Philosophy Works (Class Ten)

Last Saturday was my last class at Philosophy Works. I felt sad that it was time to say good byes to the group and our instructor. We shared so much with each other, learned together and hopefully became a little wiser. I distributed the Problem and Suffering Table to all in class, as my views were shaped by our discussions and Mita gave me great feedback on the original version of the slide. We all received a book as a present from the school, it is a small orange pocket book called Philosophy works, new light on life. It consists of practices and principles all consolidated in 10 steps: Why Be wise? Remaining true to yourself. Levels of awareness. Tapping your resources. The light of reason. The power of beauty. Know thyself. Watching the powers at work . Renewal through reflection. Inner reality.

Last topic we discussed was unity, which is found when we look for a whole common denominator to nature and humanity.

And Love materializes Unity. Please, read these beautiful passages below.

Sonnet 116 by W. Shakespeare:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

From Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians:

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;

but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Philosophy Works (Class Nine)

Class Notes on Unity:

Philosophy is concerned with wholeness, to expand and increase our awareness of the unity that underlies our lives and all of creation. It must be clear to us all that we have, in some measure, begun the journey towards wholeness.

Unity in diversity: The potter throws many kinds of pots, yet each vessel is made of the very same clay. The jeweler fashions beautiful golden rings and bracelets, but each of these shining forms is made of a single substance – gold. Consider the waves in the ocean, each with ties own unique power and form. Who can say where wave begins and ocean ends? We are like the waves. WE make an appearance as separate forms on the infinite ocean of existence; we are born, we thrive and return to the same source from whence we came, the Self of All.

Wherever there is awareness, there is unity. When we begin to wake up, we can look beyond the forms and discover the thread that binds then all together.

The Teaching of non-duality is a universal teaching. It belongs to everyone and to no-one. It is the tap root of all the great teachings and traditions. It dwells within us, waiting to be heard and realized. The work of this school is to remind us of this underlying Unity.

Practice:

Look for Unity. Wherever you find separation and division, look for the unity, the wholeness beyond the surface agitation.

The commotion of our human life, which lets in everything, all the light and all the music, all the mad pranks of thought and all the variations of pain, the fullness of memory and the fullness of expectation, is closed to one thing only: unity.

Martin Buber, Ecstatic Confessions: The heart of Mysticism

Of a certainty the man who can see all creatures in himself,

Himself in all creatures, knows no sorrow.

How can a wise man, knowing the unity of life,

Seeing all creatures in himself, be deluded or sorrowful?

Eesha-Upanishad

There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all the same, He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays

All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man does not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself…All things are connected.

Chief Seattle’s Letter to all the People

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space.

He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings,
as something separated from the rest – a kind of OPTICAL DELUSION of his consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion –
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is, in itself,
a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”

Albert Einstein

Philosophy Works (Class Eight)

A Remedy for negative feelings

Class Notes:

ME is an imposter. He assumes any guise to suit any situation. He can be heroic or timid, assertful or bashful, triumphant or defeated. ME doesn’t mind what he is so long as he holds the center of attention. If he cannot be praised, then he will be blamed. He would rather be beaten than be ignored. ME is a false image of ourselves. He claims everything. ME is a creature of imaginings, false, fickle and inconstant. He is a denial of our true self.

Only the desire of truth, the love of truth that lies at the core of each of us can free us from the selfish ego’s falsity and lies. Remember, in order to tell a lie, you have to know one thing: the Truth. Wouldn’t we rather have people tell us the truth? After all, even thieves have a code of honor!

All negative feelings are the result of our habitual response to events and people who are not the way we want them to be.

Patanjali offers a whole new way of working. When we acknowledge and speak the truth about negative feelings, we simply let the truth work. In this way, we learn to trust the truth and the Truth will set us free.

Principles and Practices:

In order to discover the truth about ourselves, we must give up what is false. In order to be what we are, we must come out of what we are not.

Watch for antics of ME. When does ME appear? What banishes him?

The fruit of negative feelings is endless ignorance and suffering. To remember this is to cultivate the opposite.

Take note of the effect of your words and actions on others.

Negative feelings…are damaging to life, whether we act upon them ourselves, or cause or condone them in others. They are born of greed, anger or delusion, and may be slight, moderate or intense. Their fruit is endless ignorance and suffering.

Patanjali, Yoga Sutras II.34

Empty yourself of everything.

Let the mind become still.

The ten thousand things rise and fall

While the self watches their return.

