Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Just thinking aloud today...

I have gotten so completely off track in my readings over the past year. I'm not sure how it started, but it might have been two decisions. First, i decided to spend three years with the Bhagavad Gita, something i last read way back in the 80s. What i decided to do is to spend 2011 reading a commentary on the Gita by Venkatesananda. That was the second time to read it, the first being in 2010; but that first time was just a once through over the course of a week. Last year i actually followed the daily reading plan as he lays it out in the commentary.

From there things got completely out of hand and i decided to read Chinmayananda's commentary this year, following the same daily plan that Venkatesananda laid out. I also decided that next year i will read Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, by Prabhupada following the same plan. After that, i will put the Gita away and move on. Three years is enough for any one book, no matter how good its message. (Except for the Shōbōgenzō, that is. Sheepish grin.)

The second decision was when i got curious about James Swartz's teachings on Vedanta. I actually like a lot of what he says and writes and spend a fair amount of time with him of late. But, my hope is to set him aside this summer as well and spend only occasional time with him after that.

It's funny, but i have noticed this feeling lately that i hear other people talk about when they travel a lot. "Nothing's wrong, everything is going well, but i just want to go home and sleep in my own bed." I don't get that feeling, no matter how long i am on the road, so i can't say i understand it all that well, but i'm getting that feeling for the books and commentary from my standard Zen authors and teachers.

I even want to put down the books on Tibetan Buddhism, as much as i absolutely love the message and teachings of the Dalai Lama and the path laid out in the Lamrim teachings. They are magnificent. But my heart seems to be saying, "Enough with magnificent, enough with lofty ideas, just go home, curl up on the sofa with simplicity and truth, and be that. It's time for a break."

Having said all that, this comes from Krishnananda's Philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, and i was reminded of it after rereading Katagiri's writings from yesterday. You may not see the connection between them, but it is there for me.

"The difficulties mentioned, in a few words, in the first chapter of the Bhagavadgita are not ordinary jokes or mere stories told to us for our cajolement. These things are the difficulties of human nature as such. It is not just my difficulty or your difficulty. Anyone who is human shall have to pass through these stages.

"Who can ever gainsay that one does not think in terms of gains and losses, in the light of one’s relationship with the world outside and human society externally. We love and hate and have our ways in this complex of relationship in the world and in all human affairs. Where does God come in here into this picture? The notion of God has also been a frightening factor many a time in the history of human thought. And there have been as many ideas of God as there are people in this world. There are those who denied the very existence of such a thing as God, because of the fact that there are no proofs adequate enough to convince us of God’s existence. All our arguments are sensory in the end, the logic of philosophy is a phenomenal argument and it can not touch what we imagine to be the noumenon, or a transcendent Being, because the substantiation of the existence of anything transcendent cannot be achieved through the instrument of phenomenal reason. There are people who have been totally agnostic. God may be, or may not be. Even if He is there, it is all something impossible for us to understand with the faculties with which we are endowed at present.

"But more serious difficulties are those which faced Arjuna’s mind, and which gradually creep into our own minds, and keep us inwardly insecure and anxious. The anxiety of a spiritual seeker is due to doubts as to the possibility of success in the spiritual path, doubts concerning the correctness of the approach which one has launched, doubts as regards the duties one owes to the world and to human society, and, finally, doubts even concerning what will happen to oneself, taking for granted that this realisation takes place. These doubts are not ordinary ones. They are present, perhaps, in every one of us, in some measure, in some proportion.

"And nothing can be more frightening to the ego of the human being than to be told that God is All-Power and the experience of God means an abolition of individuality. No one expects this, and one keeps that situation as far away from oneself as possible, postpones it to an indefinite future and closes one’s eyes to such a possibility at all. What can be a greater fear than that of losing oneself, even if it be in the ocean of God Himself. We would not want to be drowned even if it be in a sea of nectar."

Philosophy of The Bhagavad Gita

Lastly, speaking of Katagiri's words from yesterday, i'd like to make one point. When talking about the Bodhisattva Vows, he lists one of them as "We vow to taste the truth." Now, the vows as i have always know them list that one as something like "The afflictions/desires (jp, bonnou) are innumerable, i vow to put an end to them."

I like it how Katagiri focuses on the positive side of that equation. Yes, the only way to taste the truth is to eliminate all the other bad tastes that cover it up, but our vow shouldn't be focused on getting rid of the bad, but on the good that we are striving toward. Sort of like, i vow to run and complete this years Chicago Marathon. I don't vow to train and suffer all summer long so that i can run it, i vow to participate in the race, knowing full-well everything that includes and everything i will have to do to get there. Our vow should be on the positive side. I like that. A lot.

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