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 Stephen Batchelor

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Stephen Batchelor   Thu May 26, 2011 12:15 pm

The author Stephen Batchelor is an old friend. This is a very good video explaining his view of Buddhism / Dharma, especially his individual approach to Dharma, "thought crimes", etc.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/confessions-buddhist-atheist-10050697
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Thu May 26, 2011 3:14 pm

Into everyday a little sanity should fall. Thanks Josh for plunking a little bit of common sense into mine with Stephen Batchelors Buddhist truth. You're fortunate to have such a friend.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Thu May 26, 2011 3:41 pm

Good Heavens! I rebel at nearly every conclusion this good man has come to! No God, No reincarnation, no "higher reality", just...what? Me, myself and I? Yikes! For me this is rather the reverse of what Howard calls sanity. I hear this sort of thing and just am so utterly grateful that I get to have my own views, my own sense of reality, my own relationship with the world.
Mr. Batchelor sounds like a nice guy but his philosophy wears me out.

No offense.
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Thu May 26, 2011 5:35 pm

No offence taken but your view on it surprised me Polly.
I went back to check out the video again to see what I missed.


Our different takes on it are interesting.

I think there is a difference between a man who says he sees no evidence of God and someone who says there is no God, just like I think there is a difference between some one who says there is a God and the one that says you should believe in God.

I have no concern with a meditator who doesn't believe in God/reincarnation or a higher reality. Those things, or my beliefs are not dependent on his beliefs. I didn't see a man who said some things didn't exist, only that he didn't see any practical evidence of them.

I also just saw the courage of a man who immersed himself in the moment to moment meditation of life who eloquently spoke of what he saw.

I think our spiritual worth in this world is better measured by the consistency by which our practise touches all aspects of our lives than by those who selectively plumb deeper spiritual depths in some areas while will fully ignoring problems that are closer to home.

Look at the spiritual beings that you have respected and ask yourself how is it they can keep doing the things that you know are wrong. You can see a certain depth to their understanding and yet they can trail such a painful wake. They teach convincingly of keeping the precepts that they themselves can not keep.

What do you think is going on that allows such behaviour to exist?

Is it a lack of belief in God, reincarnation or a higher reality? Or is it the lack of consistency in applying the practise where ever you are?

Many of the most morally troubled practitioners bow easily to "higher realities" all the while committing more common manipulative indulgence's on others on a day to day basis.

More personal spiritual responsibility has been abandoned in the name of those cleaving to gods, promises of an afterlife direction or an even more nebulous higher reality than by anyone willing to be fully present in this moment for everyone.

A belief that makes one feel more secure reminds me more of one of my own Ego's games than of a higher reality. I see more potential selflessness in a wide, steadfast practise of being fully present in the moment than of cultivating ones personal salvation through devotion to any God.

How many years ago would these words have been enough to have me burned at the stake by any number of Gods devotees. Both the meditative and the devotional paths have their own blind spots. My concern about the devotional path, like many of the problems recorded on this forum, comes the adherants of the devotional path that can not look for their own blind spots without feeling that they are betraying their own faith.

Thanks for pushing me to take a second look at the wider picture..

Gotta run, got some folks with pitchforks & torches wanting to talk at my door.


Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 12:28 am

Howard
No torches from me. Thank you for taking the time to address my response in such a thoughtful way. I would like to respond more fully but am flat wasted and need sleep before I attempt it. I don't disagree with what you had to say and have to admit that the guy tugged at my security blanket. But more anon.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 12:46 am

Hey Polly

If you thought that guy was playing with your security blanket then You need to be warned about Josh's next clip from Ted's talks- the believing brain. I have now attained one of the 32 signs of the Buddha from watching the last 60 seconds of that clip and my jewels are going to stay that way until I can relax again.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 2:04 am

Hey Howard, as always, I am in substantial agreement with your observations.

I have appreciated and enjoyed Stephen Batchelor's books for decades. And I like this current interview a lot (thanks for posting it Josh!).

But, I have to push back just a little.

I had exactly the same response that Polly did to Stephen's dismissal of the transcendent. I don't object to his opinion--as his opinion. He is obviously honest in acknowledging the fact that the transcendent has not been a conscious part of his own experience. And good for him for so acknowledging. His position only becomes problematic through what seems to be an implication that the transcendent does not "exist"*--and that its alleged "existence" can only be found in religious dogma. I'm not sure that he actually believes this--but it does seem to be the implicit conclusion that he has arrived at--and which he seems to present.

*(Please note that mystics from all traditions consistently point out, in various ways, that the transcendent cannot be said to "exist"--since it precedes, and gives rise to, existence itself.)

Having said this, Stephen goes on to make an extremely important point when he asks, "what is human life...about?"--thereby, I think, pointing to the central existential dilemma of awareness-being--dwelling-in-existence.

I would propose that the essence of the spiritual quest springs from the existential dilemma which arises when we come face to face with birth, change, threat, loss, fear, pain, illness, and death. This is enormously compounded when we are told by our culture (as we have been, worldwide, for the last 6,000 years or so) that survival and success require an adversarial struggle against all beings, ourselves, and nature itself. And it is further compounded when those around us act on this misunderstanding--and we experience the traumatic consequences! As a result, many of us now find ourselves alienated from the very ground of our being--Awareness itself.

Buddhism began with Shakyamuni's own existential dilema and his quest to resolve it.

