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March 05, 2022


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Gosh Bran! First Alan watts now Anthony de Mello. You’re digging up some early trips into my studies here. I read de Mello’s book ‘Awareness’ decades ago and like Watts knew they were talking about something important.

De Mello mentions here “All problems exist in the human mind. All problems are created by the mind.”
And “...Are you getting some inkling of what it would mean if you really grasped this? (He refers to attachment) You'd be above it all. That's one nice definition of spirituality.”

Such insights are not something that appeal to seeker’s generally, who often prefer something either much more stimulating. De Mello has some valuable things to say regarding our relationship with the mind.

Then you are told, made to believe that you need others to tell you what to do, what to know, what to believe, what to strive for etc.

So, believing not to know what to do and where to go and convinced that you are not able to do anything without the help of experts, you turn to them, to those that present themselves as experts in any field of human interest.

After delving in their books,listening to their sermons, going to their seminars, you end up more frustrated, more ignorant, more confused, more dependend than when you started to seek guidance and help outside yourself.

Better to forget about it and finally turn towards yourself, in your own heart and mind, for the guidance as to what to do with your life as life was given to you, your resposibility and nobody else.

Finally stop that outsourcing of your personal resposibility.

"... Does it mean that we withdraw from the human endeavor, having no attachment? No. Plunge into the din of battle. ..."

Why exactly?

Having literally no attachment, why exactly would one "plunge into the din of battle", as opposed to not doing that?


This is a question I actually struggle with, and have so far found no satisfactory answer to.

People do have half-answers, that are based around the Upanishadic idea of Nishkam Karma, but that is merely a descriptor, and does not actually explain why, in the absence of Kam, there would be Karma ("Karma" in the context of the foregoing, not the other kind of karma).

That is, while there isn't any reason why there shouldn't be such, why one wouldn't spontaneously end up doing something: but the point is, when it comes to doing something complex, and what is more doing it not one-off and/or occasionally but doing it consistently --- like holding down a job, and especially a complex job, or running a business, especially a complex one, or anything other than something wholly mundane and, well, non-complex --- I simply don't see how on earth things like these would get done in the absence of attachment.

After all, let's not forget, the Buddha, after having (allegedly) having dropped desire, never returned to his job of running his father's kingdom (that is, to his designated job of eventually running it). While it is true he did start his monastic organization, but there again, when faced with the rebellion led by his cousin Devdutta, he simply walked away, left it all behind; and, had that alternative movement gained any further traction, it is conceivable that that's the last the world would have heard of the Buddha. And in any case, while teaching this stuff might perhaps qualify as a valid exception, but fact remains, about his abdicating his princely/kingly/husband-ly/father-ly/filial "duties".


Unfortunately Anthony de Mello isn't here to answer this himself, but should any of you be able to quote something he's said about this, or else if any of you are able to present any personal perspective that might resolve this, then I'd love to hear it. Why exactly would someone who's gotten rid of desire and attachment, ever hold down a complex job (of any description)? Complex, as opposed to literally of the level of chopping-wood-fetching-water, because that kind of mind-less work I think I can understand how one can simply keep on doing, at least if there's no compulsion involved and one can skip it or stop doing it at any time at all if that is what one felt like doing.

"Because your God or your Guru wants you to and asks you to" can be a valid answer, except in that case what you're attached to is your Guru. It's isn't zero attachment. I guess that's what some theists advocate, rather than going for the hard-core no-desire thing; and taking that at face value and limited only to this argument, that's a fair enough workaround.

Still, leaving that particular theist argument aside, my question stands.


Attachment to what and whom?
That is the question.

Attachement is related to freedom. ... freedom to do and act as you deem fit or are asked to do.

One can be a "slave" to many things, inside and outside.
Slaves are bound cq attached.
The "have to".. they "must"

emotional and intellectual sensitivity or allergy ... binds one to the allergens. .. THAT is attachement ...De mello speaks of freeing oneself, or desensitize oneself

Well, attachment to any and every thing. Desire, in general.

I'm assuming de Mello means this in the Buddhistic sense. (That's just a guess, I haven't read him myself. Correct me, please, if I'm mistaken there.) That would refer not (only) to some kind to obsession, but to even the most (apparently) beneficient and innocent of desires.

What am I missing here?


For instance, you're sitting in your home, in your country. The crazy dictator next doors invades your country. But jumping into battle literally, and especially killing a bunch of people, that's something you ...well, wouldn't do, if you aren't attached to your country and to the ideals that your country stands for (not to mention your family, et al).

In fact, quite literally something like that happens when the Buddha comes across a battle raging between some neighboring tyrant's army and his own father's, in Thich Nhat Hanh's beautifully told life of Buddha. (Leaving out the fantastic bits, which obviously is merely myth.)

I hope the people in Ukraine read this and stop their complaining. Get a life, Ukrainians!

