Cup of Nirvana Philosophical and Contemplative Explorations

Author Archives: Michaelsudduth

Ode to Autumn – the Sweetest Freedom

So today is the first day of Autumn, just when I thought she was in the past. But Autumn always returns, and I’m learning to embrace her presence afresh each time with an open acceptance, whether accompanied by joy or sorrow.  She’s just a season, though Keats perhaps thought she was a goddess. Like the waves upon the sea, the breath upon my lips, the rising of a craving, the blooming of a flower, the passion of a lover, Autumn comes and goes. Impermanence. That’s the basic truth. That’s the deal. And yet she remains my beautiful teacher, and my love for her abides.  She nails this painful truth into my heart. I let her cut me and bleed me into gratitude and peace, and then I am free – the sweetest freedom.
 
(1) My pursuit of personal healing was suspended the moment my attention was drawn to the deer outside my window. In the clear seeing of the deer, the clear hearing of a Blue Jay, or the clear tasting of a piece of chocolate, all seeking stops, if only for a moment, because it’s known in that moment that nothing, absolutely nothing, is in need of repair. This is the sweetest freedom.
 
(2) It’s difficult, if not impossible, for my mind to accept that there is no “me” at the center of my life. Indeed, even in the confession of this, it’s assumed that there is some “center,” that there really is something there called “my life.” In fact there isn’t. There is just life happening. And in the clear seeing of this there is nothing left but surrender – the sweetest freedom.

(3) In these moments when we are the silent surrender, the nameless, formless watcher, our personal story dissolves and we are utterly present.  There is a clear seeing of life as it is, free from “should haves” and “could haves.”  It’s seen that there is life happening all around us – fish swimming, children laughing, waves crashing, seasons changing, sun setting, despair rising – a dynamic unfolding that is veiled by the mind’s self-propelled drama.  It prevents us from seeing this beauty and dancing with it, and yet the dance continues.  Our personal story is but one movement in life’s eternal song. Play on and be free – the sweetest freedom.
 
(4) The mind will be utterly disturbed by the possibility that its pursuit of “healing” or “recovery” is just the addict re-appearing in a new form. The core psychological element in all addiction is the compulsive seeking of happiness, completion, or satisfaction in something outside oneself.  The path of healing or recovery is often simply another form of this. Identity-seeking under the guise of “personal healing” often reproduces, howbeit in a more subtle form, the intrinsically anxiety-ridden project of making life OK.  So I just relax.  I hold on to nothing. I let go of nothing. Everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be.  This is the sweetest freedom.
 
(5) Strive for your freedom, but then simply stop it.  Work for your personal healing, but then just stop it.  Do the 12-Step Program, but then just stop it.  Practice Zen, but then just stop it.  Pray to Jesus, but then crucify him.  Chant Hare Krishna, and then jump into the ocean and swim.  Whatever you’re doing, especially whatever you’re doing for attainment, just stop it.  I want you to see your search as a lie, your quest for psychological wholeness as a deep delusion, your god as really the devil, and ‘Zen’ as just a word.  I want you to throw away the japa beads, incense, holy books, daily affirmation cards, and murtis  When the curtain finally falls on your little drama, there’s only one thing left to do.  It’s what you’ve been doing all along. It’s what you’ve been looking for all along. Breathe – this is the sweetest freedom.
 
(6) What’s in a breath? A child playing in the sand. A young woman singing to her cat.  The philosopher deconstructing arguments.  The gardener planting flowers. The lover laughing.  Cook cooking. Actor acting.  Dancer dancing.  Poet writing. Tear drop falling. Lover leaving.  Gods dying. Devils being born.  What’s in a breath? Your redemption. Your Self – the sweetest freedom.
 
(7) Everything you are in this very moment – your love, your hate, your joy, your sadness, your health, your addiction – it’s all an expression of the Absolute – the sweetest freedom.
 
(8) Recovery and healing take no effect until you reach the other side of nothing.  And having reached the other side of nothing, everything – music, therapy, cooking, and even your deep delusion – is a celebration and exploration of the beauty that has always been your nature.  There is nothing to recover, only the present to discover. This is the sweetest freedom.
 
(9) Ride upon the wings of the seagull as it soars through the air and then crashes into the sea. The bird that carries you also drops you into the deep. And there you sink into the cold frigid depths and die in the silence of a perpetual unseen night. Your final moments pass, not in fear or rage, against the ocean or the sky, or against the feather that dropped you like a stone. No. Your final moments pass in the warmth of your lover’s embrace, for the last thing remembered is the first thing known, God’s loving kiss: the memory of having soared the skies with birds, indeed having seen your face upon the waves of yesterday’s tears into which you passed and eternally dissolved. You are free – the sweetest freedom.
 
(10) The darkness is one man’s suicide; the other man’s salvation. But it’s undeniably everyone’s nature. This darkness, whether appearing as sorrow dipped in chocolate or joy rising into a night sky, is the sweetest freedom.

(11) Sometimes truth appears as a gentle butterfly.  Sometimes truth appears as a raging hurricane.  Sometimes truth appears as a butterfly in a hurricane.  Sometimes truth appears as the realization that the butterfly and hurricane are non-different, just as ocean and wave, singer and song, lover and beloved, life and death, samsara and nirvana are one.  This is the sweetest freedom.
 
