Three Objects, Three Poisons and Three Seeds Of Virtue

The title of this blog is one of the slogans used in The Main Practice (Training in Bodhichitta). This is one very useful activity of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. Bodhichitta is the state of having an awakened heart-mind. It is useful in alerting us to opportunities to avoid the consequences of giving in to our natural tendencies to react negatively to objects, people or situations..

I am not a Buddhist, but I suffer from unnecessary anger. I also believe in the interconnectedness of all sentient beings. I have found this practice of allowing suffering and healing to “ride the breath” a useful way to become aware of mounting aggression and often avoid losing my temper over something stupid. Continue reading “Three Objects, Three Poisons and Three Seeds Of Virtue”

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Endangered Human Faculties

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The famous 12-cornered stone in Cuzco

Photo credit: David Stanley

The slide I personally took, in 1967, of this brilliant, iconic piece of masonry disappeared in 1972 when my wife, Anita, and I  moved from England to Canada, where I was born. Eighty choice slides from my two month South America trip somehow didn’t come with us or in our separately-shipped trunks. But that’s another story.

My topic is not about lost slides; it’s about lost ways of thinking, speaking, listening and doing. There is as much, likely more, human creativity, intelligence and “spirituality” in this one stone from the wall of Inca Roca than  in the bloated speeches of today’s politicians and works of some popular writers.

Manual dexterity is, today, disrespected. Those artisans who work with their hands in our first world are losing their jobs to robots, offshore workers and offshore workers running offshore robots.

Continue reading “Endangered Human Faculties”

Reading Something Thick

Reading per se never was difficult for me. But, reading a whole book? Resisted that like crazy. Aunts used to give me books and encourage me to read. My parents never pushed, ostensibly quite content with my progress in the world of a pre-teen. Then someone gave me a book called The Treasure Hunt of the S-18. It was about a submarine searching for sunken treasure. I was 12, I think. I braved it. I read it three times, then went on to the Hardy Boys etc. A few years ago I ordered a used version of “S-18″ on the web and read it a fourth time, for old times’ sake. In the world of literature it doesn’t rank, but it got me past the intimidation of something thick. It’s in my collection until someone throws it out after I’m gone.

Thanks to wordsofhonestunwisdom for stimulating my memories.

Disappearing Ancient Wisdom

I read an excellent and sensitive wordpress blog today at knowthesphere  that praised the wisdom of ancient cultures over the knowledge-inundated, wisdom-starved modern world. The blog was titled Birds of Wisdom and the quote below is from the blog:

Ancient wisdom–in a way–is much more advanced than our own contemporary knowledge that we place so highly on a pedestal.

The blog reminded me of a fellow named Wade Davis, an ethno-botanist who studied with the legendary Harvard botanist and traveler, Richard Evans Schultes. Davis is now a resident explorer at National Geographic. He lived among the natives of Columbian and Equadorian Amazonas who retain the ability, long lost among modern humans, to communicate with the plants in the forest. Talk about ancient wisdom! The remarkable book his South American adventures produced is called One River. He later went to Haiti on behalf of Schultes to investigate the medical wizardry involved in the creation of a zombie. He describes his deep respect for the wisdom and ancient power of the Voudoun tradition in a book, The Serpent and the Rainbow one of several he has written. The zombie phenomenon turns out to be much more complex and sophisticated than mere biochemistry.

Wade Davis delivered the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (Canada’s public broadcaster) distinguished annual Massey Lectures in 2009. There are five lectures in each series delivered by the same author. The Massey Lectures are produced by the CBC’s wonderful nightly Ideas program. You can listen to a podcast of the first of Davis’ lectures from this CBC website link and the series is available in book form or on iTunes. All five podcasts are no longer on the CBC site. I was particularly moved and impressed by his second Massey Lecture, called The Wayfinders, about the amazing set of natural knowledge that the Polynesian navigators used to guide their boats from one remote, tiny island to another remote, tiny island. Polynesians had been brilliantly finding their way throughout the Pacific islands for a long, long time before the Spanish arrived, hugging the shoreline.

I could go on… The quickest way to whet your appetite is to listen to his rapid-fire TED talk. The downside of that is that it only scratches the surface of his deep love for the ancient and his peripatetic research.

What Can We Learn from Ancient Egypt?

Worship the Sun – it’ll outlast all the other gods we have created in our own likenesses to suit our purposes.

Carve your history on stone in an arcane language. That way the narrow-minded crusaders won’t destroy it.

Forget vowels, you don’t really need them – it’s tough enough being a scribe.

Don’t let a Roman, even if he looks like Richard Burton, run your armed forces.

Build things out of really big rocks with a very wide base. Make them narrower on top. Finance them with real assets like gold. They will stand the test of time.

This was posted on my old blog on December 15th, 2008