William James, in 1894, said:
“A thing may be presented to a man a hundred times, but if he persistently fails to notice it, it cannot be said to enter his experience”
Which may explain The Varieties of Religious Experience, isn’t it?
William James, in 1894, said:
“A thing may be presented to a man a hundred times, but if he persistently fails to notice it, it cannot be said to enter his experience”
Which may explain The Varieties of Religious Experience, isn’t it?
This will be about Sun-Rooted People Theory (日本人論).
This topic is something that can be discussed from two perspectives involving either:
Japan (like many, many other nation-states) was made up of little, small Countries (国=kuni). It didn’t use to be the whole Japanese chain of islands from
The concept of Japan (Nihon-koku 日本国 Sun-Rooted-Country) as the chain-of-islands (and not a mosaic of prefecture-sized countries) is very modern (post-1860s).
At some point somebody started calling all this a “country”.
When did this happen? It started when other people (other countries) start coming in.
The Bright-Fixing Time-Era (明治時代 Meiji-Jidai) is the most conspicuous point when Sun-Rooted People Theories begin to take root, but the seeds were there already.
The notion had been entertained since
Let us remember that the emperor is descended from the Sun (Amaterasu 天照 Sky-Illuminating) God.
Let us remember that the emperor’s family lineage can be traced back thousands of years using some scrolls.
Now, you have to understand that in Japan the family scroll business is taken very seriously. Personally, I don’t think it goes back as far as Yayoi (Increasingly-Alive 弥生) period before Christ. It might. I don’t know.
However, for your average Japanese family living nowadays it goes back pretty far into the past. If you don’t believe me, read some anthropological study about the family register system in Japan (koseki 戸籍): The Door-Register for the House-Tribe (家族=family).
I’m not sure whether the current emperor is descended from one specific person living in the 6th or 7th century:
Before Common Era we have Emperor Jinmu (God-Warrior 神武) and in the Common Era we have Emperor Tenmu (Sky-Warrior 天武).
There is a whole book about this.
How is it called? Inscriptions of Old-Things (Kojiki 古事記) written circa 8th century CE.
I will not go into that because I’m not knowledgeable (or smart) about the Old-Things, but I will tell you this:
For the average person living in Japan until Meiji period the above was not common knowledge and the sense of identity was perhaps different from what the current Japanese people feel about Nihonjin (the Sun-Rooted People).
Since the Bright-Fixing (Meiji 明治), when there were conscious efforts at state-building, the Sun-Rooted Theory had to be emphasized with a great deal of attention paid to those Western powers threatening to break up the country, like they were doing with the Middle-Country (China 中国).
Recall that at this point (at the end of the 19th century), whereas
If you’re an Asian person at the end of the 19th century, you see that people coming from across the ocean try to plant colonies in your country, the way they did in the United States 200 years before.
What happened in the United States, in what was called America?
Why was it called America? Because of the name of some guy from Europe.
Let us remember the names and their etymology.
The name of the country was decided by those White guys coming from Europe.
So how do you feel if you’re in the Sun-Rooted Country?
Obviously, the Tokugawa (Virtue-River) family thought it was not, so for 250 years Japan becomes “Closed” (Chained-Country sakoku 鎖国).
While the Sun-Rooted People prepared to fight the foreigners, they also fought to assimilate (by force of arms) other people nearby such as the Ryukyu people (Kingdom of Okinawa) and the Ainu people. The Sun-Rooted People had to come together and this is when the Sun-Rooted People Theory came in as a unifying concept.
The Sun-Rooted People Theory goes through cycles of positive and negative feelings.
The Meiji period (the Bright-Healing 明治) starts with the BAD feeling that we (the Japanese, the Sun-Rooted People) are inferior, uncivilised in some ways. By “uncivilised” it was meant
“we may lose in the battle for survival with the other races, so we need to adopt some of the techniques of those other guys, because ours are not as perfect (although we will keep ours in store)”.
Then we have re-discovery of a GOOD feeling once we (the Japanese, the Sun-Rooted People) managed to copy the Western know-how and technology and combined it with the Sun-Rooted Theory to make Japan strong. We felt confident enough to spread Sun-Rooted People Theory across Asia.
The problem is that we tried to spread the same spirit of aggressiveness which, take note, was
This GOOD feeling about our own Sun-Rootedness also inspired us to attack weaker places by creating
a huge wave of enthusiasm and patriotic fervour which swept the whole chain of islands of Sun-Rooted People and threw them like a wave across Asia, until they smashed upon the rocks of their own arrogance and the rocks of a different people…
As soon as this wave breaks, the Sun-Rooted People think that their Sun-Rooted Theory is trash, so we have (again) a BAD feeling about ourselves as we have to ask
Who made the Sun-Rooted Country bad?
For several decades after the war everybody goes through a phase of self-recrimination, but then we reach the economic boom of the late 60s: The miracle of Asia.
This is a time during which the Sun-Rooted People produce such a huge amount of wealth for themselves and (in some ways) for many other people that one cannot help but feel GOOD about oneself as we see the name “Japan” on
This phase lasts until the 80s when the bubble bursts and Japan finds itself in the current BAD mood:
A cyclical return since things eternally recur.
