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 Think of Iain

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mokuan



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PostSubject: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 18, 2011 11:38 am

Hello Everyone,

Just to let you know that Iain, who posted here occasionally, has died of a heart attack.

Let's keep him close in our thoughts and wish him well on his way.

mokuan
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 18, 2011 2:01 pm

oh Mokuan, thank you for letting us know. I'm sorry to hear this - Iain was a nice man and a pleasure to have with us on the forum. He will be missed.

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Robert
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 18, 2011 4:53 pm

Thanks for passing that on Mokuan. He will indeed be missed.
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Tue Jul 19, 2011 12:43 am

Mokuan, I add my thanks as well.

I had visited Iain's blog months ago, and enjoyed it very much. And I found that visiting it again today became a much appreciated reconnection. Iain's wife Edera has provided some additional postings since Iain's hospitalization and passing.

For those interested, his blog, Little House in the Paddy, can be found at:

http://littlehouseinthepaddy.blogspot.com

On a bittersweet note, Iain had recently completed his Doctorate (15 months ago, although the actual ceremony was on June 29th 2011), and welcomed his first grandchild into the world (June 10th).
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:34 am

When my well-loved brother-in-law died, my youngest step-daughter's comment was, 'What a drag!'. I find death extremely difficult to comprehend, where embracing impermanence seems to fall short.

My heart goes out to Iain's family. I enjoyed his well-argued posts on the forum. We are losing an interesting and original angle.

Ol'ga
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:05 am

Thanks for letting us know, It must be awful for his wife and family,I did not know him, but read his posts, he was a very sincere Buddhist,I feel quite shocked and his wife family and friends must be devastated
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:25 am

Thanks Kozan for posting the link to Iain's website. From what I can see, he was a lovely, wise man who lived a rich life. Such a shame that he's passed, and so sad for his family and friends.
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:28 pm

I've just heard that Iain's funeral will take place this Sunday at Throssel.

RM Mugo cut short her visiting tour of North America, to return to England, when she learned of Iain's passing.
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:40 am

I also want to extend my sincerest condolences to Iain's family and friends.

He was a perceptive guy, and it wasn't hard to imagine from afar a decent and loving one as well.
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mokuan



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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:12 pm

Today they held funeral services for Iain. And though I only knew him from his posts here and his delightful blog, I have been thinking of him all day. I have been thinking of death, too.

What really happens when we die?

Heaven and hell? I don't think so.
Rebirth or reincarnation? I'm not sure about that either.

The Buddhist teaching of impermanence is certainly evident in our daily lives. I know that who I am today may not be who I am tomorrow if I suffer a stroke or get Alzheimer's like Chisan's mom. And although particle physics suggest that we are recycled to some degree, what about the very essence of our individuality, that which makes me, me and you, you?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if when we die we could find those that we've loved, and lost through death, just as they were when we loved them here? I don't think that's going to happen either.

And although we were taught that our most important question is how to understand birth and death, I'm wondering if the question has any merit whatsoever. Who really knows what it's all about? And would it make a difference if we did?

Dear friends, I pose these questions to you. And Iain, if you are some place, I wish you well.

mokuan
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Sun Jul 24, 2011 9:06 pm

Mokuan, such good questions!

"What really happens when we die?

Heaven and hell? I don't think so.
Rebirth or reincarnation? I'm not sure about that either."

I would say that answering the question for oneself comes down to how we experience the essence of our being, moment to moment, right now. (This may be either the same as, or close to, what you meant by "the essence of our individuality").

Also, the answer, or the knowing, that arises for me, cannot be "proven" in any way. And, I'm afraid that it does not include any details about what might be a spectrum of very different possible experiences, which have been suggested in the Tibetan Book of the Dead forinstance.

With all of that said, the essence seems very simple to me. I would say that with death, with the physical dropping away of the particular mind-body with which one's awareness has been identified during this lifetime, awareness simply dissolves back into Awareness itself (where it always is).

Or, more metaphorically, the river returns home to the sea--the wave returns home to the ocean.

At any rate, for what it's worth, that's the way my mind has processed the experience of awareness.
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Sun Jul 24, 2011 9:22 pm

Hello Mokuan
And although we were taught that our most important question is how to understand birth and death, I'm wondering if the question has any merit whatsoever. Who really knows what it's all about? And would it make a difference if we did?

