Monday, July 14, 2014

a new Tao

You ask me: What according to you is the most significant thing that is happening today in the world?

A new man is emerging. The image of the new man is not yet clear, but the horizon is becoming red and the sun will soon be there. The morning mist is there and the image of the new man is vague, but still a few things are very crystal clear about the new man.
And this is of tremendous importance because since the monkey became man, man has remained the same. A great revolution is on the way. It will be far more deep-going than the revolution that happened when monkeys started walking on the earth and became human beings. That change created mind, that change brought psychology in. Now another far more significant change is going to happen that will bring the soul in, and man will not only be a psychological being but a spiritual being too.
You are living in one of the most alive times ever.
The new man has already arrived in fragments, but only in fragments. And the new man has been arriving for centuries, but only here and there. That's how things happen. When the spring comes it starts with one flower. But when the one flower is there, then one can be certain: that spring is not faraway—it has come. The first flower has heralded its coming: Zarathustra, Krishna, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Jesus—these were the first flowers. Now the new man is going to be born on a greater scale.
According to me, this new consciousness is the most important thing that is happening today. I would like to tell you something about this new consciousness, its orientations, and its characteristics, because you are to help it come out of the womb—because you have to be it. The new man cannot come from nowhere, he has to come through you. The new man can only be born through your womb. You have to become the womb.
Sannyas is an experiment to clean the ground so that new seeds can fall in. If you understand the meaning of the new man, you will be able to understand the significance of sannyas too. And it is because sannyas is concerned with the new man that the old orthodoxies of all kinds are going to be against me and against sannyas, because this will be their end. If sannyas succeeds, if the new man succeeds, the old will have to go. The old can live only if the new man is prevented from coming.
It cannot be prevented now, because it is not only a question of the new man's coming into existence, it is a question of the survival of the whole earth, of consciousness itself, of life itself. It is a question of life and death. The old man has come to utter destructiveness. The old man has reached the end of his tether. Now there is no life possible with the old concept of man but only death. The old man is preparing for a global suicide. The old man is piling up atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, in order to commit a collective suicide. This is a very unconscious desire. Rather than allowing the new man to be, the old man would like to destroy the whole thing.
You have to understand, you have to protect the new, because the new carries the whole future with it. And man has come to a stage where a great quantum leap is possible….
The new man will have to find new forms of community, of closeness, of intimacy, of shared purpose, because the old society is not going to disappear immediately. It will linger, it will put up all kinds of fight to the new society—as it always happens. It has so many vested interests, it cannot go easily. It will go only when it becomes impossible for it to remain in existence.
Before it goes the new man will have to create new kinds of communes, new kinds of families, new communities of closeness, intimacy, shared purpose.
That's why I am trying to create a small commune where you can be totally yourself—away from the structured and the rotten world—and you can be given absolute freedom. It will be an experiment, because the future is going to move on those lines. It will be a small experiment but of immense significance….
This, according to me, is the most important phenomenon that is happening today. A new man is coming into existence. The first rays are already on the horizon. Prepare yourself to receive the new man. Get ready. Become a host to the guest who is just about to knock on your doors at any moment. And that's what sannyas is all about: a preparation—getting ready to receive the new man. It is going to be a great adventure to receive the new man. It is going to be risky, too, because the old will not like it.
Now you can understand why the orthodox mind is against me. I am preparing their graveyard, and I am preparing for something new. I am preparing a garden for the new. You are to open your hearts for the new. Uproot all the weeds of the old, drop all the conditionings that the old has given to you, so you can receive the new. sos114
I teach a new man, a new humanity, a new concept of being in the world. I proclaim Homo novus. The old man is dying, and there is no need to help it survive any more. The old man is on the deathbed: don't mourn for it—help it to die. Because only with the death of the old can the new be born. The cessation of the old is the beginning of the new.
My message to humanity is a new man. Less than that won't do. Not something modified, not something continuous with the past, but utterly discontinuous.
Man has lived up to now not truly, not authentically; man has lived a very pseudo life. Man has lived in great pathology, man has lived in great disease. And there is no need to live in this pathology—we can come out of the prison, because the prison is made by our own hands. We are in the prison because we have decided to be in the prison—because we have believed that the prison is not a prison but our home.
My message to humanity is: Enough is enough. Awake! See what man has done to man himself. In three thousand years man has fought five thousand wars. You cannot call this humanity healthy. And only once in a while has a Buddha bloomed. If in the garden only once in a while a plant brings a flower, and otherwise the whole garden remains without flowers, will you call it a garden? Something very basic has gone wrong. Each person is born to be a Buddha: less than that is not going to fulfill you.
I declare to you your Buddhahood.