Astonishingly, Buddhist teaching today (in my opinion) contains very little recognition of the nature of the existential dilema itself, or the nature of the process required to resolve it. The quest can all too easily be undermined by substituting institutional belief, or dogma, for a genuine exploration--which requires questioning everything.

I love this interview with Stephen, because all of these issues arise. And because he so clearly and strongly points out that institutionalized beliefs can never substitute for a true resolution of the existential dilemma of life.

I would add my own opinion (from an earlier post), that resolving the existential dilemma involves a combination of inner healing and outer transformation. Healing into Awareness--which is the essential basis for dwelling skillfully in harmony and balance with all conditions--is the prerequiste for healing into Awareness.

At any rate, these are only my own thoughts. As always, they are only offered as hypotheses, and intended as a springboard for consideration, reflection, discussion--and further hypotheses!!

In my experience, while the issues may be serious, the process of sitting still with them--in order to engage in their exploration, discussion, and resolution--can be pure delight!

PS: Howard and Polly--as usual, you have both posted additional comments while I have been plodding away writing this one!
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 6:21 am

A man after my own heart. I too have concluded that we push an empty cart and load on to it, through our fears doubts and clinging, conclusions that arise from either internal or external influences, and then set up our belief systems, which can and do change. Leaving one at times with not much to hold on to. But I am a firm believer in using anything that helps and nourshes. We have to tread carefully and aknowledge that because something doesnt work for us, and we may even dispise it, but it may work very well for others. I personally cannot say definitely that there is no higher being / conciousness/ god, because my experience says other wise.Delusion or not it still haunts me.When I wake up in the morning something supports me, life force, or what ever, but not of my making, and all I can do is focus the mind through what ever means I wish to work with, sitting, awearness, relgious views, beliefs, following a path that leaves no wake.So trust/faith is vitally important to me(ones own innate goodness)but not necessarly belief, which can be open to vunerability and change.
Especially if you come onto this forum.
I believe we each create our own god, or not. And when we die he dies with us.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 11:36 am

Friends, just briefly because I have to run.
Excellent posts above.
I particularly liked John's

But I am a firm believer in using anything that helps and nourshes.[...]
When I wake up in the morning something supports
me, life force, or what ever, but not of my making[...]So trust/faith is vitally important to me(ones own innate
goodness)but not necessarly belief[...]


Sorry, John, to chop your post up this way - I wished to highlight what deeply resonated for me.

Here born, we clutch at things and then compound delusion by following ideals.

Ideals that may harm us, and may cause us to harm others, may be theistic or atheistic. It is also very difficult to be aware of our presumptions, preconditionings. To be entirely aware of them and to neutralize them is, in my opinion, impossible. So perhaps one should indeed 'tread lightly', as John says.

I'd like to come back to you, Kozan, to query what could possibly be there before, and giving rise to, existence.
And how could we be alienated from Awareness. Writing Awareness with capital letter, do you understand it to be different from everyday awareness? If so, how - and how are you aware of it? etc

Find it hard to tear myself away, but I must.
O.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 12:12 pm

Kozan wrote:

I had exactly the same response that Polly did to Stephen's dismissal of the transcendent. I don't object to his opinion--as his opinion. He is obviously honest in acknowledging the fact that the transcendent has not been a conscious part of his own experience. And good for him for so acknowledging. His position only becomes problematic through what seems to be an implication that the transcendent does not "exist"*--and that its alleged "existence" can only be found in religious dogma. I'm not sure that he actually believes this--but it does seem to be the implicit conclusion that he has arrived at--and which he seems to present.

Thanks for expressing this as I had a similar reaction. That short interview is all I know about Stephen Bachelor, so I won't conclude too much. He said he left the Tibetan group he studied with because he couldn't believe in reincarnation. It seemed to me he was simply following the Buddha's exhortation to not believe something he had not proven true for himself. He also used the term "thought crime" which I understood to mean the way he was judged by others in the group for questioning the basic tenets of his flavor of Tibetan Buddhism. While that is unfortunate it is predictable human behavior that has nothing to do with Buddhism per se. People join groups because they feel aligned with a shared belief system. Expressing doubt about the core beliefs of the system is not going to be met with approval. It's just time to move on. What isn't clear is whether or not Stephen remains open to the possibility that reincarnation et al will one day prove true for him. If he has closed the door on the possibility of transcendent experience then I would suggest he has some unresolved business with his previous practice/group.

Here is one version of the Buddha's statement about belief:

Do not believe in anything simply
because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it
is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because
it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything
merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in
traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But
after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with
reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then
accept it and live up to it.



Many people follow the Buddha, but the Buddha just followed his heart. It seems to me that we can only benefit so much from a general belief system and then we have to figure things out for ourselves.
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 1:29 pm

Hey Kozan
His position only becomes problematic through what seems to be an implication that the transcendent does not "exist"*--and that its alleged "existence" can only be found in religious dogma.

Stephen Batchelors view of the existence of the transcendent is not mine, but the value of his quest is supported by my experience of the transcendent.

While I see where his views could be un nerving for both the devotionally inclined as well as those who see the transcendent beyond religious structure, I think his questioning is reasonable.

Some questions that interest me about your post are...

If saying that the transcendent has not been part of your experience is true, should this truth be censored in fear of it's "implication"?

Is the transcendent so ethereal as to be doused by this implication?.

It is a rarity for a serious participant within an house of religious dogma to not see the transcendent in the exact approved colours & parameters allowed by that house. Is it OK to unearth any conditioning that leashes our exploration of the truth while saying that this transcendent is to be treated like a sacred cow?

