Woke up in the dead of the night because I needed to know: If Cain murdered Abel, are we descendants of the first murderer?
Of course I know it’s all mythology representing our transition from hunter-gatherers to agricultural society (and maybe there was an actual murder at the heart of the tale, maybe between two chieftains of different tribes?).
But it’s a valid question within the context of the Biblical Mythology.
There’s Seth of course (our supposed ancestor; it could have been any of his siblings really; but Seth is named), but most of his history was formed much later on by storytellers. Very little was said about him in the original source materials. He was merely one of the sons and daughters born to Adam and Eve after Abel’s death. Presumably his wife was one of his sisters. Enoch son of Cain (NOT the Enoch of the Book of Enoch), and his descendants died in the Great Deluge. By this process of elimination, we are to assume we are all Sethites (though I must ask, didn’t Cain’s descendants intermarried with Seth’s descendants at all? I am sure they must have).
The first two generations of Man continues to inspire human action throughout history. Some people use the story of Cain to justify racism (ie, ethnic minorities are descendants of Cain). There was historical religious movements inspired by them as well, such as the Addamites (hippie nudists), Abelites (celibate married couples who adopted an orphaned boy and girl to replace them after they die). And there was the Sethians and the Cainanites, both of which were actually Gnostic sects.
I should’ve wrote this down days ago, now the epiphany is less clear, but I’ll try (it’ll need refinement). It’s nothing sudden in truth, because I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now (you can tell, if you follow my writings and essays; which would help with understanding the references and ontological assumptions I am making).
Pain is part of life. An inalienable part of it. The world is necessarily composed of transformations, and transformative cycles— including cycles of predatory transformation. These transformations are characterized by change, and thus for those who grasp onto any one homeostasis of things, characterized by suffering. Buddhism identifies this as the three marks of existence (impermanence, non-self, and suffering).
Energy and matter constantly interchange, but no specific energy nor matter ever felt that they were suffering in this endless composition and dissolution of form. And why not? It is because they do not identify themselves as a self.
But we do (we as in animals and humans, and minds). We identify ourselves as a self, and thus delude ourselves into a sphere of experience seemingly separate from the ecosystem beyond our skin (as if we are not constantly cycling constituent matter into ourselves through air and water, and food— we become what we consume). For some of us, we fail to even understand that our mind and body are one organism.
If we examine our body or psycho-physical-organism (what Buddhism might call the “namarupa”), we would understand that we are an ecosystem unto ourselves, full of parasites, bacterias, and other organisms and systems. Our every cell is an organism unto itself. Our activities impact our own bodies and also the ecosystem around us. Our brain is a network of interdependent organisms. Altogether, everything themselves are composed of organelles, chemicals, and particles, and even more subtle things. Our mind is rooted in the body but not limited to it. Key parts on the physical side of things include the nervous system, and in the “second brain” of the gastro-intestinal tract’s nervous system (enteric nervous system). Our mind is also a complex system of interdependent parts. You are not just you; but numerous psychological organs and functions, including representations of self (the awareness of sight, the awareness of taste, the awareness of the awareness, etc), and cultural and genetic conditioning.
All things are alive because all things are part of the same ecosystem whose apex is a sentient being; but some things are more alive than others, or that is to say, more aware (as in, all phenomena inherently has a basic fundamental single point cognizance or awareness; if we accept panpsychism as true of course— which is more honest than ontological materialism at reconciling the material and the mental). On one end we have energy. On the other end, we have sentient beings (not necessarily animals of course; consciousness developed as part of predictive systems. All systems, be they energy or minds, want to minimize surprise, ie, the Free Energy Principle. The brain is a Bayesian inference engine, nothing more; but a biological brain and its ideological extensions need not be the only kind of system that can infer).
As living matter, war and violence and death (and the consumption of other living beings, be they plant or animal) is a part of the activity of the human animal. We do not need to do it, but if we do it, it is a natural expression of being a species with limitations to our behaviours and abilities. We are what we are, just as photons and electrons are what they are (this is not a justification however, whether for or against “human nature”, which has proven incredibly flexible and diverse).
What created mankind? Many things, but chiefly Self-Domestication. The animal that was Man became the human animal; through the murder of bad actors (those who do not cooperate). Through this long process, we shaped homo sapiens as a product representative of our world (our sphere of experience as human beings); it is through violence we are made. There has never been a “peaceful” human nature in some mystical past; but only the intrinsically pure process of the savage, bloody and wild Eden of the world prior to humanity.
