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Awakened misanthropy

It would be wise to revise the nature of misanthropy. If we stick to simple definitions and delve into their essence, much wisdom can be obtained from a view that holds an aversion to humanity, as crazy as that sounds.

Being this a buddhist website, the proposal I make might seem nonsensical. But if one remembers how the buddhist tantrikas transmuted poison into wisdom, it seems logical to assume misanthropy could also go through an alchemical process to reveal wisdom.

But first lets establish a framework we can work with. We need to start with the origins of the word: The greek term misos means hate, but it could also be seen as rejection, anger, aversion, fighting or violence. For this transmutation to work, we need to to simplify all these meanings, which can be seen as movements. Furthermore they could be seen as just one movement: one that intends to push away or destroy. If we think about it, that’s not too bad when we speak of getting rid of unwholesome habits.

We simply could say hate can be used to get rid of the bad, in order to be good. That’s pretty much how we all work if you think about it. But in spiritual terms, we cannot just simply hate the bad things that pop up every single day in our TVs, our Social Media or in our streets. To do so implies suffering. Just remember the last time you hated something and how unpleasant that feels. I call that human hate, which just by the mere fact that it is human, it is tainted hate. Many examples can be seen today: Leaders that kill thousands of people, incite to hate, all the way to activists that are full of anger towards the injustices they oppose. It is possible to become harmful even if our intentions are noble.

So if we are going to use hate to push away or destroy harmful habits, we have to get rid of the suffering or harmful aspect that is embedded in human hate. And this is where the second part of the word misanthropy makes sense: The anthropos, or human, is the condition needed to generate harmfulness and suffering. This is a hard pill to swallow, specially if we think of ourselves as beneficial (don’t we all). But the fact is, no matter how much we have advanced as species in the last 200,000 years, we are still harmful as hell. Of course if you don’t read or watch the news, you might be protected from facing this hard truth.

Yet this is well known and accepted in Buddhism. The Buddha discovered that, if we don’t reach liberation from the human condition, we suffer since the day we are born until the day we day. This is not bad news, it is just a fact. Please stay with me on this: We might have happy moments of course. But mostly, we do feel something unpleasant every single day.

Our likes and dislikes generate displeasure: we might be disgusted by foul odors, other times by a person’s ideas, or they music someone listens to. The list of things we can hate are infinite. Buddhism has laid out this over an over: Existence is suffering. Why? Because as humans we are sensitive. Period. Sense leads to feeling, and feeling leads to pleasant and unpleasant feelings. That’s all one needs to experience suffering.

The usual way to deal with this human aspect is either through anesthesia (substances, food, sex, content, videogames, gambling, money, stuff, etc.), which is not really a solution, or  by simply hating or avoiding the stuff we don’t find pleasurable. If we think about it, I guess that makes us all misanthropists: By simply thinking things like “God, I hate such and such person, or I hate the way (s)he talks, walks, dresses, thinks, etc.”, we can be sure conventional misanthropy is happening.

Of course we also hate many things non-human, like natural disasters. But I’d like to focus on our hate towards humanity because, if we are able to find a way not to suffer and not be harmful while we hate the unwholesome aspects of humanity, then there might be something valuable in misanthropy. It could be a kind of pure misanthropy, free of the human aspect that harms or is prone to suffering. I know, its weird to say this. It might even sound dangerous. But we have to get to this, otherwise our human misanthropy will lead us to fight agains each other’s faults or imperfections. The extreme example of this is nazism for instance: A struggle of one man to destroy human imperfection through human misanthropy. Of course it was doomed to failure.

But wow do we accomplish a benevolent, pure misanthropy that will actually transcend humanity’s harmfulness and proneness to suffering? Well, through love of course. True love I mean.

Beware, in this proposal I make love is not the opposite of hate. Love is not desire. It is not contrary to aversion. That is not love, that is just another way to harm ourselves. That kind of human tainted love is possessive, exclusive, jealous, impartial, fragmented. What I am talking about is different: it is love that is openness and basic space for everything and everyone. The kind of love I speak of is spacious willingness to end the unwholesome. So the key word here are “spacious”, “willing” and “open”. If we make it an action, such spacious and willing way of ending, is not in any way forceful or inflexible action that aims to end. Love here means naturally ending the unwholesomeness of humanity. We can begin by letting our concept of harmfulness end. There are plenty of techniques to accomplish this. Mindfulness of breath of course is the popular one. Become mindful of the way you breathe, while you are mindful of your harmful thoughts and they will end. The openness to the breathing process teaches one to become spacious and willing. It is in this space were thoughts find freedom to liberate themselves. And this space where harmfulness ends, is love.

Love could also be letting space form between us and our harmfulness. The key word here is “letting”. This action is effortless, just like ending. If you think about it, letting space form effortlessly is natural aversion. Much like the space that forms between an object in outer space that moves farther away from Earth. Such object naturally is generating aversion to Earth. We can apply this natural space we accumulate to generate natural aversion to unwholesomeness.