(12) Now dear Autumn, having taught me these fundament truths, I kiss the night into which you passed.  I closed my eyes and entered  silence.  I opened my eyes and you were there.  I now see you as you truly are.  You are emptiness in which longing has taken form, but you must ever change the color of the leaves.  Form is emptiness, and so form can be reborn, form into form, emptiness dancing.  Change is the thing.  So kiss me one last time, like a butterfly that lands upon my nose.  Sing to me one last time, as the music stops our minds.  Give me your frigid breath, which chills me to life and then to death.  Like you, I too dance as emptiness taking form, form into form, dependent and yet independent, eternal shapeshifter perpetually reborn in karma’s trembling hand.  Dance with me or dance but not with me. Either way, you’re a lover, and I’m a lover.  And every lover is essentially a dancer. This is the play, and this is how the drama plays out.  This is life happening.  This is the sweetest freedom.

Michael Sudduth

One Love

 

This is a poem I composed earlier in the summer. Like all material from the unconscious, what is revealed at a particular time is more clearly understood retrospectively at some later time. – Michael Sudduth

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Love

I. 

In the movement of the city night, 
the foot of silence takes its pace 
from the fragile orchid
in the hand of grace.

Now loving hence knowing hence being
all things as they arise and fall,
formless, shapeless spirit
Consciousness of all. 

Manifested here as you and me,
krishna-radha, shiva-shakti,
lovers dancing behind
the veil of beauty.

II.

Hand in hand this concrete path we walk.
Each step’s symbolic power
Transforms our dream into
Petals of a flower 

Falling like rain upon our desires
Soaking us with the scent of roses
Our wet bodies touching
Whatever the “I” discloses.

My eye, your eye, our eye is one eye.
Projecting out and taking in
this world of dualities
and returning within.

III.

Penetrating each other’s mind
we conceive the portrait
drawn by the Force’s hand.
this drama of past and future,
whose boundary is Now,
in which an entire life is lived

And so we walk the pathless path,
as breath falls upon breath,
on tranquil shades of night,
the brilliant shades of light,
as the black upon the white

Here is the center of the world,
the foot of the sacred cross,
where the two become one,
The beating of the sacred heart,
the center of the sun.

IV.

Let us take the forward step,
You and me – face to face,
gentle touch of our feet upon the ground,
where truth is realized without a sound.
And the Force called God or the Absolute,
is playing here as you and me,
laughing at the feet of Christ,
dancing on pineapples,
drinking the sweet nectar
that flows from our beating hearts.
Our legs and arms intertwined,
whether on concrete slabs or moistened grass,
the laughter and tears are one.

Feeling the beauty of detached love,
wholly you, wholly not. 
Chanting Yes and No
to the call of our bodies,
suffering and then dissolved.
Our two minds, our two hearts,
two halves of a single face
that has descended from above,
Self into self, self into Self
one seeing,
one knowing,
one love.

– Michael Sudduth

Near-Death Experiences – Evidence for Survival?

I’ve commented rather extensively in earlier blogs and various publications over the past few years on empirical arguments for postmortem survival from the data of mediumship. A number of people have asked me about near-death experiences, which constitute another strand of alleged empirical evidence for life after death.  Although it receives extended treatment in my book in progress, I wanted to offer some brief comments here on near-death experiences, or more specifically on the formalities of the argument from near-death experiences to the conclusion that consciousness, our individual consciousness, survives the death of our body.

In the paradigmatic near-death experience (NDE), at least those adduced as evidence for life after death, a living person has an out-of-body experience, typically in the context of some medical crisis such as cardiac arrest. The person seems to view the world from a position outside his or her body, and he often has some “other worldly” experience of a tunnel and encountering a being of light. Encountering deceased friends and/or loved ones and having a life review are also common features of these experiences.

The more interesting cases are those in which subjects are able to provide accurate descriptions of events that took place while they were unconscious or events that were outside their sensory perceptual field during the incident, for they claim to have “seen” or “heard” what was happening, even though they apparently could not have acquired this information through any ordinary means.  The events might be conversations that took place in the operating room between the medical staff or between family members in the waiting room. Or they might report “seeing” some incident that took place nearby or “seeing” a certain object in a particular location, though they have no sensory access to the events or objects.

Are these kinds of experiences evidence for life after death?

I. NDEs as Weak Evidence for Life after Death

I’ve argued in several places that empirical arguments for survival, which include arguments for survival from NDEs, lack cogency. By this I don’t mean that the empirical facts are not evidence for life after death, only that they don’t provide very good evidence for this claim. More precisely stated, survivalists who claim that NDEs provide good evidence for survival have not adequately shown this to be the case. 

As I see it, there is no real debate about whether there is evidence for life after death. And this is true also for the data collected from NDEs.  The data are evidence for life after death, but in much the same way that the existence of blue objects is evidence for the existence of a god with a blue-object fetish who created the world. How so?  

On a widely held view of evidence discussed in confirmation theory, if a hypothesis H leads us to expect some datum, D, and D is borne out by experience, then D is evidence for H. Otherwise stated, D raises the probability of H in this situation. Most of the recent literature on survival of death from near-death experiences at best shows that the experiences of people who have had near-death experiences is what we would expect if consciousness survives death and retains many of its current properties.  In much the same way, the observation of blue objects is what we would expect if a god with a blue-object fetish created the world. If you don’t like this hypothesis, choose another, like a god who has a suffering, four-legged animal, or rock fetish.  If you don’t care for gods, how about a demon hypothesis:  my drawing an Ace of Spades from a deck of cards is evidence that there exists a very powerful demonic entity who intended me to pick that card as an omen of my quickly approaching demise.