But this is not a justification of course. In religions like Buddhism, the goal of attaining veridical awareness (Buddahood) does not depend upon nor require bodily justifications, because the inherent nature of awareness in phenomena is not limited to any specific condition, or form. Neither biology nor physics are obstacles; they are to be understood, but cast aside as irrelevant for the attainment of veridical awareness. Awareness inherent to all phenomena, but which is not a self, not a soul, not an ego-object nor any one thing.
It is not one awareness, or even many; but as many as there needs to be, and just as quickly to be gone (just as how there are as many phenomena as needed in this world to drive the process of reality, which endlessly transforms from one set to another; from beginnings to endings to beginnings again, changing the environment, and the constants of the cosmos and life and its limitations).
The attainment of veridical awareness is not your accomplishment, but the accomplishment of your sphere of experience (your localized ecosystem of phenomena; your field of experience; your sphere of experienced reality); which then becomes liberated from the identification of a self with any part of anything.
Practically, this realization is reflected in my acceptance of other’s mistakes as my own (and the acceptance of my genetic and causal inheritance; I am the culmination of the world around me, including my ancestors and my society). You can no longer simply toss aside others and other people as irrelevant to yourself. Ecosystems are not made of individuals. At the same time, because you are NOT other people (your eye is not your toe), you need not force yourself into unnatural action for others (I am part of, but am not solely responsible for, what is happening on the other side of the world, or even what is happening in my neighbour’s house. We do the best we can in our niche).
Ecosystems have many roles, and many niches. Though unlike an ecological ecosystem, the ecosystem of human experience is endlessly flexible and transformative. You need not be afraid that you’ll remain a predator, prey or parasite, or that others are stuck in their role. With insight, all people can transform and play any role as needed.
Someone asked, “So how does magic works in real life?”
The questionable part of that statement isn’t magic, but rather “real life”. What an absurd thing to say— is there such a thing as a false life?
What is “real”? And how would magic work in this supposedly other space called the “real?”
If you subscribe to Idealism or Representationalism, you have to accept that your perception and experiences is your reality, and might be the sole reality accessible to you (or in the case of Representationalism, heavily warps your perception of reality).
Magic, being whatever shapes these perceptions and experiences, then in a very real way, has altered your reality. This is how we end up developing the nascent scientific fields of transpersonal psychology, and why humanity have culture-bound syndromes (which may or may not have phenomenal basis tied into fields beyond psychology, anthropology, and so forth. We will find out one day).
“But what if you want to summon a fireball”, you ask, “how do I do that just by changing my perceptions?”
Well, you don’t just do that. Magic follows rules (insofar as any phenomena follows rules).
Many people think magic is “Harry Potter magic”. They’re looking to summon fireballs, they’re looking for a little bit of inexplicable phenomena that defies their narrow ontological views. In a way, the people who want to view magic as overt are doubtlessly ontological materialists of some sort. By presuming physicalism as true, they accept a a tentative dualistic view (although not necessarily belief) in its opposite: violations of the ontological materialist worldview. This is why stage magic tricks is so entertaining. It wows the materialists by seemingly violating their ontological presumptions (through psychological and sensory manipulation).
But many philosophies and scientific disciplines DON’T presume a physicalistic worldview. It is in these areas where magic is most alive because the miracles of everyday is magical in a way a materialist cannot easily accept. And it is only magical because we understand that they are based in mind, in ideas, in experiential phenomena, and not some unprovable religion of the physical.
For example, how does mathematical objects tie into the concrete phenomena they represent? How is it that we recognize numbers and equations as relating to experiential phenomena? For these reasons, the traditional philosophy of mathematics has been Platonic Idealism.
Technology (often seen as an “empirical” sort of power) is not the result of material culture. Or not solely of material culture I should say. It is equally the manifestation of Mind (or in some Idealisms, solely the manifestation of Mind). Some “technologies” are solely psychological and cultural in nature for example.
If you want to summon a fireball, you have to understand the nature of how fire works, you find ways to develop the technology needed to build a bowdrill (a prehistoric tool for creating fire), and you can now summon fire at will.
Technology is magic. Technological development are millennia long rituals our ancestors contributed to over time to make numerous capabilities available to our species.