Why was the Sun-Rooted Country in the gutter (again)?
Fast-forward a quarter of a century later where the mood may be swinging again to a positive one. The Sun-Rooted People have started to think that the Sun-Rooted Theory has some GOOD parts which could be adopted by the rest of the world.
What are the GOOD parts which can become models for others to follow?
These can be found in that tradition which had been held in store for so long, from before that time when new stuff was brought in to protect the Sun-Rooted People in the 19th century.
There is more to be found within the Sun-Rooted Theory. It’s not limited to showing you how to make a really good car. Somebody had developed in this land a method on how to approach things:
We need to remember the principles and the paths which our ancestors everywhere have walked to enable us to arrive here.
Where is “here”? This is the Land of the Rising Sun and the Rising Sun does not mean conquering and subjugating other people. It means
Hopefully this dialogue of lights will reach some resonance point to allow us to live in harmony and peace, Sun-Rooted People, Middle-Country People, everybody coming together, as One.
I am hereby introducing a rational argument for acting morally. I am also deriving some conclusions about death which are no longer knowledge items, but rather beliefs; that being said, my “religion” does not require any “supernatural being” to do any work in order to ensure that GOOD and BAD deeds are rewarded / punished.
This means that I advocate a belief in SOMETHING [the principle that BAD breeds BAD and GOOD breeds GOOD] and not SOMEBODY [dispensing justice]; by the way, I didn’t invent this principle (a.k.a., karma), or, as we say in aikido,
Good causes [result in] good effects. Bad causes [result in] bad effects
And it all comes back to us. Always.
There is this strange concept in quantum physics that certain things are more likely to be found in certain places, at certain frequencies, set at spaced intervals. You could think of these as “lucky numbers” (or solutions to complicated equations beyond your average person’s grasp).
I would venture a hypothesis that
the human brain has been culturally conditioned in each society to accept dialogues of a certain length
Dialogues undershooting or overshooting this set number by a significant margin are rejected out of hand as anomalous
(to grasp this, think how inappropriate a four-second song or a ten-minute self-introductory speech feels).
In addition to the culturally-set values, we would also have been conditioned biologically (as animals):
How long could you pay attention to a single stimulus before that would endanger your survival?
Before that would encroach on everything else you had to attend to?
Maybe you had to go procure food, right? You don’t have time to listen to this guy talking for more than… half a minute? One minute?
The acceptable length of a casual dialogue is built into us by our evolutionary history and I assume that it would be under a minute.
Imagine a Neanderthal having a conversation with another Neanderthal; how many grunts?
How about the anatomy? Would all the parts of the vocal tract (which we take for granted in homo sapiens) be there to allow speech and for how long?
Would I have been choking more because the anatomy was not as perfected as it has come to be in the meantime?
The shape of the mouth has changed; think about how much difficulty a monkey has in maintaining control of all the muscles (lips, tongue etc.) which appears so natural and easy to us?
So that’s it, 3 minutes [if you’re listening to the audio track].
That’s all the time I could keep your attention, so good-bye.
Now, if I assume that your attention span is only 3 minutes long, things become interesting.
Mind you, a high tolerance of long-winded arguments is not necessarily a virtue; maybe I’ve sounded idiotic, or incoherent after the first minute passed and you’ve decided 3 minutes is the limit, after that you’re just going to stop listening.
When did you stop listening? Well, if you did, then you’re not listening to this anymore.
So now I’m talking to the other guys, the minority.
Who belongs to this (incredibly patient) minority? The people who listen for 15 minutes?
My own style of speaking is organized as a rant, where I just run through the fields; discourse involves “running about” (currere, let’s remember the Latin). It’s a rambling dialogue where I’m talking and you just happen to be in the minority who have nothing better to do than listen, or who are
just intrigued by this self-infatuation that is so patently demonstrated by this fellow who is posing as an English speaker, but is obviously more or less pretending to be one.
You can see through me so easily, right? As an English speaker, my friend, as an English speaker.
You can’t see through me as a Romanian.
You can’t see through me as a Japanese.
You can’t see through me, not through my head, but you can see some parts of me, those which I put into words on a track that’s (usually) 15 minutes long.
Allow me to proceed to the crux of this dialogue:
If you listen carefully to all that’s happening around you, then you realize that sometimes you need to listen more carefully.
I’m not sure if you’re catching the (sounds of the) movements of the fan blades that are turning near my room (where I am now walking around and talking).
[Obviously, you need to play the audio file to understand all references to sounds]
I’ve had this insight when I was in Tsukuba (Japan) some years ago; I was at a friend’s house, it was raining, it was night time, I was on the balcony, and I kept hearing this noise combined with the noise of the blades of the fan of the air-conditioning unit; I’ve heard this noise that sounded very strange but somehow familiar. Then it just hit me that it was
the sound of rain hitting the cars passing in front of the house:
Ssshhhh, ssshhhh, sssshhhh…
Each car would go through a certain space, would hit a certain number of drops of water falling from the sky, the impact of which would ripple the sounds (sound waves) through the air and these would eventually hit my ear drums; then my brain would spend some time struggling to assign a source to this sound
(the sound of cars passing through rain).
