13 May 2006

Mr Wang's Vesak Day Thoughts

Mr Wang is well-known for his extraordinarily perceptive, insightful thoughts on Singapore's current affairs. But don't be deceived. Mr Wang's extraordinarily perceptive, insightful thoughts are not limited merely to Singapore's current affairs. Mr Wang is extraordinarily perceptive and insightful about anything that interests him.

This post is Mr Wang's Vesak Day special. Mr Wang recalls the time when he wrote in his personal blog that his goal in this lifetime was "to gain enlightenment". Subsequently, Mr Wang deleted that entry. The idea of being regarded as crazy does not appeal to Mr Wang. And if you publicly declare that your goal in life is "to gain enlightenment", the chances of being regarded as crazy seem to be quite high. Hence the deletion.

Nevertheless, Mr Wang's formulation of his Crazy Goal - the attainment of enlightenment - did not spring from craziness. Instead it arose from Mr Wang's systematic analysis of human motivations, goals and our notions of success. Allow Mr Wang to explain.

The classic Freudian view is that our core motivations are deeply buried in our unconscious. They will remain unknown to ourselves (unless we have had the benefit of a trained therapist or talk regularly to our own right brains). While Freudian thinking has fallen out of favour, this particular aspect of Freudian thinking still attractively explains:

1. Why so many of us consistently fail to achieve the goals we set for ourselves (still remember your 2006 New Year's resolution?); and

2. Why the goals that we do achieve rarely bring us the long-lasting satisfaction and happiness which we thought they would.

The explanation lies in the idea of the Covert Goal.

We may make plans and we may set goals, but more often than not, we only have a superficial understanding of WHY we chose those goals. Our core motivations, as Freud would say, are buried in our unconscious and therefore hidden from ourselves. Since we don't know the WHY, one of two things usually occurs:

(1) we fail to achieve our chosen goal (we give up halfway, lacking any core motivation to persist with the endeavour); or

(2) we achieve the chosen goal, only to discover that the satisfaction or happiness we derive is short-lived (because the achievement did not satisfy our core motivations).

Now, the Covert Goal is a little different. The Covert Goal is the unconscious goal behind our consciously chosen goal. Keep probing deeper, and you may discover not only the Covert Goal behind your consciously chosen goal, but a Covert Goal behind your Covert Goal, and another Covert Goal behind that one. In other words, you get closer and closer to the core motivations in your unconscious.

Suppose that your conscious goal is to build a highly successful career. Now ask yourself why you would want to do that. Obviously there may be several reasons. But keep asking "why?" for each reason that comes up, and keep probing deeper.

For example, one reason you want to build a highly successful career may be to earn a lot of money. Then ask yourself why you want to earn a lot of money. One reason may be that you wish to buy a big house. Then ask yourself why you would want to buy a big house. One reason may be that you want your family to live more comfortably. Then ask yourself why you want your family to live more comfortably ....... and so on.

When you keep probing in this way, you may make some surprising discoveries. For example, you may discover that your true motivation for wanting to build a highly successful career - the reason why you work all those late nights in the office - is to make your family happy. Upon discovering this, you may realise that all your late nights in the office in fact do not make your family very happy. That is to say, your actions do not bring you optimally to your true goal. Instead, the optimal route to your family's happiness could well be for you to scale down your career - so that you earn less money, but get to spend more quality time with your family.

You can apply this same analysis to any of your goals - whether your goal is to quit smoking; get married; travel around the world; rescue homeless animals or win the General Elections. Take the analysis far enough - and it is very likely that you will discover some very interesting results about your own life.

What has all this got to do with Mr Wang's Crazy Goal of attaining enlightenment? Well, Mr Wang has previously probed all his many goals, big and small, in many different areas of his life. You can do the same. For each goal in your life, simply keep asking "why?" and keep chasing down all the reasons that come up. Mr Wang's tentative conclusion is that Buddha got it completely right. Ultimately, our deepest Core Motivation is the same:

We all desire to be happy and to avoid suffering.


And that only happens when we gain enlightenment. So enlightenment is not just something that the crazy Mr Wang wants. It's something that we all want - in fact it's the only thing we really want.

Most of us just don't know it.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Enlightenment may help you avoid mental suffering. But not necessarily physical suffering such as when you can't swallow, control your bowel and bladder, can't move, can't talk and have tubes sticking out of you and in dreadful pain all the time but can't make any sound or other movement to convey your suffering. Enlightenment won't be any use and enlightenment (unless it comes with instant death) can't guarantee you you won't fall into the state I just described. Please lah go visit a terminally ill ward or even a nursing home with elderly people in high-dependency wards. Then you won't write much of what you've been writing. Or boast about your brain!

Mr Wang Says So said...

Oh ... we have all suffered and died and suffered and died in numerous lifetimes. Enlightenment would allow you to step free of that cycle (if that is what you choose). That's the Buddhist belief, anyway.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Also if the physical suffering associated with dying is what is on your mind, you may be interested in reading "The Tibetan Art of Living and Dying".

Stephan H. Wissel said...