II.  Stronger Evidential Claims

There being evidence for a hypothesis in the sense just outlined above is a weak kind of evidential support. It does not show that the hypothesis in question has a net plausibility that would suffice for its rational acceptance. In the case of the survival hypothesis, it’s the stronger claim that the majority of survivalists want to make on behalf of the alleged evidence for survival.  Indeed, some of them – Robert Almeder for example – want to claim, that the evidence for survival is so strong that it would be irrational to reject the hypothesis. (Almeder argues this specifically with reference to the data suggestive of reincarnation). I find these kinds of claims implausible and extravagant to say the least, and the arguments offered on their behalf are not very well thought out.  Indeed, in much of the literature, the argument for survival from NDEs is at best implicit, not carefully laid out, which of course allows a host of questionable assumptions to go wholly unnoticed.

If we return to the comparison between inferences to survival (from NDEs) and inferences to blue-color fetish makers of the world (from the existence of blue objects), an important shared feature of these two inferences is that they each involve a prediction about the way the world should look if the hypothesis is true, but – and this is the crucial part – the relevant prediction depends on an auxiliary hypothesis for which there is no independent evidence. The existence of demons does not lead us to expect the selection of any particular card in the deck, and the existence of a world maker or god does not by itself lead us to expect the existence of blue-colored objects in the world.  One must add something extra, fill out the basic hypothesis with additional hypotheses, in these cases hypotheses that attribute certain intentions to the entity whose existence the observational datum is supposed to confirm.

The survival of the self or our individual consciousness does not lead us to expect the data associated with NDEs. Survivalists must also assume that if consciousness should survive death, then it would have substantial continuity with our present consciousness, and that (at least some) survivors would retain their ante-mortem ability to acquire knowledge about the empirical world, but in the absence of their physical body. Without these minimal assumptions we would not expect even the most general features of NDEs. Similarly, blue-object fetish theologians must assume that the postulated Maker has intentions that are strongly continuous with the kinds of intentions that terrestrial makers have, for example, preferences for certain colors, shapes, etc.  But neither assumption can be independently tested.  We don’t know the relevant properties of consciousness if it should survive death anymore than we know the general or specific intentions of possible world-designers if they should exist.

And the matter is more dire for the survivalist, for there is virtually no limit to the kinds of auxiliary hypotheses one can think up such that (a) they are not independently testable and (b) when added to some non-survival hypothesis, they lead us to expect precisely the same kinds of observations as the survival hypothesis.  This is why survivalist criticisms of appeals to living-agent psychic functioning, like extra-sensory perception, carry little force. If the survivalist is free to postulate whatever auxiliary hypotheses are needed to bring observational data into the right fit with the survival hypothesis, those proposing “counter-explanations” are free to do precisely the same thing.  Consequently, it cannot plausibly be argued that the evidence clearly favors the survival hypothesis over non-survival counter-explanations.

Finally, there are many non-independently testable auxiliary hypotheses such that if we were to add them to the hypothesis that “individual consciousness survives death,” the expanded hypothesis would not lead us to expect any of the near-death experience data adduced in favor of survival. Maybe survivors will not be able to recognize deceased loved ones, communicate with them, have perceptual experiences of the empirical world, whether from above the hospital bed or anywhere else for that matter, or perhaps they would not retain knowledge of out-of-body experiences after being revived.

III.  The State of the Debate 

The moral of the story, which I think best captures the state of the empirical debate concerning survival, is as follows:

First, it’s pretty easy, all too easy, to generate non-survival hypotheses that lead us to expect the same data that the survival hypothesis leads us to expect.  So, if we can’t test the auxiliary hypotheses enlisted to derive the relevant predictions, we don’t know that the relevant observational evidence favors a particular survival hypothesis over any number of non-survival hypotheses.

Second, it’s pretty easy, all too easy, to generate survival hypotheses that don’t lead us to expect the relevant data borne out by experience.  So, if we have no way independently to test auxiliary hypotheses, we don’t know whether the relevant observational evidence confirms or disconfirms the idea that consciousness survives death.  Everything depends on what assumptions are made  in addition to the simple supposition that consciousness, even my individual consciousness, survives death.

The problem of auxiliary hypotheses remains the most formidable challenge to formulating an empirical argument for survival, that is, if survivalists wish to produce an argument that amounts to something more than presenting reasons for a conclusion that no one, survivalist or skeptic, is prepared to deny.

Michael Sudduth

Dancing Lovers

“You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer.”
                                              – Paul McCartney

 

I. Love is a Dance

When I strip away all the romantic drivel and idealistic bullshit that buries our ability to distinguish fact from fiction, I see very clearly that one person loving another person, even in the most committed relationship, is just a shared and often clumsy dance to a common song that plays for a time. The dance may be brief, or it may last many years. It may even occupy a large period of one’s overall life.  Eventually, however, it will end, because, in the words of the Buddha, “whatever arises also passes away.”  So enjoy the dance with all the passion you can muster, but remember, it’s just a dance, just a dance.
 
