Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

  • Vagabonding defined:
    • The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time.
    • A privately meaningful manner of travel that emphasizes creativity, adventure, awareness, simplicity, discovery, independence, realism, self-reliance, and the growth of the spirit.
    • A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible.
    • Latin-derived term that refers to a wanderer with no fixed home.
    • Vagabonding has always been a private choice within a society that is constantly urging us to do otherwise.
  • This book views long-term travel not as an escape but as an adventure and a passion – a way of overcoming your fears and living life to the fullest.

Research your own experiences for the truth… Absorb what is useful… Add what is specifically your own… The creating individual is more than any style or system. – Bruce Lee

  • Out of insane duty to fear, fashion, and monthly payments on things we don’t really need – we quarantine our travels to short, frenzied bursts. In this way, as we throw our wealth at an abstract notion called “lifestyle,” travel becomes just another accessory – a smooth-edged, encapsulated experience that we purchase the same way we buy clothing and furniture.
    • Ultimately, this shotgun wedding of time and money has a way of keeping us in a holding pattern. The more we associate experience with cash value, the more we think money is what we need to live. And the more we associate money with life, the more we convince ourselves that we are too poor to buy our freedom.
    • In reality, long-term travel has nothing to do with demographics – age, ideology, income – and everything to do with personal outlook.
    • Vagabonding is about using the prosperity and possibility of the information age to increase your personal options instead of your personal possessions.
    • Vagabonding is about looking for adventure in normal life, and normal life within adventure.

[We end up spending] the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it. – Henry David Thoreau

  • … rooting ourselves to a home or a career and using the future as a kind of phony ritual that justifies the present.
  • Vagabonding is the ongoing practice of looking and learning, of facing fears and altering habits, of cultivating new fascination with people and places.
    • Vagabonding is a personal act that demands only realignment of self.

And they say in truth that a man is made of desire. As his desire is, so is his faith. As his faith is, so are his works. As his works are, so he becomes. – The Supreme Teaching of the Upanishads

Which would have advanced the most at the end of a month? The boy who made his own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for this – or the body who had… received a Rodger’s penknife from his father? Which would be most likely to cut his fingers? – Henry David Thoreau

  • [Trustafarians] Because they never worked for their freedom, their travel experiences have no personal reference – no connection to the rest of their lives.
    • They are spending plenty of time and money on the road, but they never spent enough of themselves to begin with. Thus, their experience of travel has a diminished sense of value.
  • The “meaningful” part of travel always starts at home, with a personal investment in the wonders to come.
  • Work is how you settle your financial and emotional debts – so that your travels are not an escape from your real life but a discovery of your real life.

Wanting to travel reflects a positive attitude. You want to see, to grow in experience, and presumably to become more whole as a human being. Vagabonding takes this a step further: it promotes the chances of sustaining and strengthening this positive attitude. As a vagabond, you begin to face your fear now and then instead of continuously sidestepping them in the name of convenience. You build an attitude that makes the life more rewarding, which in turn makes it easier to keep doing it. It’s called positive feedback, and it works. – Ed Buryn, Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa

  • However you choose to fund your travel freedom, keep in mind that your work is an active part of your travel attitude.

We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis. – Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

  • List the job skills travel has taught you: independence, flexibility, negotiation, planning, boldness, self-sufficiency, improvisation.

A lot of us first aspired to far-ranging travel and exotic adventure early in our teens; these ambitions are, in fact, adolescent in nature, which I find an inspiring idea… Thus, when we allow ourselves to imagine as we once did, we know, with a sudden jarring clarity, that if we don’t go right now, we’re never going to do it. And we’ll be haunted by our unrealized dreams and know that we have sinned against ourselves gravely. – Tim Cahill, Exotic Places Made Me Do  It

  • …travel allows you to experience the nuances of the world in a way that mass media never will.
  • Indeed, the freedom to go vagabonding has never been determined by income level; it’s fund through simplicity – the conscious decision of how to use what income you have.
    • Simplicity merely requires a bit of personal sacrifice: an adjustment of your habits and routines within consumer society itself.
    • At times, the biggest challenge in embracing simplicity will be the vague feeling of isolation that comes with it, since private sacrifice doesn’t garner much attention in the frenetic world of mass culture.

Our crude civilization engenders a multitude of wants… Our forefathers forges chains of duty and habit, which bind us notwithstanding our boasted freedom, and we ourselves in desperation, add link to link, groaning and making medicinal laws for relief. – John Muir, Kindred and Related Spirits

… the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want… general junk you always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of [it] impersonal in a system of work, produce, consume. – Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

  • … neither self nor wealth can be measured in terms of what you consume or own.

[Seeking happiness in one’s material desires is absurd as] suffering because a banana tree will not bear mangos. – Buddha

  • Despite several millennia of such warnings, however, there is still an overwhelming social compulsion – an insanity of consensus, if you will – to get rich from life rather than live richly, to “do well” in the world instead of living well.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing. – Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

By switching to a new game, which in this case involves vagabonding, time becomes the only possession and everyone is equally rich in it by biological inheritance. Money, of course, is still needed to survive, but time is what you need to live. So, save what little money you possess to meet basic survival requirements, but spend your time lavishly in order to create the life values that make the fire worth the candle. – Ed Buryn

Travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move: one the road, we often live more simply, with no more possession than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance. This is what Camus meant when he said that “what gives value to travel is fear.” – disruption, in other words (or emancipation), from circumstance and all the habits behind which we hide. – Pico Iyer, Why We Travel

  • There are three general methods to simplifying your life: stopping expansion, reining in your routine, and reducing clutter.

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

  • Vagabonding is, was, and always will be a private undertaking – and its goal is to improve your life not in relation to your neighbors but in relation to yourself.
  • Indeed, not only does simplicity save you money and buy you time; it also makes you more adventuresome, forces you into sincere contact with locals, and allows you the independence to follow your passions and curiosities down exciting new roads.

My greatest skill has been to want little. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

  • Vagabonding is not just a process of discovering the world but a way of seeing – an attitude that prepares you to find the things you weren’t looking for.

It is fatal to know too much at the outset; boredom comes as quickly to the traveler who knows his routes as the novelist who is overcertain of his plot. – Paul Theroux, To the Ends of the Earth

  • The key to preparation is to strike a balance between knowing what’s out there and being optimistically ignorant.
  • The gift of the information age is knowing your options – not your destiny – and those people who plan their travels with the idea of eliminating all uncertainty and unpredictability are missing out on the whole point of leaving home in the first place.
  • The goal of preparation is not knowing exactly where you’ll go but being confident nonetheless that you’ll get there. This means that your attitude will be more important than your itinerary, and that the simple willingness to improvise more vital, in the long run, than research.

Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity… no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

  • A lot of media information – especially day-to-day news – should be approached with a healthy amount of skepticism. This is because so many media outlets are more in the business of competing for your attention than giving you a balanced picture of the world.

