How Capitalism Exploits Philosophy.

Today, Saturday the 16th of April, 2011, the British station – Radio4 – at around 1300hrs (BST), broadcast a programme hosted by David Dimbleby.  Part of the broadcast presented an old recording, apparently from 1950 Britain, the speaker of which gave forth the view that there are two books in the world that have inspired great evil,  They are:

1)     Mein Kampf (My Struggle) By Adolf Hitler.

2)     Das Kapital (The Capital) By Karl Marx.

The speaker went on to explain that both of these books have created tyrannical political systems that plunged the democratic free world into a catastrophic war, and that one of them – Das Kapital – through the auspices of the Soviet Union, still exercises its evil intent on around one half of the population of humanity!  With absolutely no sense of irony whatsoever, the speaker presents these two books, and the two very different political regimes associated with them, as one and the same, and it must said, to the general agreement of his audience.  How extraordinary that a manual for race-hate and totalitarian rule by a small elite (Mein Kampf), could be compared with a philosophical tract (Das Kapital) that explores the exploitative nature of capitalist society, and which, though those observations, considers the capitalist system to be both unjust and undemocratic.  Whereas the work of Hitler advocates a thoroughly racist ideology from start to finish, the work of Karl Marx defines racism as a bourgeois shame, and the nationalism it inspires as a means to keep the ordinary peoples of the world apart, so that they can not unite to pursue their own best class interests.

A vital question is this; why did the speaker in question feel that he was living in a society that was free from both of these broad ideologies?  The British Labour Party of 1945 had applied a Socialist model to post-WWIIBritain, bringing in the Welfare System, the National Health Service and Universally Free Education for all.  On the other side of the ideological coin, and despiteBritain’s contribution to the defeat of Nazism, there has always been a simmering resentment toward immigrants, and people from the former empire.  The conclusion must be thatBritainis not free of these two ideologies in the broad sense, in many ways, the left and right of the political spectrum is at the heart of the very fabric ofUKsociety.  What then, was this particular speaker doing?  A capitalist system, working from the first principle of ruthless exploitation, creates a small, privileged elite, and a large mass of exploited people.  Those who inhabit this elitist bubble, seldom if ever attribute their wealth and status to the idea that although they much as individuals, it is the ordinary masses that have had much ‘collectively’ taken from them, and have been, as a result, politically, culturally and economically plunged into a permanent state of poverty.  Although the elite creates the false notion that it is through their own ‘hard work’ that has secured their abundance, they also assert, in a vicious manner, that the masses are ‘poor’, because they do not work hard enough.  The truth is that no amount of hard work will address the economic balance, but merely serves to perpetuate the imbalance in wealth and political power.   Hitler did not care about this imbalance, whilst Marx asserted that for this imbalance to be corrected, a radical redistribution of wealth is required, and, as a consequence, the false elitist bubbles of the capitalist system burst.

The speaker in question inhabits one of these elitest bubbles.  As a consequence, he experiences a certain ‘good life’, whereby he is relatively free to do as he pleases due to his wealth and social standing.  He is not directly dependent upon a vicious capitalist system that exploits the masses and keeps them in their place, because he is not one of the masses.   Being in the elitest group, it is true to say that whilst continuously benefiting from the exploitative system, the exploitation he suffers is minimal.   As a result, he is free to imbue his social living space with any philosophical attribute he wishes.  It is a social fiction with no bearing in reality.  He does not say that his social elitism is due to the effects of a vicious capitalist system, but rather attributes the relative freedom he experiences as being the product of ‘liberalism’, ‘democracy’ and ‘free will’.  Listening to his self-righteous speech, one would be mistaken for assuming that the speaker believes that he is living in a mythologicalAthens, if it were not for the philosophical absurdity he represents.  Socrates would spend ten minutes or so examining the premise of his argument, and probably an hour deconstructing it!  This kind of social commentary allows the passive audience to reaffirm their respective social standings.  The elitists feel secure in their elitism, whilst the masses have their poor self-image reinforced – and a ruthless capitalist system continues unhindered.

Although many may agree that Hitler was a thoroughly despicable person, the speaker, no doubt, chooses to associate his idealism (Nazism), with the intellectual output of Karl Marx.  Why should this be so?  The two thought systems could not be more different.  Of course, to associate the writings of Marx with those of Hitler – particularly in 1950, when WWII was still fresh in people’s minds – essentially creates a natural revulsion toward Marx and his ideas.  TheSoviet Unionis not credited with its vital part in the destruction of Nazism – nor are its 20 million dead respected for their sacrifice.  The speaker’s motive appears to be that of trying to ‘hide’ and ‘obscure’ the works of Marx behind a screen of Nazi nastiness and public antipathy.  This is because the speaker knows that out of the two works that he associates (without too much thought or effort on his part), it is only the work of Karl Marx that fully comprehends and exposes the capitalist system for the ruthless economic construct that it is.  Marx threatens the elitist bubble that the speaker inhabits, and is therefore singled out for harsh treatment in the public eye.

Jhana: The Buddhist Search For Focused Equanimity.

The Buddha’s teaching, in its early form advocates a certain withdrawal of the mind from its habitual investment in the structures of the world around it.  This withdrawal of mind attachment from its intimate entwining with external objects is often (symbolically) precipitated by a withdrawal of the physical body from participation in the normal round of everyday existence.  This physical withdrawal can be potentially ‘complete’, as in that of a male or female monastic, or ‘partial’ as in that of the lay practitioner.  Whatever the situation of the beginning point in practice, it is clear that the Buddha is of the opinion that a mind engulfed by worldly images and conventions, is a mind suffering bondage through a delusional enslavement.  The wilful withdrawing of attention from worldly entanglements is of course the essence of the meditative technique.  The attention of the mind itself is literally disengaged from one highly attractive object and instead placed firmly upon its own essence and in the process is not permitted to wonder away from its new area of focus.  The mind, in and of itself, is an ‘objectiveless’ object, and an intense focus upon it, serving as an antithesis to the attachment associated with physical matter.  The mind’s unquestioned investment in the attachment to, (and the viewing of), external structures being perceived as being both independently ‘real’ and ‘permanent’ entities is the reason why humanity suffers.  This investment contains within in it the arbitrary fragmentation of the human mind into an ‘object’, ‘subject’ dichotomy.  That is to say that the natural capacity of the ‘totality’ of mind is shattered by an investment in external entities that do not actually exist in the state that they are mistakenly perceived to be.  This misrepresentation is a form of implicit addiction that simultaneously causes both attachments to the delusion, as well as suffering from the attachment itself.  The addiction – or ‘craving’ (Pali: ‘tanha’) – is so powerful that irrespective of the pain it undoubtedly causes, the situation as it exists can not be changed.  The everyday nature of the state of delusion is locked-in permanently to a false dichotomy that continuously interprets the world incorrectly and in so doing lays the foundation for unwholesome karmic results that repeat without end.  Indeed, this continuous cycle the Buddha named ‘samsara’, and his teachings advocate the permanent ‘breaking’ of the chain of delusion, so that the extinction of delusion is realised through the state of nirvana, or ‘cessation’ of greed, hatred and delusion, as well the craving they inspire.  The chain of addiction continues without end because of habitual attachment to externals.  In this state it is the condition that is suffering itself, that is greatly desired despite the pain such a condition manifests and inspires throughout the life experiences of the individual so addicted.  This deluded state necessarily denies its true definition, and instead maintains a tragic fiction that runs through eons of existence, serving up life after life with unending and multitudinous fabrications that layer one mythological moment upon the next, accruing karmic without end and producing the conditions for the fruit of that karma (vipaka), to ripen.

The physical material of the universal itself is not necessarily morally corrupt as it exists, but rather is made so by a mind projecting a distorted meaning onto, and into it.  However, as the karmic fruits of an individual actually ‘pull’ a physical world into place, even morally inert matter is designed, through circumstance, to create experiences relevant to the karmic root actions themselves.  Early Buddhism envisages 31 such states of existence that are only transcended through the experience of enlightenment at the point of the death of the last karmically inspired physical existence.  Until that time, the mind appears to ‘burn’ with sensation and obsessive thought patterns that inspire actions that inevitably lead to further effects.  This mechanism that sees the mind fabric intimately entwined with the physical world, has to be prevent from functioning in an unquestioned manner.  The power of habit moves in one perpetuating direction, as like a piece of metal drawn to a strong magnet.  Habitual tendencies appear ‘normal’ because they are familiar.  Delusion is a comfortable state that ‘hurts’ those residing within it.  The pain of delusion is never associated with the ‘delusion’ itself.  The human will (cetana) is the Buddha’s key to suffering and its over-coming.  A misplaced will creates and encourages suffering, whilst a directed will, focused correctly and used in the right way, breaks the cycle and eventually allows the mind to be free whilst existing in a physical body that inhabits a material world.  The will withdraws an inappropriate attention from a misconceived external object, and instead re-establishes attention in the right manner, conducive to Dharmic training.  The attention is wilfully wrestled away from the habit of attachment to externals, which have been chased after for time without end, and turned inward toward the pristine nature of the mind itself which is free of pollution.  This re-direction away from delusion toward enlightenment allows for the over-coming of greed, hatred and delusion and the uprooting of craving.  External phenomena act as perpetuators of mental habit formed within the mind itself.  The mind has latched on to inert matter and in so doing has projected an animating delusion into it.  Such is the extent of this situation that the external world becomes ‘painful’ to experience.  At no time however, is the pain experienced originating any where other than from within the mind.  Concepts such as ‘mind’ and ‘matter’, although useful in explaining methods and degrees of understanding and attainment must not be viewed as a dichotomy real in itself.  The mind and world of matter are not two separate entities despite the conventional habit of presentation that suggests they are.  Part of the delusionary, painful experience of living in a physical world is that it appears to exist in a separate nature from the senses that perceive it.  This dualism of ‘this’ verses ‘that’ allows the mind to follow one trait after another with no control whatsoever.  Ideas and emotions are often difficult to view apart from the physical externals that they are associated with, as if no space exists between the two.  The physical environment flows with greed, hatred and delusion and confirms the required attachment through craving.  The Buddha perceives this state as a duality that is unaware of itself.  The deluded human mind is projecting a fictitious world onto its own fabric, and due to its lack of insight is unable to see exactly what it is that it is doing to itself.  This mind generated environment is the cycle of samsara defined.  Such is the entanglement and confusion the mind must disentangle itself from its own creation of an external world, before it can become clear about its own essence.  The attention must be withdrawn from the periphery of the delusion and placed firmly back on the essence of the mind itself.  This allows the essence to be perceived whilst withdrawing the sustaining attention away from the delusion that such a directed attention serves to maintain.

The deluded state that is the norm for humanity appears to be unbreakable in and of itself.  Of course, the Buddha, through the example of ‘right effort’ did indeed break the cycle that is hard to break.  Furthermore, through his long career of teaching (some 50 years), he taught an intricate explanation of what delusion is and how the mind can be made free of it.  Such is the scope of ordinary delusion, and so broad the questions it generated from seekers after enlightenment, that the Buddha provided a comprehensive body of instruction that minutely describes how a practitioner should train from a particular deluded view, to that of the cessation of delusion itself.  This wisdom is the product of ‘jhana’, or meditation.  This state of equanimous knowing is not ordinary intellection, but is considered to be an understanding of such a high degree that it lacks a suitable description.  Jhanic knowledge can be sought (and attained) by the deluded mind, but its fruits can only be truly understood by the enlightened mind itself.  It may be defined as a type of developed intellection that lacks the boundaries associated with the accumulation of ordinary knowledge, which invariably involves the use of the entire mind rather than just a small conscious part.  It is a knowing free of the tyranny and oppression of both inwardly and outwardly generated false dichotomies, and which no longer generates greed, hatred and delusion.  Such is the power of this type of supreme knowing that it is often equated with the mind itself, as such knowledge is only acquired through the training of the mind itself – the mind is the doorway to ‘jhana’, but for this doorway to be opened it was the tradition of ancient India for the spiritual ascetic o enter the ‘homeless’ state of life.  This action effectively disinvested the individual of family, caste, status and wealth, allowing for a wandering existence whereby the needs of the physical body were provided for through act of begging, or which were acquired from nature.  Generally speaking, these virtually naked spiritual seekers after truth were held in high esteem by the institutions of the society they had left.  The disentanglement from the institutions and traditions of this society was respected by the inhabitants themselves, constituting what might be interpreted as a community support for a yogic endeavour that was understood as representing the spiritual health of the society itself.  In this society it was not frowned upon to leave its institutions and enter the homeless state, as Gautama Buddha did, along with thousands of others.  This systemic facility of spiritual escape acknowledges the validity of the withdrawing of the mind’s recognition from external objects and in so doing, the removal of the power these institutions hold over the individual.  The withdrawal of the mind from externals allows for the mind to become the sole object of its own attention.  This means that the corresponding thought constructs that are usually caught up in the external world are isolated in the mind’s awareness and as the Buddha teaches non-attachment, the applied Buddhist method at this point becomes an exercise in non-identification with ‘thought’ itself.  The thinking mechanism, detached from its usual involvement with externals, is further disempowered by the objectification of it through the mind’s innate awareness capability.  This awareness is disentangled from habitual thought constructs so that the constructs themselves can be clearly perceived in their true nature.  The thought constructs, in this situation, have nowhere to go, and have had their empowering roots from the external environment and the inner mind thoroughly removed.  As a consequence, they can be clearly observed in their disembodied nakedness, and the result of this process develops the special kind of insight knowledge associated with jhana, called ‘wisdom’.  When the true nature of deluded thought constructs is clearly scene, the constructs themselves wither away and the mind’s hitherto obscured pristine essence comes into view.

The ‘distancing’ of the mind from external objects does not necessarily require the leaving of society itself.  The Buddha says, on a number of occasions that an aspirant can practice in the wilderness, or find a quiet room to meditate within.  Indeed, the early teachings talk of both male and female lay disciples of the Buddha attaining to enlightenment during the Buddha’s lifetime.  What seems to be important is that a symbolic break with habit is exhibited through a definite and ‘wilful’ choice of lifestyle designed to bring an end to suffering in the world.  Leaving society to live in the wilderness is one such model, as is the lay-person choosing not to be so mentally involved in the institutions and conventions of the world around.  The is teaching that Jhanic development can only occur if a certain space in the mind is initially developed.  This space allows for an over-view of the mind itself and the perpetual habits it produces.  Whatever the eventual outer circumstances of the spiritual seeker of the Buddha’s path, the physical body must be controlled through behaviour modification and the mind reigned in.  Although the Buddha speaks about different postures for meditation it is clear that many adopted the seated posture as a means to control the body through a lack of movement.  More than this however, but the posture itself is regulated with a precision typical of yogic thinking.  Once the body is still, the mind can be observed with out suffering disturbance from external stimuli.  In this way concentration can be developed that eventually pushes through the mental haze and non-comprehension.  The many methods of meditation seek to break the ridge-pole of ignorance and enter the Jhanic states of attainment.

The Pali term ‘jhana’ (झान) denotes two precise characteristics of the use of the mind.  These two characteristics are the state of ‘thinking’, and the act of ‘meditation’.  Jhana, as a distinct concept, refers to mind-centric activities and the fruits of such activities.  Through the act of thinking, understanding is acquired (ordinary knowledge), but through the practice of meditation, superior knowledge is realised.  For meditational purposes, jhana refers to a mind focused upon the observation of its own function and of its own essence.  Pronounced ‘dhyana’ in Sanskrit, this term has entered the Chinese language as ‘Ch’an’ (禅), which is itself a distinctMahayanaSchoolthat advocates the ‘use of mind, to over-come mind’.  Through the use of this intense concentrative method, the taints of the mind are dissolved or burnt-up.  From the Buddhist use of this term it is clear that it refers to a method of mind development, with all its stages, potential pitfalls and experiences, as well as the attainments of that method, as well as never losing sight of the fact that it is the mind itself, that through the practice of the appropriate technique, uproots its own deluded content – literally a case of mind over-coming mind.  Higher knowledge, in this sense, is the product of an ever deepening understanding of the fabric of the mind itself in relation to the universe it inhabits.  Therefore, as well as its general definition as used in Buddhism, jhana has also been developed as a means to explain various states of meditational attainment within early Buddhism, and went on (through its Mahayana development) to become considered synonymous with ‘mind’ itself, and the state of enlightenment a trained mind can achieve.  The chosen method of meditation focuses the mind upon a specific object.  Within early Buddhism there are forty variants of this kind of meditation, from focusing upon the breath, to an emphasis upon taints within the mind, or the developing of positive states such a loving kindness and compassion, etc.  The mind focuses upon an object.  This simple act of concentration (samatha) brings the mind’s patterns of thoughts and feelings under control.  This, in-turn, builds up concentrative power in the mind and allows for the attainment of the appropriate fruits relative to the object contemplated.  Thus the object is fully conquered and a deeper understanding or insight (vipassana) of the mind itself is acquired.  This process is not merely an act of thought reform or the replacing of one kind of thought with another – although in the early stages of mind development, good thoughts are karmically preferable to bad thoughts – but rather seeks to uproot the causes that lead to the formation of deluded thought formations (both good and bad).  The Buddha taught that an ordinary life is conditioned by karma, and that even if the circumstances of that life are considered good and positive, nevertheless, these circumstance are a product of delusion and will eventually pass, turning into their opposite manifestations.  An apparently happy or sad external existence has exactly the same underlying delusional base of greed, hatred and delusion, as taught by the Buddha.  To end this conditioned suffering, the practice of meditation (jhana) is used to free the mind of its habitual creation of ‘defilements’ (asrava), so that greed, hatred and delusion remain unconditioned and therefore do not arise.  This non-arising of conditioning defilements is the point and purpose of all Buddhist meditational methods.  Along this path of development many mental states will arise and pass away as the training progresses, and definite ‘fruits’ related to stages of jhanic training are recorded in the early Buddhist teachings.  There are four ‘rupa’ and four ‘arupa’ stages of jhanic attainment, making eight in all.  The meditator progresses from the first to the eight in order, fully understanding each stage as it manifests and passes away into the next stage.  Deluded aspects of mind are abandoned and enlightened attributes attained.  However, the practitioner does not become attached to any particular spiritual attainment or state, but moves on unconcerned toward an ever deepening tranquil and profound understanding.

The eight jhanic states are separated into two groups of four so-called ‘absorptions’.  The first group is collectively termed ‘rupavacara jhana’ (i.e. ‘of the realm of form’) and can be understood as ‘formal’ acquisitions of meditative states.   That is to say that the Pali term ‘rupa’ literally translates as ‘matter’ and relates to physical existence in a material world.  These four progressive levels of meditation lead the practitioner beyond attachments to the physical world (of gross matter), and in so doing a finer appreciation of matter and its characteristics is attained.  Therefore, ‘rupa’ is also often translated as ‘fine-material’, the emphasis being upon the development away from the ignorant state.  The second group of four absorptions is called ‘arupavacara jhana’ (i.e. ‘of the realm of non-form’) .  Arupa translates from the Pali as ‘formless’, and refers to spiritual attributes that are considered to be beyond the limitations of the physical world, the attachments associated with it, and the suffering produced through this deluded association.  Arupa means ‘non-form’ and suggests a deepening of awareness which is the consequence of the successful application of the first four (rupa) jhanas.  The correct contemplation of ‘form’, leads invariably to the development of the correct contemplation of ‘non-form’, and in this meditation method, each jhana must be developed separately, one at a time.  These ‘non-form’ jhanas create the situation for the attainment of state described as being ‘neither perception nor non-perception’.  Each jhana must be entered, fully achieved, understood and the spiritual fruits gained, before leaving the developed state and thoroughly contemplating its experience.  Every jhana must be developed in this way, with a definite separation between the jhanic stages themselves.  With the complete understanding of each jhanic stage, together with its integration as an experience into the ordinary mind, the practitioner moves steadily onward, one clear stage at a time.  This tradition allows for the acquired attributes to be clearly seen and understood.  There is no sense of rushing.  The Buddha’s teaching explains precisely what should be done, how it should be done and why it should be done in the way suggested.  The following eight jhanic states are described one at a time in the traditional sequence.

1st Rupavacara Jhana.

The practitioner enters the wilderness or a quiet room, thus disentangling the mind and body from attachment to the physical world.  Specifically, this is an exercise in non-attachment to worldly inspired habits of thought and behaviour.  With the meditation posture adopted, the meditator focuses the mind upon the meditation method – such as concentrating upon the breath.  Such an action symbolises a clean break with the ordinary world of painful delusion.  This means that the five hindrances – sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, agitation and worry – are abandoned and the four attributes attained – reasoning, reflection, happiness and bliss.  The mind still thinks, but is under the control of the practitioner.  The concentration required is not yet developed to the level of ‘one-pointedness’, but the success of detaching from the world (and its associated habits) brings about a deep sense of happiness and bliss that permeates every pore of the body and every part of the mind.  This is the first jhanic absorption which must be fully mastered before moving onto the next.  When emerging from this state, the practitioner realises that reasoning and reflection obscure the establishment of true concentration, and strives, through further practice, to abandon them

2nd Rupavacara Jhana.

With the successful attainment of the first jhanic state, the practitioner realises that the reasoning and reflection in the mind is a hindrance to a deeper penetration into the mind essence.  Whereas the first jhanic state is born of seclusion, the second jhanic state is born of concentration.  Through further refinement of the meditation method, both reasoning and reflection are abandoned as being unprofitable on the spiritual path of Dharma, during the act of meditation.  This means that the mind is ‘stilled’ from discursive activity, and that the states of internal confidence, singleness of mind, happiness and bliss are manifest.  This is the second jhanic absorption which must be fully realised before moving onto the next.  When emerging from this state, the practitioner realises that happiness obscures further development due to its all pervading and intoxicating nature.  The practitioner, through further training resolves to abandon happiness and establish only bliss and the unification of the mind.

3rd Rupavacara Jhana.

With the successful attainment of the second jhanic state, the practitioner realises that happiness in the mind is a hindrance to a deeper penetration into the mind essence.  Through further refinement of the meditation method, happiness is abandoned as being unprofitable on the spiritual path of Dharma, during the act of meditation.  With happiness uprooted, bliss permeates the body and mind.  The mind is united through concentration and equanimity (upekkha) is established.  This is the third jhanic absorption which must be fully realised before moving onto the next.  When emerging from this state, the practitioner realises that bliss is a hindrance to the establishment of a fully quieted mind absorbed in equanimity.  Within this stage it becomes clear that whatever is actually abandoned, be it reasoning, reflection, happiness or bliss, the opposite is also abandoned.   No matter how apparently ‘good’ or ‘pleasurable’ an experience might appear, it contains within it, the essence of suffering through its opposite – non-reasoning, non-reflection, non-happiness and non-bliss.  One extreme is not abandoned in favour of the other, but both extremes are thoroughly uprooted.  This uprooting transcends duality, (i.e. a mind divided in itself), and allows for the development of one-pointed concentration (Samadhi).  The practitioner, through further training resolves to abandon bliss and all bodily sensations associated with it, so that equanimity and one-pointed concentration can be established.

4th Rupavacara Jhana.

With the successful attainment of the third jhanic state, the practitioner realises that bliss in the mind is a hindrance to a deeper penetration into the mind essence.  Through further refinement of the meditation method, bliss is abandoned as being unprofitable on the spiritual path of Dharma, during the act of meditation.  Through the (previous) abandoning of pain and pleasure, joy and grief, and now bliss, the practitioner enters the fourth jhanic state.  This state is beyond pain and pleasure and has the purity of mind established by equanimity.  This is the last of the realm of form jhanas.  Strong concentration and a deep equanimity have been thoroughly established by the disentanglement of the mind and body from the gross physical world, and the development of the fine material jhanic states.  The fourth jhanic state prepares the mind for the movement into the very rarefied states associated with the four arupavacara jhanas.