So we spend time in assigning cause, but we’re usually not paying that much attention because we don’t have enough time, there are too many sounds going on around us.
Then, I listened to the AC fan blades and at some point I realized that, if I meditated long enough, I could feel it slowing down,
I could hear each blade individually, I could hear it going through the air and hitting the air particles, and then these air particles would ripple and the waves would hit my ear drums.
The insight, the revelation I want to talk about is not this, of course; so far it was just interesting.
The revelation was that as we would lay dying at some point in our lives, these sounds (from the world around us) would still strike us, but
Now, my guess is that in this final dialogue
boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom…
Let’s say that was the last one… but there wouldn’t be a last one in terms of what you (=the dying person) perceive.
It would be continuously slowing down, but the time interval perception would just continue to grow, and each interval would seem longer, and longer, and longer…
What does this tell us in terms of what we should do on this planet, while we’re here alive? It tells us that we should live our lives in the best manner possible.
No, simply because there would be a lot of intervals of time in that last dialogue you have to carry with yourself for longer, and longer, and longer intervals of time, as you’re slowing down, more, and more, and more.
At that moment (when you’re dying) there would be so much time that you’d probably be going back (the famous re-living of life experiences and so on).
Of course, I am not sure of this; I haven’t died and come back to tell you, but I have an almost religious conviction at this point that
the moment of dying only exists for those who remain but does not exist per se for the person dying.
Always getting slower, never completely stopping.
The complete stop would not occur, because that’s when time would stop, that’s when you’d say:
Okay, that’s the last interval.
There would never be such a time, there would be no end; when time stops, that would be it, but that would be it in terms of you while you’re still here, and while you’re still here there’s still time, there’s still an interval of a dialogue going on in which you might have to account (to yourself) for all you’ve done while you were alive.
Who were you?
How long did you talk to yourself and how long did you talk to others?
How will you look back to all that you have done?
Imagine how much more terrible this dialogue would be for a suicidal person, and you will understand why suicide is bad, intrinsically.
Imagine how much worse would this dialogue be for somebody who has killed another person, because this would be re-lived again and again, in slower and slower motion, each time unable to go back and change it.
Each time full of regret, full of the same, essentially bad, feelings that you’ve experienced originally.
Imagine how much more rewarding and how much better it would be to re-live mostly good experiences…
So this is important as a moral compass not just for me in terms of what I should do from a selfish point of view
“I want to rest in peace as I lay dying”
but also in terms of me and how I affect others and how I could possibly change their eternities spent as they lay dying, those eternity-bound dialogues in the last moments, in which they review their lives and how I have impacted them.
Would they be a series of pleasant, funny, amusing, touching moments?
Or, revolting, disgusting, hateful moments?
So choose well my friend, choose well while you’re alive, not just for yourself but also for others because
in each moment of our lives we’re deciding those last dialogues for each other and we’re setting ourselves up for an eternity of living good or bad experiences in those last moments.
So here’s my religious experience, my mystical insight. You can share yours, if you like.
Post Scriptum: The above principle does not guarantee that
if you do GOOD, you will live a GOOD (=happy) life and nothing BAD (=horrible) will happen to you
Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well:
People doing BAD stuff can have all sorts of GOOD stuff happening to them.
We all know this constitutes an insurmountable argument against the existence of a God-like figure, but some of us are comfortable going around it by (sup)posing the existence of another supernatural world where things get balanced somehow.
Nevertheless, if you share my belief and act accordingly,
you only have to worry about the GOOD and BAD stuff for which YOU are personally responsible.
If a drunk driver runs over me (=BAD stuff), this will not haunt me in my final moments (=eternities) because it is not something I lived to regret; however, the drunk driver will not have this luxury and he will have to spend many a moment (=eternity) pondering his responsibility for this BAD act and all the BAD acts that would (almost inevitably) follow.
It sounds naive, but doing GOOD is (in the very long run) the easy path as it ensures you will have peace of mind for (that illusory-but-otherwise-very-real-to-your-consciousness) eternity.
Of course, doing GOOD is (in the short run) the difficult path because you cannot take any of the (BAD) shortcuts as these would haunt you for (that illusory-but-otherwise-very-real-to-your-consciousness) eternity.
Speaking of epiphanies (again in the Religion category), there are moments in our lives when
Usually this happens when you think something is in a certain manner and the difference between your initial perception and the subsequent revelation seems to have a lot of consequences in terms of improving your understanding
Allow me to illustrate with an example taken from my personal experience:
I was at the seaside with my good friend, Julian, and we were enjoying life as young people do; at the same time we were blissfully ignorant of many-many other aspects of life because we’re young and ignorant (nowadays, I guess we’re just the latter).
At this point I experienced an optical illusion, a mis-perception caused by looking up for too long on a bright, beautiful day; it was a cold, cloudless spring-day, and I was watching this eagle floating above a cliff that was jutting towards the sea.