Just like how the earliest knowledge were encoded as rituals to ensure repetition can be successfully done. How to make medicine, how to safely store food, how to carve stone tools— all ritualized through trial and error and passed on via repetitive rituals. The human-animal carrying out these repetitions don’t have to accurately understand why something works, only that it does. In fact, its possible that such behaviours predate the capacity for speech altogether (after all, even chimpanzees do this).
An example of magic, Scandinavian Smiths discovered that ritualistically mixing poor iron weapons using the bones of ones’ ancestors accidentally created steel. Anthropologically, our ancestors believed that the spirits of their ancestors have magically imbued these iron blades with mystical properties. Chemically, the carbon in the bones mixed with bog iron created a rudimentary form of steel. From an Idealistic POV, the Smiths know perfectly well what they’re doing: they’re applying their understanding of magic to create magical weapons. This is a TRUTH, even if it is not the full truth from the view of Chemistry.
Another example; dowsing is a form of pattern-recognition for example. It is caused by unconscious body motion, and its chance of finding water is entirely dependent on luck and subconscious environmental cues (under laboratory conditions, these cues are eliminated, making dowsing no better than random chance; but have anyone considered that these cues are a required ritual component to enable the pattern recognition?). While many dowsers believe in a form of magical rationale when it comes to explaining dowsing, some dowsers do in fact, accept this scientific view. It doesn’t make their dowsing any less magical.
More examples of magic: Psychosomatic Death Curses and Haitian Zombies.
It’s possible for people to lose the will to live and die for no real reason (psychosomatic death). In some aboriginal cultures, this is taken a step further; someone cursed with death will actually die for psychosomatic reasons due to the cultural conditioning and beliefs.
Haitian Zombies are the result of chemical or social phenomenon that causes a state of zombification.
In the chemical hypothesis, being fed certain drugs causes one to enter a state of suspended animation, and upon being “revived”, the trauma and psychosis forces them to reconstruct their identity as a zombie since they believe themselves to have actually died in the cultural environment they were conditioned into (see also ants who were doused with death pheromones walking themselves to ant graveyards, only to realize they were alive after it wore off).
In the social hypothesis, zombies are a culture-bound syndrome; in lieu of Western categorization of mental illness and schizophrenia, the people with such conditions may be identified as zombies instead.
In any case, we see just how important a role the Mind plays in all such phenomena.
It takes effort, diligence, and understanding to make magic realized. It is not only the external technologies that are built, but the contextual frameworks or world-views that we have also developed and innovated that can be passed on to other humans (ie, philosophy, metaphysics, symbolisms, archetypes, etc). It can be passed on to animals too (via training).
The people who doubt the existence of magic don’t understand just how much magic we have built already as a species, and how much of magic is internal (though if all is Mind, as Idealism posits, what is “internal” and “external?”)— it’s installed into the mind of every human animal, almost at birth. This is thanks to the effort of our ancestors in transmitting culture, knowledge, and rituals (and possibly natural selection and epigenetics as well).
Although I phrased magic as something to develop and build, the mind itself is pure magic. The uncreated is the highest creation. The natural function is the basis for all constructions. In religious practices, things like Tantra, and Pureland, and even the metaphysics of Buddhahood— these kind of things are possible (in the ontological presumptions of some religions) because of the nature of Mind (of reality itself having this property of being conditioned and liberated).
Iddhis/Siddhis (overt psychic ability in Dharmic religions) function likewise: power is incidental to insight. It is the insight that matters, the power might accidentally manifest as a consequence (again, this is presuming you accept the ontological presumptions of these religions).
Someone asked how one can prove that an object exists physically.
You can’t. Ontological Materialism isn’t actually provable empirically, though a “physical” object in the context of a discipline that presumes ontological materialism can be proven to exist…in that context (usually a scientific field).
Illusions are real to other illusions; it is an illusion, yet is truth. Although all things are manifestations of emptiness (codependent origination), they are real with respect to other manifestations. This is the non-dual understanding of Emptiness/Thusness (or sunyata/tathata). This is the realization of the Dharma-Eye.
Idealism and Representationalism is more coherent than Physicalism (the same as materialism; which is fatally incapable of resolving how experiential things can emerge from physical phenomena).
A sense object is like a hologram. It has many codependent factors that sustains the process of its “existence” (it’s duration of apparent substance).
