Category Archives: Wisdom

Simplicity of Wisdom

Knowledge is complicated. It requires searching the world through the senses and using the mind to think things through. One might find what one is looking for. One might not. Knowledge is unsure, unpredictable, uncontrollable. It is searching for what is outside oneself, or outside one’s immediate consciousness.

Wisdom is simple. It doesn’t require searching. Looking is the wrong mode for wisdom. It is defined by remembering. Seeing what one already knows but is constantly liable to forget. It is what is inherent in every breath, every move, every thought. It requires simply being with it. Not finding it, or discovering it, or spreading it with others, like a treasure found in one place but not in another place.

Knowledge is like treasure. Wisdom is like air.

Wisdom is just one thing: being aware, not forgetting, that the universe is much bigger than me, much bigger than my family and friends and community, much bigger than my opponents, much bigger than humans in general and much bigger than life on earth.

This awareness is in us, made evident by our lack of control in the vastness of the world.

But we forget it, through the grips of desire. When I want something, it looms large in my world, as if me and it are the center of the world. Or when I am angry. Or upset. Or hurt. Or happy. Or excited. Basically, when I am moved in my ego world.

Wisdom is seeing past the ego world, mine and others.

It doesn’t require special insight or knowledge of scriptures or whether god exists, or nature of knowledge, or nature of humans or of science or of the world.

It doesn’t require knowledge.

It requires coming back to the obvious, the smallness of our lives in the vastness of the universe.

The wise person is able to come back to this in each moment, even in the midst of their pain, anger, disappointment or joy. The unwise person is unable to do that, caught in their pain, anger, disappointment or joy.

Wisdom is simple. It is clear, ever present.

But it feels hard and evasive and difficult when wisdom is seen as knowledge. As something to grasp, something new to acquire, somewhere far away from where I already am. This is the root illusion.

Wisdom is simple. It doesn’t require knowledge. It only requires not forgetting the obvious.

Embrace in each moment how vast the universe is in relation to you, and wisdom will be your constant companion.

Dread and Bliss

Pain is discomfort. It can be mild or severe or very severe. No matter it’s degree, it is a condition of the body or the mind. It just is. In it’s nature there is no narrative. No sense that it should or should not exist. It might involve an attempt to reduce or eliminate it, but that is an instinctive response.

Suffering is the mental narrative associated with pain. It can be regarding pain in the past, present or future. It is not the pain itself, but the web of thoughts about actual or potential pain in one’s life and the world. It is the fear of pain.

Dread is anxiety that one’s self is drowing in suffering. It is the feeling that one’s self is being lost and dissolving due to excess of suffering, of more suffering than the self can handle.

Feeling cold in 0 degree weather is pain.

Thinking “if I lose my job, I won’t be able to pay my rent and will be homeless” is suffering.

Feeling “I just lost everything, I have nothing, I am nobody, I am worthless” is dread.

Ordinary ego consciousness is defined by suffering – either suffering or keeping suffering at bay. Suffering is called unhappiness. Keeping suffering at bay is called happiness.

Happiness is not a state intrinsically defined. It is defined as the absence of suffering. It is gotten through watching tv, drinking, sex, vacations, addictive eating, having all the good things in life – things that usually feel good because they turn down the mind and so dial down suffering. When the mind is unable to be turned off, suffering rises to the surface and presents itself as the ever present, natural state.

A life of happiness is a life keeping suffering at bay.

Since happiness is not the default state, one can lose it at any moment if there is bad luck. There could be an accident. An illness. Death of a family member. Bankruptcy. Spouse has an affair.

Ego consciousness is like swimming in a lake filled with crocodiles. Happiness is not having any crocodile in one’s immediate vicinity. Suffering is remembering that the lake is filled with crocodiles.

Dread is the realization that at some point a crocodile will get you. You only get so many moments when they are not in your vicinity. And when they are around you, you can only avoid them or out swim them for so long. Eventually you will be caught. Some crocodile will have you for dinner.

Happiness is contented forgetting of reality. Suffering is worry that happiness will not last; that one won’t be able to ignore reality all the time.

Dread is awareness of reality. But it is awareness tinged with denial. It is awareness of reality merged with thinking of oneself as outside that reality. That one is getting pulled into, drowing in, unable to avoid reality.

Bliss is awareness of reality without denial. It is awareness of reality merged with thinking of oneself as fully a part of that reality.

The most surface bubble of consciousness consists of happiness and pain. Underlying it is the realm of suffering. Below that is dread. Further below that is bliss: awareness of reality without denial.