Will your incessant petulant whining make them feel any better?


Sarcasm, right? I get your intention, but I think you misrepresented de Mello. Look again. He said, "All right. Does it mean that we withdraw from the human endeavor, having no attachment? No. Plunge into the din of battle."

Hm, so no answer forthcoming. Not unexpected, given that no one else I've asked has been able to answer that either, including some guru types, as well as people who spend their lives immersed in the Buddhist way of life.

Given the massive trove of Buddhist scholarship, across the first millennium after Christ in India and elsewhere, as well as in more modern times now, I was hoping that an obvious question like that would have been addressed. I expect it has, and I just haven't looked at the right place for the answer.

I think I misunderstood his use of the word "battle" and misrepresented him myself!

And AR,
This might answer your question.

I can't imagine de Mello recommending violence under any circumstance. Jesus clearly didn't:

"38] Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
[39] But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
[40] And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
[41] And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
[42] Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
[43] Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
[44] But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
[45] That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

I know an old man, a Catholic his whole life. He explained the liturgy, how the priest reads from the Old Testament to give historical context. I said, the Church should throw out the Old Testament. He corrected me "No, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament. He was just a rabbi with his own opinion."

Our feeling sorrow, and joy for that matter, is most certainly our reaction.

It's what makes us human.

Can we be a little less reactive? Less angery, less lustful, less attached, less greedy and less prideful? Sure. Try it. But as these are conditioned responses, letting them go permanently requires quite a bit of work.

And letting them go without letting go of your duty, your responsibility to live to a code of ethics is a bit more work still.

Many people just gave up trying. Only to discover that giving up making the effort is not actually letting go of your attachments. Nor is it meeting your responsibility.

Not meeting your responsibility starts a whole other wave of reactions and burdens.

But seeing what you are actually responsible for, thinking clearly without reactivity, can help.

Hence practice.

Hello, umami. Thanks for that input.

I'm not sure, though, that it addresses what I'd asked. I'd meant "battle" only metaphorically, as no doubt de Mello did as well --- although I guess I did mention a literal battle, but only by way of example, in my comment to um.

Jesus's view (as commonly understood, and without at this time going into the veracity of his historicity or that of whatever he's alleged to have said) on battles per se is clear enough, I mean that famous "Turn the other cheek" dictum of his.

My question, though, was about why and how someone who's actually transcended desire and attachment --- assuming for the moment that doing that is even possible --- why someone like that would possibly jump into the metaphorical din of battle, that is, why such a person would consistently apply himself to any very complex task. I mean, I can understand doing something even very complex but as a one-off or sporadically; and I can understand doing something consistently enough provided that something were very simple and mind-less; but I cannot for the life of me figure out how, as de Mello exhorts, the desire-less and attachment-free --- again assuming such a state might be achievable in fact and not just a hypothetical and/or wishful thinking --- would get down in earnest and consistently into the complex and very involved nitty-gritties of, for instance, managing an enterprise, or running a kingdom, or managing a fund, or for that matter literally directing a protracted military campaign (as opposed, in the last instance, to simply running amok, Samurai-style, in a one-off fight or in a few skirmishes). I'm focusing not so much on the battle literally but on the complexity, which is seemingly antithetical to the desire-less attachment-free mind. In light of this, I was trying to understand that particular exhortation of de Mello's.

Now I realize that, going by the excerpts Brian's provided here, that that isn't de Mello's central theme. But I honed in on that specificity because that is a question that has long troubled me, quite independent of de Mello (whom I know next to nothing about), and because I haven't so far arrived at a satisfactory answer to that question. My own (tentative) conclusion is that should a person be able to attain to a desire-less and attachment-free state, assuming such is even possible, then such a person necessarily would leave behind the hurly burly of everyday worldy complexities. They might not necessarily do something dramatic like becoming a hermit or a monk, not in this day and age, but I'm guessing that such a person would retire from the complexities of most responsible jobs in today's world (using the word "job" loosely, and to include paid as well as unpaid as well as entrepreneurial as well as research-based work). Much like the Buddha himself had done. Without desire I don't see how such complexity can possibly draw one in, consistently I mean to say and not as a one-off or occasional thing.

And I'd love to be able to hear some good argument around this, whether in agreement to my view, or in opposition to it. Because my view remains only tentative, based as it is on no more than my own reasoning and gut feel. Unfortunately no one I've asked has been able to deliver on an answer, so far at least.


The theist does have a great workaround to this question. It's obvious enough at one level, but in the past when I'd asked this very question in a comment here in Brian's blogspace, some years back, that answer was very beautifully argued out and presented by our own Spence Tepper: which is, that the theist needn't go for complete desire-less-ness. The theist can aim for just one desire, as opposed to no desire, and that one desire would be to do with his God and/or his Master/Guru. As such, following the Guru's instructions/advice would be enough motivation for such a person to do anything at all, no matter how complex, and regardless of whether the specific work is good or bad or ugly. For better or for worse, that is a perfectly internally consistent argument, and I'm grateful to Spence for that discussion, some years back.