You and I are utterly irrelevant in this thing called “love,” just as we are utterly irrelevant in the vastness of the cosmos, its evolution, and eventual annihilation.  The cosmos is the dance.  What is happening right now is this dance.  What you call your “self” is a movement in the dance, and so in the dance and expressing it, but in an important sense utterly irrelevant to it.  It isn’t that you exist and this “you” is irrelevant.  It’s that there is no “you” there in the first place to be either relevant or irrelevant.  Phenomena we call thoughts, feelings, and sensations – Yes. But at the heart of these experiences there is no “you” to be found. An apparent you – Yes.  There is only emptiness that manifests now and then as the person you take yourself to be.  When it is clearly seen that “I” am absent, life becomes playful, and this playfulness is the precondition for experiencing love as the dance.

 

For a long time I thought that what made love so difficult was impermanence, the impermanence of the world, self, and thus all relationships.   I’ve concluded that what makes love so difficult is actually the belief and subsequent interest in permanence and the acquisition of an identity from the apparent other.  The problem isn’t that the world (or our experience) is a particular way, namely impermanent.  It’s that we are attached to it being something or someway other than it is.  From this arises the belief that impermanence threatens rather than enhances or enriches love and relationships.

II. She is not My Other Half
 

What does this “being in love” mean?  Among other things, a most powerful, very powerful attraction.  What does this attraction mean? 

If I truly understand what my attraction to her means, I will clearly see that it’s not a call to get something from her that I lack within myself; rather, it’s a revelation of what must be sought within myself.  Her beauty truly lies concealed within my own heart as my own inner beauty. She is perhaps a poet, maybe a singer, a repository and transmitter of eternal wisdom, or a healer of the psyche.  Maybe she’s a wonderful cook, someone with a contagious sense of humor, or someone who quotes my favorite authors. The irresistible attraction I feel towards her is my very self beckoning me to return to the depths of my inner life and find her beauty as my own.  It’s the inner invitation of my unconscious life to discover myself as the poet, singer, philosopher, healer, or cook, and then to cultivate this beauty as my own, as a lotus flower arising from my own heart.

If I take this path, I become a giver of the beauty I find within myself, not one who steals the beauty of another.  My love becomes a movement of myself, clearly seen, towards another also clearly seen.  I see her as she is because my projection is withdrawn, and I need nothing she freely gives. She cannot complete me. This is know. I’m already complete in myself.  I cannot love her on account of what she gives. I can only love her for who she is.

She is not my other half. I’m not her other half.  We are each already whole.  Therefore, our love lacks nothing, needs nothing, not even each other. This love, and this love alone, is capable of consciously and richly giving itself.

 
III. The Self Searching for Love is Searching for Itself
 
When there arises in you a desire for another to complete you, inquire into the origin of this desire. The desire to be completed by another is none other than some part of you seeking completion beyond itself. The essential thing to see is that beyond this part is the whole, and you – not another person – are that.
 
The search for love “out there” in a person or relationship will always disappoint.  It isn’t that love is not found out there, but there really is no “out there” in which love is found.  If you find love in another, it’s because it has been first realized in yourself.
 
When your attraction to another repeatedly brings you back to yourself, to your own inner depths, to experience your inner life, however blissful or painful, with utter clarity and the most intimate tenderness, you are prepared to give love to another like never before.  You are prepared to dance.  You are prepared to be a dancing lover.

 

 Michael Sudduth

Zen Sinking in the Ocean

Zen, and by this I mean,

your practice and your goal,

must sink in the ocean,

must drown in the vast sea

of dark unconsciousness,

from whence you shall emerge

reborn, not in another

body, space, or time,

but into the non-seeing,

non-feeling, non-thinking

that remains after the

dissolution of your mind.

 

1. In Zen, there’s no interest in extinguishing our desires. Quite the contrary, they’re given their rightful space, along with all thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Zazen [Zen meditation] is about the non-encroachment of mental material upon the Self. In Zazen all mental story-telling comes to an end. Mental material remains, but there’s no effort or interest in creating some kind of identity out of this material. This is the encroachment of the Self upon the mind. Here the mind has its voice, and it may speak very very loudly indeed! Yet at the same time, it’s equally true that the mind has been silenced. That silence is the Self. You are that.

2. In zazen I experience samsara – the cycle of death and rebirth, for I observe the emergence, development, and dissolution of one thought-form after another. And yet, while my essential emptiness is clearly seen, it’s simultaneously clearly seen that I am, and I am more than I could ever imagine myself to be. Therefore, I am utterly beyond all death and birth. We may choose to call this an “awakening” or “enlightenment,” but it’s really nothing special at all. 

3. In zazen one observes the rising and falling of thoughts, sensations, and feelings. One need not practice very long before noticing the gaps between the rising and falling of a particular thought, sensation, or feeling. Eventually one may fall into that gap and then one observes nothing at all, yet awareness persists. You are that awareness, and the gap is your essential emptiness.

4a. Speaking of being on “the outside” of one’s thoughts, feelings, or sensations is just a convenient way of speaking of observing them.  The importance of this is that in the observation process the “I” is distinguished or dissociated from mental material. To be on “the inside” of the thoughts is thus to have identified oneself with them, to simply *be* that thought, feeling, or sensation.  But you are not that, as the unqualified formless I is more fundamental than qualified I, the I qualified or limited by forms of thought, forms of feeling, and forms of sensation.

