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Friday, March 22, 2019

Fear of death

Some suggest that all suffering results from this underlying fear, reaction to even a stubbed toe is manifestation of fear of death albeit in a much smaller dose.

But what is this fear of death and is it based on truth or another part of the illusion egoic mind constructs on a real time basis?

Death is defined by doctors as the inability of bodies and mind to function in a way that we call living.  Upon death we will no longer be able to touch, taste, smell, see or hear.  Separately but not certainly, it also means cessation of the mental faculty, i.e. no thoughts.

So the fear associated with death must be our fear of no longer being able to feel pleasant sensations, remember loved ones, fix outstanding life problems we currently face or may face in the future and so on. The list is as long as our lives. We can no longer plan to achieve unfulfilled desires upon death.

The fear often includes anticipation of excruciating pain both physical and mental. Physical pain we have faced in small doses through out our lives from stubbed toes to god forbid, serious diseases like heart attack, aides and cancer. No one wants to experience even the smaller degree of pain like headaches or sore muscles. Physical pains are part of the body’s function. As a child we feel them more intensely but as we grow older we tend to bear them, try to alleviate them and then move on. Fear is minimal. So it is not pain but an imagined unbearable severity upon death that frightens us.

Mental pain fears are similar. For some, just the thought of being separated from our loved ones forever is very scary especially knowing that death is so final, no chance of returning back. Now you can see why belief in reincarnation can be so desirable. It is the finality of death that is most scary for the mind.

This fear too seems like an illusion. Most of us, at least the older ones, have had and lost several loved ones, our grand parents, parents, partners or friends. Mind did suffer pain but as Buddha said, it was impermanent. Rationally a fear of not being able to reconnect with our loved ones ever again upon death is an illusion very similar to many mental anguish we have felt and forgotten. Do you remember the first time you got rejected by someone? It just passes with time.

All of these fears that we have already endured seem transitory but death is permanent. If we look deeper it is not the permanent end to feeling sensations or thoughts of love and pleasures of life but the loss of control over our lives.

Do we really have any control? 

Is control an illusion?

If yes, is the fear of death also an illusion?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Nonduality or advaita can be quite confusing.

How can there be just the one when I can clearly see there is this body and mind and there is the world full of things and other minds and bodies?

How can I know there is just the one if I am not the one?

My proposition is that there indeed appears duality but both of these, I and the world are made up stories. Some call the world an illusion or Maya, but accepting I as an illusion requires work.

Watch a newborn. You can see the curiosity in its eyes. This is not God looking out of the eyes but the body and mind receiving sensations from the world which it tries to understand. With help from parents, friends and objects, the baby starts to identify the world as colour, shapes, sounds, taste and touch. As its abilities mature it also starts to see its own body and  the mind as another object, part of the other or the world.

In the depth of stillness like deep sleep or Samadhi, something still remains. Mind can't get this but concludes, there is duality, the perceived world and I.

Confusion comes from a misunderstanding that I am looking at the world. In reality I am looking at both I and the world. Either by stroke of luck or much contemplative meditation the mind realises that only the looker is reality, looked is an impermanent display of thoughts.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Buddha’s Noble Truths

Buddha’s teachings are often summarised as four noble truths.

Buddha found;

1. despite wealth, culture, art, yoga, religion and war, there was no peace. Even the seemingly well off were dissatisfied (also called dukkha or suffering).
2. By repeatedly and incorrectly trying to alleviate this suffering through material pleasures, we end up as addicts craving for more of the same. This craving is responsible for the suffering.
3. This cycle of craving and dissatisfaction can be broken through a state called nirvana, which means extinguished desires and cravings.
4. And he laid out a path, an eightfold path to achieve such a state.

The first two noble truths can be verified by using our intellectual capacity and carefully looking at our lives. It doesn’t take much to realise that our life is indeed full of dissatisfaction caused by clamoring or craving. 

The process starts early when a child seeks and finds satisfaction through material pleasures. As identification with the body is entrenched, an addiction sets in; more material will give me more pleasure.

Buddha is pointing to our mind. So his third noble truth of ending this cycle of more material, more addiction, more suffering, through Nirvana appears as beacon of hope to the dissatisfied.

Nirvana and the path to liberation can only be verified by personal practice albeit it may take time. Over the millennia, thousands of Buddhists have experienced this freedom by following the path.

The eightfold path is a process of behavior modification to break this vicious circle. Similar techniques were taught by many teachers like Patanjali, Jesus, Krishna, Moses, Gandhi.

The Eightfold Path consists of

1. right view, to see clearly the nature of existence, impermanence of all material and nonmaterial realms, interconnectedness and non-self.
2. right resolve, to earnestly pursue this understanding and liberation
3. right speech, to carefully use words that are congruent with this goal
4. right conduct, to behave in a manner consistent with the right view
5. right livelihood, that doesn’t conflict with the path, do no harm
6. right effort, diligent and consistently applying ourselves to nirvana
7. right mindfulness, to be mindful of our attention in our daily life
8. and right samadhi (meditation), to regularly practice.

Order of these eight paths is not important but the first i.e. the Right View is critical. It answers the question, why is any of these true?

Only then it becomes clear what right resolve, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and meditation should be. Without the Right View, the motivation to do the right things wanes. Sometimes we meditate, sometimes we doubt. 

Right view is to know the marks of existence. these are summarised as,

1. Impermanence, all is temporary manifestation, a story in the mind.
2. Not understanding impermanence, wanting good times to continue, is suffering
3. There is no self which suffers.

Impermanence is Buddha’s answer to why is life suffering? We seek satisfaction through material pleasures which disappear, sooner or later. Mind searches for more.

Last of these, i.e. no self is taught as the heart sutra, considered the core or heart of Buddhism. This is Buddha’s magic bullet. Considerable insight meditation reveals that there is no separate self that appears to be running our lives. It seems to be happening all by itself. No god, no consciousness.

Right view is to see the interconnectedness of all material things as well as mental formations. What appears unique to us, is not. All appearance is fiction manufactured by the mind to serve a conjured-up vision of a separate self.

By keeping the right view, every action comes under scrutiny and the right path appears. This patient practice slowly diffuses the addiction and craving thereby reducing suffering or dissatisfaction, eventually snuffing out the fire of ignorance or ego, which Buddha called Nirvana.

May you have no needs, no wants and no worries.

Fear of death

Some suggest that all suffering results from this underlying fear, reaction to even a stubbed toe is manifestation of fear of death albeit...