But leaving that sidebar aside, the question I'd asked stands, and remains unanswered (that is, not answered at least to my satisfaction). I was wondering if, by any chance, de Mello might have said anything about or around it that might shed some light. It seems he hasn't. Oh well. *shrugs*

App. Reader.

[“All problems exist in the human mind. All problems are created by the mind.
...You're planning a picnic on Sunday and the picnic gets rained out. Where do you think the upset is -- in the rain or in you? In the rain -- or in your reaction to the rain?
The upset feeling is not caused by the rain, but by your reaction to the rain. Someone else would react differently: no upset.”]

De Mello here is clearly saying that its our reaction to the reality that can cause the upset – not that we should not necessarily avoid the rain. So, take appropriate action; pack up the picnic, perhaps sit in the car with the picnic and enjoy watching the rain.

I reckon that there will always be desires rising up with us – likes and dislikes etc. D’ Mello seems to be saying the problem is getting caught up in the conditioned narrative the mind is telling us. One could be aware of attachment to your country and realise why we have developed such an attachment. Many reasons I guess; perhaps involving our needs for community; identifying as being part of something bigger (similar to a religion); believing our country to be the best (many inhabitants of other countries feel theirs is the best) and so on.

All in all, the prime reason would come down to the distinct possibility that it is the ego-mind’s conditioning (and desires) that demand satisfaction. Perhaps in seeing that it is another extension of the self’s on-going need for security and preservation, it, along with the attachments that support it may drop away.

After saying that, if your country is attacked, the appropriate response may be to fight. Not because of being attached to your country but because that is what may be appropriate at that particular time . . . and not because Anthony de Millo says it but because we can see for ourselves how our own minds operate.


How about Krishna? He convinces Arjuna not to shrink from the fight and is right there with him driving the war chariot.


The thing is, back then they couldn't incinerate the planet.

Hi Umami
Krishna even tells Arjuna he has already killed these soldiers, and Arjuna is just going through the motions as his destiny.

Krishna opens his mouth and Arjuna sees his own dead cousins bloody bodies strewn across Krishna 's teeth.

Krishna said it's already happened, but Arjuna must do his part.

"Having literally no attachment, why exactly would one "plunge into the din of battle", as opposed to not doing that?"

-- It simply means approaching the whole of life -- inner thoughts and emotions, outer events and circumstances -- without clinging or aversion.

To live "non-attached" is to feel impulses, think thoughts, and experience life without becoming hooked by mental narratives. Such as, how things should be, or should never be, or should remain forever.


Stop your complaining and realize that "ALL upset exists in you, not in reality."

cf Swift's A Modest Proposal, another example of (what I thought was) obvious satire.

Still not clear? This 70s pablum about how we should never kick when where irritated because we're just seeing what's inside us and projecting it onto others is utter crap, and the Ukraine situation, I thought, a vivid example of why.

The easiest way to let go is to have something more valuable to cling to.

How people cling to what they know, knowing it is incomplete, for fear of trying something new!

How much progress has been delayed viewing anything new and different as bad and wrong!

But all that evaporates in the presence of a greater good.

Having tasted that a very interesting thing happens. We see the greatness when we are willing to look beyond our daily concerns.

Then that greatness is seen rightly as our foundation, and we simply forgot.

It's easy to let go when you set that the greater good has been shouldering the brunt of the burden for you all along.

Then, handing these plastic toys over to him, so you can enjoy a meal of light and music becomes a simple matter. Then it happens automatically.

Now, once that happens, but one 's life and duties still demand attention, the focused mind can do both, remain grounded in that light, at that center while the lesser intellect manages all the affairs.

Giving everything to God, as your job, He runs things better and smoother than we ever could. We are his thinking, hands and feet. At least howver he would have us use them.

The mountains of crushing conflict and expectation are flattened. The valleys of dispair filled with nectar. The road that was crooked and winding becomes straight.

Moving, we now grasp onto nothing.

So, if a glimpse of our dispair reveals how hurtful our emotions and reactions are to ourselves and others, then also a glimpse of the light beyond that becomes our solution and our goal. Our salvation.

I wish the best for the Ukrainian people, but I can't help but notice how America is responding to current events in that country.

Not so very long ago, 800k people were murdered in Rwanda, and over 200k died in that war we started in Iraq. It's not an exaggeration to say that hardly anyone in the West cared about these casualties. Yet, now that we have a war going on involving people that look like us, there's no end to the moral declarations, the tears, the outrage. The pretty people who look like us.