How do you prove an object is physically existent when that object is changing moment to moment until it becomes a different object? What is this “object” that you’re identifying, what makes it distinct from the process of its change? (it’s duration of apparent existence; every moment of which is an “object” of its own, moment to moment).
Worse yet, if I get shot through the head, that object stops existing, since a major factor in its existence (ie, my sense perception and my cognitive faculties) no longer perceives it. It doesn’t mean the object stops existing for the things it is interacting with, but for me it ceases because it no longer interacts with me. That object is also different depending on what it interacts with.
Every angle of a hologram can indeed be different, just like how different math equations can describe the same thing. Great or small, white or black, moving or still— there is much flexibility in any given “object” because it not really an object at all in truth, but a dynamic aspect of the whole. Where does this object end and another object begin? Where from one end of the Universe to the other, does an “object” ever really exists as a discrete entity unto itself, and not just a brief duration of a process that ripples across the interdependent whole?
The Underworld is most likely a manifestation of the Bardo State.
Someone asked whether rebirth is instantaneous (as argued by Theravada Buddhists) or if there was an Intermediate State (as argued by Tibetan Buddhists).
In my considered opinion, both explanations are valid. Depending on your point of view, of course.
It can be considered instantaneous because there is no such thing as “dead” people. The continuum of causality continues unabated. There is no gap, no stopping, and no “otherworld” in which you might have existed in prior to being “reborn”.
The continuum of causality that is fluid and hasn’t yet achieved a stable homeostasis is what we might call the Bardo state. It is Bardo because it has not settled down into a stable ecosystem of inter-penetrating phenomena.
How long does the Bardo state last after one is in the throes of the post-death process?
Contrary to Tibetan Buddhist belief in 49 days, I believe the Bardo could be instantaneous to millions of years, depending on the causal factors that is shaping it. Of course, time can be very subjective in this hallucinatory state.
I also believe that manifestations of Yama (a deity described as the God of the Dead in Vedic mythology) or an Underworld (not to be confused with Hell) is part of the Bardo State.
In certain mythologies, such as that of China, it is believed that the deceased will appear in the Underworld (Diyu) before being reborn. This doesn’t fit into Buddhist metaphysics…unless we accept that the Underworld is a hallucination of the Bardo state.
Hellworlds (Naraka) are proper rebirths, for it has a stable homeostasis, much like the life we currently experience. Hell-beings are living beings, every bit as alive as you and I (and plants and animals). They are not “ghosts” and not “spiritual” substances or existences. Nor are they “damned” in the eschatological or spiritual sense. Please note that the Vedic Underworld also use the term Naraka, but Buddhism use this term to mean a different concept entirely. It is blurry in Chinese mythology as well, because the Narakas were simplified into 18 Planes of torturous existences (of course, real Buddhist cosmology doesn’t have this schema, rather, the Hellworlds are infinite in number).
In contrast to Hellworlds, the mythological Underworld of China is described as a transitory state before going to a proper rebirth, and Yama himself is described as a psycopomp. These key factors mark them out to be most likely a Bardo aspect rather than a literal realm. How can there be an extrinsic world of the dead? Such a thing is ontologically impossible in Buddhism.
Consider also that there is duration in the Underworld, and the Underworld process is not a real rebirth, they must therefore be of the Bardo.
They are manifestation of mind, but we must remember that mind-body dualism doesn’t exist and all that is mind is part of the process of the “real” (per the view formulated by the Yogacara School and accepted in all Mahayana and Vajrayana schools). In this sense, Yama and the Underworld are nonetheless real (or as real as any phenomena can be)…but their manifestation during the Bardo process might be entirely subjective to each person’s beliefs and biases.
*I meant the Chinese Underworld, but one may consider the parallel to the Platonic Hades. In the Legend of Er, Hades is a place where souls go to be reincarnated (metempsychosis), they drink from the River Lethe to forget their memories, and their destinies are presided over by the Fates, the twin wheels (the constellations and planets), and by Hades himself. They draw lots and choose what they are inclined to as a consequence of their circumstances in life (which is a very karmic take). This is indeed, more or less, the same set up as Chinese mythology.
My recent thoughts on the Purelands: Where are the Buddhafields (Purelands) actually located in the cosmos?
I am still thinking about this, and not an expert. As a Bodhisattva aspirant, purelands are not something I think about usually.
What we know:
1) One interpretation of Buddhas are that they are veridical awareness (universal awareness coinciding with reality as it really is).
