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April 11, 2008

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Dear Brian,

It appears to me that "religions" most typically offer views that undergird the desire most folks have for maintaining their egotism(s). Allowing that to fade away - to non-exist - might lead (so to speak) to a higher (non-personal) consciousness.

Robert Paul Howard

Why do you think reincarnating to an animal woud be a demotion?? I happen to think they're quite superior to us, and if you don't believe me, you can just ask my puganese!

But seriously, I think Robert's response about egotism above helps to shed light on the human species as a whole. Throw in a sprinkle of narcissism, and bam! you've got a full-fledged human.

Religion, ironically, deflates the ego while inflating it. How many times have you heard how special we are in 'god's' eyes, lords and masters of all his creation, while we're simultaneously not worth the sweat on the rag that wiped Jesus glowing brow?

Being an animal person, so to speak, I do find that our collective attitude towards our non-human friends is a very nasty byproduct of our cultural upbringing, which has, of course, been 'informed' by xtianity. Even though we might reject it in its entirety, we still labor under its "values" and idiotic notions, often without realizing it.

If we truly wish to escape the bonds of religion, we must examine all our beliefs on all levels, and ask from whence they may have stemmed.

On to death - I certainly don't buy into the religious offerings of heaven and hell - how utterly, mindessly dull, especially heaven. *yawn* Yet, given some of my strange experiences in life, that continue to this day, I think I can say that I do believe consciousness, whatever the hell that is, doesn't just continue to exist in some form and other "level" of reality, it already DOES exist on some other level and form.

I also believe this because I can't explain the mind, emotions, consciousness as simple chemical soup and electrical brain storms. Unfortunately, religion, or our valid rejection of it, has kept those of us who find it all to be a bit much to stomach from exploring other possibilities to explain the great mystery that is consciousness and life itsef.

Atheism, of which I subscribe, has done a hard right turn on anything outside of materialism, and I find that just as difficut to swallow. We need to find some sane, rational, middle ground that is about true exploration and can resist dogmatization (is that a word?).

Pandora

Robert, good point. The fear "I'm going to die!" has several points of resolution.

(1) Die -- don't. This is the religious approach. Solution to dying: not dying. Eternal life as a soul entity.

(2) I'm -- give it up. If there's no "I," there's no one to die. Philosophically, makes great sense.

Problem is, I still have an "I." So I want it to continue. When/if I don't, I won't.

Pandora, nice thoughts also. My dog is a better "person" than I am in many respects. As a vegetarian, I entirely agree with you that our humancentric attitude, which religion fosters, leads to much animal cruelty.

Consciousness strikes me as the middle ground of which you speak. God isn't obvious. Consciousness is.

Here's where science and spirituality can come together and ponder the greatest mystery of life: how it's possible for us to be conscious of pondering the greatest mystery of life, consciousness.

For short term gratification, 70 virgins could be the way to go, but there is no mention how attractive they are. What if they are 70 ugly virgins? If I'm going to blow myself up in a crowded marketplace, I want some guarantee. What if you are stuck humping the same 70 ugly virgins for eternity? That could get old after 60 trillion eons or so. Besides, virgins are a pain in the butt, all sorts of strings attached, whiney and emotional. Am I going to have to bitch-slap these whiney virgins all the time in order to get them to shut up? I'd rather have 70 good-looking whores.

I wonder where the need for 70 comes from. Is the number 70 symbolic of something?

Subjected to space-time conceptuality, all appearance must dis-appear. However, nothing phenomenal can happen to 'this that I am' because 'this that I am' is not, relatively.

Existence is objective and that I cannot be. However, since I have no personal, relative existence as "I", 'This that I am' is everything which appears and disappears extended in space and time whereby I am conscious of 'what I am'.

How can there be any "I" but I, I who am every thing and no thing? I who cannot even be as I?

To understand you will need to know that you are what I am.

Rationally speaking... whatever happens after death, we can't be any worse off than we were before we were born. Y'know? Even those who believe that after death there's "nothingness"... there's no reason to believe that this nothingness is any *more* nothingful than the nothingness of pre-birth... and that didn't stop us before!