As I was watching the eagle, my eyes fell upon the cliff itself and I was not surprised to find its shadow moving across the cliff face, when I was startled by the realisation that
the eagle’s shadow, instead of being black against an illuminated green (grass) and grey (stone) background, was actually completely lit, the way you’d have if you’re shining or reflecting a light from a wrist-watch or a mirror.
I could see a bright beam of light moving across the same cliff face where the eagle’s shadow should have fallen. Naturally, this resulted into the sort of facile philosophising you can imagine:
The shadow is light and you can take it from here.
That was the initial experience which I thought very insightful at that time but I soon discovered that I was very superficial in my appraisal of
At this point, we heard these dogs (Dobermans) barking behind us; it dawned on us that we were in a place that was not meant to be used as a public beach, and now the question presented itself to us:
What do we do about these two Dobermans who look pretty menacingly as they’re barking and blocking our way back?
So we tried to find a different path to go back to where we came from, back to our safe world, when the dogs started running downhill towards us. During this chase, as we’re scrambling across stones and boulders covered in seaweed, I’m reflecting on the fact that this will probably be a very unequal fight with these dogs who seem so powerful and about whose ferocity I (thought I) knew a lot.
At this point I was engaged in a dialogue with myself where I recast myself as the hunted (fighting for his life)
so that when we reached this point where we couldn’t climb up any more and the dogs were upon us, I turned around to face them, just thinking “How are we going to fight?”
We didn’t have any weapons or sticks, so I could only envision a fight where we would just bite each other, basically devolving back to the animal fighting for survival. I was looking at these animals, at these dogs’ muscles and teeth, which appeared not so much as teeth as fangs, right? I looked at these creatures, which would soon be upon us, and I assumed this aggressive posture.
It is at this point that my good friend, Julian, saved us (“us” meaning “us = the humans and the dogs”) from a really bad experience by changing his perception, by remembering his true self:
He had a different dialogue running in his head, obviously, and he decided that these dogs would like to become friends with us.
You see, they just wanted to say hello to us.
So he starts talking (dialogue) with the dogs: “They just want to be friends”.
Of course, I had my doubts since we had just been running and we had been chased (it didn’t feel like a dialogue), but I remained passive as I just didn’t know what else we could do. I watched as my good friend Juli responded
I found myself staring in disbelief two minutes later, as Juli was sitting down next to one dog and patting it on the head with the dog looking very happy, and I was still trying to get rid of
the last simulation of fight-to-the-death, nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw dialogue that I had in my head.
Then it hit me: This was a very good instance of a self-fulfilling prophecy:
I realised that the intellectual in me who was so excited to discover the play-on-words between shadow and light based on a simple optical illusion was very shallow.
I found myself stunned to discover that I suffer from a psychological illusion of control and that I’m making myself my own enemy without realising it.
You can call it a soul illusion, that my soul was blacker than I would have liked to think, and this almost got reflected back to me and could have caused a very messy episode.
So I say this to all of you out there who feel that fear is just the expression of a healthy survival instinct meant to give us early warning and ensure our safety:
That should be our default stance when we are not sure about what is actually happening, when nothing bad has actually occurred yet.
Do not subscribe to the idiot’s [from Greek idios “one’s own] dogma of preemptive attack, who would push himself and others around him into this drama of fighting for one’s life, when this is not a fight or a competition.
It could (in fact) depend on your mindset at that time and your conscious decisions could turn it into a dialogue of love.
In a previous recording I said I don’t know if it is justifiable to make it a law that
women have to cover their bodies in order to prevent all these problems stemming from the “fact” that young men cannot control themselves.
Of course, I lied when I said “I don’t know”.
I think I know what is better.
Like everyone else, I have a very strong opinion and I’m convinced that my opinion is the more “correct” one, that there is more GOOD in it.
However, I’ll let you be the judge of that since this is a dialogue among equals.
Here’s my opinion:
It is not on us (=men) to decide.
It is not on us
to decide whether the woman’s head, face, hair, ankles etc. need to be covered.
I do not think that in all these societies, in which men have been masters for so many centuries, men should still be deciding rules for women.
I think women in each of these societies should (be able to) come forward and decide for themselves.
Call me a radical.
However, even this modest proposal presents us with a huge problem in any of the above-mentioned societies.
This is why I’m always hesitant in revealing my opinions which I hold to be better, to be superior in terms of GOOD, in terms of equality, in terms of looking at the Other as a dialogue partner.
Why do I hesitate? Why do I fear? Because a lot of people will be hurt, a lot of people will feel that their sensibilities, their tastes, their cultural learning have been offended.
Many people may feel that their beliefs have been (in some way) invalidated by what I say or somebody else says when we declare that
“Women should have the right to choose if they cover themselves or not”.
All this shows you that we live in a very strange period of our history as homo sapiens because we do not live up to our own definition of homo as including both man and woman.
Notice that in all these cases we have a religious aspect:
we don’t think about this issue as a human rights problem.
This is how sad the story is:
We think that it is a religious problem.