You ask: How can I become the new man that You speak about?
When I say the new man, I mean the conscious man. Humanity cannot be saved if the conscious man does not arrive. In the past it was not so necessary, but now it is absolutely necessary, it is a must. If the new man does not arrive on the earth, if more and more people are not going to become conscious, alert, awake, then this earth is doomed. Its fate is in the hand of the stupid politicians, and now they have immense power of destruction, such as they never had before. That is something new.
Just five years ago they had so much power that they could have killed every single human being seven times—although you don't need to kill any human being seven times, once is enough. We had five years ago so much atomic energy—atom bombs, hydrogen bombs—that we could have destroyed this earth seven times. And within five years we have really progressed—now it is seven hundred times! We can destroy seven hundred earths like this earth, and we go on piling up…. And any moment, any mad politician can trigger the process of self-destruction.
The coming twenty years are going to be the most dangerous in the whole history of humanity; it has never been so dangerous—we are sitting on a volcano. Only more consciousness, more alertness can save it; there is no other way. We have to de-automatize man. The society automatizes you. It creates efficient machines, not human beings.
My effort here is to de-automatize you. I am doing something absolutely antisocial. The society makes you a machine and my effort is to undo it. I would like this fire to spread and reach to all the nooks and corners of the earth, to help as many people as possible to be conscious. If in a great quantity consciousness grows on the earth, there is a possibility, a hope, we can save humanity yet. All is not lost, but time is running short. Everything is being controlled by politicians and by computers, and both are dangerous. Politicians are mad. It is impossible to be a politician if you are not mad enough. You have to be absolutely insane, because only insane people are power-obsessed.
A sane person lives life joyously; he is not power-obsessed. He may be interested in music, in singing, in dancing, but he is not interested in dominating anybody. He may be interested in becoming a master of himself, but he is not interested in becoming a master of others.
Politicians are insane people. History is enough proof. And now computers are dominating. You know the saying: To err is human…. That is true, but if you really want to create a great mess, human beings are not enough—you need computers. Now machines and mad people are dominating the whole world. We have to change the very foundation. That's what I mean by a new man.
A new man means more conscious, more loving, more creative. This whole process is possible through being more meditative. Become more meditative, silent, still. Experience yourself deeply. In that experience, a fragrance will be released through you. And if many many people become meditators, the earth can be full of a new perfume.

