from the world's big
An end to suffering: 10 quotes on Buddhist philosophy
It's not what you have, it's what you do with it.
- Buddhism has been applied differently across the planet as it enters new cultures.
- The underlying philosophical foundation is applicable to diverse situations, whether religious or secular.
- But it is a practice, not a belief, and must be treated as a discipline for retraining consciousness.
As with most articles, I posted my recent piece on busyness being a modern sickness on social media. I've generally learned to not pay attention to comments, though on personal pages I occasionally check in as thoughtful dialogues occur, as in this reply:
I think this is good stuff Derek, but bear in mind with the economy we are in, with low income, high debt ratio, many people do have to work more, have second jobs etcetera, just to have basic needs met. They aren't trying to have more money to invest, or save, or to take on vacations, they are just trying to pay monthly bills. Our economy not only promotes business, in many cases, it's demands it for survival.
All pertinent points. Her reply made me think about the conditions under which Buddhism were created in India, under a restrictive caste system in which social mobility was impossible; a state-sanctioned support system for the religious—Buddha's sangha became particularly well-funded—though lavishness, even in the Buddha's camps, was nowhere in sight. It was customary to support spiritual beggars, but that came at its own costs. Forget women seekers, at least until the Buddha's time, when he controversially accepted women into his community.
Spiritual practices have never come easy. Many disciplines emerged as responses to challenging external circumstances; they were not dreamed up when everything was good. This thought remained in mind as I flipped through volumes in my library seeking quotes on the nature of suffering in Buddhism. In a binary world, there is pain and then freedom, but that's not what Buddhism teaches. Liberation is not a static state; rather, it's a hard-won discipline that must be reapplied daily.
Which the sentiments below reflect. The notion of a better historical time is notoriously misleading; it harkens back to the American "golden age" that never really existed. Context is important—some just have it better than others—yet we all suffer in some capacity. The practice isn't what we do or do not have, but what we do with what is presented to us, as well as how we craft the reality that is possible.
Nirvana, "blown out," is the term for liberation or release from the endless cycles of rebirth. It is applied differently dependent upon one's feelings on the metaphysics of reincarnation. Stephen Batchelor is most well-known as a proponent of secular Buddhism.
The experience of nirvana marks a turning point in an individual's life, not a final and immutable goal. After the experience one knows that one is free not to act on the impulses that naturally arise in reaction to a given situation. Whether one chooses to act on impulses is another matter. — Stephen Batchelor, After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age
The koan is a sort of riddle used in Zen Buddhism to create doubt in the student's mind. It is often nonsensical on the surface, designed to provoke insights, not necessarily be answered. D.T. Suzuki is credited with being one of the first figures to spread Zen to the West.
To measure the koan by an intellectual standard, as you ordinarily do with other things, to live your life up and down in the stream of birth and death, to be always assailed by feelings of fear, worry, and uncertainty, all this is going to your imagination and calculating mind. You ought to know how to rise above the trivialities of life, in which most people are found drowning themselves. Do not waste time asking how to do it, just put your whole soul into the business. — D.T. Suzuki, Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D.T. Suzuki
Mark Epstein is a psychotherapist who has used Buddhism extensively in his practice. He began practicing Buddhism in his early twenties.
The freedom the Buddha envisioned does not come from jettisoning imprisoning thoughts and feelings or from abandoning the suffering self; it comes from learning how to hold it all differently, juggling them rather than cleaving to their ultimate realities. — Mark Epstein, The Trauma of Everyday Life
Philip Kapleau moved to Japan in 1953 to devote himself to Zen, later becoming one of America's foremost teachers in the tradition.
Pain when courageously accepted is a means to liberation in that it frees our natural sympathies and compassion even as it enables us to experience pleasure and joy in a new depth and purity. — Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment
Pankaj Mishra is an Indian novelist and essayist who dedicated years studying Buddhism's modern relevance in the West for this book.
For [the Buddha], neither God nor anything else had created the world; rather, the world was continually created by the actions, good or bad, of human beings. He didn't dwell on large abstract questions, preferring to goad the individual into facing up to his immediate situation. — Pankaj Mishra, An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World
The British-American philosopher Alan Watts left the Episcopal church as a priest to focus on Eastern philosophy, especially Zen Buddhism and Taoism.
A person who is escaping from reality will always feel the terror of it. — Alan Watts, Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion
The "Awakened One" is a Buddha; the term signifies the practitioner, not a historical figure, though the term is generally applied to Siddhartha Gotama. The German Indologist's Heinrich Zimmer's work was posthumously collected and edited by his good friend, Joseph Campbell.
So far as the Awakened One is concerned, the notion of Awakening is at bottom as devoid of meaning as the notion that there is a dreamlike state that precedes it (the state of ordinary life—our own attitude and atmosphere). It is unreal. It does not exist. It is the sail of the nonexistent raft. The Buddhist yogi is taught, by means of the disciplines, to realize, within, such a peace as one perceives looking outward into the vast ethical realm with its sublime display of transient forms. — Heinrich Zimmer, Philosophies of India
Travel writer Pico Iyer has been a family friend of the Dalai Lama since the early seventies and has traveled extensively with him.
