Taboos and their breakage

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2 weeks 18 hours ago #117884 by Kate Gowen
As I have been very tentatively skirting the regrant medical taboos, here and there, I had the flashing realization of how funny it is to be so careful about socially-enforced taboos— when considering oneself enlightened is probably the biggest taboo of all.

Saints and prophets of several religions have been killed for breaking that one

And that has been sufficient to keep the countless generations subservient to religious/spiritual authority, and the authentic “free-standing person” rare indeed.

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2 weeks 17 hours ago #117885 by Chris Marti
Please continue, Kate. I suspect there's more you can say about this topic.

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2 weeks 16 hours ago #117886 by Kate Gowen
Oh I could probably rant for days on spiritual taboos, medical taboos, or the peculiar admixture of both that dominates our lives and discourse at the moment. I’m not sure how much use it would be for anyone though, so maybe I’ll sketch out a few things and see who else wants to chime in.

One of my past teachers said something that was the fertile seed at the right moment for me: “You have to grasp the means of your own enlightenment.” For me, that was like Jack’s magical bean sprouting into a tree-like vine climbing into another country altogether. It aggregated all th little flashing insights I’d had over a lifetime of inwardly prompted study. It implied that validation ALWAYS had to be an inside job. Even if you seek validation from an outside authority, from whom does that authority derive its verification? This is not to imply that one simply puffs up her chest and makes declarations (although I can think of examples of people having done that), but that the study and insight is mine to do, and the evaluation is ine to make. Whether others agree or not is not of much interest, except insofar as they propose to punish me in some way for divergence.

it’s probably unclear how this is related to my proscribed medical views, except as a demonstration of my general bloody mindedness. The other factors are sheer accidents— I was brought up a Christian Scientist, leaving me with a preoccupation with mind/body integration— and a unique freedom from almost all medical interventions, along with the received wisdom about them. And I got interested in immunological matters because my first job out of college was working with autistic children— who were rare and mysterious in the 1960s. I had that job for 3 years, and came away knowing only that the extant theories about the condition’s psycho genesis seemed lame. When the work of Andy Wakefield and Robert Kennedy, Jr., appeared, I was willing to consider it, and to follow the growing number of parents and practitioners on the front lines struggling to deal with all the issues. The good news is that advances in knowledge and treatment modalities have been made. The bad news is the staggering cost and severity of the damage done.
The even worse news is that gains have been made only in the teeth of the most vast, well-funded, most powerful opposition the world has ever seen. There have been millions of casualties. And the opposition is so powerful that everything in our lives is part of it and so most people can’t even see it, because alternatives are literally unimaginable. To see a thing, there has to be contrast. The general population is in the position of being colorblind, and attacking anyone who says red and green are two different colors.

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2 weeks 30 minutes ago #117888 by Ona Kiser
Replied by Ona Kiser on topic Taboos and their breakage
I think it's an interesting subject in the abstract. That is, I'm not very aware of or interested in medical subjects in particular, but there are some underlying themes that I do identify with. For instance, the sense that many people are functioning in a profound ignorance of reality, which causes them a lot of suffering. Or that the evils of the world are really far more interconnected and systematic than most people think. Perhaps a bit like noticing a leak from the ceiling, but just constantly repainting the drippy spot instead of going up into the attic (or out into the yard) to discover the bigger picture of what's leading to the leaking. 

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2 weeks 2 minutes ago #117889 by Chris Marti
Kate, I'm curious to hear what you would propose we do to open the eyes of people who are entrenched in medical scientism.

Having recently read "How to Change Your Mind" by Michael Pollan, I'm concerned that the scientific method and the medical profession is susceptible to political and religious power and influence. In the book, Pollan covers the history of psychedelic medical science and how, while it was a fruitful, helpful endeavor for about 15 years it was then politicized by the US government in the 1960s. It is only now starting to recover. I think we've lost several useful decades of research into the positive effects of LSD, psilocybin, DMT, and other potentially useful, even life-saving psychoactive substances.