An ancient Christian mystic (Augustine or Fransicus forgot who) once stated: If you see reality as it is without fail it will disolve and you see the divine bliss. Seem like the master was talking about enlightenment.
One of our contemporary Buddhist masters shared with us (us the members of a retreat group) that medidation practise to entain enlightenment also helps to deal with physical pain. You separate yourself and your pain and then let go.
Happy Vesak day!

angry doc said...

Finally! Mr Wang shows his true nature.

It's not crazy to want enlightenment. Certainly if you suspect life has a purpose, then it becomes most important that you find out what this purpose is, and to achieve it if you are able to. To not do so would be crazy.

My question to Mr Wang then is this: if the solution to the human condition lies not in the practice of law, or politics, why do strive so hard? Why do you rage against 'the system'?

angry doc said...

Anon,

Enlightenment may not help you avoid falling into that state of physical decay such that you cannot swallow, control your bowel and bladder, move, or talk, or help you to recover from that state, but if I am not wrong, enlightenment will help you to bear that state better, in this life.

You know for a fact that all the money, prestige, and power in the world cannot help you when you are in that state, so it's a question of whether you are willing to 'try' enlightenment as a way to help you face it.

nyima said...

With attaining enlightenment, it will definitely help you to avoid all these mental or physical suffering. By working toward achieving enlightenment, ones will be able to learn and understand the nature of suffering, cause of suffering, cessation of suffering and the path or methods of achieving it, may not be this life, but in the future lives....

amatu said...

No one is perfect in this world. If one perfect, then he shall be god. I think even god is not perfect.

Living is suffering,as everyone knows, regardless in physical or mental aspect. However, i believe to suffer mentally is much worse than physical pain. Imagine thinking of the worst time in your life for one full hour!? I doubt one can last for even a full minute.

I reckon the best approach is to accept whatever state and make the most out of it.

JoE said...

May everyone attain her/his goal (or enlightenment) in life (this one or the next or the next next...)

Happy Vesak Day!

even angrier dog (sic) said...

In case anyone's still confused, here's the skinny:

Wanna know the purpose of life?

There' none! (HaHaHaHaHa ...)

U born, U live, U die. In b/w the born & die part, ALL SUFFER! Some like hell, some less.

The Buddhist philosophy of enlightenment and the separation of the sensual & spiritual is bankrupt and IS ANOTHER ILLUSION CLOUDED WITH THE VENEER OF SPIRITUALITY.

We all "suffer" from the terminal disease call "the human condition" and it progressively and inexorably marches us to DEATH. No ifs, buts or maybes. There's no saving yourself from yourself by yourself - THAT'S THE REAL ILLUSION!

even angrier dog (sic) said...

... and harlo, future lives ? u know, "re-incarnation" (guffaws) ... anyone you know came back to confirm such illusory wishful thinking?

Karma's so convoluted & stuff, it's no wonder no mathematician or logician'd wanna touch it with any length of pole to try formulate a set of optimising equilibrium equations to succintly enshrine it ... 'cos it's simply too rubbish!

Mr Wang Senior said...

Meaning of Life? – Who has time to ask this question anymore? Once we’ve finished school, that question gets replaced by the daily rat race of work, family and more work. However, if the last time we really asked that question, we answered it by imagining that we are the highest form of life in the evolutionary process, we have robbed ourselves of any real chance for meaning, purpose and eternal hope. Our existence and future are devalued from being children of God to being just one of many species of animals on this earth. If you look at the last 150 years of history, it’s sad that mankind has felt the need to live according to alleged intelligence and reason rather than according to the laws and love of God. We encourage you to ask the question again. Examine the answers and evidence for yourself – you may be happy you did!

even angrier dog (sic) said...

Eh ... sorry, man, got no time to:

Q1. ask meaning of life?

A1. 'cos I know the full-marks answer oreddy: LIFE HAS NO MEANING! (HaHaHaHaHa)
You THINK it has BUT THERE ISN'T! (HaHaHaHaHa)
When u die - ZIPPO! And how long are you remembered? Even those who like you ... DIE!!!
(Only the bad asses like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hirohito, Chairman Mao, Mohd "piss be upon him" ... and oh, a place is reserved for our "Dear Founding Farter")
Does anyone care? ARE YOU EVEN ABLE TO CARE AFTER YOU'D COLLECTED THE LAST CERT YOU'LL EVER GET (death cert, lah!)?

Q2. seek evidence & answers for myself?

A2. "Who has time to (do this) anymore? Once we’ve finished school, that question gets replaced by the daily rat race of work, family (sometimes, ah, even got no time for them, leh) and more work." 'nuff said!
Ah ... that's why mental and genital masturbation is always more reliable and gratifying (Really! And especially for those with frigid or menopausal wives or husbands who can't "stand up for stinkapore" 'cos it's the "Always-On" connection. That's why we like Broadband and should never engage in any remark that's "persistently political" 'cos "prison got no broadband" ... HaHaHaHaHa)

pennythots said...

I put it slightly differently :-

Man is a living creature, an animal. Animals live to 1)eat 2)sleep 3)play and 4)procreate.

All other things are just a means to achieve the ends of 1)eat 2)sleep 3)play 4)procreate.