@ Tendzin : [ Still not clear? This 70s pablum about how we should never kick when where irritated because we're just seeing what's inside us and projecting it onto others is utter crap, and the Ukraine situation, I thought, a vivid example of why. ]

There's the very Christ-like bromide to "turn the other cheek" too.
But none advocate passivity in the case of aggression. It's only
a gentle caution to be aware of what's inside us: our knee-jerk
reactivity, blinkered view of foes, our predictable lack of humility
in those situations is what's problematic. Instead a clearer under-
standing of ourself and others is what's needed. Not how hard
should I kick back.

" ... I reckon that there will always be desires rising up with us – likes and dislikes etc. D’ Mello seems to be saying the problem is getting caught up in the conditioned narrative the mind is telling us. One could be aware of attachment ... "
(Posted by: Ron E. | March 07, 2022 at 08:22 AM)

" ... To live "non-attached" is to feel impulses, think thoughts, and experience life without becoming hooked by mental narratives..."
(Posted by: Roger | March 07, 2022 at 11:28 AM)


Thanks for sharing that perspective, Ron, and Roger.

What you guys are saying is that to be without desire or attachment is not to necessarily lose (the capacity for) all desire or attachment, but it is merely to understand the ephemeral nature of such, and to stop seeing such as intrinsic to "us", and therefore to cease being under the sway of such.

I'd like to let that response percolate within me, as it were, for a while, mull over it a bit, you know? I'm bookmarking both your comments, they're great food for thought.

That said, my first reaction to that --- just my immediate reaction, that I may or may not stand by on some further reflection --- is to object to this solution, at two levels. At one level I'd argue that this is, for all practical purposes, a distinction without a difference. And another level I'd argue that this doesn't quite go far enough.

While repeating one more time that this is just my immediate reaction to your suggestion, and that I may well change my mind after being with this idea for a while, thinking over it and perhaps talking it over with some others, let me, for now, flesh out both my arguments.


About this being a distinction without a difference: Let's just take literally the example of war. Let's put ourselves in the place not some soldier that goes berserking out in battle, but of, say, that celebrated Colonel who's been getting written about. That old guy who, ten years after having retired, came right back and enlisted, and has throughout been in the thick of the fighting, and one of the key figures in holding out one of the capital cities (I forget which) against the Russkies. In short, someone who's well and truly into the actual planning of it, and in it for the long run now.

Say we are that old Colonel, and our country's been invaded by a crazy asshole of a dictator of the neighboring country, as has indeed happened in actuality to that unfortunate gentleman. We are not furious, at every level; but then we reason out to ourselves that our fury is something that is ultimately epheral; and how our self isn't "us" beyond a very chimerical sense; and we aren't actually overcome with our attachment to, and our indignation on behalf of, our country, our endangered family, our endangered person, our ideals, our sense of fairness and right and wrong: Provided our attachments don't control us, in fact and not just hypothetically, and as deeply-fundamentally-felt realization not just a surface idea that appears cool, then I don't see why on earth we would ever fight and kill. Since being killed ourselves, or our family being killed, or our country being overrun by invaders --- the prospect of which in the normal course would send any normal hot-blooded man indignant and angry and out for redress and retribution --- then, seriously, why? I can see a spontaneous berserk fight on one or two occasions, but, I mean, directing a complex campaign across weeks and perhaps months on end? Doesn't quite add up, you know.


And my second objection is that this doesn't quite go far enough. Basically the other side of my argument above. If the desires and attachments (and aversions) do continue to arise, and do continue to affect us enough, at some level, that we actually go out and do something as drastic as spend weeks and months directing a complex military campaign where basically the idea is to go out and kill others and in the process, if need be, have our own people lay down their lives: well, given that the impetus is so strong, I'd argue that the attachment is there for all practical purposes. Maybe somewhat muted down, so that we react only in very extreme circumstances, but still.

The way I see it, to make a fundamental difference to how we act, in an extreme case like this one, we'd need to directly EXPERIENCE that we're not our self, and we'd need to directly EXPERIENCE being separate from our emotions et cetera. At a level beyond the cerebral, and beyond mundane understanding. (Should such be even possible, in actual fact!)

Even that much surface understanding is still great, and far far preferable to lacking even that, absolutely; but no, I don't see that this goes far enough.


You mustn't mind my immediately objecting to your suggestions, Ron, and Roger. I'm grateful to you for sharing that perspective, and like I said I'm going to let it be with me for a while and see how I see it in some time. Perhaps I'll myself end up seeing errors in the counter-arguments I've presented here. And if you guys do --- see errors in how I've reacted, I mean --- then by all means go ahead point such out.

Umami, and Spence,

I'm afraid the Mahabharate reference doesn't seem very persuasive to me.

As I recall, the key argument, that finally swayed Arjuna, was Krishna's exhortation to that he (Arjuna) should leave aside all "dharma" and surrender unto him (Krishna). Essentially the theist argument that I'd referred to earlier.

There's many things wrong with that approach. Let me just list out some of those things.