4b. Now it is a truism of the non-dual traditions in Hinduism and Buddhism, that we must simultaneously acknowledge that the Self both is and is not the body-mind.  When we look closely into experience we see that it is only the fact of awareness that is enduring, but the body-mind is not enduring.  Neither the body nor mental material in the form of thoughts, feelings, or sensations are enduring.  While these objects of awareness are temporary, awareness itself abides.  The Self as pure awareness is thus distinct from body-mind.  Nonetheless, the mental material arises from the Self and may in this sense be identified with it, as so many modes or manifestations of the Self.

4c.  This qualified identification of mental material with the Self is important in order to avoid introducing a separation between what I am essentially and how it is that what I am manifests.  The import of neti-neti (the Upanishadic “not this, not that”) is to free us from an uncritical or naive identification of Self with the mind-body and bring us back to the idea of the Self as the abiding presence of awareness.  But having done this, it is necessary to see that the thoughts, sensations, and feelings that do not exhaust or limit what I am nonetheless arise from and are part of the inexhaustible, unlimited reality that is the I.

5a.  The metaphor of the ocean and waves is therefore most frequently given to communicate the simultaneous identity and non-identity of the Absolute and the Relative, the One and the Many.  The wave is distinct from the ocean, but only as a temporary, limited, modulation or manifestation of a vaster, enduring reality.  But the wave is never without the ocean, and the ocean – inasmuch as it is alive with current, is never without waves.  The waves arise from, ride upon, and dissolve back into the ocean.  So also, all you think, feel, and sense comes out of you, rides upon you, and dissolves back into you.  This movement is at the heart of what we call “love.”

5b. Love therefore seeks no permanence other than Itself.  Personal love cannot endure because persons don’t endure. Indeed, “person” is just the name we give to what is a dynamically evolving dance between elusive “partners.”  One person loving another person is just a shared and often clumsy dance to a common song that plays for a time. Dance, and dance with passion. But know that your dance is born of the eternal Dancer, and your love, which abides only for a moment’s breath in eternity’s play, is born of the eternal Lover.

5c.  “You are not the same as me, but you have come from me, from a movement in the depths of my own being. You are here but for a time, and then you pass away.  But while you are present, you are from me and of me. And I love you with all the vastness of myself, regardless of the form you take. And when you pass away, whether in the light of a hot summer day or the darkness of a cold winter night, you dissolve into my love.” So said the ocean to the wave. So said I to my thoughts. 

6. Give your thoughts, even your most unpleasant thoughts, your deepest love, even as you give your love to a rebellious child.  Seek not to correct his ways, but only to embrace him, for you will thereby calm the otherwise unbearable current of fear that drives him.

The Sweetest Freedom

It’s been a month now since my blog “Chocolate Nirvana,” in which I provided some preliminary observations on the symbolic nature of what at the time was a temporary suspension of my nearly two-year sugar abstinence. As an introverted intuitive, I live deeply in the symbolic realm, and my involvement with “chocolate” has been a wonderful example of the dance between symbol and new life orientation.

 

Since the earlier blog, I have continued to eat dark chocolate once a week, and there’s been no “falling off the wagon” into an oblivion of pastries, candies, and other sweets to which I was addicted my whole life.  Apparently moderation is possible, and cravings can be engaged in ways I hadn’t considered under my earlier “black and white” thinking. Of course, perhaps I wasn’t ready for this path until now. As I said in the earlier blog, this is about the discovery of and commitment to boundaries shaped by spiritual practice and the resultant clarity about myself and the world, not to appease others or make them happy.  This is the “sweetest freedom,” but it reaches beyond chocolate to how we engage every aspect of life.

 

What follows are some spiritual contemplations that have evolved out of my new orientation. In a sense, the “sweetest freedom” is nothing more or less than life as it is, that is, life free from the mind’s filtering, story telling, and dualistic conceptual grid. It is a way of describing my coming into consciousness of this.  In Oneness everything is included, because aversion is simply another form of attachment. These contemplations touch on this sweetest freedom as manifested in love, karmic influences, truth-seeking, spiritual practice, and so-called “awakening.”
  
I’m not proposing any of this for “acceptance.”  The only objective is the cultivation of awareness:  simply be aware, aware of what arises in you, the reaction, whether positive or negative. There’s really nothing more to do with any of this.  It’s here only to be an occasion for bringing more illumination to what you already know.
*************
(1) Pick up the chocolate knowing you don’t need it. Take pleasure in the sight of it, the smell of it. Eat the chocolate tasting it. Take pleasure in the tasting of it, but taste it without expectation of anything further arising, remaining, or dissolving. When life becomes this “chocolate,” and you penetrate every activity and relationship with this same understanding, you’re tasting the sweetest freedom.
 
(2a) The liberation was truly experienced, but it was only temporarily experienced because it was rooted in aversion.
(2b) The love was truly experienced, but it was only temporarily experienced because it was rooted in aversion.
 

(3) When a woman so inspires me that I totally forget about her, I know that I’ve found a new, unique, and powerful form of love. And while this love naturally flows outward and is capable of tremendous enlargement and evolution, it’s sufficient that it fully and completely possesses itself. This is the “full cup” kind of love.