If the experience of the transcendent can be brought into question, why wouldn't that line of questioning be part of a good process that motivates us all to explore what can stand on it's own feet as truth and what might also be another conditioned state of wishfulfilment.

Usually the motivation to seriously explore these issues long term are predicated on whether the seeker searches for comfort or truth. Personally I never see these two hanging out together.

What I thought I saw in his search was not so much a limitation but the steadfast engagement of what was immediately in front of him.


Cheers


Last edited by Howard on Fri May 27, 2011 1:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 1:37 pm

Thank you Olga.

I do agree with your last statement Isan that we have to eventualy figure it out for ourselves.And I believe that, that includes using help from others. Maybe we are not rebels after all. I particulary like this version of the Buddhas words .

Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves.
Rely on your yourselves, and do not rely on external help.
Hold fast to the truth as a lamp.
Seek salvation alone in the truth.
Look not to assistance to anyone besides yourselves.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 2:59 pm

Hi Howard,
You wrote:
Usually the motivation to seriously explore these issues long term are
predicated on whether the seeker searches for comfort or truth.
Personally I never see these two hanging out together.


Well, my experience is rather different. I find that the two very much do hang out together. I would think that if the need for comfort overrides the 'thirst' for truth, then there is a problem - at least if this is a general pattern.
When one takes something for the truth, and then unease follows after a while, that's when we question it. Unease, discomfort are good (though not absolute) guides in our search for truth.
I also think that if we suspected that the truth, when found, would prove to be horrible and painful, we would quitely stop our search, deflect it, whatever, to avoid the pain, the terror.

It is because we trust that the solution will bring us peace, freedom, (lovely things, aren't they) that we continue searching with all the perseverance that we do. (I honestly think that we are not that different from those who try to find fullness, completeness, in the supermarket.) Perhaps searching for truth, we act on a built-in faith that there is such a thing as truth, and that it is, basically, a 'happy', a desirable thing.

Maybe, Howard, you meant something else by the word 'comfort' - that would be the antithesis of search for truth. In all fairness, I would not disagree with you in observing that often we do compromise our quest for truth when, for example, we find it too painful to go against the conventional wisdom. This is seen everywhere - in religion, as well as in science (e.g. it was by far not only the Catholic church that so vociferrously denied a possiblity of heliocentric system. The astronomers of the day, the academe, also fought it tooth and nail.)
But, on the whole, in my experience at least, search for truth is a happy thing - and yes, it feels like home.
Ol'ga


Last edited by Ol'ga on Fri May 27, 2011 3:03 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : clarification; grammar, such as it is)
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 7:37 pm

Hello Ol'ga
That posting was poorly written and not very clear. I really should have been out the door & on to work while I was still typing.

Yes I was contrasting the difference between comfort and truth. When I look at how long I hung onto my OBC conditioning I have to ask myself why? The answer is not pretty and has mostly to do with my complacency & comfort. I am not saying that there is a clear line delineating comfort and the search for truth but when I talk to current OBCers about looking at the issue of conditioning, all I see is straight discomfort. This parallels my own OBC experience.
My point was not to disparage the search for truth and all its accompaning benefits but to point out why so many fear it's approach.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 8:08 pm

Howard, judging from your last post, and your questions for me, I think that I must have made some comments that came across quite differently from what I had intended.

My apologies for causing confusion--and my grateful thanks to you for raising these questions!

From your comments, it seems to me that I may have given the impression that I am opposed in some way to Stephen Bachelor's approach, his quest, or his questioning. Or that I see some kind of limitation in his approach. Not only is this not the case, but I perceive his approach to be similar in many ways to my own.

I too believe in the importance (as I said) of questioning everything. This is not only because spiritual teaching might be inaccurate in some way (and religious doctrine even more so), but because, no matter how accurate it may be, our understanding of it may be limited.

I think that it is especially valuable (if not essential) to question assumptions and beliefs about the "transcendent", since, again, no matter how accurate they may be in some respect, they can still function as projection.

Given my broad agreement with Stephen's approach--I ended up focusing on one issue that he and I seem to have different views on. As I attempted to explain earlier, I have no objection to Stephen having the views that he has, or to his expressing them; I was attempting to respond to the issue itself.

You (Howard) wrote (to me):
Some questions that interest me about your post are...

If saying that the transcendent has not been part of your experience is true, should this truth be censored in fear of it's "implication"?


In my opinion, never.

Is the transcendent so ethereal as to be doused by this implication?.
No. To use an analogy--if the patterns and forms of manifested existence are like ever changing, transient, structures of ice--the transcendent is water itself.

It is a rarity for a serious participant within an house of religious dogma to not see the transcendent in the exact approved colours & parameters allowed by that house.

Exactly! My point as well.

Is it OK to unearth any conditioning that leashes our exploration of the truth while saying that this transcendent is to be treated like a sacred cow?

I would say that once something comes to be viewed as a sacred cow, what we are viewing is a projection of our own, or an institution's, belief system.

If the experience of the transcendent can be brought into question, why wouldn't that line of questioning be part of a good process that motivates us all to explore what can stand on it's own feet as truth and what might also be another conditioned state of wishfulfilment.

Indeed so! Question everything--except for (your) innate integrity--which makes it possible to question everything!!


