Beyond Belief

My latest article, Beyond Belief, is up at SHIFT magazine as part of its ninth edition. Check out the whole magazine! And if you like what you read, or prefer to read hard copy, please get this issue as a digital download (beautiful magazine layout) or sign up for an annual subscription (6 issues).

meditation3

I‘m not spiritual. Really.

People often ask me if, in my self-proclaimed state of joyful pessimism and contemplative gratitude, I’ve finally discovered spirituality.

I insist that I have not.

Just about everyone I know who self-identifies as “spiritual” also believes our civilization will somehow be ‘saved’ from collapse (by science or technology, or the market, or wise leadership, or human ingenuity, or by a god or gods, or by a massive human consciousness-raising). What good is a ‘spirit’, after all, if he/she/it can’t save you from perceived disaster?

No thank you, no salvation needed here…

Read the whole article at SHIFT.

(image from a Deva Premal fan video, original source uncited)

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5 Responses to Beyond Belief

  1. Michael Murphy says:

    I practice Nichiren Buddhism with the SGI and don’t consider myself spiritual either. I don’t hear your opinions about spirituality “borderline Buddhist”, I hear them as completely Buddhist. Buddhism rejects spirituality, it does not accept the western notion of soul or spirit. All phenomena are inseparably matter (appearance) and non-matter (nature) integrated by a consistent underlying process which cannot be defined as existence or non-existence (essence). Using water as an example, its appearance is clear and liquid, its nature is life supporting and cleansing, and its essence is the potentiality that underlies the change of separate hydrogen and oxygen into water. Spirituality is a weak catch phrase for emotion which when used philosophically interferes with the recognition of the true aspect of reality. The title of the Lotus Sutra (widely considered the highest teaching in Buddhism) in Japanese is Myoho Renge Kyo. A literal translation is Mystic Law of the Lotus Teaching. But Kyo, teaching, philosophically means inter-connection, and the Lotus blossom represents the simultaneity of cause and effect. Therefore a brief translation or Myoho Renge Kyo is that the complex inter-connected nature of the everything is ultimately mysterious and beyond comprehension and that as part of this flux we each either reinforce old trends or initiate new trends as we respond to the present effects of our own past causes. Doesn’t that pretty much sum up what you said in the SHIFT article?

    Everyone has the right to be happy; but what is happiness and how can one attain it? Buddhism teaches that an indestructible condition of happiness resides within the life of every human being. This condition, called Buddhahood or enlightenment, is characterized by infinite wisdom, compassion and joy. Like any human potential, though, this condition needs stimulus or practice to bring it forth. Practice requires no belief, but practice itself is a natural expression of faith, i.e, “Let me try such and such action and see what happens.” Faith need not be doctrinaire or a suppression of reason with forced emotional appeals. Faith need simply be practice. Faith is as simple as placing ones feet upon the floor in the morning with the expectation that the floor will support your weight. Faith must be rewarded with benefit in daily life. If faith does not provide benefit then the object of faith is faulty and should be changed. The power of faith, though, is itself natural and neutral.

  2. liliana says:

    From: Oneness, Enlightenment, And The Mystical Experience · by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad

    […]
    ” The actual experience of underlying unity is different from thought creating an abstract concept of it, and then making that concept more real than individuated existence. What should not be forgotten is that it takes an individual to experience unity. Oneness is an abstraction that presents itself as beyond dualism, but has within it a hidden duality. Dividing the cosmos into two categories or levels of reality is dualistic by nature. The ideology of Oneness (as opposed to the experience of it) creates an opposition with multiplicity, calling itself “higher” and more real. And although the mystical experience can give a person a deeper connection with the cosmos, by contrast the ideology of Oneness with its camouflaged, hierarchical dualism has separated the spiritual from the worldly and humanity from nature.”

    http://www.american-buddha.com/oneness.enlight.htm

  3. liliana says:

    From: Oneness, Enlightenment, And The Mystical Experience · by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad

    […]
    “ The actual experience of underlying unity is different from thought creating an abstract concept of it, and then making that concept more real than individuated existence. What should not be forgotten is that it takes an individual to experience unity. Oneness is an abstraction that presents itself as beyond dualism, but has within it a hidden duality. Dividing the cosmos into two categories or levels of reality is dualistic by nature. The ideology of Oneness (as opposed to the experience of it) creates an opposition with multiplicity, calling itself “higher” and more real. And although the mystical experience can give a person a deeper connection with the cosmos, by contrast the ideology of Oneness with its camouflaged, hierarchical dualism has separated the spiritual from the worldly and humanity from nature.”

    http://www.american-buddha.com/oneness.enlight.htm

  4. liliana says:

    Please excuse the repetition, my computer is doing mischief.

  5. Earl Mardle says:

    As one who has been attracted to Buddhism, I disagree about the rejection of spirituality. However, that encumbers me for a definition. Spiritual means to me that the belief system is based on untestable assertions, very often couched in metaphor.

    So, unless I can derive the “simultaneity of cause and effect” from investigation of the Lotus blossom, then it is a metaphor and, by definition, a spiritual perspective at work.

    “Buddhism teaches that an indestructible condition of happiness resides within the life of every human being”. It teaches that, but what does it mean to reside in a life? I reside in my life perhaps, but to assert that in this state something indestructible, ie infinite is as absurd as those who believe in permanent growth in an economy. And BTW, how does the life of a human being differ from that of a plant or animal? And if not, how does that happiness reside in the life of a cabbage?

    The real clue, however, is your assertion that “the complex inter-connected nature of the everything is ultimately mysterious and beyond comprehension”. The words “ultimate”, “mysterious” and “beyond comprehension” are the language of the spiritual.

    And, like Dave, I am not. I would go so far as to say that a predisposition for spirituality is a precondition for the acceptance of any “belief system”. I work hard at smashing any such tendency in myself so that I can be free to switch that paradigm to another, more grounded on at any moment.

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