The Law Of Reciprocity

In religion, we call it the Golden Rule.  In classical science, it’s the Law of Cause and Effect. In philosophy and quantum physics – the Law of Reciprocity.

A marketing manager may have even unconsciously referred to it by saying that it is found in each and every incident, object, or situation that you are confronted with in life.  This law is intrinsic in everything you come in contact with.

Anger and hatred are the operative principles of hell.  If you engage in them, you are already in its clutches.  You are not doing yourself or anybody a favor.  No amount of praying to this or that deity will spare you from its grasp.

Wishing ill or deliberately harming somebody in thought, word or deed will guarantee you a place in hell.  No God/gods can even dispute that.  Harming someone for not subscribing to your whims and caprices and desires, no matter how godly you think you/they may be, will not spare you suffering.  It will follow you as sure as your shadow follows you everywhere.

Do you honestly believe that the Muslim who commits suicide bombing in Allah’s name is guaranteed the pleasures of the heavenly realm?  It does not only sound odd but is illogical and irrational.  You know this is not reflective of the truth, even by simple inference.

In the same way, ascribing evil to someone who does not engage in killing, lying, stealing, sexual misconduct and indulging in intoxicating substances that lead to heedlessness and unmindfulness and for simply not subscribing to your idea of good, will not only cause harm to that individual but also guarantee darkness of ignorance and delusion for oneself.

Think about it.  Why would they be evil if they do not do any of those things in thought, word or deed?  Does prayer and praying equal a blanket justification to harm others?  Thinking this to be so is not only conceited and absurd but also extremely deluded and harmful to oneself and others.

In Indra’s net,  the reality of each element within it is dependent upon the reflection from everything else in it.  Reality is  each other’s reflection.  If you project good or evil to somebody, it will reflect itself back to and in you as you have conceived that thought in you.

Otherwise, if you project good upon others, a corresponding resultant force will also return and be projected back in the course of time.  This is an immutable law of nature.  It is unfailing.   Even the beings of the heavenly realms understand this and they conform to it effortlessly with knowledge of its consequences if violated.

Mind is the forerunner of everything.  Be mindful and do not leave this mind untended.

This is the way of mindfulness.  Be aware of its movement and, like the mirror which allows everything to be reflected back without distorting its shape/form, remain still.

This recent advice from a great teacher: “Whatever path our activity takes, if our intention is to make ourselves useful to others, there is a good chance our conduct will be useful; whereas activities generally considered to be good, such as the practice of religion, risk causing more harm than good if they are not motivated by a desire to help our fellow beings.”

Humane Attitude To Death

In many countries, death is generally looked upon as a tragedy.  It is an event marked by an extravagant display of powerful, raw emotions called grief, and elicits sympathy and condolences from acquaintances, both near and far.  Viewed dispassionately from a distance, it looks like an orgy of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Death is the opposite of life, they say.  This attitude solidifies the idea of the unjust nature of death, as the epitome of all that is evil and undesirable.    In such times, it is often heard said that death is the work of hell.  But this is not quite accurate, in fact, not at all.

Death is as ubiquitous as birth itself and every known living creature, good or bad, young or old, beautiful or ugly must go through it, sooner or later; and in Buddhism, this event does not spare even the celestial beings though their lives may span aeons to seem like an eternity.  Yet without enlightenment, the Deathless State is not attained even by God.

In the West where I had lived for 10 years, death is a taboo subject, with most people continuing to live their lives as if their own deaths would never come.  The person who dares mention death is considered morbid.  Death is a topic unfit for conversation or discussion.  If one mentioned it, it is often couched in indirect and obscure language which, in the long run, is not a compassionate way of dealing with the reality of death.  This attitude does not prepare one to face death’s inevitability with wisdom and compassion.

Instead, shock, disbelief and denial are the hallmarks of this attitude when confronted by mortality.   People are upset when a young person dies, even more so if it’s a child.  The general uproar often heard is, ‘this should never happen; it is not the normal course of things.’  But reality dictates otherwise, as it occurs naturally more often than we realize.

And because of this, our distorted perceptions are reflected in our beliefs and our everyday dealings which further reinforce our confusion, frustration, anger and aggression, with not a glimmer of genuine wisdom and compassion.  This happens as the facts are twisted to suit one’s faith and one’s faith is not adapted to reflect the facts.  This disconnection of faith and reality creates a psychic turmoil within an individual which further triggers frustration, anger and hatred, culminating in a full-blown crisis seemingly beyond one’s control.

Life is a learning process.  Being truly human is a rare event in the cosmos.  A human has the capacity to understand and see reality as it is – not how he wants it to be, but how it really is, and then act accordingly.  The attitude of wanting to tame and then dominate nature is an unfortunate expression of unenlightened behavior.   Nature is not the enemy.  Rather, we are our own worst enemy.