They grow and flourish and then return to the source.

Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.

Lao Tze, Tao Te Ching

Negative thoughts happen when you leave present moment. If you don’t feed your thoughts, they disappear, their life time span is short. Pure consciousness is self-knowledge. Hell is pride and ego, and paradise is contentment and happiness.

Memory is the best attribute of a philosopher. We take for granted our power. The thing that you seek is what is looking.

You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.

Philosophy Works (Class Seven)

I had all the intentions to skip this class, as I felt sleepy, but my curiosity in what next class brings prevailed. I was 20 minutes late and found no Meta, but a substitute instructor instead. I asked for class notes, but was given a surprised look as if class notes were a luxury philosophers could do without… New instructor was reading passages from several books and I struggled to stay awake and keep my attention focused, but was able to make some notes, which I’ll try to recreate now…

We suffer from distracted attention by thinking about things that are not present (either past events or contemplation of future events), but instead we can and should prolong moments of being in the present by paying attention to what we see. What have you observed by walking down the street? Very often we can’t recall what we passed by, because attention was given not to surroundings, but to our thoughts.

Then we were asked if we were happier when we were children and the answer was yes, almost unanimous. Normal child is observant and happy. Why is that? I said that children don’t have responsibilities…as adults do. But the answer was that yes, we do have responsibilities and things to do, but it makes a short list and could probably be done in seconds sometimes, if only we don’t dwell on it.

I also thought that children are not spoiled with desire yet, or their desires are still minimal. They don’t yet know what is out there possible and they are still learning about possessions, wants and needs, haves and hot haves. And they don’t have the pressure of expectations, maybe minimal. Expectations surely grow with age. We are supposed to pay back for what we were given during childhood, either by our parents or our society.

The instructor said that a child has less distracted thoughts. Attention is root of clear thinking. Children are always in present. That is why when we ask children what they want to be they don’t understand the concept of time (somewhere there). They want to be what they like now. There is no there and then for children, it is always now.

We continued our conversation about distracting thoughts, as surely we like to escape present sometimes, especially when we need to do something unpleasant (or so we think). We discussed washing dishes. It is a simple act, but we can focus all our energy on creating this negative vibe about it. Someone said it is a short activity; at least it is not long! I said that you can derive pleasure from seeing a stack of clean dishes and be proud of the results. I was wrong… We can find our bliss in present moment while we are doing dishes.

Bliss is one of the qualities of being/self; together with consciousness and knowledge, bliss is nature of self. Enjoyment is nature of experience, but bliss is inside us. Bliss only needs attention and stillness. Bliss is internal happiness or basic goodness. It is about taking one moment at a time. To find it we need to introduce stillness in our lives.

In Buddhism there are four main states: activity, sleep, consciousness and stillness. We don’t do last two enough.

The Self/Being/Absolute is truth, consciousness and bliss. The creation is for bliss. You can be blissful as a witness, not a doer (without getting involved). You can still be active, but you don’t have to be active in order to be happy, as your happiness is in stillness too- appreciating the world around you and our connection to it.

Today we have boundaries and little bliss in a little box called “me and my life”. The self is not satisfied with little bliss, but more bliss derived from consciousness and stillness. All we need to do is to be able to switch thinking from doing to observing, even during action so that we observe and attend.

The instructor suggested we do an unusual exercise – go for a walk and try to see beauty by being grounded (by paying attention to our feet on the ground and attention to everything around us). Think what you really see, not think of what you saw last time walking down the street.

It is amazing how 15 minutes of a stroll can be so powerful in showing you the beauty of the world we so underestimate. I was walking slowly, making sure I feel my feet touching the ground with every step.

No matter how strange it sounds, but I felt that I have legs! I was so aware of the fact that I’m able to walk and I was appreciative of that, as being able to walk is a luxury to some people.

I paid attention to everything I saw around me. I met one pigeon and two sparrows busy looking for food, several happy dogs, three lonely ghosts, several dozen pumpkins, about twenty humans, and a multitude of buildings and plants… and one huge sun shining brightly. It was a little cool but it was so pleasant that I couldn’t stop smiling. I went to see a house where I used to live years ago, and I found a new building still under construction instead of my old house. I talked to a man and his son about my living at that house, because I just wanted to share my experience with other humans.

When we came back to class, we all discussed our findings. One woman mentioned that she saw beautiful flowers that she didn’t think were still around in chilly November. We need to appreciate what we have both individually and as a group. There is so much beauty around that is unseen.