A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving. – Laozi, The Way of Life

  • Human-centered adventures

When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to practical bum is not difficult. He has built-in garden of reason to choose from. Next he must plan his trip in time and space, choose a direction and a destination. – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgment. The traveler was a student of what he sought. – Paul Fussell, Abroad

  • … moderate the amount of time you spend online as you travel – since nothing stifles your vagabonding flexibility quite like the compulsive urge to stay connected to the modern world.
  • Vagabonding is not like bulk shopping: The value of our travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home – and the slow, nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty counties.
  • Never underestimate your ability to learn and adapt quickly – and don’t waste time fretting about every possibility that might come your way on the road.
    • Simple courage is worth far more than detailed logistics, and a confident, positive, ready-to-learn attitude will make up for any travel savvy you lack at the outset.

Travel, there is no path
path are made by walking. – Antonio Machado, Cantores

  • Buddhists believe that we live our everyday lives as if inside an eggshell. Just a an unhatched chicken has few clues about what life is truly like, most of us are only vaguely aware of the greater world that surrounds us.

Excitement and depression, fortune and misfortune, pleasure and pain are storms in a tiny, private, shell-bound realm – which we take to be the whole fo existence. Yet we can break out of this shell and enter a new world. – Eknath Easwaran

Travel in general, vagabonding in particular, produces an awesome density of experiences… a cramming together of incidents, impressions and life detail that is both stimulating and exhausting. So much new and different happens to you so frequently, just when you’re most sensitive to it… You may be excited, bored, confused, desperate and amazed all in the same happy day. – Ed Buryn

I don’t want to hurry it. That itself is a poisonous twentieth-century attitude. When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things. – Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

  • At home, you’re conditioned to get to the point and get things done, to favor goals and efficiency over moment-by-moment distinction.

When you travel you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak.. You begin to be more accessible to others, because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. – Paulo Coelho

Did you think you should enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed before you? – The Koran

  • In other words, tourist attractions are defined by their collective popularity, and that very popularity tends to devalue the individual experience of such attractions.

The practice of soulful travel is to discover the overlapping point between history and everyday life, the way to find the essence of every place, every day: In the markets, small chapels, out-of-the-way parks, craft shops. Curiosity about the extraordinary in the ordinary moves the heart of the traveler intent on seeing behind the veil of tourism. – Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

Bear in mind that the special advantage of vagabonding is the experience not really knowing what happens next, which you can obtain at bargain rates in all cases… The challenges you face offer no alternative but to cope them. And doing that , your life is being lived fully. – Ed Buryn, Vagabonding in Europe and North America

We see as we are. – The Buddha

Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own countrymen, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untraveled minds. – Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon

We do not need to understand other people and their customs fully to interact with them and learn in the process; it is making the effort to interact without knowing all the rules, improvising certain situations, that allow us to grow. – Mary Catherine Bateson, Peripheral Visions

We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazards, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment no matter what. – George Santayana, The Philosophy of Travel

Exploration is not so much a covering surface distance as a study in depth: a fleeting episode, a fragment of landscape or a remark overheard that may provide the only means of understanding and interpreting areas which would otherwise remain barren of meaning. – Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques

  • The secret of adventure is not to carefully seek it out but to travel in such a way that it finds you.
    • To do this, you first need to overcome the protective habit of home and open yourself up to unpredictability.

Explore your own higher latitude. Be a Columbus to whole new continents within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The man who is truly good and wise will bear with dinginity whatever fortune sends, and will always make the best of his circumstances. – Aristotle

We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them… How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquesioningly. Everything … we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is golden for him who has the vision to realize it as such. – Henry Miller

Our eyes find it easier on a given occasion to produce a picture already often produced, than to seize upon the divergence and novelty of an impression. It is difficult and painful for the ear to listen to anything new; we hear strange music badly. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Traveler vs. Tourist

The traveler sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see. – GK Chesterton

The traveler was active, he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. – Daniel Boorstin

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been; travelers don’t know where they’re going. – Paul Theroux

Travelers are those who leave their assumptions at home, and [tourists are] those who don’t. – Pico Iyer

  • With escape in mind, vacationers tend to approach their holiday with a grim resolve, determined to make their experience live up to their expectation; on the vagabonding road, you prepare for the long haul knowing that the predictable and the unpredictable, the pleasant and the unpleasant are not separate but part of the same ongoing reality.
  • In this way, “seeing” as you travel is somewhat of a spiritual exercise: a process not of seeking interesting surroundings, but of being continually interested in whatever surrounds you.

Most people are on the world, not in it – having no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them – undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate. – John Muir, The Wilderness World of John Muir

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. – Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

  • The best way to confront reality is not with a set method of interpretation but with a sincere attitude of open-mindedness.

Luxury, then, is a way of being ignorant, comfortably. – Leroi Jones, Political Poem

  • Cling too fiercely to your ideologies and you’ll miss the subtle realities that politics can’t address.
  • Just as skepticism should not be confused with cynicism, however, embracing realism need not be confused with falling into pessimism.

The evaluation of tourism cannot be accomplished against a static background. Some of what we see as destruction is construction. Some is the result of a lack of any other viable option; and some the result of choices that could be made differently. – Davydd J. Greenwood

  • One particular potent strain of traveler pessimism is the notion that modern influences are destroying native societies, or that certain cultures were more “real” sometimes in the not-too-distant past. According to this assumption, any given society was somehow better twenty years ago, before it was “spoiled.” What such reflexive pessimism overlooks, of course, is that societies have always changed, and that “tradition” is a dynamic phenomenon.
    • … much of concern about the evils of change within premodern culture is less an interest in the quality of local life than our own desire to experience an “untainted” culture.
    • The purest way to see a culture is simply to accept and experience it as it is now.

While I complain of being able to glimpse no more than the shadow of the past, I may be insensitive to reality as it is taking shape at this very moment… A few hundred years hence, in this same place, another traveler, as despairing as myself, will mourn the disappearance of what I might have seen, but failed to see. – Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques

The unreal never is: the Real never is not. This truth indeed has been seen by those who can see the true. – Bhagavad Gita

The drug vision remain a sort of dream that cannot be brought over into daily life. Old mist may be banished, that is true, but the alien chemical agent forms another mist, maintaining the separation of the ‘I” from the true experience of the ‘One.’ – Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

  • The problem with marijuana, however, is that it’s the travel equivalent of watching television: It replaces real sensation with artificially enhanced ones. Because it doesn’t force you to work for a feeling, it creates passive experiences that are only vaguely connected to the rest of your life.

I never took drugs because I am drugs. – Salvador Dali

  • Strive to be drugs as you travel, to patiently embrace the raw, personal sensation of unmediated reality – an experience far more affecting than any intoxicant can promise.