A language student who happened to be a doctor recounted that her mother was so scared of death that she refused to view or go near the remains of dead acquaintances.  Said mother was in her advanced 60s, and no amount of persuasion could relieve her of this phobia.

The French philosopher Voltaire said that if one wants to know the mathematical concept of infinity, one only needs to look at the extent of man’s stupidity.   One has seen the ravages of man’s own rapacity and ignorance, their direct impact on the environment, enough to make you think: there must be an alternative, a more humane, and enlightened way.  And there is, if one cares to look.

Ajahn Brahm, who is a Buddhist monk residing in Australia, once mentioned in one of his now famous lectures on the internet, about an incident that occurred in England.

A mother went inside the temple where people were attending a Buddhist ceremony on a warm, sunny day.  She left her sleeping boy inside the car and locked it to ensure that her child was secure and undisturbed.  While everyone was inside the temple, the car overheated and burst into flames, consuming the car and everything in it.  The mother, in dazed confusion and grief, as with everyone else there, could only manage to ask why this happened.  And the officiating monk of the now disrupted ceremony replied, “ Because, he was born.”  From a western perspective, this may sound callous but with more discernment, it was the most compassionate expression at that moment.

During the Buddha’s time 2,600 years ago, a similar incident occurred – a young child died and its mother, Kisa Gotami, was stricken with such grief it drove her to the brink of madness.  This incident triggered a whole series of events that eventually led her to meet the Buddha, whose skillful handling of her request of bringing back her dead son’s body back to life with one mustard seed coming from a house that had not experienced death, in time, led her to the realization of the futility of finding the elixir of life, and this understanding further steered her to renounce worldly life by entering the order of nuns, and finally to gain enlightenment.  She became one of the most illustrious women disciples of the Buddha.

Birth is the consequence of death and vice-versa.  Death is not the opposite of life.  Rather, life is the matrix upon which birth and death intertwine or are entangled.

By not seeing life as an enemy to be subdued, but rather as a friendly tool for learning its hidden lessons through direct experience, one therefore reaches the Deathless State of which the scriptures speak of – without the intervention of any divinity, but only by dint of one’s efforts.

Life gives both positive and negative experiences.  What matters is not wallowing even farther into these experiences, but what one’s attitude towards them is, and more importantly, what one does with the experience.  A setback when viewed as a positive teacher becomes a friend.  And so, should our attitude be towards death.

Apprise Oneself With Appraise

Wayback in 1996 somewhere in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, a male executive secretary was being discreetly tested for his suitability to the position by the incoming General Manager in the presence of the outgoing one.

The word appraise was pronounced and, then advanced by the latter to mean to inform or notify, such as in this sample sentence,  ‘He apprised me of the changes in the company’s organizational structure.’  Apprise was deliberately voiced as though one were enunciating appraise.  So, when the transcription and the printed sheet came with the spelling apprise, he was told that it needed to be corrected and exchanged with appraise without a moment’s thought

He rolled his eyes, mentally asking himself if he could possibly apprise someone, as diplomatically and as calmly as possible, about the intricacies of the word appraise when the same person who needed apprising could not appraise the whole situation with a calm and lucid appraisal.

Incidentally as per the dictionary, appraise means to assess, measure, or evaluate, among other denotations, but it does not extend to notifying, informing or instructing.

And so, having used the lexis countless times in the past, the subordinate refused to amend his spelling even when urged, or more precisely, ordered to do so, as indeed, the proper usage and sense, as was given in the sample sentence, should really be the word apprise.

This episode was referred to the secretarial pool of all the various departments and naturally, this went all the way up to their respective Senior Managers for arbitration, and the verdict luckily returned in his favor.

The moral of this event is that one cannot appraise someone of something, but one can certainly apprise another of something.  A person could justifiably be appraised for something he did, in consequence of which, he was thoroughly apprised of the ensuing appraisal.

Example :            He apprised his superior of the reservations the rest of the managerial pool made regarding the drastic changes introduced recently in their respective areas of direct influence, which he then appraised as just a kneejerk, though understandable, reaction to a truly legitimate and necessary policy realignment on his part .

Clarity and simplicity would also be best served by incorporating alternative words that mean exactly the same thing, in short, replacing it with a synonym that mirrors it closely.  To cite the above example, one could rephrase it in this vein:

He informed his superior of the reluctance the rest of the management team were harboring about the sudden changes he made recently in their respective territories, which he then evaluated as just a hasty, though understandable, response to an indispensable and required policy adjustment from his office.

Lastly, it should also be emphasized that the author had direct experience of the above incidents.