Hence the ultimate aim in life (for me) is simply to achieve those aims to the maximum. Sometimes I have to find a balance between those things - i.e. too much play/procreation leads to less sleep!

For me too, a job is merely a means to achieving the ends of letting one eat, sleep and play (and procreate) more, and better. So is money.

Perhaps that is a form of enlightenment in itself.

Rookie said...

You are funny, "even angrier dog". But you could be right, genital masturbation could be your purpose of life. Because for you, it is zippo!

haha, what a dog!

even angrier dog (sic) said...

Rookie ... admit it: Your purpose in life is to fuck your father, mother, brothers & sister because you're into such things, being the demented pervert that you are, you fat ass hippo. My sources tell me you're into animals & corpses, too. What a sicko!

quetelet said...

We all desire to be happy, Mr Wang :) Perhaps the recently released "Stumbling on Happiness" raises some interesting questions about how we perceive happiness (and that we are probably wrong). A nice NY Times review here.

JoE said...

even angrier dog, just because you think you're right doesn't mean you're right or everyone else is wrong.

just because you have no idea what enlightenment is doesn't mean no one can attain enlightenment.

an example: just because an animal is not aware that it would die someday doesn't mean he won't die. (i read somewhere that human being is the only living thing that lives with the knowledge that he will die one day)

rookie said...

Joe - I agrees with "even angrier dog". even thoughs he fucks me up good-good, his is right (how you know i like animal one? so pai seh). yous is wrong

goes shoots airplanes. haha

更忿怒狗万岁!

Anonymous said...

angrier dog, I think you should call yourself a mad dog.

Whether or not one's life is meaningful depends on what you can make out of it. If you think there is no meaning to life just because all of us ultimately die, then yes, there would be no meaning. But if you derive meaning by living life well, and leaving behind valuable achievements, then life is worth living.

Think of people like Einstein, Martin Luther King,who made full use of their lives. Or even your parents who gave you a good childhood.

The state of enlightenment is so-called for a reason. It takes time to understand how humans can derive meanings from their lives, and involves clarity of mind and prolonged rumination.

OCT Suresh Thirulingam Deepakchitampalam said...

(Raising hand)

PERMISSION TO SPEAK, SIR!

Ahem. I know the true meaning of life:

It's wasting our time on the internet, reading blogs and posting comments. Like what we're doing.

dog lover said...

this is the year of the dog. don't go around cursing dogs. dogs are man's best fren. even angry or mad ones ;)

K9 Handler said...

Let's help Mad Dog and Rookie bury the hachet. Get them to meet so R can apologise and MD can fuck R in the ass.

Opps ... if he's not "into this sort of thing", maybe R can let MD fuck his wife/sister/mother. Happy Mother's Day.

moomooman said...

why did you set up this blog?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Oooh ... some very excited comments from my various readers here.

Moomooman:
To comment about current affairs in Singapore primarily. However, as Alex Au (Yawning Bread) wisely mentioned to me, religion / spirituality is so intertwined with almost everything else that you inevitably come back to it.

OCT Suresh:
I guess it depends on which level of meaning you mean, and which level of life, when you refer to the "meaning of life".

Anon (Sunday, May 14, 2006 7:55:10 PM):
Actually I suspect that there are levels and then there are levels of enlightenment. Buddha and Jesus probably represent the highest levels that recorded human history show. But there are others ...

... and furthermore I think that there are others who have briefly touched the state and then slipped out and may get back again from time to time. Since enlightenment is a state of mind, you don't necessarily have to view it from a religious perspective - you could look at it from psychology's angle.

Google "Abraham Maslow", "peak experiences", and you will see that "peak experiences" probably represent "enlightenment". For the few people who have attained it at all, it is usually a short-lived state (the difference for Buddha and Jesus etc was that it was a permanent state). Or maybe try this:

http://praxis.wynja.com/personality/sadef.html

To understand Maslow's work on peak experiences within the larger framework of his famous "hierarchy of needs", try this:

http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/maslow.html.

Quetelet:
Thank you ... will check it out.

PennyThots:
If you haven't already, you should acquaint yourself with Maslow's theory too. If/when you have satisfied your lower needs (sex, sleep, food etc as mentioned by you and ranked by Maslow in his hierarcy of needs), you may well experiencing the need to satisfy your higher needs (respect, love, companionship, a sense of community .... then self-respect ... then the self-actualisation level).

Right now you may be stuck at the lower level because you still don't have enough food, sex, sleep etc .... Contrast Prince Siddharta, who had it all, and more, and it still wasn't enough ... hence his spiritual quest.

Of course, one of the defects in Maslow's theory, as other psychologists have pointed out, is that many individuals, upon satisfying the first 4 levels, don't actually experience any self-actualisation needs. In other words, they are perfectly content to eat, sleep, have sex, have money, have some friends etc, and no, they do not feel any urge to save the whales, find God, be an artist, help the poor or develop any intrinsic natural talents that they may have.

even angrier doc (sic):
Well, my friend, it's your life and it's entirely up to you. You're not doing Mr Wang any favours by pursuing or not pursuing any questions or believing or not believing anything. Anyway, good luck to you.