Before examining the four arupavacara jhanas, it is interesting to note that the Buddhist sutras, (as the teachings of the Buddha himself) always clearly explain this scheme of meditation as involving eight distinct levels separated into two groups of four.  However, the Venerable Walpola Rahula, in his book entitled ‘Zen & The Taming of the Bull – Towards a Definition of Buddhist Thought’ (pages 101-109), explains that although the sutras always explain the rupavacara jhanas as containing four clear levels of attainment, the Theravada Abbidhamma actually lists ‘five’ jhanic states in the rupavacara.  The reason for this is that ‘one-pointed’ concentration – that is ‘developed concentration’ is assumed to be already existent within the first jhanic stage.  Rahula points out that as reasoning and reflection exist in the first jhanic stage (i.e. ‘moving of the mind’), developed one-pointed concentration can not be present.  Furthermore, Rahula conveys that the Mahayana Abbidhamma (as opposed to the Theravada Abbidhamma) is in accordance with the early Buddhist sutras, and counts only four jhanic stages.  This is probably a matter of organisation rather than an error in interpretation, after-all, although strictly speaking, one-pointed concentration can not pre-exist the conditions that lead to its attainment (Rahula’s interesting point), it is also true that a ‘concentration’ of some kind is implicit in the first jhanic stage, as a means of ‘will’ (cetana), whereby the entire meditative process actually depends upon its directional presence.  It may as yet, not be ‘one-pointed’ in the first stage, but the conditions for its development (in the second stage) are definitely present, and it may be the acknowledgement of this fact that is expressed in the Theravada Abbidhamma.  That is that one stage contains the essence of the next stage within it, with all the stages over-lapping to a certain extent.  Each stage is dependent upon the next for its development.  However, when the sutras are consulted it is clear that there are only ‘four’ jhanic stages in the rupavacara jhanas, and that the Buddha, motivated by compassion and wisdom, clearly explained each stage as if it were different and distinct from all other stages, and then explained precisely how each stage relates to the next, giving the order of the stages themselves and how the developmental attributes are to be correctly attained (i.e. ‘method’) throughout.  The Abbidhamma, by comparison, is a (very interesting) collection of theoretical commentaries developed long after the Buddha’s physical passing, by the monastic community.  The Venerable Rahula – himself an eminent (Sri Lankan) Buddhist monk, and respected academic, shows that the Abbidhamma, as a man-made body of work is not beyond scrutiny and criticism.  In this instance, the Abbidhamma commentary of the Theravada school deviates from the sutras proper, not only by suggesting that one-pointed concentration is present in the first jhana, but by also asserting that the second jhana is entered through the abandonment of only ‘reasoning’ (vitakka) whilst retaining ‘reflection’ (vicara).  The sutra teachings clearly convey that the second jhana is entered through the abandonment of both ‘reason’ and ‘reflection’, and that through such abandoning, one-pointed concentration is achieved.  The Theravada Abbidhamma schema is so designed that it needs five stages instead of four, to achieve the state of equanimity and is presented as:

Abbidhamma (Theravada) Tradition.

Vitakka vicara piti sukkha ekaggata
1st Jhana reasoning reflection joy happiness one-pointed concentration
2nd Jhana reflection joy happiness one-pointed concentration
3rd Jhana joy happiness one-pointed concentration
4th Jhana happiness one-pointed concentration
5th Jhana equanimity one-pointed concentration

This schema can be compared with the sutra presentation of the same teaching:

Pali Canon Sutra Tradition.

Vitakka vicara piti sukkha ekaggata
1st Jhana reasoning reflection joy happiness access (brief) concentration
2nd Jhana joy happiness one-pointed concentration
3rd Jhana happiness one-pointed concentration
4th Jhana equanimity one-pointed concentration

The sutra teaching allows only for ‘access concentration’ to be present within the first jhana state, as opposed to the presence of full and developed one-pointed concentration as in the Abbidhamma tradition.  The sutra tradition abandons reasoning and reflection within the second jhana state, as opposed to the abandoning of just reasoning in the Abbidhamma tradition.  The sutra tradition lists four rupavacara, whilst the Abbidhamma tradition lists five.  Through clarification and a step by step progression, the unnecessary attributes of mind are brought out and abandoned so that equanimity can be established and stabilised.  This is the foundational achievement for the movement into the higher – non-form – arupavacara jhanas.

1st Arupavacara Jhana.

Realising that resting in equanimity in relation to the physical world is a form of subtle attachment the practitioner abandons this position and disentangles the mind from the fine-material danger associated with the fourth jhanic state, and instead allows the mind to explore boundless space.  The equanimity of the fourth absorption contains within it the inherent limiting of the mind in the face of matter.  The mind confronts matter and is made ‘still’ through concentration.  In the fifth absorption the unnatural boundaries that defined the fourth absorption fall away, allowing the mind to expand throughout the universe.  It is a state no longer defined by the perceptual boundaries of gross matter (rupa), but is rather boundaryless (arupa), and is beyond arbitrary limit.  A well known Buddhist meditation technique is to cultivate an attribute such as loving kindness (metta), and then project that attribute in all directions and toward all beings.  In this absorption the mind expands in all directions quite naturally and all at once, due to the condition of ‘giving up’ any notions of comfortable attachment to the state of equanimity achieved within the fourth absorption – and the fifth absorption is successfully entered.  One-pointed concentration is now so strong that any apparent or potential discord (seen within the mind), can be clearly cognised, understood and dealt with through right effort.  The concentration upon the meditative method moves the practitioner beyond attainments in relation to the physical world, toward attainments not dependent upon (or limited) by the physical world.  In this state the chosen meditative method that has taken the practitioner through all the previous jhanas, is used one more time to establish the expanded mind in the ten directions.  Once the expansion has been successfully achieved, boundless space manifests and becomes the new subject of the meditation.  The practitioner focuses attention exclusively upon the experience of boundless space.  Boundless space is ‘boundless’ because the mind has become free of its previously limiting delusions.

2nd Arupavacara Jhana.

Boundless space has been established, but the close proximity to the fine-material realms motivates the practitioner to established one-pointed concentration and enters the realm of the sixth absorption.  Boundless space is surmounted and replaced by boundless consciousness.  This stage is literally the attainment of ‘awareness’ becoming ‘aware’ of its own presence.  This is the contemplation of the consciousness that pervades boundless space, moving the emphasis away from the space itself and into the consciousness expansion.  By continuously directing awareness toward infinite (boundless) consciousness, and away from boundless space, infinite consciousness, as the emphasis of the meditation technique, replaces the previous focus upon boundless space.  The meditation technique has led to the expansion of mind in its spatial aspect.  Expanding loving-kindness, compassion or whatever chosen method into the ten directions has allowed for the acquisition of the state of boundless space.  In-turn, the mind, through an act of will (cetana), has developed and refined its perception of empty space so that the permeated conscious present, has been thoroughly cognised, understood and established.  As falling back into old habits of worldly involvement is not desirable, the practitioner pushes onward, to attain ever deepening states of enlightenment.  Boundless space and boundless consciousness are experienced, from the practitioner’s perspective, as if he were existent within a three dimensional sphere of awareness, that contains the entirety of creation.  This awareness of consciousness within space is the attainment of the second arupa jhana, which is counted as the sixth absorption.

3rd Arupavacara Jhana.

The structured meditative method develops the first four (rupa) jhanas, and creates the conditions for the achievement of boundless empty space (and the subsequent development of the higher ‘arupa’ jhana), where it is given up, and is replaced by concentration upon the empty space itself (sixth absorption).  Concentration is then subtly shifted so that the awareness of the consciousness that permeates empty space is contemplated (seventh absorption).  Consciousness that is conscious of itself is viewed as limiting the practitioner in the search for enlightenment and is abandoned.  Every stage of jhanic attainment has the potential risk of attachment to it fruits.  Step by step, the attainments are acquired, attachment is acknowledged, and the attainments abandoned in sequence, ensuring an ever deepening of the understanding and penetration of the mind essence itself.  In this seventh absorption, consciousness is abandoned, and the state of mind often described as consisting of ‘nothingness’, but is probably better described as ‘no-something-ness’, and should not be confused with ‘sunyata’, the essential emptiness of the universe.  This stage is symbolised by a mind free of content and object.  It is this ‘emptiness’ that is contemplated as the concentration is moved from a focus upon boundless consciousness to that of ‘nothingness’ that is voidness and non-existence.  The meditator, through analysis, realises that consciousness has a base of ‘nothingness’ (no-something-ness).  By emphasising this insight, the state of the seventh absorption is established.  Boundless space gives way to boundless consciousness, which in-turn gives way to boundless ‘nothingness’.

4th Arupavacara Jhana.

Every jhanic stage is at risk from contamination from the stage immediately preceding it, and is inspired and driven onward by the state that immediately succeeds it.  Each new stage that is attained renders the fruits of the previous stage redundant and obsolete.  It is a system of ever improving and expanding conscious development.  There is a stage beyond the contemplation of boundless nothingness.  A subtle attachment is present to the state of nothingness.  Even at this high stage a worldly attribute exists.  By striving to abandon this attachment to nothingness, the eight absorption of neither perception nor non-perception is entered.  The five hindrances are fully suppressed and mindfulness is established.

Through the eight absorptions concentration and equanimity are established.  Although often presented as a meditative exercise separate and distinct from vipassana (insight) meditation, nevertheless, it is true that jhana development does involve the development of insight as well as its key attributes of concentration and equanimity.  For Buddhist enlightenment, however, this is not the end of the path.  Usually, within early Buddhism, jhana (tranquillity) meditation is practiced in conjunction with vipassana (insight) meditation so that true wisdom (prajna) is developed, for the final realisation of Nirvana (extinction of deluded outflows in the mind).  Sometimes, a ninth jhana is imagined by scholars, but as this term does not exist in the sutras themselves, such a description carries no true descriptive value.  The Buddha already teaches that despite the high attainments achieved in the practice of the eight jhanas, another level still exists –namely that of the cessation of feelings and perception.  Although jhanic development can be found in many places within the Pali Canon, the Anupada Sutta is of particular interest as the Buddha describes the eight jhanic states – one after another – with reference to the cessation of feeling and perception discussed as if it where the consequence of the attainment of the eight absorption, when the state had been thoroughly experienced, established and understood.  Neither perception nor non-perception has the consequence of the establishment of the non-arising of feeling and perception.  Through the realisation of ‘neither perception nor non-perception’, the conditions that usually create ‘feeling’ and ‘perception’ no longer arise.  This is not the arising of a ninth jhana, but rather the full and developed consequences of the eight.  So important are the jhanas that the Buddha entered into the absorptions at the passing away of his physical body.


Anupada Sutta: One After Another (MN 111) Accessed 26.1.12                                                                 

Choong, Mun-Keta, The Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism (Motilal) 1999.

De Silva, Lynn, Buddhism beliefs and Practices In Sri Lanka (SIOLL) 1980.

Keown, Damien, Buddhism A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press)

Ling, Trevor, The Buddha’s Philosophy of Man (Everyman) 1993.

Luk, Charles, Practical Buddhism (Rider) 1988.

Narada, Thera, The Dhammapada (Buddha Education Foundation) 1993.

Rahula, Walpola, The Heritage of the Bhikkhu (Grove Press) 1974.

Rahula, Walpola, What the Buddha Taught (Gordon Fraser) 1978.

Rahula, Walpola, Zen & The Taming of the Bull – Towards the Definition of Buddhist Thought (Gordon Fraser) 1978.

Saddhatissa, Hammalawa, Facets of Buddhism (The World Buddhist Foundation) 1991.

Sole-Leris, A, Tranquillity & Insight (Rider) 1986.

Story, Francis, Gods and the Universe Essays on Buddhist Cosmology (Wheel) 1983.

The Rider Encyclopaedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion (Rider) 1999.


Marxian Spirituality & Equality.

When nature is observed, one particular, and often disturbing factor is plain to see.  Nature is not equal in any obvious sense.  Life exploits life.  All that lives is dependent upon all else that exists.  The bare requirement to ‘exist’, and to continue to exist, appears to be the prima facto underlying all biological blue-prints and diverse sentient patterns.

Having established this natural exploitation, an interesting question has to be asked.  Is nature at its purest form, demonstrating a fundamental inequality, as the developmental and existential base of all life?  Is it essential for nature to develop life, via a route that does not, and can not, allow for any contributory mechanism that could provide a means for the releasing of the biological pressure valve?

The situation as described is dependent upon a particular point of view. Nature, by its disparate presentation, offers a tremendous diversity that is breath-taking in both implication and experience.  When one distinct life form, is linearly compared with another, as if they are placed side by side, out of the context of their respective natural existences, and measured, the results suggest inequality.  But is this view correct?

It is correct from the point of view that sees it that way, but it must be clearly pointed out that this view is limited by self-defined barriers of logic, that serve to channel all incoming information, toward a particular perspective.  The validity of this interpretation does not go beyond the structures of its own limiting logic.

Nature is equal because it is diverse.  The equality that underpins the diversity of life, allows for the apparently random creation and development of patterns of existence that are free to find their own developmental pathways through their particular allotted life spans.  Measuring life as if it exists as a bar chart, gives a false interpretation of what it is, that is exactly being observed.  By the method of observation, an idea is formed.  But it is also true that a situation as it exists, should dictate the model of interpretation that is used to quantify its existence.  Arbitrary logic structures, applied in isolation, give results that are purely idiosyncratic in nature and not valid in the final assessment.

Equality therefore, is an amorphous concept.  Equality that does not take into account the diversity of life hinders growth and renders impotent the creative impulse of the human individual.  For equality to be effective, it must not make victims out of those who are subject to it.  Throughout history, humanity has created societies based upon social hierarchy.   These have evolved out of primitive communism, associated with the tribal structure.  The castes or classes that developed are based upon the power acquired through a particular social function, be it hunting, building, selling and farming, etc.  The ability to wage war, has served as the bias for feudal societies around the world.

Today, economics is considered the main motivating factor of human organisation.  And the class structure that has developed based purely upon the acquisition of wealth.  Those with more wealth are considered to be of ‘greater worth’ than those with less wealth.  In Capitalist societies, equality is considered as the ability of all its citizens to access wealth creation ‘equally’ at the source of that wealth.  This is the Capitalist assumption of base equality.  It does not take into account, the social structures that have evolved around the acquisition of wealth, that are designed not to help those who have no wealth, to access wealth, but rather to legally assist those who have already acquired money and social status, to both maintain their privileged position, and make it very difficult for others to attain to the same position.  Capitalism is an economic philosophy that advocates the acquisition of material wealth – and therefore is considered a form of materialism, linked to both liberalism and individualism.

Communism, on the other hand, that is the Marxist theory of Communism, does not advocate the acquisition of wealth as the basis of social development.  Social planning, based upon the scientific method, is designed to develop society as a whole.  As a consequence, both wealth acquisition and individualism are viewed as unscientific and therefore against the common good of society as a whole.  Everyone within the Communist society, moves forward, together.  Human potential is focused toward the development of society in general, through a selfless attitude of endeavour.  Marxist Communism however, does not view human spirituality as valid, but a by-product of Capitalist exploitation.

To be ‘spiritual’ in the Marxist sense, is not to believe in gods or spirits, but rather to use the human mind in an advanced fashion.  Although consciousness is admitted by Marx, Communism, like its Capitalist cousin, is a materialist philosophy.  It does not advocate the acquisition of wealth, (on the contrary, it advocates the re-distribution of wealth), but it does reduce all of existence to that of matter, and its perception.  As matter at its source is the same everywhere, so it is that humanity is ‘equal’ at its material base.  Marxists view humanity as being freed from idealism, superstition and exploitation, and raised up to the equality of ‘matter’.

Depending upon the position of the observer, equality has no set criterion.  No permanent reference point that humanity can use to set a definite level, agreeable to all.  What is equal to some will be devastating to others.  It is not surprising that both Capitalism and Communism are material philosophies – that is systems of social organisation that advocate a pragmatic view of the world, generally free of idealism.  They are, of course, intimately related, as the latter is viewed as the solution to the inequalities and greed of the former.  From a Marxist perspective, a Communist society can only grow out of a Capitalist society, as wealth is actually needed to re-distribute to all people.  Marx believed that Great Britain was the only country in his time that could be Communist, because of its tremendous wealth and imperial power.

The term ‘spiritual’ however, is found in Marxist inspired texts.  For instance, Marx and Engels wrote:

‘…The class that possesses the means of material production, by virtue of this also possesses the means of spiritual production…  The individual’s composing the ruling class possesses, among other things, consciousness as well, and by virtue of this, think.  In so far, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and scope of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in all its spheres, hence rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age, and that means that their ideas are the dominant ones of the epoch.’  (On Communist Education: By MIKalinin – Page 139)

And although Lenin refers to religion as a ‘spiritual booze’, and a means of ‘spiritual oppression’, he nevertheless, appears to acknowledge a spiritual dimension to the working masses when he says:

‘The economic oppression of the workers inevitably calls forth and engenders every kind of political oppression and social humiliation, the coarsening and darkening of the spiritual and moral life of the masses.’  (Socialism and Religion:  By VI Lenin – Page 1).

The term ‘spiritual’, as used by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Kalinin appears to refer to clear thinking and the subsequent good ideas that emerge from such thinking.  It is linked in Marxist ideology to education and not to religion – which Lenin declared a ‘private affair’.  It is, as a concept, separate and distinct from religion.  Marxist spirituality is the product of a refined consciousness, and ‘spirituality’ in this context may be viewed as a human mind, fully functioning and achieving its complete potential through the outer structures of an idealSocialistState.  With such a mind-set fully established, equality, as a concrete physical attribute is ensured as a cerebral conclusion.  From the Socialist position, equality is a logical response to the diversity of the natural world, and not a denial of it.

Class Defines Moral Worth.

The British rightwing media has whipped itself into frenzy after frenzy of moral indignation regarding, what it considers to be the steady decline in the standards of psychological and physical behaviour exhibited by the general population of the country.  The term ‘general population’, of course, refers to what is perceived as an ever-increasing population of people of working class origination, who, through the improvement in social conditions – influenced by the socialist development of the Welfare State, trade unions, a National Health Service, universal suffrage, and free education, etc – has undergone an improvement in social conditions hitherto unseen in the history of the UK.  Many working class people live lives that outwardly appear ‘middle class’, but with none of the pretentious trappings usually associated with such an economically privileged upbringing.  There are even some immensely wealthy business people whose financial power puts them on a par with members of the upper class.  However, despite the improvement in income for many, poverty still exists throughout UKsociety, and with a continuous rightwing assault on the socialist reforms of 1948, that poverty is now increasing and getting worse.  The so-called ‘reforms’ themselves are actually ‘cuts’ in the socialist system that has thoroughly enhanced UK society since the end of WWII.  These cuts are designed to turn back all the socialist achievements, and in so doing, reduce the success and educational levels of the working class, and thus to ensure a return to a definite and easily definable British class system, whereby the middle class do the bidding of an upper, who both conspire to exploit one another, whilst maintaining a blanket oppression over the most populous class in the country.  For this to happen, the middle and upper classes must re-enforce one another’s claim to legitimacy (i.e. mutually ‘exploit’ one another’s social needs), whilst conspiring to prevent the working class from developing an awareness about itself and where it fits in within its society, and in so doing prevent any large scale political uniting that would achieve socialist ends.  For this oppression to succeed the workers must be deprived of the means to be educated, and of the kind of economic social stability the middle and upper classes enjoy through access to their accumulated wealth – for the workers, this corresponds to a fully functioning Welfare State, etc.

Where has this wealth originated for the middle and upper classes?  From decades of the exploitation of the very workers that they seek to disempower and keep in a state of social and economic arrested development.  This kind of oppression is system-wide and ‘total’ in its application.  The middle and upper classes perceive themselves as ‘special’ because of the mythology they construct for themselves, through and around their wealth.  It is an assumption of this mythology that their wealth has ‘always been’, in a type of god-given situation, or that it has been required through a ‘superior’ effort of will that is equally divine in nature.  God is believed to favour those who socially dominate, because such social domination is believed to be ‘god’s will’.  Of course, what is actually missing is the true history of how the wealth and social position was obtained, and the real extent of the ruthless exploitation of the masses that occurred to achieve such social and economic dominance in the first.  In effect, the wealth and socially powerful positions have been quite literally ‘stolen’ from the people themselves, and then used against the people who have suffered the theft!  This is a world of fairy-tale truths that uplift some people into castles in the sky, over the emaciated bodies of those who have paid the real social and psychological consequences for such a fictitious lifestyle to exist.  Part of the ‘faith’ of the mythology of the middle and upper classes is the innate assumption of a pristine moral authority, whereby the middle and upper classes are believed to have been ‘born’ possessing a superior spirit, (touched by the grace of god), a clever mind and a more robust body.  All this is the mistaken understanding acquired through the apparent stability their wealth and social position entails in the physical world.  The massed booty of decades of exploitation is misinterpreted into some kind of religious purity and superior spiritually and social standing.  This leads to an interesting phenomenon which can be witnessed throughoutUKsociety, which involves the interpretation and presentation of how so-called ‘immoral’ behaviour is reported within the rightwing press.  The following article appeared in the Daily Mail inspired London Metro – a free newspaper that is distributed throughoutLondon’s extensive travel network:

London Metro Newspaper - 17.1.12

As is usual with a story of this nature, when reported by the rightwing press it is relegated away from the front page and consigned to the right-hand margin of page 9, with its relevancy as an example of potential moral degradation further reduced as a consideration in the mind of the reader, by being placed next to a lightweight story about a deer who has got its antlers entangled in some green netting, (much hilarity is implied by the rightwing journalist, who draws, through this article, the readership’s attention to the similarity between the netting and the ‘natty’ dreadlocks worn by Rastafarians), and just above a story regarding the re-call of a well known car.  The London Metro (like the Daily Mail) is usually very quick to condemn those accused of any kind of sexual deviancy, even before a trial has taken place.  Here, the rightwing newspaper offers no comment whatsoever, but instead of condemnation for the situation contained within the report itself, it is content to very carefully, and sensitively report the story from the viewpoint of the acquitted accused, making sure that every part of his story is explained without error or omission.  The former accused is of course the son of the Earl of Mansfield and is known as ‘The Honourable James Murray’.  The London Metro is very much at pains to inform the reader of the social status of the acquitted man – indeed he is referred to as ‘AN ARSTOCRAT’ – all in capital letters, in the first words of the first line of the article.  This is to inform the reader that what follows, no matter how disturbing or deviant, is to be considered in a substantially different light, than where the acquitted a member of the working class.  Essentially the story is that the acquitted had underage teenage people in his place of abode – as a routine occurrence, it seems – and then had sexual intercourse with a girl aged just 16 years old.  Although she is at the age of consent under UK law, Police in the UK have been known to charge adults for various sexual crimes, when acts between substantially older adults (and young adults), have been known to have occurred, even with the ‘consent’ of the 16 year olds involved.  In this instance, the 16 year old girl involved, reported to the Police that she had been groomed by the acquitted accused, before being actually ‘raped’.  The acquitted accused is 42 years old, and explained to the court that the alleged victim ‘installed’ herself, (along with her friends), in hisOxfordflat.  The acceptance of this defence by the Court and the jury effectively absolves the acquitted accused of any and all responsibility.  This presents the acquitted accused as if he were a ‘victim’ of his own life.  In the light that he drove this girl are her friends everywhere, and considering that after the sexual incident occurred, he text (and ‘phoned’) ‘sorry’ 21 times, the jury decided that this fine and upstanding pillar of the community is ‘not guilty’ of the crimes of sexually grooming children, or raping a girl of 16 years old.

The London Metro paints an unquestioning picture of a girl who is socially (and morally) out of control, and who, through her unwarranted and apparently unwanted behaviour, managed as a child, to dominate and control an adult person’s life.  Not only this, but her allegations of ‘grooming’ and ‘rape’ are further proof of her corrupted personality, because of the purity of the person she is aiming her allegations toward.  The London Metro refers to the acquitted accused as an ‘IT Specialist’, and an ‘Old Etonian’, and never once offers any criticism of any kind of either the trial or its outcome.  There is absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for the alleged victim, but an obvious appreciation and demonstrated deference to a person who the London Metro (and the Daily Mail) would usually extol as an example of everything that is ‘good’ and ‘great’ about Britain, alleged sexual deviancy not withstanding.  This kind of reporting, and the bourgeois morality it presents actually has the effect of ‘dumbing down’ the audience, so that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ becomes so implicitly entwined with class privilege that the notion of ‘justice’, as an independent and valid concept, has no objective value whatsoever.  The implication of the reporting contained within the above London Metro newspaper is that the social standing of this person precludes any such notions that he could be guilty of any crime – as such barbaric behaviour is beneath both him and his class – particularly that of a sexual nature.  Furthermore, this article turns justice on its head, and clearly presents the alleged victim’s behaviour as ‘inferior’, ‘devious’, and prone to ‘lying’ – in other words, she represents everything the nobleman does not.  This is the essence of the mythological difference between the middle and upper classes, and the working class.  The son of the ‘Earl’ represents privilege and wealth, whilst the allegations of the girl represent the envious working classes who are thought to huddle in plotting groups around the gated communities of the privileged.  The jury, riddled with bourgeois class indoctrination, obviously produced a verdict very much in accordance with such thinking, indeed such is the power of the historical conditioning, it had no choice.