Kozan's posting shines through as usual with the simple clarity & compassion that seems his hallmark.

Hey Mokuan, I think some of your questions come with a pre lit fuse.

With every passing year the answers to those questions seem less important than the question itself.

What follows is probably bad Buddhism in some circles but it might explain what occupies a plumbers brain when he's got that far away look when he should be concentrating on your pipes. (How to understand life & death) or is there a recognizable existence after death!

While I do see some value in these questions, the historical elusiveness of a credible answer to what happens after death provides it's own convincing argument of just how conditional our human consciousness is to our being alive.

I suspect that human consciousness is simply another evolutionary development that has furthered our species survivability and our attempts to give it wings beyond our cellular death is really only another example of our difficulty in accepting how truly ethereal we already are. I mostly experience myself as a loose collection of forces, with little consistancy beyond conditioning so it is hard to see any possibility of staying cohesive enough to continue as a recognaisable identiy when all of that dissolves.

I see true suffering arising from our lack of acceptance of this possibility just as I do with all the heart felt encouragement to the bereaved that we'll all eventually be partying on the other side. My brain is still quite capable of providing all manner of pros & cons to this view but when I'm able to get out of its way, this is all that seems to be left over.

This may also explain why plumbers charge so much for so little actual work done.

Now I'm going to pass this posting on to the next writer with a much shorter smoldering fuse..

Cheers All
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:37 am

Belief in our continuing on in some way after death presupposes that there is some part of the mind that is not of the brain. But, as diseases like dementia (which is currently in my family) and Alzheimer's show, along with face-blindness and the other 100,000 things that can be wrong or go wrong in the brain, there doesn't seem to be very much about our minds that isn't completely dependent on brain function. Most of us know about people who completely change in late age, become violent or cruel, or become pale shades of themselves. In fact we can lose every single mental faculty that we have, and lose all of our memories of everything we hold dear, and our medulla can still keep us alive by sending signals to our heart and lungs. Yet many people seem to believe that once we really die, once the heart gives out and the lungs fail, many of our mental faculties will somehow reassemble in the absence of neurons, and we will be ourselves again, almost as if the self was something permanent.

So, whence the "soul", and if it exists--really exists, mind you, and not as poetry or as metaphor for the (demonstrably mortal) mental pith of a person--how come we can't find it?

Socrates is reported to have argued that if nothing continues on after death, then the state of death will be no worse than what it was before we were born. I try to be indifferent to such a state, but it does calm down my fear of death to contemplate that we have all already spent about 13.7 billion years in non-existence. We've already been there for a very long time. So what's a while longer, and what's the big deal?

Yet Socrates, because of his wisdom (and our luck that some smart folks in Al-Andalus kept copies of his words where the Christian church could not burn them), has lived on such that virtually every western child learns something about him, and about the lengths to which some people are willing to go to uphold the virtue of speaking the truth (as well as you can determine it) to authority, for which he was martyred.

This is immortality worth working for: be a good example, or discover some new knowledge or wisdom and share it. Even if we are like the vast majority of people whose names are forgotten within 100 years of their lives, the virtuous impressions that we make on others will still be getting re-imprinted on future generations.

I also think that those who give false consolations about something more after this life are not helpful. Yet if holding on to a wish is all that's keeping you out of the black pit of despair then by all means keep firm hold of that wish. But in general such daydreaming can so easily distract from the here and now which is where and when life is really taking place. Sometimes I fervently daydream of a beautiful house I saw online, for which I'll never make enough money to own. Oh how great if it were mine!

(I don't fault the Zen Buddhism that I have been taught on this point: the notion of karmic rebirth is not at all like a person is actually coming back to life, but rather that the bad thought-habits you leave behind will have to be overcome by someone else. They have to clean up your mess. Nor do I really fault the notion of the atman, or of dissolving back into consciousness itself, because there again the self is completely eliminated, although listening to some believers in these ideas one suspects they hold a secret hope of retaining identity after dissolution even though that ought to be impossible by definition.)