Funny you should mention future lives. Psychotherapy has developed; nowadays some psychiatrists use not just past-life hypnotic regression, but also future-life hypnotic progression to help their patients. Look, don't blame me, it's not my fault that Dr Brian is a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Medical School, and the Chairman Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

mr wang senior:
Different roads, the same destination. :)

Faith in Jesus grants you everlasting life because in death, your faith, if sufficiently rooted, provides you with enough consciousness to join with the light - the one you call God. Thereby escaping the cycle of life and death and rebirth.

Whereas the Tibetan monks, for example, simply train themselves, to prepare for that critical moment in death, when the light presents itself and then they move towards it, embrace it and become part of it. Thereby escaping the cycle of life and death and rebirth.

Others, lacking spiritual awareness all their lives, get confused in the critical moment (since death is such a scary, confusing experience if you aren't prepared for it) and they miss their chance to join the light and thus they re-enter the cycle of life and death and rebirth.

Some don't die at all, although they came close. Well, their time hadn't come yet. They come back and tell us about the "light at the end of the tunnel", the one that radiated feelings of love and kindess. We call this the "near-death experience".

Sometimes we explain the light as a phenomenon perceived as a result of the physiological effect of the brain stem dying. Depending on your angle, this may explain everything, or nothing. For example, it may simply be that when your brain stem dies, you finally are able, as Mr Wissel put it, " to see reality as it is without fail" and then you find that "it will disolve and you see the divine bliss".

mr wissel:
I sent you a reply about meeting up for coffee ...

angry doc:
But I don't strive that hard against those sorts of things. What gave you that impression?

amatu:
All physical suffering is mental suffering. For example, suppose a very sick person in pain becomes unconscious. Notice that the suffering ends, when the conscious mind goes to sleep.

moomooman said...

why do you want to comment about the current affairs in Singapore primarily?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Why, to bring Light and Truth and Knowledge to my fellow Singaporeans, of course, and thereby temporarily satisfy my Being needs under the fifth level of Maslow's hierarchy. :P

pennythots said...

I have been acquainted with Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

The thing is, I do not believe in self-actualisation as a path to happiness, as I see that as merely an illusion. What is satisfaction? What is self-improvement etc etc? Merely facets of "actual" contentment, which I see as our basic needs, if you evaporate it down to the bare bones.

Save the world, find god, be an artist? These seem to me as illusions created by the mind, the pursuit of which creates more attachment and "suffering". I agree with Maslow, in that in most people there is a tendency to seek to achieve some higher purpose after the basic needs are fulfilled, but does the pursuit of a higher function really bring one happiness? Sounds to me like the rich miser seeking ever increasing amounts of money.

In the same thread, is Man anything more than an animal? The current populist thinking is that we are better than animals, we have higher brain functions etc etc. Yes we are capable of higher thought, of altruism, but also of cunning and dastardly thought. Does that necessarily mean that a path to enlightenment requires us to use our higher thought processes? Or are these merely attachments of the mind?

But did Buddha obtain nirvana by pursuing a higher experience/ godhood? Or did he simply sit down, stare blankly at the bodhi tree, and suddenly realise that, damn i've been barking up the wrong tree! The process of trying so hard to seek my higher purpose, is keeping me tied down to all these attachments of my mind!

My theory thus is, cut the crap, boil it down to living out an existence as an animal. Need nothing more, want nothing more, let go, be happy. ;)

Mr Wang Says So said...

Actually, Maslow does not recommend "self-actualisation" as a "path to happiness". More precisely, Maslow merely provided a framework for understanding human motivation. In other words, he is not really recommending that you have more sex or more friends or more safety or more self-actualising experiences in order to be happy. He is merely explaining what motivates human beings.

Thus a person motivated by his self-actualisation needs does not just do something because he has consciously decided that this will be his path of happiness. In the same way, you may want sex or food, and this will motivate certain actions of yours, but before you actually carry out those actions, you probably do not consciously think to yourself, "Aha, now I am pursuing my happiness."

If you need another explanation - think of, say, Mother Teresa, who helped the poor probably because she had a strong sense of compassion for the poor (and not because she is of the view that the presence of poor people all around her will bring her happiness).

On living like an animal - well, in a sense, that makes sense - the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle has in fact commented that cats are Zen masters, due to their ability to be perfectly present in the here & now, and to be content. You may also be alluding to what is sometimes referred to as "the state of no-mind". On the other hand, I think it would be very difficult, if not impossible (and not very desirable) for a human being to really think like an animal - and furthermore the "state of no-mind" is not, I think, to be mentally like an animal. You still want to be able to avail yourself to the human mind's logical reasoning powers etc; but you simply do not want the mischevious, disturbing effects of the mind; its tendency to run loose and wild everywhere, generating illusion, fear, worry, anger etc, such that the mind controls you, rather than you controlling it.

Most people, of course, are not even aware that their minds work in such a manner. This is probably not the best place to talk about it - but even a little meditation practice would start to reveal the nature of your mind to yourself. It's experiential - you either have experienced it or you haven't - academic discussion is largely pointless; it would be like trying to describe shades of different colours to a blind man or the taste of roast beef to a person who's been vegetarian all his life.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Oh, sorry, one more thing -

I mentioned Maslow because of his research into "peak experiences" which I think are, or are akin to, the enlightenment experiences (or say, the ectasies reported by the Christian mystics).

angry doc said...

