Funny New Age Stuff

I have to start right off the bat here with an apology. I can't do anything but laugh at channeling, and I know I should have more respect for those who buy into it, more so for those for whom it is "real" subjective phenomena. So I'm sorry and offer my apologies to those who find this offensive or disrespectful. But HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

Let's examine it, just off the cuff and informally. What is channeling? I think most who buy into it would agree with a definition that went something like "The ability to serve as a medium for a higher intelligence that wishes or needs to communicate at the level of ordinary human discourse." Right? Does that sound agreeable? If not, please comment below.

Now, as far as I can tell, many of these mediums are *actually* having these experiences. This is not some collective conspiracy of like-minded individuals wishing to put one over on the rest of us. These people, often of a new age or pseudo-spiritual inclination, open themselves to non-ordinary dimensions of consciousness and are having genuine experiences of some sort. The problem, as I see it, is that these individuals take these phenomena to be objective and real in the sense that the tangible material world is real. But if we just take two such experiences from two different cultures and times, say a channeler in Brooklyn in the present time claiming to be receiving messages from angels and an oracle from Tibet claiming to be receiving messages from a Dharma protector, we can already immediately tell that the mind of the medium herself is the clay out of which this experience is formed.

Why does a angel speak english? Why does the western channeler not find herself receiving messages in a foreign language, coming from an entity that she cannot recognize and that looks utterly incomprehensibly odd? Because its *her* phenomena.

Now, some might argue that these messages are transmitted from a higher place and that its the subjectivity of the channel that auto-shapes the content into something understandable and recognizable for the channeler. In other words, the same entity or entity type on this different plane might transmit a single type of message to two different subjects and those subject will auto-filter that energetic content so that its in their language, their cultural symbols, etc. Maybe. But this argument then involves postulating a world of other beings that we can't see and that only choose, for the most part, new age nutjobs to communicate their messages. Why do we almost never see this phenomenon among great Buddhist yogis, or Taoist masters, or Christian mystics, or Sufi saints, or Hindu sadhus? Because they're incapable? Not open enough? Decidedly not the case. The very nature of those paths of development is to open beyond ordinary consciousness, achieving all sorts of "siddhis" or powers along the way, many of which they testify do indeed open to other types of energy beings and dimensions beyond our own. Thing is, they don't focus on it. And even if they do, its only to overpower these entities and turn them to service, not to be mastered and manipulated by them, which is what seems to happen to channelers.

So I have only two takes on this that sound reasonable to me: 1) there are many more dimensions of existence beyond ordinary waking human consciousness, and certain types of methods can open our access to these dimensions where we may find other types of beings with which we can communicate, but these beings are not higher or more evolved than us, just different, and we must be extremely careful not to allow them to manipulate us into working for them. We must do the opposite and turn them to our service, such as Padmasambhava did with the local spirits in Tibet; and 2) these so-called entities are just subconscious phenomena for a particular individual suffering various weaknesses and wounds of the psyche, sort of a subtle realm MPD.

Anyway, that's my take.

So Depressing...

Seems like everywhere I look people in this country are behaving out of utterly misguided and corporate-media-manipulated beliefs and values. Nothing brings this out so clearly as presidential politics. I mean people actually believe that Barack Obama is "unamerican" because the media and the Republican smear machine is telling them that's what they should think. Not that Barack is all that innocent, either. He's playing the game, too. He's just better at it. And all these people believe these bronze age myths, taking them as real. I read a comment on a news site this morning for an article on Barack's "unamerican-ness" that wondered who would Barack call at 3 AM during a crisis (a ridiculous question to ask in the first place, thanks Clinton Spin Meisters), and after one or two controversial names associated with him, the commentator declared "I know it won't be Billy Graham!"

Think about this for a minute. The U.S. is faced with some kind of horrible crisis and the president must respond quickly and decisively. Would he call the Joint Chiefs? Would he call his VP and primary cabinet members? Would he call congressional leaders to brief them and consult? No. This person would have him call a religious wingnut who believes in the literal truth of the Palestinian version of archaic Egyptian and Greek myth cycles. That's great, makes me feel real damn comfortable. Even though the current idiot in power has exactly this disposition, and has set the U.S. on a course of destruction, weakness, and loss in every respect, nevertheless this intransigent faith in ridiculous and childish fairy tales still amounts to consolation and "wisdom" for the masses. I can only say most dictators in the world dream of this kind of shit.