Often I feel I got to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am… Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of your food, your closet full of your clothes, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That’s not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating. – Michael Crichton, Travels

We all have stuck in us deep somewhere a keenness for excitement, a savoring for the kooky, a leap-for-life outlook. From this comes the catalytic impetus, without which all other requirements mean nothing. Everyday types are as likely to have this sine qua non as the obvious icon-kickers. The person who strikes off for himself is no hero, nor necessarily even unconventional, but to a greater degree than most people, he or she thinks and acts independently. The vagabond frees in himself the latent urge to live closer to the edge of experience. – Ed Buryn

  • …what most people consider “paradise” is defined in contrast to the stresses of home.
  • In knowing my possibilities, I also knew my limitations.
  • Aboriginal walkabout – walkabout acts as a kind of remedy when the duties and obligations of life cause one to lose track of his or her true self. To correct this, one merely leaves behind all possessions and starts walking.
    • There is no physical goal: It simply continues until one becomes whole again.

One must not delude oneself that we are all alike or destined to be members of some sort of global family. – Jeffrey Taylor, Ex-Peace Corps worker

  • Acknowledging differences and avoiding superficial cures is not just a valuable lesson of volunteer work – it’s often the first step in actually solving the problems that you seek to fix.

He who stays at home beside his hearth and is content with the information which he may acquire concerning his own region, cannot be on the same level as one who divides his life span between different lands and spends his days journeying in search of precious and original knowledge. – al-Masudi, The Meadows of Gold

People say that we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we are seeking is an experience of being alive. – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

[Travel as a form of asceticism] is a way of surrendering to reduced circumstances in a manner that enhances the whole person. It is a radical way of knowing exactly who, what, and where you are, in defiance of those powerful forces in society that aim to make us forget. – Kathleen Norris

  • Travel compels you to discover your spiritual side by simply elimination: Without all the rituals, routines, and possessions that give your life meaning at home, you are forced to look for meaning within yourself.
  • Words are symbols, and symbols never resonate the same for everyone.

There is no God but reality. – Sufi saying

  • it is not a declaration of unbelief. Rather, it is a warning to avoid turning inspiration into fetish and tradition into dogma; it is an admonition to never reduce the spiritual realm to the narrow borders of your own perceptions, prejudices, and ideals.

Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we sense them. The least we can do is try to be there. – Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Posted: January 16, 2012 in Quotes

One of my oldest crusades is against the distinction between thought and feelings… which is really the basis of all anti-intellectual views: the heart and the head, thinking and feeling, fantasy and judgment. We have more or less the same bodies, but very different kinds of thoughts. I believe that we think much more with the instruments provided by our culture than we do with our bodies, and hence the much greater diversity of thought in the world. Thinking is a form of feeling; feeling is a form of thinking.

– Susan Sontag

Posted: January 13, 2012 in Quotes


These are the first words of truth — not truth in quotation marks but truth in the real meaning of the word; truth which is not merely theoretical, not simply a word, but truth that can be realized in practice. The meaning behind these words may be explained as follows:

By liberation is meant the liberation which is the aim of all schools, all religions, at all times.

This liberation can indeed be very great. All men desire it and strive after it. But it cannot be attained without the first liberation, a lesser liberation. The great liberation is liberation from influences outside us. The lesser liberation is liberation from influences within us.

– G. I. Gurdjieff

Posted: December 12, 2011 in Quotes

It seems to me that understanding that our theories are the source of all our conflicts would go a long way in helping people with different belief systems to get along.

– Michael Gazzaniga

The Fine Young Man

A young man should be respectful to is parents in the home, and to his elders outside. His words should be cautious and trustworthy. He should care for people in general and seek company of benevolent men. If having accomplished these he still has energy to spare, he should study.

Understanding Others


Do not be dismayed when others don’t understand you, be dismayed when you fail to understand others.

Words and Actions


A gentleman acts before he speaks, then speaks according to his actions.

Good to All


A gentleman is the same to all without bias; a lesser man is biased without being the same to all.

Study and Contemplation


Study without contemplation leads to confusion; contemplation without study is dangerous.

A Benevolent Neighborhood


An atmosphere of benevolence makes a neighborhood attractive. How is one wise who chooses not to live among benevolence?

Residing in Benevolence


A person who is benevolent cannot live long in hardship, nor can he be happy for long. A benevolent person takes refuge in benevolence; a wise person sees benevolence as advantageous.

The Way in the Morning


If one perceives the Way in the morning, he may die content at nightfall!

The Profit Motive


He who acts according to profit, stirs up great resentment.


A gentleman understands things in terms of righteousness; a lesser man understands things in terms of profit.

Dwelling on the Past


Do not dwell on past ills done to you, and there would be little resentment against you.

The Delight of Study


The one who merely knows the value of study is not so good as the one who takes an interest in studying. The one who takes an interest in studying is not so good as the one who delights in studying.


To everyday realize all the things you don’t know; every month not forget that which you have mastered; this can be called love of learning.

Wealth and Enjoyment


If there were a sure way of acquiring wealth, I would crack a whip if that’s what it took. But since there is not, I will do  what I enjoy most.

Extravagance and Parsimony


If extravagance leads to audacity, and parsimony leads to austerity. I will choose austerity over audacity.

A Gentleman’s Freedom


A gentleman has peace of mind; a lesser man is forever on the edge.

A Gentleman’s Worries


Not cultivating virtue, not studying attentively, not acting according to righteousness, not being able to reform my own faults…These are the things I worry about.

Rectitude Leadership


Governing lies in rectitude. If you lead with rectitude, then who will dare not be upright?


When an upright person governs, people act without being given orders. When the person governing is not upright, he may give orders, but the people won’t follow him.

Lead by Example


If you want the people to act good, you must first set an example yourself. If you work hard, the people will do so as well. Act first and work hard, untiringly.

An Agreeable Person


A gentleman gets along well with others but does not agree to unprincipled actions. A lesser man agrees to unprincipled actions but does not get along with others.

A Content Person


A gentleman is content but not conceited. A lesser man is conceited but not content.

Why Study


Scholars of the past studied for themselves. Scholars of today study for others.



Not speaking with someone worth speaking to is missing an opportunity. Speaking with someone not worth speaking to is misspeaking. A wise person neither misses opportunities nor misspeaks.

Judging People and Words


A gentleman does not recommend people based on what they say; or disregard what is said based on the speaker.

Be Skeptical


When everyone labels a person as good or bad, you must look into it for yourself before accepting it.

The Dao


It is people who can exalt the Way, not the Way that can exalt people.



To commit a transgression and not reform is the real transgression. (People will commit transgressions, and that’s OK as long as they reform.)



Passing on hearsay is the abandonment of virtue.

Benevolence Realized


One who studies broadly and maintains a firm determination; questions sincerely and reflects on things at hand; will realize benevolence in the midst of these.

Crossing the Line


If you refuse to cross the line in matters of great moral import, then in matters of minor moral import, there will be room for a little give and take.