The Transformative Psychology of Enlightenment.

Author’s Note: This is my 2006 Dissertation for my PhD in Spiritual Metaphysics – which I studied for as an external student through the American Institute of Holistic Theology.  This very much demonstrates my thinking at the time, and was part of a three-year study programme.  After this, I studied for a Certificate in Philosophy of the Mind through Oxford University.  Education (like consciousness) is ongoing, and is very much an evolutionary process.  As it never ends, and considering that it is premised upon and facilitated through the ‘agency’ of ‘change’, our considered viewpoints mature as they become clearer.  This is why Confucius had such a respect for lifelong study and scholarship.  ACW 4.8.15


It is the intention of this work to fully explore the everyday mind, and through careful analysis, map the transformation of the ordinary state of being, to that of the fully developed and enlightened Mind.  Psychology in the West is a relatively new field of study.  As such, there is no ‘one’ agreed approach to the theory of ‘mind’ in the Western tradition.  Viewpoints vary from that of the neurologist, who views every attribute of human, conscious creativity as being nothing more than a mixture of chemical reactions and electrical impulses, to the psychotherapist, who works with the thought processes, so as to achieve a ‘balanced’ and culturally ‘agreed’ state of mind.  Needless to say, virtually every other view of the mind fits somewhere inbetween these two broad perspectives.  This dissertation will examine the many facets of the mind, as viewed from both the Western and Eastern traditions and the consequence of this combined knowledge for the modern and post-modern human condition.  The full and holistic development of the individual is as much dependent upon the starting point – or, in other words, the ‘life circumstances’ of the individual (i.e., where they find themselves physically and spiritually), as it is on the method used to enhance the growth process.  Mainstream psychology, although interesting and useful, has self-limiting boundaries for the individual, and does not allow the individual to proceed any further than the acquisition of a vague and difficult to define, concept of ‘normality’  The true wisdom that the seeker of wholeness really yearns for, lies beyond these fragile states.  And it is the cutting-edge of Western psychological research that is overlapping with the most ancient wisdoms of the Eastern traditions.   Not only in the realms of psychology does the East and West meet, but also in the scientific world – particularly in the realms of Quantum theory – which, when read from a philosophical perspective, bears a remarkable similarity with the narratives of the highest teachings of both Hinduism and Buddhism, not to mention the ancient Chinese religion of Daoism.

Humanity grows into its individual lives, and those collective lives grow into the universe.  On the surface of perception, this transformative process seems clean and tidy, and almost easy in its logical presentation.  But the developmental process of personal transformation has as many variants as there are human beings experiencing it, with each variant being a product of an individual’s circumstances, personal history and psychology based upon a unique experience of what it means to ‘be alive’.  The process from non-enlightenment to that of enlightenment, although essentially the same process of growth, will unfold in many different and distinct ways, each way eventually leading to the summit of true understanding that encompasses the insight of self-knowledge and the wisdom gained through a universal vision or perspective.  When this change occurs, it is permanent, there is no slipping back into the old deluded, or unenlightened modes of thought and being.  The resounding question is this: What exactly is humanity doing on this planet, in the multiverse?  The idea of a ‘universe’ (i.e. ‘one presentation of creation’) is not valid within the cutting-edge of higher science – which, through the exploration of space – has shown clearly the existence of many universes.  This understanding is essential if we are to begin our quest for self-knowledge and progress upon a path that leads to a spiritually fulfilling journey.  There are multiverses, just as there are multi-beings inhabiting these areas, and of course, there are literally multitudinous human beings alive today (approx: 6 billion), and it maybe imagined just how many human beings have existed since the earliest of times on our own planet Earth.  But despite this diversity, virtually every founder of the great religions, together with many philosophers, (not to mention the intuitive capabilities of ordinary men and women), have all asserted that behind, beneath and underlying this diverse world, in its multitudinous manifestations of life and objects, there exists one ‘unifying’ reality.  And as many millions have felt or experienced this reality, as a philosophical concept, this underlying essence has been called many names, from the ‘One’, ‘God’, ‘Dao’, ‘Universal Spirit’, ‘Great Spirit’, ‘Allah’, ‘Guru’, ‘Gestalt’, ‘All-Embracing’, and ‘Enlightened Mind’, so on and so forth.  Beyond petty ideologies and expedient political considerations, all these terms are absolutely and equally valid.  It is only our ignorance, the ignorance of the unenlightened state that tarnishes this universal concept.  Such ignorance only serves to separate an already disconnected individual being – from the higher aspects of reality.  All religious and spiritual paths were originally designed to reconcile this sense of separation and despair that lies at the heart of the human condition.  These paths maybe considered ‘conduits’ of spiritual, psychological and physical healing.  Today, however, many of these religious paths have been corrupted by materialism and ideology.  All is not lost.  Despite this veneer of human folly, the eternal message of hope still pulsates outward from the numerous Holy Scriptures, like a spiritual beacon for those who can hear it, or want to hear it.  Our modern and post-modern world has also given birth to paths of psycho-spiritual development – part academia, part temple.  A fusion or blend of everything good in both the ancient and modern worlds.  What follows is a careful interweaving of the religious-spiritual, with the cutting-edge of academia.  Such an undertaking is designed to be accessible to the greatest possible cross-section of humanity, and it is the author’s intention that NONE should be left behind.


Virtually all religions, philosophies and spiritual paths agree that the enlightening process does not occur in the body.  Yes, an enlightened Mind[1] can manifest through the body, but the essential work of coming into wholeness, occurs within, or through the Mind, regardless of what we call this process or attribute its power to.  Such concepts as soul, spirit, atman, anatman, God or Allah, are various ways (amongst many), that the enlightening process, and its ultimate achievement, are attributed to.  For any process of psycho-spiritual development to take place effectively, we most use concepts, be clear about what those concepts are and mean, but at the same time, treat the concepts as expedient devices designed to guide us, support us, but in the end, are literally out-grown and left behind.  All concepts are therefore, very meaningful, and at the same time have redundancy built within themselves.  If, on our journey of self discovery, we become attached to our perceived meaning of concepts, then that attachment will hinder our progress and keep us in a perpetual state of arrested development.  As we grow, our perceived understanding changes as we become wiser and more knowledgeable.  What a concept means to us, as our journey unfolds, changes constantly, until the need for the concept itself dissolves or merges into the wholeness of our being.  But the concepts, are not merely concrete, objective ideas, coined by the mind of someone else, far from it, the very way we interpret ourselves is also a concept, one of inner, self production, this too, must ultimately undergo the transformative procedure; ‘Without self-assertion, self transcendence is beyond us.  The insecure person, desperately trying to hold together the fragmented elements of an immature self, cannot undertake the processes involved.’[2]

The processes are of course, essentially psychological in nature.  The mind is far more than just the physical brain. [3] Of course, there is a very real need for humanity to study the physical structure of the brain and how it has evolved into its present form, and how it works, etc.  Such a study is very much underway in the realms of neuroscience and psychiatry, but its details are beyond the scope of this work.  Suffice to say, the Mind is not the brain, but the Mind is intimately linked to the brain, and is so for the duration of the physical existence of our bodies.  And although the Mind extends far beyond the physical limitations of the brain, the brain is, nevertheless, the seat of consciousness, or ‘Mind’.  By ‘Mind’, is meant all the psychological and spiritual processes humanity possess, experience and development.  Our Minds, during the experiences of a lifetime, undergo immeasurable changes, whereas our brains stay more or less the same shape and size.  This insight serves to tell us that what humanity really is, is far greater than we think it is, if we limit everything to the physical realm.   And it is no mistake that the ancient Chinese and Indian sages mapped consciousness as emanating out of the centre of the fore-head, just above and between the two eyes – this area often being referred to as the ‘third eye’, or in Sanskrit, the ‘Ajna’;

The name Ajna is derived from Sanskrit roots meaning “to know” and “to follow”; it therefore means “to command”.  The Ajna chakra may be thought of as the command centre of the whole being.’[4]

The ancient Chinese concept of ‘Dan Dien’, or ‘Centre of Heaven’ energy points, approximately mirror the Indian system of Chakra areas.  The main Dan Dian point is said to be just below the navel, and maybe thought of as aligning with the Svadhisthana Chakra.  However, the Chinese system of qi energy flow recognises many energy channels (that carry qi around the body), and at least three Dan Dien points, one we have mentioned, just below the navel, one that approximates to the heart, and finally one that is placed in the centre of the fore-head.  The Daoist immortals cultivated their qi energy, as the eminent Chinese Buddhist scholar Charles Luk describes;

So while the stove remains in the lower abdomen during the whole process of alchemy, the cauldron changes place rising from the lower Dan Dien under the navel to the middle Dan Dien or solar plexus, and finally to the upper Dan Dien in the brain where it is called the precious cauldron.’[5]

Despite the colourful and rather obscure contextual language of both the Chinese and Indian traditions, the process of  psycho-spiritual development remains essentially the same for all human beings, regardless of culture or circumstance.  The Western world has had its indigenous, pre-Christian belief systems.  They were once even pre-Celtic, but much is lost in the mists of time.  However, the further back the historian plunges, the more it is realised that human belief systems evolved out of a common need for humanity to ‘make sense’ of both themselves, and the environment they inhabited.    This fact explains why the various different cultures of the world have, at onetime or another, shared very similar and common belief systems, before the advent of the ‘modern religion’ and the final alienation of humanity from its essence, or, as Carl Jung would say, the alienation of the consciousness from the unconsciousness.  The early belief systems were holistic in nature and worked from the premise of ‘wholeness’ between humanity and nature, and nature and the ‘soul’.  Jung’s theory of ‘The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious,’ serves as a necessary blue-print for this process to have occurred.    Again, we can look at orthodox science to provide some clues as to why Jung might be right.  For instance, humanity evolved from different and distinct ethnocentric stock, then humanity as it exists today, would only ‘look’ similar, but have very different DNA, suggesting a diverse and disparate origin – modern genetic science tells us that this is not the case.  ALL human beings share exactly the same DNA, regardless of their physical characteristics, or their geographical location – and that this DNA originates in south-easternAfrica, some two hundred thousand years ago.  This strongly suggests a shared origin of the development of physical characteristics, including the human brain and its functions.  For the various human groups to be different in any profound sense, those groups would have to be of different and unshared genetic origin.   When in fact science today shows that there is only one human race, namely Homo Sapien Sapien;

‘According to the Noah’s Arkhypothesis, by contrast, continuity of regional characteristics from Homo Erectus times to the present are not to be expected.  Instead, anatomically modern humans would be found first in one region of the world – the site of the speciation event.  These modern forms would be found later in other parts of the world as they migrated away from the site of origin, replacing existing populations as they went.  Looked at globally, there would be a single point of origin, from which a wave of modern humans would flow in all directions, sweeping all pre-existing human populations into evolutionary oblivion.’[6]

From this perspective, Jung’s theory fits the facts.  The archetypes, or patterns that repeat themselves and manifest in the unconscious minds of all humanity, actually serve as the basis of humanity’s ritual and belief system development.  In other words, what is inside – will invariably manifest in the outside world.  The spirit unfolds – and we can assist this process if we become aware of our individual predicaments – juxtaposed to the universe we inhabit.  Jung is just one of many rationalist Westerners, who have developed a sound intuitive appreciation of the universe, and have been able to convey that intuition through the intellect, but without the usual narrow-mindedness often associated with mainstream Western academia.  The reason is clear.  As human beings, we share the same consciousness and brain structure.  Various cultures have thought to have developed one hemisphere of the brain over the other, one hemisphere representing the rational, whilst the other represents the intuitive.

The majority of Western philosophy seems to emerge from the analytical left

          hemisphere of the brain, wherein a hypothesis is logically developed through a

          number of chapters until a conclusion is reached at the end of the book. 

          Chinese classics, by contrast, seem to emerge from the spatially orientated

          right hemisphere of the brain.  These works are, in a sense, holographic: each

          chapter is complete and each reflects the entire book.[7]

A fully rounded individual has to open and explore both hemispheres of the brain, to attain the unified consciousness such a journey ensures.  Ram Dass, (formerly Dr. Richard Alpert), a Harvard trained psychologist, was once a hard-nosed rationalist who believed that Asian philosophy was something one developed whilst fearing the apparent ‘unknown’ of death.  However, after taking LSD, which loosened his mind, he travelled toIndiawhere he met his guru Neem Karoli Baba, who assisted Ram Dass to free his mind totally – without the use of drugs.  At the time of writing, Ram Dass is alive and well and teaching in theUSA.  Ram Dass and Jung, both eminent academics, had transformative events in their lives (Jung’s event was a break-down, which he managed to stay conscious within, whilst experiencing it.  This opened his mind and released his inherent wisdom).  Today, there are many similar people.  They fulfil a vital function of integrating the intellect with the intuition, the East with the West, and the Self and the universe.  Ultimately, their examples serve to unite ‘us’, with ourselves.  The intellect can be the conveyer of the spirit – it does not have to block the intuition.  And the intuition does not have be vague or overly mysterious – it can be precise and meaningful.  When the East and the West communicate, the left and right side of our brain fulfil there true function, namely to perceive the all-embracing oneness of the universe, (our consciousness far exceeding the physical structure of our brain’s biology), without the sense of alienation, experienced by many people living in modern society.


Society as we experience ‘it’ does not necessarily reflect the deepest needs of our spiritual yearnings.  Our spiritual DNA blue-print is timeless and ageless, it manifests over and over again in our children and descendents.  These people will physically manifest in random social structures, if one accepts the idea of re-birth and continuous existence.  On the face of it, this is not an unreasonable philosophical position; after-all, modern physics[8] informs us that energy can not be created or destroyed, but can only change state.  This being so – and if this idea of continuous existence is extrapolated into the realm of conscious existence, then the question arises as to the purpose of such an existence?  When the scientific explanations are fully explored and investigated, making use of hundreds of years of academic research, and the experience of hundreds of thousands of years of human existence (in one form or another, if the theory of Darwinian Evolution is taken into account), the human species (that is ‘us’) is left to marvel at the fact that no matter how much knowledge that has been accumulated over-time, and no matter how sophisticated the understanding of the universe has become, humanity, as a species, are still no closer to ‘knowing’ the answer as to ‘why’ we exist in the state we do.  Despite the capacity to ‘know’, a development of the intellect – (that is of the human mind striving to conquer its environment – by literally ‘out-thinking’ any unpredictable event that might occur), it has to be acknowledged that the process of ‘knowing’ lies essentially outside the spiritual state.  That is not to say that ‘knowing’ is outside of the ‘spirit’, it definitely is not.  But the intellect as it stands, in its undeveloped state – literally separates its self from its essential essence.  It is the development of superior thinking in human beings – formed around a spiritual rupture.  It is the need to ‘know’, superseding the need to ‘be’.   The human mind is separated from itself, and this separation continues through human existence and is reflected in every aspect of individual life.  The average human has their intellect separated from their intuition; their mind from their body, their body from their environment and their existence from every other human being.  This situation represents nothing more than a rupture of being.  In this state, human beings exist to be separate and all social and religious institutions and structures, (which calcify around culture), serve to keep this ‘separation’ firmly in place.  Logic is defined into a very narrow ‘thread’ of narrative interpretation.  Things are defined as ‘right’, simply because they are not defined as ‘wrong’.  This is a one-sided approach to living, that clearly defines the rupture around which human modern culture has developed.  And modern culture, stemming from the ‘Industrial Revolution’[9] in 18th centuryEurope,  has been based upon ‘superior knowing’.  Modern Eurocentric science worked from the basis that only that which could be demonstrated to be ‘known’ within a limited and enclosed system of observational logic, could be declared as ‘correct’.  Everything else was declared as ‘outside’ of science, and therefore simply not true.  And although much can be known through the use of modernistic science, the spiritual rupture that defines modern human beings stays very much intact.  And has done so up until fairly recently in world history.

In modernistic society, human beings formed large groups, usually through social class, usually defined as Working-class, Middleclass and Upper-class.  Then there are Nation States and political affiliations.  The Cold War (1945-1989), literally defined the world into two broad political camps, namely the Capitalist, Democratic, West, and the Communist, Totalitarian, East.  Human beings have also been separated into competing ‘races’, a purely arbitrary (and non-biologically supported) categorising of human populations, based upon the erroneous assumption that people of differing skin colour, have differing genetics – when infact ALL human beings alive today are of the same ethnic origin – that is Homo Sapian Sapian – and all originated in Africa, with our common ancestors leaving Africa some 200,000 years ago – and eventually populating the world.  Differences in physical structure are simply developments in the adaptation process of living in differing environments and climates, etc.

Modern society has also separated itself into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, or more succinctly, into those who have money, and those who do not.  The homeless and the affluent, the famous and the ordinary and the successful and the unsuccessful, etc, etc, all serve to demonstrate the essential destructiveness of modern society.  But more than this, the manifested ‘outer’ society (i.e. its structures, institutions, establishments, cultures and political entities), serves  to justify, define, perpetuate and signify an ‘inner’ corresponding ‘psyche’.  This psyche embodies all the required ‘programming’ needed for the ‘outer’ society to be maintained by a willing, but albeit ‘unknowing’ human populace.  The programming is so subtle and deep in the average human mind– that it manifests as ‘pre-choice’, to the extent that the inherited modern societies humanity inhabit, appear to be the only ‘rational’ choice available – even defining how humanity thinks.  On the surface, it seems to be an inescapable double bind.  Outer society can not exist without the corresponding psychology of its inhabitants, and its inhabitants (encumbered with their corresponding psychology), cannot live without the apparent comfort of the predictable and external social structures that are both familiar and at the same time comforting.  But society has changed……

The paradox of tradition is that once it has spoken the tradition is no more what

          its spokesmen claim it to be.  Tradition is invoked for the authority of its

          silence: a silence that neither needs nor brooks argument and which renders all

          argument superfluous, pretentious and impotent.  Yet in order to yield its         

          authority (that is, to be of that use whose prospect had seduced the speaker in

          the first place), tradition needs to be argumentatively established: its silence

          must be broken.  But once it has been broken, its authority becomes of a kind

          altogether different from the now lost, virginal, unthinking allure.  It is now but

          an authority of choice and declared loyalty: of a choice among choices, a

          loyalty among loyalties.’[10]

The post-modern condition permeates across, and around the globe – it is true to say that it sums-up the essential, defining quality of contemporary living.  But what does it mean?  The modern society was based strictly upon what science thought it knew – people and their lives could be measured and moulded into a predictable direction and outcome.  Those who did not conform – were exiled, excommunicated and executed out of established society.  Society was made to mimic the industrial machine of iron and steel.  People became the raw energy or ‘fuel’ used to drive society onward.  Existence emphasised the ‘physical’ only and there was no space for self-development of any kind.  In fact, such behaviour in the industrialised world was considered an aberration to that defined as ‘normal’.  Many attempts to lead an alternative lifestyle, based upon ‘inner’ development, was thought to be a form of mental illness[11].  The exact development of the post-modern condition is open to debate – but most would agree that its development was post World War II (i.e. post-1945).  It is primarily signified by a shift in perception of understanding of human beings as a concept – and their place in the world and universe.  As an academic theory, it denotes a mode of thought that draws scorn upon all the old certainties of modernistic science and philosophical thought.  Under modernistic thinking, what was ‘known’ was considered ‘total’ and beyond both reproach and improvement – in-short, modern ideas were considered perfect and unalterable.  It was thought that everything that could be known was already known, and that society had been duly moulded into a eutopic vision of order and cleanliness.  Charles Darwin had explained how human beings had evolved from an ancient ‘ape-like’ creature.  Adam Smith had explained how capitalism should work, and Karl Marx had explained not only how capitalism worked – but why he considered it unjust.  All these academic ‘narratives’ had usurped the authority of the Christian church and its theological ‘dogma’.  The church, although still existent within Western society, had been replaced by secular logic and its scientific thinking.  Religion, for sometime prior to the Industrial Revolution, had become politically powerful throughoutEurope, but in so doing had moved away from the true spirit of the teachings of Jesus Christ (i.e. Yeshua Ben Yoseph), and had instead become obsessed with maintaining its power over society, its institutions and its sovereign leaders.  A one-sided faith in the secular power of the church, replaced the need for Christians to reconcile their individual selves with the Higher Self – or God.  Humanity’s response to this situation, was to replace one-sided faith with a one-sided ‘knowing’ that freed the individual from the tyranny of the church, and replaced disempowering faith with empowering ‘knowledge’.  However, this move did not alter the situation for the better in a universal sense, but rather merely shifted the emphasis of the problem of ‘separation’ and ‘spiritual alienation’, from one extreme (i.e. ‘blind faith’) to another (i.e. ‘one-sided knowing’).  One-sided knowing serves to obscure any spiritual reality – and blind faith has no direction to ‘find’ spiritual reality.  The award of blind faith is always in some poorly, or ill-defined distant point in time.  Knowing only knows what it ‘knows’ about – it does not, by definition ‘know’ anything about the world that lies outside of its limited remit.  The post-modern condition frees humanity from both of these extremes.  It does not advocate an alternative – but rather clarifies the historical forces (both psychological and sociological) that have bound humanity to this time.  When technology replaced industry, computers replaced factories and the internet replaced the telegraph.  The old certainties of modernistic society have fell away as society disintegrates away and out of its old structures based upon heavy industry.  And the driving force that led to the collapse of modernity is that many notions of modernistic science have been proven wrong.  For instance, as an example of this phenomenon, the so-called Newton’s Laws, should really be re-categorised as Newton’s Theory – as these ideas do not work in space – as there is no gravity – and can not therefore, be truly considered universal laws.  Once previously considered ultimate laws collapsed into relativity – that is just one idea amongst many others, competing for attention and support – the formally unquestioned certainty of modernity was lost.  As the outer structures changed, the inner structures of the human psyche changed in accordance.  Only in the post-modern state, there is no group mentality and society has no comforting group structures humanity can belong too en masse.  National governments rule over a figment of the imaginations (i.e. a ‘country’), a concept made virtually redundant by the internet, global trade and trans-national-corporations.  The old certainties of boundaries and barriers between ‘things’ has gone for good.  And with an ever increasing super-sonic speed, the world has become smaller and our perception of time has altered – the world does not appear as big as it did 100 years ago.  Real time communication via email and mobile telephones has revolutionised personal interaction.  Post-modern freedoms appear from the base-up in society – and national governments are finding it very difficult to regulate from a top-down perspective, when new freedoms are appearing in this way.  Freedoms appear at ground level, and expand outwards.  This freedom has no respect for contrived social structures, or self-limiting psychological mind-sets.  The post-modern state frees us as individuals from the past in all its three-dimensional aspects.  We are returned to a state of perfect, undecided ‘balance’.  Such a state serves as a firm and yet ‘undefined’ foundation for humanity to rediscover its inner essence, and progress on its eternal quest for self-knowledge.  We have been reduced by technology to hyper-individuals, whereby never before in the history of humanity have we been so ‘free’ as individuals, and yet, for many, so unable to use this freedom.

‘Because of traditional habits of thoughts that picture time as a flowing stream, a rapid succession of instants in which things come to be and pass away, it is difficult to find the appropriate grammar to articulate the sense of temporality at issue in the narrative identity.  It is misleading to think of the narrating self as being “in” time or existing “throughout” time.  The relation between the self and time is of a more intimate sort.  The self exists as temporalized.  Temporality enters into the very constitution of who the self is.  Temporality thus need no longer be viewed as an external threat to self identity, as a co-efficient of adversity, as that which ruptures the unity of self by pulverizing it into a flux of changing multiplicities.’[12]

Being freed from this temporal past, and the historical narratives contained therein, although potentially very positive in nature, requires a guiding knowledge and wisdom for a sense of developmental direction to be gained and initiated.  Spiritual freedom is complete freedom.  An analogy might be drawn by imagining a person held prisoner in a single room for 30 years, with no interaction with the outside world, or other people, suddenly finding their cell door open, and not knowing what to do about it, or where to go.  They would probably remain in the cell for quite sometime, or rarely venture far outside, if they did explore.   Post-modern society is like this.  It does not define itself, but reveals truth – by removing the barriers to its perception.  Post-modern freedom expands without end, as does the enlightened mind.  Quantum science is beginning to replace classical (Newtonian) science, and one major facet of the former, is that ‘nothing is certain’;

Next, there’s the matter of uncertainty and the vacuum.  As we’ll see in more

          detail later, one of the most important bricks in the building called quantum

          mechanics is the uncertainty principle, first formulated by German physicist

          Werner Heisenberg.  In the quantum reality world of atoms and smaller

          entities, certain values can never be known with certainty.  For example, when

          we look at an electron that is part of an atom, we can measure certain

          properties, such as its position and its momentum.  However, the more precise

          our measurements are of its position, the more uncertain is its momentum.  And

          vice versa.[13]

Quantum theory[14] over-turns the assumption of classical science, which taught that phenomenon could be observed as if it were in a vacuum, unaffected by its surroundings.  A scientist could carry-out an experiment, without apparently affecting the outcome of the experiment in the process.  However, Quantum theory has formulated the ‘measurement problem’.   It has been discovered that by observing the phenomenon – the observer is actually affecting the phenomenon being observed – suggesting that the mind and the universe are intrinsically linked[15].    The old certainties of the ‘modern’ world have collapsed into the uncertainties of the ‘post-modern’ condition.  Uncertainty frees humanity from the philosophical and physical prison of deterministic existence – allowing for multidimensional growth in theory and in practice.


