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DALAI LAMA FLORIDA 2004


by David Arthur Walters


THE DALAI LAMA HAS DESCENDED!
The Dalai Lama descended on South Florida to deliver five days of public teachings. When asked
for the purpose of life, he said, "I don't know." Furthermore, before launching a two-hour
lecture on achieving world peace through inner peace, the exiled monarch said he had nothing
to say. "I think most of you have come here perhaps with some expectation. I have nothing to
offer, just show my face and teeth."
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A woman named Gayle certainly did not mind his face and teeth: "Just being in his presence,"
she said, "is a wonderful feeling. He is so, so special."
As for happy feelings, the self-complacent Dalai Lama remarked, "Happiness is not necessarily
the feeling of pleasure, but a deep satisfaction within oneself."
Of course the Dalai Lama delivered the tradition message, offered as balm for the world's
burning wounds since time immemorial: the message of love and compassion for one's fellow
creatures. War will be rendered obsolete providing that we negate negative emotions and
cultivate gentility: "Until our mind becomes gentler, the human intelligence always finds some
means of violence," quoth the Dalai Lama.
In other words, individual animosity is the cause of the world's social ills. Like father, like son:
rather, like cause, like effect: negative attitudes cause negative effects. Wherefore an
individual, given the present hostile negative mental state of society, has just cause to change
his mood from animosity to generosity, to disengage his mind from the ignorant pursuit of
those desires which can never be satisfied by the possession of objects.
Such gospel from the mouths of self-satisfied savants rings true, especially for those of us
suffering from "negative" or unpleasant emotions, particularly anger. We would rather feel
good, would we not? We do not enjoy being angry. We wish we did not have sufficient cause
for our anger.
We have a great deal of criticism to offer in respect to the approach of the Dalai Lama. But
before offering that criticism, it is best to reflect his wonderful presence and restore some calm
to our stormy souls, at least for a few hours if not days.
EXILED FLORIDA
Exile: to waste or devastate property; to ravage or impoverish a country; to ruin
a person.
Tibet's exiled monarch brought some peace of mind to exiled Florida as anxious people were
confronted with one whirlwind and flood after another. We use the word exile in its obsolete
sense here, that of a land devastated People in the wake of the devastation bemoaned the loss
of lives and property suffered, yet most were glad to be alive, perhaps to suffer yet another
hurricane in short order.
The fame of the Dalai Lama preceded his descent on Southern Florida. He duly noted after his
arrival that his plan was to show up, smile and show his teeth. Sometimes just being there for
people, or doing the very least if not nothing at all, is the key to getting something done.
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Although the spiritual master did not tour the devastated zones, the presence of the
compassionate Buddha incarnate or the reports thereof alleviated the suffering. After all,
everyone suffers, for every self-conscious individual, like the exiled monarch, is alienated from
the plenitude, is cast out or separated from the whole, hence is in exile. Having fallen into
relative individuality and the conflicting independence of separate wills, spiritual exiles would
return to the absolute identity or indifference symbolized by the self-complacent Dalai Lama,
then all would be well.
We might relieve our suffering by denying the existence of the self, by possessing, as the Dalai
Lama phrased it during his visit, "the wisdom that sees the non-existence of selfhood." His own
person was venerated as the incarnation of the perfect person of Buddha although he preached
the non-existence of selfhood. A Miami Herald reporter noted that some people prostrated
themselves before him to demonstrate their respect for the teacher of such wisdom as well as
respect for their own wisdom in recognizing such wisdom. Alas, absurdity plagues our
prostrations as humility rises to new hypocritical heights. Persons who deny the existence of
personal deity are personally idolized as if they were divine. Self-control is to goal of self-denial,
the ultimate expression the will to power. Gaining the world is of no consequence if the self be
lost.
But never mind, for it is easy to find fault with good things - nothing is perfect. Rather, only
Nothing, which is beyond criticism, is perfect. No doubt certain degrees of self-renunciation or
virtual suicide is good for civilization; yet, short of actual suicide, we find it impossible to get rid
of the illusory, non-existent, stubborn self. Indeed, such an effort runs counter to the over-
arching theme of the First World, presently presided over by the greatest superpower the
world has ever known, upon whom an attack constitutes an attack on civilization itself. The
pursuit of property and personal happiness is roundly extolled. The self is daily cultivated.
Competitive individualism is the true religion whether or not it professes the much desired
survival of the individual soul.
The individual would be absolutely powerful, would persist forever without resistance, but such
an absolute power without resistance would be nothing. Now an apocryphal text has the
crucified Jesus say, "Oh, my Power, why hast my Power forsaken me?" The power of the
individual is limited by other individuals, hence the individual mirrors other individuals and is
gradually transformed into a personal synthesis of individuality and society - into a 'person.' The
absolute power craved by the frustrated individual is sometimes projected onto an almighty,
personal god. If the self is really non-existent, as the Dalai Lama says, so is the projected god -
never mind that the god or ideal might be a useful fiction. That is, neither the self nor the deity
exists except as a desired incarnation of selfish will. What exists, then, is the individual will, and
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that will is at the root of all suffering because, although it would be absolute if only it could, it is
always relative because it is separate, hence it can never be satisfied.
In fine, to oversimplify the relation with a false division: the partial is evil, the whole is good.
Individual strife divides, universal love unites, and so on. We are exiles not from Tibet, Israel,
Cuba and the like, which are collective forms of alienation; no, we are exiled from the One, the
Origin, the All, the Whole and the like - disagreement over the appropriateness of the terms is
yet another form of the divisiveness plaguing us since we fell from grace.