2) Each Buddha-field overlaps with a single Great-Trichiliocosm (an Universe).
3) There is no self, no personhood, and no way for phenomena to persist independently. Where a Buddha’s veridical awareness reach (which is everywhere), all beings and objects are that same Buddha.
4) Buddhafields and Sambhogakaya (the enjoyment body— one of the Triyaka or Three Bodies of a Buddha) are the same— they are a modus of the Dharmakaya, and interface between reality as it is, and “our world”. Whereas the Sambhogakaya refer to activities of Buddhas in this world, the Buddhafields refer to that same activity manifested as a world in which beings can be reborn into.
The implication here then, is this. If the veridical awareness of a Buddha is universal, and there is no abiding self, then that means that my efforts in manifesting a Buddhafield is in fact, de facto, the effort of the Buddha of this Trichiliocosm in manifesting a Buddhafield.
Which is to say, the Buddhafield and this world is not separate, and the Buddha manifesting the Buddhafield and all of us are not separate either.
The Buddhafield is an interface between the Dharmakaya of a Buddha and ourselves, the same way that all of theophany, visions, and interaction with Buddhas (their Sambhogakaya) is our interface with the Dharmakaya (“he who sees the dharma sees me, he who sees me sees the dharma”). The Dharmakaya is of course, representational of Dharmdhatu (the expanse of the totality of phenomena as an indivisible, pervading whole).
Which of course, returns us to the teaching that has been exhorted since the beginning; your every effort has profound enlightening effects (merits) upon your mind-stream, which is radically transformed to perceive the world as it truly is: Intrinsically Pure.
The Lankavatara Sutra says, “When the mind arises, all phenomena arise. When the mind ceases, all phenomena cease.”
When the Mind is Purified, the Buddhafield is Purified.
This is based on an ancient Reddit post I made many kalpas ago. May the Syncretic God forgive me for any mistakes I make.
Note that this article presupposed a predominantly Sunni Islamic view, and a Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhist View.
Let us compare some parallels:
On the plurality of Messengers
— Infinite Buddhas. According to the Bhadrakalpika Sūtra, we on Earth are slated for 1002 fully enlightened Buddhas in this Fortunate Kalpa alone. How lucky we are! We are currently 4 Buddhas in.
— 124,000 Prophets in Islam (or 25,000+ Prophets). Alot of Prophets. Sent to all peoples in the world.
On the interstitial periods
— Periods of time with no Buddhas (Dark Kalpa).
— Periods of time with no Prophets (Ahl al-Fatrah).
On non-human intelligent life, their religions, and the Devil
— Devas are mortals, don’t worship them.
— Djiins are mortals, don’t worship them.
— King Mara is a deva who is the Devil.
— Iblis is a Djinn who is the Devil.
— The Maras are devas who follow King Mara.
— The Shaitans are Djinns who follow Iblis.
— Devas are not necessarily Buddhist. Many have to be converted to Buddhism. Vast majority are ignorant of the Dharma or are the purview of other Buddhas in other trichiliocosms.
— Djinns can be Jewish, Christian, Muslim or other (that’s why they need to be converted to Islam).
On the Degeneration of the True Faith
— In Buddhism, the Dharma is taught by a perfectly enlightened Buddha, but then degenerates over time until only Buddhist culture is left, and eventually, even that is forgotten. When this happens, a new Buddha will arise and spin the Wheel of Dharma once more.
— In Islam, eventually, a divinely revealed faith will become corrupted, and a new Messenger is sent by God to teach Islam (both Judaism and Christianity— and potentially more— are considered corrupted versions of Islam).
On the Buddhas/Enlightened-Beings & Messengers/Prophets
— Prophets VS Messengers. Prophets are sent by God to serve as moral paragons and to teach people. But some Prophets are Messengers, which bring with them Divinely Revealed Messages (that usually then become a major scripture; such as the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Qur’an— though in Islam, all versions of these are corrupt save the Qur’an, which is the latest divinely revealed message).
— A Perfectly Enlightened Buddha is the only being capable of preaching the True Dharma, and only in a period of time around which they existed in the world to turn the Wheel of Dharma do the Dharma persists, no matter who propagates it.
In periods of time in which the Dharma is absent, Pretyekabuddhas (self-enlightened Buddhas) do occasionally arise, but they are incapable of teaching the Dharma because they simply lack the compassion/insight/intellectual resources required to do so. A Pratyekabuddha can give moral teachings, but cannot help others attain Enlightenment, and they do not leave behind a Sangha (Monastic Order).