Of course one can argue, this natural aversion is not hating per se, because it lacks a human will to avert. And yes, that is true. But it is aversion nonetheless, in its purest form. So in my book, we can call it purified, organic, natural hate.

With this view, we must go to the root of human erratic hate to replace it with awakened wholesome hate, empty of suffering. The root, as mentioned before, is having likes and dislikes. This is so human. And again, to lose our likes and dislikes might sound horrible, but in Dharma, it is wholesome. The destruction of our preferences will open the door to a life without displeasure. How can human hate rise if there is no displeasure?

So let us destroy preferences but let’s do it in the same way we end harmfulness of hate, or in the same way we let space form between us and unwholesomeness. If we becoming willing to abandon the nourishment of preferences, these disintegrate little by little. Such organic way of tearing things apart has nothing to do with forced destruction. I am speaking of effortless destruction.

So now misanthropy can be equated with the spacious quality of love that destroys the harmful aspect of humanity, which is itself the cause of our inherent suffering. Should we then infer that we becoming less human in this way is good? Of course it is. And that’s ok because the goal in Dharma is to reduce harmfulness and increase wholesomeness in the most wholesome way possible.

Humanity as we know it, is harmful. Yet it would be stupid to get rid of humanity as humans tend to get rid of things. Better to use awakened, spacious misanthropy. This quality, as many other wholesome qualities, can be found the practice of meditation and the Buddhadharma.

Just sit and let humanity end. Act wholesomely and let harmful humanity inside you end. Become wise and let human ignorance end.

It’s really ok to think these things. Practice this.

The taste of basic goodness

Photo by Rupert Weis.

dharma Photo by Rupert Weis.

So recently I was invited to attend a training camp for social entrepreneurs, that aims to, as co-founder Raul de Anda said to me, “turn entrepreneurs into the next army of soldiers who will solve Mexico’s BFPs [Big Fucking Problems]”. Its called Unreasonable Mexico, and its based in Aguascalientes, Mexico. They hold a training camp every year, called Unreasonable Institute, where over 50 mentors and investors meet with 15 social entrepreneurs, to help them thrive and have a positive impact.

I was there for only 2 days and it blew my mind.

The ideas from these small companies are all amazing, and we can all check out what these brave people are doing to solve some of the most urgent problems in Mexico. I say “brave” because you have to have balls to quit high paying jobs to start your own company, to help solve the world’s biggest problems. Just to name a few:

Kessel: Produces heating systems that reduces 80% of the costs and, my favourite part, no maintenance is needed so users can become independent from centralised basic services.

Learny: Designs videogames that help children learn basic math, Spanish, biology, all in a fun way. Not only that, the platform can also calculate data related to the child’s natural skills, so parents and teachers can spot strengths and weaknesses. Pretty amazing if you ask me.

Gammakat: Turns garbage into diesel. Waste in Mexico is definitely a BFP, and Gammakat will do something about it. No more to say about this awesome project.

Dilo en señas: Badass app that teaches Mexican sing language to little kids that were born with hearing impairment, through tablets/smartphones. Language is crucial for intelligence development, so teaching it to kids at early ages is really important, otherwise they can’t develop their mind skills. By the time parents accept their child’s condition, adapt to it, and then learn sign language, a child has lost valuable time to develop the skills needed to do some critical thinking in life.

There are other projects (like providing healthcare for very poor communities, teaching teens to love problem solving and helping indigenous communities become profitable through selling their traditional arts and crafts) but there was something else I sensed that I haven’t felt before: Every single person around me, at the Unreasonable Institute, were good people. But not just nice people, they all emanated a truthful intention. You could sense it in their eyes, their voice, their mere presence.

It’s hard to put into words because it sounds like such a cliché, but the best way to put it is they were the real deal: Natural born healers.

You don’t have to be buddhist to be an actual bodhisattva. Sure, maybe they have issues, maybe they have imperfections like the rest of us, but these guys are basic goodness in the flesh.

I asked them: why did you leave your company in Europe, why didn’t you pursue a high paying job instead? They all answered, in their own words: because not helping is meaningless, because there is so much work to be done. Their authenticity made me feel stupid for just asking the question. It was a humbling experience.

After I left, I confirmed what I had been thinking a few months ago: Just like one doesn’t have to turn to orthodox buddhism to practice basic goodness, a sangha (wholesome community) does not have to be buddhist to exist and do good in the world.

In my first years as a buddhist I kept thinking everyone should have a taste of the buddhist teachings. After being with these guys in Aguascalientes, now I keep thinking everyone should have a taste of a genuine intention to help that is so hard to come by these days.

It transforms you. It shatters your inner pain and self-doubt. It messes with your mind in the best of ways.

