Book 7 Chapter 35 Srimad Deva Bhagavatam - Parvati teaches Asanas for Bhakti Yoga

After Shakti had taken the form of a goddess, Parvati, She was asked what Asanas were best for Bhakti Yoga? Sitting with ease, was Her answer. Padmasan, Swastikasan, Bhradrasan, Vajrasan, and Virasan were recommended. Padmasan requires crossing the legs and placing the feet on the opposite thighs (right foot on left thigh, left food on right thigh), and catching the toes with the fingers after bringing the arms around the back (right toes in left hand, left toes in right hand), while sitting with ease. If ease is better achieved by putting the hands crossed on the thighs, that is to be done. Swastikasan is practiced by tucking the feet into the knees, onto the knees, or under the knees, and sitting with ease. Bhadrasan, sometimes known as "butterfly" requires sitting with the heels near to the anus and genitals, placing the two hands around the feet, then sitting with ease. Vajrasan is accomplished by placing the feet on the two thighs, and placing the fingers below the thighs to cushion them, then sitting with ease. Virasan consists of sitting on the buttox, and bending the knees back to bring the feet against the sides of the buttox, then sitting with ease.

The cause of Ashram practice and Caste

Service inspires the desire for equality, acquisition and ownership, which is possible through industry, commerce and art. When we make something, sell it, or perfect it, we come to own it – it is our expression. Such ownership inspires a desire of defense and preservation, as we would defend ourselves. Discovering our inability to protect what is ours, our inability to defend even ourselves from decay and death, leads to profound understanding, wisdom and nobility.

Thus, the Buddha Gotama, an Avatar of Vishnu, explained it is not by birth that one is a high caste, a "supreme man," a "superman," a Brahman, praised by Indra and Brahma. At every step through life, by increasing self-control and righteousness, one becomes a better person. It is our human nature which gives rise to the societies, the castes and ashrams, even the worlds themselves that we wander through in life.

Neither belief in god, nor non-belief in god

Believing nothing means not believing in god, not even believing that there is no god

Some things have non-zero probability of being true, but are unlikely to be true, and therefore are not worth belief. It is an ignorance of truth which creates a desire for belief: when we do not know whether something is true or false, we tend to reject the uncertainty by prematurely accepting a belief as true or false. This is why it is more logical to begin with the premise that things are false until proven true, than to begin with the premise that things are true until proven false.

This is proven by understanding Truth (represented by non-falsehood, zero) is only composed of non-truth
0 = 0+0

Whereas various degrees of falsehood (represented by non-zero, 1) consist of a mix of truth and falsehood:
1 = 0+1

When we presume that what we are observing is composed of an uncertain amount of truth and falsehood, rather than truth, we understand the method of negation: we must prove truth, rather than prove falsehood.

0+1-1=0 (removing the untruth results in truth)

To do this, we have to skeptically test each argument upon which we found our understanding, and reject all beliefs (all uncertainties) until they can be proven.

As there is no definite proof of God, and no definite proof of non-God, logic compels us to reject both premises until evidence can be obtained.

There is a common belief that real phenomenon is perceived by an observer, and this observer exists. This is demonstrably false. Such a premise implies disparity between observer and observed where there is none: you are correct that separation is an illusion, and the existence of self is contrary to a theory of Atman. It is also contrary to the theory of Atman to disbelieve randomness by conflating it with adharma.

Phenomenon cannot be directly perceived for several reasons: foremost, under a theory of interdependence, any observation which is made is made from within the phenomenon being observed, and therefore the observation affects the observed and the observer, altering the phenomenon and the perception of it beyond any ability to truthfully describe it. There cannot be difference between self and not-self. This is the foundation of a theory of conditionality: truth is not fixed or constant, except within parameters and probabilities.

Phenomenon cannot be perceived directly because all phenomenon must be first inaccurately sensed (by eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch), and then inaccurately conveyed to the mind for interpretation before the conscious act of perception occurs. Such a theory of inaccuracy requires considerable skepticism: after all, if the blind can dream colors, and the deaf can still listen to the memories of music, what does this imply for our own imaginative capacity?

Since Truth cannot be known, we must utilize logic, especially inferential logic, to determine falsehood. Perception is uncertain (due to parameters of probability arising from interdependence), and inaccurate. A premise that real phenomenon is perceived must be rejected.

Randomness is observed by the limitations of observation: inaccuracy and conditionality permit the acceptance of the fact that some data is meaningless. Further, study of the meaningless data indicates patterns which lend credence that such randomness is not due entirely to the process of observation leading to inaccuracy and conditionality, for there are patterns within the chaos.

Adharma is not anatman, nor even atman, but conclusions based in speculation or perceptions which are unreliable. When salt is dissolved and suspended in water, the two may be easily separated, for each possessed identity. Consciousness, being an emergent property of perception, cannot be separated from its perceptions. Fire emerges from the co-dependent conditions of fuel, spark and air, and disappears when one is not present. Fire has no identity, and cannot be said to dissolve into the air, or the ash, or go here or there. In the same way, "self" emerges from atman. Because self is an emergent property of numerous conditions, it cannot be said to exist in of itself. Both the theory of atman and the theory of anatman may simultaneously apply.