We think that if we are not doers, we are not useful and we are not worthy. But even in stillness we can find our usefulness by appreciating others and emitting positive energy. By rushing and thinking negative thoughts, we contaminate the environment with negative energy.

The question is: “Was the Buddha a useful person even if he wasn’t a doer in our modern way?” He said “I’m awake”, and by simply being that we can change the world for better.

Philosophy Works (Class Six)

Beauty is within and without. Find it!

Class Notes:

What is beauty itself? Is it a different beauty appearing in separate objects, actions or ideas, or it is the same universal beauty shining in a million different forms? Plato taught that there is only one beauty absolute. Wherever we see or know beauty, it is this single absolute beauty that is being experienced in a particular form.

Beauty is everywhere, inside and out. “If there were no beauty in the observer then he would not find beauty outside. The mere fact that beauty is seen proves that there is beauty already present in the being of the observer. Nowhere in creation does beauty stand by itself. The physical or sensory beauty has its foundations in the mental or subtle realm. The physical forms look beautiful because the mind is beautiful.”

Shantanand Saraswati

When we say “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, we must also consider what else is in or behind the eye that will determine our receptivity and appreciation of beauty.

Principles and Practices

-Look for beauty. If you don’t’ see it, look again – and again.

-Practice attention open and attention centered.

Passages for study:

The highest praise for a good theory was not that it was correct, nor that it was exact, but that it was beautiful.

Albert Einstein

He who has been instructed in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he reaches the goal of his journey , will suddenly perceive a wondrous beauty – a beauty which … is everlasting, knowing not birth or death, growth or decay; not beautiful from one point of view or ugly from another… but beauty absolute, existing by and of itself, simple, and everlasting, which is the source of the ever growing and perishing beauty of all other beautiful things, without itself suffering diminution or increase, or any change.

Diotima, Prophetess of Mantinea, teacher of Socrates, Plato, Symposium 212

Years ago there used to be a comedian and he always introduced his act with the words: “Oh, you beautiful people!” In fact, he was quite right, and it was also a rather popular statement, and the audience would shine back with beauty on being reminded… And this beauty, which shines from people when it is allowed out, is the beauty of the Self; all beauty, whatever it shines from, is the beauty of the Self. A thing is never beautiful; It is the Self that is beautiful, and it shines from different things according to their qualities.

Leon MacLaren

Beauty doesn’t change, we can perceive it through physical objects, through our mind or through conduct (Plato). Being on the journey, soul itself partakes in the internal discern of becoming from being.

Philosophy Works (Class Five)

The Power of Listening.

I missed this class but was handed out the Class Notes:

  • Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration and attention. Listening leads to learning. Most people tend to be “hard of listening” rather than “hard of hearing”.
  • Philosophy brings a man who hears and practices it to a deep and silent power within himself leaving him free to manage his affairs without attachment or involvement. But the man who hears it only and does not do it is led into greater confusion and verbal complexity. Simplicity is found in practice. Simplicity leads to truth.
  • To discover whether a person is listening or not requires the exercise of attention. There are two ways of not listening: either we are thinking of something else, or we are furiously rehearsing what we intend to say next. When we become aware of this all-too-common occurrence, stop! See if the other person notices!
  • Let us use these habits of unnecessary speech – talking for talking’s sake, taking as though we know what we don’t’ know, or furious inner conversations – to wake up. They can act as alarm clocks. This is the great lay of conservation of energy. When we let go for what is unnecessary, whole new world opens up, a world of opportunity and scope.

Practices:

In any conversation, there are only two profitable activities – talking and listening. Actually, there is only one: listening. When we are speaking or when anyone is speaking to us, let us make it a rule; we listen.

When we recognize any aspect of out talk as unnecessary, the right action is to stop talking and listen.

Passages for study:

Even though a speech be a thousand words long, but made up of senseless words, one word of sense is better which if a man hears, eh becomes quiet.

Even though a poem be a thousand words long, but made up of senseless words, one word of a poem is better which if a man hears, eh becomes quiet.

Though a man recite a hundred poems made up of senseless words, one word of the law is better which if a man hears, he becomes quiet.

If a man conquer in battle a thousand times a thousand men, and if another conquer himself, he is the greatest of conquerors…

If a man holds himself dear, let him watch himself carefully…

Let each man direct himself first to what is proper, then let him teach others; thus a wise man will no suffer.

Dhammapada of Buddha.

