Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Morning Snacks

It seems as if the new battleground in the worlds ongoing culture wars is the idea of Cultural Appropriation. Or is that Cultural Misappropriation? It's one of the stupidest ideas that I have ever heard of. People who try and make this argument are either idiots or have zero ability to think logically. (There, said it...)

In my bit of appropriating different cultures, i'll point out this wonderful similarity between Buddhism and Vedanta. It comes from my having just started to read Chinmayananda's commentary on the Isa Upanishad, also known as the Isavasyopanishad. The opening Peace Invocation goes like this:

That is Whole,
This is Whole,
From the Whole, the Whole becomes manifest.
From the Whole, when the Whole is negated,
What remains is again the Whole.

From my cushion, that reads just like the lines many of us love from the Heart Sutra:

Form is not different from emptiness.
Emptiness is not different from form.
Form is exactly emptiness.
Emptiness is exactly form.

"That is Whole." Emptiness is everything. And nothing. Emptiness Is. "That" is Brahman, the unmanifest Whole. Everything (and yet, nothing). All encompassing. Pure potential, out of which everything manifests.

"This is Whole." Everything in the manifest world, all of manifest existence, is Emptiness.

"From the Whole, the Whole becomes manifest." Everything manifests out of Emptiness. Everything we see, smell, taste, touch, fee, and think; everything we perceive as existing; all of it is Emptiness manifesting as plurality.

"From the Whole, when the Whole is negated, what remains is again the Whole." You can't negate Emptiness. Emptiness is what Is. When the world comes to an end, Emptiness still remains. Nothing remains, but this nothingness is Emptiness in it's original and ever continuing unmanifest form.

As a Buddhist, I have long accepted (believed?) that there is no soul; no inherent piece of me that is, was, and always will be "Me," and allows me to be me again when I am reborn. But, to be honest, no one knows one way or the other. Is there a soul? Or not? Different people have different beliefs, and that is all you can say. No one has the one and only correct answer.

That's why I love the Upanishads. If you read past the belief in an atman, an imperishable, ever existing soul, and look to the top of the Vedantan hierarchy, where you find Brahman, the scenery is amazingly beautiful. Seeing Brahman is like seeing that perfect sunrise from that special mountain peak, just as it crests the horizon and begins to shed it's light on your world. Seeing Emptiness in all of the world's manifestations can bring shivers to your spine and tears to your eyes.

And then, just to appropriate a little more, i'm taking these Vedantan and Buddhist viewpoints to the pilgrim's trail in Spain. A Christian pilgrimage. All my gear is spread around the living room floor for a final round of elimination before it all goes in my pack and I leave for the Camino de Santiago on Monday. Less than a week. :-)

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