Of course the universal needs a symbol: a god, a Buddha, a monarch, a dalai lama, a dictator,
and the like. The exiled monarch of Tibet came to South Florida with the traditional advice, to
purge ourselves of the negative emotions of individual animosity, and to fulfill ourselves with
compassion and love. Once this objective is accomplished, once we have disarmed ourselves
internally, world peace will of course be achieved. After we tear down the fences of
individuality, we will then be, so to speak, at one with one another. Perhaps it is no small
coincidence that the Dalai Lama appeared with the hurricanes, just before the Jewish Day of
Atonement. Just as the hurricanes exiled or devastated the land that the community might be
rebuilt, the Dalai Lama set about exiling or annihilating the self that we might be whole again.


THE DIAMOND IS MANS BEST FRIEND
The Dalai Lama's appearance in Florida during the worst hurricane season (2004) in a century
created a small stir in the press. First of all, the Dalai Lama said that he had nothing to say, that
his mission was simply to appear, to smile and show his teeth. Several persons who revere him
for simply being there agreed and their prostrations demonstrated that they were duly awed by
his presence as well as by their understanding of same. The grand lama spoke at great length
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thereafter, but he had alluded to the original truth in the very beginning - his reflections that
followed were merely incidental.
Who is the Dalai Lama? The Dalai Lama, at least as I view the press reflections from afar, is a
symbol of the perfect medium for the absolute truth, which is refracted by the medium's facets
into relative truths. Although he might remain compassionately silent on many points, he would
not deliberately lie to us. In fact, one of the Five Precepts followed by Buddhist leaders enjoins
him from abusing speech - such abuse includes lying. Furthermore, one fold of the Eightfold
Path prescribes Right Speech for all Buddhists.
When asked what the purpose of human life is, the Dalai Lama said, "I don't know." We might
be glad that he did not have one and only one answer for everyone; glad that he did not make
of the part a whole and insist that everyone take a single path to a single goal or else be
damned; glad that he left the possibilities of life open for realization by every individual
according to their potential.
Miami Herald reporter Evan S. Benn did not report a specific answer to the question, "How we
can each of us stop the war in Iraq?" If the Dalai Lama answered, he probably paraphrased the
first precept of the Five Precepts - it proscribes the taking of life. At another gathering, Silva
Beato, contributing writer to the Sun Post, quoted the Dalai Lama as saying, "Peace is a
dialogue. The answer for peace cannot come from the sky, prayer, or meditation. We must deal
with the causes of violence with an open mind. There will never be a clear-cut person or thing
to blame."
Of course many people throughout the world hold President George W. Bush directly to blame
for waging the pre-emptive war that destroyed the sovereign state of Iraq, and for lying to the
world about his reasons for rushing to war. Should all the blame accrue to him? He claims that
his underlying motives are pure and are sanctioned by his god. Has his god deceived him? Or
does he lie?
Lying has become so habitual in our society that it is no longer considered pathological, but is
believed to be the way to get things done in a democracy; indeed, the neoconservative doctrine
prescribes lying as a necessary instrument to accomplish objectives. Almost every political and
economic organization has departments of hypocrisy staffed by professional deceivers, or has
outsourced the task. The chief executive officer of the organization is often the head deceiver in
the most crucial matters. The law of the jungle and reasons of state are professed by professors
to justify lying as a necessary strategy given the mutual hostility fostered by the currently
popular doctrine of competition. Michael Porter, a popular Harvard professor, advises us not to
forge alliances with whom to cooperate, but to find a formidable enemy with whom we are to
pick a fight for our continuous improvement. This reminds us of the doctrine of a Gemran
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father of the American neoconservative movement: politics is for finding out who your friends
and enemies are so you can band together with your friends and eliminate your enemies.
No wonder paranoia runs rampant under delusions of grandeur and persecution. Professional
lying in the interest of public relations has gone to such absurd lengths that lies are told when
the truth would better serve the purpose. In fact, truth is man's best friend. In the long run the
truth will be told, so it behooves us not to intentionally vary from it in the beginning.
However that may be, the president and his colleagues suffer life along with the rest of us,
hence they are as entitled to Buddha's compassion as anyone else. Still, they are leaders of a
"democracy," hence they are responsible to The People. No doubt they will be held accountable
in this life and the next for their good deeds and misdeeds. Yet all the credit and blame does
not go them for good and ill. Indeed, my answer to those who say, "The President is really
scary, a danger to the world," is this: "The President in particular does not frighten me very
much, but the people who elected him and went along with him do - they present a far greater
danger to peace than the president does."
In truth we are all partially responsible for the war in Iraq and for other miseries. Fundamental
Buddhism is a moral doctrine which states that desire causes our miseries, and that it is
possible to ameliorate our suffering with righteous mental and physical conduct. First of all, we
should aspire to the truth, the right views, then conduct ourselves accordingly. Consequently
the Dalai Lama spoke of a general solution available to all individuals: he recommended that
each and every one of us engage, figuratively speaking, in internal disarmament. After all, if we
would all rid ourselves of the destructive emotions that drive us to violence, external
disarmament would follow. The key word is all. All will not go along. The rush to war, the sheer
popular joy expressed at the outset of many wars, demonstrates that pacifists are a small
minority whenever the love for bloodshed is at stake.
The Dalai Lama's compassion may seem far too conservative or passive for the party of war that
would defend the community, with pre-emptive strikes on suspected enemies if need be. After
all, they say, a life not worth killing for is not worth living. He who sits cross-legged, to just be
instead of to do, is a selfish person who is only interested only in saving himself. He ignores evil
by doing nothing about it except talk, and he who ignores evil is good for nothing. His fine
words about peaceful means to peace serve the injustice of the status quo by opiating
credulous, fearful people who would be much better off risking their lives and fighting for
justice. Therefore the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled theocrat, should lead his people to war against
China. Since he does not have a uniformed standing army, he should call upon his freedom
fighters to take up arms and terrorize the Chinese forthwith.