1. This makes sense only if the truth value of the theism thesis is positive, is true. And further if the claimant is truly the godhead he claims to be. Otherwise it is all nonsnesne, and there's no particular reason to go by his advice as opposed to someone else's, and certainly no call to surrender one's own thoughts and impulses and subsume such within the former. As is obvious, that's a big super-duper "If" right there.

2. Surely it is obvious how such a "solution" might end up being used in practice? That's exactly what Pope Urban invoked, to set the murderous crusades rolling. And that's exactly the principle that got those crazies to fly the planes into the WTC. Like, exactly.

3. That thing about Krsna showing to Arjuna that all that was to have happened has happened already? Sounds like fairly tales to me. I mean, if we're to take that as solution, then that, quite simply, raises way more questions than it answers.

4. Oh, and don't let's forget, none of this is actually true, as far as we know. Much like the Jesus story, and regardless of whether or not the myth is built on a skeleton of historical fact, the actual fact is that such and such result followed such and such cause in some fairy tale, means nothing at all when it comes to the real world.


Don't mean to be dismissive of your views, umami, and Spence. Thanks for going out of your way to respond to the question I asked here. Just, that particular approach I find less than compelling.

Although I agree, Spence --- as I'd agreed with you in our earlier discussion, a few years back --- that should you be a theist, who's already sold on the personal-God idea, then this does make sense.

And. Spence, I take your point, it need not be God per se. It could be anything "higher", including, as in your case, Shabd. But again, that raises more questions than it answers. Unless we can be assured that the theology RSSB teaches actually holds, I'd be wary of following voices in my head or impulses following from within. Because, I mean, I need hardly point out how that can go wrong, and indeed has actually gone horribly wrong so many times and for so many people, right?

(Again, I don't mean to be in the least dismissive of your views. I appreciate your sharing; it's just that I don't find myself able to agree.)

"Krishna said it's already happened, but Arjuna must do his part."

Hey, Spence.

"Fish got to swim and birds got to fly."


I'm not for a minute buying into de Mello's argument, but I'm afraid I find your reasons for dismissing them not very persuasive.

You're saying that this doesn't do anything to someone placed in the situation the unfortunate Ukrainians find themselves in. Well, for one thing, if it helps people who are more fortunately situated, while not helping people in that kind of dire externally-driven emergency, then that is still not to take away from the worth of the former, at all, and no reason to dismiss the whole idea. And for another, assuming that all of this otherwise holds, then should the Ukrainians have practiced this ...thing, and attained to this understanding, then it would indeed have helped them. They may still have gotten blown up, and their country overrun, but they wouldn't have "suffered". Assuming for the sake of argumenthat the thing itself, that we're discussing, holds. (In other words, and as far as the second part of what I was saying here: that it does not hold for someone who hasn't partaken of the practice and the realization, is not indicative of a flaw in the practice itself, and is no more than a function of those people there not having done it at all.)


Like, you've devised this detailed training plan, that, if gone through, will enable the "practitioner" to easily run twenty miles. You're doing the equivalent of pointing to someone who's not done the training, and who finds himself in the position of having to run long distances, and ends up falling midway, and using that as justification to dismiss the training plan itself.

None of this speaks to the efficacy of the training plan itself. That must, in any case, be evaluated on its own merits. But the reason you present here for dismissing it, sneeringly in your first comment, and in some more detail in your second, simply doesn't hold up I'm afraid.


As for people getting their nether garments in a bunch over the current atrocity, while having remained (relatively) unmoved by a similar fate befalling others in other geographies. as far your pointing out that particular double standard, I kind of agree.

"Kind of", because that this particular mess might conceivably actually spiral into WW3, is something that sets this particular business apart. In every other way those other wars were just as bad as this one, and maybe even worse; but at least they did not carry much possibility of a cataclysmic worldwide conflict.

But that apart, sure, I do agree, that Europeans getting killed, in Europe --- as opposed to whoever else wherever else --- that's one of the reasons why this war has so drawn everyone's attention. And to the extent that this especial preoccupation stems not so much from a fear of WW3 but from merely that double standard, to that extent it is ...well, not quite quite. (Which is not to take away from the hell the Ukrainians are experiencing. That others have experienced the same thing, and perhaps worse things, does not make their condition any easier. But still, to some degree I can sympathize with one part of what you're saying here.)

"Krishna said it's already happened, but Arjuna must do his part."

Posted by: umami | March 08, 2022 at 06:24 AM


Why exactly, umami, and Spence? Why exactly must Arjuna do his part?

First off, that's an effing fairy tale right there. That thing about it having already happened, I mean to say. At least it is, until it can be clearly shown that that makes any kind of factual sense.

But that apart, and even assuming for the sake of argument that that is factually true, and that Krishna did actually show Arjuna that the butchering had already, in some other other dimension, already taken place ---- even taking that as true, how exactly is that in any sense a compelling argument for Arjuna to "do his part"?

