In May, 2005, a 15-year-old Nepalese Buddhist disciple decided to find out for himself what it was about.
He sat down under a tree in his little village of Ratanapuri to be still for as long as it took. But after months without food or water,
his stillness brought him unwanted celebrity, and tourists came from around the world to watch or worse. One evening, after
about 9 months, he got up and moved deeper into the forest, telling only his brother, “there is too much activity here”. He
promised to return in 6 years, and went off to dig himself a small cavern, where he meditated undergro
In 2012, or maybe 2008, Ram Bahadur Bomjon returned home, and has since attracted a small but enthusiastic following, both
Nepalese and Westerners who describe being in his presence as an experience like no other. To disciples, he is Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha.
There is controversy, reports of dishonesty and violence, tainted miracles.
Murder, violence, greed, anger and temptation have made the human world a desperate place.
A terrible storm has descended upon the human world, and this is carrying the world towards destruction.
There is only one way to save the world and that is through dharma. When one doesn’t walk the righteous path of
spiritual practice, this desperate world will surely be destroyed. Therefore, follow the path of spirituality and spread this message to your fellows. Never put obstacles, anger and disbelief in the way of my meditation’s mission. I am only showing you the way; you must seek it on your own.
— Read a GQ article by George Saunders from 2006
web site of followers Skeptics’ site
1 October 2014
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
— Mohandes K Gandhi, born this day in 1869
2 October 2014
The second most famous prayer of Yom Kippur is the Viddui, the confession. As a community we confess to twenty-two sins, listed alphabetically one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We confess as a community for the community. While you may be guilty of none of these things, as a member of the community you bear responsibility for all of them.
And now the Gates are closing. If you have truly looked at the quality of your life and how you live it; if you have taken seriously the thirty days of selichot (forgiveness) preceding the High Holy Days and sought forgiveness from family, friends, neighbors, and others, the final moments of Yom Kippur are humbling” “Given all I have done wrong, how can I enter the Gates of Righteousness and be at one with God?”
Yet it is only this subtle narcissism that stands in your way. Only your sense that you are such a great sinner that even God cannot welcome you, keeps you from passing through the Gates. There is no guard. There is nothing stopping you but you. It is never humility that keeps you from entering, only hubris. Yom Kippur is designed to break your heart over the suffering you have caused others. If your heart is broken you have compassion for both self and others, and that is the key to entering the Gates. To be broken before God is to be embraced by God.
May your fast be meaningful this Yom Kippur. And may you be blessed with a broken heart.
— Rabbi Rami Shapiro
3 October 2014
Confluence of St Francis Day of the Animals with Yom Kippur and Eid Al-Adha
In the Islamic tradition, Abraham was not asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, but his first son, Ishmael. Today’s celebration is about submission to God’s will.
All well, but how are we to know God’s will?
from Kaballah: Our world, the world of confusion, pain, hunger and sufferings is a world of physical illusion. The essence of life reaches us from the upper world, the true world, the metaphysical world of bliss and abundance. The Ari explains that when we behave in a spiritual way, in joy, unconditional love and altruism, the abundance flows with no interruption into our lives in this physical world.
The Lord told me that we should be poor and crazy in this world and may that one
and no other be the path through which He takes us. May God confuse your wisdom and science
and make you return to your primitive vocation even if it is against your will and if you find it defective. —St Francis
Listen to the 4 Small Prayers of St Francis set for men’s choir by Francis Poulenc, sung by Tenebrae
4 October 2014
I’m nicer than you are. So there.
To feel better than others is a comfortable disease.
An arrogant demeanor is a cry for help, coupled with a warning that help may not be welcomed.
A solicitous demeanor is an unequivocal refusal to be helped.
— Josh Mitteldorf
What I do with my life is to invent criteria by which I may consider myself better than others,
then work to live up to that standard. If my attitude makes you angry, that’s a sure sign that I’m better than you, because I never get angry.
5 October 2014
Mark Gorton, rethinking the autmobile
In the brief space of the last 70 years, we have come to consider automobiles as inevitable, indispensable to
our landscape. In fact, the architecture of our communities and living spaces has been designed to accommodate
automobiles, more so than people.
Car transportation in the center of our crowded cities proceeds at the same pace that horse-and-buggy
transportation did a century ago. Automobiles are the most inefficient, expensive and dangerous mode of transportation ever invented.