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But the Dalai Lama has a conflict of interest in his capacity as the theocratic monarch of his
country. He is Tibet's high Buddhist priest, and he must do no harm, he must take no life. In
Florida, he said, "Tibet is a dying nation. If we look at the situation locally, it can be bad. But if
we look at it from a global level, essentially a transformation is taking place." The
transformation constitutes happiness or a deep satisfaction underlying suffering. "Sometimes
we feel pain, sometimes mental or physical. Sometimes we deliberately take in suffering, but
beneath all that there should be a deep satisfaction, and that is true happiness," he declared.
The Dalai Lama's critics scoff at his happy declarations of deep satisfaction, as if that were the
sole purpose of life, and they call for revolution and war, for forms of mass terrorism; they are
reluctant to confess that violence and suffering makes them happy, gives them a feeling of
deep satisfaction. The noble ('arab') warring nomads are notorious for being deeply satisfied
with their suffering.
But the Dalai Lama's worst critics speak unfairly. The Dalai Lama must, as a spiritual leader or
superior guru, rightly focus on the inner war, which, when won, brings permanent peace, and
not on the outer wars, which are continuations of the cycle of violence interrupted by peace
from time to time. Before all, the Dalai Lama re-presents Avalokitesvara, the all-seeing, most
merciful and compassionate bodhisattva or enlightened being; the buddha-to-be; the messiah
of Mahayana; the Great Vehicle of Buddhism; et cetera.
The bodhisattva is the 'Marine' of the inner struggle for peace; no Marine shall be left behind in
the inner struggle for universal salvation. The bodhisattva will not, like the aristocratic arhat -
he who deserves the Nirvana of the Hinayana or Little Vehicle of Buddhism - go directly to
Nirvana. The arhat has reason to believe that salvation must be worked for, and that not
everyone is capable of salvation at the same time. On the other hand, the bodhisattva will stick
around and make sure that everyone goes to a preliminary, blissful realm, where all may reside
until dispatched to Nirvana. The bodhisattva has waited patiently for so long that he has
accumulated enormous credit for his meritorious deeds, some of which he may
compassionately distribute to otherwise undeserving people. Thus, like other messiahs,
including Jesus the Christ, he practices magic - or if you prefer, performs legitimate miracles -
inasmuch as he can give people who are otherwise undeserving a break by breaking the law of
cause and effect. After all, what good is a messiah who is not free to save us from the
conditions that enslave us?
In any event, our labor is divided in this world. Not everyone is a warrior. If peace is wanted by
some other means than violent war - warring for peace is inherently absurd - someone will have
to wish for peace and preach the peaceful means. The Dalai Lama is, figuratively speaking, a
magic diamond, man's best friend, upon which we can make such a wish and have a chance of
it coming true. Indeed, the simple fact that the Dalai Lama shows up is enough to bring peace of
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mind to those who venerate him as the manifestation of the buddha-to-be, of the
Avalokitesvara who looks everywhere - the 'Chanrazi' who pities all Tibetans. The Dalai Lama,
by the way, is also the incarnation of Songtsen Gampo, Tibet's most popular and powerful king,
who was himself the incarnation of the Compassionate Spirit of the Mountains - no doubt
Avalokitesvara - who turned himself into a monkey and fed Tibetan monkeys the magic food
that transformed them into human beings. Many people have literally impoverished
themselves to get a single look at a Dalai Lama. And if they are at peace of mind, if they are
happy even in their suffering, the causes of violence are lessened somewhat.
Furthermore, the Dalai Lama has much to say after he shows his face and teeth. He engages us
in dialogue; he says that dialogue is necessary for peace. Even if he said nothing at all, we know
that we should not rush to war on pretexts. We should engage in truthful dialogue and not the
usual lying of professional hypocrites. We should be true to ourselves first of all, and to that
end we should realize that we are not the fictitious "souls" and "selves" and "persons" which
we create to rationalize our emotions.
Of course we can not make people love one another. And we laymen will defend ourselves.
Buddha would not harm a fly. Jesus Christ would rather die than to kill someone in self-defense,
and would forgive his murderers in the process. Their pacifism would be not be good reason for
defaming them as useless and immoral. For in such examples, through the truth reflected by
their being, the truth which we all to some extent feel and know is real, we recognize the
possibility of universal love and peace. In my opinion, as a layman, the loving cup they present
to us must be forcefully defended by warriors on this plane, that all may eventually bring
themselves to drink of it. Yes, I think the core value, the potential for solidarity in peace, must
be defended against the pre-emptive attacks of evil forces.
The Dalai Lama, then, is a symbol of the core value, of the possibility, the potential, the power
inherent in each of us. That core potential is the very being we hear about from the Tibetan
Buddhists of the Vajrayana tradition if not from the press reports. Each individual presents a
value by virtue of that indestructible, indivisible being. The hypothetical self or soul or person,
whether microcosmic or macrocosmic, may be a convenient rationalization, but it is ephemeral
at best, and all too often it is an excuse for all sorts of crimes against humanity. The core being
of which we speak provides us with the opportunity to live our possibilities, that our lives may
be true, right, and beautiful.
That core may be called vajra, meaning 'diamond' and/or 'lightning bolt.' We would do well to
look for the qualities of vajra in ourselves, and especially in our leaders, that we might have
good examples when we stray from the right folds. The crystal of steadfast love and perfect
wisdom is a powerful jewel, an indivisible, indestructible diamond. It is not a black diamond but
is a perfectly clear diamond. Manifest diamonds, the large diamond-lattice structures known as
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precious gems, have the highest heat conductivity of any known substance, much better than
iron and steel. Diamonds also enjoy a higher sound velocity than most other materials. When
properly cut, in crystallographic directions, they possess a power of refraction superior to all
other gems, providing us with the most brilliant display of light. The light is highly dispersed,
from white into the various colors, giving the diamond its fiery quality. Diamonds crystallize
grossly in a cubic system, but rarely take the form of cubes; they most commonly appear as
octahedrons, and less commonly as tetrahedrons. The atomic layout underlying the forms is a
tetrahedron, or triangular pyramid - a pyramid with four faces. Each atom in the covalent bond
has four neighbors which are the corners of a tetrahedron. Logically, the triangle is the first
plane, while the tetrahedron is the first solid. Plato identified the tetrahedron with the element,
Fire.