Regarding Judaism... most of my tribe may not examine it this way... but I find it kinda Zen-like that in Jewish style, there's simply not much time and effort directed to the afterlife. It's like: our job is 100% about treating our fellow human beings, in *this* life, in the most correct, just, fair, charitable way. There's no need for our efforts to be focused on anything else.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

tucson, here's another reason to be wary of the 70 virgin thing. What if they start acting like wives? See (and chuckle):
http://thedocisin.net/?p=3885

Stuart, your argument doesn't resonate with me. Let's see: I start off broke, then I make some money, then I go broke again.

So I'm supposed to be content because now I'm back to where I was before? Problem is, when I was broke (or non-existent) I didn't know what it was like to have money (or to exist).

Taking what I have away is different from never having had it at all, unless the memory of having once had it goes away also.

Pandora wrote...
> We need to find some sane, rational,
> middle ground that is about true
> exploration and can resist dogmatization
> (is that a word?).

Anything that we claim to know can be a seed of dogmatization. The way to resist this is to look into the great questions (e.g., What am I?) And experience for ourselves that we simply don't know. And then do a practice: whenever we find ourselves drifting into an assumption that we know who we are, return to the big question, and re-discover the big Don't Know.

My Zen teacher used to talk about Socrates. (Who knows if he was being historically accurate, but hell, it's a teaching.) He said that Socrates used to go around Athens, exhorting everyone to "Know thyself." Eventtually, someone asked him, "Socrates, do YOU know yourself?" And Socrates said, "I don't know myself... but I UNDERSTAND this 'Don't Know'."

Brian wrote...
> Problem is, I still have an "I." So I want
> it to continue.

You may assume you have your wallet in your pocket. But when you go to pay for your latte and actually reach for your wallet, it may be nowhere to be found.

There's a similar practice for addressing this "I." If we think we've got one, take a moment and try to actually find it. If you can't find anything, then hmmm...

(I've blogged about my own work with this method; see
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/2007/10/different-styles-of-practice-part-7.html )

> When/if I don't, I won't.

Indeed. Sometimes "I/my/me" thinking appears and results in problems. E.g., if I'm thinking "I want to get something," then I'll suffer if I don't get it. If I DO get it, then suffering is delayed till that thing that I wanted inevitably disappears.

Throughout history, teachings and practices have been introduced, designed to fix the thought-patterns that cause suffering. BUT... even if thinking arises endlessly, it's not constant. Even the stickiest thoughts appear and disappear. There are gaps in between, when the I-thought is absent, and there's only extreme quiet and stillness.

Various techniques are medicinally effective in treating the symptoms of the I-thought. But it may be useful to remember that whenever there ISN'T I/my/me-thinking, then there's no need for any of those teachings and techniques.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Brian wrote...
> Taking what I have away is different from
> never having had it at all, unless the
> memory of having once had it goes away
> also.

Right. I'm assuming that when "I" disappear, memory disappears also. So it's NOT like being stuck in the void, bitterly thinking, "Wow, it sucks not having an 'I.' How I long for those good old days before 'I' disappeared!" Rather, there's only vast emptiness. It's the same vast emptiness out of which 'I' appeared when I was born. Since this emptiness has generated an 'I' before (at birth), I wouldn't put it past "emptiness" to re-generate 'I' once again (after death).

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

I think I found the answer to the topic of death and the afterlife.....there isn't one.

All we can do is rest in the uncertainty of the whole thing and be present to each moment that we're given each day.

Bob

Bob,
Agreed. Nothing to do but find out...sometimes I'm cool with that, sometimes not, but there doesn't seem to be much choice in the matter.

Religions should offer a better deal on death:

The term jatismaran gnan means to know and be aware of what one was in the previous life.

Gnanis have this. Srimad Rajchandra saw his 900 previous lives at the age of 7 when he saw human beings burn a corpse on a funelral pyre.

Gnani Dadashri has a whole book on this, and I have helped translate it. it is free on the web at the www.dadashri.org web site.

The url for this is

http://www.dadashri.org/death.html

It answers many questions that human beings have about death and the life after.

shuddha

LIFE AND DEATH ARE JUST ONE OF MANY THINGS THAT LONG AGO DIVIDED AMONGST THEMSELVES. BEFORE THE DIVIDE LIFE AND DEATH WERE ONE. BEING ONE WITH THE SOURCE OR RETURNING TO THE STATE OF NON-BEING. ALMOST LIKE LIVING LIFE AND DEATH AT SAME TIME. A STATE OF NON-BEING WITH ONE FOOT ON EACH SIDE OF THE SPECTRUM. THUS THE IMPORTANCE OF GAINING AN UNDERSTANDING WITH THE TAO OR THE ONE IN HOPES OF BEING ABLE TO JOIN WITH IT AND ALL THINGS. I THINK THE EARLIEST ATTEMPTS FOR TAOIST TO TRY AN OBTAIN IMMORTALITY WAS JUST PART OF MANS EVOLUTION.