The dichotomy of the ‘outer’ world, juxtaposed with the ‘inner’, psychological world, keeps humanity firmly trapped between two extremes.  One rebounding off the other – the best most people can experience or achieve in this state of existence, is a ‘balance’ between the two extremes – this balance does not include the extremes, but rather serves to keep extremes at a distance.  A certain limited predictability is achieved in the mind and body, through the repression and suppression of the natural instinct to explore and discover new experiences through the senses.  Such an instinct is probably a vestige of the requirement for humanity’s distant ancestors to migrate to pastures new, to keep ahead of bad weather, find shelter and pursue food.   In the respect of the latter, human beings often migrated by following the animal herds that they relied on for food and clothing.  The animal herds themselves, were moving away from bad weather and tough climates, always following the sun.  The sun was central to early humanity, as its presence defined and denoted the very aspect of survival itself, and explains the central figure the sun plays in many early religions.  For there to be sustained life – it was believed that the sun must shine.  Human endeavour became structured around not only following the sun, but also appearing to encourage the sun to shine and bring abundance to the earth.  Here, we see the basic dichotomy at work.  The sun represents the ‘outer’ world, and humanity’s need (or attachment) for the sun to do what it was believed it should do – represented the ‘inner’ world.  Humanity’s existence was dominated and determined by an outer necessity to physically ‘survive’.  The only inner state worth achieving in this situation, is one of ‘contentment’, when the outer situation appears idyllic and calm.  However, as the seasons of the year are cyclic in nature, it follows that humanity’s psychology developed to represent this cycle of contentment (when times were good), to a fear of losing outer stability, over-time, when times were bad.  Lurking behind a temporary contentedness – was the immanent fear of losing that contentedness.  Humanity’s inner psychology developed to reflect the change in season and climate.  Change was to be feared, as it led to hard times and possibly death.  Good times were to be welcomed – but an over-view of the cycles of existence was lacking to any deep degree.  The need for group survival, took up all the energy available – and in the early times of human existence, there simply was not the sustained leisure time for a philosophical over-view to be developed.  The only reality available and easily accessible, was that humanity was subject to a ruthless determinism based upon physical circumstance that could not be controlled, but only physically placated and psychologically accepted.

This simple dichotomy between the outer world and the inner world (one conditioning and reflecting the other), represents a definite stage in humanity’s psychological development.  What was required in this situation, was a possible ‘third way’ of viewing life and the universe.  This third way could not be limited to either of the already existing extremes, but neither could it not include those extremes for it to be truly representative of humanity’s ability to perceive itself in relation to the universe.  Somehow, an all-embracing perspective had to be developed.

And this enhanced and permanent state of developed consciousness – symbolised as an expanded awareness – three dimensional and spherical in nature – embracing all the physical matter of the universe AND the underlying essence of the universe, reconciles the two extremes previously discussed, namely that of the physical world and humanity’s inner reaction to it, and literally dissolves the false barrier of dichotomy between the two.  And in doing so, releases humanity from the need to embrace either one extreme or the other.  When freed, the conscious mind may develop to its full potential.  When freed from the need for excessive introversion or an equally excessive concern for the outer world – the combined energy of the mind can be focused to a single-point and directed inward, beyond all concepts of introvert and extrovert.  The human mind is freed from a false dichotomy that hither to limited it from developing to its fullest, spiritual potential.  The original meaning of the Latin word religion (that is ‘religios’), literally meant ‘to join together’.  Thus the original spiritual journey was one of the reconciliation of extremes – into an all-embracing ‘one-ness’.  This required journey is an exact, and yet flexible path of development.  The knowledge of this path was passed on through experiential knowledge – that is what was known, was known through the experiencing of it.  Such knowledge became the wisdom of development.    The journey of development had to be undertaken to be truly understood.  Simply knowing some ‘facts’ about the path, told nothing about the path.  All the founders of religion originally found this enlightenment – they trod the specific and yet flexible path and gained universal understanding by transforming their minds.  These extraordinary people felt the need to teach that spiritual freedom from the extremes of living and how it could be sort and achieved.  And for a time, whilst the founders of the various religions were alive, or for one or two generations after their physical deaths – the path was preserved and followed.  People quietly got on with the job of spiritual development.  In such a state of pure being, compassion serves as the basis of the enlightened mind.  One is freed from the tyranny of extremes – and at the same time imbued with a deep, unfathomable compassion.  The Lord Buddha exemplifies such an example.[16] But there are many more, some known, many unknown.   The original religions advocated direct transformation of the mind and being, and a uniting of the universe with the life forms inhabiting it.  Later, after many thousands of years, the knowledge and wisdom of the true path was either lost or obscured.  Instead, religious paths calcified around ‘dogma’, with the outward observance of arbitrary rules and procedures replacing true spiritual development and insight.  Far from  ‘joining together’, religions that have determinate into exclusive membership clubs – actually serving to separate humanity into mutually alienating and competing groups.  Again, restoring the old psychology of the individual caring more about the outer structures of the physical world – and the inner reaction to these outer structures.  This is the maintaining of the psychology of ‘pre-enlightenment’, or, more specifically, the non-enlightened state.   Religion has become a reflection of the psychology that the original religions sort to over-come.  For many people in the post-modern world, religion is either failing, or has failed all together.  This has led to dichotomisation of religion into two camps; the first being one of irrelevance for many people who do not follow an established religion, and the other of extremism of those who do follow religions.    This extremism is a response to the threat that religious people feel, in the face of what they perceive to be the attack against religion – by those who do not believe in it! 


The very concept of ‘transformation’, is, in essence, beyond mere belief.  Belief, although essential on the spiritual path of change and development, must never become the goal in itself – having a static ‘belief’ about enlightenment, regardless of how strong that belief may be, will not cause the necessary inner transformation to occur in the deepest recesses of the mind.  And it is the mind that serves as a doorway (and link) between the ‘physical’ world, and the spiritual ‘universe’.  A conduit of mutual exchange – that can become easily blocked by limited ideas, views and emotions.  Such a blocked condition is called the ‘ego’, or that state of mind that is limited in scope and outlook, and totally self-absorbed and self obsessed.  It cares little about what lies beyond itself – in fact it cares little about that which it does not ‘know’, because to actually ‘see’ what lies beyond itself is nothing short than a threat to its own existence.  Ego, by its very definition, is composed of an artificially maintained and contrived narrow scope of mind and view that permeates out of the individual, through the senses of the body, and out into the environment.  It attempts to influence all that it encounters.  To exist, it must be constantly reinforced from data collected through interaction on all levels; the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual.  The data collected is deliberately interpreted in such a manner so as to ‘sanitise’ its true meaning – (that would see the ego’s end) – into a convenient and easily digestible morsel of information that is made to look something other than it actually is – that is a ‘deluded’ view of reality that appears to support and justify the ego.  The ego misrepresents sense data to appear to be something it is not – whilst the distorted information appears to reflect (and justify) the ego’s existence.  It is a symbiotic cycle of self-reinforcement of deluded perception.

Transformation therefore, is nothing short of dissolving and ending this non-sensical cycle of ignorance.  To trigger transformation, is to be told or shown that there exists another way of viewing sense data (and therefore the universe) – and that this ‘way’ requires a systematic approach to changing that which interprets the sense data – namely the mind.  The Buddhist definition of the senses, teaches that there are infact six senses;  1) Touch 2) Taste 3) Smell 4) Hearing 5) Eyesight 6) and the Mind.[17]

The mind serves to create, generate, collect, organise and categorise data into a worldview that places an individual’s existence into a specific mode of being.  Initially, regardless of culture, geography or ethnicity – this base state maybe described as that of the ‘unenlightened’.  For the mind is not merely a ‘passive’ recipient of gross data – far from it.  The mind does not just ‘perceive’, but also is programmed through experience to actually ‘project’ a meaning onto the environment immediately surrounding itself – be it the body of the individual it happens to inhabit, or indeed the actual, physical world the body inhabits.  For instance, states of mind that constantly encourage anxiety and worry in the physical body – can cause illness in the body.  Cruel and hateful states of mind generate cruel and hateful actions in the physical world.  Degenerative states of mind create thoughts and emotions that act as servants to that which is the base angst in the psyche.  If an individual has suffered terrible outrages to human dignity and well-being, quite often those experiences are stored in the deep recesses of the mind, and the very fibre of the body tissue.  Without prompt, the ego continues to replicate the bad experiences that programmed it in the first place.  The cycle of self-ignorance needs to be broken for the good of the individual and humanity.  Compassion and understanding are pre-requisites for this task.

All higher religion and philosophy point toward the same undeniable truth – namely that individual existence, and the universe are innately linked and joined from the very beginning.  The popular religions may have lost their focus on this issue, but if you examine scripture, sutra and text long enough, with an open and deep mind – exactly the same enlivening message recurs through the thousands of many different words, of  the many different languages that inhabit the earth.  Although the outer differences of the various religions have become the be all and end all of distinction and debate for many people, what the founders of those religions discovered was the one-ness of all creation – without exception.  This truth supersedes the need to follow a structured religion.  Deep inside the very being of humanity, there lies the universe, pristine, unspoilt and largely unknown to the conscious mind.  Yet it serves as the very basis being.  For many, there is definitely a small voice in the background, calling to them to realise their true nature;

How does the one called respond to the call and to its content?  The first effect    

          of the call is of course the awakening from the deep slumber of the world. 

          Then, however, the reaction of the one awakened to his situation is revealed in   

          the call and to the demands made upon him can be of different kinds, and

          significant dialogues between the called and the caller may ensue.[18]

And it is this dialogue – different for everyone – that will take the spiritual explorer on many different inner and outer journeys.  The mind does not just ‘reflect’ the world – the mind creates both itself AND the world.  The world can not exist without senses to ‘know’ it, and senses would have no meaning whatsoever without a conscious mind that not only interprets the data sensed – but actually serves to create the very senses in the first place.  The essence, or seed of life exists in the centre of the universe, and this universe is the human spirit or ‘Mind’.  From this force, the circumstance that literally ‘pulls’ physical matter together (i.e. ‘karma’, or the never-ending cycle of cause and effect on all planes of existence), creates the physical mind and a corresponding body to encase and surround it.  At exactly the same time that the mind and body are created, a world is created to encase the physical body.  The outer world of sense data – directly reflects the sense organs of the body.   Karma, or the direction that the physical world manifests (and our physical bodies are part of the physical world), will provide the framework for our psycho-physical environment.  Just as energy can neither be destroyed nor created – life can never be destroyed or created – it can only change state – or, manifestation of being.   The limited mind of ordinary existence can either look inward or outward – whereas the enlightened mind manifests in all directions, at all times and knows no hindrance whatsoever.


The term ‘psychology’ (Greek: lit ‘science of the soul’), has come to mean simply the functioning of the mind in its everyday capacity, to serve as an interface between the individual ego and its physical environment.  This limited definition deals with two distinct aspects – namely behaviour on the physical plane, and how one ‘feels’ and ‘thinks’ on the inner plane.  A balanced individual reacts internally to external stimuli, in such a way that is endorsed and encouraged by his/her prevailing culture, with its existing norms, values and belief systems.  An imbalanced individual is defined as one who reacts inappropriately to external stimuli, and/or experiences unacceptable thoughts and feelings.  Unacceptable behaviour or responses vary from relatively mild eccentricities, to the totally dangerous, manic and unpredictable.  However, as culture serves to define acceptable behaviour, it is reasonable to conclude that not all culturally unacceptable behaviour is ‘wrong’ in the philosophical sense.  For instance, an example of the relative nature of culturally acceptable ‘norms’ may be deduced from the example of a person in the USA or the UK, living in a homeless state, wondering from place to place and begging for food, shelter and possibly protection.  In the West, such a state of existence is viewed as culturally abhorrent and dysfunctional from that behaviour which is accepted as ‘normal’ in polite society.  However, in a country such as India, whose religious culture has often advocated austerity and the giving-up of worldly pre-occupation and concerns, such a behaviour is not only viewed as acceptable, but is even seen as necessary as a step on the spiritual path toward enlightenment.  The point being that if humanity is to develop and grow, it has to give-up and transcend everything it thinks it knows – and it does not matter whether what it knows is right or wrong, simply hiding behind presumed knowledge is a barrier to growth as it serves to maintain the situation of ego existence and limited perspective.  Psychology in the post-modern world must have a definition that not only attempts to explain the ego state (i.e. the ordinary waking mind), but also allow for the idea of growth ‘beyond’ the balanced mind – beyond the ego – and to also attempt to acknowledge and facilitate this growth as wholesome, correct and noble.  Higher spiritual paths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnostic Christianity, Sufi Islam and the myriad New Age rediscoveries of ancient wisdoms – should all be integrated into the remit of the ‘science of the soul’, so that the very idea and ideal of the ‘soul’ be placed back into the realm of psychology.  This is not a new idea, but for many, it is an obscure idea.  People such as Erich Fromm, Carl Jung, William James and Carl Rogers (amongst many others), have acknowledged the need for the recognition of the spiritual in any work that attempts to explain the human mind.  And people such as Dr. Richard Hawkin and Dr Richard Alpert (i.e. Baba Ram Dass), both eminent academics, continue to lecture and express free energy in the physical world.  And when energy is expressed at a certain resonance, it has the affect of freeing those who come into contact with it – regardless of personal circumstance.  Infact, this is the very basis of the Tantric teachings of ancientIndia, whereby it is taught that the underlying essence of all phenomenon is ‘emptiness’ (i.e. Sunyata).  And emptiness is the universe unhindered by limited perception.  From this perspective, the ‘psychology of transformation’ is in fact the transcendence of all arbitrary definitions that serve as barriers to reality.  Psychology must allow (as a philosophical concept) for that which exists beyond its own particular scope of narrow expertise.  The notion of ‘balance’ must be expanded to include spiritual development – which occurs through the mind as a matter of necessity.  The intellect is transformed from the mere function of ‘knowledge’ to actual practice of ‘wisdom’.  The character of the individual expands to include all of life – and the base emptiness of the universe, is actually a vibrant compassion that is not dependent on physical behaviour or circumstance to exist – but rather it exists as its own support, in all places and at all time.  And in times of changes, humanity does not have to avoid change, but rather penetrate to the still essence of all change, as described in the Chinese Book of Changes (i.e. Yi Jing).

          The master said:

          Life leads the thoughtful man on a path of many windings.  Now the course is

          checked, now it runs straight again.  Here winged thoughts may pour freely

          forth in words.  There the heavy burden of knowledge must be shut away in

         silence.  But when two people at one in their inmost hearts, they shatter even the

         strength of iron or of bronze.  And when two people understand each other in

         their inmost hearts, their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of

          orchids. [19]

In the heart of change resides the stability of the universe.  And post-modern science – through the research carried-out by such eminent scientists and philosophers such as Rupert Sheldrake, David Hawkin, Dean Radin and Robert Jahn, etc – continues to collect data that suggests that the human mind, and the world of matter are intrinsically linked at the essence.  Philosophy and science come together on the cutting-edge research – the boundaries that have until recently been assumed to be solid, real and forever valid, are slowly dissolving into a new realisation.  What religious people, philosophers and visionaries have been saying for millennia, based upon their conclusions from a journey that is essentially ‘inward’ in nature, is now being confirmed by Quantum Science – which is essentially a path of exploration of the ‘outer’ world of matter.  The further into matter one explores, the more vacuous and ‘less’ real the solid matter that presents itself to us through our senses, seems to be.  And conversely, the further inward one seems to travel into the mind, the more of the universe is perceived.  When any entrenched view of an ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ path is given-up as literally redundant, the individual merges with the universe, and the universe merges with the individual.  All beings are linked by the fact that at their very essence lies exactly the same universe.  The physical brain is also the ethereal mind.  Here, we see the actual link between physical ‘matter’ that makes-up the

brain, and the ‘conscious’ processes that make-up the human mind.  It could be observed, that scientists study the structure of the brain (i.e. physical matter), whilst spiritual seekers utilise the conscious processes of the mind.  The brain/mind dichotomy is the doorway to the universe and all higher learning.  Through the recognition of this dichotomy – and a thorough exploration of both sides – a unifying consensus of realisation can be attained.  But this realisation is much more than a mere fact written on paper, or a vague idea stored in the mind – it is far beyond this symbolic representation.  And as humanity strives to move forward and develop, the distinction between the ‘subjective’ and the ‘objective’ becomes less and less vivid.  And it could be that science develops a deep spiritual base, and the spiritual path will develop a sound appreciation of ‘fact’ to augment its clarity and freedom.

[1] For the duration of this chapter, the ‘Mind’ with a capital ‘M’ denotes enlightened consciosness in its entirety – as opposed to ‘mind’, which denotes merely the physical brain and limited function.

[2] Crook, John  & Fontana, David.  Space In The Mind: East West Psychology & Contemporary Buddhism.  Shaftsbury: Element Books Limited, 1990 – page 48.

[3]Sheldrake, Robert.  The Sense of Being Stared At: And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind, Hutchinson, 2003 who suggests, from a sound academic grounding, that the ‘mind’ extends far beyond the physical organ of the ‘brain’.  Sheldrake’s designs tests to collect empirical data to back-up his assertions.

[4]Ozaniec, Naomi.   The Elements of the Chakras:. Shaftsbury,  ELEMENT – 1997, Page 98.

[5]Luk, Charles.  Taoist Yoga.  London, Rider & Co – Page xiii-xiv.

[6]Leakey, Richard & Lewin, Roger.   Origins Reconsidered. London, ABACUS, 2000 – Page 215.

[7] Wing, R.L.  The Tao of Power.  Northamptonshire, The Aquarian Press – 1986 – Page 16

[8]First Law of Thermodynamics’. <> (10th January 20.06)

[9]The Industrial Revolution <> (10th January.2006)

[10]Heelas Paul, Lash Scott & Harris, Paul.  Detraditionalization: London, Blackwell. 1999 –– Page 49 – Quoted from ‘Morality in the Age of Contingency’ By Zygmunt Bauman.

[11]Dr William Price (1800-1893) <> (10th January 2006)

[12]Schrag, Calvin O.  The Self After Post modernity. Durham,YaleUniversity Press, 1997 – Page 37.

[13]Davies, Joel.  Alternate Realities. New York &London.  Plenum Trade – 1997 – Page 163

[14] Measurement in Quantum Theory: <> (15th January .2006)

[15] For an in-depth examination of how mind and matter are intrinsically linked, see;

Radin PhD, Dean.   The Conscious Universe.New York, HarperCollins Publishers,  – 1997,

[16] The Original Buddhism.  Adrian Chan-Wyles. <> (11th January 2006)

[17]Snelling, John. The Buddhist Handbook. London, Century Hutchinson Ltd, 1987 –  Page 74 – See the discussion entitled ’Dependent Origination – and the twelve links contained therein.

[18]Jonas, Hans.  The Gnostic Religion. Boston, Beacon Press.  1991 – Page 86.

[19]Wilhelm, Richard.  I Ching or Book of Changes.  Reading, Cox & Wyman Ltd. 1984 – Page 305-306.

Karma: Buddhist Action Defined.

Living beings are part of a physical world.  Indeed, as a biological entity that is self-propelling and self-replicating, human beings appear as if separate from the world of matter itself.  The Buddha’s teaching upon the law of karma (Sanskrit: ‘कर्मन्’), demonstrates clearly that the mind does not exist independent of the physical world it inhabits.  More than this, however, it further explains that volitional or ‘willed’ thoughts create the kind of world that is inhabited, in as much as the type of karma generated pulls into existence a particular type of physical circumstance ‘around’ the six (Buddhist) senses, and that ‘action’ as defined as ‘thought’ (in the mind), and ‘behaviour’ (as movement in the environment), is in fact an event that recognises no real distinction between mind and matter itself.  The Buddha does not present ‘mind’ and ‘matter’ as two distinct and separate entities that either interact or integrate with one another, but rather as two distinct aspects of the same continuum event, in as much as the concept of ‘mind’ and the definition of ‘matter’ are in reality merely expedient devices designed to convey contextually differing manifestations of exactly the same phenomena.  This is not to say that ‘mind’ is reconciled into ‘matter’, and merely becomes an extension of it, or that ‘matter’ is reduced to the psychic content of ‘mind’, but that in reality the Buddha’s philosophy advocates a ‘middle way’ free from dogma that can not be fully grasped or understood by the ordinary mind residing in the state of delusion.  The undeveloped intellect attempts, in a grasping and disjointed manner, to make sense of a vague feeling of something that might exist beyond its current boundaries of awareness.  This demonstrates a certain ‘cumbersome’ nature of mind which is attempting to secure an ‘ultimate’ understanding, whilst not being in possession of all the facts required.  The two apparently separate (and mutually exclusive) theories of mind only idealism, and world only materialism, both contain kernels of truth, but each theory on its own is obviously deficient and limited in a broad sense, although significantly developed to a high degree within the logical parameters that hold each individual theory together.  To create a condition where a limited theory ‘holds together’, irregularities and contradictions to that particular theory must be ignored, suppressed or argued as irrelevant to the point being made.  Such sophistry, of course, demonstrates a situation whereby the limitation of ‘logic’ and ‘knowledge’ is exposed through the requirement to ‘work around’ deficiencies in the theory itself.  Such a limited theory is ‘limited’ because it develops what it does ‘know’, at the expense of what it does ‘not know’, thus creating an often logically pristine structure of the ‘onesided assessment’ of a phenomena.  This type of theory holds sway until a better onesided conception takes its place.  The Buddha taught that this kind of incomplete building of a theory, is the product of a clever, but unenlightened mind, and is therefore the product of delusion and that, as such has the potential to spread suffering due to its impermanent nature.

The mind, through the capacity of willed thought, controls the structure of matter so that the external physical world immediately represents the kind of mind that experiences it.  Behaviour (in the physical world) originates within the mind itself.  The deluded mind is comprised of a continuous stream of greed, hatred and delusion. These taints serve as the implicit foundation for further thoughts and emotions generated in the mind, (that is, they are the originators of ‘behaviours’ in the mind), which invariably are turned into words, deeds and thoughts, and may be considered the essence of sentient beings in the undeveloped state.  By contrast, the physical environment reciprocates this greed, hatred and delusion in its material constructs – as a matter of required karmic construct – and in so doing, adds legitimacy to these defilements in all aspects of expression.  Once the cycle of deluded thought and action is set in motion (samsara), the apparent ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ planes reinforce and condition one another, so as to produce a continuous swirl of potentially ‘suffering’ (dukkha) activity.  Biological notions of materialist thinking that presuppose that somewhere in the evolutionary development of humanity, physical matter (in the form of the brain), became ‘aware’ of its own presence – and thus created the ‘mind’ – are undermined by the Buddha’s philosophical approach, which advocates in essence, that the physical world is influenced, manipulated and ultimately guided by the mind that perceives it.  Perception, it seems, is not only the awareness of the presence of an object, but contained within this awareness is believed to be the ‘casual’ act of ‘becoming’.  This is not to be considered a ‘first cause’ or an ‘act of creation’ as such, whereby ‘something’ existing in an independent state, is created as if ‘out of nothing’, but rather an affirmation that all ‘effects’, have their exact ‘causes’.  For the Buddha, a life does not begin with a ‘blank’ and ‘innocent’ body, but is rather the effect of ‘craving’ (tanha), that is, a prior cause.  The Buddhist system advocates a continuous re-birth cycle (punarbhava), which means that a person can not be said to have a ‘first birth’ as such, but to be trapped within a cyclic of continual re-becoming.  It is the ‘will’ aspect of mind that which creates and facilitates greed, hatred and delusion, which is the basis of craving.  Inert matter, as it does not contain a ‘will’ facility or capability, can not produce the effect of conscious awareness in itself, as it lacks the causal conditions for such a development to occur.  The Buddha appears to be saying that a human being can not be born into the world without a prior cause being in operation.  This would imply that a brain – as matter – could not gives rise to consciousness if no such cause existed.  The problem here is one of terminology and language.  Although the Buddha explains from a middle perspective, it is some times the case that his philosophy appears to be bias toward the psychic fabric of the mind, and as a consequence, away from the physical matter of the outer world.  It could also be the case that the material world is operating in and of itself, and that the Buddha, although appearing to emphasis a separate ‘mind’, is in fact simply removing the apparent thoughts and feelings that prevent an enlightening experience which clearly perceives the ‘oneness’ of the world.  The mind may be explained in terms that necessitate juxtaposition with a separate material world, but this does not necessarily mean that the mind is separate from matter.  On the other hand, the physical world of matter can be presented as being the only valid view of life, one that whilst fully establishing its logical parameters and boundaries, subsumes all other theories and ideas about existence, thus rendering these other explanations null and void in the process.