Now, who has come up with (and written down) these holy scriptures? Men. So of course men decide.
It is past time we had a dialogue with women and let them decide. At least in terms of what they wear. Or maybe we can have a dialogue:
We (women) will do this and we’ll do this, but you (men) will have to do this.
For example, ask men to stop telling women all the time what to do.
That would be a good start.
So yeah, I’m a radical from this point of view, and the fact that I’m a radical tells us that we’re in a really sorry state of inequality between genders because we frame it in terms of religion:
People don’t discuss religion.
It is very difficult to discuss religion, because people FEEL so strongly about religion.
I’ve had and still have (allow me to get personal here) a huge fight ahead of me just in refusing and postponing baptising my daughter. I’m Romanian and everyone is thinking:
Of course you’re going to baptise your daughter, make her a Christian.
If not, she’s going to go to hell.
It’s as basic as that. It’s as (and sorry for saying this so bluntly) mean-spirited as that:
If you’re a Christian and you believe that, you have just condemned a baby (who cannot speak yet) to hell at this point.
I’m sorry if you’re an Orthodox Christian and this comes as a shock to you:
Your belief system has just condemned my daughter (in particular) and millions and billions of others (many of them just children like my daughter who cannot yet speak), your belief system has condemned them all to hell.
Why? Because that’s what it says in the Book, right? Does it say so in the Book?
When was Jesus baptised? How old was he then?
That infants are baptized for the remission of sins
Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema.
For no otherwise can be understood what the Apostle says, By one man sin has come into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned, than the Catholic Church everywhere diffused has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith (regulam fidei) even infants, who could have committed as yet no sin themselves, therefore are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what in them is the result of generation may be cleansed by regeneration.
The following, says Surius, is found in this place in a very ancient codex. It does not occur in the Greek, nor in Dionysius. Bruns relegates it to a foot-note.
[Also it seemed good, that if anyone should say that the saying of the Lord, In my Father’s house are many mansions is to be understood as meaning that in the kingdom of heaven there will be a certain middle place, or some place somewhere, in which infants live in happiness who have gone forth from this life without baptism, without which they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal life, let him be anathema. For after our Lord has said: Unless a man be born again of water and of the Holy Spirit he shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, what Catholic can doubt that he who has not merited to be coheir with Christ shall become a sharer with the devil: for he who fails of the right hand without doubt shall receive the left hand portion.]
So we have a whole problem in Romania (and in Christianity) because just with baptism we have already destroyed our argument for a universal brotherhood and sisterhood of men and women by being so narrow-minded.
Let me spell it out for you, Christians everywhere:
“Not baptised” means going to hell. Is it the limbo? Where do the unbaptised go?
If it’s mean, can we improve it then?
I’m asking what can we do, but I’m coming from a different perspective because I haven’t baptised my daughter.
I’ve stood against the current and I’ve felt the huge pressure you have to resist simply for not carrying out this ritual forward, simply for saying:
I think she’ll be OK.
I think you hold a false belief about what is actually happening in this world.
I think you allow yourself to be deluded about the state of reality because you choose to interpret it based on a single, very old book which is no longer applicable
Raise your hands for “Stone to death those who [insert crime]”
in relation to the present reality, in relation to our current knowledge about ourselves and about Others.
This is not just a conflict with Nature, with what we know after the scientific revolution, but also with what we know about other people.
The dialogues we’ve had with other people (should) have enabled us to realise that our own religion is a peculiar incident, something that occurred with us because we were born in a particular society, culture, time, place.
It is not because we (our race, our tribe, our people) were personally chosen.
It is not because somebody has planted humankind on this planet.
We’ve started from a place and it’s in AFRICA in case you think it’s Jerusalem, or in case you think it’s New York, or in case you think it’s Kyoto, or in case you think it’s Beijing, or in case you think it’s I-don’t-know-what-place.
We’ve started in Africa.
How did it start and where were we many, many, many years ago?
What did we do in the many thousands of years before we managed to talk to each other, before we managed to write to each other, before we managed to have dialogues with each other?
Roaming this planet, coming up with our stories, our myths, our religions.
Mind you, nobody is saying
“Throw the books in the bin and burn them”.
We’re not advocating the communist approach that “religion is the opium of the people” and it needs to be destroyed. Religion is not something we need to destroy.
Religion needs to be faced with the sort of honesty that would allow us to have dialogues on an equal footing with other people.
If it does not allow equal dialogues between people on this planet, then it is not relevant because it does not reflect our current agreement about each other.
It does not reflect anything about
If we’re just politically correct about who we give equal status to, then we’re facing (in the near future) another cataclysm
and we know how cataclysms have turned out so far, we know what we’re capable of.
We’ve come up with rational dialogues and now we need to be consistent in our words and actions.
So that’s my comment on religion(s) and that’s my comment on whether women should cover their bodies:
men should just shut up and stop telling women (around the world) what to do.
WARNING: I am now turning to religion(s). If you are not open to discussing religion and calling into question certain tenets, you should probably stop reading/listening here.