Don't expect the world to fit its needs to accommodate you; work your needs around the circumstances of the world. — Pico Iyer, The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Richard J. Davidson is the leading proponent in studying meditation and neuroscience; he is the figure responsible for first scanning the brains of monks in the nineties. He began studying Buddhism and meditation in the seventies with his friend, Daniel Goleman, though the two could not discuss it for decades given their roles in academia—a position that has fortunately changed.
We live in a world our minds build rather than actually perceiving the endless details of what is happening. — Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body
The Dalai Lama has said that if science proves a Buddhist concept inaccurate, it is Buddhism that must evolve. He has worked extensively with scientists of all disciplines in finding common ground between factual evidence and applied philosophy.
The great benefit of science is that it can contribute tremendously to the alleviation of suffering at the physical level, but it is only through the cultivation of the qualities of the human heart and the transformation of the attitudes that we can begin to address and overcome our mental suffering. — Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality
Emotional intelligence is a skill sought by many employers. Here's how to raise yours.
- Daniel Goleman's 1995 book Emotional Intelligence catapulted the term into widespread use in the business world.
- One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
- EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
What's dead may never die, it seems<p>The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called Brain<em>Ex</em>. Brain<em>Ex </em>is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.</p><p>Brain<em>Ex</em> pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.</p><p>The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if Brain<em>Ex</em> can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.</p><p>As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.</p><p>The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.</p><p>"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told <em><a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/04/pig-brains-partially-revived-what-it-means-for-medicine-death-ethics/" target="_blank">National Geographic</a>.</em></p>
An ethical gray matter<p>Before anyone gets an <em>Island of Dr. Moreau</em> vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.</p><p>The Brain<em>Ex</em> solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness. </p><p>Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death. </p><p>Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?</p><p>"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/science/brain-dead-pigs.html" target="_blank">the <em>New York Times</em></a>. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."</p><p>One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.</p><p>The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01216-4#ref-CR2" target="_blank">told <em>Nature</em></a> that if Brain<em>Ex</em> were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.</p><p>"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.</p><p>It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.</p><p>Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? <a href="https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/after-death-youre-aware-that-youve-died-scientists-claim" target="_blank">The distress of a partially alive brain</a>? </p><p>The dilemma is unprecedented.</p>
Setting new boundaries<p>Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, <em>Frankenstein</em>. As Farahany told <em>National Geographic</em>: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have <em>Frankenstein</em>, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."</p><p>She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.</p>
Starting and running a business takes more than a good idea and the desire to not have a boss.
- Anyone can start a business and be an entrepreneur, but the reality is that most businesses will fail. Building something successful from the ground up takes hard work, passion, intelligence, and a network of people who are equally as smart and passionate as you are. It also requires the ability to accept and learn from your failures.
- In this video, entrepreneurs in various industries including 3D printing, fashion, hygiene, capital investments, aerospace, and biotechnology share what they've learned over the years about relationships, setting and attaining goals, growth, and what happens when things don't go according to plan.
- "People who start businesses for the exit, most of them will fail because there's just no true passion behind it," says Miki Agrawal, co-founder of THINX and TUSHY. A key point of Agrawal's advice is that if you can't see yourself in something for 10 years, you shouldn't do it.
After a decade of failed attempts, scientists successfully bounced photons off of a reflector aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, some 240,000 miles from Earth.
- Laser experiments can reveal precisely how far away an object is from Earth.
- For years scientists have been bouncing light off of reflectors on the lunar surface that were installed during the Apollo era, but these reflectors have become less efficient over time.
- The recent success could reveal the cause of the degradation, and also lead to new discoveries about the Moon's evolution.
A close-up photograph of the laser reflecting panel deployed by Apollo 14 astronauts on the Moon in 1971.
NASA<p>The technology isn't quite new. During the Apollo era, astronauts installed on the lunar surface five reflecting panels, each containing at least 100 mirrors that reflect back to whichever direction it's coming from. By bouncing light off these panels, scientists have been able to learn, for example, that the Moon is drifting away from Earth at a rate of about 1.5 inches per year.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Now that we've been collecting data for 50 years, we can see trends that we wouldn't have been able to see otherwise," Erwan Mazarico, a planetary scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2020/laser-beams-reflected-between-earth-and-moon-boost-science" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">said</a>. "Laser-ranging science is a long game."</p>
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
NASA<p>But the long game poses a problem: Over time, the panels on the Moon have become less efficient at bouncing light back to Earth. Some scientists suspect it's because dust, kicked up by micrometeorites, has settled on the surface of the panels, causing them to overheat. And if that's the case, scientists need to know for sure.</p><p>That's where the recent LRO laser experiment comes in. If scientists find discrepancies between the data sent back by the LRO reflector and those on the lunar surface, it could reveal what's causing the lunar reflectors to become less efficient. They could then account for these discrepancies in their models.</p>