Western visitors called ancient Bharata, 'India' (in-god), because so many "god-men" or gurus
lived in its pluralistic culture. India was the world's primary source of material diamonds until
the nineteenth century. India's oldest diamonds, forged in the melt a hundred miles or so
underground, are about three-fourths the age of the planet. And India's spiritual diamonds
have had an enormous influence on the world from time immemorial. No self-respecting deity
worthy of great public note would be caught without his diamond scepter, the abode of his
power, his sound and light.. The diamond was in the lotus navel of Visnu. The jewel was held by
Vajradhara, "holder of the thunderbolt", the primordial deity of the Dalai Lama's 'Yellow Hats'
order. Vajrasattva, "thunderbolt-being", is the beatific form. Vajrapani, "thunderbolt in hand" is
occasionally referred to by Buddhists as an enlightened being, a bodhisattva. Buddha sits on a
throne of diamonds. We recall that Indra used his vajra, or diamond-thunderbolt, to destroy
Vrtra, the demon who was obstructing the water supply. Life depends on water. From water
emerged the original lotus, the sun's abode, regenerative seat of light. Yes, the diamond-lotus
appeared in the primordial waters.
We heard the hurricanes roar, we heard the glass break and the buildings tumble, we heard the
resounding crack of thunderbolts as lighting bolts flashed across the sky. The Dalai Lama
descended from the sky and said, Peace does not fall out of the sky. The next thing we know
he'll be telling us that money doesn't grow on trees.
Yes! Jewel-Lotus. Amen!
THE JEW IN THE LOTUS

Egads! it's G-d again!
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The Dalai Lama descended on South Florida with the historic 2004 hurricane season. His
appearance had a calming effect on the terrified people if not on the storms themselves. I had
relocated to Ft. Lauderdale two days prior to the arrival of Hurricane Frances, only to be told
that my reservations had been cancelled because of Frances. I wound up huddling in the unlit
corner of a tourist hovel in a dangerous neighborhood with a gallon of water and six donuts as
Frances blew over.
An old Internet friend from Sunny Isles got me out of there, and tried to help me find a better
temporary residence in Ft. Lauderdale, from whence I could find an apartment. But Hurricane
Hugo was on the way. Ft. Lauderdale motels and hotels were gouging people right and left.
After several broken promises from resident managers and after meeting several apartment
rental sharks, I was disenchanted with Ft. Lauderdale. My friend took me to Miami and dropped
me off at an old Capone hideout on South Beach, the Clay Hotel on Washington Avenue. My
room was decrepit and tiny, but the maid service was good, beautiful people were behind the
desk, it was cheap: I fell in love with the place.
First impressions, especially when made in new and terrifying circumstances, can be lasting
impressions. Hurricane Hugo was on his way, hence residents new and old faced the prospect
of evacuation, being crushed to death, drowning, or, if everything went well, nothing of the
sort. As it were, I stuck around after the evacuation order was given - Hugo went elsewhere so
Nothing happened to South Beach. As Hugo approached Florida, I had resorted to my usual
diversion from terror - abstract thinking is a powerful narcotic. I encountered several amusing
articles about the Dalai Lama's visit. One in particular intrigued me, a fascinating piece written
by one Nathan Katz, distinguished professor of religious studies at Florida International
University, about his relationship with the Dalai Lama. The article was entitled, 'Dalai Lama's
lesson on "returning" to G-d'. I clipped it and pasted it into my notebook for future reference,
perhaps to serve as a little memento of my own arrival in South Florida, a little verbal picture
which I might meditate on from time to time.
Or perhaps this fool that I am would at some future time criticize and shred Professor Katz's
article, with what some critics have called my "frightening intelligence", then throw it away. In
that event, thank Gum, for the professor had hyphenated the vernacular term he used to
indicate the proper name for [the Ineffable Name], placing the hyphen between 'G' and 'd',
thus: G-d. Golly, I said to myself, if I eventually tire of Nathan's article, I can rip it from my
notebook and toss it without fear of erasing or otherwise offending [the ineffable Name]. But,
Holy [expletive deleted]! what am I talking about! I'm not even Jewish, let alone Orthodox
Jewish, so why should I care what the likes of Rabbi Jehiel Michael Epstein said, that even
writing the vernacular names of [the Ineffable Name], for instance the word 'Gud' stands for, is
an "exceedingly grave offense." Even if I were Jewish, why be that superstitious about possibly
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taking Cock's name in vain? The Canaanite 'El the Bull' would do nicely, and there should be
nothing wrong with writing down the plural 'Elohim', or 'Adonai', 'Shaddai', and 'Zeva'ot.'
As for English speakers, a devotee might say "the Lord" without being struck down by lightning.
Or, and may Zeus not forbid it, 'God.' Of course, if you are a Catholic, you should know that
'God' is not a substitute but is rather the proper personal name of God, meaning God is God. Of
course the term 'God' is a pagan and pre-Christian word rooted in terms meaning "what is
invoked", the object of sacrifice, perhaps "molten image." Oh, oh, maybe a molten image of the
Bull?
Gummy! enough of this Gog business! Let's just say God, if we like. We do not doubt the power
of the original word or name, the Name. We would not be human without it, and perhaps
nothing at all would be. I wonder if Professor Katz, who is fond of Tibet's Dalai Lama, is familiar
with H.P. Blavatsky, who resided in Tibet and studied "Lamaism", particularly the Tantric
aspects, for seven years in the middle of the nineteenth century? HPB believed the world
religions were linked via the Secret Masters. She claimed that theTetragrammaton, YHWH or
Yahweh, the Jew's personal name for the Supreme Being, is the sign of the Heavenly Man or
Microsopos, the first universal manifestation or logos, Adam Kadmon being the second logos
and Man being the third. The Microsopos or Be-ing is, in reverse, the Macroposopus or non-
Being. To wit: Being or Nothing. Somehow she arrived at the perfect number Ten for YHWH,
who is "I am I (I=I)", or Being, both male and female in the digits, 1 and 0, or 10. Incidentally,
she gives the number Ten for the Decalogue or Ten Commandments, and claims that the
Decalogue spells the name of the Messiah.