Last edited by ddolmar on Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:40 am; edited 4 times in total
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:13 am

Excellent points Dan. I couldn't agree more that there is no permanent self, or soul, or thing that continues after death. But what about that which is your awareness itself?

Which is to say, not your mind, not your consciousness, but that which is aware of form, sensation, thought, activity, and consciousness?

Scientific reductionism seems to assume that awareness is somehow a product of the body-mind, a product of existence. I contend that this assumption has no supporting evidence.

I propose to you that your awareness--or more precisely, that which is your awareness itself, transcends, and precedes, life, death, and existence itself.

And that this is a basic point of agreement shared by the mystics of all spiritual traditions, however varied their expression of it may be.

What say you? ;-)
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:43 am

Kozan--I don't know, and I don't quite believe that the mystics are in a position to really know, either, regardless of their spiritual advancement. When you look at the specific teachings of the mystics about "the lay of the land" after death (in the Book of the Dead, or the Kabbalah, or from the Sufis), they make radically different truth claims about what the experience will be "like". I don't expect or even want to change your beliefs on the matter, but doesn't it seem like they ought to converge at more points if they are describing the same thing? Either we will eventually really be reborn from lotus flowers in a Western Paradise (per the Pure Land tradition), or we won't. Either there will be six lights of different colors that will draw us to rebirth in various realms, or not.

Also, I can't find any room between the "soul" and "awareness" as you have defined it, in terms of the after-death aspect. And I can't find any room between either consciousness or attention, and "awareness" as you have defined it, in terms of the subjective experience of being alive. Can you shed some light? Smile

When I am in deepest sleep, when my brain is really off-line except for the necessities, I am pretty much unaware of almost everything. What are the chances that my awareness will be even more deeply in a null state when, instead of just a few axons firing, there are none at all? What is awareness except for what your senses are telling you? Can you possibly have it without a brain to receive that sensory input? When would (famous brain-dead patient) Terri Schiavo's awareness have left her: at the moment her heart stopped beating (i.e., her husband and the courts murdered her by taking her off the machines); or, at the earlier moment her higher-than-life-support brain functions ceased?



Can we be aware of being unconsciousness? If consciousness and awareness were different, and if awareness were the antecedent faculty, then we should be able to. I guess we can be aware of being in a dream, but that seems more like consciousness intruding upon the sleeping mind than it is being aware of the fact that no one's currently at home (so to speak).


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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:00 am

Dan, with respect to your first paragraph above, you might re-read my first post of this evening. I have no knowledge of, interest in, or speculation about, what after death experience will be "like" from the perspective of ego-centered perception. I suspect that such speculation is often difficult to separate from cultural preconception.

You wrote:

Also, I can't find any room between the "soul" and "awareness" as you have defined it. Can you shed some light? Smile

That which is your awareness itself is (metaphorically) like a mirror that reflects the thoughts, feelings, intuitions, and sensations you perceive--the content of which we often refer to as "consciousness". As in the metaphor of the mirror, the mirror of awareness reflects the images that appear within it, and yet is not reducible to either the objects, or our physical means, of perception.

Meditation makes it possible to begin to experience some "room", or space, between the contents of our perception, and that which is aware of what is perceived.

When awareness identifies as the mind-body-self we are nothing but an ego.

As letting go occurs, awareness still identifies with our mind-body, but with far greater transparency. It is this functional identity of awareness with mind-body that makes (IMO) functional human life, and indeed, functional living organisms, possible. In my experience, as meditation deepens, there is a level of awareness that remains even during sleep.

In the title of the scripture, The Most Excellent Mirror--Samadhi, the "mirror of samadhi" refers specifically to Awareness itself, experienced as meditation itself. If awareness was not intrinsic to the transcendent, to empty immaculacy, mystics would have nothing to report!

Anyway, just some quick thoughts in response. I hope they make sense. (With the lateness of the hour, even though awareness is willing, body and mind are flagging, and I will have to check for spelling and grammatical errors in the morning!)
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:43 am

Thanks Kozan. Get some rest.



In the meantime, I tried to sneak in a couple of additional questions in my last post, which I will pose again:



[I] can't find any room between either consciousness or attention, and "awareness" as you have defined it, in terms of the subjective experience of being alive.