Last edited by Kozan on Fri May 27, 2011 9:57 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : I had forgotten a rather crucial aspect of the final sentence. Fortunately, I was still questioning...)
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 9:48 pm

Yes Kozan
I did take the body of your post to be you taking exception to Stephens views.
Sort of like "Otto" in one of my favourite films "A fish called Wanda", who was always missing the middle bit of an explanation.
Thanks for clarifying my miss perception and answering my questions so carefully.
Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Fri May 27, 2011 10:23 pm

Boy, lots of good stuff here! Howard, in response to your response to my response to Stephen Batchelor's you-tube... I am interested in your concerns about how people over the ages have managed to skew their belief in God into something harmful. You are correct of course, but what someone else thinks about God has little or nothing to do with how I or you or anyone else need to perceive God. The fact that great wrongs have been made in "God's Name" only implicate those who make the errors.
Salvation is a concept that I don't grasp at all. What needs saving? The fact that my belief in "God" (please allow me to use the word for simplicity's sake) affords me great comfort does not automatically make the likelihood of the reality of such to be suspect. It can't come down to "if it tastes good, spit it out." My experience of God doesn't fit any paradigm I am familiar with, it is unique to me, as I believe all experiences of God are unique to each. Our own little part of the elephant. As soon as we institutionalize it, inevitably we "compound delusion by following ideals", at least in all the organizations I have been exposed to. But this fact alone does not negate, for me, the reality of God. Perhaps an analogy for my thinking would be: prior to an understanding of quantum physics, quantum physics was and is complete and perfect. The fact that everybody got their equations wrong for centuries can't change that, but it doubtless discouraged and disillusioned a good many physicists in the process. Thankfully there are always those who "question everything".

I'm also interested in Mr Batchelor's position that since he see's no evidence that God exists he cannot believe in one. I wonder what evidence he is weighing, what he would give credence to? We all have our own yardsticks. There are scads of quite powerful evidence of reincarnation, but seemingly it does not meet his criteria. I can say "More power to him," but since he widely broadcasts his point of view I get to disagree, to question.

I do not think that meditation and devotion are contradictory things, or at least they do not need to be. The assumption that a belief in God is a thing that constricts and limits understanding and perception is only true of those who have a constricted , limited view of God.

All this has been said better by others, I was tempted to just reply with "What he said." I feel a little foolish trying to make a case for God, except that someone ( Batchelor) made a case against it, and I can't just let that go, however poorly I perform. And now I have to go and read/hear whatever this "Ted" has to say and have another jolt. You give me no rest. Maybe tomorrow I'll tackle it.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sat May 28, 2011 4:33 am

Polly , thank you ,
Yours is the only post i can understand completely , and sympathize with .
I'm interested and very grateful you all have so much to say , and I've returned many times to the ones above . lines jump out , and i think yes yes .

As with Kozan :

' Astonishingly, Buddhist teaching today (in my opinion) contains very little recognition of the nature of the existential dilema itself, or the nature of the process required to resolve it. The quest can all too easily be undermined by substituting institutional belief, or dogma, for a genuine exploration--which requires questioning everything.'

Or no ,help ...... and then i get lost again . I'm battling against having to accept i'm a little stupid , but the force of knowing what i know somehow keeps my heart buoyant .Though i am feeling a bit embattled .......should i be clearly understanding all this STUFF ?
I've read stephen B's book , it left me sad , disappointed. Isn't Stephen Batchlor mostly doing publicity for his book ? its working anyway .
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sat May 28, 2011 4:43 am

Hello Polly
I am interested in your concerns about how people over the ages have managed to skew their belief in God into something harmful.

After a bunch of different posts it gets hard to know which post you are talking about but in answering questions about devotion & god, you'll need to remember that I am talking about that & not you..

I am not sure that they are skewing their belief in God so much as infantalising their own spiritual responsibilities in the same way that any religions devotees can do before their masters. It get a bit worse with "god" devotees to the extent that those folks often additionally take on the duties of forcing others to conform to "God's" wishes. (which always seems to conveniently correspond to their own wishes).

The fact that my belief in "God" (please allow me to use the word for simplicity's sake) affords me great comfort does not automatically make the likelihood of the reality of such to be suspect. It can't come down to "if it tastes good, spit it out."
Hey you can use the word "God" here if I can use the word "Ego" but count on sharing some floor space with me in the OBC connect dog house.

First off I would say that I do not wish anyone to specifically question the existence of God. I just think one should question everything, God included. If that makes you too uncomfortable or you are in a place in your life where that is not affordable then don't do it but if you can, I have found that few things unravel our conditioning more clearly than the meditative examination of all that makes us uncomfortable. More over I'm not sure that one can manifest any level of spiritual adulthood with God unless you do.

I think that a straight unthinking, unquestioning devotion will allow one a comfortable connection with God but as a reasoning, blood pumping, moving human being, I'm not sure that Gods getting much out of a relationship with the human devotee who is pretending to be a vegetable. In fact I'd call it a bit of a slap of "God's" face.

What do you think?

Your other questions are interesting but my pillow calls.

cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sat May 28, 2011 10:39 am

This goes into the big discussion about "beliefs" -- what they are and how they affect our emotions, actions, life, etc. Questioning my beliefs has been a major aspect of what I consider Dharma "practice". To me, awareness and mindfulness practice goes hand in hand with inquiry, questioning everything. And of course I start with questioning the core beliefs about myself, who / what is this "I" - who am I? And then all the everyday stories that spring from this "I" who I think I am, my assumptions about myself, my insights or what I think is true, my stories about my past and future, my stories about my body, the stories about other people in my life, my stories and beliefs about the world around me.

