-out and pretentious.

      Thus, we can now add "globalization," "privatization," "commercialization," "institutionalized," "disenfranchised," "mainstream," "capitalist," "counterculture," and "revolutionary," to the list of words that have been systematically overused until they become essentially meaningless. They are sucked dry of all of the power and potency that they once contained. The words we use are absolutely essential to communicate and derive meaning from our dialogues. Without an appropriate and relevant language with which to describe the world, we are effectively left once again without a voice. Just like "equality," "diversity," "social justice," "community," and "spirituality" have been reduced to meaningless catch-phrases over the last quarter-century, so too has our post-modern vocabulary been drained of substance and discarded leaving words that are just empty shells taking up space.

      There is a McDonald's commercial in which urban youth are rapping and playing basketball in roller blades, kneepads and helmets. I know that this has nothing to do with hip-hop, but is simply an empty skin marketed to vaguely resemble a culture that McDonald's has no connection to. Nowadays when I hear discussions about globalization, I hear words that once contained meaning and relevance for a whole generation of disenfranchised people that are now simply another means of power for the very people that they were originally aimed against.

      David Lewis is a Collegian columnist.

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