Can we be aware of being unconscious? If consciousness and awareness were different, and if awareness were the antecedent faculty, then we should be able to. We can be aware of being in a dream, but that seems more like consciousness intruding upon the sleeping mind than it is being aware of the fact that no one's currently at home (so to speak).
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Stan Giko

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:59 am

Hi ddolmar or Dan if I may use that name ?,

I saw your question of "Can we be aware of being unconscious ?" and I have
something of an answer from my own experience. A couple of years ago, I fell
from a height onto a rocky path. My wife tells me I was completely unconscious
for about ten minutes. Whilst she was panicking and trying to get me to wake
up, I did notice that I was aware of the condition I was in. It was somewhat
like being buried alive in a coffin. The option of movement, speech,hearing was
not apparent to me. It was just complete stillness with the senses switched off.
The feeling was of darkness but not in a visual sense but as if all is normal. The
only thing that seemed faintly absent was a need for any kind of responce to the present state.

Eventually something became apparent. I heard my name being called over and over from what seemed like a long distance away. I could not respond and felt
no need . Eventually, with more calling , it became obvious that it was a voice
that was calling me but I still could not respond...again, it did not feel like I had
a problem of any sort. More calling......It`s my Wife Maggi ! Why is she bothering me ?? More calling and prodding and a bit of irritation on my part.
My eyes open and Maggi`s saying " are you alright ? I was so worried !"

I`m definitely back but I still can`t move. Another five minutes or so and I get
all my feelings back and start getting up.....All seems well. No headache even.
I guess my head`s harder than the rock I fell on ! My wife reckons so anyway!

The whole thing felt like I was asleep and most definitely awake at the same
time. Not unpleasant really.

Thats how it was for me anyhow. I don`t recommend you try this at home !!

Bye the way, just for a bit of fun, Can we be aware of being aware ?

Best wishes, Stan.
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Jimyo

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:14 pm

A good friend of mine, now over 80, tells people she's looking forward to death because she really, really wants to know what happens! For some reason they tend to get upset by this. But she's not into speculation and neither am I.

Just my twopennorth.
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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:06 pm

I like that, Jimyo, very much.
When my grandmother, Babinka, was in her late eighties, I would asked her, where she thinks she would be going when she dies. She'd say, Why should I worry about that, let God worry about it. She was totally unruffled. Even though she was a pastor's wife, she was not particularly religious, seldom went to church. A favourite saying of hers used to be, "Vsetko sa mine", Everything will pass.
I learned of her dying by telegram on New Year's Day when I was a monk at Shasta.

I think what we find painful - maybe even not acceptable, or inconceivable - is passing away of that which we identify with. That way death is a bummer!
People are able to lay their life for a cause they believe in. In their vision the cause lives on.
My own death is so far an abstraction for me, so I don't have any strong feelings about it. However, I lost some people who were very close to me, my Dad and Mom, and others. It's not easy.
If I can see - NOT as an abstraction, but as a fact - that we are one, it's a different matter. I can always 'practice' that understanding by seeing it as truth already now.
O.
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:07 pm

Some of the postings here are a bit of a challenge but tasty!

Sometimes my zafu whispers that
awareness connected to a mind/body identity is a reflection of ego in the same way that awareness connected to the transcendent is just anti-ego. Both of these polar identity connections are the leashes that need to be meditatively dropped for awareness to illuminate itself.

This illumination is not a manifestation of focus or concentration but simply arises unbiden in the absence of our own fiddling intent.

Anybody know how to muzzel a zafu?

Cheers
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Think of Iain    Mon Jul 25, 2011 6:38 pm

Well, gee, Howard, I'm not sure another should answer such a personal question.

But you could try sitting on it. (sorry, I should give warning)

*****************************************

Thanks for your thoughts, Stan, Jimyo, Ol'ga, Howard. I still don't see any reason to believe that anything continues on save in the minds of those left behind that we affect. And consciousness might just as well be the faculty that can intrude upon a knocked out person (Stan), at least as well as awareness. Or maybe consciousness is the outward appearance--what other people can say about you--for the interior experience called awareness? Regardless of the hair splitting, it doesn't seem to me like either one can be separated from the brain and still function.

I claim the right to sit and be skeptical of all mystical claims. And I know y'all well enough by now to have faith in your tolerance.
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