Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:

Click here to go to the next issue

Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nondual Highlights each day

#2494 - Friday, June 9, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz

    Three articles in this issue.

One from the Buddhist perspective by Greg Goode on opening the curtain to the "natural, peaceful, in the manner of all things...."  

That theme carries into the next article by Joe Bollig which is on the spiritual of farming from the Catholic viewpoint: "Farm spirituality begins with a deep appreciation for creation. The farmer does not create the land, or control the weather, or give life to the seeds he plants or the animals he raises - it’s all God, farmers say."  

Finally, a selection from the travel blog of Chuck Hillig in which he doesn't say anything about God or nature but simply reports from Boracay, the Phillipines: "The water near the shore is a brilliant turquoise and it laps gently onto the spotless white beach that stretches for several miles."    

    Greg Goode

Buddhism and the Brain

(From Nondual Philosophy list (NDP), message 14979, 4/25/2006)


Q:  How's about a bit of Madhyamikan analysis on "brain"? Or start with "body".


A:  We can go right for the brain, since this seems to be brain and existence day at NDP!


In Madhyamika, suffering is a result of the conception of inherent existence.  The stickiest thing we think exists inherently is the self.  But trying to investigate its inherent existence is more subtle and emotionally charged than doing the investigation about other objects, such as teacups and chariots.  So you begin by doing the other objects first.


So we can do the brain.


It's called ultimate analysis or analytical meditation.  Its goal is to refute the object called inherent existence, thus eliminating the psychological notional/feeling complex of inherent existence.


So the purpose of the meditation is to reduce the conception of inherent existence of the brain.  There are several steps


1.  Try to get a really strong sense of the inherent existence of the brain.  How it exists by itself.  Existing by itself means (i) existing independently of all its components (ii) existing independently of all causes and conditions (iii) existing independently of all awareness


If we look into our naive sense of existence, this is just how we think things do exist.  In the West, this kind of thinking was inherited from Plato via Judeo-Christian culture and Kant, Locke, and more recently, science.  We think that aspects in (i)-(iii) are tangential to the real brain.  These are relations to the brain but not the brain in and of itself.


This kind of inherent existence is the opposite of dependent arising.


2.  Try to get a sense of the entailment.  That is, see how if it exists like we think, then it should be findable, identifiable.  If it is not findable, then it doesn't exist in the way we think.


3.  Look very hard for the brain apart from all the aspects in (i)- (iii).  In other words, we look for the brain, not the frontal lobe.  We look for the brain, not the blood vessels leading in and out of the brain.  We look for the brain, not the sight/feeling/idea/concept of the brain.  There are very thoroughgoing methods of doing this, like Chandrikirti's Chariot meditation.


4. We fail to find the brain untouched by anything in (i)-(iii).


5. Our sense of inherent existence of the brain, which depended upon the notion that the brain truly existed apart from (i)-(iii), is shattered.  We see that there is nothing to the brain *other than* dependent arisings.  When we see this about the self, then its coming and going, birth, old age and death, will not seem like a violation of the order of the universe.  Comings and goings won't be an outrage or unfair or a suffering thing.  But rather natural, peaceful, in the manner of all things....


~ ~ ~


Dr. Greg Goode is a philosophical counselor:


Farm spirituality: One in purpose with the Creator

By Joe Bollig

The Leaven

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (The Leaven) - Prayer comes easily to Maurice Buessing when he’s alone, out on his land, farming.

The parishioner of St. Michael Parish in Axtell said that he can’t help but see the hand of God in his work and when he follows God’s will by taking care of his crops and the soil. Farming, he said, is good for feeling close to God. Annette Burton, a member of St. Malachy Parish at Beattie, feels much the same way.

“The special thing we have is that we’re out on the land, and we can see [God] in every aspect - the animals around us, the crops growing, the birds and the flowers, and the rain,” said Burton, who operates a family farm with her husband, Ron.

And when Burton prays, “The Lord is my shepherd,” she understands, from firsthand experience, exactly what that means.

“We had a man who lived near us who owned a flock of sheep, so one day I went over there to see how the shepherd relates to sheep, how it compared with the Scriptures,” she said. “It was awesome to see how his little sheep raised their heads when he called them in. It went exactly along with the parables.”

Farm spirituality begins with a deep appreciation for creation. The farmer does not create the land, or control the weather, or give life to the seeds he plants or the animals he raises - it’s all God, farmers say.

This is not to imply that other spheres of life - the school, the factory, and the office - lack spirituality.

In fact, said Buessing, “I think your relationship with God doesn’t have a whole lot to do with your occupation.”

Still, the nature and purpose of farming creates opportunities and an awareness of creation that might not be present in other circumstances.

In fact, it puts nature - and its vagaries - at the very center of your working life. That has the result of making one aware of one’s dependence on God in a way that sometimes others can forget for months or years at a time.