Then, as if all this weren't bad enough, I read another story about a new feature at major sports events: seats that come with unlimited snacks! Great. The entire country is overwhelmed with dead "food" and half of us are obese and dying from various easily preventable degenerative diseases, but hey, the corporations must make profit, and the media hypnotizes us into thinking somehow these horrible non-food substances are good for us, or at least not that bad, some kind of worthy indulgence (which for most people means 7 times weekly).

We are truly living in the dark age.

The Intersection of Shambhala and Japan

I've lately been contemplating the powerful influence that the Japanese culture had on the Druk Sakyong and the formation of many elements of Shambhala practice. Though Japan is but one of many contributors to the overall culture of Shambhala, it is in many ways the one that feels utterly "no problem" to me, utterly ordinary but in a sharp and I might say "sacred" way.

My primary connection to Buddhism has always overtly been Tantra. The promises of enlightenment in one lifetime, the achievement of selfless bliss, the powerful depictions of energetic dieties, and so on, were incredibly interesting to me as a young explorer, and for the most part remain so. However, when I look at my day-to-day experience -- sitting at this iMac, for instance -- those things have an air of remoteness, of foreignness, or of belonging to some non-ordinary dimension of my world and life. I don't imagine this is the case for everyone in Shambhala, and I'm quite sure that for Tibetans, these things are as ordinary as Mass is to a Catholic. To be sure, when I perform the actual practice, the magic of some of these upayas is immediately apparent, so I don't particularly think of them as irrelevant or as too different to be useful. No, its just that they are so imbued with incredibly RICH and INTENSE symbols and meanings from such a thoroughly different time and place that sometimes its quite hard to feel them as normal dimensions of my daily life. Protectors, dakinis, yidams, dons, etc., all are real enough in my opinion, only the way I relate to them can sometimes feel very distinct from what I would otherwise call my normal life.

With this in mind, I more and more appreciate the absolute brilliance of the Druk Sakyong's innovations and revelations. When I first went to a Shambhala Center (then Dharmadhatu) I was very much enamored with the Tibetan iconography and style and was captivated by things like thangkas and protector chants, and I was certainly not let down. However, something I perhaps didn't notice at the time, but appreciate more now, was that I felt utterly accommodated at the center, in the environment of the shrine room. Much of this had to do with the fact that Trungpa Rinpoche had adopted the best parts of Japanese culture as expressions of enlightened mind in daily life, and it seemed without cultural dissonance. Beautiful, striking ikebana arrangements, elegant hanging scrolls with paintings or calligraphy, the arrangement of the meditation cushions, and the straightforwardness of the shrine all combined created a harmony of sacredness and a sort of "wakeful ordinariness" that made a transition from "daily life" to "sacred life" easy and flowing with no shocking disconnect. By contrast, I think walking into a classical Tibetan mediation hall would be something like going to a museum, where everything stands out for awestruck examination, or like walking through a time portal to some magical ancient land of the past. It has its effect and power, no doubt, but I suspect its less suitable for bringing meditation-mind into my regular world.

Though Japanese culture is obviously also very different from our own, when enjoyed in the context of meditation practice the Japanese arts and forms are very suitable and easily adopted without cultural baggage. Much of the ability to do this was informed by Trungpa Rinpoche's teachings on things like Dharma Art and the adoption of styles he learned from his friend Suzuki Roshi. In a sense, for a Shambhalian, while "Japan fever" can easily strike, many of these forms (ikebana, shodo, chanting, shrine room conduct) have taken on a life of their own in our community. They're more likely seen now as Shambhala Arts rather than anything foreign. Nobody doesn't realize that they're Japanese in essence, only nobody really cares much where they're from. They are simply excellent ways to combine meditation-mind with space and human expression.

The Japanese, when they imported Buddhism, seemed to bring its basic wakefulness directly into their lives in many important ways, allowing their culture to be thoroughly soaked in appreciation of impermanence (and fleeting beauty), mindfulness, simplicity, and proper conduct. Worth learning from them, for sure.