August 1978

Sunday, July 13, 2014

the Tao of Physics: Epilogue

The Eastern religious philosophies are concerned with timeless mystical knowledge which lies beyond reasoning and cannot be adequately expressed in words. The relation of this knowledge to modern physics is but one of its many aspects and, like all the others, it cannot be demonstrated conclusively but has to be experienced in a direct intuitive way. What I hope to have achieved, to some extent, therefore, is not a rigorous demonstration, but rather to have given the reader an opportunity to relive, every now and then, an experience which has become for me a source of continuing joy and inspiration; that the principal theories and models of modern physics lead to a view of the world which is internally consistent and in perfect harmony with the views of Eastern mysticism.
For those who have experienced this harmony, the significance of the parallels between the world views of physicists and mystics is beyond any doubt. The interesting question, then, is not whether these parallels exist, but why; and, furthermore, what their existence implies.
In trying to understand the mystery of Life, man has followed many different approaches. Among them, there are the ways of the scientist and mystic, but there are many more; the ways of poets, children, clowns, shamans, to name but a few. These ways have resulted in different descriptions of the world, both verbal and non-verbal, which emphasize different aspects. All are valid and useful in the context in which they arose. All of them, however, are only descriptions, or representations, of reality and are therefore limited. None can give a complete picture of the world.
The mechanistic world view of classical physics is useful for the description of the kind of physical phenomena we encounter in our everyday life and thus appropriate for dealing of with our daily environment, and it has also proved extremely successful as a basis for technology. It is inadequate, however,for the description of physical phenomena in the submicroscopic realm. Opposed to the mechanistic conception of the world is the view of the mystics which may be epitomized by the word ‘organic’, as it regards all phenomena in the universe as integral parts of an inseparable harmonious whole. This world view emerges in the mystical traditions from meditative states of consciousness. In their description of the world, the mystics use concepts which are derived from these nonordinary experiences and are, in general, inappropriate for a scientific description of macroscopic phenomena. The organic world view is not advantageous for constructing machines, nor for coping with the technical problems in an overpopulated world.
In everyday life, then, both the mechanistic and the organic views of the universe are valid and useful; the one for science and technology, the other for a balanced and fulfilled spiritual life. Beyond the dimensions of our everyday environment, however, the mechanistic concepts lose their validity and have to be replaced by organic concepts which are very similar to those used by the mystics. This is the essential experience of modern physics which has been the subject of our discussion. Physics in the twentieth century has shown that the concepts  of the organic world view, although of little value for science and technology on the human scale, become extremely useful at the atomic and subatomic level. The organic view, therefore, seems to be more fundamental than the mechanistic. Classical physics, which is based on the latter, can be derived from quantum theory, which implies the former, whereas the reverse is not possible. This seems to give a first indication why we might expect the world views of modern physics and Eastern mysticism to be similar. Both emerge when man enquires into the essential nature of things- into the deeper realms of matter in physics; into the deeper realms of consciousness in mysticism - when he discovers a different reality behind the superficial mechanistic appearance of everyday life.
The parallels between the views of physicists and mystics become even more plausible when we recall the other similarities which exist in spite of their different approaches. To begin with, their method is thoroughly empirical. Physicists derive their knowledge from experiments; mystics from meditative insights. Both are observations, and in both fields these observations are acknowledged as the only source of knowledge. The object of observation is of course very different in the two cases. The mystic looks within and explores his or her consciousness at its various levels, which include the body as the physical manifestation of the mind. The experience of one’s body is, in fact, emphasized in many Eastern traditions and is often seen as the key to the mystical experience of the world. When we are healthy, we do not feel any separate parts in our body but are aware of it as an integrated whole, and this awareness generates a feeling of well-being and happiness. In a similar way, the mystic is aware of the wholeness of the entire cosmos which is experienced as an extension of the body. In the words of Lama Covinda,

