Three rather controversial subjects get covered in this issue. First of all the eternal discussion between hinduism and buddhism on the subject of Atma (an eternal, divine self), from the perspective of Buddhism, namely, there is no such thing as an Atma. For those interested in diving a bit deeper there is a link to an article on my web site where the two views are united once again.
The second subject has become relevant a bit more recently, at least in this form. It is the subject of Enlightenment. The term is rather popular these days among new spiritual groups and groups most of us would list under 'New Age', though usually they themselves would feel themselves to be beyond that. But what is enlightenment? What do people mean when they use that term? I am starting a series on this subject. For the next few issues of Lucifer7 there'll be various quotes from widely varying sources on definitions of enlightenment. To be fair to all concerned, definitions of Moksha and Nirvana will also be included, as well as definitions of what each of these aren't.
controversial article is the one on pets, by Charles Danten. He is a
correspondent of mine and as a vet has a lot of affinity and experience
with how we treat our pets. He has some pretty harsh things to say. The
article published here is only the tip of the iceberg. At the
end is a link to a longer article on my web site on a related subject.
Contributions are invited.
Two people have been living in you all your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to. As you listen more and more to the teachings, contemplate them, and integrate them into your life, your inner voice, your innate wisdom of discernment, what we call in Buddhism "discriminating awareness," is awakened and strengthened, and you begin to distinguish between its guidance and the various clamorous and enthralling voices of ego. The memory of your real nature, with all its splendour and confidence, begins to return to you.
You will find, in fact, that you have uncovered in yourself your own wise guide. Because he or she knows you through and through, since he or she is you, your guide can help you, with increasing clarity and humor, negotiate all the difficulties of your thoughts and emotions. Your guide can also be a continual, joyful, tender, sometimes teasing presence, who knows always what is best for you and will help you find more and more ways out of your obsession with your habitual responses and confused emotions. As the voice of your discriminating awareness grows stronger and clearer, you will start to distinguish between its truth and the various deceptions of the ego, and you will be able to listen to it with discernment and confidence.
The more often you listen to this wise guide, the more easily you will be able to change your negative moods yourself, see through them, and even laugh at them for the absurd dramas and ridiculous illusions that they are. Gradually you will find yourself able to free yourself more and more quickly from the dark emotions that have ruled your life, and this ability to do so is the greatest miracle of all. Tertön Sogyal, the Tibetan mystic, said that he was not really impressed by someone who could turn the floor into the ceiling or fire into water. A real miracle, he said, was if someone could liberate just one negative emotion.
More and more, then, instead of the harsh and fragmented gossip that ego has been talking to you all your life, you will find yourself hearing in your mind the clear directions of the teachings, which inspire, admonish, guide, and direct you at every turn. The more you listen, the more guidance you will receive. If you follow the voice of your wise guide, the voice of your discriminating awareness, and let ego fall silent, you come to experience that presence of wisdom and joy and bliss that you really are. A new life, utterly different from that when you were masquerading as your ego, begins in you. And when death comes, you will have learned already in life how to control those emotions and thoughts that in the states of death, the bardos, would otherwise take on an overwhelming reality.
When your amnesia over your identity begins to be cured, you will realize finally that dak dzin, grasping at self, is the root cause of all your suffering. You will understand at last how much harm it has done both to yourself and to others, and you will realize that both the noblest and the wisest thing to do is to cherish others instead of cherishing yourself. This will bring healing to your heart, healing to your mind, and healing to your spirit.
It is important to remember always that the principle of egolessness does not mean that there was an ego in the first place, and the Buddhists did away with it. On the contrary, it means there was never any ego al all to begin with. To realize that is called "egolessness."
Whether we use animals to make our lives more beautiful or joyful, to exercise, to fulfill a neurotic need for power or the image we have of a happy family, we are practicing some form or another of zootherapy. The idea of animal assisted therapy, or zootherapy, was invented in the sixties by a New York Psychiatrist named Boris Levinson, can therefore simply be defined as the interaction with a pet. It’s not something reserved for the elderly or handicapped as most vets want us to believe. In fact, 50 to 60 per cent of the population of rich Western countries are doing it. In the fifties, pets were not so popular. People had dogs or cats mostly for practical reasons like hunting mice, guarding the house against predators or herding sheep or cattle for instance.
For many, industrialization and urbanization have meant increasing loneliness and isolation, a dull life, a lack of a meaningful, dignified, interesting and vital occupation (like making food or building a house for example), alienation from nature, a loss of community and growth of consumerism and pets have been seen as the perfect remedy for these social ills. «A solution we would have to invent if it didn’t already exist» claims Michel Pepin, a leading member of the Académie de Médecine Vétérinaire du Québec (AMVQ). Zootherapy has become the leitmotiv of the pet animal industry.