So now my wish is: may all beings bump into a genuine wholesome beings like the people at Unreasonable Mexico.


Beyond buddhist Buddhism

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 19.00.23Buddhism is not from Tibet, it’s not from Japan. Although the Buddha was from India, its not from India either.

Yes, Tibetan Buddhism looks very Tibetan and its practiced in Tibetan by many, but thats because Buddhism, at the core, isn’t from any place at all and this allows it to flourish using any culture and language. Indeed as Nagarjuna said: “No Dharma whatsoever was ever taught by the Buddha to anyone.” And all that means it is this sacred teaching belongs to no one, it comes from nowhere and has no definitive form, so that it can be practiced by anyone, everywhere, anytime.

Aside from those realisations, if the Buddhadharma is as flexible as it is, then it can manifest in infinite ways. And it must do so. There aren’t enough Tibetan Masters to give enough empowerments to all those interested in Buddhism. Also, there are many that do not identify themselves with Tibetan culture.

Tibetanism shouldn’t be an obstacle for someone interested in the Dharma.

Since I wasn’t raised in a religious environment, I had no problem adapting to the Tibetan ways to learn and practice Buddhism. In Mexico, for instance, catholicism is the main religion and I have seen buddhists that are still strong believers of the Virgin Mary. Not that it is forbidden to believe in catholic saints, but the point is, Catholicism and Buddhism speak very different languages.

Moreover, I have atheist/agnostic friends that would make excellent buddhists, but since Buddhism is sometimes religious in its imagery and words, they simply do not see the benefits. One could argue this might be due to pre-conceived ideas, which is probably true in most cases, but beyond that, if the Dharma could be expressed in scientific or lay terms, more would see the benefits.

Furthermore, many more spiritual traditions can be “buddhified”, with a few adjustments. For example, if Tibetans have wrathful deities, could a goetic demon be dharmafied to serve as wrathful wisdom? Could a celtic path be expressed in terms of the Buddhist Middle Way (Madhyamaka)? Could the runes be expressed as buddha qualities? The sephira?

I believe all those traditions can be translated or at least equated with the Buddhadharma language. A hard task for sure, but worth exploring. Many would benefit if its expressed within their own semiotic system.


Meditation will hurt

imageIf you’re a seasoned yogi/HC meditator, by now you should be aware that meditation is not always the nice ride you thought it was. Maybe you’ve already traversed the deep meditative states known as jhanas and, after the blissful sensations they reveal, you still haven’t felt pain and tension. If this is the case, good.

If not, here’s my little contribution to the much needed written materials on how to deal with pain revealed by the practice of meditation. This is not a definite solution. It is just a list of conditions and circumstances that I’ve found to be the cause of physical pain.

Also, I am not speaking of injuries or other serious medical conditions. Those can only be dealt with proper medical treatment. I’m referring to the tension/pain that arises when we open up with our awareness and, if we work with it with right view, then it is liberated naturally. It seems to me that the tension felt in different places in the body, is not due to some underlying energy that decided to cause pain. In my opinion, based from experience, the headaches, jaw tension, the lump in your throat, pressure in the chest, back/neck/shoulders pain, between the eyes, saturation of  “electricity” in the stomach, and all the other unpleasant sensations that come up when meditating, are nothing more than mental intentions/orders/instructions/decrees/reactions/stubborn desires that have ran amok throughout the body.

So here’s a small list of such instances that I have found to cause pain when sitting.

Meditation will hurt when:

  • I want to control it.
  • I cling to an outcome that’s supposed to happen.
  • I continue to meditate when I know I’m supposed to be doing something else.
  • I cling to the conceptual characteristics of physical reality, like for instance: solidity, distance, and volume of my organs, bones, fluids, organic tissue, skin, etc.
  • I believe I am doing something wrong and I must correct it.
  • I believe I am someone, different from everybody else.
  • I cling stubbornly to the story of my life and who I am.
  • I fear losing reason.
  • I fear losing physical references.
  • I fear death.
  • I fear life.
  • I don’t sleep when I need to.
  • I don’t eat when I need to.

Meditation will not hurt when:

  • I lose control of it all.
  • I give up all preconceptions of what’s supposed to happen.
  • I stop doing sitting meditation when the time is right, and continue doing the chores I’m supposed to do.
  • I drop concepts of physical reality.
  • I quit trying to correct all “imperfections”.
  • I drop the “self” concept AND drop also the things I consider not to be “self”
  • I realize the story of my life is just another arbitrary conceptual construction and drop it.
  • I’m ok with losing reason and logic
  • I’m ok with losing all physical references.
  • I’m ok with living and dying.
  • I sleep when I need to, and I eat when I need to.

There’s more to it of course but, this will do to give you just a hint. I will also add that, in time, if you receive teachings and continue practice with appropriate moderation, the pain will subside.