A Buddha doesn’t magically attain knowledge or skill. A pretyekabuddha lacking the right conditions (either in the time period, the culture, or even the language) cannot express the Buddha-Dharma to sentient beings, and thus do not fulfill the role of a perfectly enlightened Buddha, incapable of turning the Wheel of Dharma.
Likewise, Arahants (technically a lesser kind of Pratyekabuddha) also are not capable of transmitting the manifold Dharma.
— Iddhis (supermundane powers that can be developed as a side-effect of practicing the path; though it should not be the goal, as it’s considered not True Dharma).
— Karamat (‘miracles’ performed by Saints. Like Tay al-Arzor or mystical teleportation).
On the Multiverse
— Allah, Lord of Worlds
— Contrasted with Buddhist conception of the Great Trichiliocosm (1 billion worlds), and there are infinite Trichiliocosms, filled with many different kinds of life. Each Trichiliocosm has a single Supremely Enlightened Buddha (though there are infinite Buddhas everywhere, all the time).
— In Buddhism, Buddha-Nature vs Aggregates [cause & effect phenomenon, compounded phenomenon]
— And in Islam, especially Sufism, Rūḥ (Spirit) vs Nafs (Souls).
In Buddhism, the Buddha-Nature or Dharma-Nature is the all-pervading nature, or “reality as it is, the way things are, phenomenon as it is, devoid of delusions”. This Dharma-Nature as present in a sentient being is Buddha-Nature (well, the potential for it, specifically).
In Islam, the Ruh are myriad phenomena. Sometimes identified as Angels, sometimes as the spirit in human beings, and sometimes as that which animates inanimate matter.
In addition, Buddha-Nature is also the nature of phenomenons, and Rūḥ is what allows Nafs to work.
Thus as described in Islam in Perspective, Rūḥ is Nafs in one sense, but yet they are not. The Rūḥ drives the Nafs (the souls, which are our desires and sensory perceptions; in essence our psychic organs), but the Rūḥ is apart of it.
Just as Buddha Nature is both the workings of phenomena and yet it is not (Nirvana is Samsara, Samsara is Nirvana).
In essence, we have the embryonic form of a Buddha within us (tathāgatagarbha— the embryonic Buddha) that must be developed so that we can become Buddhas (Buddha-dhatu— the Buddha Nature/Realm/Substrate). The potential for Enlightenment is there…we just have to perfect it.
In Zen, one must have faith that they have a Bodhi-Mind (a Buddha Nature) in order to realize enlightenment.
In Islam, Rūḥ is what God give us, so that we can come to know him, and to perfect it.
The two terms have that inherent meaning of being transcendental, as according to Buddhist, every Buddha expounded the same Dharma, from innumerable universes ago to now. According to Muslims, every Prophet expounded the same Islam (including Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, etc).
Buddhism denies Reincarnation (Metempsychosis). In Buddhism, the doctrine is Rebirth, which is “re-becoming”, not reincarnating, as it’s best to see all of our infinite lives as a singular life (as a result of phenomenon dictated by cause & effect).
In Buddhism, every moment is a rebirth, because it denotes the Mindstream changing and moving; bodily death is a bigger change (a larger wave made by the coursing river of Mind phenomenon), but not that different than the moment to moment experience we already have. Some call sleep the little death for this reason.
Everyday you live without Enlightenment (realization of Buddha-Nature) is already death anyway; thus Mara (the Devil), and the condition he embodies, is often called the Spiritual Death.
Buddhist Phenomenology denies a conventional soul (that is, a soul conceived of as another body or an object that one could mistakenly fixate their ego upon), but it believes in the Buddha-Nature (which is the foundational mind, absence delusions, and also phenomenon as it is). And this is because things being alive and having a soul, are one and the same (similar to the Jewish conceptions of the soul being indivisible with body, and arisen together with it).
Thus in Buddhism, a sentient being is an aggregate of different causes & effects (form, perception, sensation, wilful intent, consciousness), none of which have independent existence. Similar to the Nafs.
The Five Aggregates in Buddhism are the invariable constituents of a sentient being’s experience in a given moment.
Some things are just more alive than others (animals are more alive than plants, which are more alive than ordinary matter).