Of course, from the strict materialist position, mind as a separate entity is an illusion and a product of a tradition of the lack of knowledge, formulated over the centuries before the development of the scientific method.  The Buddha, who is advocating a ‘science’ (vidya) of enlightenment, does not take either position, but appears to teach from a perspective of higher knowledge, where the enlightened mind ‘sees’ through the delusive qualities of sophistic speculation, into the heart of the ‘real’ state of existence, where idealistic terms such as ‘mind’, or materialist terms such as ‘physicality’, have no real meaning, and do not truly represent existence is it actually is.  This further implies that humanity’s greatest, noblest and constructive thoughts, regardless of the benefit such thinking has brought to the world, is nothing more than a collection of sophisticated (practical) imaginations.

The modern medical view of the beginning of a physical life begins in the womb, as a reproductive interaction between two human beings.  The conception process begins with the male sperm penetrating the female egg, and setting in motion a tremendous process of biological development that culminates in the forming of the brain and the consequential development of mind and consciousness.  In this model the cause of a new physical life is the physical interaction of two different and unique human individuals, but no matter how the process is conceived in this process, it is evident that a physical ‘cause’ directly results in a clear physical ‘effect’ – and matter is seen as being of a self-perpetuating nature, a process that like a ‘closed system’, allows for no non-physical process to either effect or influence the physical developmental process.   The mind can not, and does not affect this process in any way, as mind remains merely a by-product of the reproductive process.  The Buddhist view of physical reproduction, by way of contrast, is very different.  Although there is no permanent ‘soul’ or ‘atman’ that exists behind the mind and body in the Buddhist view, nevertheless, the Buddha himself subscribed to a re-birth theory whereby living entities may be re-born into different living bodies and circumstances.  In the Buddhist Suttas, often it is said that the aspect of a living being that undergoes the re-birth process is described as ‘habitual tendencies’ (Pali: ‘pubbe nivasa’), which are the product of ‘volitional’ (Pali: ‘cetana’) action.  Karmic entities are said to be drawn toward a copulating couple that carry the appropriate psychological and physical conditions relevant to the required re-birth circumstance.  This process is completed when the karmic entity is drawn – through desire/craving – to one or other of the couple, thus assuming the opposite gender characteristics, if drawn to the man, the karmic entity becomes a female, if drawn to the woman the karmic entity becomes a man and takes physical form at the point of conception.  A physical process of growth then unfolds which leads to birth, youth, middle and old age, culminating in eventual physical death and re-birth.  Whilst the mind is infected with craving, it can not produce any other outcome, than the continuous cycle of physical existence and demise, in a world that seems permanent, but is always changing.  The continuously moving ‘habitual tendencies’ have no underlying permanent entity such a ‘soul’ or an ‘atman’ to hold it all together, but exist strictly as the result of desire and craving.  This craving (tanha), is so powerful that it can pull physical matter into existence, and sustains the round of samsara exclusively.  The modern medical view is based upon an observation of the conception process which is purely physical in nature, albeit apparently logical and correct.  A chain of objective causes and events can be clearly observed and predicted in all women throughout the world.  Through these observations, medical science has developed.  It is a demonstration of the mastery of the physical world inhabited by humanity.  The Buddha’s system, however, attempts to explain the conception process through the ‘desire’ aspect that joins a couple together, into sexual unity.  Furthermore, this notion is extended backwards and forwards throughout time, and the idea of living before, and living again (beyond the present life) is formulated.  The desire and craving for sexual union is extended beyond the parameters of the sexual act itself, and is viewed as the foundational motivation of all physical and social existence.  Humanity appears to exist so that the physical bodies that comprise the species are replicated from one generation to another.  This requires greed in the form of desire and craving, together with hatred as a means to reject other, similar competitors, and a general lack of wise awareness which allows for an unquestioning acceptance and perpetuation of the round of existence itself.  Whereas the Buddha’s path assesses the cause as a taint existing in the mind, modern medical knowledge observes the physical biological processes without reference to the accompanying psychological attributes (thoughts and feelings) that culturally assist the performance of the physical action itself.  This means that the observation of the conception process does need to take into account such notions as ‘love’, ‘desire’ or ‘craving’, for it to be effective, and that, in this model, one physical cause leads quite clearly to one physical effect, irrespective of the state of mind of the body or bodies involved.  The Buddha says that it is exactly the state of the mind itself that dictates the entire process, and that this ‘state’ is the karmic condition of the mind itself.

Karma translates as ‘action’, or ‘performed actions’.  Its emphasis is entirely upon the ‘doing’ of actions.  The Buddha speaks often throughout the Suttas about his theory of natural action-re-action – particularly in the Nibbedhika Sutta (AN 6.63), and the Upajjhatthana Sutta (AN 5.57), as well as the Suttas of the Digha Nikaya that describe the various chains of dependent origination.  Within Buddhism it refers only to volitional actions and does not cover all causes or effects.  In this regard it can not be limited to a mere ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ mechanism prevalent in the operation of materialist science.  Not all causes are associated with karma, and not all effects are the product of karma.  Although karma as a theory can be said to contain definite ‘causes’ and definite ‘effects’, it can not, as a theory, be reduced to a closed system of cause and effect that works through a predictable (and replicatable) lineage of objectively observable, physical events.  The Buddha’s karma theory, by way of contrast, is based upon the state of the mind of the actor.  This mind will be motivated (cetana) to act in a specific manner (karma), and this action will give rise to a certain ‘result’ (Pali: ‘vipaka’), or ‘fruit’ (Pali: ‘phala’).  However, the result of a particular action can occur not only on the physical plane surrounding the individual, but also within the mind of the individual itself.  An immediate action may not necessarily illicit an immediate karmic result, but may take many years or lifetimes to come to fruition, depending upon circumstance – as certain effects need a particular set of circumstances to be manifest in the world.  According to this theory, not all experiences in life are directly related to human volitional behaviour, and therefore can not be considered within the realm of ‘karmic behaviour’.  One example of this is the illness of cancer, which although could possibly be a product of lifestyle or experience, could also simply be the product of a dysfunctional body cell, that has experienced no outside influence whatsoever.  This demonstrates that even with regard to the human body, not all experiences facilitated through it, are of a karmic consequence, even though the body itself is the product of a deluded craving.  The underlying moral quality of the act itself – together with the type of bare outward action – determines the karmic result that is experienced.  The present lifetime, as it is experienced, is not only the result of past karmic action, but also has a number of different (i.e. ‘non-karmic’) influences contributing to its experience.  In the present state, an individual is experiencing two karmic related activities.  Firstly, there is the existential experience of the ripening of past karmic deeds as present psychological and physical conditions, as well as the continuous propensity to create ‘new’ karma with every thought, word, and deed, thus ensuring that the cycle of samsara (the round of re-births), continuous without end.  Karmic results, however, may not always appear to be related to the apparent cause, as Buddhist karma does not exist as a theory, in a one dimensional vacuum of human activity.  Instead, the results of an action are as much subject to the state of mind of the doer, as they are to the actual physical dynamics of the action itself.  Karma, throughout time, has gathered many innumerable causes beyond comprehension, leading to effects that are varied and often unpredictable.  As Buddhist karma is not a closed, linear system of cause and effect, it can not be described as ‘deterministic’ in nature.  In the chain of dependent origination, the Buddha describes how one link conditions another in the cycle of death, life and re-birth.  As enlightenment is a possibility in any lifetime, the cycle of samsara has the potential to be meditatively ‘broken’ at any time, through the attainment of the state of ‘nirvana’, or the complete cessation of greed, hated and delusion, and the craving these taints support.  These taints have their origin in the ‘asrava’, or the essential, delusional outpourings that emerge from the psychic fabric of the mind itself.  Generally speaking, the fruits of action, (karmavipaka), create the conditions of physical life and the type of world that re-birth is taken into, as well as the ordinary, everyday experiences of such a life.  However, within the Buddhist exposition upon karma, a physical deed does not have to be actually committed in the outer world for a karmic seed to be sown.  If the mind envisages acting in a deluded manner, within a specific situation, even though the imagined action has not occurred, nevertheless, as ‘will’, or ‘intention’ (cetana) is considered the originating ‘driving force’ behind the theory of Buddhist karma, the karmic results can manifest at a certain time, (when conditions allows), as if the physical act itself had been actually carried-out.  This is an important aspect of Buddhist volitional theory that exhibits clearly the implicit belief that the mind is a powerful entity that is directly linked to the physical world.  In the enlightened state of he arahant no more karma is produced, and the burden of past karma all but eradicated through the abandonment of the delusive taints.  The only karma thought to be experienced by one in such a state, is that directly relating to the physical body itself, which although existent, has been heavily diluted by the experience of entering the nirvanic state of being.  In this state, the arahant, although involved in the requirements of everyday life, no longer possesses a mind driven by a will motivated by greed, hatred and delusion.  In the enlightened state, the ‘will’ (cetana) has been thoroughly cleansed, and the deluded driving force behind the Buddhist theory of karma completely uprooted.

It is interesting to note, that of the 31 planes of existence mentioned in the Pali Canon, it is only within the human realm that karma can be made and purified – all the other realms exist purely as a means to live out the positive or negative results of karma, with no potential for reform.  It is only within the human realm that actions can be controlled modified and transcended through the use of the ‘will’ (cetana), so that the effects of bad karmic results can be nullified (or greatly diminished), through the countering effects of good actions, and that a process of ‘stilling’ the mind (whilst controlling the behaviour of the body), can lead to the ending of the karmic process altogether.  A human birth is a precious commodity and serves as the only doorway through which enlightenment can be achieved within the 31 planes of existence, (these 31 planes are further divided into the sense desire sphere (kama loka), the fine material sphere (rupa loka), and the immaterial sphere (arupa loka), with the human realm of re-birth occurring within the kama loka, or realm of sensuous desire).  This schematic suggests various grades of existence of beings that are defined by the fruits (vipaka) of their past actions (karma).  The sensuous realms (kamaloka), and the fine material realms (rupa loka), involve an existence experienced through a (karmically) gross (or ‘heavy’) material body, or a fine (‘light’) material body.  Within the highest four realms of existence (i.e. ’28 – 31’) of the arupa loka (the immaterial or formless realm), beings exist within disembodied states of meditative achievement, experiencing such states as the infinity of space, the infinity of consciousness, knowledge of no-thingness, and neither perception – nor non-perception.  These represent very high stages within Buddhist meditation, (the ‘Jhana’ stages), but do not represent the state of the extinction of desire and craving that defines the attainment of nirvana – the great extinction.  These high states of attainment are their own reward in the highest of the conceived Buddhist realms, within which beings will exist continuously experiencing the fruit of their meditation, until their accumulated good karma runs out, and they are re-born elsewhere within the Buddhist cosmological model.  As there is no permanent ‘atman’, or ‘soul’ within a being, it is the habitual tendencies (pubbe nivasa) that dictate this process.  Even a very subtle attachment to the idea of an atman can cause re-birth in other realms, and the chance for release that nirvana offers on the human plane is lost.  It may take countless eons for a re-birth on the human plane and the Buddhist view is that such spiritually valuable births should not be squandered through the continuation of ignorance and desire.

The Buddha ascribes a special status to in the human realm (this realm is number 5 of the 31 – which occurs as a karmic stage within the broad category of ‘kama loka’, and is known as the ‘manussa loka’ – with ‘manussa’ meaning ‘human), and in so doing automatically elevates this karmic formation as being superior in potential to all other realms, or types of re-birth.  It is true, of course, that as long as an ordinary human remains with a mind driven by craving (tanha), no progress can be made and the individual, as a collection of habitual tendencies will bob around on the karmic seas for innumerable ages, experiencing the painful fruits (vipaka) of karma.  However, despite this immense image of futile suffering, the Buddha teaches that salvation is possible on the human plane through the understanding and practicing of the noble eightfold path – which is contained within the teachings of the four noble truths.  These instructions advocate a method of karmic reform within the mind and within the body.  Will power (cetana) is utilised to focus the energy of the mind (in meditation), and to simultaneously limit and control the physical body in its everyday behaviours and interactions with (and through) the world of sense objects.  This is the process of spiritual reform that facilitates the creation of good, positive (kusala) karma, and that turns the individual away from lesser paths of bad, or negative (akusala) karma.  This action automatically creates the conditions for more pleasurable existences, but the point of the Buddha’s path is to turn away from the sway of ‘positive’, ‘neutral’ or ‘negative’ habitual karma creation, and break free of the continuous cycle (samsara) of suffering.  From the Buddhist perspective, even a life lived with much pleasure, wealth and happiness, is nevertheless a life lived in delusion, whereby the recipient of this good karma will eventually have to experience the downside of karma accumulation, and bear witness to its negative effects.  Conversely, a person living within physical, social conditions that appear terrible, crushing and full of suffering, that person, if they have practiced the Buddha’s path and have realised the emptiness of mind, then nothing ‘grasping’ remains of the individual, to receive the suffering karmic fruits, regardless of the nature of the sensuous world around.  Freedom from suffering involves freedom from both good and bad circumstances, and in the enlightened state, no more karma is created, and the effects of past karma greatly diminished, so that the karma associated with the body is experienced as ‘empty’ by the enlightened being.

Developed Buddhism is of course the trends of philosophy contained within the early (Pali) Suttas that are expanded and built upon within the (Sanskrit) Sutras of the Mahayana school, and the commentaries (shastras) associated with them.  The developed position, in essence, reflects entirely the philosophical foundation of early Buddhism with no doctrinal disagreement.  What does often seem to occur, however, is the development of a particular Buddhist notion beyond that of the letter found in the early Suttas.  What is usually the case is that a number of disparate teachings found in the early Suttas are brought together into a coherent and singular presentation, and that this presentation is ascribed to the Buddha himself.  This suggests that the Buddha did not subscribe to philosophical dogma – as is evident in the sheer diversity of the Pali Canon – but rather taught a coherent message in a number of different ways to suit the various audiences he attracted and encountered.  The Pali Canon itself, as a distinct body of work, nevertheless is not necessarily consistent in the content of its presentation.  The chain of dependent origination, for instance, is presented throughout the Suttas as containing different numbers of links, and ascribing different places of importance to its various links.  Received Theravada Buddhist philosophy, for instance, (which has had over 2000 years to develop), presents a ‘complete’ picture of its teachings that is not present in the Suttas it draws from.  This is not to suggest that the received teachings are ‘incorrect’ or ‘fabricated’ – they most definitely are not – but rather that the Buddhist teachings contained within the Pali Canon have been subjected to a commentarial developmental process (abbidhamma), which has served to gather, clarify, categorise and make accessible the teachings of the Buddha, within the tradition of that school itself.  The Mahayana process of commentarial development is often (mistakenly) viewed as a separate process, unconnected from that undertook within the Theravada tradition, when in fact it is exactly the same unfolding of the Buddha’s teaching to ‘question everything’, and not just accept it through blind faith or authority.  The apparent separation of this single process into two schools is a matter of historical process, rather than personal experience – the two developments appear distinct due to their association with schools of thought that appear not to recognise the existence of the other.  The point is that exactly the same developmental pattern exists within the Pali Canon, as it does within the Mahayana (Sanskrit) Canon, with each school independently developing the early Buddhist philosophical premises to an enhanced, but otherwise logical conclusion that is in accordance with fundamental Buddhist theory.  Early Buddhism favoured the ‘arahant’ ideal, whereby re-birth is instantly shattered upon the cessation of craving.  Later Buddhism, developed the early concept of the ‘bodhisattva’ so that it applies to all developing beings following the Dharma, and is not just applicable as a description of the Lord Buddha himself, whilst traversing through his previous life stages, toward eventual, complete enlightenment.

This difference of definitional opinion regarding the highest possible attainment within Buddhist meditational development has implications for the doctrine of karma and its understanding.  The arahant, or ‘noble ones’, attain to a state of empty mind that stands quiet in relation to the physical world it inhabits.  The chain of dependent origination is broken, and the craving of greed, hatred and delusion has been thoroughly uprooted.  This means, within the logic of early Buddhism, that re-birth is finished, and can not occur in any manner, as the taints (asrava) that create the conditions of re-birth are completely finished.   The Mahayana Sanskrit Canon, on the other hand, ascribes the bodhisattva (i.e. ‘enlightened being’) ideal to all beings following the Buddhist path of meditational development.  This aspect of Buddhist teaching emphasises that there are ‘levels’ of enlightenment, or modes of living that are karmically beneficial for all beings to encounter and experience.  Furthermore, the bodhisattva, whilst inhabiting these various stages of relative enlightenment, can deliberately choose to be re-born as a service to the world, and as a means to relieve suffering.  This implies that a certain ‘controlled’ amount of tainted delusion is allowed to exist in the otherwise relatively enlightened mind of the bodhisattva, to facilitate this continuous re-birth process.  The vow that has developed around this interpretation allows for the bodhisattva to be continuously re-born for as long as a suffering world exists, to lead all beings out of distress and into the sanctuary of ‘Dharma’.  This includes re-births in any of the 31 Buddhist realms – even hell – as a means to lead others to a better ‘birth’ condition.  The bodhisattva, existing in an enlightened state that clearly perceives the empty nature of phenomena, is not attached to pleasure or averted from pain.  From this perspective, later Buddhism developed the theory that the enlightenment of the arahant was in fact only ‘relative’ in nature, and existed as an attachment to the state of an empty mind free of taints.  As such, the re-birth process had not been thoroughly shattered, but continued nonetheless, with arahants not entering the ‘parinirvana’ (beyond cessation) state at the death of the physical body, but being re-born in higher realms, to continue the cycle (samsara) of existence.  The bodhisattva, by contrast, understands the cycle of samsara is ultimately empty of greed, hatred and delusion, and that the nirvanic state, far from being an empty mind standing in relation to a physical world, is in fact the realisation that an empty mind is directly reflective of an empty world, and that as a consequence, the apparent (and false) dichotomy of an empty mind facing a physical world is transcended.  Mind and Matter appear two aspects of the same process, whereby phenomena appear to rise and pass away with in a great void, with the phenomena itself being of an essentially ‘empty’ nature.  As this is not a denial of the existence of phenomena, this argument does not fall into the trap of ‘nihilism’.  If the early and later Buddhist teachings are read with an open and enquiring mind, the original enlightened thread of the Buddha can be discerned clearly, and any apparent or assumed ‘differences’ between the ‘arahant’ and the ‘bodhisattva’ thoroughly reconciled beyond a mere intellectual appreciation.

Whilst breaking free of the suffering inherent within the karmic condition, the Buddha made it clear that every action has the potential for an eventual reaction, and that in the deluded state, there is no such entity as an act that has no karmic consequence.  However, it is also clear that in the enlightened state, no more karma is produced and the effects of past karma greatly diminished.  This leads to the interesting speculation that in the enlightened state, actions have no karmic consequences as they are not motivated by the taints of craving, which must be clearly distinguished from the ordinary state of delusive existence, which sees an individual suffering continuously from the effects of past karma ripening in the present, as well as creating new karmic seeds for the future.  Within the Mahayana and the Tibetan Vajrayana schools this insight has often been used to justify the physical practice of certain activities that might be thought of as delusionary in essence, such as the training in martial pursuits, or the engaging in certain rituals, (perhaps involving sexual union, meat eating and the drinking of alcohol), from the perspective of early Buddhism.  This kind of practice draws a distinction between the notion of nirvana as envisaged in the Pali Canon, and the same notion as interpreted within the Mahayana tradition.  The former posits an acquired ‘freedom’ from samsara, culminating in the eventual physical withdrawing of interaction with the world of the senses, upon the death of the physical body – which is viewed as a vehicle that carries around an enlightened mind – with the mind free of karma, and the body not.  The latter interpretation does not seek an escape from samsara, but rather eventually equates the samsaric state as being essentially of an enlightened, nirvanic nature.  Within early Buddhism, nirvana is not samsara, but is a product of a spiritually motivated escape from it, whilst in later Buddhism samsara is seen to be nirvana, when the deluded mind has been thoroughly cleansed of delusive taints.  The early form of Buddhism appears to do away with all karmic influence in its goal of the attainment of enlightenment, whilst developed Buddhism, whilst over-coming the deluded chain of habitual tendencies that create ordinary karma, nevertheless, through the compassionate inspired behaviour of the bodhisattva, karma that is considered to be of an enlightening nature to others is voluntarily generated.  This karma is highly refined, and may be considered very near to complete enlightenment.  These stages of bodhisattva enlightenment may be compared with the higher Jhana stages of the arahant.  Parinirvana – the state that is ‘beyond cessation’ – is entered into at the culmination of the last physical existence, when all karma is completely exhausted, and the enlightened being has fully performed his or her enlightening function with the regards to the liberation of countless beings.  The Lord Buddha, by way of example, turned the wheel of the dharma, and in so doing fully performed his enlightening function – a function that was so karmically powerful that his school of thought, in whatever guise, is not only still known today – some 2500 years later – but is flourishing around the world, and is still used as a path of liberation from worldly pain.  Although complete enlightenment is ‘beyond’ karma generation, it is also true that good karma generated in the service of the Dharma ripples outward through all of space and time, reaching innumerable beings and cleansing suffering as it travels.  Good karma is probably more useful than bad or neutral karma, with regard to the caring for humanity as a species, indeed, it serves as a way station until complete enlightenment can be achieved, the essence of which lies beyond all action.

The Use of ‘Race’ in the UK Bourgeois Media.

The British Metro newspaper – issued free throughout London’s rail and tube network, is published by Associated Newspapers Ltd, the Publishers of the rightwing newspapers The Daily Mail, and The Mail on Sunday.  These publishers follow a staunch conservative approach in their paid newspapers, but have to tone down the more obvious xenophobic and racist rhetoric in the London Metro, asLondonis an acknowledged multicultural city.  The Metro is a ‘free’ newspaper that covers its costs through the extensive use of advertising, the effectiveness of which is achieved only through a large number of commuters being inclined to pick up a copy whilst on their journeys.  This approach tends to work, because the Metro format is designed for the ‘quick read’.  More than this, however, but copies of the newspaper are left on trains, buses and tubes that are picked-up by other travellers, so the advertisement and the news content is spread even further afield.  The news may be presented in a brief manner, but it is far from being impartial.  Every news outlet carries with it a political agenda.  All news is gathered and interpreted through an ideological filter that appears as misleadingly ‘fair’ and ‘impartial’ as the journalists and editors can make their articles appear, whilst at the same time propagating a political bias.  This means that the subtle and underlying ideological content is obscured by the superficial presentation of information relating to an incident, a happening or an event.  The ‘news’, that is the reporting of the news, is used as a means to inform the audience not only of events that have occurred, but in so doing, also influence the audience to view (and interpret) those events in a certain political light, so that the presentation of random ‘facts’ becomes automatically associated with a particular view.

The concept of ‘race’, and ‘racism’, are considered dirty words in the UK’s polite society.  Although a certain type of racism is deemed ‘incorrect’, it is true that a fundamental racist interpretation is accepted as ‘valid’, and viewed as ‘common sense’, or being a legitimate product of ‘freedom of speech’.  Officially accepted racism is not allowed to be called ‘racist’ as such a description automatically judges the perpetuators as peddlers of ‘race-hate’.  Instead, these kind of racist views are presented as the legitimate grievances of a population ‘forced’ by the uncaring governments they continuously elect, to live with policies that allow ‘foreigners’ into the country, and whose presence is a threat to the moral and cultural fabric of the nation.  There is acceptable racism, and unacceptable racism, with the former ‘denying’ it’s racial content and motivation.  The rightwing press walks a thin line between vaguely condemning the most blatant acts of racial violence, whilst simultaneously perpetuating racist viewpoints and interpretations, that are often the basis and motivation for racially motivated criminality.  The British Daily Mail, for instance, whilst campaigning for the murderers of Stephen Lawrence to be brought to justice, routinely print and endorse news articles of an intolerant, xenophobic and deeply discriminatory manner, the ideological rhetoric of which, serves as the basis of rightwing, racist thought.  Historically speaking, of course, this should not be surprising, as The Daily Mail openly supported the political stance of Adolf Hitler, just prior to the outbreak of WWII, and it continues, as a product of an historical process, to be wedded to rightwing rhetoric and the British Conservative Party.