By Golly, what is the meaning of all this? my relocation or dislocation to South Florida into the
conjunction of Hurricanes Frances and Hugo, the Dalai Lama, Nathan Katz, the Jewish New Year
and Day of Atonement, and the Secret Name? How should I know? Maybe this is how.
Anyway, try as I might, I could find nothing wrong with Professor Katz's article. Why not tear it
up and get rid of it? What is the point of reflecting on it? Could it be the model for sculpting
some sort of concrete universal or absurd one-in-many of my own? an idol, perhaps, of my
place in existence? Perchance it might be a self-portrait in which I would finally, recognizing
myself, know who I am. Egads! What am I doing here? I generally avoid religious literature
except during terrifying times. When I pick up a book and find the word 'God' on the pages, I lay
it down. I have been "accused" of being a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian, and an atheist, but I am
not a man of faith other than having a native faith in life, a will to live, perhaps forever given
the right circumstances, paradise. If I were a man of faith, I think I would rather be a happy
monk than a priest or layman, providing that I had a cell, a cot, cake and milk, an Internet
connection, and my own Order.
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All right, so I exist. So what? to what end? The Dalai Lama, when asked for the purpose of
existence, said, "I don't know." Good answer. When asked what he had to say in South Florida,
he said, "Nothing." Hmmm. His duty, he said, was to show up and smile. All right. Then he
talked his head off. What in the world is the meaning of all this? Indeed, what is my point here?
The article Professor Katz wrote seemed to have a point - that Be-ing should be prior to Do-ing.
We might think and have some peace of mind before we act if our practice is to have a
theoretical basis, if our behavior is to have moral principles running throughout.
On the other hand, we recall Sartre's point, that existence comes before being, and we say so
because we are sick and tired of the metaphysical definitions of Being that would restrict and
misunderstand our existence. We might prefer Nothing, and perhaps even have faith in
Nothing, which is about as nondenominational a faith as one can get. When we get to the
bottom of all the metaphysics, whose legitimate end is to arrive at the highest universal, Being,
we find that Being stripped of all its predicates is as good as Nothing. Professor Katz is sincere -
he thinks there is a point to the verbal picture he painted for the newspaper; but when I reflect
on his point, I think his point is absolutely blunt or pointless - and that might be a good thing.
Again what is my point here? I want something more than Nothing but I cannot say what that
is, if anything at all. I feel there is some sort of secret behind Nathan's verbal painting, perhaps
alluded to by the sacred name, the object of which is the biggest secret of all, despite the fact
that libraries are filled with descriptions and explanations.
The Secret Name in olden times, for instance in ancient Egypt, was known by a few high priests
who wore the Stone Age garb of Hercules - later adopted by the Cynics and elaborated by
Catholics. The high priests were said to have "the power of the name." They were in charge of
the holy ark, the divine seat and repository of the holiest things, particularly the holy seed, the
Secret Name. The goddess Isis, who invented writing and who had the power of the Ineffable
Name, was the personification of that seat; her sign, in the form of a chair, was said to be the
throne of the pharaoh-god, who would come and go as the River, while she, the Black Land,
remained forever. The Secret Name was pronounced in the holiest place, where the ark or boat
of life was housed, just as the Jewish high priest pronounces "Jehovah" in the holy place once a
year.
Naming is indeed an awful power. It is a defining, limiting power, and if there be a supreme
power or absolute power, no name would suit that Power. If that Power be personal, that
Person might not tolerate attempts to name "Him". Indeed, using the sacred power of naming
to name that sacred person might be the ultimate blasphemy; therefore the priest who does so
in the Holy of Holies should have a rope tied to his ankle so someone can pull his body out just
in case he is the subject of God's wrath.
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What is the Ineffable Name? The Egyptian practices were probably derived from primitive
African religion. If we are to return to our origin for the Secret Name, we had better conduct
our search in Africa, in parts south of Egypt. Strange as this might seem, to this very day an
African tribe can be found whose shamans keep a sacred stool in the private place of their
lodge. It is covered up from time to time and carried about in procession. Everybody wants to
know what the Big Secret is. Only once was that question answered. We do not know if the
answer was truthful, for it might have been given to keep the Big Secret. The head man said:
"There is no secret."
NATHANS RELIGIOUS IMPROPRIETY
Professor Katz confessed that he had spent several days with the Dalai Lama during the ten
days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Those ten days, he wrote, "are a
time for Jews to go inward, to realign themselves with G-d and to make amends with their
family and neighbors. This process of 'returning' to G-d is known as teshuva, repentance. It
might seem inappropriate that I spend several of those 10 days with the Dalai Lama, but no one
has ever taught me more about 'returning' than he - returning to the religion of my birth,
Judaism, a religion that I have come to understand as perfectly attuned to my soul." (sic)
Furthermore, he said, "A new lesson has been impressed on me: that what we are may be even
more important than what we do.
It certainly might seem inappropriate that a Jew would spend Jewish holy days with a Buddhist
lama or guru whose ultimate spiritual authority is based on the superstition that he is the
current reincarnation of Avalokitesara (the "lord who looks in every direction"), the
boddhisattva ("buddha-to-be") of infinite compassion and mercy. After all, the Dalai Lama is
literally worshiped by credulous people as if he were a perfect person or god, a sort of
veneration that is anathema to Judaism, which, after all, rejected the perfectly compassionate
Son of God, Jesus the Christ. Of course the Buddhist pantheon of divine beings presided over by
Avalokitesara are recognized by sophisticated priests not as realities but as symbolic
representations of the psychic life of the religious community. Nevertheless, Tibetan Buddhism
with its Tantric accretions certainly smacks of pantheism. Jews are monotheists, are they not?
