Monday, August 18, 2014

one thousand steps

Today YouTube says 1000 video uploads. Just goes to show what you can do if you put your mind to it, hey?

YouTube also tells me interesting things about the people watching my videos; like that approximately 4,500 views occur on any given day, or that on August 8th and 9th over 20,000 people watched the first How To Meditate video, thanks to a site called http://thespiritscience.net/, which I assume linked to it.

More good news, our Indiegogo project is still attracting support; I think we're going to go over the second 108 total as well. Way to go everyone; the rains robe offering is a great thing for supporting Buddhism and the meditation practice.

Our treasurer booked me a flight to Bangkok for October 24th, returning December 21st. I'll be heading to Chiang Mai pretty soon after my arrival, then in November we'll offer the robes early in the month, after which I should hopefully be heading to the mountains of Mae Hong Son.

Me and the head monk here have made preliminary inquiries in to heading back to school part time in January; we visiting the McMaster campus and it really is an encouraging feeling to be back amongst such wasted potential. Okay, tongue back out of cheek, the university environment has always felt like a great way to cultivate a meditation community in this part of the world. On top of that, who knows, maybe I'll learn something.

Otherwise, not much to report; a quiet rains, a cool summer in Canada. Oh, I'm almost able confirm that I'll be in Vancouver late September for a weekend, 25th to 28th. Will confirm once I have transportation confirmed.

Be well.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

campaign

We did it! Or, rather, you all did it. As of 1:48 AM this morning, the Indiegogo campaign to offer 84 sets of robes to Ajaan Tong this October has officially reached its goal.

There are still 25 days left in the campaign, so there's still room for participation - maybe we can make it 108 sets instead. Anyway, we'll offer however many we can based on the participation. I just want to say congratulations and thank you all for taking part in this. You've done a great thing here.

I'll be heading to Thailand in mid-October; we'll probably be offering the robes soon after I arrive. If anyone is interested in taking part, you're welcome to join us in Chiang Mai. Exact dates will be announced closer to the actual trip.

In the meantime, may everyone who has taken part in the campaign in any way be blessed for their generosity and kindness. Be well and at peace.

Here's the Indiegogo link if you're interested:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sirimangalo-international-kathina-robes-giving/x/8082413 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

How To Meditate: A Continued Guide To Peace

(working title)

So, the first chapter of my new book is more or less ready to publish, I think. The social experiment went very well - thanks everyone for your input. Some of the input was very helpful, some of it was well-thought-out but didn't jive with my own (admittedly-flawed) style. Anyway, the process was nice enough to make me want to try it again with the next chapter. Here's the link:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UEN1R7bno0FkUy-Qd60tR98wtb7SXCsYbNJa0A0K4gk/edit?usp=sharing

I've already written about half of it, as you should be able to see. Comments are welcome, especially if they are grammatical or typographical in nature. Doctrinal comments might be helpful, or they might be ignored, I can't say. Please don't take it personally.

I'm staying with my father this week, so I should have extra time to work on this. Hopefully I'll finish this chapter by the weekend.

The book also has a new home on sirimangalo.org at the following address:

http://www.sirimangalo.org/teachings/how-to-meditate-ii

Be well.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Social Book-Writing

Here's an experiment; I'm writing a second book, and I just thought, hey, why not let people watch me write? Google Docs lets you share your documents with the web, so why not put it out there and allow comments?

Obviously, the biggest reason is because a work should traditionally be well-edited before submitting it for public consumption, but maybe that's old-school thinking. After all, what better way to garner support and interest in a project than to make people feel a part of the creative process?

Anyway, I'm just crazy enough to try it, so here's the link to the first, unfinished chapter of my new book:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P6sUO5mBjcNxMxcxisgef1ZV0SrpbO3G9nIubC_AbLI/edit?usp=sharing

The neat thing is, I think you can actually sit there and watch me type. Check it out; comment as you like, I'm going to try to be as thick-skinned as possible :)

Be well.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Radio, Rains, Robes

Today we'll be on the air with Monk Radio; lots of questions already. One question in my mind is how the video answers differ from text answers, now that I've been active on http://buddhism.stackexchange.com/ - I'm thinking to try to stick to more practical advice-type questions, leaving theoretical questions for the Q&A forum, since they seem to be better suited for that format.

Apologies for no regular videos; I find it difficult to get up any motivation to make videos when I have to be producer, director, cameraman, actor, etc.; it'd be easier to get motivated if I had a team, I think. Anyway, will try again next week.