Due to its relative mainstream popularity, and the fact that it has to keep an eye on the electoral process, it lacks the expressive freedom of the far-right publications associated with fringe political parties and extremists.  However, despite these practical limitations, it manages quite well to perpetuate a clearly racist rhetoric through its reporting methods.  The page from the London Metro below is an interesting case in point, and serves to demonstrate that even when market forces influence the shape and feel of a newspaper, racist rhetoric can still be created through the use of subtle imagery and deliberate placement.  This page features three articles.  One is about a local British council (Plymouth) exploring the possibility of ‘banning’ foreign students from a shopping mall in the area, the next features a ‘gorilla’, and the other carries comments from the British prime minister, David Cameron:

LondonMetro Newspaper 10.1.12 – Page 7.

Perhaps the most bizarre placement on this page is the speech by the prime minister of the UK, which is given a tiny section at the bottom left hand corner, below a picture of an ‘ape, and a story about a local council.  Why would an utterance by a rightwing Tory prime minister be treated with such disdain and apparent indifference, by a newspaper that deliberately prints racist material, and which ardently works to secure the election of the Conservative Party?  The only logical conclusion is that the prime minister’s opinion is at odds with the editorial approach of The Daily Mail and the London Metro.  Cameron admits that the UK has ‘a lot more to do’ to end racial discrimination, and such an opinion does not sit well with a newspaper that peddles such discrimination as a means to keep circulation up.  The question must be asked ‘why?’ such a potentially news worthy story is not on the front page of the London Metro.  The prime minister of the UK, after all, is condemning racism as it currently is perceived to exist within UK society.  Instead, the editors of the London Metro – a newspaper provided ‘free’ to the multicultural population of the capital city – decided to relegate this story to the bottom of page 7.  Placed above, in large letters, is the headline about banning foreign students from a shopping mall in the county of Devon.  This crackpot scheme has been deemed more news worthy than the prime minister condemning racism in the UK.  The point of the story – and one suspects the ‘point’ the editing staff intended to make – is that ‘foreigners’ routinely break the law, and should be banned.  The story is about the prposed banning of foreign students from a shopping mall – but of course, the real message for the metro reader – the underlying message – is that ‘all foreigners’ should be banned from British institutions, and of course fromBritain.  The fact that the local council was clearly advised that such a plan is ‘against the law’, did not effect the Metro editors, went ahead with the story because they felt that some kind of higher (political) truth is being served by doing so.  Further more, this kind of story is used by the rightwing press because they feel that it represents a deep uneasiness that exists throughout the land, whereby the ‘true’ opinion of the British people is being stifled by ‘political correctness’.  The Daily Mail and the London Metro, of course, also view themselves as the ‘true’ representatives of the British people, and by reporting the council’s potentially illegal action – they feel that a greater good is being served.

It is exactly this apparent ‘good’ that provides the ideological underpinning for the arrangement of this page.  On the surface it appears merely a random selection of news stories placed according to space availability, indeed it is exactly this deception that editors repeat throughout the newspaper, as and when stories of this nature happen to coincide.  The presentation of the ‘news’ may be brief, but the implicit psychological effects are long lasting.  So subtle is this kind of prejudicial placement that any one who perceives its true nature are branded paranoid and deliberately misleading others into misreading the newspaper, and in so doing, misrepresenting the real motive – which is always the alleged unbiased reporting of the news.  The above page clearly shows an ulterior motive at work that is far less subtle nature than usual.  It is clear that the Metro does not agree with the labelling of the banning of foreign students from a Devon shopping mall as ‘racist’, because it chooses to begin the report with the very first word being placed in ‘quotes’ – that word is of course ‘racist’.  The paper, whilst reporting the story is at pains to distance itself from the interpretation that banning a person from a shop due to their non-British nationality is considered ‘racist’.  It is clear that this interpretation is not the opinion the paper, but rather the quoted opinion of another source.  This implies that the editorial staff of the paper would actually be in favour of the banning of foreigners from various British establishments, as part of a far broader policy that would see foreigners prevented from entering the UK altogether.  The paper, as a collective of individuals, agrees that foreigners are law breakers and serve no valuable purpose.  Of course, the quandary for this bourgeois mind-set is that it not only discriminates against foreigners, but in this instance, openly prevents the exploitation of naked capitalism from functioning – banning foreign student from a shopping mall is preventing the gaining of capital by the shopkeepers, from the students themselves.  Students, foreign or otherwise, have access to a disposable wealth, which they are willing to spend.  Foreign students are actually bringing a ‘new’ wealth into the area from abroad, and therefore valuably contributing vital (non-local) funds, to local industry and commerce.  As for students breaking the law – there are many examples of British young people, (students or otherwise), misbehaving across the UK and occasionally breaking the law.  It is interesting that the institution of ‘studenthood’ has not been questioned, and its abolishment suggested by the Metro or Daily Mail.  This would be self-defeating, as such a suggestion completely misses the point that ‘racism’ strives to make, namely that we are all different on the outside of our bodies, because we are all different on the inside of our minds, and that these supposed ‘differences’ quite naturally separates humanity into geographical, culturally distinct nations.

With the current prime minister relegated to a small corner at the bottom of the page, one would be forgiven for thinking that he had just made an outrageous speech, bordering upon the insane, when in fact, following the media attention surrounding the conviction of the (White) killers of (the Black) Stephen Lawrence, Cameron was expressing the opinions of many right minded people in suggesting that ‘racism’ is still a problem in the UK.  This is correct, but it is delivered here from the privileged position of bourgeois social elitism.  Cameron, and others of his class can afford to live in social bubbles relatively free from the concerns of the ordinary people.  He says these things because he thinks ‘middleEngland’ is listening to him and generally agreeing with his views.   Obviously The Daily Mail and the London Metro are not agreeing with his expressed sentiments.  If they agreed, then Cameron’s comments would be over the front pages and not consigned to the bottom corner of page 7.  It is interesting to note how a rightwing news publication feels so confident in its bigoted stance, that it is willing to treat a prime minister of a rightwing party it helped to elect, with such indifference and disrespect.  Perhaps the paper is of the opinion that ‘their’ prime minister is out of touch with the real people ofBritain, or that they feel that Cameron’s speech was in fact insincere, and that he was being compelled to make it through pressure applied to him by the ‘politically correct’ establishment.

Either since the misuse of Darwinism by the establishment as a means to scientifically support prejudice and ignorance, non-Europeans have been depicted as inhabiting a lesser stage of human evolutionary development, and that this is the real reason that body shape and skin colour vary around the world.  These distinctions have been further refined to explain cultural differences as the outer manifestations of the less evolved inner brains of the people concerned.  Different cultural norms, dress, language and perceptions of the world were interpreted as the various child-like creations of lesser mentally and physically developed sub-humans.  In this distorted and thoroughly discredited view of the world, Black, Asian and Indigenous peoples have been extensively misrepresented as being ‘ape-like’ in their appearance and psychological make-up.  This page from the Metro of 2012 shows clearly that this kind of 19th century ignorance is still alive and well in contemporaryBritain.  Next to two articles regarding the notion of ‘race’, the editors place a picture of a gorilla apparently mimicking human behaviour.  The picture and story is out of place, unless of course, the underlying message is that foreigners are not welcome in theUK, and that they are physically and psychologically ‘ape-like’ in their existence and demeanour.  The design of this page occurs daily throughout the rightwing press in theUK.  It is designed to a ‘code’ that fellow rightwingers understand and appreciate.  This apparent ‘secret code’ is enhanced by its success in not being recognised for what it is by those who do not subscribe to its implicit, racist message.  Ironically, David Cameron’s point that there is still a long way to go to tackle racism in the UK, is proved by the way the The Daily Mail’s London Metro has chosen to report his opinion, alongside the bizarre implicit depiction of foreigners as ‘apes’.

The post-Marxian philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) coined the term ‘deconstruction’, which describes a method of written text analysis, whereby the apparent thrust of the work, that is the most obvious to the reader at first inspection, is in fact a thin veneer hiding a number of other ‘implicit’ meanings contained within the text itself.  In this view, a written text is never ‘neutral’ regardless of subject or content, but manages instead to convey a multiplicity of meaning, conditioned by the mind and life experience of the author(s).  In other words, meaning is conditional and not of a free standing nature.  Texts have a history, and this history is locked deep in the words and sentence structures as representatives of conscious mind processes.  When comprising a text with a particular message, a number of realities must be taken into account.  If racism is deemed generally ‘bad’ within a society, then an implicitly racist texts must appear as being ‘critical’ of racist attitudes on the surface, whilst actually perpetuating racism in essence.  The media, which depends upon ordinary people purchasing its presentation of the news, is well versed in often presenting more than one viewpoint at a time in a single text – a socially accepted view, alongside the ‘real’ intention of the author(s) – these viewpoints do not even have to be in accordance with one another, but can consist of diametrically opposed positions upon a single issue, such as the above example demonstrates.  The purpose for this system-wide deceit is that by passively reading and accepting articles of this type, a slow ‘drip, drip’ effect is in operation, whereby racist attitudes are continuously fed to an unsuspecting readership, who might put these attitudes into practice during local and national elections.  The point of racism is to continue to keep the ordinary peoples of the world apart, by perpetuating the myth of nation states, and innate racial differences.  This arbitrary division of identity mirrors the division of labour, which ensures that the capitalist system continues unchecked and unquestioned.

Anapanasati: Breath-Mindfulness.

The ability to ‘breath’ oxygen is central to the human condition, and without this ability, human beings would have no life as such.  It is important to recognise, therefore, that when consideration is given to the crucial nature of this biological function, less ‘actual’ attention is paid to it, during the lifetime of an individual.  Indeed, the very concept of a ‘lifetime’ is dependent upon the over-all time engaged in this activity.  It is usually the case that breathing as a distinct act only becomes noticeable when it begins to dysfunction in some way.  That is, when, due to illness or accident, the breathing mechanism itself starts to function in an inefficient manner, the result of which is witnessed in a lack of oxygen entering the body, and the debilitating effect this has upon the other bodily functions.  This demonstrates that breathing, (both as a concept and an activity), may be considered the key of life, and the continuous supply of oxygen, the fuel of life.  When breathing ceases and oxygen no longer enters and nourishes the body cells, death of the individual is the result.  Even a partial diminishing of oxygen in-take can damage organs beyond repair.

The ordinary conscious mind – in its undeveloped state – focuses its attention here and there as it chooses.  It does not, because it can not, focus deliberately upon a single process, activity or behaviour.  It jumps from one object of fixation, to another, never fully establishing contact, but instead interpreting the various objects in a thoroughly shallow manner, before going on to the next.  This frittering of awareness has no time, (or discipline), to remain in one place long enough to establish ‘mindfulness’ of an object, and therefore a deeper understanding of that object.  Conscious awareness, in this stage of non-development, is undisciplined and seeks gratification of the ‘new’, in a continuous cycle of searching, temporary fixation and rapid abandonment.  From the Buddhist perspective, this kind of free associating consciousness is greedy for what it wants, hates what it can not acquire, and is deluded in as much as it does not comprehend or understand the repetitive (and destructive) nature of its behaviour.  As a cycle of mind habit, this leads to behaviour in the physical world that demonstrates the limitation of such a mindset.  The Buddha’s answer to this situation is that the continuously ‘moving’ mind must be ‘stilled’ using a meditative method.  The apparent ‘stilling’ of mental movement breaks the chain of cause and effect in the mind, and thus allows an escape from the self-imposed cycle of deluded and painful repetition, which has hitherto defined the life of the individual, through behaviour within the community (i.e. society).

Fixing the conscious mind to a single point of reference is a typical Buddhist practice of meditation.  Through the direction of willpower, a method of fixation is applied that initially limits, and then stops the disparate and unpredictable conscious swirling of the mind.  The meditative method is imposed from a position of an ‘observer’ looking into the psychic movement.  This is an important point to recognise, which suggests that there exists a perspective of mind that observes its own activities, this perspective, within the Ch’an schoolof Chinese Buddhism, is referred to as the ‘Mind Ground’.  This observing entity, however, is obscured from direct cognition by the swirling and dense mass of unpredictable, mental activity.  By stilling this activity, the clear, pure and ‘empty’ nature of the psychic fabric is laid bare to the meditator as ‘witness’, and the dichotomy of ‘form’ and ‘void’, ‘delusion’ and ‘enlightenment’, thoroughly transcended.  Although there are many methods, or directed points of fixation advocated by the Buddha (and by Buddhist schools), focus upon the breathing mechanism is probably the key foundational technique of the Buddhist tradition, that all other derived methods have their roots within.  The Buddha, in early Buddhism, spoke often about the need to focus the mind’s attention upon the breathing mechanism itself.  However, the fundamental teaching about this method may be read within the Ānāpānasati Sutta (MN 118), or ‘The Breath-Mindfulness Teaching’ of the Pali Canon.  This is translated into Chinese as ‘安那般那念經‘, or ‘AnnabannaNianJing’.  This translation appears to be solely ‘phonetic’ in origination, as the individual ideograms have no interpretive association with the act of ‘breathing’ itself, although the second ideogram ’般’ (ban1), is associated with ‘parinirvana’, (涅槃)‘ within Chinese Buddhism, and of course, ‘念’ (nian4) refers to ‘mindfulness’.  This concept of focusing attention upon the breath spread toChina very early on, and demonstrates the importance that such a meditative practice has within the early Buddhist tradition.

The breathing action itself may be defined as comprising of three distinct sections or aspects, whereby a complete inhalation and a full exhalation are completed.  However, the practice is not as simple as it may appear.  The aspirant must not only elongate both aspects of the breathing act fully, but in so doing, develop the concentration to ‘be aware’ of the entirety of the process as it unfolds, with no gaps or breaks in the perceptual process.  This is to say that if the two aspects of breath last five seconds each, the mind must be fully and completely aware of the process with no distraction whatsoever, for the time period involved.  This is the extending of the ability to concentrate on a single activity, and as breathing is continuous, it requires the concentration to extend beyond five seconds, and ten seconds or more, and to be established as a constant awareness with no time limit of endurance.  More than this, however, whilst the mind’s attention is fixed upon the activity at hand, this concentration must not be dim or vague, but rather bright and alert.  This meditation method requires the mind to be ‘aware’ of every part of breath, be it of an inhalation or an exhalation.  Seeing the breath in a vague manner is not enough and completely ineffective as a method of focusing the mind.  Insight into the very nature of the essence of the breath must be acquired through a continuous application of disciplined endeavour.

Generally speaking, the Buddha advises that the body must be organised before the mind can be trained.  Invariably, this advice involves the act of retiring to the wilderness, to the foot of a tree, or a quiet room, before the meditation method can be efficiently applied in an effective manner.  The ‘stilling’ of the body and the controlling and limiting of its natural functions, are prerequisites for the preparation of the ‘stilling’ of the mind.  The effort of will required to successfully access a meditative practice requires the energy gathered from other, more mundane, everyday activities. Without this energy, the ‘break through’ force will not be generated, and the method will lack effectiveness.  Sublimation of physical activities ensures that enough energy is present when the practice begins.  Breathing is of course, a physical activity, one which benefits the body in its entirety, and one which can increase or decrease the body’s vitality, depending upon function.  Focusing on a complete breath involves the use of the fullest breath possible, whilst remaining physically comfortable and relaxed.  This in turn ensures a greater in-take of oxygen which powers the body cells, and allows for a greater dispelling of carbon dioxide and water vapour, as by-products of the metabolic process.  As deep breathing requires the lower lung to expand and extend, a muscular ripple passes down toward the pelvic girdle with the inward breath, and reverse and travels up toward the lower lung area with the outward breath.  This action stimulates and invigorates the digestive system, and in-turn, helps regulate the endocrine system.  As there is a large increase in the presence of oxygen available in the body at anyone time, this has the effect of slowing the heart down, which although beating slower, beats stronger as a result.  The relaxation of the musculature allows the oxygen rich blood to be pumped to the extremities and back, by the action of a relaxed heart muscle.  In the seated meditation posture, the bones are aligned, which means that the bodyweight is drawn efficiently down through the middle of the bone, (stimulating the bone marrow), and rebounds when making contact with the ground, travelling up the bones – these two actions happen simultaneous and continuously.  Non-aligned bones are a product of a poor posture which causes undue stress upon the inner organs and body joints.  The meditation posture, with its upright spinal column allows, for the optimum development of body health.  From the upright and naturally curved spinal column, all the inner organs hangs correctly and do not hinder one another.  The bones and joints are correctly placed in relation to one another, which allow the musculature to relax and the oxygenated blood to flow smoothly.  With all this in place, the lungs can be used to their fullest extent within the breathing process.  The organisation of the body into a seated meditation postures facilitates a firm seated foundation, although, of course, elsewhere in the Buddhist teachings, a number of different meditation positions are discussed.  This firm foundation is in direct and immediate contact with the ground, which is representative of the earth. This is further symbolic of the broad expanse of the planet, which serves as a metaphor for the extent to which the mind’s awareness must be developed.  From this contact with the ground, the scene is set for a complete rejuvenation of the inner and outer body, and the establishment of the concentration of the mind.

Focusing on the breath in a seated posture allows for the inward breath to enter through the nose.  This is achieved through the development of the awareness of the air passing the tip of the front of the nose.  From here, the nose is filled and air is felt in the upper nasal structures before moving toward the back of the throat and down into the lung area.  As the lower lung is expanding downward, the intestinal area is gently compressed, giving the impression that the abdominal cavity is filling with air – this is a good indication that a deep and proper breath has been established, an should be allowed to naturally occur.  As the outward breath develops, air is released from the lower, middle and upper lung, coming up toward the back of the throat, into the upper nasal area, and out through the nose, passing the tip of the nose as it does so.  During this process, any muscular tension that is experienced anywhere in the body is relaxed (and released) with the outward breath.  During this process, the mind must be consciously aware of the entirety of the inner body, and the entirety of the outer body.  The physical structure of the body is enthused with awareness, so that no part remains outside of a continuous, perceptual analysis.  Breathing, as a physical process is part of this total and far reaching sensitivity.  This is important to note, as not one single part of the body remains unaffected by the breathing process itself.  This clearly demonstrates that ‘breathing’ is ‘life’, and that this statement is of a practical nature, rather than of a theoretical speculation.

Breathing as an activity contains three distinct phases:

 1)     Inward breath

2)     Transitional breath.

3)     Outward breath.

The three aspects of the breath must be fully established, clarified and understood, if the meditation upon them is to be successful.  The inward breath is the gathering of energy, (Sanskrit ‘prana’.  Chinese ‘qi’-氣).  This is the in-take of oxygen as it enters the body from the outside, through the nose.  The air first enters the middle lung area, and when a deep and full breath is emphasised, the air travels into, and inflates the large area of the lower lung, and simultaneously travels upward, inflating the smaller area of the upper lung.  When all areas of both lungs are inflated, a full and deep breath has occurred.  At the point of the maximum in-take of air, a natural saturation of the body cells (with enriching oxygen) occurs.  At this time, no further air can enter the lungs and there is a moment of stasis – a perfect balance that is the ‘transitional experience between the ‘inward’ and the ‘outward’ breaths.  Such a perfect transition can only be experienced with a deep and full breath that has conscious awareness closely associated with it.  The optimised experience of a full inward breath, and the subsequent entering of a perfect ‘transitional’ state, (have implicit in it), a profound sense of physical and psychological well being.  The in this enhanced state, lungs are performing their intended biological function to the highest degree.  In-turn, the body cells are bathed in oxygen and a general sense of well-being is achieved.  At this point of ideal balance, the state of stasis must necessarily give way to an outward breath.  This outward breath relieves the body cells of the waste products of the metabolic activity, within which, oxygen is used as a a fuel.  The outward breath expels any unused oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapour.  This regains a transitional stasis as the potentially dangerous by-product of carbon dioxide – the consequence of the body cells burning oxygen to live – is expelled from the body.  With the outward breath, the air is released from the lower lung first, and is followed in-turn by the middle and upper areas.  As the body has become ‘cleansed’ of unusable substances, and bearing in-mind that enriching oxygen has been distributed system-wide, a transitional stasis is achieved based upon the emptiness of the lungs.  This emptiness is the preparation for the next in-take of air.  The transitional stasis occurs after each inward breath, and each outward breath.  As such, ‘transition’ precedes each inward and each outward breath in an endless cycle of activation – deactivation of the body’s oxygen in-take system.  Awareness of the complete breathing cycle can not be fully established if the transitional breath is not cognised, and its crucial pivotal role understood.  Awareness, in this sense, cascades into a full appreciation of the full complex nature of what it means to breathe correctly and fully.  This mind generated awareness follows each individual segment of the breathing event, being completely aware of every second of activity without any break or interruption.  This continuation of awareness is ‘aware’ that breathing is taking place, the general aspect of which part of the breathing cycle is happening at a precise moment, and the ‘feeling’ of each moment as it arises, manifests and passes away.  The physical process of breathing, in its complete and full manifestation, allows for a mirroring of conscious awareness.  The ‘physical’ and the ‘mind’ aspects come together in a nexus of a profound existential ‘presence’.  It is this exact development of the presence of thought with a physical movement of a biological process, that the Buddha utilises as a means to develop the mind in accordance with the Dharma.  The process of ‘breathing’ is made manifestly present, and becomes the focus of an all-absorbing attention, to which the mind is affixed upon, through an effort of volition.  Through the profound attention to he breath, the Buddha teaches that all aspects of the enlightened mind can be effectively cultivated and ultimately realised without recourse to sophistry, false dharmas, incorrect beliefs, or reliance upon the idea of an underlying, permanent self.

Bare attention contains the breath in the cultivated stage.  In the uncultivated, ordinary stage, the breath appears as a separate object outside of the awareness itself.  Awareness and breath in the latter stage are not obviously connected or entwined in any usable sense.  The two entities happen to exist in a single body, with no integrated common aim.  Breath meditation is the means to unite these aspects and focus them toward the goal of mind development.  Once mindfulness has been achieved, the following of the breath is then used as a means to undermine greed, hatred and delusion, as they manifest in the surface movements of the mind.  It is these surface movements that are eventually ‘stilled’ as the force of concentration builds in strength.  The continuous nature of the breath builds the awareness that follows it until the concentration becomes just as continuous.  The previously chaotic mind movement is stooped in its craziness, and the attention turned back upon itself – focused into position by the breath itself.  The inward breath no only draws fresh energy into the body and mind, but prepares the system for the expulsion of the waste products.  In the mind, this is the disposal of habitual afflictions that leave the mind with the outward breath, after being firmly observed with the inner breath.  The outer breath not only dispels waste products (and afflicted thought patterns), but also assists the distribution of oxygen, (i.e. essential energy) throughout the system.  The body is re-energised and the mind purified so that a sense of well-being is established.  This is the direct effect of the enthusing of bare awareness through animated physical matter.

The inward breath anticipates the emptying of the lungs – a peaceful expectation – whilst the outward breath thoroughly empties the lungs and distributes the energy throughout the living system, leading to a momentarily ‘stilling’ of the breathing process, which is perceived as a profoundly peaceful experience.  When awareness is closely associated with the breathing process, any emotional feelings present in the mind are absorbed into the breathing mechanism and dissolved of their ‘feeling’ content.  The cultivation of bare awareness is the method through which the human mind can be existentially freed from the inner habitual content of its everyday working, as it responds to the outer world.  This is a direct example of how the painful working of the mind can be reduced and transformed through a Buddhist meditational method.  Although the body is at rest, and the mind calmed, the body, of course, is still ‘moving’ as a result of the breathing mechanism and the other metabolic processes.  The physical ‘stillness’ of this meditation practice is defined as that which does not involve the moving about of the body itself, in such activities as walking or running, etc.  When the body is seated and stationery, the mind, via conscious control is not required to administer the safety variables associated with movement through the environment, and the dangers such movement potentially entails.  Although there are structured physical activities that can accompany the technique of following the breath, the practice of ‘anapanasati’, (i.e. ‘breathe mindfulness’), is specifically performed in a stationery physical manner.  As the body is kept deliberately ‘free’ of direct physical movement, the swirling chaos of the mind is brought to a stand still, even though the physical movement of breathing continues unabated.  The movement of breathing, as it engages and dissolves painful, emotional entanglements and habitual thought patterns, becomes ever more associated and established with mind stillness.  This apparent paradox integrates the principle of movement with that of the state of stillness, so that physical movement does not continue to be associated with the development or encouragement of inner thoughts that are intrinsically indistinguishable from particular actions themselves.   This allows for the philosophical appreciation that ‘stillness’ is not necessarily ‘still’, and that ‘movement is not necessarily ‘movement’.  From the state of ‘stillness’, the principle of ‘emptiness’ is clearly perceived, and with it, the realisation that ‘emptiness’ is not necessarily ‘empty’.  Within a continuous conscious awareness, an awareness that is spacious and boundless, the reality of ‘physical presence’ manifests quite naturally, with no contradiction whatsoever.