‘To the enlightened man . . . whose consciousness embraces the universe, to him the universe becomes his ‘body’, while his physical body becomes a manifestation of the Universal Mind, his inner vision an expression of the highest reality, and his speech an expression of eternal truth and mantric power.’
In contrast to the mystic, the physicist begins his enquiry into the essential nature of things by studying the material world. Penetrating into ever deeper realms of matter, he has become aware of the essential unity of all things and events. More than that, he has also learnt that he himself and his consciousness are an integral part of this unity. Thus the mystic and the physicist arrive at the same conclusion; one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world. The harmony between their views confirms the ancient Indian wisdom that Brahman, the ultimate reality without, is identical to Atman, the reality within.
A further similarity between the ways of the physicist and mystic is the fact that their observations take place in realms which are inaccessible to the ordinary senses. In modern physics, these are the realms of the atomic and subatomic world; in mysticism they are non-ordinary states of consciousness in of which the sense world is transcended. Mystics often talk about experiencing higher dimensions in which impressions of different centres of consciousness are integrated into a harmonious whole. A similar situation exists in modern physics where a four-dimensional ‘space-time’ formalism has been developed which unifies concepts and observations belonging to different categories in the ordinary three-dimensional world. In both fields, the multi-dimensional experiences transcend the sensory world and are therefore almost impossible to express in ordinary language.
We see that the ways of the modern physicist and the Eastern mystic, which seem at first totally unrelated, have, in fact, much in common. It should not be too surprising, therefore, that there are striking parallels in their descriptions of the world. Once these parallels between Western science and Eastern mysticism are accepted, a number of questions will arise concerning their implications. Is modern science, with all its sophisticated machinery, merely rediscovering ancient wisdom, known to the Eastern sages for thousands of years? Should physicists, therefore, abandon the scientific method and begin to meditate? Or can there be a mutual influence between science and mysticism; perhaps even a synthesis?
I think all these questions have to be answered in the negative. I see science and mysticism as two complementary manifestations of the human mind; of its rational and intuitive faculties. The modern physicist experiences the world through an extreme specialization of the rational mind; the mystic through an extreme specialization of the intuitive mind. The two approaches are entirely different and involve far more than a certain view of the physical world. However, they are complementary, as we have learned to say in physics. Neither is comprehended in the other, nor can either of them be reduced to the other, but both of them are necessary, supplementing one another for a fuller understanding of the world. To paraphrase an old Chinese saying, mystics understand the roots of the Tao but not its branches; scientists understand its branches but not its roots. Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science; but man needs both. Mystical experience is necessary to understand the deepest nature of things, and science is essential for modern life. What we need, therefore, is not a synthesis but a dynamic interplay between mystical intuition and scientific analysis.
So far, this has not been achieved in our society. At present, our attitude is too yang - to use again Chinese phraseology too rational, male and aggressive. Scientists themselves are a typical example. Although their theories are leading to a world view which is similar to that of the mystics, it is striking how little this has affected the attitudes of most scientists. In mysticism, knowledge cannot be separated from a certain way of life which becomes its living manifestation. To acquire mystical knowledge means to undergo a transformation; one could even say that the knowledge is the transformation. Scientific knowledge, on the other hand, can often stay abstract and theoretical. Thus most of today’s physicists do not seem to realize the philosophical, cultural and spiritual implications of their theories. Many of them actively support a society which is still based on the mechanistic, fragmented world view, without seeing that science points beyond such a view, towards a oneness of the universe which includes not only our natural environment but also our fellow human beings. I believe that the world view implied by modern physics is inconsistent with our present society, which does not reflect the harmonious interrelatedness we observe in nature. To achieve such a state of dynamic balance, a radically different social and economic structure will be needed: a cultural revolution in the true sense of the word. The survival of our whole civilization may depend on whether we can bring about such a change. It will depend, ultimately, on our ability to adopt some of the yin attitudes of Eastern mysticism; to experience the wholeness of nature and the art of living with it in harmony.