Automobiles predictably cause tens of thousands of deaths per year (and tens of thousands more indirectly through pollution) yet we welcome them in our midst. We have
lost sight of how crazy this is, how we’ve made an exception to all our judgments about risks and benefis.
“If you’re going to build a place that’s wonderful for people, cars just don’t fit there.”
— listen to Mark Gorton talk about redesigning cities and lifestyles for active transportation and more human contact, less time in traffic.
6 October 2014
Three billion years before you were born
Carl Woese was one of the most original thinkers in 20th Century biology. In this Scientific American article,
Woese responds to the question, “How old is eukaryotic life?” His answer:
“So the eukaryotic lineage appears to be very ancient, about as ancient as the two prokaryotic lineages.”
This is really curious. Bacterial cells are really simple, lacking a cell nucleus and many of the structures of eukaryotic cells.
Similarly, archaeic cells. Margulis and Woese and others helped establish a story of how the first eukaryotic cells were created out of
unions of an archaeic cell, invaded by several kinds of bacteria that gradually became domesticated, turned from hostile parasites to
friendly symbionts to obligate components of the eukaryotic metabolism. Typical eukaryotic cells today are a million times larger than bacteria.
Punch line: the traditional view is that this process of creating the first eukaryotic cell out of much simpler components required at least a billion years.
If, in fact, eukaryotic cells appeared in the fossil history concurrently with bacteria and archaea, shortly after the earth congealed from molten rock,
then this is powerful evidence for an extra-terrestrial origin of life.
Panspermia: The theory that life pervades the cosmos, and had its origin long before the earth, and life arrived on earth as hardy spores riding on a meteor.
The idea has venerable support from Anaxagoras, Lord Kelvin, Svante Arrhenius, Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, and many modern scientists.
7 October 2014
Listen to Agnus Dei from the Messe Solonelle of Louis Vierne, born this day in 1870.
8 October 2014
O May I Join the Choir Invisible!
O may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence; live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
Of miserable aims that end with self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge men’s minds
To vaster issues.
So to live is heaven:
To make undying music in the world,
Breathing a beauteous order that controls
With growing sway the growing life of man.
So we inherit that sweet purity
For which we struggled, failed and agonized
With widening retrospect that bred despair.
Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued,
A vicious parent shaming still its child,
Poor, anxious penitence is quick dissolved;
Its discords, quenched by meeting harmonies,
Die in the large and charitable air;
And all our rarer, better, truer self,
That sobbed religiously in yearning song,
That watched to ease the burden of the world,
Laboriously tracing what must be,
And what may yet be better—saw rather
A worthier image for the sanctuary
And shaped it forth before the multitude,
Divinely human, raising worship so
To higher reverence more mixed with love—
That better self shall live till human Time
Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky
Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb
This is life to come,
Which martyred men have made more glorious
For us who strive to follow.
May I reach
That purest heaven—be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense!
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world.
— George Eliot
9 October 2014
Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
Which shows like grief itself, but is not so;
For sorrow’s eye, glazed with blinding tears,
Divides one thing entire to many objects;
Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon
Show nothing but confusion, eyed awry
— Shakespeare, Richard II
10 October 2014
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.
Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.
Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt, born this day in 1874
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
11 October 2014
Happiness and its surprises
This early TED talk by psychologist Nancy Etcoff offers information faster than you can absorb it. Thank goodness for the button.
“Happiness is not just the absence of misery. There are two reciprocal and dynamically-interacting systems. It is only in the last generation that
psychology has recognized the legitimate goal, not just to relieve suffering, but to enhance positive affect and positive perspective.”
Happiness is also different from pleasure, and pleasure is different from what we are drawn to, which often derives from a compulsive part of the brain whether it is pleasurable or not.
13 October 2014
I Will Wade Out
i will wade out
till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
with closed eyes
to dash against darkness
in the sleeping curves of my body
Shall enter fingers of smooth mastery
with chasteness of sea-girls
Will i complete the mystery
of my flesh
I will rise
After a thousand years
And set my teeth in the silver of the moon
— e e cummings is 120 years old today
14 October 2014
What is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.
When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music
He alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.
Step into life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
— Kahlil Gibran
15 October 2014
“Happiness hates the timid. So does science.”
