Thursday, January 28, 2016

buddhism and modern psychology

You know how people ask you at parties, "What are your hobbies?" I find myself wondering if I should share mine. Will it really interest them? Do they really want to know? Do people consider learning how to play the melodica or failed attempts at contact juggling a hobby? 

Well, I am here to say that one of my hobbies is learning. I simply love to learn. I also have subjects that fascinate me. Buddhism and Modern Psychology are a part of that growing list. So, I thought I would share a not-so-polished course essay I wrote on the comparative of Dukkha and modern psychology. Enjoy!
The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, offers a pragmatic diagnosis in which he establishes the relationship between permeating dukkha and the Four Noble Truths. Dukkha itself is a label, used to explain the structure of suffering or unsatisfactoriness. Whereas, the Four Noble Truths rely on the understanding of dukkha to pinpoint the human experience of suffering and ultimately explain the steps towards ending the cycle of suffering. It is in this process that an outsider can glean the importance or root of dukkha in regards to the Four Noble Truths.
The first noble truth is often translated into English as, “Life is suffering”. This translation is a simple way of explaining the complexity of an idea that reappears throughout all of the noble truths. But what is dukkha, what is suffering? Bhikkhu Bodhi states, “The first noble truth, the truth of suffering, is to be fully understood: the task it assigns us is that of full understanding.” This is to say that the first noble truth isn’t just, “Life is suffering”, it is also the acknowledgement and study of suffering.
To reflect on the meaning of dukkha is a natural segway to the second of the noble truths; or the causation of suffering. It is hard to study this and not reach the point where you ask yourself, “Why am I suffering?” The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta states that the origin of suffering, as a noble truth, is the craving that produces a renewal of being accompanied by enjoyment and lust, and enjoying this and that; in other words, craving for sensual desires, craving for being, craving for non-being. Which leads the Buddhist practitioner back to the idea of dukkha or unsatisfactoriness.
The third noble truth is simply the absence of dukkha, a non-satisfactoriness if you will. Bhikkhu Bodhi outlines this concept in the following quote, “The third noble truth, the cessation of suffering, implies the task of realization. Although Nibbana, the extinction of suffering, can only be personally realized by the noble ones, the confidence we place in the Dhamma as our guideline to life shows us what we should select as our final aspiration, as our ultimate ground of value. Once we have grasped the fact that all conditioned things in the world, being impermanent and insubstantial, can never give us total satisfaction, we can then lift our aim to the unconditioned element, Nibbana the Deathless, and make that aspiration the pole around which we order our everyday choices and concerns.” Here, a value is given to finding the place of non-suffering.
One could argue that the quest for non-suffering might lead a person to indulge in satisfaction or want instead of stepping away from them. Satisfaction, however, is temporary. Professor and author Robert Wright explains how this is true with psychology studies. He cites one study done involving a monkey where the monkey is given fruit juice and they measure the dopamine spikes. If pleasure was permanent that spike would be continuous. Which leads to the importance of the fourth noble, the truth where the Buddha explains the steps to reach a place of non-suffering through the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path is where a practitioner can cope with dukkha and hopefully reach Nirvana or non-suffering. Living in those “right-ways”, is a guideline to allow the Buddhist to fully perceive the first two noble truths. Understanding dukkha and its relation to how it manifests sets precedence for the steps to non-suffering. In this way, the Buddha has given a clear diagnosis which works conjointly with the prescription. As the Eightfold Path is simply the prescription to the root, the first noble truth, and the dukkha.

Monday, January 18, 2016

michigan and dirty water

I have a long time association with Michigan and dirty water. My first exposure, was on my father's account. He likes to share with people that he comes from the same city Madonna does and she describes it as, "smelly little town with a dirty river". (Though, to be fair, I don't think that is what she actually said.) Then, there was the small lake my Grandfather lived off of where the water smelled suspiciously like bleach and vinegar. Not to mention, that you had to run his tap forever before it stopped running orange water.

With that in mind, it came as no shock to me when the news hit of the Flint, Michigan disaster. What IS shocking is how mismanaged the whole thing has become and worse people's equally disastrous responses. You even have Michael Moore stirring the pot in that way where he almost get's it right, but fails epically.

I have a suggestion, why not do both you old ass-hat?

Obviously, the people in Flint deserve more.and the people responsible need to be taken to task. There is no question of the gross injustice. But telling people not to send clean water? Really?


Also, I find myself wanting to send every person in Flint a home distilling units or at least sending this video so they take some power back in their lives.

Monday, January 11, 2016


In a previous post, popular phrases, I mentioned my love for words and my attachment to anything etymological. Often, there are words that hit my radar that change my whole universe. I dwell on them. Think about them. Talk about them. Dream about them.

Ah, the glories of fixation.

What word inspired this blog post? By the title, you may have guessed what the word is. Yes, it is  MESMERIZED. 

You are such a good guesser!

Franz Mesmer, was a dubiously strange German physician. He would run around trying to hypnotize people with the magical powers of, "animal magnetism". It is because of this lone man's proclivity-of-the-bizarre that we have the word, mesmerize. I find this somehow comparable to my favorite villain of yesteryear, Whipping Tom of 1681.  
The Whipping Tom of 1681 was active in the warren of small courtyards between Fleet Street, Strand and Holborn.[3] He would wait in the narrow and dimly lit alleys and courtyards.[4] On seeing an unaccompanied woman, he would grab her, lift her dress, and slap her buttocks repeatedly before fleeing.[5] He would sometimes accompany his attacks by shouting "Spanko!".[3]
He attacked a large number of women,[6] and while he would often use his bare hand, he would occasionally use a rod.[7] Some of his victims were left badly injured by the attacks.[6] He would appear, carry out his attacks and vanish with such speed that some people attributed him with supernatural powers.[7][8]  -Wikipedia.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

throwback thursday (the poet edition)

There is a wonderful lack of photos of my teenage years. I have always dodged the camera. However, there are some pictures circulating (much to my displeasure). The following picture is of me and my friend Ryan, being particularly "anti".

I seem  to be pleased with the whole situation. After this picture I am sure I said something like, "Yeah. You showed that camera who's boss." and Ryan would respond with something equally sardonic. Because that is who we were, and seemingly who we still are.

The last conversation I had with him was a random message series I posted on his Facebook. As, we bonded mainly over music and words (I thought we could continue that pattern), But mainly, I read his words from time to time from the secrecy of the internet, as our lives have been dually separate but parallel for a long time. 

Here I share a bit of my past and present with this poem by Ryan.

Fear of Public Speaking
By: Ryan Paul Schaefer

Podiums understanding
Events of pure sensibility
Saddling the edge, a wooden wheel
Wheeling always under and under again.
The doctrinal preposition, of.
Dwell and attend, the best model another concentration
Of light.  Repeat: Dwell, attend…

—what must we do?--

I will put on the green hat,
Get in the car and
Toward the hospital,
Where the sick,
Dying and dead are kept,
Ask questions, report back.

But first, I brush my lips with the reddest, red lipstick,
To speak any other way is baseless, is naked talk,
A wet paper bag full of seashells.

If one goes on repeating, all there is is sound.
So hum home to sense the apparatus
Of a closed mouth.  Carry forth for
Only the carrying of forth, for the open goal.
Un-kept, memory’s need of the animal,
The body’s history dwelling interminably,
Location’s necessity.

So build boats.  Bamboo boats with conversations
About god inscribed on every blank sheaf.
I will, with no oars, no sails, no offing set by
Call to the tower. I can call to anywhere,
Though I must wash my lips first,
For the beginning air turning red also.