This is a comment on Romanian jokes (bancuri), which are probably shared across Eastern Europe and may have something to do with Yiddish culture.
Every Romanian feels (for some reason) a compulsion to tell jokes; I haven’t met a Romanian who didn’t know a joke.
It is virtually impossible not to know a joke. Even if you don’t tell jokes, you would have overheard one. Toata lumea stie un banc, toata lumea a auzit un banc. Everybody heard somebody else telling a joke to another person (or a group).
Why? Why do we think like this? We think politics is a big joke.We have all these jokes that are political in nature, which seem to have an underground sort of meaning, which should escape surface censorship. Consider the following:
What’s the difference between Communism and Capitalism?
In Capitalism, we have the exploitation of man by man.
What about in Communism?
In Communism it’s the other way around.
That would be a joke and your reaction is: “What does it mean? That there is no difference? Why don’t you just say so?”
We don’t just spit it out because it doesn’t take you very far. When you tell this joke, a connection is made between two arguments, but it doesn’t stop at this point: “Communism and Capitalism are the same (as far as the average person is concerned)”.
It pulls at us to question the validity of the explanation “the exploitation of man by man”; it makes us ask:
What does “exploitation of man by man” mean? Is it slavery? Yes, it is slavery.
What kind of slavery? Maybe it’s different. Is it the same thing?
Romanian humour has a certain political-thought-philosophy undercurrent: What is “freedom”?
So it’s a short joke, a couple of lines, and it’s in question-and-answer format. We think that jokes are essential to understand what goes on in the world, to explain how the world works. We have all these characters who behave in certain predictable ways, specific for each of the various nationalities.
Jokes (for Romanians) are all about revealing deeper meanings of how things work. However, Romanians nowadays have become superficial because we don’t pursue a thread of thought (firul gandirii) further; we just stop at laughing (“Oh, I got it!”), we stop to enjoy a short fleeting moment of pleasure.
Why do we like to laugh so much? Because life (in Eastern Europe) is pretty sad.
An Eastern European touched (or clubbed over the head) by Russian culture (from Dostoevsky to Stalin) knows that life is sad, that the condition of being alive is full of opportunities to be, become, or remain sad.
You have to laugh while you can still laugh. How do you laugh? You laugh by showing some understanding of Reality, by showing that you grasp some part of this Reality. But it’s never everything!
You always grasp some part, but then you have to burst out laughing when you recall how silly it is to presume to grasp it all.
The person who laughs doesn’t really say anything anymore.
If you ask somebody a question and they just laugh, it could mean that there is no answer, that the question is wrong. It could mean that your question itself is ridiculous, that it doesn’t have any meaning.
It could mean that the ultimate answer is just Nothing-Coming-back (mu-henji 無返事) that could be interpreted in any way you’d want. The smile of Buddha, right?
It’s strange that many divine figures go silent but smile at some crucial point when they’re asked a difficult question by the disciples.
Consider the koan (Public-Proposal 公案) practice, the famous Zen one-sentence zipping you out of this reality by making you realise the truth (what reality?).
Are Romanian jokes and koan somehow related? Not really. They’re of a very different kind, but they both serve to help people deal with their reality in their respective societies.
Communism appeared in Romania, in a society which believes that sadness is an essential part of being alive. Making fun and laughing helps you as a Romanian deal with this sad world.
On the other hand, koan are questions or short stories meant to make you Think about the Proposal.
*If you listen to the voice recording, you know that I’ve erred believing it’s koan (考案 Think-Proposal) instead of the correct koan (公案 Public-Proposal).
In a koan, the zen master knows the answer to the student’s question, but the master is not divine. Remember that Buddha was an Indian prince before becoming Buddha: Human originally, one of us and not divine. He became divine.
Mind the direction:
Not divinity descending down on Earth into a human like us, but rather divinity reached upwards, from a human in our condition, exactly like us (living in another time).
The direction is different in the Mediterranean cultures (Greek, Roman, Judeo-Christian & Islamic) since the divine is projected downwards into one point on Earth. Divinity could mean one God coming down on Earth, although it depends on how you count:
Do we count Christ, God and the Holy Ghost as one? Or not? There are some differences on this point. What about Moses and Mohammed and the other guys? Do we count them as divine?
The apostles and the prophets were human and reached up to apostle-hood or prophet-status, but keep in mind that God is not human: He (She?) becomes human.
In the Orient, we start with the human who later becomes divine; now everybody else could reach divinity, by following.
That’s the difference between Buddhism and Christianity (and, by extension, monotheistic religions in general) as far as I can grasp it. I’ve read some of our holy texts and there are aspects I cannot understand, aspects which don’t make sense in light of what we now know.
Now, if you read sutras (御経 in Japanese; o-kyo Respected-Songs) and you compare them with what we have (i.e., the Bible), it strikes you immediately that our books (the Old Testament and New Testament) are called the Old-Contract and the New-Contract.
The Bible sounds like a business transaction as opposed to “somebody who experienced the same things and made songs about them” (経 means “Passing through something”, as seen in the combination keiken (経験 Passing-Tests), usually translated as “experience”).
Do we start with a human from among other humans like him?