the Tao of Physics
image by hanciong

Thursday, March 27, 2014

a legacy for Tao - VIII

Angels Fear Revisited:
Gregory Bateson’s Cybernetic Theory of Mind
Applied to Religion-Science Debates

Mary Catherine Bateson

Logical Types in Mental Process
Gregory’s postwar research on communication was carried out in the context of psychiatry, with a focus on pathology and its etiology. The research of the Bateson group started out oriented towards solving the problem of schizophrenia, yet all the time that they were talking about schizophrenia they were also talking among themselves about humor, about poetry, and about religion, all of which involve switching back and forth between logical types – but the work was published as research on pathology. They identified the double bind in families, defined in relation to the logical types, as a possible cause (or trigger) of schizophrenia, yet once the work is taken out of its immediate context, it becomes clear that the double bind is pervasive. Double binds are by no means limited to the families of schizophrenics and indeed they may be characteristic of all multiply coupled and embedded systems such as we discover in the natural world, and do not always result in pathology.
On the one hand, religion seems to depend upon logical type confusion, so it is fairly easy to connect religious experience with psychopathology. On the other hand, religious traditions look like ways of dealing with the limitations of other kinds of knowledge and the need to function at many different levels, with inevitable conflicts and ambiguities between them. It may, for example, be possible to describe a condition like obesity in strictly physiological terms, yet an understanding of the diverse and multiple causation of different cases of obesity will range from genetic to socio-economic and ideological factors, with multiple possibilities for contradiction and inappropriate intervention at different levels. It is not easy to integrate biomedical understanding with explanations of psychological and social processes. As individuals, we can hardly help experiencing knowledge as fragmented. Scientific method depends on cutting questions down to size by breaking them into manageable pieces. Scientists necessarily focus on parts of the whole and, like laymen, must take most of it – the findings of others which they have not confirmed – on faith in the markers of scientific communication.
Inevitably, in periods of great scientific progress, there is a tendency to exaggerate that progress, and we are in a period today when some scientists and much of the general public seem to believe that focusing on the DNA molecule is the answer to everything and, more ominously, to the control of everything. Yet genetic causation also depends on the transmission and interpretation of messages at other systemic levels, and on complex contextual conditions that convert what appears to be a lineal causal system into a circular one. As with political power, causation always goes both ways. The general public is, in a curious way, buying into a form of biological fundamentalism that is itself dangerous because of the metaphors of unilateral control that it proposes. Overemphasis on “master molecules” and “selfish genes” is as likely to lead to authoritarianism as is monotheism.
There are many kinds of ignorance that lead to maladaptive and destructive behavior, including the distorted perception that Gregory connected with conscious purpose and a variety of distortions connected in other ways with religion, such as the initial rejection of attempts to slow global warming and the Kyoto Treaty by Evangelical Christians because we are in the last days and the world will end
shortly. At Burg Wartenstein Gregory proposed that it might be useful to construct a typology of error. Both in our empty-headed school committees and in our dogmatic economists, in fact in many professions and sometimes in scientists as well as in religionists, there is a form of ignorance that is newly dangerous, and we are all at risk of slipping into it.
It may be impossible to arrive at an internally consistent understanding of the world that integrates the details at every level – and certainly impossible for an individual. But thinking in terms of systems offers a different kind of holism where we can see the similarities between ourselves and systems of many kinds, not only organisms but ecosystems and human communities, and we can see them living, responding, and changing. The details must be left to specialists but the patterns still connect.
It is important to keep on trying to understand the limits of science – and at the same time, not to become too arrogant about the understanding that has been achieved. Gregory says of scientists, “We are arrogant about what we might know tomorrow but humble because we know so little today”. We need somehow to build a bridge that allows people to deal with the limits of what they can know scientifically, and still have a mythic and aesthetic sense of their world. Fundamentalism is for many an adaptation to a sense of loss, and loss properly inspires compassion. The student I described earlier came to mind, after I had not thought about her for 20 years, because she was devastated, her foundations were shaken by her recognition of the deep feeling and passion of others. But her foundations were built on a fallacy, and the name of that fallacy is not Christianity, it’s not Islam, it’s not even religion – it’s a fallacy about the truth values of religious statements that may still be valuable for an integrated life. Gregory was convinced of the possibility that systems theory and biology might meet in a description of the natural world that would persuade our species, no longer looking outside that world for explanations of its wonders, to treat it not only with respect but with reverence and recognition.
Gregory was pursuing the use of cybernetics to describe natural systems as wholes in ways acceptable to science, which would still evoke wisdom and a sense of the sacred. In doing this he developed two interrelated analytic tools both for science and for popular understandings of science. One of these was the use of communications theory and the logical types. The other was an understanding of the mental characteristics of systems created by communication, within and between organisms.

Tao 9".58

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

science & experience of Tao

Igor Morski
The search for a Self in the enaction perspective, considering worlds of consciousness and experience without ground analyzed according to the Abhidharma Buddhist tradition, has to answer in a circular way to the question "how can there seem to be a coherent self when there is none?". The answer returns to the recursive circularity between science (in particular cognitive sciences) and experience without falling in the abyss of Nihilism:


