Buddhism, Interview, Society, Spirituality

Episode 34: McMindfulness — The New Capitalist Spirituality with Ron Purser

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Ron is not afraid of controversy with his new book: McMindfulness — How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, out this July. He also hosts the Mindful Cranks podcast. Let’s start out by saying that:

“Dr. Purser is an ordained  Zen Dharma teacher in the Korean Zen Taego Order.  He received ordination in April 2013 from the Venerable Jongmae Park, Partriarch of the Taego Korean Zen order for the overseas sangha. His Dharma name is Hae Seong, which means “The Nature of Wisdom.”

As a long-time practitioner, he really knows his stuff! In our episode, we go over just how the modern mindfulness movement, founded on the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) programme convinces that “a little mindfulness goes a long way” — and all the repercussions that can have.

We go into detail how mindfulness has been hijacked to serve the capitalist system. This truth is Ron’s passion.

My passion is how it has been torn apart from its very meaning, as a way to enlightenment on this planet (and all other planets and universes, also).

So, how has modern mindfulness been severed from its Buddhist roots? Well, here’s a hint: in the Sattipatthana Sutta that the Buddha laid out on mindfulness, a lot is missing from the modern mindfulness programmes.

Bhikku Bodhi lays out on Accesstoinsight.org:

“The practice of Sattipatthana meditation centers on the methodical cultivation of one simple mental faculty readily available to all of us at any moment. This is the faculty of mindfulness, the capacity for attending to the content of our experience as it becomes manifest in the immediate present. What the Buddha shows in the sutta is the tremendous, but generally hidden, power inherent in this simple mental function, a power that can unfold all the mind’s potentials culminating in final deliverance from suffering.

To exercise this power, however, mindfulness must be systematically cultivated, and the sutta shows exactly how this is to be done. The key to the practice is to combine energy, mindfulness, and clear comprehension in attending to the phenomena of mind and body summed up in the “four arousings of mindfulness”: body, feelings, consciousness, and mental objects.

At the heart of the matter, modern mindfulness misses that mindfulness is made to lead to true and final liberation from all suffering, or Nibanna. (This is simply one way to waking up out of the vast collection of the Buddha’s methods.)

Without taking into account other factors beyond “simply paying attention to the present moment” — a person will (more than likely not) magically become free or cultivate wisdom. In fact, this is just another form of suffering, and this can be proven. If simply paying attention to the present moment worked, then we would see evidence of this in the external world as greed, desire, and hatred decrease: that is its purpose, after all. Is this the case? Not at all!

Google, Apple, Nike and other major corporations have repeatedly used secular, modern mindfulness training as part of their curriculums. Marissa Levin admits this, in just one article underpinning the mindfulness/capitalist situation:

“Once the Eastern practice became popular as a method of self-help, it quickly became a tool within businesses to increase productivity and well-being of employees.

‘With business meditation, we have a practice that is extrapolated from Buddhism and secularized so that all of the theological underpinnings are swept away,” says Catherine Albanese, author of A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion.'”

Mindfulness, as a business model, completely disintegrates the value of mindfulness as a way to liberation from wordly suffering for all beings. As a business model at all, to increase productivity for corporations, lends itself to be a materialistic substitute for Reality. This is in direct contradiction to its purpose. B. Bodhi goes on to say, “This [mindfulness] is the only satisfying way for the seeker of truth when the diffuseness [papañca] of the external world with its thin layer of culture, comfort and allurement, ceases to be interesting and is found to lack true value.

Also, modern mindfulness misses out on the other facets of the Sutta, including:

Contemplating the body in mindfulness of breathing, bodily positions/postures, eating/drinking/walking/speaking, and…

Reflection on the Repulsiveness of the Body:
Ex) “And further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu reflects on just this body hemmed by the skin and full of manifold impurity from the soles up, and from the top of the hair down, thinking thus: ‘There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, fibrous threads (veins, nerves, sinews, tendons), bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, contents of stomach, intestines, mesentery, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, solid fat, tars, fat dissolved, saliva, mucus, synovic fluid, urine.”