In the same way, adharma is not the opposite or contrary to dharma. Criminality is an emergent property of law, strength is an emergent property of weakness. The two, dharma and adharma, are co-arising, co-dependent, and co-terminating - because they are emergent properties of the atman.

The Criminal Yoga of Gotama

The Buddha Gotama was often accused of criminality, of Adharma. He was a self-described outcaste, devoid of Dharma - and at the same time, the self-described embodiment of Dharma.  What was the Criminal Yoga of Gotama?

Gotama said, a person should not engage in five types of business.

  • Business in weapons, or any business of fear
  • Business in human beings, such as slavery, prostitution, or any business that prevents beings from right action, from seeking freedom from suffering
  • Business in slaughter, killing, in meat, or any business that causes harm to beings, or their suffering
  • Business in intoxicants and intoxication - physical, mental, emotional or spiritual - which would result in ignorance of right action, ignorance of loving friendship
  • Business in poisons and poisoning of body, mind and heart, or any business that results in or relies upon such hatred

- Anguttara Nikaya 5.177

Right livelihood is not just what type of work we do, but also how we do our work. Though an intoxicant used to alleviate suffering from surgery or disease and promote healing is a medicine, the pharmacist is as much a “criminal” as the drug dealer. And both require the same Yoga. In the same way, any profession or work that relies on weapons is criminal: whether the profession is that of a soldier, or a robber. Whether those weapons are used for aggression or defense. As is any occupation which provides pleasure, or binds someone – even to the terms of a loan. The comedian is a criminal, as much as the prostitute. The medic, the rescuer, the law enforcer, the lawyer, the banker, and, of course, also the felon – all are criminals.

“Adharma,” “Wrong” implies “Dharma,” “not right” in the same way that “Left” implies “not Right.” Left is merely a different direction, and is not necessarily better or worse. Traditional Yoga will not work for either the Pharmacist or the Drug Dealer. They both share too much in common: they require Criminal Yoga.

Some work may not seem conducive toward our goals of Kama, Artha and Dharma, toward loving friendship which is “the whole of holy life,” but by a system of Criminal Yoga may become so. A criminal is an outcaste, an outcast, for they have neglected their duties, their nature, their Dharma. Yet a person may be restored their caste.

Gotama said (Sutta Nipata 1.7, etc.) that it was not by birth that one is a Brahman, by self-control alone one becomes a Brahman. By lack of self-control one becomes a criminal. Caste, society, is not given by birth. Nor are the duties of that society. A true outcast, a true outcaste, a true criminal has no good society, no good friends - for they are not a good friend, nor good to associate with. They have both rejected their duty, and been turned away by those who would perform their duty.

The monk Sunita said (Theragatha 12.2) "My teacher taught me it is not by birth that one is a high caste, a supreme man, a Brahman, praised by Indra and Brahma. Through self-control and righteousness one becomes a better man." The monk Sunita said, "I was born in a low caste, an outcaste. I was born poor, with next to no food. My work was degrading, I gathered whatever was spoiled. I gathered the withered flowers from the shrines and threw them away. People found me disgusting, despised me, disparaged me. I prostrated myself to show reverence to everyone, and even came to lower my heart. But then one day, I saw the Buddha Gotama, arrayed with a squadron of monks, the great victorious hero, entering the city of the Magadhans. I threw down my carrying pole and hurried to show him my reverence. I prostrated myself to him. And he – the good man that he was – stood still out of sympathy – just for me! Since he stood still for me, I rose, and stood before him. He then said, “come, monk!” And I then walked with my teacher. Later, alone, I meditated in the wilds, untiring, following his instructions just as he taught me. And then I conquered, just as he, the Conqueror, had once conquered! Like him, it was in the first watch of the night that I remembered all my previous existences, in the middle watch, I was purified. And as the last watch ended, I burst through the mass of darkness like the sun! And as I rose with the sun and went to visit my teacher, Indra and Brahma – whose wilted flowers I had once thrown away – came and knelt before me, praising me for my victory. And since I stood still for them, they stood before me, and then walked with me! Arrayed with a squadron of devas, I returned to my teacher, who, seeing me victorious, smiled when he saw me."

By self-control and righteousness one becomes a Brahman. Yet there are other castes than this. Is this all which is required – for all castes?

The Vedas describe there was a time when people once worshiped the sun, understanding it was the sustenance of their existence. But in the darkness of the world, deprived of their sustenance, those beings who were inclined toward rightness embraced the ritual sacrifices, those inclined toward wrongness rejected the ritual sacrifices, those inclined both to right and wrong undertook the sacrifices with doubt, and those inclined neither to right nor wrong gave cause, action to the sacrifices.