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1 week 6 days ago #117890 by Kate Gowen
I think the story of how Gautama was propelled from his perfect life'of privilege by being made aware of suffering to search for enlightenment is a general part of how these matters are interwoven. In my personal exploration, encountering practitioners in the midst of hellish physical circumstances has been profoundly inspiring. I think of a now-deceased Zen teacher named Darlene Cohen confined to a wheelchair and in intractable pain whose meditation was her medicine. For instance.

At the philosophical level, I am convinced that there is no enlightenment without seeing through the illusion of mind-body duality.

At a political level— I am as inclined to avoidance as almost anyone. I loathe contention, I am allergic to crowds, and I am keenly aware of bullies in the bully pulpits. I grew up in the 1950s, the era of conformity, when any evidence of thinking made one a derided “egghead.”

But enlightenment should come with a warning label— there’s no turning back to unawareness, even of what it would be easier to ignore. I can’t unsee ignorance, abusive power, obscene coercion, or the flood tides of misery.

Personally, I haven’t come up with any better plan than to speak my mind with as much clarity as I can muster, and  leave the rest up whatever larger forces or plan exists. The personal cost so far has been to be dismissed by pretty much everyone I had known. So it goes…

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1 week 6 days ago - 1 week 6 days ago #117894 by Ona Kiser
Replied by Ona Kiser on topic Taboos and their breakage
If it's okay to wander on this topic (I can move to my thread if not), one approach I'm very keen on lately is taking the idea of personal spiritual combat and making it bigger. That is,  I might have some irritation or ill will or frustration arise, and I 'do the opposite' - if I am particularly irritated by someone, make a point of a kindness or loving attention towards him or her. If someone asks for help, offer them more than they asked for. If I am dozing during my rosary, stand up or walk to maintain alertness. This is old desert fathers type stuff, nothing I invented.

But there's a wider level at which it can be applied, which I'm finding more engaging each passing year. That is, if the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, do the opposite. My first contact with this was with young people in church and some religious sisters who were addressing each other with the formal form of speech (sir/ma'am rather than hey you, though in Portuguese it's a bit more complex grammatically). I thought they were speaking to ME that way because I was older or a foreigner, and I asked them to use the informal. But instead they said "Please, the whole world has lost all manners and dignity and courtesy, and we want to revive that, not let it die." I was a bit puzzled, since I'd never learned that formality was a good thing (being a child of the 70s and all). But I've come to find it exceedly beautiful, and appropriate for addressing everyone, whether pauper or prince. In fact, the only people who push back are women raised in the 60s and 70s... lol. 

This has then spread to other things: is everything a mess? Make everything I do and all that surrounds me organized and arranged. Tidy up public spaces, pick up trash, wipe up spills, serve nice lunches, eat with a knife and fork, dress beautifully, speak well, write neatly, do everything extra well.

People are lonely, afraid, and losing their sense of community and family due to the state of economy, infrastructure and culture? Does it seem like the prevailing belief is that nothing really matters? Speak to everyone with kindness and a smile; help anyone, even if they are lying about their needs; be exceedingly generous with everything - you don't really need any of it; give people attention like they really matter; do every task, even washing dishes or wiping up a spill or taking off your shoes, with care, like it matters.

Does no one believe in God? Are sacred things treated with disrespect or disbelief? Believe. Reverence everything. Pray on behalf of everyone who can't or won't. Pray beautiful prayers, sing beautiful sacred songs, even if no one else around seems to care. Sing and pray alone if necessary, but never think that it doesn't matter just because the rest of the world has thrown itself off a cliff.

My mother's great advice from childhood: Just because everyone else jumps off the cliff, you don't have to.

(ETA: this seems related to the idea of following trends/currents in popular thought, or thinking differently, but I might have eaten too much arugula or something...)
Last edit: 1 week 6 days ago by Ona Kiser.

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1 week 6 days ago #117895 by Shargrol
Replied by Shargrol on topic Taboos and their breakage
The way-finding mind...