Reflection on the Modes of Materiality: (Cemetary Contemplations 1-9)
Ex) “And further, O bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu, in whatever way, sees a body dead, one, two, or three days: swollen, blue and festering, thrown into the charnel ground, he thinks of his own body thus: ‘This body of mine too is of the same nature as that body, is going to be like that body and has not got past the condition of becoming like that body.”

Contemplation of Feeling:
Ex) “Thus he lives contemplating [painful, pleasureable, and neutral] feelings in feelings internally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings externally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in feelings, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in feelings, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in feelings. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: ‘Feeling exists,’ to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world.”

Contemplation of Consciousness:
Ex) “Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands the consciousness with lust, as with lust; the consciousness without lust, as without lust; the consciousness with hate, as with hate; the consciousness without hate, as without hate; the consciousness with ignorance, as with ignorance; the consciousness without ignorance, as without ignorance; the shrunken state of consciousness, as the shrunken state; the distracted state of consciousness, as the distracted state…”

And so much more…

Ron and I go into detail on how modern mindfulness and capitalism are satisfied holding hands. See www.ronpurser.com to contact him.

 

 

Buddhism, Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma, Interview, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 29: What is Advaita Vedanta? — Interview with Swamini Brahmaprajnananda


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As Swamini’s guru most eloquently put it: ‘In psychology there is no solution to the human problem. In Vedanta, there is no problem.’

Swamini was classically trained as a modern psychologist and moved her consciousness forward, based on the limits she saw within this framework. Thus, she trained under her Advaita Vedanta guru and master, H.H. Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji — renowned as the best teacher of his time until his death in 2015.

Advaita Vedanta is an ancient body of wisdom which has two functions: to realise God/Brahman fully and to live day-to-day life well. Advaita aims to realise non-duality and also relies on the Vedic Upanishads as core guides to truth and realisation. Thus, we see these two functions in action: direct recognition of God and also living a wise life.

As a follower of Advaita Zen (also called neo-Advaita), I have gained a deep intellectual understanding of non-duality, the formless, emptiness, and being. However, the experience or manifestation of these has been few and far between, leading me on a more gradual approach to enlightenment via the Buddhist path — because I found that I was still suffering, or experiencing dukkha (dissatisfaction) in my everyday life.

As a seer of this, Swamini points out to us what neo-Advaita lacks in terms of longevity for the awakener, which my direct experience has also taught me. She elaborates on these points in our episode with ease and grace:

1. Neo-Advaita lacks lineage, gurus, and disciples
2. Simple reliance upon the Netti-Netti method (Not-this, Not-this)
3. Based on the individual human being only, without a larger context
4. De-emphasis on the importance of a guru, prepatory practices, and maturity of the student/seeker
5. No scriptural basis, as scriptures point out ‘what cannot be figured out by my own perception or logic alone’

We also go over Hinduism in relation to Advaita and whether Buddhism and Advaita share the exact meaning in the face of spiritual awakening, where I believe that they do and Swamini believes they do not… unless we interpret the Buddhist Dharma in the correct way

Listen, enjoy, and send your questions to me at curiousbodhi@zoho.com and find Swamini at www.discoveratma.com and on The River of Wisdom Podcast.

 

Buddhism, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 27: Realisations Lately…


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In this episode, I go over briefly which insights I’ve had recently; they tumbled out and snowballed into one after another after another. In hopes that it provokes something in you — when you’re most yourself, most relaxed, or even during intense activities, you can catch the ways in which life hands you what you need to be shown without the cloudiness of the everyday mind.

I distinguish “insights” from “thoughts and feelings”, because “thoughts and feelings” come and go — even the sense of “self” thinking a thought or performing an action. There are often times when we are daydreaming about a beautiful image — or even a horrible situation — and we’re lost. Gone.

Insights are like flashes of things we haven’t seen or experienced before. Yet, they come and go also. They are gone just as the “thoughts and feelings” but have a positive impact upon future perceptions, judgments, and actions.

Listen above! May all beings be happy, free, and peaceful.