  • In talking about profit, it is easy to lose sight of righteousness.
  • Fate is too mysterious to talk about intelligently.
  • A gentleman sticks to the proper way without getting caught up in petty arguments of right and wrong.
  • A depraved person only worries about what he can get for himself. Before he has attained something, he worries about not getting it. After he has attained something, he worries about losing it. And if all he worries about losing what he has, he’ll go to any length to keep it.
  • No object, no kind of knowledge, can be absolutely real if its existence is only temporary. Absolute reality implies permanent existence.
  • When the truth is known, we are no longer deluded by the appearance.
  • A God who transforms Himself into the visible universe is Himself subject to transformation and change – He cannot be regarded as the absolute reality.
    • A God who creates a world limits Himself by the very act of creation, and thus ceases to be infinite.
  • Within Maya, the mind cannot function without causal relation. But to speak of cause and effect with reference to the Absolute is simply absurd. To seek to know what caused the world is to transcend the world, to seek to find the cause of Maya is to go beyond Maya – and, when we do that, Maya vanishes, for the effect ceases to exist.
    • In other words, the relation between Brahman and Maya is, by its very nature, unknowable and indefinable by any process of the human intellect.
  • The principle of Maya is the superimposition of the ego-idea upon the Atman, the real Self. The ego-idea represents a false claim to individuality, to being different from our neighbor.
    • Superimposition is the apparent presentation to consciousness, by the memory, of something previously observed elsewhere.
    • As long as we remain in ignorance, we shall continue to experience this apparent world which is the effect of superimposition.
    • When transcendental consciousness is achieved, superimposition ceases.
    • Lose the ego-idea in transcendental consciousness, and the world-appearance must necessarily vanish.
  • Brahman is absolute existence, knowledge and bliss.
  • The inner Self, the reality, is never an object of sense-perception, however, – because, in our ignorance, we superimpose the idea of a private individuality – of being Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones – upon our awareness of Existence.
  • A distinction must, however, be made between Maya as a universal principle and ignorance (avidya) which is individual. Individual ignorance is beginningless, but it can end at any moment: it is lost when a man achieves spiritual illumination. Thus the world may vanish from the consciousness of an individual and yet continue to exist for the rest of mankind.
  • Iswara is Brahman united with Maya – the combination of Brahman and its power creates, preserves and dissolves the universe in an endless and beginnningless process.
    • Iswara is God personified, God with attributes.

Brahman may be compared to an infinite ocean, without beginning or end. Just as, through intense cold, some portions of the ocean freeze into ice and the formless water appears to have form, so through the intense love of the devotee, Brahman appears to take on form and personality. But the form melts away again as the sun of knowledge rises. Then the universe also disappears, and there is seen to be nothing but Brahman, the infinite. – Sri Ramakrishna