Mr Wang,

Actually my question was the same as moomooman's, and you have answered very satisfactorily. :)

.A.N.I.M.A.L. said...

yah lor, wtg, pennythots!

dat Wang human ah, wen cums 2 o/rs tinks, sims 2 b very d si beh tok kong (u know, like d 1 abt boob feeding in last stori) ah but hah, when cums to dis kinda tinks - juz dun geddit.

even mai fav ch 8 shows abt cina meatologi (sori lah, my england no gd) animal who leaf 1000 yrs can becum 神仙. so buddism sez must go one step one step hi-er hi-er? Eh sori, 师父 juz tells me, wat i sez 1 is abt 道教. so i veri d konfuse. hu is rite? wat is rong? all dis fi-lor-sor-fi (ay, no wunder lah wen u got d "lor sor" in a word - mus b veri d 长气; again, yah lar my england no gd again lah!)

anyways, human wif brain veri d hau lian. always d tinking, mostly abt doing bad tinks 2 distroy o/rs or demselves. not use gd mind 2 build on gdness dis world haz. even i bicum a refridgy (OK lousy england again). my forest no more. have 2 逃难。see wat u humans do 2 us animals!

Ai ... sometumes, tink 2 much oso wat's d use. when o/rs r ac-tif-ly sabo-ing d gd tinks u try 2 do & @ d end, u hav nuttin 2 show 4 it (lik rich gettin richer: wtg PAPa & FT gettin yr jobs, etc), den u no.

originer buddism in ass-cents a sell-fish fi-lor-sor-fi cuz onli care 4 1-self nlitenment. later on den some-1 add d 普萨 v-he-ker cuz d rest-who-hv-no-tum-2-close-eyes-&-sit-gross-leg no-can-do-it 4 demselfs need inter-sez-sirs (know hv dis word, no know how 2 spel onli. aiyah again england no gd. wat 2 do. sori lah)

eh? is dis not like 耶稣ism?

Wang human sez "Oh ... we have all suffered and died and suffered and died in numerous lifetimes. Enlightenment would allow you to step free of that cycle (if that is what you choose). That's the Buddhist belief, anyway."

eh, dun no sez dun no lah. dun parrot (dis 1 i no how 2 spel) & b-lift in sumtink dat's got no meaning, no 逻辑!

human Wang oso sez "Also if the physical suffering associated with dying is what is on your mind, you may be interested in reading "The Tibetan Art of Living and Dying".

ya man like tibet's d mostest bestest ctry in d world - opps dey DON'T HV NO CTRY NO MOR! pt of cina now. dalai lama a refridgy in india. better wake-up. if head of non-ctry can messy-mer-rice ang moh 2 eat his lao-sai, den tt person veri sweet mouth salesman. btw star-ly his-tree of lama-ism & u no abt its at-throw-citys dun 2 d common pple by lamas. releaf came onli when cina booted d lamas out. if lamas steel rue tibet, dey steel b in stone age, man. Onli stupid ang-moh spiritly lost listen 2 dat evil botak head. n here u hv no brain england-study type oso follow no brain ang moh.

all dis is jus like follow fashion wat! we got d budda-speak way b4 d ang moh. now cuz some ang moh re-find d dude again, some england-study type tink: ya man, if ang moh say OK, must be the eh sai 1. so bo-bin & sooo shallow.

yah maybe sum see richard gere & cock stand. but steel, dun ani how parrot d ang mohs esp. dose hu r brind. use d net wif brain. 2 get balance view chek dis out:

http://www.swans.com/library/art9/mparen01.html
(click on "date" & NOT "comments" of Wang human originer post 2 c full http)

so much 4 tibetan buddism. yuck-pull-ee! d dalai lama must b atdress as his most unholi!

Wang human sez "Funny you should mention future lives. Psychotherapy has developed; nowadays some psychiatrists use not just past-life hypnotic regression, but also future-life hypnotic progression to help their patients. Look, don't blame me, it's not my fault that Dr Brian is a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Medical School, and the Chairman Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center."

remind me dun send my children 2 Yale 4 star-ly or Sinai 2 see dr. - wah lau eh - CAN DIE AH!

Wang human sez back to Wang Sr "Faith in Jesus grants you everlasting life because in death, your faith, if sufficiently rooted, provides you with enough consciousness to join with the light - the one you call God. Thereby escaping the cycle of life and death and rebirth...Whereas the Tibetan monks, for example, simply train themselves, to prepare for that critical moment in death, when the light presents itself and then they move towards it, embrace it and become part of it. Thereby escaping the cycle of life and death and rebirth."

eh hallo, dun go rund im-po-sing yr tinking tem-plate & miz-es-plan-ing o/r ppl's religun OK. dun no how, dun try; or sez dun no or sez dun beleaf. Ah-ler-wise cum 'cross as STUPID! OK! lust i hear 耶稣ism nuttin 2 do wif ani light or bicycle OK!