My friend Byron Katie has this system called "The Work" in which you ask four basic questions - challenging stressful thoughts, stories in your life, judgments about other people, and frankly, all beliefs you hold. I find these four questions constantly useful. Her inquiry process can be very in-depth and fairly ruthless but it should always be done with a kind outlook towards yourself and others. Thoughts are not the problem - but when we believe our thoughts, then they become part of our inner "religion" - belief systems and create a kind of mental bubble that prevent us from seeing clearly.

Her four questions:

Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it is true?
How do you react / live when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without that thought / story?

For many years, I have used the first question a lot in my life. In all kinds of ways. That question may seem simple, but actually it can be a radical eye opener. I had many thoughts / stories in my life that i just assumed were "true" and I never challenged them, never asked the question - is it really true?

And these four questions can be used to with the most "mundane" or ordinary thoughts to what you might think of as more "grand" thoughts about god or the universe or spirituality. The key issue is that we are often oblivious that what goes through our mind are just thoughts, since we believe them, we assume they are true. we think -- Of course they are true.... after all , we have believed a particular story line in our lives for years, decades.

For me, this kind of self-inquiry is a perfect companion to mindfulness or zazen.

You can see examples of this kind of work - if you go on youtube and search for "byron katie" - you can see examples people using the four questions on all kinds of personal / spiritual issues.

And when you really start to practice inquiry, you see that many seemingly positive or benign beliefs have their shadow side since they are all inherently dualistic. At least, that has been my experience.

But what you find is that when you see that many of our beliefs are just stories, then you come to the question -- who are you without that story? who are you without any story?

One of the themes of this forum has been how Shasta and Kennett evolved from practicing a relatively simple form of Soto Zen into a dogmatic church where questioning Kennett and her teachings was simply intolerable, heretical. As that happened, truth flew out the window and blind faith become the norm.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sat May 28, 2011 1:00 pm

Hey Josh
For me, this kind of self-inquiry is a perfect companion to mindfulness or zazen.

Luv it.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sat May 28, 2011 4:05 pm

who are you without that story

Good question that Josh. Yes, a sense of what is left without the story, without any story.
A question I often use is, what does it mean to me, what does anything mean to me, in the sense of where does it lie, whats it position to everything else I hold on to.Everything lies on something previous, a building up of the house of self, what is true within it. As Byron Katie puts it. Is it true.
So disturbing, but in a beautiful way.
A touch of Pinnochio about it/ thinks he is a real boy.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sat May 28, 2011 9:55 pm

Ol'ga, sorry that I am only now getting back to your questions. (I can usually only manage one Forum post a day at best; and the contents of this one have been in the works for months!)

You wrote:
"I'd like to come back to you, Kozan, to query what could possibly be there before, and giving rise to, existence.
And how could we be alienated from Awareness. Writing Awareness with capital letter, do you understand it to be different from everyday awareness? If so, how - and how are you aware of it? etc"

Great questions! Mystics, from all traditions, use an enormous variety of different words, including God, in an effort to point back to their direct experience. That which is experienced is typically viewed as an experience of that which both transcends the realm of manifested existence--and gives rise to it. The "all is one", which gives rise to the "all is different", while transcending both oneness and duality. All of this makes the transcendent very difficult to talk about given the nature of language itself, and given the fact that from the perspective of the mystic, there is nothing but that which is the transcendent manifesting as existence itself! Paradox arises at every turn!

Awareness seems to be a recognized and agreed upon quality of the transcendent in many traditions, and certainly in the Eastern traditions. Awareness is that which is our own most immediate experience, and it is what we encounter within meditation, from the beginning. Awareness is like a mirror, which reflects everything that we perceive, think, feel, imagine, intuit, visualize...and yet is not (limited to) the content of our perception. Unlike the analogy however, transcendent Awareness not only reflects the content of perception (like a mirror), but gives rise to existence itself, which is what we perceive in the mirror of awareness, as the content of awareness.

So, to get back to your specific questions, I use Awareness (with a capital A) to refer to that which is the transcendent itself. And I often use awareness (with a lower case a) when speaking about the way we tend to experience our own localized awareness-mind-body-self.

Perhaps the number one reason that I like the word awareness is because there is no difference in, or separation between, that which is our own localized awareness--and Awareness itself. To use another common analogy for all of this: the water at the surface of the wave (our localized awareness-being) is of the same nature as the water at the depths of the ocean itself.

My experience of spiritual practice is that it is the process of allowing our own localized awareness to return home to Awareness itself--where it has, of course, always been. Within Awareness itself (where there is no "eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind), awareness reflects, and recognizes, awareness.

From this perspective, our own awareness is never separate from Awareness itself. But if this is so, how do we come to forget? My full response to this question is another long post in its own right; but for now, a shorter summary:

I think that we forget Awareness itself in the course of being born into existence, identifying with our mind-body, encountering the existential dilemma of being-in-existence, experiencing distress, and identifying more strongly as our mind-body. I think that once we reach the conclusion (as we have all been conditioned to believe) that life is an adversarial struggle by nature--we begin to struggle against ourselves, those around us, and existence itself. And since existence itself is not other than Awareness itself, we are now struggling against the ground of our own awareness. Our awareness becomes alienated from Awareness itself.

Spiritual practice (in my experience) then is the process of rolling this causal sequence back, by healing existential distress into Awareness itself, and by discovering how to transform the existential dilemma by learning how to dwell in harmony and balance with all conditions and all beings.