Do they not profess faith in the one and only G-d?
If we set aside Mahayana Buddhism and return to the fundamentals of Hinayana Buddhism,
now represented by the remaining school of its "eighteen schools", which is the Theravada or
Way of the Elders, we discover that the primitive Buddhists were essentially atheists, and that
the atheist schools, as opposed to the "deities-schools", were still thriving as late as the seventh
century of our Common Era. Yuan Chwang took a survey during his travels in India, and
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estimated that 200,000 bhikkhus (monks) were still adhering to the primitive ethical doctrine
associated with Gautama Buddha.
Although the Hinayama schools had their differences - some even argued for survival of the
"person" if not the atman or soul, and for the existence of gods - their prevailing doctrine was
similar to that of the atheistic Sankyha system.They rejected the idea that a person or being
exists who created the world and all things and who alone is worthy of worship. Theism was in
fact identified by sophisticated Buddhist teachers as one of the "six damnable heresies." They
argued that the visible universe originates in space-time pursuant to immutable natural laws,
not divine providence. The material principle that develops into the innumerable parts of the
universe is not the good product of an original personal creator, but is rather the product of an
original evil spawning continuous change by virtue of said natural laws. Others did not bother
with metaphysical speculation at all, and occupied themselves with the ethical, logical,
psychological aspects and implications of Buddha's teachings.
Buddha was not a prophet or a priest - he was a teacher. Buddha did not found a religion. He
wanted to discover the universal cause of suffering and a way to eliminate it. He discovered the
cause in desire, and found relief in leading a righteous life; not the self-righteous life of a bigot,
but a life in accord with the 'natural law' of human beings, meaning a rational, reasonable, and
humane life. He tested his ideas on a few pilgrims. What he said made common sense, hence
he gained quite a following, one that eventually became a vast civilization of its own.
The early Buddhists had very few things to say about the personal life of Gautama: they
emphasized his findings and teachings instead, particularly the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold
Path, and the Five Precepts. Eventually his persona was exaggerated, replicated and idolized.
The primitive Hindu gods - Buddha did not deny their existence, yet he considered them no
better off than the miserable the human beings who made sacrifices to them - returned with a
vengeance. Barbarian hordes descended on India with their superstitions and animistic
tendencies, thereby "rejuvenating" the Buddhist culture. Priests and professors of theology and
philosophy proliferated with the multiplication of monks. Eventually the bureaucracy became
ossified; creative thinkers were replaced by ruling leaders; an enormous monastic leech formed
on the back of the secular populations, in which the religious found their living. In theocratic
Tibet, for example, a Chinese survey taken in 1737 reported one monk for every lay person -
later statisticians gave a ratio of one in four. Modern scholars concluded that the Tibetan
nation, once the most vigorous nation in Eastern Asia, a nation that had overrun and conquered
China several times, had declined in power and numbers because of the unproductive Buddhist
monastic orders and practices.
Given the atheistic and pantheistic implications of the Buddhist civilization, we might conclude
that Judaism and Buddhism are as incompatible as fire and water, and therefore we could chide
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Nathan Katz for hanging out with Buddhists on the Jewish days of repentance. We might agree
that Buddhism is a "religion", and admit that Buddhism and other religions of the world are the
right subject of study for a Jewish professor of religious studies, but not on the ten days of
repentance between the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement!
After all, what is Nathan Katz "returning" to for the sake of atonement or at-one-ment? The
Supreme Being? or Nothing? Rabbis speak of "mending" the social fabric and then returning to
[the Ineffable Name] as one community. But instead of patching up our differences, perhaps we
should just toss them into hell if not the abyss. Once our relative differences are set aside, are
we not one? Even one with the One? Therefore Nothing, or Being. The more attractive term is
Being, for it seems to stand for something positive; but once we are one we have no cause to
quibble over such nonsense as Being and Nothing, or Neither, or both, or whatever.
The reductions to absurdity give us cause to note the iconoclasm of the pure ones at the
esoteric core of several religions. The iconoclast smashes everything with his hammer, and
what is left is good. He might have been attracted to the religion by the jewel-laden trees of
gold in the land of milk and honey and the like of some heaven or the other, but in the end he
could suffer them no longer, wherefore he took his hammer to them as well, and was left with
X.
In the final analysis, we have no way of knowing for sure whether or not the religious person
before us really believes in "god", whatever that term might mean if anything. That is "between
him and his god." Perhaps it does not really matter. We recall Miguel Unamuno's story about
the blessed Saint Emmanuel, who confessed that he was an atheist despite all the good that he
had done the village. As for Nathan Katz and his attendance on the Dalai Lama during important
Jewish days, I see the apparent impropriety of his conduct and urge him to repent and to say
om mane padmi hum a thousand times.
JUST BE JEWS
Professor Katz explains how he became impressed with the "new lesson" he had learned: "that
what we are may be even more important than what we do." You see, he was a delegate to the
"historic" 1990 Tibetan-Jewish dialogue hosted by the Dalai Lama: the dialogue was published
as a book and a movie - The Jew in the Lotus.
The "Jew" in the phrase is a pun on the Jewel-Lotus symbol soundly embedded in the mantra,
om mani padme hum, which is central to the Dalai Lama's Yellow Hat or Ge-lug-pa (virtuous)
order of Mahayana's (Buddhism's Great Vehicle) Vajrayana (vajra=diamond-thunderbolt)
tradition. Hinduism generally associates the Lotus with the origin of life, whereas the Diamond-
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Thunderbolt is identified with the tremendous magical power of a deity - Buddhists may refer
to it as the power of enlightenment.
Professor Katz said he engaged in a "public Tibetan-Jewish dialogue" with his good friend,
Geshe-la, after the movie was released. He carefully noted that Geshe-la is "the pinnacle of
Tibetan monastic education," and has, to boot, a Ph.D. in psychology from Emory University.