  • As long as man is within the limitations of Maya, the One is seen as many. Ignorance can do no better than to worship Appearance; and Iswara is the ruler of all appearances – the highest idea which the human mind can grasp and the human heart can love. The human mind can never grasp the absolute Reality, it can only infer its presence and worship its projected image.
  • The absolute reality is beyond good and evil, pleasure and pain, success and disaster. Both good and evil are aspects of Maya. As long as Maya exists, they exist. Within Maya they are real enough.
    • The questions “Why does God permit evil?” is, in fact, most misleadingly phrased. It is as absurd as if one were to ask “Why does God permit good?” Nobody today would ask why rain “permitted” a catastrophic flood; nobody would blame or praise fire because it burns one man’s house and cooks another man’s dinner.
  • Once we become conscious, even dimly, of the Atman, the Reality within us, the world takes on a very different aspect. It is no longer a court of justice but a kind of gymnasium. Good and evil, pain and pleasure, still exist, but they seem more like the ropes and vaulting-hoses and parallel bars which can be used to make our bodies strong.
    • Maya is no longer an endlessly revolving wheel of pain and pleasure but a  ladder which can be climbed to consciousness of the Reality.
    • Every experience offers us the chance of making a constructive reaction to it – a reaction which helps to break some chain of our bondage to Maya and bring us that much nearer to spiritual freedom.
  • If we recognize our brotherhood with our fellow-men; if we try to deal honestly, truthfully, charitably with them; if, politically and economically, we work for equal rights, equal justice and the abolition of barriers of race and class and creed, then we are in fact giving the lie to the ego-idea and moving toward awareness of the universal, non-individual Existence.
  • What is so attractive about Vedanta is its undogmatic, experimental approach to truth. Shankara does not tell us that we must accept the evidence of Brahman as a dogma before we can enter upon the spiritual life. No – he invites us to find out for ourselves.
    • Nothing – no teacher, no scripture – can do the work for us. Teachers and scriptures are merely encouragements to personal effort.
  • The illuminated seer does not merely know Brahman, he is Brahman, he is Existence, he is Knowledge. Absolute freedom is not something to be attained, absolute knowledge is not something to be gained, Brahman is not something to be found. It is only Maya which has to be pierced, ignorance which has to be overcome. The process of discrimination is a negative process. The positive fact, our real nature, eternally exists. We are Brahman – and only ignorance divides us from this knowledge.
  • Rituals plays an important part in the act of devotion, as a physical aid to concentration – for the acts of ritual bring the mind back repeatedly from its distractions and help to keep it steadily upon its object.
  • For what greater fool can there be than the man who has obtained this rare human birth together with bodily and mental strength and yet fails, through delusion, to realize his own highest good?
  • Longing for liberation is the will to be free from the fetters forged by ignorance…
    • Among all means of liberation, devotion is supreme. To seek earnestly to know one’s real nature – this is said to be devotion.
  • Children may free their father from his debts, but no other person can free a man from his bondage: he must do it himself.
    • A sickness is not cured by saying the word “medicine.” You must take the medicine. Liberation does not come by merely saying the word “Brahman.” Brahman must be actually experienced.
  • If you really desire liberation, hold the objects of sense-enjoyment at a distance, like poison; and keep drinking in with delight such virtues as contentment, compassion, forgiveness, straightforwardness, tranquility and self-control, as if they were nectar.
  • Maya is destroyed by direct experience of Brahman – the pure, the free, the one without a second.
  • Ignorance is nowhere, except in the mind.
  • Practice detachment toward all actions. Have faith in the Reality.
  • Ignorance, although beginningless, comes to an end when knowledge dawns.
    • Therefore a man should practice discrimination between the Atman and the individual self.
  • Man in the ignorance of his delusion sees the reflection of Pure Consciousness upon the covering, and mistakes it for the real I.
  • A jar made of clay is not other than clay. It is clay essentially. The form of the jar has no independent existence. What, then, is the jar? Merely an invented name! The form of the jar can never be perceived apart from the clay. What, then, is the jar? An appearance! The reality is the clay itself.
  • The Atman is the reality. It is your true, primal self. It is pure consciousness, the one without a second, absolute bliss. It is beyond form and action. Realize your identity with it. Stop identifying yourself with the coverings of ignorance, which are the masks assumed by an actor.
  • The more a man satisfies his cravings in the objective world, the more his cravings will increase.
    • When craving grows stronger, self-control is lost.
  • The spiritual seeker who is possessed of tranquility, self-control, mental poise and forbearance, devotes himself to the practice of contemplation, and mediates upon the Atman within himself as the Atman within all beings. Thus he completely destroys the sense of separateness which arises from the darkness of ignorance, and dwells in joy, identifying himself with Brahman, free from distracting thoughts and selfish occupations.
  • Mistaking the appearance for the reality, people ignorantly imagine that I am enclosed within a bodily and mental form. In the same way, they imagine Time, which is indivisible and continuous, to be divided into cycles, years and seasons.
    • The sky is not confined by its clouds. I am not confined by the body. How, therefore, can I be affected by the states of waking, dreaming or dreamless sleep? They are merely bodily conditions.
  • How can the physical eyes see anything but physical objects? How can the mind of the enlightened man think of anything other than the Reality? How could a wise man reject the experience of supreme bliss and take delight in mere outward forms? When the moon shines in its exceeding beauty, who would care to look at a painted moon?
  • He has no riches, yet he is always contented. He is helpless, yet of mighty power. He enjoys nothing, yet he is continuously rejoicing. He has no equal, yet he sees all men as his equals.
Q & A
  • Who is the lord? He who leads us out of ignorance.
  • Who is poor? He who is not contented.
  • What should one strive for? To go on learning as long as one lives.
  • What qualities are rarest in this world? To have the gift of speaking sweet words with compassion, to be learning without pride, to be heroic and also forgiving, to be rich without attachment to riches – these four are rare.
  • The word which is “creation” in English language is in Sanskrit exactly “projection.”
    • Western Creation: Something that coming out of nothing.
    • Vedanta Creation: Projection of that which already existed.
  • We are all one, and the cause of evil is the perception of duality.
    • As soon as I begin to feel that I am separate from this universe, then first comes fear, and then comes misery.
    • In reality there is one, but in Maya it is appearing as many.
    • The real is one. It is the mind which makes it appear as many. When we perceive diversity, the unity has gone; and as soon as we perceive the unity, the diversity has vanished.
  • Behind everything the same divinity is existing, and out of this comes the basis of morality. Do not injure another. Love everyone as your own self, because the whole universe is one. In injuring another, I am injuring myself; in loving another, I am loving myself.
  • Just as when a farmer wants to water his field from the canals that pass near, he has only to lift his gate – so each man is the Infinite already, only these bars and bolts and different circumstances shut him in; but as soon as these are removed, he rushes out and expresses himself.
  • Concentrating the powers of the mind is the only way to knowledge.
    • Knowledge is a lower state; it is only in Maya that we can have knowledge.
  • Religion always takes three steps. The first is dualism. Then man gets to a higher state, partial non-dualism. And at last he finds he is one with the universe.
    • When a man first hears it, he must reason on it, so that he does not believe it ignorantly, but knowingly; and after reasoning what it is, he must meditate upon it, and then realize it. And that is religion. Belief is no part of religion. We say religion is a super-conscious state.
  • “Why” cannot be asked beyond the limit of causation. It can only be asked within Maya.
  • [Yoga] One ounce of practice is worth a thousand pounds of theory.
  • Of all scriptures of the world it is the Vedas alone that declare that even the study of the Vedas is secondary. The real study is “that by which we realize the unchangeable.” And that is neither reading, nor believing, nor reasoning, but super-conscious perception, or Samadhi.
  • In the unconditioned there cannot be time, space, or causation.
  • Ignorance makes the illusion.
    • Not that we do not know, or that we are ignorant; but it is above knowledge, and cannot be brought down to the plane of knowledge.
    • There are certain things which we can never know, because they are much higher than the highest vibration of knowledge.
    • Knowledge cannot be the goal, because knowledge is a compound. It is compound of power and freedom, and it is freedom alone that is desirable. Simply the possession of power would not be knowledge.
    • It is not law that we want but ability to break law. We want to be outlaws.
  • If you think you are free, free you will be.
  • There is really no difference between matter, mind, and spirit. They are only different phases of experiencing the One.
  • Reason is not perfect. It is, however, the only possible rational system that the human mind can conceive.
  • Why should God need any purpose? If He had any, He would be bound by it. There would be something besides Him which was greater.
  • As soon as we react, we become slaves.
  • This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything know about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.
    • The first result of this illusion is that our attitude to the world “outside” us is largely hostile. We are forever “conquering” nature, space, mountains, deserts, bacteria, and insects instead of learning to cooperate with them in a harmonious order.
    • The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events – that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies – and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.
  • Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the “saved” from the “damned,” the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group. Even religious liberals play the game of “we’re-more-tolerant-than-you.”
    • Furthermore, as systems of doctrine, symbolism, and behavior, religious harden into institutions that must command loyalty, be defended and kept “pure,” and because all belief is fervent hope, and thus a cover-up for doubt and uncertainty – religions must make converts.
    • No considerate God would destroy the human mind by making it so rigid and inadaptable as to depend upon one book, the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book, is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience that is not mere words or even ideas.
  • Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, openness – an act of trust in the unknown.
  • The Book that I would like to slip to my children would itself be slippery. It would slip them into a new domain, not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual point of reference.
  • The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.
  • …myself does not reside in the drop alone, but in the whole surge of energy which ranges from the galaxies to the nuclear fields in my body. At this level of existence “I” am immeasurably old; my forms are infinite and their comings and goings are simply the pulses or vibrations of a single and eternal flow of energy.
  • Genuine love comes from knowledge, not from a sense of duty or guilt.
  • Yet remember, this story of the cycles of the world’s appearance and disappearance is myth, not science, parable rather than prophecy.
  • The very things that we believe to exist are always on/offs. Ons alone and offs alone do not exist.
    • Although sounds of high vibration seem to be continuous, to be pure sound, they are not. Every sound is actually sound/silence, only the ear does not register this consciously when the alternation is too rapid.
    • Light, too, is not pure light, but light/darkness.
  • Space is the relationship between bodies; and without it there can be neither energy nor motion.
    • Things are said to move only when compared with others that are relatively still, for motion is motion/stillness.
    • But the mistake in the beginning was to think of solids and space as two different things, instead of as two aspects of the same thing. The point is that they are different but inseparable.
      • Take away the crest of the wave, and there is no trough.
  • Attention is narrowed perception.
    • It is a way of looking at life bit by bit, using memory to string the bits together – as when examining a dark room with a flash light having a very narrow beam.
    • The narrow slit in the fence is much like the way in which we look at life by conscious attention, for when we attend to something we ignore everything else.
    • To these we attend, and the rest we ignore – for which reason conscious attention is at the same time ignorance despite the fact that it gives us a vividly clear picture of whatever we choose to notice.
    • We also speak of attention as noticing. To notice is to select, to regard some bits of perception, or some features of the world, as more noteworthy, more significant, than others.
  • It is hard to notice anything for which the languages available to us (whether verbal, mathematical, or musical) have no description.
  • We do not play the Game of Black-and-White – the universal game of up/down, on/off, solid/space, and each/all. Instead, we play the game of Black-versus-White or more usually, White-versus-Black.
    • …We are doing something as crazy as trying to keep the mountains and get rid of the valleys.
  • Imagination cannot grasp simple nothingness and must therefore fill the void with fantasies…
  • Power is not necessarily wisdom. I may have virtual omnipotence in the government of my body and my physical environment, but how am I to control myself so as to avoid folly and error in its use?
  • The question is then whether technical progress actually “gets anywhere” in the sense of increasing the delight and happiness of life.
    • …all too soon these new contrivances are taken for granted, and we find ourselves oppressed with the new predicaments which they bring with them.
  • However much we divide, count, sort, or classify this wiggling into particular things and events, this is no more than a way of thinking about the world: it is never actually divided.
  • Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way, like the problem of cause and effect.
  • The definition of a thing or event must include definition of its environment, we realize that any given thing goes with a given environment so intimately and inseparably that it is more difficult to draw a clear boundary between the thing and its surroundings.
    • Asking “What does it do?” is not enough. We must also ask, “In what surroundings is it doing it?”
  • Your soul, or rather your essential Self, is the whole cosmos as it is centered around the particular time, place, and activity called John Doe. Thus the soul is not in the body, but the body in the soul, and the soul is the entire network of relationships and processes which make up your environment, and apart from which you are nothing.
    • The human individual is not built as a car is built. He does not come into being by assembling parts, by screwing a head onto a neck, by wiring a brain to a set of lungs, or by welding veins to a heart. Head, neck, heart, lungs, brain, veins, muscles, and glands are separate names but not separate events, and these events grow into being simultaneously and interdependently. In precisely the same way, the individual is separate from his universal environment only in name. when this is not recognized, you have been fooled by your name.
  • Double-bind – a person is put in a double-bind by a command or request which contains a concealed contradiction.
    • Stop being self-conscious!
    • Try to relax.
  • The social double-bind game:
    • The first rule of this game is that it is not a game.
    • Everyone must play.
    • You must love us.
    • You must go on living.
    • Be yourself, but play a consistent and acceptable role.
    • Control yourself and be natural.
    • Try to be sincere.
  • Instead of giving our children clean and explicit explanations of the game rules of the community, we befuddle them hopelessly because we – as adults – were once so befuddled, and, remaining so, do not understand the game we are playing.
  • Faith – in life, in other people, and in oneself – is the attitude of allowing the spontaneous to be spontaneous, in its own way and in its own time. That is, of course, risky because life and other people do not always respond to faith as we might wish.
    • But to take the gamble out of the game, to try to make winning a dead certainty, is to achieve a certainty which is indeed dead.
    • The alternative to a community based on mutual trust is a totalitarian police-state, a community in which spontaneity is virtually forbidden.
  • Every individual is a unique manifestation of the Whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree.
    • Differentiation is not separation.
  • Because he is now so largely defined as a separate person caught up in a mindless and alien universe, his principal task is to get one-up on the universe and to conquer nature. This is palpably absurd, and since the task is never achieved, the individual is taught to live and work for some future in which the impossible will at last happen, if not for him, then at least for his children. We are thus breeding a type of human being incapable of living in the present – that is, of really living.
    • You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, “Now, I’ve arrived!” Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now.
  • For our pleasures are not material pleasures but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.
  • Gestalt theory of perception – no figure is ever perceived except in relation to a background.
  • We do not easily notice that all features of the world hold their boundaries in common with the areas that surround them – that the outline of the figure is also the inline of the background.
  • The difficulty is that most languages are arranged so that actions (verbs) have to be set in motion by things (nouns), and we forget that rules of grammar are not necessarily rules, or patterns, of nature.
    • For the organism is sometimes a running process, sometimes a standing process, sometimes a sleeping process, and so on, and in each instance the “cause” of the behavior is the situation as a whole, the organism/environment. Indeed, it would be best to drop the idea of causality and use instead the idea of relativity.
  • It is what it does. More precisely, the organism, including its behavior, is a process which is to be understood only in relation to the larger and longer process of its environment.
    • The whole is a pattern which has no separate parts.
    • Parts are fictions of language – parts exist only for purposes of figuring and describing.
  • It is easy enough to see that an intelligent human being implies an intelligent human society, for thinking is a social activity – a mutual interchange of messages and ideas based on such social institutions as languages, sciences, libraries, universities, and museums.
  • No current will “flow” through a wire until the positive pole is connected with the negative, or, to put it very simply, no current will start unless it has a point of arrival, and a living organism is a “point of arrival” apart from which there can never be the “currents” or phenomena of light, heat, weight, hardness, and so forth.