One of the great seductions in life is to hang out with people who believe what you want to believe. And most of the time, what we believe is some form of "it's easy, I'll just..."  As soon as "I'll just..." pops into your mind, watch out! That's the sure sign that something is being underestimated. But most taboos are some form of not being allowed to question the "It's easy, just..." theory/belief. No one wants to have their simple solutions questioned.

One of the things I've learned through my job and life is that on any given topic, there are only about five people who really know what is going on. The trick then, is to actually search for those people. It's a relentless task because it often involves tracing sources upstream to their source, whereas it's often more comfortable in hanging out with a crowd of believers. One of the tricks of recognizing a person that knows is that they won't call themselves an expert, they'll directly answer your question, and they will take you all the way to the edge of their knowledge. When I talk with someone who knows, the conversation goes something like "well I've done this for a few decades and [answer to your question], but what is confusing to me is [confusing and cutting edge of state of knowledge]."  The ones that don't really know will tell you all sorts of information related to your question, not with the goal of answering your question, but with the (unconscious) goal of showing you how much they know. :)

Another aspect of this is that people who really know are much better at distinguishing symptoms from root causes. In the medical world, 99.9% of treatments are treatments that mask symptoms. In my own life, I've seen this for eyesight, flat feet, and acid reflux. Bad eyes get perminent glasses, not eye strengthening exercises. Flat feet get orthotics, not muscular training. And acid reflux gets "anti-acids" not supplemental acid which treats the root cause (when there is not enough acid in the stomach, the esophageal sphincter doesn't get a strong signal to close). 

In the meditation world, it really is about self-evident insights. The way my teacher diagnosed my sense of "attainment into knowing the nature of mind" for lack of a better expression... was basically to ignore me.  He ignored me for a few months. We were in the same location for a week (Buddhist Geeks conference) and he ignored me for days. We went out to breakfast and he ignored me. And I could tell that he was looking for what I was looking for: would any doubt manifest in body or mind. It was a little annoying, but heck, that's what I signed up for. :)   It reminds me very much of how the AroTer gentleman was also ignored at a monestary... and it was probably the most profound teaching he had. 

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1 week 6 days ago #117896 by Kate Gowen
Ona, Shargrol, Chris— your responses make me very glad I didn’t just keep my mouth shut.

If we won’t hear the cries of the world, what use is practice?

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1 week 6 days ago #117904 by Ona Kiser
Replied by Ona Kiser on topic Taboos and their breakage
Interesting about the ignoring, Kate!  

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1 week 6 days ago #117905 by Chris Marti

He ignored me for a few months. We were in the same location for a week (Buddhist Geeks conference) and he ignored me for days. 

I remember this!  :D

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1 week 6 days ago #117906 by Kate Gowen
One of the most significant Dzogchen teaching/transmission tools is a mirror. Your story made me think of this. And of course, if the lama is going to show you the nature of mind, it will be by SHOWING you, not telling you.

How better than having your mind reflected back to you? The nature of mind is not an abstraction— it is manifest in your mind’s behavior at every point instant.

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1 week 6 days ago #117907 by Shargrol
Replied by Shargrol on topic Taboos and their breakage
A Trackless Path 14 - Unfettered Mind

A lama in England once told me about his one and only interaction with a famous and somewhat controversial teacher in Tibet, Khenpo Gangshar. This lama had heard much about Khenpo Gangshar and yearned to study with him. Khenpo Gangshar came for a two-week visit to the monastery at which this lama resided. Lama submitted a formal request for a meeting. When no reply, not even an acknowledgement, came back, he resubmitted his request. He hesitated to make a third request, but so deep was his yearning that he did so anyway. Again, no reply. Khenpo Gangshar was due to leave the next morning.

That night, the lama sat in his room wondering what to do, He desperately wanted to see Khenpo Gangshar, but he was hesitant to violate monastic protocols. He was so agitated that he couldn’t sleep. A knock sounded on his door. He opened it, curious to see who would come to see him so late at night. One of Khenpo Gangshar’s attendants told him to come. Elated, he followed the attendant and was shown into Khenpo Gangshar’s room.
 