Or do we start from a God in the sky projected as a beam on earth, a God temporarily housed into a human being? Doesn’t it sound as unnatural as you can think of? Still a virgin, right? How strange is that?
This incomprehensible aspects are those that prove His divinity. We start with the proof in Christianity.
What’s the proof of divinity in Buddhism?
The fact that this person has done something during his life and has come to know something.
Do we call this “divinity”? Is it the same kind of divinity that we are talking about? No, it’s different.
Both are called religions, both are called sacred, but they are different because the direction is different.
You could say that Buddhism started from a more familiar experience to any of us, that of being an ordinary human.
However, if you feel that you’re part of the divine, that a divine spark has been blown into you, then you start from the other side.
That being said, in our day and age (following the scientific revolution), we feel that the divine spark hypothesis is pretty shaky.
We had something called evolution and that is a different explanation. Personally, I don’t think that the snake was punished to have to crawl on the ground and be hunted (Genesis 3:14). I think the snake just evolved that way, into the kind of animal it currently is.
Do you agree with me? Do you think that the body of the snake evolved to be what it is? Or was it punished by God?
What does Buddhism say about the snake? There’s probably some ridiculous explanation about this in Buddhism as well, their books were written thousands of years ago.
Buddha lived some 600 years before Christ, but the songs were (of course) compiled much later.
The Pāli Canon (Pali: Tipitaka) is the standard collection of scriptures in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, as preserved in the Pāli language. It is the most complete extant early Buddhist canon. It was composed in North India, and preserved orally until it was committed to writing during the Fourth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka in 29 BCE, approximately 454 years after the death of Gautama Buddha.
That would be another story and it’s older. Would these Buddhist texts have influenced Jesus, if he had known about them?
Mohammed knew about Jesus, and he was influenced by that, obviously, 600 years later.
Is there a certain time at which religious figures appear (at 600 years intervals) to change our perception of what divinity is?
Jesus changed it for some people; Mohammed changed it for some other people.
Is it better or is it worse? I don’t know, to tell you the truth; it’s not for me to decide, it’s for you to decide.
I am here to tell you that there are other ways in which people have interacted with what we call Divinity in English (Western culture), with what we call the Sacred Awakened One in Buddhism, with the one that was believed to strike down with lightning in Greek culture.
How was the world formed? Was it by dipping a halberd (naginata 長刀) into the primordial waters and watching the drops fall to form the Japanese archipelago (chain of islands), like pearls dropped into the sea, from Izanagi and Izanami’s fight?
(Actually, no fight, just churning the waters with the naginata Long-Sword.)
Do you know Japanese religious dogma?
The elder gods delegated the youngest couple Izanagi and Izanami to carry out their venerable mandate: to reach down from heaven and give solid form to the earth. This they did with the use of a precious stone-covered spear named Ame-no-nuboko (天沼矛, “heavenly jewelled spear”), given to them by the elders. Standing over the Ame-no-ukihashi (天浮橋, “floating bridge of heaven”), they churned the chaotic mass with the spear. When drops of salty water fell from the tip, they formed into the first island, Onogoroshima. In forming this island, both gods came down from heaven, and spontaneously built a central support column called the Ame-no-mihashira (天御柱, “heavenly pillar”) which upheld the “hall measuring eight fathoms” that the gods caused to appear afterwards
Then they initiated conversation inquiring of each other’s bodily anatomy, leading to a mutual decision to mate and procreate:
Izanagi: How has your body been made?
Izanami: My body is fully formed, except for a part which has not quite grown.
Izanagi: My body is fully formed, except I have a part that has grown too much. If I place the part of my body that has grown too much, and plug the part of your body not yet grown, we will procreate lands and dominions. What say you to this?
Izanami accepted the offer and Izanagi proposed that both should circle around the column Ame-no-mihashira in opposite directions, Izanami going right and Izanagi left and on meeting each other would perform sexual intercourse (maguwai (麻具波比))
That may sound slightly different from our normal dialogues and that’s why I am talking here to let you know that in Romania we have been using jokes to connect with this divine reality which we call Laughter.
Laughter has become a god among Romanians, since it is the ultimate winner in every debate. But there are different kinds of laughter:
There is the laughter of disapproval, the dismissive laughter, the sarcastic laughter, the crude-barbaric laughter, the hearty laughter, laughing from the stomach. Laughter which emerges from joy, laughter which emerges from discovering the answer to a riddle, or something that tickles our imagination in a certain way.
The true laughter: The laughter from a beam of understanding, passing between humans.
Yes, I tend to stand on the Zen Buddhist side.
This is going to be about zen (禅 Meditation), so I’ll put it in the Religion category (folder). Aristotle’s Organon helps us organise stuff.
Do you know the kanji (漢字Chinese-Character) for zen? Do you know its meaning, a couple of combinations?
If you know zazen (座禅 Sitting-Meditation), you might realise that other combinations are possible.
The kanji for zen (禅) would give you one clue; the sound for zen will give you another clue (Sanskrit dhyāna Quiet-Thinking), but if you’re not a Japanese speaker then it doesn’t have the same impact.