As a new day arose, a new age arose, the nature of humanity evolved. Those inclined toward rightness developed goodness; those inclined toward wrongness developed wickedness; those inclined both to right and wrong developed courage; those inclined neither toward right nor wrong developed a true humanity, and a nature independent of Brahma, maturing into a new being. As the day rose, Brahma observed, and then described the Dharma of people, understanding that duty had evolved.

But as the ages past, these beings strove with each other, and in fighting, caused each other harm, conquering and occupying other worlds which neither belonged to them, nor where they belonged. Everyone wanted to be a Brahman, everyone wanted to be in heaven.

There was great distress; the worlds themselves grew blurred in difference and distinction. At the time when Vishnu was called upon to restore society, to restore the worlds, there was but one Caste, one Dharma, one Duty. Manifesting as the Buddha Gotama, he taught the means to ending the distress of this singularity of Dharma was to either find our own world, or come to belong in the world we now occupy.

Gotama taught the means by which to end our distress lies in working with others, as it encourages specialization, and the identification of duty. Friendship inspires duty, Dharma. It lies in truth, and patience. The lawbreaker is as important as the lawmaker, every caste, every occupation (even the criminal) has a role to play – they are all essential, otherwise they would not so naturally appear.

The gods neither require nor deserve our fealty nor our worship. Neither does any other being. There is nothing enviable in heaven, nor in hell. For one who truly understands, there is nothing enviable in any world.

As a person might change their clothes in the morning, or in the afternoon, or the evening to suit the needs of the place or occasion - so may anyone attain the comfort they require by strength of mind, heart and body in their present loka – relieved of distress, they may do what is necessary to do. As a person might navigate at night with firelight and starlight, they may find their way to where they need to be. Self-controlled, they no longer respond to instinct, but reason and come to understand that the means to ending their distress, of ending the blurring of the Castes, requires both Dharma and Adharma, the willingness to accept we have all become casteless. There is no difference between the one who lays flowers upon the shrine, and the one who removes the flowers after they have wilted into trash.

Throw down your burdens, and meditate upon the cause, the nature, the ending and the way to the ending of distress. Follow the instructions of the Buddha Gotama: then conquer, just as he, the Conqueror, had once conquered! Like him, remember all your previous existences, and then purify yourself. Liberate the Castes, that they may be free to perform their duty, that the world may at last know peace.

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The Avatar of the Buddha Gotama - Agni Purana 10.3

A long time ago, there was war between the Devas and Asuras. The Asuras managed to defeat the Devas, who in defeat sought the protection of Vishnu. Vishnu assured them, Vishnu would manifest as a Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana. As a Buddha, Vishnu would restore the Dharma: then, all the Asuras, indeed all beings, would become Buddhists and live contentedly in their own worlds (lokas), at peace. The Asuras would return to Naraka, and the Devaloka would be restored to the Devas. Vishnu would manifest as a Buddha at the end of the age of Kali, when all people will have lost the path of the Vedas. They will have become criminals, violating their duties - and concerned only with Artha, disregarding Dharma and Kama, they will have become robbers. When even the Kings neglected their own laws, they will have begun to devour each other.

Once the Dharma was restored and all the worlds were at peace, Vishnu would manifest as the son of Vishnuyasha. The sage Yajnavalkya would be Vishnu's priest, and the four Ashramas and four Castes would be restored when all beings begin to again venerate the sanctity of words, and become righteous. This will utterly destroy all doubt and unbelief. This will be the dawn of the Satyayurga.

Vishnu then reminded the Devas that it was their duty to heed the teachings of Vishnu's avataras, if they wished to return to heaven (devaloka).

Ending Hostility - Sutta Nipata 4.15

The Buddha Gotama said, there is no security or safety from arming one's self, only fear. If arming one's self protected one from attack, or aided in one's defense, there would not be so many people presently fighting each other, having fought each other for so long. Hostility is the cause of fighting, or insecurity, of weapon-taking. Like a painful sting or thorn whose pain causes a person to run about and rave insanely, only when hostility is taken out is there an opportunity to settle down; only when hostility is removed is there an opportunity for peace. To remove hostility, one must no longer grieve, one must no longer mourn. To become beyond grief, beyond mourning, one must become disattached, and let go of the past. All that has gone before. And all that is to come - have no hope for it. Don't even hold onto what lies between "then" and "later." To have nothing, to let go, requires understanding "this is not mine" and "this is not theirs."

Uluka - the vehicle of Laxmi

Indra lights the sacred fire of Agni, the cause of Justice, the defender of Dharma. Indra is the master of Maya (illusion, form and other magic), and the warrior who, though repeatedly defeated, persists to victory. He rescues the weak. He presents the “second wind” to athletes, he embodies of athleticism. He wars not against others, but within himself. He permits the achievement of Raja Yoga.