A Sermon on Abuse: the Buddha said: “If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall go from me; the fragrance of goodness always comes to me, and the harmful air of evil goes to him.” A foolish man, learning that the Buddha observed the principle of great love which commends the return of good for evil, came and abused him. The Buddha was silent, pitying his folly. When the man had finished his abuse, the Buddha asked: “Son, if a man declines to accept a present made to him, to whom would the gift belong?” The man answered: “In that case the gift would belong to the man who offered it.” And so, my son,” said the Buddha, “you have railed at me, but I refuse to accept your abuse, and request that you to keep it yourself. Will it not be a source of misery to you? As the echo belongs to the sound, and the shadow to the substance, so the misery will overtake the evildoer without fail.” The abuser went away ashamed, but he came again and took refuge in the Buddha.

Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of India.

Think about how often you speak from the time you awaken to the time you go to sleep. The answer psychologists give is approximately seven hundred discrete utterings… Investigators say talkative people utter 12,000 sentences every day, which averages to almost 100,000 words. Put differently, an average American can speak the equivalent of a novel per day, although he reads less than three books a year. Since talking is such a universally enjoyed pastime, why do so many people shun listening? Listening has to be learned… The mind of the good listener must be disciplined. If the talker be wise, discipline is required to understand what he is talking about. If the talker be a fool, discipline is required just to stand the boor. Listening requires liking, and liking means you have to treat someone equally, treat him as you would be treated yourself.

From The Boston Globe.

PS We hear but we don’t listen, we are not in the moment, so we miss details or underlying meaning. Our instructor Meta gave us a great example. Years ago she worked with another person, who every morning complained about her work that it is hard and unfair, and this complaining went on and on for months… Every morning Meta’s colleague approached her and complained. Meta said she heard but didn’t listen until one day she really listened and realized that her colleague just felt underappreciated and not recognized for her work, so Meta said: “But you did a great job on so and so project!” And that person’s need of being acknowledged was met and complaining stopped. The power of listening indeed… Our Instructor is a student of Practical Philosophy and she is doing a great job leading us through the course. Thank you, Meta!

Philosophy Works (Class Four)

The Power of attention.

What you give your attention to grows.

All actions are driven by desire. How many different action have you engaged in today? How much rest have you had? In the space between actions we can come to rest, wake up and come into the present. We can be free of desire for a while. It doesn’t have to be intense or prolonged – bring your body into view and connect with the breath or one of the senses.

In the state of waking consciousness, the process of waking up, there are only two useful states of attention. Attention open where the attention is wide and open, not caught by anything in particular, but open to everything in general and attention centered, where the attention is focused on one thing with great clarity and precision. In waking sleep we do not have a choice, our attention is swept away like a leaf in the wind. Choice is only possible when we begin to wake up, when we practice giving our attention, rather than having it torn away by distraction.

Whoever or whatever is in front of you is your teacher.

Because of my blindness, I had developed a new faculty. Strictly speaking, all men have it, but almost all forget to use it. The faculty is attention. In order to live without eyes, it is necessary to be very attentive, to remain hour after hour in a state of wakefulness, of receptiveness and activity. Indeed, attention is not simply a virtue of intelligence or the result of education, and something one can easily do without. It is a state of being. It is a state without which we shall never be able to perfect ourselves. In its truest sense, it is the listening post of the universe.

Jacques Lusseyran, The Blind Society

Every individual has desires and we are plagued with these desires, but there is some time between each of them. Most of the time we don’t allow this interval to stretch at all; no sooner is one desire fulfilled that we let another desire spring up. If people understood this and allowed themselves the luxury of a little interval, however short it might be, they would find that they would recharge themselves without doing anything but just being quiet for a moment or two. If people could practice and enlarge this interval… they would find that they had great power within, and the potentiality of realizing themselves would not be far off if they could give themselves the luxury of two minutes of interval between one desire and the rising of the next.

Shantanand Saraswati

New knowledge – life with confidence, clarity, courage. When we are open to new knowledge, we are not just reacting, but dealing with every situation differently, because there is potentiality of realizing ourselves in a moment.

Seneca – how can a soul that misunderstands itself have a sure idea of other creatures?

Alice in Wonderland – I must have changed several times today. Who am I? I don’t know.

We are playing roles. What we are not? Are we the mind or the body? Attention is a bridge. We are all work in progress: body, mind and heart.

From Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of grass”, there is passing show and I. The unchanging observer within us watches and witnesses. Soul, God or Absolute Spirit?

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