Allow me to elaborate on the concept of zen (禅) for average Japanese people, most of them educated in this spirit.
The spirit of zen (禅) means that whatever you do, you’re supposed to do your best (zen-ryoku o tsukushi 全力を尽くし Use-up-All-Power), to concentrate on what you’re doing, while also being aware of what is around you.
However, it doesn’t (necessarily) have the meaning it does in the Western, Hollywood culture, which assigns it only a spiritual dimension.
Of course, it is a spiritual thing; that’s why we have monasteries.
Do you know what the monks do in these zen–Buddhist monasteries in Japan?
They write Sanskrit using kanji (漢字 Chinese-Characters).
Why do they do that? Because, of course, Buddhism came to Japan from India via China, so it comes only in kanji (漢字 Chinese-Characters).
This means that in Japan we have imported not only the meanings, but also some of the sounds, even though nowadays we start with the meanings that can be inferred from the letters (=characters).
For the average Japanese person the spiritual connection is obscured because it is so obvious (to-zen 当然 Right-So) that you have to do your best in whatever you do.
It is a norm, what we would call in the Kantian tradition, a categorical imperative “to do your best”.
Of course, not everybody lives up to this ideal, like in every other society, but it’s there, as a norm.
Now, what is the “best” and how do we define “GOOD”?
How did these zen-Buddhists define the GOOD?
I would say it’s “awareness” (Meaning-Discerning 意識).
We have a couple of common elements across this whole area, from India to China and Japan, in the same manner that we have a Greek-Latin-Aramaic(-Arab-Hebrew) connection for European languages and European philosophy.
That being said, people living on this island seem to have taken Buddhist teachings a step further in emphasising the link with Nature (the famous Zen gardens) much more than
My impression is that people living in Japan are often made aware of their surroundings (the environment) as they are jolted back to reality nearly every year.
The March 11 (2011) quake was absolutely terrifying in Tokyo (as we were waiting for the BIG one), but no buildings came down. In one old building, the ceiling came down; that was the only place in Tokyo where people died, these poor guys on whom the ceiling came down.
It was actually in East-North Japan (Tohoku 東北) where the real disaster struck.
In Tokyo it only measured a 5 plus (on the Japanese scale), which means that in Europe half of the buildings would probably collapse; I guess it depends on which part of Europe we’re talking about; in Bucharest, it would be catastrophic because we don’t build with earthquakes in mind.
I was in Tokyo when the Great East-North (Tohoku 東北) earthquake struck and it seemed to bring out the GOOD as people remembered (for a short time) their place in Nature.
It is a safe bet to predict that another earthquake will strike Japan soon and the GOOD will appear again because people try their best in this country.
On this day some people were trying do their jobs so perfectly that they forgot the situation they were in as individuals.
Here’s story for you:
On March 11th 2011, around 2:46 pm, there were some people working on the 12th or 13th floor of a building in Tokyo. Slowly (but gradually growing more severe) everything starts shaking. As a result, the elevators stop automatically and you would probably experience sea sickness from all that motion (plus the adrenaline high). Anyway, things would have been flying around; there would have been broken glass everywhere; there would definitely be dust from the ceiling, snowing down on everybody.
This goes on for almost 2 minutes, and everybody is just looking at each other, terrified:
It’s the biggest earthquake to strike Japan in 1000 years or so.
In all this chaos, when everybody looks at each other without knowing what to do, they hear this person running up the stairs. A man enters the company office, holding a bouquet of roses and he asks, completely out of breath:
“Where is Mr. Yamamoto? I have to deliver these flowers”…
What do we see here? The delivery man’s job is to deliver.
The best the delivery man could do was to take the stairs (no working elevators) and to run up during the 2 minutes of shaking.
He ran up the stairs to do his job, while everybody was too petrified to move.
I don’t know what everybody’s reaction was; I’ve heard about people running down the stairs, especially foreigners and people who were not prepared for this kind of situation.
We (in the factory where I work) didn’t run; we prepare for this kind of situation, so everybody did what they were trained to do. It was like a drill:
Do you want to know how I participated in this? How I brought my kaizen (改善Change-into-Good) into this situation?
Normally, during past drills, we evacuated to the soccer ground, but because the soccer ground could get really muddy, we sometimes skipped this step (you don’t want 600 people to carry mud back into the factory); so we got used to evacuating in front of the building.
During the actual earthquake, after we got out and we were doing the headcount, I realised that we’re standing in front of a 20-storey building and there were some windows which looked like they could fall on top of us because of all the aftershocks (kaizen step 1: Describe what is BAD?)
I thought that we could have a better situation if I communicated this to the team leader, who communicated it to the factory manager who got everybody to move to the soccer ground (even if it was muddy). It took us about 2-3 minutes to achieve this:
In an extreme emergency, a kaizen (Change-into-Good) proposal from a foreigner in Japan was taken up, analysed, quickly recognised as reasonable, and implemented in 3 minutes by the leader on the spot.
That’s what it means to be open to kaizen, to do the best you can do at that time.