I also think that this reconfirms the reason why spiritual teaching and practice that seeks to "subdue the ego", through an assault on the mind-body-self, is so profoundly misguided and harmful (as you and many others on this Forum have pointed out!). Assaulting the mind-body-self all too often only re-traumatizes the causal dynamic that creates the conditions leading to separation from Awareness itself to begin with!

At any rate, all of this is just my best effort to express my experience, and current understanding, in words. As always, I offer it as nothing more than a hypothesis!
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sat May 28, 2011 10:25 pm

Well, Kozan, it's as good a hypothesis as I've heard. Glad you put it into words. Thanks. Looking forward to your post about how we come to forget our connection to "Awareness". We were on that topic a few months ago and it got lost.

Josh's or Byron Katie's, four questions also inspire a "thank you". Extremely useful and challenging tools.

Howard, (and anyone else) I did an awful job of expressing myself in that last post. I nearly deleted it, but there were a couple of points I wanted to make and I couldn't dredge up any eloquence to help them out. Sorry.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sat May 28, 2011 11:10 pm

Lise, my friend, it appears that we may be spawning another thread here, yet again.

Hi Kozan,
Thank you so much for a very detailed, and well worded expose of my favourite topic. I can't, of course, reply in any detail - there is so much in your post.

I would only like to say one important thing - let's see if we're of like mind:

Awareness, capital A, or small a, cannot be an object. If awareness could be an object, then the one who is aware of it is what? An unawareful thing? Awareness to be awareness, must be aware. (I've come across the metaphor of a mirror, but don't like it much. In that metaphor, somehow knowledge would be external to awareness. Metaphors, of course, never work perfectly.) You may be aware of your perceptions, emotions, etc - they all are objects of awareness. (It's not the whole truth, but I'll have to leave it at that for now.) You yourself, being aware, must of necessity, be of such nature as awareness itself. Awareness is not something as though sitting on you, or in you - how would you then know anything - any knowledge would be external to you. This is a very important point, worth savouring.
You may not agree with me, but I would say that a mystic, or anyone who has a mystical experience, experiences the unity of everything. The mystic, however, may not realize what their true nature is. I do not say they don't - I have not had experiences of all mystics that ever existed, obviously. It only appears to me, that to see 'God', to even feel one 'merges' with him, still perceives him as some entity, other than oneself. Now I merge, now I don't. Even if I see myself as 'part' of God, we're still two. It so appears to me.

I don't know if anyone else on this forum is interested in this discussion. (Now I just saw Polly finds it of interest.) Please understand that I am not questioning anyone's devotion or practice. Even if someone meditates, and that is their practice (beautiful), there is still a lot of devotion there!
If I mention that I come from a different school, it is not because I wish to convert anyone, or advertize my teacher to anyone! Still, I think it is only fair that I would make it clear that I am not a Buddhist, and that my approach, my study, may be quite different from that of most of you, and possibly of no interest to you. If that is so, please just skip the Bear.
Ol'ga


Last edited by Ol'ga on Sun May 29, 2011 12:06 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo)
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sun May 29, 2011 10:55 am

This is from an article in NEW SCIENTIST magazine, a terrific publication out of the UK:

"This might come as a shock, but everything you think is wrong. Much of what you take for granted about day-to-day existence is largely a figment of your imagination. From your senses to your memory, your opinions and beliefs, how you see yourself and others and even your sense of free will, things are not as they seem. The power these delusions hold over you is staggering, yet, as Graham Lawton discovers, they are vital to help you function in the world."

You can read the entire story on line - see the link below.

http://www.newscientist.com/special/the-grand-delusion
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sun May 29, 2011 11:28 am

Belief has always been fascinating to me:there are so many of them, so contradicting, and yet to the beholder, theirs is incontrovertably true. Perhaps the greatest intellectual revolution of the past several centuries, which has been escalating exponentially, culminating in the internet, is the awareness by more and more of humanity of the existence of different beliefs. Almost everyone on the planet is inundated and immersed in others' beliefs. We are so immersed that more and more of humanity is concluding we have to make room for others' beliefs. What must it have been like to live in a society where there was no exposure to any beliefs but those of our own tribe. Where beliefs are taken as facts, not because we steel our minds against the contradicting beliefs of others, but simply because there are no other beliefs. It is a difficult state of affairs to imagine; perhaps something akin to a primitve person seeing a plane land and an aray of high tech devices unloaded and set up. The next best thing to unopposed beliefs, when it comes to a sense of security, is perhaps to protect the beliefs we have from erosion but other beliefs or facts. The price of this though is intellectual suffocation and setting up a wall between oneself and reality. To me, awareness is the antidote to this dilemma. I think the reason we aren't caught in attachment when we are truly aware is that the content of awareness, though identical to the awareness itself, is paradoxically somehow subordinate to it. Beliefs are clouds in a clear sky. Beautiful clouds perhaps; fascinating clouds--but they drift by with no need to hold onto them. Within awareness, beliefs hold no special importants. There are houses, sky, oceans, roads, people, beliefs, All just appears and disappears within awareness. Whether we believe in God or reincarnation or Buddha or Christ or Rev. Kennett or the OBC or the supremacy of the individual or the community, or or or. Doesn't it all just drift by? That to me is the ultimate appeal of Buddhism and meditation practice over belonging and believing or not belonging and not believing.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sun May 29, 2011 1:49 pm

This is part of one of Darren Brown's shows -- he is quite fascinating -and this piece deals with beliefs and how easily people will believe:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8CmsvyPDDE

Here is the full show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuP5uOI7Xwc&feature=related
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Sun May 29, 2011 4:11 pm

Not sure this post belongs here, but i didn't quite see another appropriate thread. This audio podcast story is from THE MOTH - which is this wonderful storytelling organization - that started in New York and has now spread all over the place -- true stories - told without notes - in front of live audiences. You can download many of themoth podcasts free from itunes.