In happiness, I am safe from the crocodiles. In suffering, I anticipate the crocodiles gathering around me. In dread, I feel like a speck and the crocodiles are everywhere, about to engulf me. In bliss, I am a speck and the crocodiles are specks and the lake itself is a speck in the broader reality.

Formless

I am the formless, the eternal, the never ending, the one without a second.

I manifest in this form and that form, as this person and that person, as this object and that object. The forms clash and fight at times, move in harmony and peace at other times, moving this way and that. But I am untouched by the fighting and the peace, as the ocean is untouched by the waves crashing into each other or the waves gently rolling together.

I am the unmanifest, beyond form. Emotions, thoughts, joys and pains bind only to forms, but they do not bind to me. I am not bound by the forms, nor bound to them. I am the ground of the forms – of persons, bodies, minds, things, shapes, colors. I am perfect stillness, the silence in the vastness of space, the infinite ungraspable by thought.

I am without becoming and without fading. I am ever present, an infinite ocean of infinite waves, the one behind the plurality.

Social Identity

Most animals have only biological needs. Eat, sex, fight for food and territory and so on. When these are met, the animal is satisfied.

Humans have, beyond biological needs, social needs. The needs of social identity.

Social identity – being self consciously part of a group, connected to previous and future generations – was the great transformation which propelled humans beyond other animals.

It also created a task for humans: to deal with the pangs and pains of social identities. Especially the essentially insatiable and intrinsically combative nature of social identity.

Hunger can be fulfilled. Need for acceptance cannot. You eat when you are hungry, and hunger subsides till later. You act so as to be accepted and fulfill a social identity, the need for that acceptance grows and becomes stronger. Fulfilling hunger makes food unnecessary for a while. Fulfilling need for acceptance makes acceptance necessary from then on. Hunger in itself is not addictive. Social anxiety turns hunger into an addiction, a tool not for the health of the body, but for the cravings of the social identities.

The ego is the social self, acting on the cravings of the social identities.

The curtailing of the ego is a necessity for human beings – a way to harness the benefits of having social identities without getting lost in the manic, infinite appetite of those social identities.

The curtailing of the ego is wisdom.

Simply Being

Simple way to live a joyous, meaningful life: don’t forget that I am a speck in the universe.

Keep it always in mind. When I forget it, bring it back to my awareness. As I develop this practice –  cultivate and nurture it – a lightness infuses my being. A radiance and letting go of my fears feels second nature, and nothing feels unnatural or unfair.

Three main ways I am prone to forget the truism of my insignificance:

– when I have bodily needs,

– when I intract with others and am in the web of emotions;

– when I am enthralled intellectually and am trying to figure something out.

At any moment in life, one or more of these applies to me. I am hungry, horny, have a headache. I am proud, jealous, nervous, happy. I am figuring out what to do for the weekend, reading a book, solving a puzzle, working to bring about social change.

In these contexts, in different ways, the truism of my cosmic insignificance recedes from my view. I seem essential to the world. What I do, or what happens to me or mine, seems crucial. The world can be this way or that way, good or bad, fair or unfair, and my fate seems to hang in the balance. Each moment feels like a lottery I am trying to survive and win.

How is it that in these contexts I so easily forget the cosmic truism? Why in these contexts do I seem so central to the world?

Because in these contexts the world as I experience it is my world, situated around my needs (physical, emotional and intellectual). The baby experiences the world as providing milk or not, and the baby’s hunger is the center of that world. Likewise, when I am angry, I experience the world (things outside of me) as appeasing me or not, and the issue of my appeasement is the center of that world.

This ego centric awareness of the world is true even in intellectual activity. When I am trying to creation political change, even with the motivation to help others, I experience the world as thwarting or aiding my aim. While the ego-centricness is explicit in physical needs, it is implicit in intellectual needs – but present all the same.

This is the basic illusion embedded in experience: the experience is of the world, which creates the sense of objectivity, but it is for the sake of the experiencer, which is the subjective reality.

The cosmic truism is a reminder that this double play is intrinsic to all experience. That the appearance of objectivity in the experience covers over its subjective structure. Remembering this is the only way to come closer to a more truly objective awareness of the world.

That border where the subjective, being aware of its essential subjectivity, seems to merge selflessly with the objective – that is the frontier of human awareness. It is the space of tranquility and being with the simple isness of life.