(4) She sleeps naked in the night. So near; yet so far. Her name is Truth.  I don’t obsess about penetrating her.  I simply surrender to the music playing in my head and quietly fall asleep. Truth immediately becomes my most faithful lover.
 
(5) Hold on to nothing, least of all yourself.
 
(6a) She wanted to trust him but her need to control him was greater. The gods granted her wish.  The gods made him co-dependent.  But Irony is the true ruler of the cosmos.  Her wish, once granted, made her unable to trust herself.  The gods laughed.
(6b) He asked the gods for the most precious, unique butterfly. The gods granted his wish. Alas, the man was soon destroyed by the hurricane generated by the butterfly’s wings.  A man in love with a butterfly is in the most vulnerable position because the gods know exactly what is necessary.
(6c) After blowing away her lover, the winds subsided and the butterfly started life again as a caterpillar. She longs for wings again. She longs for her freedom. Meanwhile, a man somewhere in the world asks the gods for a unique butterfly. The gods snicker.

(7) Whenever a woman turns me on to an amazing book, I know I’ve struck gold twice.  Whenever a woman turns me on to an amazing book, she turns me on. That’s the second nugget.  Here’s the jewel “beyond enlightenment” I find concealed in my hair.
 
(8) People don’t fear death as much as they fear silence. In fact, they fear death only because it’s the great inescapable and eternal silence.  If you would conquer the fear of death, regularly enter silence.  And in the silence, experience freedom as the other side of nothingness, the complete negation of yourself.
 
(9)You are what you are. Everything else is bullshit, bullshit I tell you, including so-called “enlightenment,” “spiritual practices,” and anything that is a substitute for what is the most naturally knowable and evident truth to each one of us. I don’t say, “have no practice.” I say realize your practice is already your present reality.  You’re already engaged in it.  Everything else is bullshit.
 
(10) The most difficult thing to grasp, indeed utterly ungraspable by the mind, is that student and teacher are non-separate, practice and goal are non-separate, delusion and awakening are non-separate, hell and heaven are non-separate, and you and your enemy are non-separate.
 
(11) Seek as one who wishes to find nothing. Practice as one who wishes to achieve nothing. And most fundamentally, love as one who wishes to receive nothing.
 
(12) A man took a shower after several hours of contemplating enlightenment. As he stepped out, only one thought occurred to him: ‘This was the best shower I’ve ever had.” In this moment he totally forgets about his search for enlightenment.  His search temporarily had ended with everything he was looking for. He then heard a toilet flush and resumed his search for enlightenment.
 
(13) The best part of waking up may simply be being aware of Folgers in your cup.

(14) Massage your thoughts with tenderness and they will retire into the stillness from which they arose.

(15) The Blue Jay squawking and screeching at my door is none other than my mind reminding me of its discontent.  Loving the Blue Jay is non-different from melting away my discontent, and loving the Blue Jay is non-different from loving myself as I appear as these unpleasant sensations and thoughts. Tenderness. That’s what’s needed.

(16) No one can complete you because you’re already complete, lacking absolutely nothing. All seeking, whether of persons, status, or material possessions, is rooted in ignorance of this fundamental truth: you’re already everything your mind is seeking.  There is no other freedom than that which is already your present reality.  This is inaccurately called Zen, but it’s really life as it already is for you, whatever your life may be.
 
(17) Folgers coffee falling as rain from the sky, turns to chocolate that drips down my lips. I taste it and let the taste go.  It leaves my lips with a kiss goodbye. The butterfly is free, and so am I.

 

Michael Sudduth

Note on Cup of Nirvana Blog

Dear Subscribers:

Since the subscriber list to Cup of Nirvana blog is growing, I thought I would offer a brief note on the content of future blogs.

As most of you are aware, I’m presently blogging on topics on eastern spirituality and philosophy and topics related to empirical arguments for life after death.  These are very different topical territories, and my writing style typically varies considerably between the two.  I realize that some subscribers are more interested in particular topics than others. While I will try to rotate topics and be balanced, this is not always possible. The terms of my contract with Palgrave Macmillan place certain constraints on the kind and amount of material I can presently share related to my book on life after death.  Nonetheless, I hope to post something on this in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I will continue to post on topics in eastern philosophy and spirituality.

Enjoy!

Michael Sudduth

God – The Dream is Over

“I just believe in me…Yoko and me, and that’s reality…the dream is over. . .the dream is over, yesterday I was the dream weaver and now I’m reborn.” – John Lennon

For many years I disliked John Lennon’s song “God.”  Like so many other things in life, my dislike of this song was rooted in the threat its lyrics posed to my vision of the world.  It threatened to awaken me from my “dogmatic slumber.” Such a comfortable place, you know? But the dream has been slowly fading during the past few months.  I now understand this song. Lennon had the wonderful gift to describe awakening in a way that was simultaneously offensive and beautiful. I now see the beauty of it, the beauty of being stripped of all these surrogates of Self: heroes, teachers, philosophies, projects, careers, religions, relationships, and lovers.

In celebration of this, below I have altered Lennon’s lyrics to fit my own life and experience of waking up.  This is my personal confession of non-faith in things and people I once trusted and believed in, but life revealed them to be illusions of varying levels of sophistication that merely perpetuated my co-dependence and kept me from seeing life as it is.  Life is happening right now, right here. Don’t miss it because you’re “in love,” “in hate,” a character in someone else’s neurotic story, or otherwise exiled or unconscious.  Be exactly as you are. Find the natural joy and completeness that is already within you.