— Eugene O’Neill, born this day in 1888
16 October 2014
Yes, you should join Anonymous
“Very few Anonymous participants are actually hackers themselves, and very little of our work actually involves hacking.
Increasingly, Anonymous is in the business of fighting tyranny and advocating liberty by other means, almost all of which involve information.”
— Barrett Brown is in jail for posting a link to his blog that the Federal Government didn’t want publicized.
Read more from Barrett Brown here.
Read more about Barrett Brown here.
17 October 2014
Grdjieff’s Advice to his Daughter
1. Ground your attention on yourself. Be conscious at every moment of what you are thinking, sensing, feeling, desiring and doing.
4. Develop your generosity, but secretly.
9. Stop defining yourself.
16. If you lack faith, pretend that you have it.
18. Do not regard anyone or anything as your possession.
35. Admit that someone else may be superior to you.
39. Conquer your aversions and come closer to those who inspire rejection in you.
61. Do not adorn yourself with exotic ideas.
68. When you are ill, regard your illness as a teacher, not as something to be hated.
77. Live on money you have earned.
82. If you are meditating and the devil appears, make the devil meditate too.
— Read all 82
18 October 2014
I will never wait again. If I catch myself waiting for a discomfort to end, or waiting to arrive,
feeling trapped at a party when I’m bored, or waiting for 36 laps of the pool to be over so I can get in the warm shower, or
waiting for meditation to be over so I can eat, or waiting for a bathroom, or waiting in line, or sitting in an audience wondering when there will be a break when
I can leave without embarrassing myself—if I catch myself waiting, I will beat myself up about it and say,
“There you go again, Josh, squandering precious time, wasting a perfectly good life,” and I’ll make myself feel even
worse. That’ll teach me!
— Josh Mitteldorf
I will expect a miraculous gift in each moment. I will have no expection what that gift might be.
19 October 2014
“The greatest religious problem today is how to be both a mystic and a militant;
in other words how to combine the search for an expansion of inner awareness with effective social action,
and how to feel one’s true identity in both”
— Ursula Leguin is 85 years old today
21 October 2014
Whose war is this? Not mine.
I know what war means. I have been with the armies of all the belligerents except one, and I have seen men die,
and go mad, and lie in hospitals suffering hell; but there is a worse thing than that. War means an ugly mob-madness,
crucifying the truth-tellers, choking the artists, side-tracking reforms, revolutions, and the working of social forces.
Already in America those citizens who oppose the entrance of their country into the European melee are called “traitors,”
and those who protest against the curtailing of our meagre rights of free speech are spoken of as “dangerous lunatics.”
We have had a forecast of the censorship
The press is howling for war. The church is howling for war. Lawyers, politicians, stock-brokers, social leaders are all howling for war. Roosevelt is again recruiting his thrice-thwarted family regiment.
But whether it comes to actual hostilities or not, some damage has been done. The militarists have proved their point. I know of at least two valuable social movements that have suspended functioning because no one cares.
For many years this country is going to be a worse place for free men to live in; less tolerant, less hospitable
Whose war is this? Not mine.
— John Reed, born this day in 1887 (writing of WW I, in 1917)
22 October 2014
What if Age is Nothing but a Mind Set?
This is a sensationalist headline from the NYTimes magazine. Still,
there’s a good deal of truth in it. We have considerable control over our autonomic metabolism, and if we practice and develop
that control, then we have potential for much more. Social factors account for about 5 years of life expectancy.
The article profiles the work of Ellen Langer.
If people could learn to be mindful and always perceive the choices available to them, Langer says,
they would fulfill their potential and improve their health. Langer’s technique of achieving a state of mindfulness is
different from the one often utilized in Eastern “mindfulness meditation”—nonjudgmental awareness of the thoughts
and feelings drifting through your mind—that is everywhere today. Her emphasis is on noticing moment-to-moment changes
around you, from the differences in the face of your spouse across the breakfast table to the variability of your asthma
symptoms. When we are “actively making new distinctions, rather than relying on habitual” categorizations, we’re alive;
and when we’re alive, we can improve. Indeed, “well-being and enhanced performance” were Langer’s goals from the
beginning of her career.
23 October 2014
This movement from the Sinfonia is a pastiche of poetry, prose and musical
quotes from Beethoven, Brahms, Debussey, Ravel, Stravinsky, Alban Berg, and about a dozen other composers
against a backdrop of Mahler (Sym #2). I first heard it in 1969, and have savored it on occasions when I
am receptive to its frightening and transporting message.