A sustained focus upon the breath allows for a profound unfolding of tranquillity and insight to occur.  The simple act of following the breath in the Buddhist manner allows for the aspirant to develop the mind from a state of chaos, to a state of enlightenment.  Another meditative activity maybe added to the following of the breath itself, such as chanting a sacred mantra, or focusing the thought aspect of mind upon a symbol of visualisation, (or a puzzle or riddle-like question), that brings intellection to a standstill through the use of it in a specific manner designed to reveal its essence, such as the gong-an method found within Chinese Ch’an Buddhism.  In these examples, the concentration upon the breath is imbued with a deep intellectual enquiry that eventually bursts through the boundaries of the limited, everyday use of this cerebral function.  This is mind developed beyond mind, through the use of the breathing mechanism itself, which allows for an expansion of awareness throughout the entirety of the physical body itself, as if the ‘whole’ body ‘breaths’ in, and ‘breaths ‘out’.  The fully developed attention can be placed upon the entire body, or upon various and specific areas and processes. In this way, the body is fully comprehended, feeling is fully comprehended, and the mind is fully comprehended, as are mind objects, and attachment to ordinary and advanced states of mind fully abandoned.

Mindfulness: The Effectiveness of Attention Relocation.

The mind as an apparent internal device is influenced by the environment within which it exists.  This environment is not only the outer world of separate, disparate people and events, but also includes the body itself.  The body and the surrounding environment (of what might be referred to broadly as ‘society’), are subject to the awareness of the conscious mind itself, so that the psychic substance of the mind, and the actual physical matter that comprises the world, appear to reconcile at a certain point, in such away that allows ‘mind’ to still appear as a distinct psychic entity, and for the world of matter to continue to function as if it where separate and distinct from the mind that perceives and interacts with it.  The awareness of ‘emptiness’ (sunyata), is the Buddhist philosophical experience that serves as the basis that allows the functioning interaction of ‘mind’ (void), and ‘matter’ (form), with no apparent contradiction within the experience itself.  Often, in such an enlightened state, phenomena are described as rising and falling away within a pristine, reflective, space-like continuum.  This state is realised that the apparent movements of the mind are ‘stilled’ through the use of a concentrative method.  This method invariably involves a withdrawing of attention from the senses – which in Buddhist philosophy also includes the mind itself – so that inner tendencies, habits of response, continuous cycles of thoughts and feelings, are reduced through the breaking of contact with the obvious physical circumstances (i.e. ‘causes’) which trigger the inner (i.e. ‘effect’) responses.  Simultaneously with this effort is applied a system of behaviour modification (i.e. ‘the precepts’) which serves to limit the scope of detrimental physical actions, which have their origination within the mind itself.  The inner mind and outer body is thus aligned through an effort of will that seeks to create a mind free of delusion, and a body free of error.

The Buddhist teachings explain the attainment of the state of enlightenment from the perspective of ‘what it is not’.  It is the state of mind that is manifest, when the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion are thoroughly ‘cut-off’ at their root in the mind itself.  Although the environment creates, through its influence via the senses, confusions and lamentations in the mind, it is the creation of defilements in the mind that the various modes of Buddhist meditation seek to uproot and prevent from re-arising.  The body and social conditions are taken care of through the precepts for the monastic and the lay person alike.  Therefore, the body and outer environmental conditions are regulated in such away so as to allow for extended hours of quiet, seated meditation practice.  Such a regulation allows for the attention of the mind to be re-located away from the concerns of triviality, and toward the contemplation of the inner mind itself.  At the beginning of such a practice, the individual’s concentration is weak and undeveloped.  As a consequence, the outer conditions that would normally serve to divert the mind’s attention toward living fully within the concerns of the ordinary world, are modified so that the immediate environment is free of the need for the obvious trials and tribulations associated with the struggle for survival.  In this developmental environment, the emphasis is upon an inner struggle only, with the need to acquire food and shelter met within and through the meditating community itself.  The individual meditator is freed from the daily grind of the mundane requirement to accumulate wealth to sustain him/her and a family within a worldly existence.  The material effort usually required by an individual is taken-over by the community and replaced with an effort designed solely to develop and free the mind.  This is of course, relevant to the ‘Sangharama’, the holy places provided to spiritual teachers and their students, by kings who wished to encourage pockets of intense spiritual practice within their kingdoms.  Such places consisted of a specific geographical area, whereby the incumbent community of ascetics were immune from secular, taxation and military conscription.  In return for this social freedom, the communities had to apply themselves to their Dharmic studies and not get involved in the ordinary world, or participate in any movements to oust the king and his administration.  Such behaviour was considered a treasonous act and responded to accordingly.  These official holy spaces were often situated in parks or forested areas.  However, individuals not part of these kinds of communities often went alone into the wilderness and through non-attachment to the worldly concerns of regular food and shelter, renounced the concerns of the world and applied themselves to various modes of yoga and meditative practice – much like the Buddha before his enlightenment.  These holy people simply moved physically away from direct physical contact with the ordinary, everyday world of trials and tribulations.  The entering of the natural world, away from the structures of developed society, commerce and other people’s minds, allowed the aspirant’s mind to detach itself from its own habitual reactions, conditioned over years of association.  The natural world offers a different set of concerns – food to live, the elements and wild animals to survive, and diseases to avoid, etc.  The securities offered by developed human society are tainted by the deluded human minds that create them.  Human society, with its need to survive, is the product of greed, hatred and delusion.  Therefore, its developed physical structures and cultural norms are implicitly contaminated by greed, hatred and delusion.  The physical and psychic fabric of ordinary society is polluted by these defilements, and holy people, either living within special spiritual communities, or by themselves in the forests or other open spaces, have taken the decision to replace one set of social conditions with another, with the intention of changing or reducing the obvious outer influences of greed, hatred and delusion.

There is, of course, the third option of remaining within society itself, and through the finding of relatively quiet surroundings, such as a room, a city temple, or an urban park, whereby the most powerful effects of greed, hatred and delusion are not so evident, and a meditative space within the mind is established.  The reality of physical relocation must only be a temporary requirement, if the enlightenment sought is believed to permanently free the experiencer from worldly suffering.  The requirement for outer relocation pre-empts the meditative technique of ‘attention’ relocation, which is, in effect, an inner repositioning of awareness toward a specific objective.  Initially, both the ‘inner’ attention and the ‘outer’ position are re-aligned toward a spiritual endeavour that is fuelled by energy that has been withdrawn from the usual rigours of engagement with outside world, and channelled instead, toward the inner realm.  The volition required for this endeavour, is a practical demonstration of the need to break with habits of behaviour and habitual patterns involving thoughts and emotions.  As an antidote to corrosive habit, meditation as a distinct practice, is thoroughly revolutionary in both principle and practice, for it seeks, as a method, nothing less than the complete transformation of the individual mind, and through this metamorphosis, ushers in a profound reformation of perception and conception, and in so doing, obliterates the definitional boundaries and limiting parameters of the previously deluded viewpoint.  In this regard, the meditational method derives from the perspective of the achieved spiritual objective.  The methodology developed, is always from the expanded conscious perspective, and is designed to lead a practitioner from the state of non-enlightenment, to that of the state of full enlightenment and the perfected understanding such a state represents.  The success of the meditative method is attested to by the mind that has created it, as such a mind is a living example, (in respect of a demonstrable realisation), of the validity of the enlightened path it represents.  A person manifesting such an achievement appears to possess a calm mind and an unusual wisdom.  Furthermore, there also exists a certain indifference to social climate and the various sensations associated with it, as if the being in question is so immersed in a higher plane of conscious existence, that the act of bare sensation itself is transformed beyond the usual (and expected) subject-object dichotomy.  Pleasure, neutrality and pain are each clearly perceived for what they are, and due to a superior insight, are not responded to either mentally or physically in a manner that elicits the karma producing reactions of greed, hatred and delusion.  This reaction is now a complete impossibility in the enlightened state of being, as the conditions, and the propensity to give rise to such conditions, no long exists.

The instruction that contains guidance upon the foundational method of Buddhist meditation is found in the Satipaṭṭhāna (Presence of Mindfulness) Sutta (MN 10), and the Maha-Satipatthana (Great Presence of Mindfulness) Sutta (DN 22), as well generally throughout the Pali Canon.  The Buddha considers this teaching as a direct method to achieve nirvana – the cessation of greed, hatred and delusion.  The Satipatthana Sutta appears in Chinese as ‘念處經’ (nian4chu4jing1).  The first ideogram ‘念’ (nian4) is written as a ‘mouth’ (今-jin1), over a ‘heart’ (心-xin1), and carries the meaning of a present awareness (or mindfulness) that is used in the act of study.  Although ‘心’ is drawn literally as a human heart, in ancient Chinese thought, the anatomical heart and the conscious mind were thought to be one and the same.  In reality, this concept is thought of as representing the centre of conscious being, as well a righteous and virtuous moral nature.  With ‘今’, an open mouth is depicted, currently in the act of speaking, this act is existential and in progress, giving the associated meaning of ‘now’ or ‘presently’.   This can also refer to the act of chanting, and reading aloud a text, as well as remembering a text.  The second ideogram’處’ (chu4) is written as a ‘tiger’ (虍-hu1), a ‘person’ (儿-ren2), and ‘foot’ (夂-zhu3), and carries the meaning of a ‘special quality’, a ‘place’, a ‘spot’, a ‘point’ and a ‘distinguishing mark’.  It has the further interpretive meanings of ‘to be faced with’, ‘to manage’, ‘to handle’, and ‘to live’.  These meanings may well stem from the idea that a tiger walks around a person, keeping that person in a particular place, but as the tiger does not press home an attack the situation is successfully faced, managed and survived.  The meaning here, seems to be of that of holding to a single ‘point’ or position, designed to achieve a specific objective.  The third ideogram ‘經’ (jing1) is a term commonly used to denote a classical book of authoritative text.  Written as the ‘warp of a fabric’, it denotes the orderly collection of rules, regulations and guidelines.  Books described as ‘jing’ are considered to contain a special knowledge that has originated from virtuous sages.  The term ‘經’ is believed to have developed from the practice of books written on bamboo strips, being bound together using a twisted thread (糸-mi4).  The ‘念處經’ then, translates literally as ‘’Current Mind Place/Point Classic’, and transliterates as ‘Present Mind Concentration – Classic’.

Satipatthana – the establishing of mindfulness – is the prime Buddhist method of observing phenomena originating from both within and without the body and mind.  It is the quality of mind that clearly perceives without error, and does not tire over-time.  It is the practice of a continuous, non-judgemental awareness, that nevertheless, precisely distinguished between phenomena that are in nature pleasurable, neutral and full of suffering.  This practice is one of a clear discernment that does not lapse for a single second.  Satipatthana has four categories of application:

1)     Body – Breathing, postures, repulsiveness, and material elements,

2)     Sensations-Feelings – Pleasant, neutral and painful.

3)     Mind-Consciousness – greed, hatred, delusion.

4)     Mental Phenomena – Five Hindrances, Seven Factors of Enlightenment, etc.

Through the cultivation of an awareness that perceives the inner, outer and integrated states of these four categories, a profound ‘detachment’ is developed, regardless of the nature of the phenomena being observed.   In this manner and through this practice, the attachment and suffering implicit in the physical and mental world is transcended, and the state of ‘extinction’ of passion, (nirvana) is achieved.  Through this development of non-attached awareness, the mind’s attention is relocated away from an outer world (situated outside of the body) of frivolous attractions, and is gathered together and reigned in.  This ‘gathering together’ is essentially a wilful ‘pulling’ of psychic energy into a single, concentrated point.   This is the initial disentangling from the world of conditioned events, and the turning inward of awareness.  The body and mind are controlled through concentration upon the breath.  The breath begins at birth and ceases at physical death, but its presence is usually undetected to any great degree by the average person.  Through the focus upon the breath, the body and mind are calmed.  This in-turn allows for the development of tranquillity and insight in equal measure, as each of these two attributes develops in the shadow of the other.  Although the Buddha teaches awareness of a number of psychological and physical states, the awareness he advocates remains constant and does not change in quality from one attribute to the next.  The concentration of awareness is built-up through the contemplation of the array of differing bodily and mental phenomena until a permanent breakthrough in the mind is achieved.  The disparate nature of the ever changing objects of contemplation ensure that the power of concentration is kept ‘even’ at its base, regardless of the changing of the object being contemplated.  The objects of the mind and body are viewed from the perspective of an underlying essence or observer.  It is this observatory essence that gives rise to concentrative power, and maintains the discipline of the practice in relation to the contemplated world of disparate phenomena.  The cessation of the inner generation of greed, hatred and delusion, and all the hindrances based upon them, coincides with the development of the perception of ‘emptiness’.  However, the Buddha’s path does not stop at the perception of ‘emptiness’ in relation to the existence of a separate physical world of matter.  The state of enlightenment involves the transcending of even the experience of ‘emptiness’, so that no dualistic tendency survives.  Emptiness and the consciousness of emptiness, as such, ‘ceases’.  Again, this is an example of the Buddhist tendency of explaining enlightenment through what it is not.

What is clear is that Buddhist meditation can be practiced by focusing attention upon a bodily aspect – such as ‘breathing’ – or upon mental content.  It is also clear that both methods can be used simultaneously, as well as separately.  As the underlying reality of all mental or bodily phenomena is the (empty) cessation of the nirvanic state, it follows that in reality, both methods of Buddhist meditation stem from the same enlightened essence.  That is to say that the different attributes of ‘breath’ and ‘lust’, by way of example, are both perceived equally from the perspective of the mind ground.  It is a matter of focused attention that breaks through the barrier of delusion, so that the common perception of duality is thoroughly transcended.  In developed Buddhism, practices such as chanting, visualisation and methods such as the gong-an of Ch’an, all serve to focus the mind in exactly the same manner as the Satipatthana.  A method of bare attention is used through the agency of extensive concentration, to eventually break through the barrier of delusion in the mind, and thus free the practitioner from the suffering of the experience of duality based upon greed, hatred and delusion.  The Buddha’s teaching preserved in the Pali Canon is an exercise in the application of minute attention to detail, which is a testament to the understanding of his enlightenment.  From this exact foundation, Buddhist meditation has developed into a variety of distinct aspects that all claim authenticity from the early teaching.

The Satipatthana teaches that there are seven attributes of mind that are required to be present (i.e. ‘cultivated’) for effective progress toward enlightenment, listed under the ‘Mind Phenomena-Events’ category

a)     Mindfulness.

b)     Investigation.

c)     Energy.

d)     Bliss.

e)     Tranquillity

f)      Absorption.

g)     Equanimity.

Mindfulness, investigation and energy, collectively develop the mind so that a break through is achieved and states of ‘bliss’ and ‘tranquillity’ realised.  With further effective training in mindfulness, tranquillity and bliss give way to absorption and then equality of mind.  Non-mindfulness, non-investigation and non-energy represent the conditions of the ordinary deluded mind.  Mindfulness, investigation and energy all support one another.  Without energy, for instance, there can be no investigation, and therefore no establishment of mindfulness.  Without the inclination to investigate, mindfulness can not be established, regardless of the presence (or not) of energy.  If the initial three attributes are reversed however, then the presence of inclined energy gives rise to the appropriate desire to investigate, which in turn eventually creates the conditions for the creation of a firm foundation in mindfulness.  By reversing bliss and tranquillity into ‘tranquillity’ and ‘bliss’, then bliss becomes the ‘effect’ of the establishment of tranquillity, which becomes the ‘cause’- suggesting that tranquillity leads to the condition of bliss.  The concept of ‘absorption’ (jhana), is categorised into eight levels of attainment, four material and four non-material.  The attribute of equanimity is present in seven of the eight jhanic (i.e. ‘meditative’ states), with the last state being beyond the ability of language to adequately describe.  Interestingly, ‘equanimity’ (upekkhā), is the fourth of the four levels of attainment described in the Brahmavihara teaching – loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.  In this (Brahmavihara) Sutta the Buddha teaches that by generating these attributes (in turn) and directing each toward oneself, toward every being in the immediate environment, and every being in the universe without discrimination.  These ‘divine abodes’ (Brahmavihara) are taught by the Buddha as a means of mind purification.  Here, it is clear that although ‘equanimity’ is divine, it is not yet considered full enlightenment.  Therefore it is probable that equanimity should precede absorption in the list of the seven attributes of enlightenment.  Lists are often reversed in the collection of Buddhist texts, possibly due to a particular method of memory organisation from an earlier time, when the teachings were passed on by word of mouth from teacher to student through the generations.

Mindfulness is presence of awareness, as gentle as it is strong.  In the deluded state the mind is routinely scattered, disorganised and full of angst – this is the state of non-mindfulness, as mindfulness is not present.  To make mindfulness present, the mind must be brought into a unified state by an act of will.  This is, in essence, motivated by a desire for enlightenment, a desire which is considered correct within Buddhist thinking, as it is a desire that has no other consequence than the eventual cessation of greed, hatred and delusion.  Such a gathered mind focuses physical and mental energy.  This energy is withdrawn from the social environment and is thus preserved for the spiritual effort.  It is not the case that mind energy should not be situated in the outer environment, but rather that in the deluded state, energy is placed outwardly in a haphazard and inefficient manner.  A previously scattered and uneven awareness is levelled and refined so that all that comes into its presence is perceived with an inherently ‘equal’ and clear cognition.  Once achieved, the surface turmoil of the mind recedes so that a calm state of mental being is manifest.  This calm (or tranquil) state allows for an ever greater clarity of perception and thought, and thus leads to the wisdom associated with advanced states of absorption.  In these states, gross energy is refined into a constant, purified stream of physical and mental empowerment.  Boundaries that once limited the scope of thought and compassion fall away and insight follows insight without end.

This leads to an assessment of what exactly ‘mindfulness’ is within the Buddhist context.  This can be a problematic issue that is over simplified or over complicated, by suttas comprising of exhaustive lists of terms, categories definitions, preferences, warnings and prohibitions.  This rich diversity stems from the Buddha’s habit of teaching the same message in a number of variations to different individuals or groups of people.  The underlying message is consistent with what might be broadly identified as a ‘doctrine’.  The existential reference for this body of work is of course the Buddha’s enlightenment itself.  This understanding emanates from the wisdom that is conveyed in the words that are recorded in the teachings.  By comparison to the three dimensional presence of the Buddha, the recorded words must, by comparison, appear philosophically ‘dry’ within the format of their written preservation.  The speaker has long departed from this world, but the spiritual shadow of his achievement lives on through the written word.  This does not, in any way undermine the value of the preserved words themselves, but instead serves to clarify that the one person who could bring an instant and immediate order to the disparate suttas is no longer present in physical form.  With well over two thousand years separating this time from that, interpretation of the teachings themselves are reliant upon Buddhist traditions and the schooling they offer.  Of course, with the advent of the internet, individuals can now access the digitalised sacred texts in a manner unavailable to all previous generations.  Not only this, but expert advice can be acquired from Buddhist monastic experts and teachers from around the world, without the need to travel.  Mindfulness for a postmodern age often breaks down unnecessary barriers that were once thought unbreakable.  Many people in the world today live in urban settings, and this includes Buddhist lay and monastic practitioners.  The world, with its asymmetric distribution of wealth, sees an affluent West juxtaposed to the relative poverty of the developing world.  The Buddha’s essentially anti-greed message is at odds with that of capitalism and the inherent exploitation demanded by it, and yet this form of economics has spread throughout the world, including the Buddha’s own country ofIndia.  Certain modern Buddhist organisations in the world today, are happy to sell the Buddha’s teachings (that they do not own) for money, without any sense of irony, or the appreciation that the Buddha would simply have categorised this activity as delusional, adharmic and ‘unmindful’, thus undermining the claims of these organisations as being truly ‘representative’ of the Buddha’s compassionate teachings.  The Buddha taught the Dharma because it was right to do so, as he believed that he was relieving human suffering as a result.  He made a point by example of abandoning wealth in his youth.  Nowhere in the teachings does it say that wealth is an important aspect of the Buddha-Dharma – far from it, wealth, and its pursuit is a product of a lack of correct ‘mindfulness’.  In this respect, the endless lists of things that should be done in the suttas, serve to clearly define what the Buddha’s path ‘is’, and equally clearly, define what it ‘is not’.  This is an important point that is essential to the analysis of proper ‘mindfulness’, and through it, the correct interpretation of the unfolding, meditative path.  If the foundation is not correct, it follows that the path will unfold incorrectly and suffering will not be relieved.  Today, it is often the case that bare attention is not withdrawn from the outer world, as it should be, but rather that the outer world is mistaken for the inner world, and attention not correctly withdrawn from it.  This creates the inversion of the Buddha’s teaching whereby a reinforced deluded ego is re-interpreted as an enlightened mind.  No levelling out of conscious has occurred, and any apparent peace of mind achieved is based solely upon a stable social environment sustained by a flow of money.  In this model, Buddhism has become a ‘business’, with exactly the same rationale applied to its distribution throughout society, as if it where a consumable product produced in a factory.  People wishing to study Buddhism are treated as ‘customers’ purchasing goods.  The entire commercial premise for this attitude is thoroughly against the Buddha’s teachings on ‘mindfulness’, and conforms to the Buddha’s definition of ‘deluded’ behaviour – that is actions motivated by greed, hatred and delusion.

The Buddha, during his lifetime, withdrew his mind’s attention away from the privilege of his royal position, (i.e. of social leadership), and out of, and away from the social oppression of the caste system his social privilege depended upon.  In entities so doing, he disinvested his mind of its social conditioning.  The enlightened mind perceives in very different manner to that of the deluded mind.  A totality of awareness manifests whereby the apparent dichotomy of subject-object carries no real meaning.  The mental essence and the material essence no longer appear to be different, and mind and world are reconciled.  Prior to this state however, individuals are born into a world of external social entities that demand empowerment from projections into the environment, of mental energy that is seized and stored.  Individual minds are implicitly trained to partake in this process which splits the mind into an apparent (disempowered) individual subject, and an apparent (powerful) external State.  The individual experiences one half of his mind as estranged, and the other as disempowered.  The estranged aspect is the experience of external State power reflected back onto the individual in a manner that is highly oppressive and exploitative, doubly so as without the projection of power from the individual, external social entities would possess no power at all.  This sets the conditions for the delusive mind to manifest, as these inherent contradictions allow for greed, hatred and delusion to exist.  A human mind estranged from itself is set adrift in a world uncertainty and impermanency.  More than this, however, through the condition of estrangement it seeks permanency in the unstable and the untenable.  Logic is turned upon its head and the world of apparent reality is mistaken for the real world, and not recognised for the distortion that it really represents.  The Buddha saw that this situation sets all experience as ultimately unsatisfactory and therefore prone to produce suffering through alienation.  For mindfulness to be established, the mind must be made whole again and mental energy withdrawn from the delusionary world and re-integrated back into the fabric of the mind, so that the mind and world reflect one another, such is the power of attention relocation.