It also has a way of building community - making you rely on and appreciate your neighbors to an extent that was more common in Gospel times than it is today. Farming creates a natural community of interdependent souls, whose responsibility to their crops, their animals, their neighbors and the land itself is the very expression of their faith and is lived out in the ethos of good stewardship. Farming produces a fundamental human good - food, without which no one could live.

The National Catholic Rural Life Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, recently conducted a series of listening sessions entitled “Women, Land and Legacy.” These sessions, directed to women who own and farm land, discovered a deep spirituality.

“When we asked women about their connections to the land, a series of values came up,” said Carol Richardson Smith, director of the Direction Rural Community Support Program. “God, prayer and stewardship were very high ranking values of all the items, the most often mentioned.”

Further down the list were the related ones of hope, love, healing, and wisdom.

Father Richard McDonald, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Sabetha, Kan., St. Augustine in Fidelity, Kan., and St. James at Wetmore, Kan.,has noticed the deep spirituality of his farming families.

“I think there is a real awareness of the need for dependence on God that you don’t see so easily in the city or suburbs, when your lives depend on how God directs the seasons and weather,” said Father McDonald.

He can see this deeply held belief in God and his bountifulness through the people’s Mass attendance, their prayer life, and eucharistic devotion. His parishioners also exhibit strong feelings of community through their pride in their parishes and the way they help their neighbors. He also sees a eucharistic subtext: Without the wheat they grow, there could be no bread for the Eucharist.

Parables that Christ told, as recorded in the Gospels, often use images taken from agriculture.

“It all goes back to God,” said Father McDonald. “It all has to do with nature, which is not man-made, but [which is] divinely established, divinely ordained.”

Through farming, one can gain an awareness that God directs creation not only to produce the bounty of the earth for the physical life of humans, but also as a way to teach his love and goodness.

Rural spirituality is grounded in practicality and reality, added Father Owen Purcell, a longtime rural pastor, now sacramental minister to St. Mary Parish in St. Benedict.

“I was giving marriage instruction to a young engaged couple and asked what they would be doing early Saturday night after the instruction,” he said. “They said that while there was still daylight, they were going to build another lamb pen!”

Like the eucharistic subtext noted by Father McDonald, Father Owen sees many spiritual connections between rural life and the Catholic faith.

“Farmers work together for self and neighbor in an atmosphere that encourages, respects and depends on community,” he said. “Of course, our Christian and so, Trinitarian, spirituality is based on the loving community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The rural approach is very concretely so.”

The planting, growing and harvesting seasons blend with the liturgical seasons. The realities of life and death - those of crops, animals, and even family members - touch upon the truths taught about death and resurrection. A rain that falls on the just and unjust is never refused, but accepted. The sacraments of baptism, confirmation, Eucharist and matrimony are grand occasions of celebration for families and the whole parish.

“A farmer has to trust,” said Father Thomas Dolezal, a former rural pastor, now pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kan. “They go out there and invest their whole lives in their crops, and they trust God to bring that crop to its fulfillment. I see a farmer as really being able to touch God in a way no one else can through that trust and creativeness they share with the Lord.”



Chuck Hillig

Monday, June 05, 2006

Is Boracay Paradise...?

Early Monday morning, I flew south from Manila down to Boracay, about 90 minutes by plane. I had first learned about this place from Gino and, when I checked it out further, it seemed like it would be an ideal place to kick back for a few days before flying off to Hong Kong. You first fly to a town called Caticlan and then you have to take a tuk-tuk to the docks to catch an outrigger for the 20-minute boat ride over to Boracay Island. Since the boat has to anchor a bit offshore, they have local guys who, quite literally, carry you and your luggage on their shoulders through the water and then deposit you safely on the sand. (All for a price, of course.) The island is famous for its pristine beaches and, indeed it truly lives up to its reputation. The main part of the island (appropriately called White Beach) is well-known for all kinds of water sports: sailing, scuba diving, snorkling, parasailing, swimming and, especially extreme wind surfing. There is an ongoing balmy breeze that flows onshore and, I understand, they have international competition for windsurfers held here every year. The water near the shore is a brilliant turquoise and it laps gently onto the spotless white beach that stretches for several miles. The beach itself is between 50 and 100 feet in width. After that, it's lined with an long section of palm trees and other tropical vegetation that's about 20 feet deep and is often surrounded with foot-high bamboo fences. Right next to this green area is a 25-foot wide walkway of white sand that stretches for miles in both directions to handle the steady pedestrian traffic. On the side that's away from the water, this walkway is lined with shops, picturesque hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, etc. that cater to the many tourists. Among the vegetation, enterprising sellers have erected makeshift stands and are hawking necklaces, postcards, sunglasses, massages, etc. There are also little pedal-driven bicycles with passenger sidecars that transport the weary walkers from one end of the beach to the other...all for about 7 pesos. At night, I imagine that this walkway will become a fairyland of colorful lights, music, and enticing smells coming from the wide variety of restaurants. More later as it unfolds....

top of page