Anyway, this story is about a guy who bumps into a Tibetan lama and his experience. Very funny story. But the one thing I want to say about this -- as it relates to the many discussions on this board. The narrator of this story has this "experience" - very genuine insight - an example of what the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism calls "receiving the pointing out instructions" - the teacher points out the nature of the mind. Now, based on that experience, this fellow I suppose could have started running around, saying he was enlightened, he could have set himself up as a guru, he could have amplified and glorified that moment, but he doesn't do that. He doesn't start his own religion or start making stained glass windows of his story.

Listen to this story. It is both profound and very funny.

http://www.susanpiver.com/wordpress/2011/04/07/story/
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Mon May 30, 2011 2:04 am

AHHHH thank you Josh for that story - Yes , much better in every way.
And Hello Henry, I'm glad you're back.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Mon May 30, 2011 4:38 am

Couldnt get the youtube link Josh, copyright stuff in uk.
But I do watch DB when he is on tv and he is very entertaining.
Recently he did a program called selling miricales, where he trained an off the street guy to become an
evangelical pastor,(maybe thats the one you mean), then sent him to the U S to preach and heal.He tried to infiltrate the big money spinning organisations like Benny Hinns, who sensed a threat, the police were then called for his removal.
But eventualy his trained pastor got his chance and held an audience preached and offered healing to the sick, and at the end of the session disclosed who he was, not wishing to distroy their faith, but pointed out very clearly that to take money for so called healing was a con. Believing in this way really is big business. We are all looking for the next fix be it a choccy biscuit or the next car.
And leaves the very open question of, IS IT TRUE.

I believe the ground will support me when I get out of bed in the morning, which involves taking for granted and expectation. It seems to me that in some way the whole of life is expectation, just doing, as we flow into the next moment which is supported by the previous moment, without expectation where is the story.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Mon May 30, 2011 10:01 am

Yes, Selling Miracles was the Darren Brown tv special that I posted. For whatever reason, we are able to see this on YouTube in America. Darren is quite brilliant at showing us how the mind can be fooled, that we can be easily manipulated, that we can easily fool ourselves.

There is a new documentary film which is called KUMARE. In this case, a person sets himself up as an Indian guru to demonstrate the power of belief, etc. Somewhat controversial.

http://www.kumaremovie.com/home/index.html

I have not seen it, so no idea how it comes off.

I also believe the ground will support me when I wake up in the morning. I agree that in living our daily lives, we can't totally avoid beliefs - nor should we oppress ourselves with big "shoulds" - like we shouldn't have any beliefs, we shouldn't have any attachments, we shouldn't have any stories.... those stories just add another layer of thoughts...... Of course, even the supportive ground - we all know that sometimes the ground is not supportive - i used to live in LA and went through their worst earthquake - so clearly the ground under our feet is only stable sometimes and sometimes not. But walking around thinking that at any minute i could be swallowed up by the earth is not very useful or workable. even if it's true.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Mon May 30, 2011 5:37 pm

Derren Brown, Miracles for sale:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nUrPWLxqJI&NR=1

Well worth seeing. Don't know if you can see it in UK.

There was an older series by DB, called, I think, Messiah. Just google "derren brown" messiah. He has lots of other shows, very clever and entertaining, but most of them don't deal with de-bunking various forms of beliefs.

My question is, don't we always only believe, in the end? I'm a skeptic, I guess. What we experienced yesterday gets worked over, interpreted today. What happens right now - how much of it is seen through the prism of previous assumptions?
Still, here we are, it's nice to be alive, for the most part. What more is there?
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Tue May 31, 2011 3:58 am

Olga,
During my teens I was deeply involved with an Evangelical Christian group; they used to say we were, Non-Denominational. I remember the moment when I decided to distance myself from this group, where I had thought I had so many great friends. It was at a faith healing service in our church with a visiting minister from the States. ( I live in the Vancouver, B.C. area, Canada). I felt suspicious of this visiting minister and decided to watch him carefully as well as watching the rest of the congregation. The church was packed, as if always was, standing room only with the choir stalls at the front of the church being filled with worshippers. I had a very good vantage point to view what was going on since I was seated at the front of the church in the choir stalls, facing the majority of the congregation.

When it was time for people to come forward for healing, numerous people came up and were healed as they were in the video you posted. The leg lengthening miracle was a popular healing that evening. Then a child, a young girl, came forward limping, with one leg obviously shorter than the other. The girl was truly lame whereas the others who were healed of this shorter leg syndrome walked up looking fine, no noticeable limping. I watched as the Healer prayed over this girl and placed his hands on her feet. Nothing happened yet everyone acted as if she were healed. The girl limped back to her seat with her parents, obviously not healed while people shouted, Praise be to Jesus and so forth. I could see it was a ruse and that the congregation was filled with people who desired to believe the girl was healed and they acted as if they were hypnotized by the Healer.

I left the church that night and never returned. I could see the damage a false healer could cause and the delusion of the crowd who wanted to believe. It hurt me to leave but I had to; truth demanded I not stay. I lost many of the people I thought were my friends. I was no longer in the fold so to speak, so I lost my identity as one of the group.