seems like hi-er d lvl, hi-er d brain, mor d tinking, mor d ideas, mor kon-fu-tion. who rite? who rong? if choose rite, still OK. choose rong, den how? Die orredy steel must die agin, ah?

how 2 attain holi if hv not espirean d profaint? 道教 still better - got balan wif gd & bd.

joe sez "an example: just because an animal is not aware that it would die someday doesn't mean he won't die. (i read somewhere that human being is the only living thing that lives with the knowledge that he will die one day)"

eh, go see yr animal planet or central documantree 1st lah b4 u go round showin o/rs how "dip" u r! elephants bury n morn 4 their dead most re-ver-人-ly. n u sez animal "not aware" (bkgrd musik: opps...I did it again...)

anonymous (Sunday, May 14, 2006 7:55:10 PM) sez "But if you derive meaning by living life well, and leaving behind valuable achievements, then life is worth living ... The state of enlightenment is so-called for a reason. It takes time to understand how humans can derive meanings from their lives, and involves clarity of mind and prolonged rumination."

here in stinkapore, ware got tum?! tum use 2 sar-vive d here n now. no can b sure abt 2morrow steel wanna tink abt d next day? sori, maybe u hv tum & $$$. mi - big fat egg.

alamak! life as animal still better - simple but swit. no headaches, jus "instinct programing". Die then die lor! dose ack-si-boh-lar human oso in d end mus die wat. so no big. ;>

Mr Wang Says So said...

That was a bit too challenging for me to decipher (to put it mildly). So I'll just respond very briefly -

well, if you ARE able to live like an animal, that may possibly be a good thing. I don't think you can, though. If it were so easy, you wouldn't even feel compelled to reply to my post & comments. Go think about it. No lah, don't ... because an animal wouldn't.

P.S "The Tibetan Art of Living and Dying" was not written by an "ang mo", as you suggested, but by a Tibetan who grew up in a Tibetan monastery. His name is Sogyal Rinopoche.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Angry Doc:

Oh I see. :)

Mr Wang Says So said...

Heheh! Just googled around a bit for the sake of my interested readers and found this which describes more succinctly and precisely some of my earlier points about Maslow, peak experiences and enlightenment.

I encourage you all to click on this link, if you are interested in the stuff I mentioned earlier.

Earlier I wrote:

"Actually I suspect that there are levels and then there are levels of enlightenment. Buddha and Jesus probably represent the highest levels that recorded human history show. But there are others ...

... and furthermore I think that there are others who have briefly touched the state and then slipped out and may get back again from time to time."

If you click on the link I supplied, then using Maslow's terminology, this is how the same idea is described:

"The two types of peak experiences are relative and absolute. Relative characterize those peak experiences in which there remains an awareness of subject and object, and which are extensions of the individual's own experiences. They are not true mystical experiences, but rather inspirations, ecstasies, and raptures. It is thought that probably the majority of peak experiences fall into this category. Absolute peak experiences are characteristic of mystical experiences, and are comparable to experiences of great mystics in history. They are timeless, spaceless, and characterized by unity, in which the subject and object becomes one."

This is what I meant by different levels of enlightenment ...

I had also alluded that some people will briefly attain the "enlightenment" state and then fall out of it again - and may get back into that state again at different times; while a much, much rarer few (best typified by Buddha) will remain permanently in that state, upon attaining it. Relevant excerpt from the link, on this point:

"Not long before his death in 1970, Maslow defined the term "plateau experience" as a sort of continuing peak experience that is more voluntary, noetic, and cognitive. He described it as a witnessing or cognitive blissfulness. It achievement requires a lifetime of long and hard effort, he stated."

.M.A.N.I.M.A.L. said...

.A.N.I.M.A.L. has evolved to .M.A.N.I.M.A.L. & wishes to clarify:

Philosophy by nature is convoluted.

Mr Wang has expressed many thoughtful comments on various issues. However, when it comes to religion, even blood relations sour because it's a very contentious issue & a very personal choice with much loaded implications of eternity / the future. Because only one path is deemed "correct", whoever chooses one which is not in accord with your choice is "wrong" and is either pitied or needs counsel.

We should use our gifts for the good of all creatures but unfortunately we don't.

Our good intentions and actions are often thwarted and in the end we are seen to be the loser in the context of this materialistic world (eg. what's your quali, job, hse, car, partner, etc)

The original philosophy of Buddhism is the Theravada (apologies for any typos or mis-spellings). This path emphasises the ascetic pursuit & places high responsibility on the individual for her / his enlightenment.

It was only later that the Mahayana vehicle was developed in response to the need for a form more popular with the masses.

This is the brand of Buddhism most Chinese would be familiar with because the notion of an intercessor (a bodhisattva - one who delays buddhahood in order to teach the dharma to the living things of this realm) finds expression in Guan Yin or Avalokitesvara as embodiment of compassion. Guan Yin btw was originally male. But because females are deemed to be more nurtuing, he has evolved over time with androgynous features. Some Guan Yin statues have moustaches (tho' most in Chinese hseholds is depicted as exclusively female).

My point is that the need for an intercessor is also to reflected in Christianity in the person of the Christ or Messiah ("one who saves")

The issue is not really authorship or enthnicity or skin color. I did the singrish thing because as we're literate in the English language, some of us may be easily swayed by the propaganda coming from English based sources.

