I knew I'd like David Chapman's most recent blog post when I saw the title. There are no spiritual problems.
Amen to that, brother David.
I don't usually say "brother," but it seems fitting here. Recently I was thinking bloggishly along the same lines in My new Major Life Project: don't have one.
Except, as noted before after I first came across Chapman's writings...
I've read several posts/chapters and am blown away by this guy. He's like a more intelligent, more scientific, more coherent, more wise version of me who also can write a heck of a lot better. And has a great sense of humor. I'm an instant David Chapman fan.
So when I read there are no spiritual problems, once again I felt like I was being exposed to how I'd look upon the world if I could just see and describe things as well as Chapman can.
Not that we're philosophical clones. He's very much into Tantra and a form of Tibetan Buddhism (which may be the same thing). I'm not much into anything these days, finding organized whatever unappealing in my current churchlessness.
But Chapman's Buddhism is so barely Buddhist (compared to traditional Buddhism), I hardly noticed it when I read his post -- which energized and delighted me. Maybe you'll feel the same.
Here's some passages that I especially liked.
Many religions start with the idea that there is some hideous problem with all of existence.
The problem might not be obvious. The job of the religion is to convince you that:
- you’ve got this problem (and so does everyone)
- it is really, really bad—much worse than it appears
- it affects everything in the whole universe, so there’s no escaping it
- it’s so vast and awful and incomprehensible that there’s no practical way of solving it
- so you’d better buy our brand of magic instead.
- After you die, demons will torture you forever, because someone ate a magic apple.
- All of existence is pervaded by impermanence, suffering, and non-self.
- Life is inherently meaningless, so it is impossible to act.
(These are, of course, the cosmic defects proposed by Christianity, Buddhism, and existentialism.)
According to tantra, there are no such problems.
...A spiritual problem, according to religions that believe in them, requires a spiritual solution. But there are none. This belief diverts your energy into attempting to solve an imaginary spiritual problem, and away from practical solutions to real, practical problems.
...If the universe were about us, the world would be wrong. We don’t like suffering, and there’s quite a bit of it going around.
If there were a God, the world would be wrong. If someone designed the world, he did a piss-poor job. We should fire him. Or maybe he’s a bastard, and we should kill him.
If the world were supposed to be some way it is not, it would be wrong. But “supposed” supposes a supposer. According to whose criteria could the world be judged?
There is no God; the world was not designed; it was not meant to be some way; there is no cosmic plan to compare it against.
Therefore, there can be no fundamental problem with it. We have no grounds for complaint.
Stuff happens, mostly for no particular reason. Some of it, we like; some of it, we don’t.
...There are no spiritual problems; but there are real problems. Small ones like dirty dishes in the sink, and big ones like global warming.
Spaciousness and passion both lead you to regard all situations as workable. Nothing is cosmically awful; practical problems do not prove the world is wrong.
“Workable” does not guarantee that there is a solution. “Nothing is fundamentally wrong with the world” does not mean that everything can be fixed, or that life can be made perfect. Catastrophe is always possible. Death is always certain.
Passion and spaciousness together imply that you care deeply about the world, that you urgently want to fix problems, that you always do your best—and you are unruffled when you fail.
...According to mainstream Buddhism, it is critical to avoid indulging in sense pleasures. Those tie you to the world, and the world is bad.
According to tantra, the world is fantastic. According to tantra, tantrikas should enjoy sensual pleasures as thoroughly and often as possible. There is no problem with that—if it has no negative practical consequences.
According to tantra, it is possible to enjoy everything.
Nothing in the world can be objectively bad, because there is no external standard to measure it against. “Good” and “bad” are judgements based only on what you happen to like and dislike. Tantra trains you to suspend such judgement.
According to mainstream Buddhism, mundane reality is utterly impure and defiled. The sacred is found only elsewhere.
According to tantra, everything in the world is sacred. Enjoyment should be inseparable from reverence.
I wouldn't call it [Taoism] a middle way, I'd say that it's a more encompassing outlook. It accords totally with science - without compromise. And yet it takes into account the 'impulse' at the core of spirituality.
I'm not sure that my characterisation of science is a 'bit off'. The reason I mentioned those particular things was to highlight a difference between the supernatural and what I referred to as the undisclosed. And of course you are right, we shouldn't try to impose limits on science, but we might recognize that science is ultimately limited by biology.
Imagine a monkey. It's wearing blinkers. And tinted sunglasses that only let in certain frequencies. It has a hearing aid that picks up a limited band of frequencies. The monkey is wearing thick gloves that limit its tactile perception. The capacities of its brain have been determined by genes and adaption to its specific environment... and so on.
It thinks that it more or less has a grasp or overview of reality.
1. What it actually has a grasp on, is the perception of reality that is AVAILABLE to it.
2. The monkey's comprehension of reality (and all else) is determined therefore by principles or 'forces' that must ultimately lie outside of its grasp.
They are mysterious not because they are supernatural/metaphysical, but because of the limitations of the monkey's predicament.
And so our knowledge of the undisclosed is simply that it IS. Knowledge ABOUT the unknown would be an oxymoron - and you are quite right to demand evidence for this sort of (insider knowledge) claim.