The Boddhisattva As A Concept

The Boddhisattva ideal is a concept that was articulated and spread by later disciples after the historical Buddha left this planet physically.  Such a being is the “spontaneous display of wisdom and compassion” benefitting other beings  just as they are.

A Boddhisattva , although not explicitly emphasized in the early teachings of the historical Buddha, is one who endeavors to benefit other sentient beings by helping them, even gradually and painstakingly, find the path to enlightenment.  This manifestation is imbued by a sentiment of pure altruism, which would motivate him/ her even to deliberately delay his/her own liberation from the clutches of samsara in order to render the balm of relief to myriads of suffering beings.  This act of generosity is reflected in the Buddha’s resolve immediately after his enlightenment when he decided,  past a moment’s hesitation, to teach his discovery of the true nature of reality, if only for the sake of those beings with “less dust in their eyes.”  For he saw that those who were in the throes of pleasure and pain could not possibly see a way out of their predicament.  This prescription  to relieve  suffering is embodied in his teachings of the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble 8-Fold Path.

In the Jataka tales, it is said that in one of the appearances of the Buddha-to-be as a hell-being in consequence of inflicting harm to his mother during a prior incarnation as a human being, that action alone of inflicting pain upon his own mother caused him to be reborn in hell.  When he reached the hell realm, he witnessed another hell-being undergoing unspeakable torture who told him that it was foretold that he would soon be relieved from this relentless torment and death by someone who would arrive that moment.  He asked the other being how long he had suffered this fate and was informed that he had been there for some 500 years.   Witnessing this unmitigated horror, compassion arose in the Buddha-to-be who offered himself to endure 7 times the duration of this torment if it would prevent others from experiencing  the same fate, at which time the instrument of torture disintegrated and he died right there and then, as this compassionate gesture could not be contained by  hell, where only the operative principles of anger and hatred prevail.  Immediately thereafter, he was reborn in the heavenly realm for aeons, followed by countless other auspicious rebirths which paved the way towards his enlightenment, that is, until he was finally reborn as a human being and all the requisite factors for the event of enlightenment were ultimately fulfilled.  This tale illustrates the Boddhisattva’s compassion which Buddhists, mainly in the Mahayana tradition, idealize and emulate.

Wisdom and compassion are the hallmarks of a Buddha and these characteristics verily apply to countless other Boddhisattvas, irrespective of religious persuasions.

In China and Japan, a Boddhisattva called the Avalokiteshvara, is often depicted with a thousand arms, each arm bearing a different salve for one specific (form of) suffering.  This is why devout Chinese Buddhists would never dare to kill and cut the ‘arms’ of the octopus;  the Boddhisattva needs all his/her arms to extend relief from suffering to  all sentient beings.

What’s The Word Hot Up To

Hot is now a commonly used expression to signify sexy, sizzling, even ‘biting’ in a sensual/sexual kind of way.

The original meaning of hot can be ascribed to a string of synonyms like burning, scorching, boiling, blistering, sizzling, searing, warm.  It can also extend to sweltering, stifling, muggy, sultry, boiling, oppressive.  Further on, it denotes spicy, peppery, piquant, pungent, fiery, strong.  Lastly in the passionate sense, it can mean fierce, vehement, emotional, strong, intense, excitable, angry, ardent, fervent, stormy.

It’s easy to figure out that the now popular, trendy connotation comes from the above list of possible words, particularly sizzling, searing, sultry, fiery, intense, ardent, fervent, strong.  The last, when attached to an attraction or an appreciation of another person’s physical or even psychic attributes would most definitely refer to sexual desirability, as in strong sex appeal.  Also, a woman is sultry when she possesses an intense stare and a curvaceous body to go with it, isn’t she?

Due to its current evolution and constant use, people associate the word with just about anything that denotes any of the above.

But returning to its original significance, hot refers to something burning like fire, the boiling water or the scorching heat of the sun, for example.   In the course of time, it became associated with everything else connected to the 5 senses.

A dish is hot when it contains Mexican chilis or similar spices or equivalent condiments from any part of the globe.  Thai dishes are known to be hot, that is, peppery, pungent or piquant, the last word coming from the French verb piquer which means to bite, as in “Une moustique me pique (3rd person singular conjugation of the verb in the present tense) –A mosquito is biting/bites me”.  In referring to a dish in France, you’d hear, “Ça pique”, which, when translated literally, means “It bites”, that is, it has a peppery aftertaste.  Piquant is the French present participle form, and literally translated simply  equals “biting”.

The sun, and its generated heat can also be depicted as hot, particularly when pointing to its noonday manifestation.  Thus, it would be equally appropriate to label it the scorching, blistering, sweltering, oppressive, intense, or even fiery heat of the solar star, most notably the desert sun at noon where temperatures could hover beyond 50 degrees Celsius.  Come to think of it, you’re already half-way through scalding water there.