Laying Down a Path in Walking

Science and Experience in Circulation

In the preface we announced that the theme of this book would be the circulation between cognitive science and human experience. In this final chapter we wish to situate this circulation within a wider contemporary context. In particular we wish to consider some of the  ethical dimensions of groundlessness in relation to the concern with nihilism that is typical of much post-Nietzschean thought. This is not the place to consider the many points that animate current North American and European discussions; our concern, rather, is to indicate how we see our project in relation to these discussions and to suggest further directions for investigation.
The back-and-forth communication between cognitive science and experience that we have explored can be envisioned as a circle. The circle begins with the experience of the cognitive scientist, a human being who can conceive of a mind operating without a self. This becomes embodied in a scientific theory. Emboldened by the theory, one can discover, with a disciplined, mindful approach to experience, that although there is constant struggle to maintain a self, there is no actual self in experience. The natural scientific inquisitiveness of the mind then queries, But how can there seem to be a coherent self when there is none? For an answer one can tum to mechanisms such as emergence and societies of mind. Ideally that could lead one to penetrate further into the causal relationships in one's experience, seeing the causes and effects of ego grasping and enabling one to begin to relax the struggle of ego grasping. As perceptions, relationships, and the activity of mind expand into awareness, one might have insight into the codependent lack of ultimate foundations either for one's mind or for its objects, the world. The inquisitive scientist then asks, How can we imagine, embodied in a mechanism, that relation of codependence between mind and world? The mechanism that we have created (the embodied metaphor of groundlessness) is that of enactive cognition, with its image of structural coupling through a history of natural drift. Ideally such an image can influence the scientific society and the larger society, loosening the hold of both objectivism and subjectivism and encouraging further communication between science and experience, experience and science.
The logic of this back-and-forth circle exemplified the fundamental circularity in the mind of the reflective scientist. The fundamental axis of this circulation is the embodiment of experience and cognition. It  should be recalled that embodiment in our sense, as for Merleau-Ponty, encompasses both the body as a lived , experiential structure and the body as the context or milieu of cognitive mechanisms. Thus in the communication we have portrayed in this book between cognitive science and the tradition of mind fullness/awareness, we have systematically juxtaposed the descriptions of experience taken from mind fullness/awareness practice with descriptions of cognitive architecture taken from cognitive science.
Like Merleau-Ponty, we have emphasized that a proper appreciation of this twofold sense of embodiment provides a middle way or entre-deux between the extremes of absolutism and nihilism. Both of these two extremes can be found in contemporary cognitive science. The absolutist extreme is easy to find, for despite other differences, the varieties of cognitive realism share the conviction that cognition is grounded in the representation of a pregiven world by a pregiven subject. The nihilist extreme is less apparent, but we have seen how it arises when cognitive science uncovers the nonunity of the self yet ignores the possibility of a transformative approach to human experience.
So far we have devoted less attention to this nihilist extreme, but it is in fact far more indicative of our contemporary cultural situation. Thus in the humanities - in art, literature , and philosophy - the growing awareness of groundlessness has taken form not through a confrontation with objectivism but rather with nihilism , skepticism, and extreme relativism. Indeed, this concern with nihilism is typical of late-twentieth-century life. Its visible manifestations are the increasing fragmentation of life , the revival of and continuing adherence to a variety of religious and political dogmatisms, and a pervasive yet intangible feeling of anxiety, which writers such as Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being depict so vividly.

It is for this reason (and because nihilism and objectivism are actually deeply connected) that we turn to consider in more detail the nihilistic extreme. We have reserved this issue until now because it is both general and far reaching. Our discussion must accordingly become more equally concerned with the ethical dimension of groundlessness than it has been so far. In the final section of this chapter we will be more explicit about this ethical dimension. Before doing so, however, we wish to examine in more detail the nihilist extreme.

Nihilism and the Need for Planetary Thinking

Let us begin not by attempting to engage nihilism directly but rather by asking how nihilism arises. Where and at what point does the nihilist tendency first manifest itself?
We have been led to face groundlessness or the lack of stable foundations in both enactive cognitive science and in the mindful, open-ended approach to experience. In both settings we began naively but were forced to suspend our deep-seated conviction that the world is grounded independently of embodied perceptual and cognitive capacities. This deep-seated conviction is the motivation for objectivism-even in its most refined philosophical forms. Nihilism, however, is in a sense based on no analogous conviction, for it arises initially in reaction to the loss of faith in objectivism. Nihilism can, of course, be cultivated to a point where it takes on a life of its own, but in its first moment its form is one of response. Thus we can already see that nihilism is in fact deeply linked to objectivism, for nihilism is an extreme response to the collapse of what had seemed to provide a sure and absolute reference point.
We have already provided an example of this link between objectivism and nihilism when we examined the discovery within cognitive science of selfless minds. This deep and profound discovery requires the cognitive scientist to acknowledge that consciousness and selfidentity do not provide the ground or foundation for cognitive processes; yet she feels that we do believe, and must continue to believe, in an efficacious self. The usual response of the cognitive scientist is to ignore the experiential aspect when she does science and ignore the scientific discovery when she leads her life. As a result, the nonexistence of a self that would answer to our objectivist representations is typically confused with the nonexistence of the relative (practical) self altogether. Indeed, without the resources provided by a progressive approach to experience, there is little choice but to respond to the collapse of an objective self (objectivism) by asserting the objective nonexistence of the self (nihilism).
This response indicates that objectivism and nihilism, despite their apparent differences, are deeply connected-indeed the actual source of nihilism is objectivism. We have already discussed how the basis of objectivism is to be found in our habitual tendency to grasp after regularities that are stable but ungrounded. In fact, nihilism too arises from this grasping mind. Thus faced with the discovery of groundlessness, we nonetheless continue to grasp after a ground because we have not relinquished the deep-seated reflex to grasp that lies at the root of objectivism. This reflex is so strong that the absence of a solid ground is immediately reified into the objectivist abyss. This act of reification performed by the grasping mind is the root of nihilism. The mode of repudiation or denial that is characteristic of nihilism is actually a very subtle and refined form of objectivism: the mere absence of an objective ground is reified into an objective groundlessness that might continue to serve as an ultimate reference point. Thus although we have been speaking of objectivism and nihlism as opposed extremes with differing consequences, they ultimately share a common basis in the grasping mind.
An appreciation of the common source of objectivism and nihilism lies at the heart of the philosophy and practice of the middle way in Buddhism. For this reason, we are simply misinformed when we assume that concern with nihilism is a modem phenomenon of Greco-European origin. To appreciate the resources offered by these other traditions, however, we must not lose sight of the specificity of our present situation. Whereas in Buddhism, as anywhere else, there is always the danger of individuals experiencing nihilism (losing heart, as it is called in Buddhism) or of commentators straying into nihilistic errors of interpretation, nihilism has never become full blown or embodied in societal institutions.
Today nihilism is a tangible issue not only for our Western culture but for the planet as a whole. And yet as we have seen throughout this book, the groundlessness of the middle way in Mahayana Buddhism offers considerable resources for human experience in our present scientific culture. The mere recognition of this fact should indicate that the imaginative geography of "West" and "East" is no longer appropriate for the tasks we face today. Although we can begin from the premises and concerns of our own tradition, we need no longer proceed in ignorance of other traditions, especially of those that continually strived to distinguish rigorously between the groundlessness of nihilism and the groundlessness of the middle way.
Unlike Richard Rorty, then, we are not inspired in our attempt to face the issue of groundlessness and nihilism by the ideal of simply "continuing the conversation of the West." Instead, our project throughout this book owes far more to Martin Heidegger's invocation of "planetary thinking." As Heidegger wrote in The Question of Being,