Seriously, why? This is utterly nonsensical, at multiple levels.


The only compelling argument that Krishna had produced in the Gita, is his exhortation to Arjuna to unquestioningly accept Krishna as God and do his bidding. Should Arjuna buy into the premise, then the conclusion kind of follows.

(Except, of course, the premise itself is extravagant and entirely dodgy. But whatever.)


I'm not trying to persuade. How could I? Jesus and Krishna gave opposite answers!

swami umami answered: "It depends. Are you a fish, or are you a bird?"

Dear umami,

Sorry, perhaps I came across as overly argumentative --- or at least, as overly aggressive in my argumentation. My apologies, if that was off-putting. And by all means, if this line of discussion doesn't draw you in, sure, let's drop it, right here, right now, and not take this any further, no issues at all.

No, I don't mean that you're trying to convert me, or to persuade me. Not at all. After all you've only been very kindly answering a question I myself went out of my way to ask, and to solicit others' views on.


All of that said: My question stands. Clearly you yourself found, for yourself, that POV appealing, if not quite persuasive, right? As did Spence? Can either of you spell out what about that particular quote either of you found anywhere like a compelling reason to, well, do what "must be done"?

Religious BS so often gets a free pass, just because it represents hoary tradition. Because it is this lovely beautiful piece of poetic stuff, that belongs to this lovely relatively nonviolent and unusually sophisticated culture (sophisticated in terms of philosophical and "spiritual" natterings engaged in from very early times), therefore whatever they say must be wise.

This right here. Krishna shows Arujuna that everything that he's demanding Arjuna do, has already been done. First off, that's an extravagant fairy tale. But what I'm focusing on here is, even if that's taken as true, for the sake of argument, then how does the conclusion follow from that premise? How on earth is that --- the fact that apparently all that has somehow already happened --- a persuasive argument for Arjuna (persuasive to Arjuna, I mean, not to me!) to follow Krishna's advice and now take up arms?

That to me smacks of a very clever and learned Guru-type brainwashing this rube, much like some Mullah may brainwash some cross-eyed bearded nutjob to try flying planes, or else a preacher brainwashing an unbalanced Jesus-cultist to blow up hospitals, or something. All laid out in lovely poetic language, and garnished with high (or rather high-sounding) philosophy, but the core argument remains hollow. Unless of course I'm missing something there, in that specific argument I mean to say.

(I'm not arguing that Arjuna shouldn't have done what he did. That's his business. What I'm questioning is how the reasons that he apparently found compelling --- or at least, in this case, that particular specific reason/argument as represented in that quote --- has any general applicability at all, or even that it makes any kind of sense.)

You asked
"Why exactly, umami, and Spence? Why exactly must Arjuna do his part?"

When you understand what that part is, then it is inevitable that you will do it.

Your understanding can help ease the process.

So it is all dependent upon what you can see.

When Arjuna saw his dead cousins' bloody bodies strewn about in miniature, impaled upon Krishna 's teeth, he understood immediately that this was going to happen.

He could minimize the violence by doing his part and ending the war by killing his corrupt cousins who had chosen to invade his family's territory. But he could not eliminate it. And doing nothing, he would actually allow much greater violence to occur.

Life may put you in exactly that situation. You must restrain harm, and to do so may require some degree of physical force. It is the situation every good police officer and soldier understands.

You may question, rightly, the necessity. You may complain, rightly, that this is the result of others not doing their part earlier.

But when the moment is there before you and you must act to stop things from going even worse, then you search for the best guidance you can get and you proceed.

It was more painful for Arjuna to kill his cousins than for them to murder wholesale the citizens of his country.

But that was his duty. And so he did it.

It's a story about duty. Most people arrive at that place in their lives. We do what we can to make the best decision. But inaction at such times often does more harm than good, just like the inactions of the past that lead to this situation.

Okay, we've got away now from what we'd started discussing, I mean that question of mine --- which itself, admittedly, was a step away from Brian's original post --- but anyway, now that we're here:

No, what I'm questioning right now is not so much the necessity of his doing what he did, at least not at this point; what I'm questioning is the logic.

So, Krishna shows Arjuna clearly that this battlefield is already strewn with corpses. Let's take that fantastic premise as given, for the sake of argument. But in what way does the conclusion follow from that premise? How does the fact that Krishna has shown Arjuna those bodies, and that he have seen those bodies, mean that he is "minimizing the violence" by fighting? Why was it, following on that premise, "inevitable that he should do it", in this version of reality? In what way would he be "(allowing) much greater violence to occur", by not doing it --- following on that vision, I mean to say?


"But that was his duty. And so he did it."

Ah, duty.

And what is more, a duty that he hasn't figured out for himself, but someone else, a Guru-type, has spelled out for him.