Indra is famous for having been manifested by Uluka, Laxmi’s vehicle. Indra is notorious for his defeats and errors, just as much as for his recovery and restoration. The owl is a nocturnal bird of prey: those who cannot see or understand Vishnu, yet would still devote themselves to the Dharma of Vishnu, are Laxmi’s vehicle. The darkness symbolizes ignorance, specifically ignorance of Vishnu, of right and wrong, of duty; it symbolizes unskillfulness; it symbolizes weakness and criminality, adharma (non-duty, non-truth, not-right, injustice).

It is because of weakness, ignorance and lack of skill that abhorrent and regrettable things are done, it is because of this that people become criminals, negligent in their duties. An owl, flying through such a mass of unskillfulness and ignorance, symbolizes the intention required to break through the darkness of misdeeds and unskillfulness. It is this intention to gain strength and skill in using that strength, to gain wisdom and improve that is the true right action.

A person who breaks the law, a person who neglects their duty, or takes upon themselves the duties of another is at fault, but only so long as they do not seek to improve their wrong-action. Like a mother or teacher, Laxmi will accept devotions of wrong action, and encourage improvement. And Uluka (Indra) is the means of this improvement, this restoration and defense of Dharma.

Kroncha, Ganesh's Mouse

Ganesh rides on a mouse.
No, not that kind of mouse.
Kroncha is the vehicle of Ganesh. Kroncha was a clumsy God, who was always accidentally bumping into others, and stepping on toes. Kroncha was also very untactful. One day, he was cursed to become a mouse, so that if he ever bumped into someone or stepped on their toes again, he’d at least not cause them any harm – and he’d be so small and quiet it wouldn’t matter if he was untactful. Ganesh is not clumsy, but is not delicate, either. Ganesh breaks down all obstacles in his way, and needed just such a vehicle: Kroncha helps Ganesh’s indelicacy at least not cause harm. When Ganesh met Kroncha (now a mouse), it was because Kroncha accidentally bumped into Ganesh and stepped on his toes. Ganesh understood the potential for Kroncha immediately, and taking out his lasso, threw it around Kroncha’s neck and leapt on – and has ridden Kroncha as a vehicle ever since.

Artha Veda VII 50 - The Victory

Agni. Illustration by Nina Paley.
That ancient tree weathered countless storms only to be utterly destroyed by the chance strike of a single bolt of lighting.  Thus may I hope to win with the roll of my dice against my opponents. Whether my opponents are prepared, ready and alert (or not) matters nothing to my luck: that ancient tree was strong, too, and had survived so many storms and attacks.  My opponent will not defend themselves against me any better for their many advantages than that ancient tree could resist Indra's lighting bolt.

See how my enemies already are assembled on all sides?  They now move against me - they think this is their chance, for I am caught, at disadvantage, outmatched and outnumbered! They think this their chance - but "chance" is not theirs to possess. Indeed, it may be MY chance.  Perhaps now I shall take back what is mine!  Indeed, they owe me a great debt, having injured me so.  Look how they gather about me - bringing back what was mine to retake in victory!

It is true, I am weaponless.  My hands are empty, they have disarmed me.  Yet though I may be weaponless I am not defenseless.  An empty hand never remains empty long. The hand which is empty may more easily grasp and take hold than the one which holds too much - and they hold what is mine, besides their own.  Overburdened, they shall not easily defend themselves, or what they wrongly hold.

At this moment I reflect that I have always fed Agni's sacrificial fire. Indeed, I have given all I have to Agni. Has my sacrifice been enough to satisfy Agni?  Agni's sacrificial fire can be fed, constantly, and without satisfaction.  Always desiring, always hungry, Agni would consume all the wealth of the world - yet would hunger still for more.  And if permitted to escape, He would not hesitate to consume anything in His path - for all is rightfully His. Can anything given to Agni be taken back?  Nothing given to Agni can ever be taken back, for He burns it utterly to ash. Agni hungers for everything, acquires everything and defends forever.  As I shall.  Through patience and generosity toward my opponents, I have sacrificed all I have to Agni.  And now I have become as hungry as Fire itself!

I have by such devotion of patience and generosity toward my opponent given all to Agni.  Thus have I manifested that sacred Fire within Me.  Look, I am now like Agni Himself!  If permitted the opportunity, I shall, too, acquire and defend. I shall, too, succeed - as Agni always accomplishes the sacrifice required by destroying what is given upon the altar.  So now shall I accomplish the sacrifice required of my opponents! They shall feed my fire, they shall atone! They shall give to Agni!  They shall feed my fire, and seek the Marutaganas, those Rudras who by the command of Indra make the rain fall to extinguish the fires of Agni.  But the Marutaganas can come only after Agni has taken what is His. I shall take what is mine before being made to desist.  I shall give a reason for it to rain!