Society, Spirituality

Spirituality and Running: Mid-season Blog

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Running Through Europe & Beyond

Running is a bit like being pregnant; there are many stages, many phases, emotions rising, trees subsiding… sometimes you don’t want to, but you do it anyway.

We all have a human form and a spirit form. What that means is that the human part is concerned with ‘lower’ desires and habitual ways of interacting with the world — this can be anything from low self-esteem, to drinking too much, feeding anger, being grouchy at circumstances, and responses that are reactive rather than genuine. Then we have the human spirit: the one who breaks boundaries, tries new things and forms new responses, feels the life flowing through the body, interacts spontaneously in actions, and loses sense of time or self.

For the past four years, I have been regularly dedicating my spirit form to running. This is primarily to remain disciplined and to break boundaries and fear. There is a human pattern to it — when my focus is set on the pain in my body, giving into a drop in energy and getting lazy mid-run with motivation, or being self-conscious that “I’m a person running on the street” with other beings moving among me.

But, there’s also a spiritual element that keeps me going strong: moving my gaze up to focus just on the canopy of trees above my head in the park and noticing what kind of clouds are in the sky. Smiling at passerby to reach out from “my little world” and connect with them beyond boundaries. Remembering that it’s not serious but a fun little dance of consciousness, throwing my limbs forward like a rabbit or mouse or frog.

I am sharing this with you not to boast (what good would that do, anyway?!) but to show you the power of the human mind and soul.

Neither outer nor inner conditions have ever stopped these legs from getting their work done, though. Since 2015, between 5-10km most days of the year…

I’ve run…

  • The day after my dad’s death: dedicated to him.

  • On Christmas Day, New Years’ Eve, and New Years’ Day (after a few drinks…)

  • In the depths of winter, rain, hail, and 40° heat

  • When my emotions were the lowest of the low, dragging every step

  • In between working 5 days per week while making music albums, podcasting, and painting

  • Without food or water up to 10k

  • With my eyes closed

  • Attached to a race dog

  • Through forests, foreign cities, canals, on the side of the Himalayan highway (with Indian drivers), and getting lost in my own city

  • Singing “Hare Krishna” the whole way, chanting mantras, hearing podcasts, and thinking up podcasts or writing songs…

I’ve been afraid that my consciousness would leave my body, being so high… and afraid to sh*% myself in the middle of busy streets after way too much plane travel or recovering from illness — (it’s a real risk! “Runner’s trots”, you know.)

And all this time, this has been solo; to never run a race or compete with anyone else. I’ve been my own best companion.

What does this say about the human spirit? If a small, 5’2″ woman can get up every morning and make it happen, then what else is possible for human beings?

Here is a great podcast to get you into the flow of the possiblity of what we can achieve when spiritual energy is behind a practice. This man holds a 52-day race in New York City where the equivelant of 2 marathons per day are run by participants:

Enjoy, and comment with your ‘impossible feats’ from beyond!

Buddhism, Interview, Philosophy, Society, Spirituality

Episode 25: The Prospective Billionaire Who Walked Away – Interview with Danny Levin


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Danny Levin was a prospective billionaire who gave it all away to focus on connectivity in the human kingdom. When speaking with him, his humblnesss came across; when you listen to the episode, you can feel what sort of vibe Danny has. His interest is clearly not on himself but on a wider message for humanity and his role in the mosaic of life.

I wondered, “What leads a person, verging on being a billionaire and dining with the finest, to throwing it all away? And what is the solution he found after this noble step?”

He also doesn’t delve deeply into this topic, nor the fact he had been a monk for 10 years — but he does reveal what fascinates him most deeply as we open up and talk.

Clearly in the present, he found what has meaning in terms of appreciation and gratitude for the differing perspectives in the world: the farmer is just as important as the business man… they just have a different view. And we are inextricably interlinked and interdependent on each other.

Danny has authored the book, The Mosaic, where different characters in the puzzle intertwine to find their connectivity. Find The Mosaic and connect with Danny at www.themosaiconline.com!

As always, you can reach me at curiousbodhi@zoho.com.

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