We are obliged not to give up the effort to practice planetary thinking along a stretch of the road, be it ever so short. Here too no prophetic talents and demeanor are needed to realize that there are in store for planetary building encounters for which the participants are by no means equal today. This is equally true of the European and of the East Asiatic languages and, above all, for the area of a possible conversation between them. Neither one of the two is able by itself to open up this area and to establish it.
Our guiding metaphor is that a path exists only in walking, and our conviction has been that as a first step we must face the issue of groundlessness in our scientific culture and learn to embody that groundlessness in the openness of sunyata. One of the central figures of twentieth-century Japanese philosophy, Nishitani Keiji, has in fact made precisely this claim. Nishitani is exemplary for us because he was not only raised and personally immersed in the Zen tradition of mindfulness/awareness but was also one of Heidegger's students and so is thoroughly familiar with European thought in general and Heidegger's invocation of planetary thinking in particular. Nishitani's endeavor to develop a truly planetary form of philosophical yet embodied, progressive reflection is impressive.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Cementerio Jardín de Paz, Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina

Thursday, March 13, 2014

meta-Tao gradients

The next metapattern discussed by Tyler Volk and Jeff Bloom are gradients, conceived as continuous variation of variables - both scalar or vectors - opposed to rigid binaries variables "true" or "false":


Gradients refer to continuums and shades of gray rather than rigid binaries of black and white. Both hierarchies and holarchies can be described as clearly defined and fuzzy demarcations along a continuum. Size, color, light, temperature, speed, quantity, amounts, elevations, distances, etc. refer to continuums. Most choices for humans and other animals do not manifest as a clear binary, but as a multiplicity along a continuum with no clear “right” or “wrong.”
Gradient of the 2-d function f(x,y) = xe-x2-y2 is plotted as blue arrows over the pseudocolor plot of the function.


  • In science: speed; acceleration; temperature gradients; slopes; density; solubility; salinity; statistical degrees of freedom; levels of hurricanes, tornado, earthquakes; etc.
  • In architecture and design: walkway design; handicap ramps; elevators; lighting of spaces; plumbing design; landscape drainage; golf course design; etc.
  • In the arts: use of color, light, and shading; pace of action in dance and drama; curvatures in sculpture; tempo in music; etc.
  • In social sciences: population densities, public opinion, intelligence (whatever it is), economic trends, from traditional to modern allegiances in tribal and cultural groups, intensity of emotions, etc.
  • In other senses: “mixed emotions,” degrees of friendship, “closeness” of families, types of lies, etc.


The Pattern Underground