Indra's lightning, striking an ancient tree, can spark Agni's fire.  Oh, how I was struck by my enemy!  Yet from the fire of a single bolt of Indra's lightning, Agni can devour the entire forest, and ignite the world.  Today this old tree burns.  I burn, I am angry.  Indra has lit my Fire, and prepared the sacrifice of my opponents. Indra has thus conquered my opponent's troops with fire. My opponents shall satisfy Agni, now they have lit the fire!  I shall burn them all to ash.  Oh, Maghavan! Oh, Indra!  You make a path for me through these obstacles, and I am now like a charioteer running a race upon that road.  Oh, Maghavan!  You never remain defeated for long!  So too will I rise from defeat to crush my enemies and conquer their troops!

As a wolf jealously defends Agni's fuel from the sheep who dare attack the holy plants so will I take what my enemies have wrongly won. I shall be a wolf among such hungry, insolent sheep!  I will be as merciless as a gambler who cleans out his opponent, taking even the reserve funds. Does the lightning leave anything of the tree it strikes?  A strong hand in cards does a player no good against a bold bluffer, and patience earns nothing for the one who waits too long to play his cards, thinking to heap up his winnings. The Gambler plays the game as his duty, his Dharma. The Gambler loves the game, despite the risk. The Gambler will not spare any money, nor fear losing it, for he can believe that playing the game with such duty will give him winnings as its justice.  For the Gambler has faith that if he only perseveres a little longer, there will be justice, and he will win back what was his.  The Gambler believes winning is his right, and is justice - am I wrong to trust in Justice as I now, too, roll the dice?

It is by wealth we suppress our wretched poverty, it is by grain we suppress our hunger (if only for a little while). So must we sometimes resort to perseverance and the cunning of audacity to suppress our misfortune. Gambling is now my work, my duty, my love and joy.  It is my Artha, Dharma, and Kama.  For I am desperate. Alas, that I am so desperate.  Look, I now must wager greatly, or else lose everything anyway. Perhaps I now gamble foolishly?  Though indeed it is likely I shall come to harm and misfortune, I am already harmed, and any further patience or non-action will result in my utter defeat.  It is only by this gamble do I have the chance of victory.

Am I fool?  The odds are against me.  Only a fool seeks a strong opponent.  Yet it is good reason that nothing is certain. Lightning strikes are not common, they are rare, they are unlikely - but do happen.  Is it not also possible that the dice will provide and nourish me today?  It was by chance that I was struck down.  It is also possible I may strike a bit of luck too, and become bound up by it in a streak long enough for victory - even as the bows of my enemies are already bound up by string and directed against me!

So come now, give me the dice: the game is not yet over.  Like a Sannyasi, like a Gambler, I lay all I have down - upon the table.  I have one more play left and would indeed be a fool to leave the game just because of a little bad luck!

Gayatri Jayanti: the greatest Fire Sacrifice

Gayatri Jayanti is the "birth" day of Gayatri, a manifestation of Shakti.  Shakti manifested as Gayatri when Brahma required a wife to complete the Fire Sacrifice. "She" is the structure of words used (like a form of poetry), the Vedas themselves, the reflection of Brahma: whereas Brahma observes, Gayatri is observed; whereas Brahma seeks, Gayatri is found. Gayatri is celebrated as the mother form of Shakti.

Some sacrifices require a being be unmarried, others require a being be married. Of those which require marriage, some require both the feminine and masculine, others do not. When Brahma first attempted the Fire Sacrifice, he could not complete it because Brahma was not masculine, and "he" was not married to the feminine. He desperately sought the very first being he might find to be his wife, and Gayatri - whose structure of words is used in the Fire Sacrifice - so greatly desired the completion of the sacrifice that Gayatri manifested Shakti, and took the feminine form. She embodied herself to be nearest to Brahma. The two at that moment developed a pure love, and were married. This mutual desire to complete the sacrifice for the sacrifice's sake, which is expressed in the purest love of Brahma and Gayatri, also expresses the essence of Kama, which Kamadeva espoused. This was the moment the most sacred fire was kindled.

Gayatri Jayanti is celebrated by repeating this fire sacrifice with one's spouse, and kindling that love which burns with the brightest and warmest of flames. The fire kindled by love between spouses is the brightest and hottest fire, required for Sacrifice, kindled by self-control.

She is typically portrayed as the maternal form of her several Avatars: Gayatri, Laxmi-Saraswati, Sati-Gauri, etc. because she is the supreme Adi-Shakti, the wife/half of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and all other non-beings, and the act of motherhood is the fulfillment of this form. But she is also portrayed in the moment before she met Brahma, using a mirror for beautifying herself to make herself attractive to him: just as we may all, using the reflection improve ourselves toward an ideal. She is also sometimes portrayed as Mother Gayatri, holding all the weapons and tools of the many beings of the universe: as Shakti, she can take all form. She is the process of education, whether the learning that all mothers bestow upon their progeny of survival, or the subtle learning of the Vedas.

Annapurna Puja

Annapurna is a name that means “perfect nutrient” or “perfect food”: the eating without hunger or desire, for the pure purpose of nourishment.