The fool who persists in his folly will become wise. – William Blake

  • We have lacked the proper self-respect of recognizing that I, the individual organism, am a structure of such fabulous ingenuity that it calls the whole universe into being.
    • We have lacked the real humility of recognizing that we are members of the biosphere, the “harmony of contained conflicts” in which we cannot exist at all without the cooperation of [everything].

…the world cannot be analyzed correctly into distinct parts; instead, it must be regarded as an indivisible unit in which separate parts appear as valid approximations only in the classical [i.e. Newtonian] limit…Thus at the quantum level of accuracy, an object does not have any “intrinsic” properties (for instance, wave or particle) belonging to itself alone; instead, it shares all its properties mutually and indivisibly with the systems with which it interacts. Moreover, because a given object, such as an electron, interacts at different potentialities, it undergoes…continual transformation between the various forms (for instance, wave or particle form) in which it can manifest itself.

Although such fluidity and dependence of form on the environment have not been found, before the advent of quantum theory, at the level of elementary particles in physics, they are not uncommon…in fields, such as biology, which deal with complex systems. Thus, under suitable environmental conditions, a bacterium can develop into a spore stage, which is completely different in structure, and vice versa. – David Bohm, Quantum Theory

  • For eternally and always there in only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.
  • Man so defined and so experienced is, of course, incapable of pleasure and contentment, let alone creative power. Hoaxed into the illusion of being an independent, responsible source of actions, he cannot understand why what he does never comes up to what he should do, to a society which has defined him as separate cannot persuade him to behave as if he really belonged. Thus he feels chronic guilt and makes the most heroic efforts to placate his conscience.
    • The separate person is without content, in both senses of the word. He lives perpetually on hope, on looking forward to tomorrow, having been brought up this way from childhood…
  • If you know what you want, and will be content with it, you can be trusted.
    • But if you do not know, your desires are limitless and no one can tell how to deal with you. For whom that does not know what he wants, everyone suspects that there are limitless strings attached to his gifts.
  • No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.

Part of the blessedness of the saints in Heaven was that they could look over the battlements and enjoy the “proper justice” of the sinners squirming in Hell. – Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • All winners need losers; all saints need sinners; all sages need fools.