In this respect, mindfulness is the establishment of an ‘even’ awareness that clearly perceives the objects of phenomena as they appear before its perception.  This perception is sharp, clear and discerning, and it firmly establishes each object for what it is, and what it is not.  There is no margin for error if mindfulness is to be effective as a means toward meditative development.  It is equally important in mindfulness training that the absence of exact phenomena is also clearly perceived.  For instance, through the appropriate application of mindfulness, the presence of sexual desire is clearly discerned, and through the appropriate application of mindfulness, the non-presence of sexual desire is discerned.  This includes the arising, establishing and diminishing of each phenomenon through the process of its creation and demise within the mind itself, and any corresponding external circumstance.  Mindfulness in its refined form allows the practitioner to experience the world through the developed awareness of an expanded conscious perspective.  This state is in fact simply the normal conscious extent of the mind’s awareness applied to itself and through the body, and which is extrapolated through the senses, into the environment, unhindered by deluded thought constructs and emotional turmoil.  Mindfulness is the effect of a calmed mind that perceives the full extent of its innate sensory ability, and that through this unencumbered awareness, is focused by the will, so that correct attention, (defined as a gathering of energy at a single specific point of reference), can be firmly applied to the object of focus itself.  Continuous familiarity with this technique allows for the mind to become re-orientated so that this process becomes normalised.  That is to say, the mind itself becomes perfectly and continuously calm (tranquil), and in so doing facilitates a greater understanding (through efficient attention), of all phenomena travelling through its awareness parameter.  It is only in the initial stages of mindfulness training that an intense effort of will is required to make the transition from ordinary consciousness to enlightened consciousness.  Nevertheless, this beginning stage is arguably the most difficult, as the everyday functioning of the mind is literally being reformed away from its previously normal functioning, to that of a spiritually advanced state.  Once this transition has been successfully established, the new state of insight is maintained by the act of continuous mindfulness itself, which has progressed from the ‘entry’ stage, to that of full manifestation.  Tranquillity and insight, of course, form the basis of the Buddhist enlightenment tradition, and at the highest realisation, all the distinctions of the path designed to transport a practitioner from the deluded ‘here’, to the enlightened ‘there’, lose their validity as their function is fully realised.  Mindfulness transcends itself, so that ‘mindfulness’ and ‘non-mindfulness’ reconcile in the state of enlightenment itself.  The Buddha’s teachings, not being of a dogmatic nature, contain within themselves, their own redundancy.

Asrava – The Root of the Matter.

The presentation of the term ‘ignorance’ (Sanskrit: ‘avidya’) within both early (and later) Buddhist texts, (Suttas), and commentaries (shastras), gives the impression that this term acts as a ‘first cause’ within the system of Buddhist thought.  However, the very same texts also convey the reality that the Lord Buddha himself did not advocate a ‘first cause’ in his philosophy, and that such a concept runs counter to the established Buddhist notion of conditioned origination.  The received version of the Chain of Origination contains twelve links, but the number of links is not consistant throughout the Buddhist texts, with such variations often lacking ‘ignorance’ as the first link in the chain.  The more logical ‘craving’, ‘desire’ and ‘thirst’ are usually sited as the driving force behind re-becoming.  Ignorance, within the Buddhist, has to be defined as ‘not knowing’.  It is not just the ordinary ‘not knowing’ of facts and figures associated with worldly knowledge, but rather is used to depict the state of ‘non-enlightenment’ itself.  In this state, ignorance is itself conditioned by ‘asrava’.  Asrava can be translated as an intoxicant that pollutes and poisons, and that causes, by its presence, a ‘leakage’ of defilement into the stream of conscious awareness – indeed, the Chinese translation of this term is ‘漏’ (lou4).  The asrava are of four kinds; sensuous, becoming, views and ignorance, although in early Buddhist texts, only three are often mentioned, with the asrave of defiled views not being included.  It is interesting to note that the asrava originate both from within the mind, and from the external environment acting upon the mind, and that the Buddhist teaching is presented in such a way so as to suggest that the inner mind and outer environment are linked, and only appear to be separate in the unenlightened state.  The Asrava are probably the result of the requirement of psychological adaptation to an ever evolving social environment.

The Buddhist representation of knowledge does not allow for a definite beginning or a conclusive ending to material existence.  Such investigations are considered by the Buddha to unprofitable as a pursuit, as the answers to such question can not be known.  The seeking of unanswerable (and therefore abstract) questions does not calm the mind or allow for the over-coming of greed, hatred and delusions.  Seeking the abstract only serves to distract the mind from the effective contemplation of its own essence.  The human condition, according to the Buddhist teachings, is a situation whereby the mind is undisciplined and immersed in the mire of its own lack of self-knowledge.  This is the case irrespective of the magnitude of a particular intellect.  Profound cleverness on the part of an individual does not exempt them from the Buddha’s judgement.  A clever mind may well know much about the world and how one phenomena relates to another phenomena, and how a particular phenomenon is produced, enhanced or destroyed through the appropriate manipulation, but in all this knowing, the Buddha’s wisdom of self-knowing is completely absent.  A clever mind is not an enlightened mind.  A clever person may well attract all kinds of positive accolades as well as immense wealth and social standing, and yet none of this is relevant when viewed through the rubric of Buddhist interpretive thinking.

The Buddha’s enlightenment stems from introspection – it is the mind looking at itself.  The attention of the mind is withdrawn from external objects and the thoughts and feelings such objects usually inspire.  This means that simply cognising physical and mental events, (i.e. the worldly path), is not enough.  Ordinary education, as a means of knowledge acquisition, only serves to direct and order thoughts toward a particular object or subject.  No ordinary system of education allows for the discovery and testing of the essence of the mind itself.  There is no delving into the psychic structure, but only the emphasising of specific uses of the psychic substance itself.  The world, as an advancing civilisation, builds its entire edifice upon the progress of economic and technological development.  The Buddha’s philosophy stands in stark contrast to this model of continuously unfolding human intelligence, and a corresponding, improving physical world.  Through necessity, human beings respond to their environment so that they may survive.  From this continuous requirement to respond, physical structures and cultural norms are established which are inherited by off-spring – as if these developments were always in existence – rather than brought into existence by previous generations.  Fresh minds are imprinted by this developed externality, and this in turn, triggers new and interesting intellectual re-positionings, so that each generation builds upon the achievements of the previous.

The need to survive is the base desire that pushes this great endeavour forward without end.  Eventually, inner and outer development results in the formations of advanced, or high cultures, whereby a certain strata of the population is freed from the drudgery of the concerns of manual labour and has the leisure to exercise the intellect in others ways that are not directly applicable to, or limited by the necessity of everyday survival.  Invariably, these systems of thought often have no direct bearing on everyday matters, but consist of structures of abstraction only, usually referring to a theoretical reality such as that represented by theology (religion), and philosophy.  It is interesting to note that the Buddha’s system has no interest in the physical survival or development of the species, and is equally dismissive of conventional religion and abstract philosophy.  The Buddha’s philosophy appears to be an anti-philosophy.  This does not mean that the Buddha is opposed to thinking, but rather that he has arrived at his particular understanding of existence by not following the physical drive for survival, or the psychological habit of the development of ever more elaborate interpretations of the world.  This is to say that when the Buddha speaks of ‘freedom’, he is using the term in a specific manner to imply an absolute existential freedom from all ordinary modes of human existence which are based upon the desire to survive.  Physical survival and psychological domination of the process of survival are of one and the same nature.  The need to survive entails the desire not to die.  Once this is established as the base human attribute, human beings, in either groups or as individuals, start to compete amongst themselves.  This competing, as it often involves death, maiming and enslavement, leads to the development of hatred.  As this cycle of continuous development through competition appears to have no end, and considering the participants appear unable to see their predicament, or think their way out of it, the abusive structure is held together by a species-wide delusion.  The natural state of the development of human society ensures that greed, hatred and delusion, as psychological traits (and corresponding behaviours), are passed on from one generation to the next, thus ensuring the cycle of suffering (samsara), as conveyed through the Buddha’s teachings.

Social development has determined, to a definite degree, corresponding psychological responses to the environment that have become historical in nature, and common throughout the human species.  This may well imply that the human mind, in its originality, served purely as a device for interaction between the individual and the environment, and between the individual and his own thoughts and emotions – and that the forces of human history has produced within an interpretive response, which when analysed can be discerned into three distinct streams psychic phenomenon – greed, hatred and delusion – which although presented as three separate entities, are in fact three aspects of the same internal response to developing outer circumstance.  In reality, the traditional presentation of lists in Buddhist philosophy is often reversed in order from the probable and actual utterances, as the Buddha originally taught them, due, it is believed, to various memory strategies employed by those whose job it was to remember the Buddhist discourses in their entirety, at a time before the discourses were rendered into the written word.  Therefore this particular list could read ‘delusion, hatred and greed’ in reality, and other a much more convincing basis for the presence of hatred and greed, arising, as seems likely, from the morass ‘not-knowing’.  This ‘not-knowing’ is delusion, and it is its exact opposite – knowing through enlightenment – that puts an end to both hatred and greed.  It is also correct to point out that the attainment of the states of non-greed and non-hatred, although highly extolled by the Buddha, and certainly preferable to greed and hatred, nevertheless are not considered to be representative of perfect enlightenment, whilst delusion is present.  This suggests that ‘delusion’, (that is the ‘not knowing’ or ‘non-understanding’ of the essence of the reality of life – without conditioning), is the foundational ignorance that gives rise to all its varied attributes in Buddhist philosophy.

The Buddha explored the inner terrain of his mind thoroughly.  He lived in a society that had a very strong theocratic religious tradition, and whose assumption of an atman was pivotal to all its philosophical underpinnings.  An atman – or universal breath – evolved from a divine essence and existed within each individual.  When the individual’s body died, his atman migrated, (was ‘breathed’) into a new body.  This permanent entity was the possession of the divine power that created it.  This divine power created the world into a caste system, and breathed human beings ‘out’ to man it, at the various levels.  The Buddha – being of the kingly caste – was socially advantaged, but he saw his material wealth, (and the well being it caused), as a hindrance on the path to self-transcendence.  As a consequence gave up his privileged life, his social rank, and his wife and child.  This act was not in accordance with the Brahmanic thinking of his day.  Such an act was considered against the will of the divine power (Brahma).  However, in this act the Buddha makes a radical statement with revolutionary consequences.  He applies himself to the path of meditation, and through a profound enlightenment, re-interprets the gods as being of less importance than humanity, re-structures the theory of karma, so that each individual is actually responsible for his or her actions, (as opposed to a the whims of a god), taught that re-birth only exists in the realm of the deluded, (and that the enlightened are free of it), and that there is no permanent soul or atman.  In the realm of spiritual philosophy, this last attribute is unique, and serves as the inspiration for chain of dependent origination, which attempts to explain becoming and re-becoming from the perspective of having no permanent atman.

In the developed (and received) chain of dependent origination, there is the presentation of three distinct lifetimes in twelve links, with each re-becoming explained in a different way, but all powered by desire for becoming.  Each explanation is mutually inclusive of the other two methods of explanation, and the Buddhist teaching is fully represented.  Essentially, through the craving of desire, a physical body is formed and takes life.  Life is suffering – as the Buddha teaches – because permanency is sought in impermanency, (changelessness in the changeable), and behind the outer show of the events of life, no permanent ‘self’ can be found.  Society, although ever present in one form or another, is never static.  The illusion is that wealth and material plenty are forever existent and that this situation will never change.  Not only does society continuously change, but the members that comprise it are continuously being born, living out their individual life spans, and then passing away at the point of death – nothing is permanent whatsoever.  The acquiring of what appears to be social security through effort is defined through the juxtaposition of social chaos and the breaking down of law and order.  An apparently ordered society allows for commerce and culture to proceed at a regular pass as the months move through the year, and the years move through the decades.  Human beings are born into any variant along the social scale, from disordered (and poor), to ordered (and very wealthy).  Neither position is stable and free from change.  Human beings seek the physical shelter of a good abode, and the psychological shelter of protection against random or unexpected changes.  The experience of change can be both physically and psychologically painful and full of suffering.  The destruction of thought forms based upon the ideal of permanency is suffering in the mind.  Often, faced with the reality that nothing in the physical world is free of change, (and therefore free of suffering), many turn to established religions as a means to find a permanent spiritual entity called an atman or a soul.  This idea, (although comforting for those who believe in it), believe in it with no proof of its existence.   Such a belief is accompanied by a theocracy that seeks to justify a soul theory with no actual evidence of its existence.  As fear of change often serves as the basis for a belief in a soul theory, and as there is not the comfort of seeing the soul itself, even this belief is riddled with contradictions and fears.

Ignorance begins this chain of conditioned events, but this represents a philosophical quandary for Buddhist thought.  As, according to the Buddha’s teaching, there can be no ‘first cause’, beginning the chain with ignorance is a problem, unless of course, ignorance itself has a cause.  The received chain of twelve links is probably a later development, as the early Buddhist sutras contain references to chains of becoming with less links in the chain, with these chains not always beginning with the state of ignorance.  Although ignorance (avidya), is a state whereby an individual exists within a state of ‘not-knowing’, it is usually desire, (i.e. sexual desire), that leads to the state of physical life.  Ignorance as a singular state is representative of non-enlightenment, rather than birth and re-birth.  Although it is true that those in the ignorant state are re-born, and those who are not in it – i.e. those already ‘enlightened’ – do not produce the conditions for re-birth, nevertheless it is desire, craving and thirst which give rise to the conditions through which re-birth occurs.  Ignorance is used in this context, at the beginning of the chain, as a generic rhetorical device to explain that a lack of insight is instrumental to greed, hatred and delusion continuously repeating in an endless cycle of suffering.   However, with the formulation of such a chain, the monks who devised it (long after the physical passing of the Buddha) had to create in such away so as to produce a coherent document that conveyed the essential Buddhist doctrine.  Ignorance on its own simply produces the state of ‘not-knowing’, and cannot logically produce any other state.  It is a state that represents what is absent and not what is apparent.  Ignorance is signified by what is lacking, and not by what is present.  In the Buddhist tradition, however, ignorance is not merely the lack of conventional knowledge – that is the lack of awareness of the logical lists of facts that comprise established academic subjects, or of practical modes of endeavour, but rather, the Buddha uses the term ‘avidya’ in a specific manner.  Vidya (वेद) is of course Sanskrit for ‘knowledge’, and refers to both secular and spiritual wisdom.  It is gained through the use of the intellect applied to a subject of study, or through meditation, when applied toward a particular spiritual (yogic) objective.  The Buddha’s philosophy rejects these definitions of ‘knowing’, regarding such knowledge as incomplete and lacking.  This kind of knowledge, the Buddha teaches, does not end the cycle of samsara and the endless rounds of re-birth, and is therefore merely another manifestation of ‘knowing’ that does not escape the realms of material and spiritual suffering.  True knowledge for the Buddha comprises of the direct perception that it is greed, hatred and delusion which dominate and condition human existence, and the understanding of the concept of conditioned suffering (dukkha) as found in the Four Noble Truths, and the links of the Chains of Dependent Origination.  The Buddha considers these insights to be true ‘vidya’, or ‘spiritual knowledge’, and all other knowledge to be the product of a mind, as of yet, unrealised.

The state of avidya is, therefore, the unenlightened state and is placed at the beginning of the received Chain of Origination because it is within this state that re-birth is said to occur.  It is a statement that the concept of Buddhist re-birth is applicable to those who exist in a state of non-enlightenment.  The non-enlightened state of greed, hatred and delusion creates the appropriate inner and outer conditions for the continuous reformation of physical re-becoming, through the cause and effect agency of karma.  Once this foundation is established, then desire, thirst and craving take over the actual driving force of re-becoming, but as these are already attributes of an unenlightened mind, (i.e. an ‘ignorant’ mind), it appears philosophically superfluous to state ‘ignorance’ twice as a foundation to human suffering in the physical realm.  Ignorance has to be of a particular kind to fuel the re-birth process, and not merely an abstract statement of ‘not knowing’ in general.  In this respect, the Chain of Dependent Origination does not require the placement of an abstract reference to ‘ignorance’ at its beginning, as all the aspects that are mentioned, lay specifically within the realm of deluded ignorance.  Ignorance is implicit to desire, thirst and craving, as it is to greed, hatred and delusion.  Furthermore, as Buddhist philosophy does not allow for a distinct and unconditioned ‘first cause’, the inclusion of ‘ignorance’ at the beginning of the received chain should ideally include the conditions that give rise to ignorance itself – that is the concept of ‘asrava’.

Asrava (आस्राव) is a Sanskrit term that carries the meaning of pollution, flow, flux, poisonous or infected stream, fermentation, intoxicating or corrupted biases, effluent, and corrupting interaction with the world.   In early Buddhist Suttas there are listed three asrava, but occasionally four are mentioned.  For sake of clarity, all four will be listed here:

1)     kamasrava – infected stream of sensual (sexual) desire.

2)     Bhavasrava – infected stream of (re-birth) becoming.

3)     Drishthiasrava – infected stream of (attachment) to views.

4)     Avidyasrava – infected stream of (not knowing) ignorance.

Although asrava implies a poisonous concoction that intoxicates, the Buddhist usage suggests that these poisons ‘leak’ into the conscious process and as a consequence, influence all expressions as tainted by their presence.  In the early Suttas that only convey just three asrava, invariably it is the ‘drishthiaasrava’ that is missing.  That is, the concept that suggests that attachment to views is an asrava appears to be a later addition, and that originally the list comprised only of desire, becoming and ignorance.  If the list is reversed, then ignorance leads to becoming, and becoming leads to sexual desire.  However, attachment to views has always been a Buddhist taboo, which is fully expressed within the Kalama Sutta, where the Buddha does not allow attachment to any kind of view whatsoever, and is covered, along with every other kind of asrava (and extrapolation) in the Sabbasava Sutta – the ‘All Fermentation’ teaching.  The later clearly shows that ‘fermentations’ or corruptions arise from within the mind due to delusive habit, and are also created by the physical environment, should a monk decide to dwell in a bad place amongst unworthy people.  The leakage of poisonous fetters appears to be both from the inside out (solely through mind generated habit), and generated from within the external environment, which, through contact with the body senses, triggers asrava to formulate within the psychic fabric.  Of course, the mind habit of asrava, although existing in a chain of continuous corrupt thought formations, exists as an original reaction to conditions within the environment, and although the human mind may well be infested by desire, re-birth, views and ignorance, it is correct to assume that all such fetters have their genesis through contact between human society and the senses, which includes the human mind.  An extrapolation of this observation suggests that the ‘psychic’ and the ‘material’ are essentially linked, and only appear separate in the deluded state.  The Buddha is teaching that through the agency of karma, a physical body and an external world is created.  This external world, being karmically related to the mind that creates it, directly corresponds to the inherent structures of that mind, and vice verse.  Mind and world reflect one another.  Karma, in the Buddhist sense, is defined as actions in the physical world that stem from volition.  Not all examples of cause and effect are karmic in origination, as these non-karmic chains of events have no human volition as their originator.  The example of the disease of ‘cancer’, for instance, may be the result of a mind that thinks and lives in a certain manner, but it can also be the result of a body cell simply malfunctioning for no other reason than a faulty biological structure and process.  The point is that asrava leak both ‘into’ and ‘out of’ the mind, and that meditative attention is the only way to uproot and prevent their influence.  This two-way leakage is also suggested by the Chinese term used to translate ‘asrava’.

The development of the Chinese ideogram ‘漏’ (lou4), that is, the Chinese transliteration of the Pali term ‘asrava’, although probably not formulated as a specific Chinese ideogram for an unfamiliar Buddhist Indian term, nevertheless does appear to have come about during the approximate time period of the introduction of Buddhism to China – roughly 200 BCE-200 CE.  As it was chosen to represent the meaning of ‘asrava’, and considering the careful attention to detail this process usually involved, it is probable that the Chinese rendering can be used to shed some light on the original intended meaning of ‘asrava’.

A more thorough assessment of the ideogram ‘漏’ (lou4) involves the following particles and their respective meanings:

Left-hand particle:

水 (shui3) = Water, lakes, rivers, liquid, etc.

Middle Particle:

尸 (shi3) = Corpse, direct, preside.

Right-hand Particle:

雨 (yu3) = Rain falling from the sky.

尸 and 雨 combine to make the phonetic particle ‘屚’ (lou4), which depicts ‘dripping’, (this is where the idea of ‘clepsydra’, or measuring time through water regulation arises), although it also looks like the act of urination.  尸 is a person sat down and facing left.  When ‘雨’ is added to the underneath of the person – 屚 – it looks as if water is dripping down from the bottom area.  This is interesting, as the act of urination is also depicted this way – 尿 (niao4) – water flowing from the bottom area.  Both concepts depict a waste product ‘coming out’ of the body.  Further negative connotations are suggested by the fact that 尸 also refers to a dead body (where positive qi has left), as well as a living person representing a dead person during a religious ritual.  There is both ‘death’ and ‘liquid waste’.  This symbolises a highly negative ‘output’, originating from ‘within’ the human body.

However, a living person representing a dead person ‘尸’, opens themselves up to the possible pollution of negative qi entering themselves from the outside, that is from the environment.   With the inclusion of ‘水’ (shui3), or an external water source, there is a suggestion of falling water upon a person – either as a corpse or living being.  This kind of leak originates from ‘outside’ the human body.  Taken together, the Pali term ‘asrava’ appears to be translated into Chinese as a leak of polluting water that originates from both ‘within’, and from ‘outside’ of the human body – with the added, over-all negative implication of the concept of death, and the corruption such an association would imply.  An asrava is an essential pollutant that is powerful and addictive in the extreme.  With regard to knowledge, ignorance is assured to the nature of the addictive state of a mind state that does not allow for the development of either tranquillity or insight.  This intoxicating state of anti-knowledge ensures that ‘ignorance’ and ‘darkness’ are the norm and that enlightenment – its antithesis – remains an unattainable, distant and uncaused condition.  Ignorance corresponds to the outer structures and behaviours which are the consequence of deluded thought and action.  Like is drawn to like with an irresistible pull of familiarity.  Ignorance to ignorance, deluded viewpoint to deluded viewpoint, desire for becoming, to desire for becoming, and sensuality to sensuality.   Ignorance is the state of not knowing.  For this to be a real state there must be a body of knowledge that is not known, but which definitely exists.  Ignorance is the obscuration of the light of this knowledge and a state that does not benefit from insight – it is anti-insight.  Deluded viewpoints are simply viewpoints that are comprised of faulty logic and which are based upon premises that have no bearing to the world as viewed through the enlightened mind.  They are worldly in the sense that they exist in the external environment, and that an individual, not knowing what the correct ‘enlightened’ viewpoint is, chooses to subscribe to these viewpoints, thus creating further bad karma.  Desire for becoming is the uncontrolled preference for physical incarnation, and the underlying assumption that a bodily existence equates with a permanent self.  This asrava does not see the impermanence of the physical form, or understands and comprehends the suffering that such an existence attracts.  Physical existence is to exist in a society of human beings.  The urge for this originates within the environment, and the deluded mind is drawn toward physicality, so that the ‘inner’ reflects the ‘outer’.  Sensuality, which is sexual attraction, is the means by which physical life begins.  In this asrava, however, procreation is not the emphasis, but rather a possible result.  This asrava sees no further than the momentary experience of sexual pleasure in either its emotional or physical forms.  This experience, although obviously appearing within the mind, has to have an external image that actually inspires the inner delusion.  Sexuality within the environment is internalised within the mind.  With the removal of the physical stimulus, the desiring waves within the mind eventually fade away.  This asrava is so addictive that it is very difficult to over-come.  The mind can sustain sexual imagery a long time after physical stimulus is removed.

Asrava may be defined as the origin of ignorance, desire, re-birth and wrong views.  Asrava is the origin of ignorance in the mind and the environment, as desire, re-birth and wrong views are merely aspects of the ignorant state of being.  Asrava is not ‘uncaused’, but rather is caused in the mind and in the environment by deluded thoughts and actions.  One deluded thought and action conditions the formation of the next set of deluded expressions.  The environment influences the mind, and the mind influences the environment.  One conditions the other.  Ignorance is both an isolated ‘unknowing’ of the nature of reality, and at the same time a broad amalgamation of deluded viewpoint, desire and behaviour.  Ignorance, although placed first in the received Chain of Dependent Origination, is not actually the ‘first cause’, but rather the direct creation of the Asrava.  Asrava gives birth to the state of ignorance.  Asrava ‘is’ ignorance.  It is a highly addictive, intoxicating and polluting outpouring of the mind that is indicative of the unenlightened state of being.  Asrava are so powerful that they appear to be real and the highest statement of the nature of being.  This is obviously an incorrect viewpoint.  Within the mind the asrava appear out of the empty nature of the psychic fabric.  .  At their root, the asrava emerge as if from nothing, even though they are conditioned from moment to moment.  The Buddha teaches that a high level of awareness has to be cultivated so that the asrava can be cut-off and destroyed at their root.  The student of the Buddha’s Dharma can sit and meditate so that the insight becomes strong enough to ‘see’ that which must be destroyed before it pollutes the mind and the environment.  A mind can be purified through concentration and the taint of asrava diminished completely, even if the environment continues to exhibit conditions suitable to asrava arising.  Developed concentration can over-come the pressure of environmental conditions.  Asrava are both essence and function in the mind.  They are considered pollution not only because of the intoxicating content of their function, but also because their functioning serves to obscure clarity of mind.  This obscuration is the essence of ignorance, and according to the Buddha, the cause of all experience of suffering.

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