Zoothérapie Québec, a group of psychologists and veterinarians who specialize in animal-assisted therapy, promotes the use of pets with mottos like «To live without an animal! Don’t think of it! An animal is indispensable!».
Pets appear to be becoming a necessity rather than a luxury, as the therapeutic, emotional and social role of pets expands. "As family, neighbor, and community bonds diminish, the family-pet-veterinary bond is strengthening" writes American veterinarian Marty Becker in an article titled "Celebrating the relationship between people, pets, and their veterinarian". Notice the clever ploy of associating family with pet and veterinarian. Is it any wonder that no family today is pictured without a dog, often a golden retriever.
Even the SPCA, bought it, no questions asked… So what’s the problem? It’s in what we're not being told.
Dr David T.Allen, an American epidemiologist, has reviewed more than a 1000 studies concerning pets and health in the literature databases of medical care, nursing, psychology and veterinary medicine. His conclusions: "I was not able to find one study that described gains versus losses in the health status of society as the result of human-canine interactions; in other words, I did not find articles that compared the magnitude of the effects of the case or cases cited with a non-exposed control group or the universe."
Most reports describing the effects of human-canine interactions are at the bottom of the scale used to measure scientific validity (ie. descriptive studies and expert opinion).
If you think taking the dog out on a walk for example is good for your heart think again. A recent study has shown that because of the frequent pit stops along the way, the cardiovascular function does not improve.
Pseudoscience is the right word for zootherapy, a poorly documented treatment for the fever and not for the disease. The prevalence of pets in rich, industrialized societies is, in fact, one of many indicators of major social problems. Animals are being used as living Prozac, a kind of tranquilizer to ease the chronic ills of life in a decadent society. But they're not curing anything. It's a con. On the contrary avoiding your problems just makes them worst. If pets are that good for us why are 70 % of owners getting rid of them within 2 years? Because they're more trouble than they're worth. How many more feel obliged, out of moral duty and guilt, to endure for years an impossible or unsatisfying relationship?
We shouldn't be asking why pets are good for us but rather why we have so many of them, why we think it's all right to abandon our parents in retirement homes with just a poodle to console them? Is this fixation on pets a symptom of deeper social problems like loneliness, self-insufficiency, anthropocentrism, compulsiveness and homelessness ?
Through this apparently innocent fad, we are in fact condoning the use of bogus quick fix "solutions" instead of confronting the real issues: a social system unfit for humans. When we teach children that it is normal to separate animals from their ecosystem and remove their freedom, we are telling them that it is normal to make slaves out of those we love. By condoning the pleasures and privileges of the abuse of power we are in fact cultivating a deeply encrusted insensitivity not only towards animals and nature but towards our own kind.
point in time when we are finally coming to terms with the
inconsistencies and flaws of our lifestyle, when we are urgently trying
to save the environment and preserve the biodiversity we need in order
to survive, this attitude is quite destructive.
More by this author: Slaves to our Affection
Death is only for those who have, and for those who have a resting-place. Life is a movement in relationship and attachment; the denial of this movement is death. Have no shelter outwardly or inwardly; have a room, or a house, or a family, but don't let it become a hiding-place, an escape from yourself.
The safe harbour which your mind has made in cultivating virtue, in the superstition of belief, in cunning capacity or in activity, will inevitably bring death. You can't escape from death if you belong to this world, to the society of which you are. The man who died next door or a thousand miles away is you. He has been preparing for years with great care to die, like you. Like you he called living a strife, a misery, or a jolly good show. But death is always there watching, waiting. But the one who dies each day is beyond death.
To die is to love. The beauty of love is not in past remembrances or in images of tomorrow. Love has no past and no future; what has, is memory, which is not love. Love with its passion is just beyond the range of society, which is you. Die, and it is there.
By saying: 'He acts, he (himself) enjoys (the fruit of his action)', ... one arrives at (the evaluation of man) as eternal. By sayig: 'One acts, another enjoys (the fruit of the action)', ... one arrives at (the evaluation of man) as destructible. Not falling for either extreme the Perfect One showed the teaching (as lying) in the middle: From ignorance as precondition (arise) action-intentions ... (etc.). (S 12, 17, 14 ff. II p. 20)Since there is no immortal Self which runs through the various lives like a silk thread through a string of pearls, it cannot be the same person who reaps the fruit of kammic [karmic] seeds of past existences in rebirth. On the other hand the reborn person is not completely different, for each form of existence is caused by, and proceeds from, its previous existence like a flame which is lit by another one. The truth lies in between identity and isolation: In conditional dependence.
I remembered many previous existences, namely one birth, two ..., three..., four ..., five..., ten..., twenty ..., fifty ..., hundred births: ... There I was, had that name, belonged to that family, that was my caste, that my livelihood, I have experienced such happiness and sorrow, that was my end; deceased I came again into existence there: there I was, had that name ... (M 36 I p. 248)On the theories of Atma and Anatma in Hinduism and Buddhism.