If I am I because you are you, and if you are you because I am I, them I am not I, you are not you. – A Hassidic rabbi

  • How to get over the sensation of being locked out from everything “other,” of being only oneself – an organism flung into unavoidable competition and conflict with almost every “object” in its experience?
  • Nothing unites a community so much as common cause against an external enemy, yet, in the same moment, that enemy becomes the essential support of social unity.
    • Therefore larger societies require larger enemies.
  • The more resolute you plumb the question “Who or what am I?” – the more you unavoidable is the realization that you are nothing at all apart from everything else.
  • When this feeling of separateness is approached and accepted like any other sensation, it evaporates like the mirage that it is.
  • There is, indeed, no compulsion unless there is also freedom of choice, for the sensation of behaving involuntarily is known only by contrast with that of behaving voluntarily.

When purpose has been used to achieve purposelessness, the thing has been grasped. – The Secret of the Golden Flower

  • To play so as to be relaxed and refreshed for work is not to play, and no work is well and finely done unless it, too, is a form of play.
  • The word is a spell (in Latin, Fascinum), an enchantment (being thrilled by a chant), an amazement (being lost in a maze), an arabesque of such stunning rhythm and a plot so intriguing that we are drawn by its web into a state of involvement where we forget that it is a game…It is simultaneously the purest nonsense and the utmost artistry.
  • The universe is at root a magical illusion and a fabulous game, and that there is no separate “you” to get something out of it, as if life were a bank to be robbed. The only real “you” is the one that comes and goes, manifests and withdraws itself eternally in and as every conscious being. For “you” is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new. What we see as death, empty space, or nothingness is only the trough between the crests of this endlessly waving ocean. It is all part of the illusion that there should seem to be something to be gained in the future, and that there is an urgent necessity to go on and on until we get it. Yet just as there is no time but the present, and no one except the all-and-everything, there is never anything to be gained – though the zest of the game is to pretend that there is.
  • If we want justice for minorities and cooled wars with our natural enemies, whether human or nonhuman, we must first come to terms with the minority and the enemy in ourselves and in our own hearts, for the rascal is there as much as anywhere in the “external” world – especially when you realize that the world outside your skin is as much yourself as the world inside.
  • The goal of action is always contemplation – knowing and being rather than seeking and becoming.
  • Nothing so eludes conscious inspections consciousness itself. This is why the root of consciousness has been called, paradoxically, the unconsciousness.
  • Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.
  • Anyone who thinks at all must be a philosopher – a good one or a bad one – because it is impossible to think without premises, without basic (and in this sense, metaphysical) assumptions about what is sensible, what is the good life, what is beauty, and what is pleasure. To hold such assumptions, consciously or unconsciously, is to philosophize.
  • Chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy are special fascination with the details of our environment, but metaphysics is fascination with the whole thing.
  • Thought and sensation are analytical and selective, and thus present the world as no more than a multiplicity of things and events.

What guarantee is there that the five senses, taken together, do cover the whole of possible experience? They cover simply our actual experience, our human knowledge of facts or events. There are gaps between the fingers; there are gaps between the senses. In these gaps is the darkness which hides the connection between things…This darkness is the source of our vague fears and anxieties, but also the home of the gods. They alone see the connections, the total relevance of everything that happens; that which now comes to us in bits and pieces, the “accidents” which exist only in our heads, in our limited perceptions. – Idris Parry

  • All knowledge is a recognition of the mutual relations between sense experiences and/or things and events.
    • All things are known by their differences from and likeness to each other.
  • Enantiodromia – the attainment of any extreme position is the point where it begins to turn into its own opposite.
  • Listen intently to a voice singing without words. It may charm you into crying, force you to dance, fill you with rage, or make you jump for joy. You can’t tell where the music ends and the emotions begin, for the whole thing is a kind of music – the voice playing on your nerves as the breath plays on a flute. All experience is just that, except that its music has many more dimension than sound. It vibrates in the dimensions of sight, touch, taste, and smell, and in the intellectual dimension of symbols and words – all evoking and playing upon each other.
  • For this unity is not mere oneness as opposed to multiplicity, since these two terms are themselves polar. The unity, or inseparability, of one and many is therefore referred to in Vedanta philosophy as “non-duality” (advaita) to distinguish it from simply uniformity.
    • Language can no more transcend duality than paintings or photographs upon a flat surface can go beyond two dimensions. Yet by the convention of perspective, certain two-dimensional lines that slant towards a “vanishing-point” are taken to represent the third dimension of depth.
    • In a similar way, the dualistic term “non-duality” is taken to represent the “dimension” in which explicit differences have implicit unity.
  • What lies beyond opposites must be discussed, if at all, in terms of opposites, and this means using the language of analogy, metaphor, and myth.
  • The difficulty is not only that language is dualistic, insofar as words are labels for mutually exclusive classes. The problem is that IT is so much more myself than I thought I was, so central and basic to my existence, that I cannot make it an object. There is no way to stand outside IT, and, in fact, no need to do so. For so long as I am trying to grasp IT, I am implying that IT is not really myself. If it were possible, I am losing the sense of it by attempting to find it. This is why those who really know that they are IT invariably say they do not understand it, for IT understands understanding – not the other way around. One cannot, and need no, go deeper than deep!
  • It is difficult not to feel the force of the image, because images sway our emotions more deeply than conceptions.

Nothing is left to you at this moment but to have a good laugh! – Zen saying

  • We [The separate selves] do not trust the universe to repeat what it has already done – to “I” itself again and again. We see it as a eternal arena in which the individual is no more than a temporary stranger – a visitor who hardly belongs – for the thin ray of consciousness does not shine upon its own source. In looking out upon the world, we forget that the world is looking at itself – through our eyes and IT’s.


Medicine East and West
  • The Western physician starts with a symptom, then searches for the underlying mechanism – a precise cause for a specific disease.
    • The physician’s logic is analytic – cutting through the accumulation of bodily phenomena like a surgeon’s scalpel to isolate one single entity or cause.
  • The Chinese physician directs his or her attention to the complete physiological and psychological individual. All relevant information, including the symptom as well as the patient’s other general characteristics, is gathered and woven together until it forms what Chinese medicine calls a “pattern of disharmony.”
    • One does not ask, “What X is causing Y?” but rather, “What is the relationship between X and Y?”
  • The pattern of disharmony are different from diseases because they cannot be isolated from the patient in whom they occur.
    • To Western medicine, understanding an illness means uncovering a distinct entity that is separate from the patient’s being; to Chinese medicine, understanding means perceiving the relationships among all the patient’s signs and symptoms in the context of his or her life.
  • The Chinese method is based on the idea that no single part can be understood except in its relation to the whole.
    • A symptom, therefore, is not traced back to a cause, but is looked at as a part of a totality.
    • Illness is situated in the context of a person’s life and biography.