-jake harris

I was is a medically induced coma. The result of meningitis/encephalitis. I had been bitten by a mosquito that infected me with West Nile Virus. The experience was life changing, not in positive, white light way either. That pain was so intense that I suffered in the coma. My prognosis was very poor. I had come to terms with my demise, pain was not an option. Suffering of this caliber, was confusing and unimaginable.
I was never afraid. Losing the fear of death is not always a benefit. This fear is tied to survival.

I knew when I came out of the coma that somehow I missed my exit ramp. No fear of death and no belief in eternal consequences will make you an abrupt and intolerant individual.

I am Delaware Indian, I have known always an absolute truth, that the world we exist in is a busy place, occupied by a variety of individuals. I feel my ancestors around me, always have. They are comforting, but are a force of will. My birth was attended by tribal leaders, they arrived without the benefit of notification. I have, since I can recall, been surrounded by this will. I don't feel anyone I know, like my Dad. Their sudden departure en mass will move my hair. So, I have an idea of what my death entails. The only that thing I feel is sure: your death is based completely on your life. Simple: live bad, die bad and not only physical death but the actual transition to the world next. You are your own final judge. Others judgment is of no consequence.

Last year my Father died "bad". I warned him,to make right his wrongs immediately but, he never accepted the fact his demise was eminent. I am angry still, never have I felt the grief I have witnessed in others. He hurt people in his last years. That hurt was on his own face when he left. He knew then, fear and panic set in. He created his suffering, somehow I find that deplorable.

My ex-husband finally got used to being with someone who would wake up and inform who would die and when. This particular insight makes my family uneasy. The only time I was off was my own time, I thought my child was going.

Your ingrained belief system shapes the next step.
Man is the constructor of that world by attitudes, intent and personal desires here, in this time.
Mine will be different from anyones, like my personality. I shaped it here.
Various cultures strive to reach a state of semi-consciousness, on the precipice of some undefinable divide. At this state it becomes apparent, this concept of death. I was at this point throughout my coma.

One more thing.. I heard and understood everything in my unconscious state(for future reference).


Brian,
I don't mean to argue, but simply to correct some of your conclusions.

Your understanding of Hinduism is based on Advaita Vedanta which is not the end all of Hindu philosophy. "Hinduism" itself is not one religion but a collection of religions that the British mistakenly put under one umbrella.

Within the myriad of dharmic philosophies, Heaven is described as a combination of all the above with slight changes. If one were to read the epics - the Mahabharata and Ramayana, you would walk away with a more traditional understanding of heaven (i.e. soul goes to both heaven and hell based on karma and then is reincarnated. Heaven is a place of royal splendor, lots of good, no bad, etc.)

Just thought I'd clear that up,
Keshav

I stumbled on this site by chance and I cannot resist participating. If you want a better deal on death, just tell yourself, "When I die I am going to....." and peace be with you. Religions fascinate me, and all the different customs they are packaged with. Reality is, you are born, you live, you die. Thats it. I don't know, but after a person dies, dosn't their body rot away and the mind with it? I don't think anyone has ever witnessed a spirit or soul floating up into the heavens. RIGHT! How could I forget, they are invisible! *Slaps Forehead* Death is good because it is the end of a long journy, hopefully one that was much enjoyed.

Here is a touch of death and the here after. Imagine this.

A beautiful baby fawn grazing on the surrounding shrubbery, loving life and the churchless church. Out of nowhere a pack of wolves appear, starved and savage. They surround the fawn, and in a moment they tear it to shreds and devour it.

I don't see god or religion, but reality and truth. People can make up all sorts of fruitless stories (religions) about truths they wish to ignore. Death is the final chapter.

I could drone forever, but I will spare you lovely, beautiful people.

Peace and forgive my blunt language.

PS: Love the site

Holly:

Your post was illuminating. Appreciate your sharing your experiences. Thank you. Hope you contribute again.

GRNose

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