If you play the video above you can read my revision of the lyrics to Lennon’s original version of the song.  If “God” speaks to you, I invite readers to write their own version of this song.  It will prove quite painful but beautifully illuminating and liberating.

GOD – THE DREAM IS OVER

 

God is a Concept by which we measure our pain

I’ll say it again

God is a Concept by which we measure our pain

 

I don’t believe in Batman.

I don’t believe in Elvis.

I don’t believe in Messiah.

I don’t believe in Calvinism.

 

I don’t believe in Oxford.

I don’t believe in philosophy.

I don’t believe in Hare Krishnas.

I don’t believe in Survival.

 

I don’t believe in sugar.

I don’t believe in 12 Step.

I don’t believe in therapy.

I don’t believe in Carmel.

 

I don’t believe in goddess Shakti.

I don’t believe in Autumn.

I don’t even believe in Zen.

I just believe in me…

Aidan and Me

And that’s reality. . .

 

The dream is over.

What can I say?

The dream is over.

Yesterday I was the Dreamweaver.

But now I’m reborn.

 

I was the philosopher.

But now I’m Michael.

And so dear lovers,

You’ll just have to carry on.

The dream is over.

 

Truth is Dancing

 

“Truth is Dancing” is a series of contemplations on truth and love.  More specifically, these are contemplations on my experience of the reality that is truth and love.  Truth is the ultimate lover. These contemplations initially arose in me while drinking several cups of Earl Grey tea at the White Raven cafe in Felton, California on July 25, 2014. They concluded in my room at Jikoji Zen Center later in the evening the same day.  Although written from a largely Advaita/Zen non-dual perspective, I have at points incorporated dualistic aspects of religious devotion.
– Michael Sudduth
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Truth is dancing.  
Watch her move to the rhythm of your heart. 
Truth is singing.
Listen to her in your silence and hear your voice.
It walks upon the mountains and echoes in the valleys.
It falls from the sky and drowns in the sea.
 

The dharma is never really “conveyed.” It simply unfolds, and this unfolding takes the form of the teacher and student. Ultimately, there is no teacher to convey the dharma and no student to receive the dharma. What is happening here, in this moment when all else is forgotten, is simply truth dancing.


When the unthinkable happens and you’re utterly broken, know that truth has just kissed you and is inviting you to enter her.

It’s not so much that the truth is within you; it’s rather that there’s nothing really outside you.

When you begin the search for truth, know that she has already found you.

The sound of a crying baby disturbed my zazen. But this was illusion, for I came to see clearly that the crying baby was my zazen, and it was I who had thrown up the obstacle.

Truth is like a tiger. To tame her, give her all the space she needs.  Don’t try to contain the truth. Don’t even try to feed the truth with your own interest and ideas.  Let the truth contain you. Let her feed you. This is called “surrender.”  Surrender to the truth.
 
Sometimes truth appears as Krishna, sometimes as Jesus, sometimes as the Buddha, but if you’re really lucky you’ll see it as the dog laying in the shade, the teardrop rolling down your face, and the ground upon which you walk.
 
Truth is simultaneously a love maker and a heart breaker. Embrace all of her.
 
If you wish to know the truth, stop looking for it. It will find you and make you free.

If you see things separate from yourself, know that truth is always moving towards you.  Just empty yourself and she goes right into your heart.  If you don’t see things separate from yourself, there’s no distance between yourself and truth.  You are the truth.
 
If you step into shit, just be aware you have stepped into shit. To step into shit with awareness is actually to have stepped into truth.  The person who steps into shit unaware or who consciously steps aside to avoid the shit succeeds only in stepping away from the truth.  So if you wish to enter the truth, step into shit with absolute clarity.
 
It’s impossible to give truth because it’s impossible to receive truth, and it’s impossible to receive truth because no one is ever without it.

Truth is the masculine. Truth is the feminine. Truth is that which is beyond masculine and feminine.  Truth is Shiva-Shakti. Truth is Radha-Krishna. Truth is sat-chit-ananda (being-consciousness-bliss).

As I look back on my life, I see that God has always been my companion during the dark nights of this journey called “life,” for though lovers and gifts have come and gone, there has always been a song, and I’ve always found rest in music as a place I instinctively know to be “home.”  This is just another way of describing the ultimate truth. What is it that never leaves you?
 
In devotion to God, truth is the dance of two becoming one.  This oneness is the essential emptiness of the two, the essential emptiness of lover and beloved.  In Zen, devotion is just as present, not as two becoming one, but the dance of oneness as duality.  This is the essential emptiness of the one, such that it may become many.  

 

In Zen devotion is the one manifesting as the heart of everything.  This one is your breath, which becomes everything.  This one is your posture, which becomes everything. This one is your chant, which becomes everything. The one is the mudra, which becomes everything. This one is your bow, which becomes everything. This one is the wall before you, which becomes everything. Truth is dancing, and this dance is life as it is.

The sages say that ‘God is truth,’ but, then again, so is everything else.
 
Truth resists being adequately stated in propositions because propositions can’t dance.
 
Truth is a dancer,
Spinning you around, 
Tossing you aside,
Taking all your breath,
And at long last
When you think 
you’re about to die,
You fall blissfully 
into her tender arms.
Truth is a lover. 
Truth is a dancer.