Conceptions are not subsumed under one another but placed side by side in a pattern, and things influence one another not by acts of mechanical causation, but by a kind of “inductance.” … The key word in Chinese thought is Order and above all Pattern … Things behave in particular ways not necessarily because of prior actions or impulsions of other things, but because their position in the ever-moving cyclical universe was such that they were endowed with intrinsic natures which made that behavior inevitable for them … They were thus parts in existential dependence upon the whole world-organism. – Joseph Needham

  • The Chinese assume that the universe is continuously changing.
    • Its movement is the result not of a first cause or creator, but of an inner dynamic of cyclical patterns.
    • Just as the sun maps out four distinct seasons in its yearly round, so all biological organisms go through four seasons in a lifetime: birth, maturation, decline, and death.
  • Within this web of relationships and change, any entity can be defined only by its function, and has significance only as part of the whole pattern.
  • The emphasis on the perception of patterns results in part from Taoism, which altogether lacks the idea of a creator, and whose concern is insight into the web of phenomena, not the weaver.
    • For the Chinese, that web has no weaver, no creator; in the West the final concern is always the creator or cause and the phenomenon is merely its reflection.
    • The Western mind seeks to discover and encounter what is beyond, behind, or the cause of phenomena.
    • In the Chinese view, the truth of things is imminent; in the Western, truth is transcendent.
  • Knowledge, within the Chinese framework, consists in the accurate perception of the inner movement of the web of phenomena.
    • The desire for knowledge is the desire to understand the interrelationships or patterns within that web, and to become attuned to the unfolding dynamics.

In China, the purpose of painting is to rediscover the elemental and continuous course of the cosmic pulsation through the figurative representation of landscape…The tension created by the correlation between the lines and the washes, the visible and the invisible, fullness and emptiness, endows the landscape with a power to suggest more than the merely visible and open it to the life of the spirit. – Francois Jullien

Yin(阴) and Yang (阳)
  • Yin and Yang are convenient labels used to describe how things function in relation to each other and to the universe.
  • No entity can ever be isolated from its relationship to other entities, no thing can exist in and of itself.
    • Ying and Yang must, necessarily, contain within themselves the possibility of opposition and change.
  • Yin: Shady side of a slope
    • Cold, rest, responsiveness, passivity, darkness, interiority, downwardness, inwardness, decrease, satiation, tranquility, and quiescence.
    • It is the end, completion, and realized fruition.
  • Yang: Sunny side of a slope
    • Heat, stimulation, movement, activity, excitement, vigor, light (brightness), exteriority, upwardness, outwardness, and increase.
    • It is arousal, beginning, and dynamic potential.

All things have two facets: a Yin aspect and a Yang aspect.

  • Yin and Yang qualities exist in relation to each other.

Heaven is high, the earth is low, and thus [heaven and Earth] are fixed. As the high and low are thus made clear, the honorable and humble have their place accordingly. As activity and tranquility have their constancy, the strong and the weak are thus differentiated…Cold and hot season take their turn…[Heaven] knows the great beginning, and [Earth] acts to bring things to completion…{Heaven] is Yang and [Earth] is Yin. – Zou Yen

Any Yin or Yang aspect can be further divided into Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang mutually create each other.

  • Although Yin and Yang can be distinguished, they cannot be separated.
    • They depend on each other for definition.

Being and non-being produce each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low distinguish each other;
Sound and voice harmonize each other;
Front and back follow each other. – Dao De Jing

Yin and Yang control each other.

Yin and Yang transform into each other.

  • Harmony means that the proportions of Yin and Yang are relatively balanced; disharmony means that the proportions are unequal and there is imbalance.
    • A deficiency of one aspect implies an excess of the other.
    • Extreme disharmony means that the deficiency of one aspect cannot continue to support the excess of another aspect.
      • The resulting change may be rebalancing or, if that is not possible, either the transformation into opposites or the cessation of existence.

People hate to be orphaned, the lonely ones, and the unworthy.
And yet kings and lords call themselves by these names.
Therefore it is often the case that things gain by losing and lose by gaining. – Dao De Jing

  • Yin and Yang create each other, control each other, and transform into each other.
  • Chinese medicine allows and demands a recognition and assessment of quality and context, because it deals with situationally dependent images.
    • There is no standard or absolute – what is health for one person may be sickness in another.
    • There is no notion of “normal” Yin-Yang – only the unique challenges and possibilities of each human life.
[To be continued…]

Questioner: The problem of earning a decent living is predominant with most of us. Since economic currents of the world are hopelessly interdependent I find that almost anything I do either exploits others or contributes to the cause of war. How is one who honestly wishes to achieve right means of livelihood to withdraw from the wheels of exploitation and war?

Krishnamurti: For him who truly wishes to find a right means of livelihood economic life, as at present organized, is certainly difficult. As the questioner says, economic currents are interrelated and so it is a complex problem, and as with all complex human problems it must be approached with simplicity. As society is becoming more and more complex and organized, regimentation of thought and action is being enforced for the sake of efficiency. Efficiency becomes ruthlessness when sensory values predominate, when eternal value is set aside. Obviously there are wrong means of livelihood. He who helps in manufacturing arms and other methods to kill his fellowman is surely occupied with furthering violence which never brings about peace in the world; the politician who, either for the benefit of his nation or of himself or of an ideology, is occupied in ruling and exploiting others, is surely employing wrong means of livelihood which lead to war, to the misery and sorrow of man; the priest who holds to a specialized prejudice, dogma or belief, to a particular form of worship and prayer is also using wrong means of livelihood, for he is only spreading ignorance and intolerance which set man against man. Any profession that leads to and maintains the divisions and conflict between man and man is obviously a wrong means of livelihood. Such occupations lead to exploitation and strife. Our means of livelihood are dictated, are they not, through tradition or through greed and ambition? Generally we do not deliberately set about choosing the right means of livelihood. We are only too thankful to get what we can and blindly follow the economic system that is about us. But the questioner wants to know how to withdraw from exploitation and war. To withdraw from them he must not allow himself to be influenced, nor follow traditional occupation, nor must he be envious and ambitious. Many of us choose some profession because of tradition or because we are of a family of lawyers or soldiers or politicians or traders; or our greed for power and position dictates our occupation; ambition drives us to compete and be ruthless in our desire to succeed. So he who would not exploit or contribute to the cause of war must cease to follow tradition, cease to be greedy, ambitious, selfseeking. If he abstains from these he will naturally find right occupation. But though it is important and beneficial, right occupation is not an end in itself. You may have a right means of livelihood but if you are inwardly insufficient and poor you will be a source of misery to yourself and so to others; you will be thoughtless, violent, selfassertive. Without that inward freedom of Reality you will have no joy, no peace. In the search and discovery of that inward Reality alone can we be not only content with little, but aware of something that is beyond all measure. It is this which must be first sought out; then other things will come into being in its wake.

J. Krishnamurti The Collected Works Volume IV