Such impressive credentials, which in this case suggest a synthesis of religion with a course of
study that aspires to be a genuine modern science, would no doubt add authoritative weight to
the teacher's lessons from the ivory tower at the summit of monasticism. Although he brought
them up, the professor assured me separately that people who know him know that he does
not stand on such formalities and is not unduly influenced by authoritative credentials.
Perchance it is I who have an undue regard for formal credentials since I have singled his
statement out for analysis.
However that may be, why should Professor Katz not appreciate, identify with and be attached
to the professional qualifications possessed by himself and his colleagues, friends, and religious
masters? He might be inclined to publicly refer to their qualifications simply to honor them, and
not to puff himself up by association with their superior social status. Good students in
particular should in fact name the teachers of their important "new lessons." I have no doubt
that Nathan Katz is a down-to-earth human being, and I look forward to meeting him in 'real'
timespace. Still, his friend and teacher's credentials are well worth mentioning, since relative
social status may serve to protect the ignorant members of the public from charlatans.
A few precautionary words are in order here: Someone once asked me for my credentials so
that he would know whether or not a certain opinion of mine had any merit. I responded that I
am a nobody in terms of credentials of any sort whatsoever, therefore my opinions have no
official social credence whatsoever, therefore each person must examine them and be their
own judge as to their merits or demerits. He responded that since I had used the personal
pronoun "I" in my article, my views must not be very scientific or objective, so he would forget
them and me. That was fine by me. Now it certainly is not my purpose to convert anyone to my
way of thinking. I do not practice religion or psychology nor am I a certified spiritual master or
psychologist. My opinions are not to be construed as spiritual or psychological advice. Please
consult your bona fide spiritual master or psychologist on all your spiritual and psychological
needs.
That being said, I believe that we should, with all due respect for reverend professors and
doctors of psychology and philosophy and the like, conduct our inquiries into such subjects as
Being Somebody while Doing Nothing, with an open mind, perhaps with Gautama Buddha's
advice in mind (pardon the contradiction), that we should believe nothing merely because we
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have heard or imagined it, or because it is traditional. Most importantly in this context, Buddha
advised us not to believe what our teacher tells us simply because we respect the teacher.
Rather, we should examine and analyze the information we receive, then do our best to find
whatever therein is conducive to the good of all people, then adhere to that alone. We certainly
respect the importance of professional credentials, yet we respect even more the fact many of
our best teachers were self-taught - some of them were illiterate.
After all, Buddha did not present himself as Siddhartha Gautama, Ph.D. Buddha attended a few
schools, but he found them completely lacking, so he went off on his own in search of truths
that would get to the bottom of life and obviate the misery caused by the ignorance plaguing
his troubled world with its diverse competing political-economic and religious factions. He
presented what he believed to be the plain and simple truth about life on this earth, and left it
up to his auditors to decide for themselves on the merits of his examinations, analyses and
conclusions. You have heard my propositions, he said, so are there any objections? No?
But to continue with the professor's article: Nathan Katz and Geshe-la discussed the Tibetan
people's struggle to maintain their culture in exile, having abandoned their homeland 40 years
ago. Professor Katz asked Geshe-la what Jews could do to help Tibetans. "Nothing.... Just be
Jews. You cannot imagine how much encouragement we take from you, just for being who you
are. The fact that you are still here, the fact that you still worship in your ways.... "
Professor Katz was duly impressed - perhaps flattered would be the right word - with the fact
that, "Just like that, Geshe-la revealed our own wisdom to us." That is, the wisdom of being
Jewish exiles whose rabbis, incidentally, teach two mitzvots or commandments: humans have a
"vertical connection" to G-d", which requires the practice of religious rituals, and a "horizontal
connection among people", the "thou-shalts" and "shalt-nots" of ethical social relationships.
Social relationships of course get torn and shabby and must be mended from time to time.
Once the rifts are mended, once amends are made with family and neighbors, the community
as a whole can return to "G-d", a return which is known to Jews as teshuva or repentance.
Although the great return is periodically and ceremoniously celebrated by Jews, Professor Katz
observes that "Genuine spirituality such as Geshe-la's knows that we can never effect our
ceaseless task of mending if we look only to externals, that mending is much deeper than social
policy." (emphasis added) That is, repentance and reconciliation is an ongoing process, one that
apparently depends on one's state of being. Wherefore our teacher concludes his article with a
quote from Lau Tzu:
"The way to do is to be."
THE GREAT FLIGHT TO NOTHING
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Since Professor Katz quoted Lau Tzu, we recall that Lau Tzu once said that executives can get
everything done by doing nothing. Furthermore, the following excerpts from Tao Te Ching, as
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin and published in Boston by Shambala in 1997, might be of great
interest to administrators, teachers and students:
The top administrators,
to stay lean and to get a lot for nothing,
should not do much studying themselves:
Studying and learning daily you grow larger.
Following the Way daily you shrink.
You get smaller and smaller.
You arrive at not doing.
You do nothing and nothing's not done.
To run things,
don't fuss with them.
Nobody who fusses
is fit to run things.
....
Once upon a time
those who ruled according to the Way
didn't use it to make people knowing
but to keep them unknowing.
People get hard to manage
when they know too much.
Whoever rules by intellect
Is a curse upon the land.
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Whoever rules by ignorance
is a blessing on it.
To understand these things
is to have a pattern and a model,
is mysterious power.
Mysterious power
goes deep.
It reaches far.
It follows things back,
clear back to the great oneness.
It has been with Gautama Buddha's personal rejection of the schools of his day that we have
been somewhat wary of any professor's reference to credentials; for the status implied by rising
degrees of education may not always serve to protect the innocent from charlatans, but might
instead serve to mask the fundamental truth with misleading prevarications, or to simply lend
authoritative credence to idle talk amounting to a lot of hocus-pocus about Nothing.