— Luciano Berio was born this day in 1925.
I must have said this before since I say it now. —Beckett
24 October 2014
How is consciousness related to physical reality? A promising, coherent view from a prominent physicist.
Physical theories therefore are contradicted by the vivid inner sensory, emotional, mental, and spiritual life experienced by each human being. According to physics there is absolutely no reason why a person should be conscious at all. A human being should just behave as he does without being conscious, just like zombies. In other words, within physical theory there is absolutely no necessity for consciousness to exist, nor is there any obvious reason why consciousness should be desirable in a world where only outer reality exists. Yet it is there! And its existence is not predicted, and not even predictable by the current theories.
The typical objection of scientists to the above position is to argue that consciousness does not have an independent existence because it obviously ceases to exist at the moment of the physical death of the body, or during anesthesia, or deep sleep. Consciousness, they say, is simply an emergent property of the brain that can only exist as long as the brain is completely functional. Ergo, the first-person extraordinary experience of a transcendent reality which is the hallmark of spirituality is just an illusion produced entirely within the brain of the experiencer. And likewise is the I-am experience that was earlier used to argue the incompleteness of physical theory.
An alternative explanation is to assume that awareness and matter are two irreducible and interdependent aspects of the primordial energy that do not need to be manifested simultaneously. This concept would require consciousness to exist only in consciousness-space (C-space), and the physical space (P-space) containing all material structures, to be an emanation from C-space. Here C-space is a space other than physical space, the same non-physical space were the energy of the Big Bang came from. In this view, the material forms exist also in C-space but only in the form of patterns that can manifest within P-space in accordance with certain laws.
The way to think about this possibility is that the evolving self-knowing achieved by consciousness provides the templates, so to speak, for the manifestation of the physical universe in P-space, where the material forms represent the self-knowing that has been consolidated up to that stage of co-evolution. At the frontiers of self-knowing are provisional structures where the interaction between consciousness and material forms produces the novel self-knowing and the corresponding novel material structures. The most advanced living structures represent such a frontier. The earth ecosystem exists at such frontier.
To explain within this new conceptual framework why consciousness appears to cease in deep sleep or with anesthesia, it is sufficient to assume that the consciousness interacting with the body will pay attention only to information coming from the sensory-brain system of the body. Therefore, when the sensory-brain system is not active — in deep sleep for example – there is no conscious awareness. But this doesn’t mean that consciousness ceases to exist; it is simply not stimulated, therefore nothing happens to be conscious about.
With the death of the body, consciousness will also be without physical stimulation, temporarily ‘losing consciousness’ so to speak. However, after some time that no stimulation is forthcoming from the accustomed sensory-brain system channels, consciousness will begin to pay attention to other information channels that it had long ignored, due to its identification with the body. At which point it awakes into its true reality.
— read more from Federico Faggin
26 October 2014
One of the most useful skills you can practice is learning to be comfortable with discomfort.
— Josh Mitteldorf
26 October 2014
It is normal for carnivore but not herbivore species to lose brain cells with age. Rudolpi Tanzi says that
a vegan diet may help to prevent brain deterioration that culminates in dementia. David Perlmutter adds that
a low-carb diet can actually reverse the damage and initiate regrowth of brain cells.
Both agree that regular deep sleep, vigorous exercise and learning new things at all stages of life play a big role in keeping the brain healthy.
27 October 2014
«Quand on espère quelque chose de très grand, on puise dans la beauté du but le courage de braver les obstacles;
si les chances d’y atteindre diminuent, le désir s’accroît en proportion. Plus l’idéal est éloigné de la réalité,
plus il est désirable, et comme le désir même est la force suprême, il a à son service le maximum de forces.»
“When we hope for something grand, we draw from the beauty of the goal the courage to brave all obstacles;
if the chance of reaching it diminishes, the desire grows proportionally. The farther from reality lies the goal,
the more desirable it is, and since desire is the supreme force it has the greatest amount of force at its service.”
Les biens trop vulgaires de la vie sont si peu de chose, qu’en comparaison l’idéal concu doit paraitre immense;
toutes nos petites jouissances s’anéantissent devant celle de réaliser une pensée elevée.