The rains starts today; three months where I can't go anywhere... sort of. Actually, already have an invitation to visit British Columbia for a few days in September - waiting for confirmation.

As many of you are aware (and participating, awesome!), we're trying to get people together to offer eighty-four sets of robes to Ajaan Tong this winter. Sirimangalo International has set up an Indiegogo project and after only six days, we're already 41% towards our goal. Which is awesome; thank you everyone for your participation, this is going to be great. I've talked with my supporters in Bangkok as well; probably some of them will help and follow me up to Chiang Mai to actually offer the robes - you're all welcome to join us if you can make it to Thailand.

That's all then. Be well :)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

fragments of reality

Just over half-way through Quantum Enigma, a book that comes highly recommended by Amazonians. I should really finish it before I start to write any more on physics and consciousness, but here's just a snippit of thought relating to the defence of an experience-based reality.

The problem with the universe is that it sometimes goes according to linear time, and it sometimes seems to work backwards. Schrodinger's cat only dies (lives) after it's already dead (alive). Steeped in the idea of an impersonal four-dimensional reality, it seems as though the observation of a system creates its past - before observing the black box, the question of whether the cat has died earlier can't be answered. Outside of the context of an observation, it is a superposition of both alive and dead states.

This is what resonates so strongly for me with QM; I hear this and say, "d'uh" (well, not really - monks frown on such language). The problem only exists if you postulate an impersonal third-person universe; postulating such a universe actually necessitates its inexistence according to orthodox quantum theory (i.e. outside of experience, every particle that is postulated to exist doesn't actually exist). Within the framework of experience, there is no quantum enigma; the boxed cat, being outside of one's experiential frame of reference, doesn't exist. Once I observe the cat, then it exists as an experience of a cat, alive or dead. Once you come and see me experiencing the dead or alive cat, then it exists within your frame of reference as well.

It's really a simple philosophy, and if you've done any significant amount of meditation at all it makes perfect sense - the universe is just like the Copenhagen interpretation of QM:
Objector: Damn it! There's a real world out there. I want to know the truth about Nature. 
Copenhagenist: Science can reveal no real world beyond what is observed. Anything else is merely philosophy. That's the "truth" - if you must have one. 
Objector: That's defeatist! I'll never be satisfied with such a superficial answer. You have science abandoning its basic philosophical goal, its mission to explain the physical world. 
Copenhagenist: Too bad. But don't bother me with philosophy. I've got scientific work to do. 
Objector: Quantum mechanics is manifestly absurd! I won't accept it as a final answer. 
Copenhagenist: (She's no longer listening.)  
-- Quantum Enigma, p. 141
I think the authors of the book are among the objectors. I think I'm among the people who have scientific work to do. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

open response to criticism

In a continuing struggle to bridge the gap between modern science and ancient Buddhism, based on this article (linked), I bring you yet another defence of an experience-based explanation of reality (spurred on by an email criticizing the above article):

The thrust of my argument (if I'm thinking of the right one) was that reality has a basis in experience. Orthodox quantum theory seems to support this, if Dr. Stapp is to be believed.

The only reason for bringing QM into the argument at all was as a means of helping materialists see the potential for a different paradigm for reality. Your arguments regarding the natural sciences are not valid to my thinking, since they don't really attempt to provide a basis for understanding reality in an ultimate sense (an exception is Biocentrism, a theory by Dr. Robert Lanza which basically says the same thing, that reality is based on the individual's experience). Biology and chemistry may work very well in explaining day to day occurrences, but they don't really provide a philosophical framework for understanding reality.

For example, you say the moon is there whether we look at it or not. From a point of view of Buddhism, the moon isn't ever there, whether you look at it or not, and that which you see as the moon can only be discussed from within a framework of experience. It is this claim that orthodox quantum theory seems to support.

As to QM only applying to a microscopic world, I think this is a red herring. QM raises some philosophical questions about reality that have not been successfully answered by material science, and simply saying that they only apply to the microscopic building blocks that make up the macroscopic world is disingenuous, to my thinking. Also, it is not entirely true any more (google "macroscopic quantum entanglement", for example).

But this is all a distraction from the main argument, that there is no reason to believe in death unless you are committed to philosophical materialism; we have no experience of death to go by; we don't really know what happens at that moment. What we can observe first-hand is the ever-present flux of experience that seems to go on ad infinitum according to strict principles of causality that can be understood and affected by direct observation.

Buddhism doesn't deny the significance of death, just the fact that it is categorically different as an experience. That's what I was trying to argue, and I think bringing up QM to support it simply as evidence of a phenomenological basis for reality is perfectly valid.