Not that there is anything wrong with the absolute Nil, or Nothing. As self-conscious living
existents, we are all exiled from Nothing, the nothingness of which is immediately obscured by
the womb, an obscure paradise to which we, once our feeling of oceanic bliss and omnipotence
is confronted by the world, would somehow return. We find ourselves restricted, our
omnipotence is challenged, we protest, we hate, we are chastised, we are fearful, we love. Alas,
all too often our love is the hate-based love: We love our group because we are afraid of
strangers. We love ourselves because we hate the world, which is our origin. We love Christians
because we hate Jews, which is the origin of our origin. And so on. The troubles of this world
seem to stem from fighting over something or the other, not always for the thing itself but for
the sake of an identity that is inherently insecure.
We might say, "They are fighting over nothing," meaning something trivial to us. But it is
meaningful to them, for their difference defines them; the struggle itself constitutes yet
another occasion for the expression of the internal animosity stemming from the impedance to
the will to overpower and possess itself and everything else to boot; and, ultimately and
paradoxically, to be One in Nothing, with nothing remaining to be done.
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I have suggested that Professor Katz was apparently flattered by his fellow exile, not for just
being-in-itself, but for being something; to wit: Jewish. Which is to say by way of connotation, a
Jewish exile.
Being Jewish is a perfect example of what a diaspora can do over a couple of thousand years
when the integrity of the native nation is somehow maintained and not assimilated by gentiles -
orthodox Jews are hard pressed in the United States to save their people from that fate.
Indeed, the Jews, often hated by everyone around them including those frustrated Jews who
are fundamentalist Christians, changed the world, and much for the better; so much for the
better that many people wish they had not recovered Zion in Palestine, that they had kept their
temple spiritually distributed all over the world; or, had rebuilt the main temple in South
Florida, where there would be less chance for people with rocks in their head to be fighting
over the rubble - their attachments, their identifications in differences, etc. They have taken on
the appearance of their worst enemy, and the frustrated fundamentalists in the White House
now have their Palestine as well.
Tibetan exiles have little material to show for their short period of exile. We have seen a few of
them demonstrating in the streets, when Chinese officials visit. We do not know where their
ghettos are.
Of course the Tibetan spiritual leaders have made prodigious contributions to Western secular
culture since their brutalization by the Chinese communist atheists and subsequent exile. Just
what the effect has been is immeasurable. We do not know how many mates and states have
not been mutually abused because of the state of peace they enjoy due to the Dalai Lama's
presence in person and in literature - he is not the only Tibetan spiritual leader.
Let those of us who are alienated consider well what being an exile means. Being an exile is not
a trivial matter, for being exiled is, first of all, the essence of self-conscious individuality - we are
all exiles.
Being a Jewish or Tibetan or Cuban exile, which divides exiles and complicates things with the
desire for a piece of real estate, is of course no trivial matter. Yet, if we understand Buddha's
concern with the attachments that cause so much suffering in this world, we have occasion to
doubt whether the affirmation of being Jewish or Tibetan, or a doctor or a professor, or
anything else for that matter, will serve the purpose of relieving the suffering of humanity,
namely our suffering, although it might make us feel good from time to time, for those
identifications are, after all, escapes from the universal fate of us all, which is our return to
Nothing, a Void most of us, notwithstanding our meditation on Nothing, do not care to dwell on
for very, at least not on a daily basis. Yet that is what individuals must return to, to timeless
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Eternity at the beginning and end of the cycle of Nothing-Something-Nothing - if we had our
druthers, we might prefer Something-Nothing-Something.
Now we recall that Professor Katz spoke of the return of the community of Jewish soul to 'G-d',
and he claimed that "a new lesson" had been "impressed" on him by the Dalai Lama, "that what
we are may be even more important that what we do."
Fundamental Buddhism denies the existence of the soul and the social projection of souls
comprising a universal personal deity. We might presume from Buddhism's teachings that the
"self" is a conglomeration of identifications attached to an instinct to persevere forever without
impedance. The individuate, or not-divided aspect of a self, which compromises with other
individuals to form a reflective alternate, introjected persona (the social aspect masking the
individual will), would be absolutely free if it could, would persevere forever, would brook no
resistance whatsoever, would make no compromises, would be All or Nothing, and would
hypothetically get everything done by doing nothing. One might say that such an individual, as a
Uni-Versal category of I-One, would be the Almighty Bum who gets everything wanted for and
from Nothing.
Yet that undivided in-dividual or I-god may not exist, might already be nothing but a romantic
illusion, a figment of the I-magination that motivates Professor Katz to fly about the world on
the tail of the tiger, clutching at the pretty straws of various faiths - a reading of the I Ching is in
order here.
Married folks complain that they have lost their identity, so they get a divorce. But there is no
identity without relationship, so why not make the most of our identifications as we fly from
one love to love for the sake of Love? And whom do we really love? What point is the principle
of love's line? Do we not really love the fictitious, mysterious self? We may know nothing of
that self except that others love it too, hence the Vanity of vanities is projected, the Person who
is loved so much by so many people that the suffer from a lack of love and war on one another
for the sake of that seemingly higher cause. Can we love everyone? Is it true that she who loves
everybody loves nobody? Well, I am nobody.
In any event, I hope Professor Katz enjoys his romantic flight from so-called Reality as much as I
enjoy mine. What we have during that flight might be a passing illusion, but it also might be
everything we've got at the moment, so we might as well enjoy it the best we can.
The professor thought he had made a good point with his article, and he later wondered what
the point of this present work is, as if everything must come to a point. But I am not making
points, I am lifting them. My first point is the nondimensional principle of my line. When an
arbitrary point of that line is lifted, the first dimension is realized in a triangular plane. And
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when an arbitrary point of that plane is lifted, we have the first solid, a diamond with four
faces, the Jewel in the Lotus. Yes, indeed!
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