Shiva once said that because form is illusion, the need for nourishment is also illusion. Parvati disagreed with Shiva, and to prove her position, caused all nourishment to disappear: no matter what a being ate, it could not be found. Plants, animals, people, even Shiva suffered famine. Seeing the beings distressed, and that Shiva had learned her lesson, Parvati then produced a magic Kitchen, and fed every being what most nourished them – and in the line for nourishment was Shiva, begging with a bowl. He was humble, and said “I now understand nourishment, whether physical or spiritual, is no illusion.” Parvati fed Shiva with her own hands, and instructed him in the Dharma, the duty and nature, of nourishment. This is how Parvati came to be known as Annapurna.

The Buddha Gotama instructed that before eating, the origin and necessity of the nourishment should be understood: life is sustained by death, and the sacrifice and gift made by the beings we use for food should be respected by right living – that our strengthening succeeds in preparing our own sacrifice and gift.

What sustains us gives us the energy (Shakti) to take form and act. Understanding this, we understand that all that begins or is created must be sustained, or it ceases to be. This includes distress: understanding distress is sustained, and how, is essential to ending that distress.

Avoiding superstitiousness and religiosity

Illogicality results in wrong-action.  Understanding complex and abstract phenomenon requires symbolism and careful attention to repeating phenomenon.  This is dangerous, as it can result in illogical behaviors such as religiosity and superstitiousness (just two of the many types of illogical behavior).  But while the danger cannot be avoided, through logic we can avoid wrong action.

Illogic is avoidable.  Though there are innumerable mistakes that can be made in logic, and very many which result in superstitiousness and religiosity, here are some of the most common, and how to avoid them:

1. Misunderstanding significance.
Just because things happen does not mean that they are meaningful.  This mistake in logic results in illogical behavior.  The cause for this error is due to the human tendency to observe things symbolically, and to also observe repeating patterns.  Symbolism is necessary for daily life (each of these letters is a symbol which is interpreted to convey sounds and thought, for example), and even can be used to comprehend complex abstract concepts (such as time, energy, force, etc.).  However, in observing everything as a significant symbol, we can come to wrong understanding.  Observation of repetition is also a human nature, and is usually useful.  However, in observing extreme long-term or short-term trends, there is an increasing risk that the coincidence of the repeated events are unrelated.  Avoiding both errors is accomplished by studying the repetition of symbol: if the repetition occurs within a statistical margin of error, there is no likely significance to them.

2. Seeking non-randomness.
Randomness is a fact of reality.  This is not to suggest that things happen without cause or effect, but that sometimes things happen without discernible cause, or without discernible effect.  Or that things happen due to so many interrelated causes and effects that understanding the significance (see mistake #1) is impossible to calculate.  Concluding the cause or effect of an apparently random event without sufficient information will result in an error of logic, and illogical behavior.  Consequently, a degree of certainty should be obtained before making a conclusion of non-randomness: this certainty should be conservative for events with many repetitions (much data), and can be more liberal for unusual events (which are fertile for speculation).

3. Insufficient data, too much data.
Sometimes, we are more conservative than we should be in coming to conclusions - or too liberal.  Understanding whether we have enough data to come to a conclusion about non-randomness (see mistake #2) is very important.  This is accomplished by analyzing the data for predictable patterns.  If additional data would significantly improve our ability to predict future repetitions, then more data is required.  If more data would not result in significant improvement, then more data is not required.  If the majority of the data cannot be predicted by a hypothesis and more data will not significantly improve our understanding, a re-evaluation of the logical premise that there is, in fact, any repetition or significance to the data is required (see mistake #1).

4. Ignoring extreme examples in trying to understand standard examples.
The truth of interdependence of all phenomenon requires us to understand extreme examples in any sample of repeating phenomenon as examples of interconnectedness, when minor factors are permitted by random chance (see mistake #2) to become significant (see mistake #1).  While they are atypical examples, it does permit a fuller understanding of the various factors impacting the standard example.  While there is an inclination to ignore these as being not significantly improving our understanding of a typical example (see mistake #3), these extreme data should not be discarded from the sample and ignored.  It is a mistake to discard any data of the repeating phenomenon studied.

5. Coincidence does not mean causality.
Just because two things happen with significant predictability (without mistakes #1, #2, #3 or #4) does not mean they are causal in nature.  Meaningless coincidence does occur.  Understanding how things work by examining all the factors involved in the repetition (avoiding mistake #4) will permit the avoidance of this mistake: if we understand that there is no causal relationship between the birds singing outside our window near our birdfeeder and our choice of breakfast yesterday, we can also understand that if we share our breakfast with the birds a causal relationship might be developed.

6. Causality as one-directional.
All causality is interdependent, and creates feedback loops.  Ignoring the shared relationship between cause and effect (mistake #5), we ignore that effect can provoke subsequent cause.  When we ignore that the effect can provoke the cause - just as easily as the cause can provoke the effect - our ignorance results in profoundly irrational behavior.  Our observations result in the observations made.