Current Tibetan Buddhism (TB) is deeply intertwined with political activism. It is this aspect that I wish to draw readers' attention to. Certainly it was unfair of me to equate religious veracity to its fortunes as a state. (case in point: the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Hebew Kingdom, et al)

However, because of the political nature of current TB, we need to know its true history and not the spiel & propaganda so skilfully dished out by supporters of the Dalai Lama because theirs is a hidden agenda. Believe me when I say there's no love lost b/w me & the Chinese Communist Party, either.

The Free Tibet Movement (FTM) has ably created a PR juggernaut who's adept in winning the hearts and minds of liberal-minded, justice-seeking and freedom-loving Americans.

But the politically savvy among us would note that the FTM is merely a pawn financed by the powerul NSA-CIA-US DoD triumvirate as a thorn in the side of the CCP of China.

So don't get caught up with the politics of other nations. Our hands are full here in SG.

If readers truly wants a balanced view, please do more rigorous & active research on how the ruling elite of TB REALLY TREATED THEIR PEOPLE. Here's an article to start you off with:

http://www.swans.com/library/art9/mparen01.html
(click on "date" & NOT "comments" of Mr Wang's original post to see the full http address)

I hope it opens your eyes to the enormous cruelty, cynicsm & callousness of the TB ruling elite, and also remove the blinkers of some of your less informed readers so that they're less easily swayed to sympathise with someone or something which is not worthy of their sympathies.

I further remarked that some may choose to reconsider religious thoughts through the lens of practitioners (?) who are culturally alien to the religion. My issue is: is Buddhism popular once again because ang mohs say so? just like in generations past, Christianity is the superior religion because (opps!) ang mohs say so? We HAD Buddhism way back when but for a time it was spat on and disrespected because it was deemed the unsophisticated religion of the old-fashioned and not worthy of the modern & vibrant young.

Past & Future lives are conjectures (for they don't qualify as theories). To assert them as truth would do a great dis-service to less sophisticated adherants.

Equating the light with God is simply incorrect in the context of Christianity. Doing so demonstrate either a misunderstanding or worse still a flippant and gross misinterpretation.

Could our higher brain functions itself be an impediment to our happiness and fulfilment? Choice of religion is so huge, how can we be certain the right choice is made when every competing voice claims to be so - but none could provide convincing evidence???

Is Taoism a viable alternative with its embrace of the balance bwtween good & evil?

Animals can sometimes exhibit more sentience. Elephants bury & mourn for their dead in a reverent manner. They are aware of death.

Too bad you couldn't see past my sacarstic attempt @ humour. The sacarsm is directed at the unsubstantiated stance readers espoused. Mr Wang, I'm sure, I'll like in person. I merely choose to play the devil's advocate & I apologise if I have caused offence to anyone.

.M.A.N.I.M.A.L. said...

btw try writing consistently in Singrish ... it's HAAARRR.....D, man!

Animal Lover said...

Hey, Wang, chill out, don't get into a hissy fit.

Think! How can an animal use the internet? It has to be its mischievous human owner.

Goes to show it's the humans that are at fault again! Sheesh ...

Anonymous said...

You said that "our deepest Core Motivation is the same: we all desire to be happy and to avoid suffering."

What if for some happiness is when they inflict suffering for others, what then?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Hi Manimal:

You said: "Because only one path is deemed "correct", whoever chooses one which is not in accord with your choice is "wrong" and is either pitied or needs counsel."

I suppose this holds true for many (most?) people in the world - probably not for me (or if it does, then to a much lesser extent);

you may notice that my thoughts on spirituality are plucked from an assortment of various religions and disciplines (eg psychology). In an earlier comment, I referred to "different roads leading to the same destination".

When we seek to engage ultimate truths, we must be prepared that in the history of mankind, different descriptions of those ultimate truths will have developed. It seems to me unlikely that any of those descriptions could be completely wrong, or completely right. What's most foolish to me is to get distracted by the differences in description, and thereby lose focus on the ultimate truths.

You wrote this:

"Past & Future lives are conjectures (for they don't qualify as theories). To assert them as truth would do a great dis-service to less sophisticated adherants."

... and immediately went on to say:

"Equating the light with God is simply incorrect in the context of Christianity."

The point is that we regard the idea of past/future lives (a central idea in Buddhism) as mere conjecture, incapable of scientific proof, then practically on the same grounds, we also have to say that the idea of the Christian God is also mere conjecture, incapable of scientific proof. If we take the view that we should disregard all religions since none can be scientifically proven, then we run the risk of making the mistake of believing that what cannot be scientifically proven is therefore false.

A little about the light - the interesting thing about NDEs is that the people who have had them are very varied, yet all report remarkably similar features (the light at the end of the tunnel being only one of them). In other words, there are Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, atheists, non-believers etc who have had NDEs, yet whatever their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), the experience is universal etc. Since it is improbable that all these people are lying (or would lie with such uniformity), a possible approach is see how what different religions teach about the immediate afterlife may be reconciled with such NDE accounts. One highly plausible conclusion we could draw is that in fact, no religion has no exclusive monopoly on "God" (whatever that is) - since the "light" radiating kindness etc appears to people of all religions and of no religion. More on NDEs.