 

Michael Sudduth

Survival and the Empirical World (Book Abstract)

The following is a revised short abstract of my book in progress, Survival and the Empirical World. – M.S.

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Most broadly stated, Survival and the Empirical World is a philosophical exploration of the empirical approach to postmortem survival, that is, the attempt to assess the prospects for the survival of consciousness or the self after physical death on the basis of observational data. According to this approach to survival, we can in principle arrive at rational judgments about the possibility, plausibility, or probability of survival based on features of the empirical world that may be discovered and analyzed using the kinds of methods employed in the investigation of the world and as paradigmatically represented by the empirical sciences.

I. Book Focus and Thesis 

In the present work, I aim to critically evaluate arguments offered in support of the contention, shared by many who believe in life after death, that there is empirical evidence that justifies belief in personal survival.  My exploration focuses on empirical arguments in the tradition of philosophers such as William James, C.D. Broad, C.J. Ducasse and H.H. Price.  These “classical” arguments for survival are based on a wide range of empirical data drawn from five kinds of ostensibly “paranormal” phenomena: out-of-body and near-death experiences, apparitional experiences, mediumship, and cases of the reincarnation type.  Many survivalists maintain that these phenomena (individually or jointly) provide good perhaps even compelling evidence for postmortem survival.  I argue that empirical survivalists have not adequately made their case for these claims. Empirical arguments for survival, as traditionally formulated by prominent philosophers and survival researchers during the past century, are unsuccessful at providing a robust justification for belief in survival.  In this way the present work aims to make a contribution to the philosophy of postmortem survival by examining fundamental issues in the logic of empirical survival arguments. 

II. Core Issues in the Empirical Survival Debate

The critical evaluation of empirical survival arguments has usually focused on two kinds of skeptical challenges: the prior probability challenge and the alternative explanation challenge.  According to the first, the survival hypothesis has a very low degree of initial credibility, so low that, even if the hypothesis has the explanatory virtues empirical survivalists attribute to it, the survival hypothesis would still not be justified.  According to the second, the relevant data may be at least equally explained by any number of non-survival hypotheses, so the survival hypothesis is not the best explanation of the data adduced in favor of survival.

Whereas skeptics argue that these challenges, individually or jointly, defeat the empirical case for survival, empirical survivalists argue that this is not the case. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the literature in favor of an empirical case for survival has tended to focus on responses to these standard criticisms.  Empirical survivalists routinely emphasize the alleged defects of various non-survival explanations of the relevant data. They also typically attempt to diffuse the prior probability challenge, either by arguing that considerations of prior probability are not relevant or that purported reasons for supposing that survival has a low prior probability are unsuccessful at establishing this. 

III.  Recalibrating the Empirical Survival Debate

My critique of empirical survival arguments calls for a significant recalibration of the core issues in the empirical survival debate.  While the prior probability and alternative explanation challenges raise salient issues, I maintain that the more fundamental issue concerns the generally unacknowledged role and status of auxiliary hypotheses in empirical inferences to survival.  By “auxiliary hypothesis” here I mean a hypothesis whose content adds something to the simple supposition of consciousness or a human person surviving death.  I therefore propose what I call the auxiliary hypothesis challenge. I argue that traditional issues in the empirical survival debate must constellate around problems essentially connected to the reliance on auxiliary hypotheses.  It’s here that we find the most formidable challenge to empirical survival arguments. Moreover, the traditional prior probability and alternative explanation challenges take on their most potent forms when viewed in the light of the closed-allied problems associated with the adoption of auxiliary hypotheses.

IV. The Auxiliary Hypothesis Challenge

According to the auxiliary hypothesis challenge, (i) the relevant data constitute evidence for survival only if we adopt a number of auxiliary hypotheses about what persons would be like if they were to survive death, but (ii) this auxiliary hypothesis requirement actually generates a defeater for survival arguments in all their current formulations.  The auxiliary hypothesis requirement itself is based on a common feature of empirical survival arguments, namely the contention that the survival hypothesis leads us to expect the relevant data.  All such predictive features of the hypothesis depend on more than the simple supposition that some human persons survive death.  It involves adopting a wide range of assumptions about what persons would be like if they were to survive death.  However, these auxiliary hypotheses are either unjustified or, if justifiable, can only be justified by very liberal principles of epistemic justification that would equally justify other kinds of auxiliary hypotheses that may be conjoined with non-survival hypotheses to lead us to expect the same body of data.

I maintain that the auxiliary hypothesis challenge poses a dilemma for the empirical survivalist, and I show the several ways in which this dilemma constitutes a defeater for empirical survival arguments.  More precisely, I show why the dilemma prevents us from justifiably concluding that the survival hypothesis has a favorable net plausibility, that is, that it is at least more probable than not.  I also show that it prevents us from justifiably concluding more modestly that the survival hypothesis has a favorable comparative probability, that is, that the survival hypothesis is, if not more probable than not, at least more probable than the nearest competitor.

Since it is widely held among survival researchers and parapsychologists that the empirical approach to survival offers grounds for belief in survival that are superior to religion as a source for belief in life after death, my skeptical conclusion undermines this contention and thereby serves as a defense of religiously-based belief in survival.  Neither parapsychology nor survival research has succeeded in offering a viable epistemological alternative to religious grounds for belief in survival.