7. Mistaking hypothesis for theory, theory for truth.
The principle danger to religious or superstitious behavior is the wrong action which occurs through the illogicality.  This wrong action is possible only because there is a tendency to accept things which are sometimes true as always true.  This is an attachment.  Such materialism results in belief.  Beliefs can - and should - be let go of.

Dharma, Adharma and Nodharma

One day when Gotama lived in Sravasti, in Jeta’s Grove, in the garden of Anathapindika, with more than 1,250 monks and nuns, many Bodhisattvas, pious laity, and numerous great beings, he had returned from collecting alms in Sravasti and finished his meal. He put away his bowl and cloak, and washed his feet. Then he sat down on a seat prepared for him, and crossing his legs, holding his body upright and was mindfully attentive to the crowd who walked about him three times counterclockwise, saluting him, and sat down.

At that time, Subhuti came into that assembly and, sitting down, instantly rose from his seat. He put his robe over his shoulder, and knelt on his right knee, and bent his folded hands to Gotama, begging Gotama to explain proper view for the Bodhisattva?

Gotama answered, Subhuti, someone who has set out in the vehicle of a Bodhisattva should produce a thought in this manner: “as many beings as there are in this universe of beings, all these I must lead to freedom from suffering. And yet, though innumerable beings have thus been led to freedom, no being at all has been led to freedom.” Why? For should in the Bodhisattva a notion of “being” occur, that Bodhisattva could not be called a Bodhisattva – for the notion of self has taken place through the notion of other beings.”

Gotama continued, “moreover, Subhuti, a Bodhisattva who gives anything could not be a Bodhisattva: for when a gift is given that is identifiable, tangible, measurable, it is subject to suffering. Is it possible to measure the extent of the south, the west, the east, or north? Is it possible to measure the distance of downward, or upward? Even so, what a Bodhisattva gives is not easy to measure. What do you think, Subhuti, can a Tathagata be directly identified and observed?”

Subhuti replied that a Tathagata could not, that a Tathagata could only be indirectly identified and observed.

Gotama said, “indeed, wherever there is something to directly identify, or something which is unidentified, there would be a fraudulent Tathagata.”

Subhuti asked, “will there be any beings in that dark, last epoch of the Dharma who will understand this nature of truth?”

Gotama answered that there would be. “Even at that time there will be Bodhisattvas who are will understand the nature of truth – and there will be many who glimpse at truth. By gaining even a moment of serenity from their understanding, they will honor all the innumerable Buddhas: they will have no perception of self, they will have no perception of a being, no perception of a soul, nor any perception of a person and identity. They will perceive the Dharma by perceiving Nodharma - by Noperception they will perceive Nonperception. They will not seize and attach to a self, a being, a soul, a person or anything at all; they will not attach to Dharma – and will not attach to Nodharma. They will understand that which is hidden through inference and, like discarding the raft used to cross a stream, will not forsake the Dharma prematurely or too late, but will still more readily forsake Nodharma.”

Gotama asked, “what do you think, Subhuti, is there any Dharma which the Tathagata has fully known as ‘the utmost, right and perfect enlightenment,’ or is there any Dharma which the Tathagata has ever once demonstrated?”

Subhuti replied: “No, not that I know of.”

Gotama asked Subhuti, “and why is this? The Dharma which the Tathagata has fully known or demonstrated cannot be directly talked about, it cannot be directly demonstrated, it is neither a Dharma nor a Nodharma.”

Gotama said, “some people give gifts to exalt what they venerate as holy; they would fill a world with worlds and give those worlds in pious devotion. But if they would simply understand the Dharma as I have, they would truly honor all the innumerable Buddhas; if they would teach as I have, they would earn greater honor than a person who gave all the world.”

Gotama asked, “what do you think, Subhuti, does it occur to a Tathagata, ‘this Dharma is mine?’ Of course not, Dharma cannot be possessed or earned – no more than anything which is seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched or known can become yours. Freedom from suffering cannot be yours, though you can be free from suffering. Such Nofreedom is called Arhat, it is the embodiment of Nodharma – a Tathagata is not an Arhat, for this would require that the Tathagata be identifiable, have identity, to be. There is Nodharma that I have learned. There is that which exists independent of what is directly perceived.”

Gotama said, “there is that which the Tathagata has taught as wisdom which has gone beyond, there is that which the Tathagata has taught as not gone beyond. Subhuti, do you think that the specks of dust that exist in trillion worlds are numerous?”

Subhuti said, yes.

Gotama asked Subhuti, “but did I teach you the number of specks of dust in a trillion worlds? Did anyone? I taught you nothing of specks of dust, nor did anyone. I did not even teach you what specks of dust were – or tell you about any of the trillion worlds – yet you understood that there would be many specks of dust in a trillion worlds.”