Moving on - the politics of Tibet/China don't interest me. I have to confess that I have only a vague understanding of what went on then. My interest is in spirituality - so what interests me about Tibetan Buddhism is really Tibetan Buddhism, not Tibetan politics. Similarly, what interests me about Christianity is Jesus as spiritual leader, not Jesus as politician, although many of his activities were certainly highly political in nature.

You pose this question -

"Could our higher brain functions itself be an impediment to our happiness and fulfilment?"

Why, yes, certainly, I would say so .... The question then is whether you could alter those higher brain functions. That is what meditation seeks to do (click here for a scientific study on how meditation permanently alters the physical structure of the brain) and since in terms of mental functions, deep prayer is akin to meditation, we may surmise that prayer would have the same effect. Prayer/meditation is central to many religions, but then meditation can be completely secular as well. Since NDEs also occur to atheists, and Maslow's peak experiences also do not rely on the person being religious, it seems that profound spiritual experiences are potentially available to everyone - belief in a religion is not a prerequisite (see for instance Saul in the Bible, and how he became Paul) - although atheists who have spiritual experiences may well not recognise or describe them as such. On that note - my reminder again is not to mistake descriptions of truth, for truth itself. The truth can manifest itself to us, but we could describe and recognise it in fundamentally different ways.

.M.A.N.I.M.A.L. said...

Hi Mr Wang:

Nice repartee! Thanks for your energetic research & info. You've restored my faith in your tolerance of dissension.

Nevertheless, I hope you had or if you haven't, please do spare some of your valuable time to read this article by Michael Parenti PhD (Yale) if only to add to your already extensive knowledge of things under the sun.

ps. Wow, inspired by Mr Wang's eg, I've now learnt how to code a html link so others can just click to whatever article I refer to & not force readers to do a clumsy cut-&-paste job into the address bar (refer to my earlier post) - thanks!
Please forgive the gushing 'cos I guess I miss the coding & website building craze when www was still young. So if you don't know something, nevermind: Just Keep Learning New Things!

Anonymous said...

"What if for some happiness is when they inflict suffering for others, what then?"

Since you cannot control how another man thinks or feels, the question you should ask is: "is happiness for ME when I inflict suffering on others?"

pennythots said...

Mr Wang : "In the same way, you may want sex or food, and this will motivate certain actions of yours, but before you actually carry out those actions, you probably do not consciously think to yourself, "Aha, now I am pursuing my happiness." "

Aha, but I do! I pursue my happiness in great food and a nice bottle of wine, amongst others. and I do think to myself, aha, now I am pursuing my happiness. Or when money comes into my hands, I think to myself, aha now i have X dollars to eat/drink Y. (i'm wisely leaving out comments on the pursuit of procreation) And I AM happy in the process.

I think unhappiness creeps in only at other times, when we think of the various other issues that bog us down- i.e. is the job satisfying, am i obtaining enough material comforts for my family, am I doing as well as my peers, is this a stupid job that I am doing, is this an evil or a good act, etc etc.

That is why I highly recommend seeking our basic needs, and trying to let go of extraneous whims, in the pursuit of happiness.

To respond to another point brought up by Mr Wang, of course we as humans do and should use our logical reasoning powers. But so do dolphins, pigs , dogs and octopii. To find food, play, procreate etc. But animals don't let the pursuit of higher or complicated ideals play mischief on their minds, to fear, worry and feel dissatisfaction. They just focus on the essentials, and stay happy and worry-free in the process.

Mr Wang Says So said...

When you put it like this:

"just focus on the essentials, and stay happy and worry-free in the process"

I think I could in theory go along with that. In practice, however, I don't think this is at all an easily achievable state; the very attempt to attain such a state, I imagine, could for some (many?) individuals be practically akin to be a spiritual quest.

You have mentioned food, sex, sleep so far - these are what Maslow calls the "deficiency needs" - in other words, you want them when you don't have them, but when you have had enough of them, you don't want them. Eg you had a great nap, you work up and ate a lot, then you had great sex and you finished. What next?

You'll note that I omitted your other example - "play" - because I think "play" is very important and is not a "deficiency need" - it probably fits more into the self-actualisation category.

What is your play?

In my concept of play, I think Einstein played with the physics of the universe; Ray Charles' play was with music; Edmund Hillary's play was with his mountains; Carl Lewis's play was on the track; Picasso's play was with light & colour -

leaving aside famous individuals, an inspired teacher's play would be his teaching; an inspired doctor's play would be his work as a doctor; a mother's play may be with raising her children as well as she can, etc.

In some descriptions of enlightenment (Osho, for example), it would be said that every moment (great & small) of your life is play; and therefore blissful. Not able to provide you with the most relevant Osho quotes at the moment, but perhaps you can try this and consider the part about the intrinsic meaning of life's small activities.

JoE said...

i like your concepts about play. i just have to add this: ronaldhino's play is on the football field. don't forget to stay up to watch the champion's league final tomorrow morning! :-)