Cette pensee dut-elle n’être presque rien dans le domaine de la nature et même de la science, elle peut être réellement tout par rapport a nous: c’est l’obole du pauvre.
Chercher la verite, cette action n’offre plus rien de conditionnel, de douteux, de fragile. On tient quelque chose, non pas sans doute la verite même (qui la tiendra jamais?),
mais du moins l’esprit qui la fait decouvrir. Quand on s’arrete obstinement a quelque doctrine toujours trop etroite,
c’est une chimere qui fuit dans vos mains; mais aller toujours, chercher toujours, esperer toujours, cela seul n’est pas une chimere.
La verite est dans le mouvement, dans l’esperance, et ce n’est pas sans raison qu’on a propose comme complement de la morale positive une philosophie de l’esperance’.
The vulgar goods of life are so small a thing that in comparison the ideal conceived must appear immense:
all of our petty joys are shattered before that of realizing an elevated idea.
This idea, even if it amounts to almost nothing in the realm of nature and even of science can, in relation to us,
be everything: it’s the offering of the poor. To seek the truth: this act offers nothing of the conditional,
the doubtful, the fragile. We have something in our hands, not the truth perhaps (who will ever hold it?),
but at least the spirit that wants to discover it. When you stubbornly halt before some too narrow doctrine,
it’s a chimera that flees from your fingers; but carry on, keep seeking, keep hoping: this alone is not a chimera.
The truth is found in movement, in hope, and it is with reason that we have proposed as a complement to positive morality
a “philosophy of hope.”
Un enfant vit un papillon bleu pose sur un brin d’herbe; le papillon était engourdi par le vent du nord. L’enfant cueillit
le brin d’herbe, et la fleur vivante qui était au bout, toujours engourdie, ne s’en détacha pas. Il s’en revint
A child saw a butterfly poised on a blade of grass; the butterfly had been made numb by the north wind.
The child plucked the blade of grass, and the living flower that was at its tip, still numb, remained attached.
He returned home, holding his find in his hand. A ray of sunlight broke through, striking the butterfly’s wing,
and suddenly, revived and light, the living flower flew away into the glare.
All of us, scholars and workers, we are like the butterfly: our strength is made of a ray of light.
Not even: of the hope of a ray. One must thus know how to hope; hope is what carries us higher and farther.
“But it’s an illusion!” What do you know of this? Should we not take a step for fear that one day the earth will slide away
from under our feet? Looking far into the past or the future is not the only thing; one must look into oneself.
One must see there the living forces that demand to be expended, and we must act.
— Jean-Marie Guyaut, born this day in 1857
28 October 2014
A Harvard neurobiologist talks about how to do science
Our job is to create, but not to control. Self-organization says that control happens at a leval far above our puny little brains. 100 trillion synapses, but guess what? We still can’t control. We don’t know enough. We can nudge, we can guide. But trying to control just generates resistance. It’s like raising a kid.
Working with my students, I try to teach the difference between understanding and explaining. The worst mistake you can make is to see something, then try to explain what goes on. Language, logic, reiterating laryngeal grunt sounds in your head. That’s not going to get you anywhere.
Understand abstractly first. Understanding inside is tapping into awareness and intuition. Freely associate ad absurdum. Understand inside. Become a complete idiot. Don’t tell anybody.
Just let it happen. Then, after you’ve done this exercise of understanding. see what you feel you want to explain. Present it as a hypothesis. Then go out there and test it. And your only job as a scientist testing a hypothesis is to try to disprove it.
Your favorite hypothesis that comes out of a lot of contemplation and understanding, and your job is to do your best to show it is wrong.
When we look back 50 or 100 years ago - how much of what they thought was wrong and how much was right? Maybe 50 to 1. It’s not any different now.
Science and spiritual practice are the same thing, if you’re doing it right. There’s only one way to seek the truth, and that is to learn what it isn’t.
— from a video by Rudolph Tanzi
29 October 2014
FOR years I sought the Many in the One,
I thought to find lost waves and broken rays,
The rainbow’s faded colours in the sun—
The dawns and twilights of forgotten days.
But now I seek the One in every form,
Scorning no vision that a dewdrop holds,
The gentle Light that shines behind the storm,
The Dream that many a twilight hour enfolds.
— Eva Gore-Booth, Suffragist artist and poet (1870-1917)
30 October 2014
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
— John Keats, born on Halloween Day, 1795
31 October 2014