Khenpo Gangshar was busy in conversation with another monk, so he sat down and waited. Eventually the monk left. Protocol demanded that Khenpo Gangshar initiate any conversation, so the lama waited for leave to speak. Khenpo Gangshar just looked at him but said nothing. The lama couldn’t ask any of the questions that were burning in his heart.
 
The two sat in silence for about fifteen minutes. Then Khenpo Gangshar motioned for him to leave. He was devastated. He left and returned to his room, where he sobbed with grief and raged with anger. Eventually, totally exhausted, he fell asleep. When he awoke the next day, he started his morning meditation practice and found that his meditation had changed completely. To this day, he regards Khenpo Gangshar as one of his most important teachers, even though he had only this one meeting and they never exchanged a word.

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1 week 6 days ago #117908 by Shargrol

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1 week 2 days ago #117931 by Kacchapa
Replied by Kacchapa on topic Taboos and their breakage

Ona Kiser wrote: If it's okay to wander on this topic (I can move to my thread if not), one approach I'm very keen on lately is taking the idea of personal spiritual combat and making it bigger. That is,  I might have some irritation or ill will or frustration arise, and I 'do the opposite' - if I am particularly irritated by someone, make a point of a kindness or loving attention towards him or her. If someone asks for help, offer them more than they asked for. If I am dozing during my rosary, stand up or walk to maintain alertness. This is old desert fathers type stuff, nothing I invented.

But there's a wider level at which it can be applied, which I'm finding more engaging each passing year. That is, if the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, do the opposite. My first contact with this was with young people in church and some religious sisters who were addressing each other with the formal form of speech (sir/ma'am rather than hey you, though in Portuguese it's a bit more complex grammatically). I thought they were speaking to ME that way because I was older or a foreigner, and I asked them to use the informal. But instead they said "Please, the whole world has lost all manners and dignity and courtesy, and we want to revive that, not let it die." I was a bit puzzled, since I'd never learned that formality was a good thing (being a child of the 70s and all). But I've come to find it exceedly beautiful, and appropriate for addressing everyone, whether pauper or prince. In fact, the only people who push back are women raised in the 60s and 70s... lol. 

This has then spread to other things: is everything a mess? Make everything I do and all that surrounds me organized and arranged. Tidy up public spaces, pick up trash, wipe up spills, serve nice lunches, eat with a knife and fork, dress beautifully, speak well, write neatly, do everything extra well.

People are lonely, afraid, and losing their sense of community and family due to the state of economy, infrastructure and culture? Does it seem like the prevailing belief is that nothing really matters? Speak to everyone with kindness and a smile; help anyone, even if they are lying about their needs; be exceedingly generous with everything - you don't really need any of it; give people attention like they really matter; do every task, even washing dishes or wiping up a spill or taking off your shoes, with care, like it matters.

Does no one believe in God? Are sacred things treated with disrespect or disbelief? Believe. Reverence everything. Pray on behalf of everyone who can't or won't. Pray beautiful prayers, sing beautiful sacred songs, even if no one else around seems to care. Sing and pray alone if necessary, but never think that it doesn't matter just because the rest of the world has thrown itself off a cliff.

My mother's great advice from childhood: Just because everyone else jumps off the cliff, you don't have to.

(ETA: this seems related to the idea of following trends/currents in popular thought, or thinking differently, but I might have eaten too much arugula or something...)


Beautiful, I loved reading this. 

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1 week 2 days ago #117937 by Kate Gowen
Me, too, Mark.

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1 week 2 days ago #117940 by Kate Gowen
It popped into mind today that perhaps the most fundamental taboo I have NEVER respected was that surrounding mind-body dualism. I had early (at 6-7 years old) experience of having my aged Christian Scientist godmother simply tell me that I didn’t need to have the excruciating earache I was in the midst of— to feel it simply go away, never to recur.

And then I had the next 10 years of Sunday School to thoroughly examine the tenets of that religion and decide that “mind only” wasn’t the whole truth.

The subsequent 6 decades has been about untangling that conceptual knot. And deciding that it is just that— a CONCEPTUAL knot. Reality is not the problem, our cognitive failures are.

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