Years later I heard about one of these lost friends, that she had attended a faith healing meeting and had gone under the spirit when the person falls backwards as the faith healer merely touches their head. I kid you not, she fell backwards and badly broke her arm! Here she was at a faith healing and she became so injured she required a trip to the E.R. She ended up in the hospital requiring surgery to her arm. She missed work and lost much income as a result of this injury. I do not know if she continued to believe or not, or how people managed to get their heads around this botched faith healing.

I watched the 5 parts of the video you posted. It brought back some memories that I am grateful are in the distant past for me now! Thank you for posting this. Bye, waving, claire.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Tue May 31, 2011 7:31 am

Kozan, having read through the posts on this topic I find myself very much in tune with what you are saying.
As a teenager I really searched various branches of Christianity for some clue, as to the "meaning" of our existence. At that time I held the same sort of position regarding Awareness as Stephen Batchelor describes of himself.
This is his honest appraisal of life as he has experienced it.

When I found out about Buddhism the practice of zazen felt like a way to get down to something really real and I find this has proved to be true for me and has profoundly changed my life.
If you describe to a person who does not know, what the colour blue is like, no matter how descriptive your words are they will fail to really understand your "blue" experience. Only when they see blue for themselves will they understand what you are talking about..with gassho, Lesley
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:20 am

Hi Claire,
I don't actually have any experience with evangelicals. I was raised in a Lutheran family, very rational, and rather open; in a country (Czechoslovakia) where religion was persecuted. There were no super-ardent evangelicals there (if there were, they were in hiding).

The faith-healers, as you described them, and as Derren Brown exposes them, are criminals. They are leeches. My heart goes out to those fooled by them, even if they are partly complicit in the charade. It's easy to judge; but we're all where we're at, foolish half the time.
After seeing the DB thing, I googled Benny Hinn - my stomach heaves, honestly! I'm not very aware of these things (we don't have a TV, and I saw only Jim Bakker on TV at a friend's house, way back before he got busted), they don't impinge on me. I only feel that we all have faith and beliefs we don't suspect we have, and it's inevitable, and not all bad at all, in fact it may be very beneficial. And then it can be harmful. Questioning is essential; but sometimes, to trust at all, we must suspend that questioning for a bit. To everything there is a season.

Thank you, Claire for your post - it was education for me.
Luv, and wink, so we're not so serious,
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Wed Jun 01, 2011 9:29 pm

Hi Ol"ga,

Very strongly agree with your statement that "questioning is essential;but sometimes, to trust at all, we must suspend that questioning for a bit."

There are some things for which we can have no yardstick to measure. Mystical experiences, other openings to reality, are things that let us trust that a Divine Source exists, but they are not going to be provable to anyone else. To question everything sounds good. I don't think it necessarily is good. Like any other extreme position, it closes you off as much as it opens. It becomes cynicism. It eliminates the treasure of trust. I don't know how to have a spiritual practice without trust, because so much is beyond our understanding. There is no reason to think that anyone who works with intangibles like faith, trust, loyalty, are automatically fools, nor that those who question everything have any answers at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Thu Jun 02, 2011 12:26 am

Polly, very nicely put, your answer to Ol'ga, and yes, faith and trust is necessary in the spiritual questioning. Even in the Bible it is stated that unless you become as little children you will not be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven, which may simply mean that without faith, trust and humility you will not have access to realms that are beyond what is readily apparent.I do believe that children have a very fine discernment of what is good and what is not good, and even though deception may take place at times, it does not dishonor the "child".
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Thu Jun 02, 2011 2:09 am

Polly wrote:

Hi Ol"ga,

Very strongly agree with your statement that "questioning is essential;but sometimes, to trust at all, we must suspend that questioning for a bit."

There are some things for which we can have no yardstick to measure. Mystical experiences, other openings to reality, are things that let us trust that a Divine Source exists, but they are not going to be provable to anyone else. To question everything sounds good. I don't think it necessarily is good. Like any other extreme position, it closes you off as much as it opens. It becomes cynicism. It eliminates the treasure of trust. I don't know how to have a spiritual practice without trust, because so much is beyond our understanding.


Ol'ga and Polly--such good points! I agree that any extreme position closes us off.

For me, the value of questioning everything (and therefore including the questioning of the very concept of questioning everything!) boils down to the willingness to question all of my assumptions and beliefs, in order to be OPEN to that which is.

If questioning is a useful methodology, then trusting in (our) innate integrity (as I proposed earlier)* is, I think, what makes the process possible.

*(My comment posted on this thread above, on May 27th, 5:08 pm, final sentence).
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Thu Jun 02, 2011 11:02 am

Hi Kozan,

Yes, that addendum of not questioning your own integrity is the key that allows the process to work, to not turn into sheer cynicism and madness. Trust, faith and loyalty are two-way gifts, not an out for suckers and sloppy thinkers, though of course they can be used as such.

Bridgitte, we are in accord in our thinking, as we often are. That bit in the Bible is right on the money, I suspect. It is good to ask, but then we must be open to the answers that come. That's where your humility comes in.
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PostSubject: Re: Stephen Batchelor   Thu Jun 02, 2011 5:59 pm

Hi there Polly,

Yes it is really nice to see a thought expressed by someone else that accords so well with your own, and often I find myself laughing out loud at this or that statement by someone, that has a knack for putting things right in perspective. It is a talent and a gift to be able to say something with a light heart and yet get a point accross without offending anyone too much. It can be also often difficult to say something without possibly being completely misunderstood, because once it's out there you can;t retract it and edit, and no one will ever know what you "really" meant to say.
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