I guess it was also the Crusader's "duty" to go butcher Muslims in Asia? And the bearded nutjobs' "duty" to smash the WTC? And the Talibans' duty to murder girls in Pakistan that dare to study in schools and write blogs?

I don't see how you can possibly go for the one, and reject the other. Unless you use your discernment.

And Krishna is specifically all about not using your discernment, and in the process arriving at a conclusion different than the one he's advocating; but instead to go by his (Krishna's) advice and following the conclusion and the course of action that he wants you to follow.

Sounds like brainwashing to me.

@ AR [ How on earth is that --- the fact that apparently all that has somehow already happened --- a persuasive argument for Arjuna (persuasive to Arjuna, I mean, not to me!) to follow Krishna's advice and now take up arms? ]

Pulling out my crystal-religious ball and peering intently, I suspect
Arjuna was experiencing the truth himself inside and that's what
made it compelling. In other words, Krishna wasn't using some sort
of hypno-trick to implant a mental image in poor Arjuna. No, Arjuna
drew his attention inside and scanned the divine "Scroll" to see for
himself what was destined to happen as any card-carrying mystic
would do. You ask, why couldn't he disagree with the director and
say "Hey , who wants another war story... let's make a rom-com."

Well, the crystal ball fluid gets a bit murky here. But suffice it to
say theoretically you could do it ab initio but I gather it's unwise
to do so. It's far better to get into, er, lockstep with the storyline
that was created in a timeless moment for viewers hungering for
a story chock-full of conflict. So play your role and wait for the
script to "Fade Out". It could be worse... what if it had been a
sappy musical...

[ DISCLAIMER: Any resemblance of this speculative musing to
the truth is purely accidental ]


Haha, no, I'm just throwing stuff out there. Krishna and Jesus spoke under different circumstances and backed their credentials with miracles. Who performs miracles these days? What's their advice?

I think Dungeness has it right.

What Krishna showed Arjuna was a vision of the future. A deeper level of experience and insight.

He was not seeing the whole picture. Now he is.

Each of us defines for itself our duty. Ideally it is based on a very high perspective.

To that extent, we act rightly.

To the extent we don't see things clearly, we act on ignorance.

This insight isn't limited to spirituality, nor do the story details in any way detract from the truthfulness.

Ask yourself how you determine what the best course of action is for yourself. That's what this is really about.

And if you like you can learn more about Arjuna 's duty, as the commander of his nation's defenses here...after all attempts to avoid war have failed...


One more point about the story of Krishna and Arjuna. Arjuna is despondent in part because, as he states, the ones he will have to kill include uncles, cousins, even his Guru, all fighting on the wrong side of the invaders.

Our duty demands we act rightly, without concern for the consequences.

Having that inner connection makes it possible.


"You mustn't mind my immediately objecting to your suggestions, Ron, and Roger. I'm grateful to you for sharing that perspective, and like I said I'm going to let it be with me for a while and see how I see it in some time. Perhaps I'll myself end up seeing errors in the counter-arguments I've presented here. And if you guys do --- see errors in how I've reacted, I mean --- then by all means go ahead point such out."

--- Nothing wrong with objecting. Continue with your clarifications and investigations. You seem to be on an honest and sincere mental path. I always reserve the right to be wrong. I'm human, and form my attachments. Hopefully, such attachments produce the least harm to me and others

"Why exactly must Arjuna do his part?"


Don't tell anyone, but his story glorifies the caste system!

Hi Umami!
You wrote
"Don't tell anyone, but his story glorifies the caste system!"

At first I thought that might make sense, seeing as how Arjuna is a nobleman in the story.

But then I thought that this story is only about what Krishna showed him and taught him about duty and fate.

So I'm confused how caste is involved.

Please explain.


Arjuna's the poster child for karma yoga. Foremost is that he placed his duty as a Kshatriya, a defined role in society, above personal feelings. It's the approach to living that earned Krishna's divine seal of approval.

The lowliest sweeper probably knows the tale. If you're born a sweeper, think of Arjuna. Sweep, just sweep, because no matter how awful, it's your duty, and you're making God happy, and boy oh boy, at least you don't have to face relatives and slaughter on the battlefield. Never complain about being a sweeper or want different. You're participating in the divine order, so get out there and sweep like the greatest warrior! While you're at it, praise the ruling class for putting their lives on the line to protect you from that other evil king over there.

Hi Umami
Thanks for your reply.

I think you may have added some things that aren't actually in the story of Krishna 's conversation with Arjuna.

You wrote
"If you're born a sweeper, think of Arjuna. Sweep, just sweep, because no matter how awful, it's your duty, and you're making God happy, and boy oh boy, at least you don't have to face relatives and slaughter on the battlefield."

I don't recall where this is stated in the Mahabharata. If you can site the passage I'd like to read it.

As for our duty, anyone, police officer, soldier, medical doctor, nurse, Respiratory therapist, housekeeper, who places the well being of others above their own, as their duty, has nothing to do with the caste system. It is the role they find themselves in, and they act there from a higher view for the well being of others.