Gotama asked, “Subhuti, did you even consider how many specks of dust there were in this world – let alone the trillions of worlds there are until I asked the question? I taught you about specks of dust and worlds by Noteaching of Nospecks and Noworlds. So it is that I teach Nodharma. Subhuti, a person can renounce the world and all their belongings, all their attachments, all their bad habits as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges, but it would do less good than to understand - if only for a moment - the nature of truth, and to truly perceive reality.”

Gotama said, “in that distant time, the last epoch of the Dharma, there will be profound understanding.

Those who by my form did see me,
And those who followed me by voice
Wrong the efforts they engaged in,
Me those people will not see.
From the Dharma should one see the Buddhas,
From the Dharmabodies comes their guidance.
Yet Dharma's true nature cannot be discerned,
And no one can be conscious of it as an object.

Someone honorable does not acquire honor, does not gain honor. Honor cannot be given or received. Whoever says that the Tathagata goes or comes, stands, sits or lies down – they do not understand my teaching. The Tathagata is called one who has not gone anywhere, nor has come from anywhere, acquired nothing, given nothing.”

Gotama asked, “Subhuti, has the Tathagata ever taught a view of being, a view of a living soul, a view of identity? Only Noview has been taught by the Tathagata. No beliefs have been taught, only that there are beliefs – and such beliefs may be let go. A Bodhisattva should know all Dharma. And by this knowledge not perceive the Dharma. And if a Bodhisattva should teach the Dharma – it should be illuminated, but not revealed: as stars shine but do not guide, as by a fault of vision one sees, as a lamp illuminates but does not show, as a mock show demonstrates but does not teach; like a dew drop, or like a bubble, like a dream, like a lightning flash, or a cloud – such is right view.”

The Criminal - Sutta Nipata 1.7

When Gotama was living near Savatthi at Jetavana at Anathapindika's monastery, he had entered the City for alms. At that time, a Brahman, Aggikabharadvaja, who was notorious for his strict religious observance, was conducting a fire sacrifice. When the Brahman saw Gotama, he became terrified that his sacrifice would be ruined: Gotama was an outcaste: he had no caste, for he had been born into one one caste, then adopted the duties of all the others. Having no caste, no society, he had no duty - and violated the Dharma of Vishnu, whom the Brahman was now honoring. "Get away!" shouted the Brahman, almost hysterically. "Go! You shaved your head, but you are a wretched monk! You are an outcast - an outcaste!"

Gotama replied calmly to the Brahman, "do you know, Brahman, what an outcast is, and what makes an outcaste? It would be good if you'd permit me to explain the Dharma, as you are yourself rejecting the duties of your caste, and will be cast out by the members of your caste." The Brahman calmed for a moment, and asked Gotama to explain. Gotama then explained,

Not by birth is one a Brahman, by self-control alone one becomes a Brahman. By lack of self-control one becomes a criminal. Caste, society, is not given by birth. Nor are the duties of that society. A true outcast, a true outcaste, a true criminal has no good society, no good friends - for they are not a good friend, nor good to associate with. They have both rejected their duty, and been turned away by those who would perform their duty.

They are angry, shelter and protect their hatred and distaste, reluctant to speak well of others, discredit the good in others, perverted in their views, deceitful. If asked to say something good, they say what is detrimental, or talk evasively.

They will kill living beings, whether born of womb, egg or seed without regret, they have no sympathy for living beings.

They terrorize their village or city, and become notorious as an oppressor.

Whoever takes what is not given to them is an outcast, an outcaste. They have no good society, no good friends - for they are not a good friend, nor good to associate with. They have both rejected their duty, and been turned away by those who would perform their duty.

Having incurred a debt, they run away when pressed to pay, saying "I owe you no debt!"

Desiring something, they kill the person in possession of that thing, and grab what they desire - or lies to obtain what they desire. They will lie for the purpose of deception itself - or to obtain what they want. Or merely to hurt, and deprive someone else of what they cannot have.

By force or by consent, they sexually associate with the wives of relatives or friends.

Being wealthy, they do not support their parents when their parents have grown old.

They strike or hurt by words their family and friends.

They would try to commit a wrong action in secret, so that it may not be known by others.

They will go to another's house, enjoy choice foods, and then not return the honor to their host by equal hospitality when their host repays the visit.

They are like a beggar who appears at mealtime with harsh words, or like a person who would not offer a beggar food.

They exalt themselves by belittling others, they are selfish, shameless. They have no fear of the consequences of their bad actions.

They revile the Buddhas, they revile householders (Grihasthis), they revile recluses (Sannyasis).

They pretend to be a Buddha, a householder, a recluse - when they are not one. This is the worst sort of criminal.

When Gotama said this, Aggikabharadvaja thanked him, "just as a man were to set upright what had been overturned, or reveal what had been hidden, or point the way to one who had gone astray, to hold an oil lamp in the dark for someone else to see things, in this way, you have shown me the Dharma. I take refuge in the Buddha Gotama, his Dharma and his Sangha. May Gotama accept me as one of his students!"