Insights Into Human Nature & The Human Condition

I want to continue, flesh out, and give some concreteness to that which I shared in this  post: What Is Our Fundamental Nature? Is It All Made Up?  What better way to do that than share the insights of ‘sensitive’ human being (Ted Simon) who spent four years travelling around the world on a motorbike in order to come face to face with life, and experience-feel all that goes with being truly alive:

The concept of the Self seemed to connect with my own thought …. of being made of the stuff of the universe, all pervading and imperishable.  The Truth was in the stuff itself, revealed in the natural order of things.You have only to merge with the world to know the Truth and find your Self. 

There are shapes and forms which arise out of the natural order. Trees, caves and animal architecture lead naturally to thatched roofs, stone houses and mud walls. If you knew this you would not choose to put up a roof in corrugated iron. Nor would you think of throwing a plastic bag in a stream, not because of what you have been told about pollution, but because the idea of a plastic bag is offensive in itself. Without this sense of what is naturally fitting you can be cleaning up the world with one hand and spreading poison with the other.

It surprised me to discover that this sense of rightness does not appear naturally in people, even though they live in the heart of nature. In my own village in France the same people who fished the stream shoved every possible kind of refuse and sewerage into them, even when offered a convenient alternative. In Nepal, where not a single engine or power line disturbs the mediaeval rusticity of the Himalayan valleys, people shit in the rivers with a dogmatic persistence ensuring that every village is infected by what the people upstream have got.

The Truth obviously does not reveal itself unaided to humans. It has to be uncovered by an effort of consciousness. Or, more likely, it exists only in human consciousness. Without man to recognise it, there is no Truth, no God.

Yet it is not consciousness that governs the world, nor even ideology, nor religious principle nor national temperament. It is custom that rules the roost. In Colombia it was custom to do murder and violence. In a period of ten years some 200,000 people were said to have been killed by acts of more or less private violence. Yet I found the Colombians at least as hospitable, honourable and humane, as the Argentines, whose custom is merely to chat. Arabs have the custom of showing their emotions and hiding their women. In Sudan it is customary to be honest. In Thailand dishonesty is virtually a custom, but so is giving gifts to strangers. 

Every possible variation of nudity and prudishness is the custom somewhere as with eating habits, toilet practices, to spit or not to spit; and almost all of these customs have become entirely arbitrary and self-perpetuating. Above all it is customary to suspect and despise people in the next valley, or state, or country, especially if their colour or religion is different. And there are places where it is customary to be at war, like Kurdistan or Vietnam.

Speaking of the more vicious customs, and of men who should have known better, St Francis Xavier  said a long time ago: ‘Custom is to them in the place of law, and what they see done before them every day they persuade themselves may be done without sin. For customs bad in themselves seem to these men to acquire authority and prescription from the fact they are commonly practiced.’

Custom is the enemy of awareness, in individuals as much as in societies. It regularises the fears and cravings of everyday life. I wanted to shake them off. I wanted to use this journey to see things whole and clear, for I would never pass this way again. I wanted to be rid of the conditioning of habit and custom. To be the slave of custom, at any level, is much like being  a monkey, an ‘ape of the wayward senses’. To rise above it is already something like becoming a god.

Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

Who Do You Want To Be?

We are given to search for recipes, formulas, instructions, and methods. And there is a place for recipes and formulas. If I am new to baking a cake then having a recipe at hand makes a difference.  If I need to get from A to B then the GPS will provide me with the step by step instructions to get from A to B, most of the time.

When it comes to life itself recipes, formulas, instructions and methods don’t work that well.  At best they are hit and miss.  I am not you, you are not me. And neither you nor I can step into the same river twice: we are not the same, the river is not the same.  What works for me may not work for you. What occurs as being a good fit for me may not be a good fit for you.  What leaves me inspired may not leave you inspired.

When it comes to living an authentic life, or living powerfully, or living an ‘extraordinary’ life questions are the access.  With the context set, I invite you to listen to Arnold Schwarznegger.  Why?  Because, he puts forth one of the most powerful questions for inventing a life, an authentic life, a life that matters, a transformed life. This video is only 3-4 minutes and is packed with wisdom.

For Saima: it’s ALL you

Hello little sister, I get that you did not get our conversation today.  With that in mind I have found a parable that may better convey what I clearly was not able to convey to you today.  To make sense of the parable it is worth knowing that there is tradition in Japanese Zen which can be best described as ‘trading dialogue for shelter’.  If a wandering monk wishes to stay the night then he can do so provided he wins the dialogue.  And even if he does win the debate he can only stay for one night and then must move on. The monastery referred to in the parable is run by two monks who are brothers.  The older brother is highly educated.  The younger brother is not educated – he is simple and has only one eye.  Here is the parable:

“One evening a wandering monk came to ask for lodging (for the night). The elder brother was very tired as he had been studying for many hours….

So he told his younger brother to go and take the debate. “Request that the dialogue be in silence,” said the elder brother.

A little later the wandering monk (the traveller) came to the elder brother and said, “What a wonderful fellow your brother is.  He has won the debate very cleverly and so I must on. Good night.”

“Before you go,” said the elder brother, “please relate the dialogue to me.”

“Well,” said the wandering monk, “first I held up one finger to represent the Buddha.  Then your brother held up two to represent the Buddha and his teaching.  So I held up three fingers to represent Buddha, his teaching and his followers. Then your clever brother shook his clenched fist in my face to indicate that all three come from one realisation.”  With that the wandering monk left.

A little while later the younger brother came in looking distressed.  “I understand you won the debate,” said the elder brother.  “Won nothing,” said the younger brother, ‘that wandering monk is a very rude man!”

“Oh!” said the elder brother, “Tell me the subject of the debate.”

“Why,” said the younger brother, “the moment he saw me he held up one finger insulting me by indicating that I have only one eye.  But I thought as he is a stranger I’d be polite, so I held up two fingers to congratulate him on having two eyes.  At this the impolite wretch held up three fingers to indicate that between us we have only three eyes.  So I got mad and threatened to punch his nose – so he went.” 

The elder brother laughed.

Saima, there is immense wisdom in this parable and I do hope that you get it.  Great if you get it, great if you do not get it – all is whole, complete and perfect just as it is and just as it is not.

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