This description also extends to the weather ;  hot, in the sense of warm and humid/sticky, is muggy.  This would definitely  apply to the climatic conditions found in the tropics, mainly Africa and Southeast Asia during certain periods of the year.  A stormy weather is frequently accompanied by a hot and humid climate pattern.

A man who is hot-tempered is said to be fierce, vehement, emotional, excitable, angry, even stormy.  His mood swings are reflective of the tropical storm, as opposed to the even-tempered, mild or calm demeanor of a more gentle man.

Indeed,  hot heats you up cool! But that’s another story.

My thoughts on the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill In My Home Country

The debate on the RH bill has not been done with wisdom and compassion on the part of both parties, which are the Church and the State:

The Church, for not having the humility to undertake a reasoned inquiry and investigation into the validity of their arguments as opposed to scientific facts, and for not taking into consideration the opinions of other people of various cultural and religious persuasions and

The State, for failing to inform and educate the masses beyond the scope of their own emotional attachments.

We are still caught in the Christian paradigm of the Dark Ages, or at least in the institutions that claim to represent it, which has repeatedly discredited itself in the course of  human history by its own actions.  I do not have to enumerate these transgressions against the very tenets it (the church institution) is supposed to uphold and protect, which it cannot or pretends to justify, such as the torture and imprisonment of those who opposed the church’s doctrinal definitions during the Council of Constantinople and various other councils that ensued periodically after it; the gruesome murder of millions of Cathars, men, women and children who were subjected to systematic torture and interrogation in France and Italy in the Dark and Middle Ages of European history or the witch hunts and demonization of a segment of the population, all this, for not adhering to their doctrinal dictates and/or for not conforming to their jumble of verbiage; the Spanish Inquisition which was the institutionalized official torturer cum murderer of the Catholic Church despite the denial and protestations of innocence to the contrary by the latter; the  silent, systematic abuse of children, mostly orphans by priests and nuns of said institution and that have only surfaced in this era; and such other crimes that one could catalog ad infinitum if they could only be exposed to the light of day.  But what is astounding is that they still consider themselves the bastion of moral integrity and protector of human rights??!!!

And now this, the RH bill which is taken to new heights of irrationality.  They want to determine and impose their view through coercion, and not to reasoned and scientific inquiry of the righteousness of their cause.  The debate is lopsided because the argument of superiority of numbers and not reason is made the proof of the validity of their argument.  The triumphalism of the opposing block that ensues is so shameful to behold, especially as they have not offered a concrete alternative to the issue that determines the course of our destiny as a nation. This is nothing short  of mob rule.

However, for those who still have reason and truth as their prime direction, allow me to articulate some rational approach to this issue that should also be acceptable to the scientific world.  I hope that there still remains a sincere desire to search for the truth in the hearts of our people and  then, the will to uphold and promote it with calm and collected minds.

On the idea that a human being is being murdered when a person practices contraception is rather stretching belief  beyond irrationality.  How can there be a human being in the millions of sperm and the egg  that have not yet united?  In Eastern philosophy, a jiva or a unit entity is only constituted into a new being once a stream of consciousness (soc) or in your case as Christians, a soul, has descended into the womb of the mother and, not before.

The embryo is not yet fully human when it does not have this most important element integrated into its constitution.  This descent does not happen immediately after conception as the union of sperm and egg has still to undergo cytosis or cell division and would take several days to a few weeks to complete.  At most, the soc will hover around the mother until a congenial environment for its descent is fulfilled.

A woman who was raped or was forced into this union against her will can, and must still be guaranteed the freedom of choice to decide on this matter that pertains to her own well-being.  As to the argument that it is God’s will, I am tempted not to dignify this with an answer as it is evident that such a deity who would allow such conditions to arise has no say in what is appropriate and not appropriate.  Otherwise, that deluded deity would be the epitome of abuse and evil and is not even worthy of respect, let alone of worship.

A stream of consciousness or a soul may choose to descend into a mother’s womb starting from a few days and even up to the final stages of conception.  If there is no stream of consciousness by then, the child will be delivered stillborn.  During the 9-month period that it had no mindstream, it is kept “alive” by the mother’s own nourishment and not by anything else.

In the final analysis, it is the mother and her intuitive or instinctive mind who can determine if a being is already in the womb or not, not the priests who have no practical experience of conception, not the Pope no matter how seemingly or actually holy he may be, not God, who does not, by virtue of his own inadequacies, could possibly determine it.  These personages may sometimes, though rarely, condition it but they can never determine anything pertaining this event due to these same limitations.  They must accept with humility that they cannot determine  the destiny of others as they themselves cannot determine their own for as long as they are not enlightened.

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