Arjuna had a duty. Krishna helps him understand the way to complete that duty with the least harm to others. His job gave him that opportunity.

Wherever we find ourselves, that is where our opportunity for good exists.

So the story is really about how each of us finds and learns to understand how best to act rightly in the situation we are in, not the situation of any other.

If you are a commander, or a soldier, or a cobbler, in each role you can choose to act rightly.

The story of Indra and the ants demonstrates our equal standing, at the bottom.

'Indra asked the beatiful boy admiring the palace, "Have you seen anything more fabulous than this palace of the Gods that I alone, Lord Indra, have created?"

' The boy smiled, laughed and replied, "It is certainly one of the best palaces of all the Indras."

' Lord Indra asked with irritation 'all he Indras? I am the only Lord Indra! Who are these other Indras you speak of?! "

' And the boy, Vishnu in disguise, pointed to a trail of ants on the path, laughed and said, "Indras all!"


That too, all you said.

Yes, I added something to illustrate a subtext that I perceived in my mi-i-i-ind. Right or wrong, I don't know. I have no testosterone in the game. How, you ask? Nonattachment!

Hi Umami
Reality has its own caste system. We are each in different places and conditions. But under these muddy layers there is more.

If we are not attached to our body, what are we?

If w are not attached to our appearance, what are we?

If we are not attached to our possessions, career, writings, inventions, personality, talents or achievements, even these limbs, even these companions, then what are we?

If we are not attached to others' opinions of us, then what are we?

We have family members. But are more than just a family member.

And we are certainly not bound by any castes at all, except one.

Just one caste imprisons us.

And that is the caste we find ourselves in.

Whatever it is, high or low, it is our own private prison house. But if we are not attached to that, then what are we? We are far more.

Anything that helps liberate you from it, unattach yourself from it, that is your best revolt over the caste system.

Then you can claim to really be unattached.

Unattached from those things people mistakenly think they are. Unattached from those things people take pride in : lust, anger, greed, possessions and attachments.

"I helped free many slaves, and I could have helped many more had they realized they were slaves."

Harriet Tubman didn't say this, but it is apt.

I don't think there is any tyrant who more effectively and completely brainwashes us into thinking we are free while enslaving us completely, than our own opinion.

Our opinion is the final authority in all matters. And we believe it, defend it with passion, and are offended when it is challenged.

No where is the enslavement more visible in a person then when they are offended so much by a challenge they do not understand as merely information that happens to exist outside their belief system, and respond by calling someone else a liar, or "intellectually dishonest."

"No where is the enslavement more visible in a person then when they are offended so much by a challenge they do not understand as merely information that happens to exist outside their belief system, and respond by calling someone else a liar, or 'intellectually dishonest.'"

Hey, Spence.

That's a good example of subtext.
Reading between the lines, in other words. You can tell a lot about people by their word choices, cadences, mental fixations, body language, etc. The word "frankly," I noticed, became a pretty reliable indicator of MAGA affiliation.

Popeye the Sailor is a warrior of sorts too, protector of Olive Oyl and Sweet Pea. Like Arjuna he embodies virtue, but the subtext is different: Kids, eat your spinach!
"During the depths of the Great Depression, cartoonist E.C. Segar chose the vegetable spinach to give his comic strip character Popeye the Sailor superhuman powers. Quite likely, it was his attempt to prompt children of all ages to eat more of this nutrient powerhouse. During that era, the diet of the average American was lacking in essential vitamins and minerals, and the nutritional well-being especially of children was of great concern.
"Segar's tactic worked. Not long after Popeye began gulping down a can of spinach when he found himself in the midst of a perilous situation, the consumption of spinach began to skyrocket. In fact, during the 1930s, spinach consumption was said to have increased by 33 percent. Perhaps more remarkable is the report that children surveyed at that time listed spinach as their third favorite food."

Too much reading between the lines makes conspiracy theorists! If I show signs, please alert me. Opinions can enslave, as you say. In my comments I mean to stay within the safer realm of ideas.

Hi Umami!
You wrote
"Perhaps more remarkable is the report that children surveyed at that time listed spinach as their third favorite food"

That is remarkable. I only remember by Dad threatening us with "You'll eat it and you'll like it!!"

@ Spence [ Hi Umami! You wrote "Perhaps more remarkable is the report that children surveyed at that time listed spinach as their third favorite food" That is remarkable. I only remember by Dad threatening us with "You'll eat it and you'll like it!!" ]

"third favorite" ... OMG to think it was likely straight out of the can too. GASP!!

From Dad "You'll eat it and you'll like it!!"
From Mom:: "Starving children in China..."

What's more torturous enslavement than guilt though.

My first encounter with spinach:

"It's green!" I said in horror.
I'd only seen Popeye on black and white TV.

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