The Great Equalizer

Normally my thoughts keep churning: “Why did they do that? What should I do? I am right, they are wrong. I am wrong, they are right. Life is hard. Boring. Hopeless. Wonderful. Unfair…”

As this happens, the world feels big, much bigger than me. Populated in the first instance by the hundreds of people I interact with, or feel directly impact my life: family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, atheletes, politicans, celebrities, scientists, artists, philosophers, etc. It is my village, filled with the dozens who live in that village with me, and bigger-than-my-village beings – the famous people – who live in the castle on the distant hill controlling what happens in my and other villages.

Sometimes I realize this is not the truth. It is my perception only, created by my limited awareness. The way parents seem larger than life to a child.

And then I see my struggles in my village are not the ultimate reality either. Beyond the distant mountain where the rich, famous, powerful people live, there is a vast world. In which what happens in my house and in my village, and even in the famous people’s houses, is but a passing occurrence, a drop in a much bigger ocean.

I have an admin job and live my middle, lower- middle class life. What I do affects a dozen close family and friends at most. If I don’t show up at work, I will be replaced in a week. The city, state, country, politics, entertainment, industries, science and arts move on unaware of, and irrespective of, me.

Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bill Gates, Brad Pitt, Einstein, Picasso – they are in the pantheon of culture, seemingly controlling things I only see from a distance. My doctor makes 5 or 10 times what I make, and Brad Pitt makes 10 or 100 times what my doctor makes. And Bill Gates makes 100 times what Brad Pitt makes. This is the hierarchy of human life.

But beyond Earth, beyond human life, me and Brad Pitt and Bill Gates and Donald Trump are not that different. We are all specks. What difference there is between me and Bill Gates is infinitesimally small – to the point of no difference – from the perspective of space.

This is a truth. At root, I am a speck in the universe. So are my family and neighbors. So are the most rich or most intelligent or most powerful people on Earth. This truth is the great equalizer.

We all know this truth. It is not a surpise to anyone. Yet: we live as if it wasn’t the case, as if the hierarchies in human life, the relative advantages and disadvantages between humans, are the reality of life.

Wisdom is to live in continual awareness of this simple truth. To not be caught in the as if reality of social hierarchies intrinsic to the human perspective.

Hence a farmer in a village can be as wise as, or wiser than, a philosophy professor in a big city. Wisdom is not a matter of knowledge that some can acquire and some don’t. It is not itself another hierarchy in human life. It is instead to see the minuteness of human life and to live with that awareness constantly.

The wise person doesn’t acquire the God’s eye perspective. Nor does he stay mired within the ordinary human perspective. He hovers in between, continually aware of the vast gulf between the human and the God’s eye perspective.

Freed thus from the grip of human hierarchies, he acts without being caught in the mental cacophony of blame, doubt, guilt, possessiveness. He acts more in light of the deeper reality, without the as if fantasy. Like an adult in a land of children.

To an infant, the mother is the center of the world. To a child, his home is the center. To a teenager, his budding social circle beyond the home is the center. To an adult, human life is the center, which defines his role and aim in life. To the wise person, the universe is the center, with an awareness of one’s own, and humanity’s, cosmic insignificance.

Three Views of Life

There are three views of life.

The rationalist thinks human nature can be understood by thought. Who I am, who we are, how we ought to live, how we can best organize ourselves politically – the rationalist has a two step process for addressing these and any other issues. First step is to come to a conceptual understanding of what is the right thing to think. The second step is to then will ourselves to act in accord with that right understanding. The rationalist aims to cultivate rational awareness, grasping the world in thought.

The anti-rationalist thinks human nature cannot be grasped in thought, and that thought and reason are false Gods which only the naïve and the weak believe in. The true energy and reality of human life are our brute powers, more basic and more subterranean than thought: the will, passions, identities, instincts. The anti-rationalist sees reason as a prison to be freed from so that the power and majesty of brute instincts can be unleashed. And life is a battle of those powers. The anti-rationalist aims to cultivate an awareness of power.

The supra-rationalist agrees with the anti-rationalist that life cannot be grasped in thought. But he agrees with the rationalist that thought is needed to guide our basic instincts and passions. The supra-rationalist thinks just as thought is needed to guide instincts, so too an awareness beyond and above thought is needed to guide thought. Thought is not the end of human consciousness, but only a step. Further beyond thought lies greater realms of consciousness and deeper modes of being. This is a cosmic awareness beyond the strain and effort of thought.

Our current time is no different from past times: it is the struggle of thought to grow beyond instinct, and of awareness to grow beyond thought.