In Buddhist theology, the totally deluded (Icchantikas) have lost their Buddha-Nature entirely and can never attain Nirvana (but their Buddha-nature is recoverable if they are able to regain a small measure of a conscience).
Icchantikas is actually the closest equivalent to the Hebrew Gehenna or post-eschatological damnation present in all Abrahamic Religion.
The ultimate fate of Icchantikas is questionable. My own tradition at least, argues that Icchantikas are eventually dissolved into Qi (annihilated).
Thematically at least, the Buddhist Naraka (Hellworlds) are closer in conception to Sheol or the Islamic Barzakh (the Grave), since Naraka is not actually damnation. Narakas are considered proper rebirths. Being born in Naraka is not damnation. The Icchantika is however, a damning fate.
For a true transitory or purgatorial existence, in Buddhism that would be the Bardo (the fluid intermediate state between lives; which can be experienced as a hallucinatory nightmare for the deceased).
On God & Angels
Say, “He is Allah , [who is] One, Allah , the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”
— Surah Al-Ikhlas [112:1-4]
“There is, O monks, an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. Were there not, O monks, this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, created, formed. Since, O monks, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, therefore is there an escape from the born, originated, created, formed. What is dependent, that also moves; what is independent does not move. Where there is no movement, there is rest; where rest is, there is no desire; where there is no desire, there is neither coming nor going, no ceasing-to-be, no further coming to be. Where there is no ceasing-to-be, no further coming-to-be, there is neither this shore [this world] nor the other shore [Nirvana], nor anything between them.”
— Shakyamuni Buddha, Udana Nikaya (viii: 3)
More specifically, in Buddhism, you can conceptualize the Adi-Buddha as the primordial Buddha inherent in all things. Specifically, Adi-Buddha is identified as Vairocana, or the Dharmakaya (Truth Body) of Shakyamuni Buddha. Dharmakaya is representational of Dharma-Nature, in a manner very much akin to MALAKH YHWH (Angel that is the Lord in the Bible) sort of entity. Effectively God, but still not God (Dharma-Nature pervades the whole, but is not the whole. The closest you will find to a statement on the Uniqueness of God in Buddhism).
In Islam, none of the Angels have Free Will, being extension of God’s Will. Again, a functional god (in terms of how God interacts with the world. It was not God who directly spoke to the Prophet Muhammad, but instead, he used Gabriel as an intermediary to communicate his message. Why is this intermediary necessary? Because that is how God acts in the world; admittedly, this draws a bit from the Esoteric Kabbalistic conception of what Angels are— as Tasks of God, rather than from Islam).
A Buddha is like such a process.
Peace be upon you.
Disclaimer: I have a mostly Mahayana background, so correct me on any mistakes.
In the 5th Century, Buddhaghosa wrote the Visuddhimagga, which was the manual on Theravada meditation techniques and exegesis on its theology. It was touted as a step-by-step path to Enlightenment.
But Buddhaghosa in a postscript stated that he did not believe Theravada practices could lead to Nirvana. He hoped that by writing the Visuddhimagga, he would earn enough Merit to be reborn in a Heavenly Realm to await Maitreya’s arrival, so that he could hear Maitreya preach, and thus gain enlightenment. This postscript betrayed Buddhaghosa’s soteriological beliefs.
In addition, by the 10th Century, Theravada Buddhism no longer practice vipassana meditation at all, because they believed that the Buddha-Dharma had degenerated and that enlightenment was no longer possible until the arrival of Maitreya.
In essence, it seemed that for a least eight centuries, Theravada was almost Messianic.
In the 18th century, Vipassana Meditation was re-invented in Myanmar by Medawi, a Burmese Monk who is credited as the first author of the modern vipassana movement.
Reform & Decline of Tantric Theravada
In the intervening period before modernity, most Theravada meditation had been based on the Yogāvacara tradition (also known as borān kammaṭṭhāna, Southern Esoteric, or Tantric Theravada), but it declined, and was suppressed by the Reform movement in the 19th century which took Buddhaghosa’s philosophy as the orthodox interpretation of Theravada, as well as by French Colonial suppression and then by the Khmer Rouge. The Vipassana Meditation movement displaced Tantric Theravada.
The reforms were partly a reaction towards Western Colonialism, but also relied on the proliferation of the Pali Canon by Western interest to realize. The Theosophical Society played a big role in reviving the faith locally, especially amongst the laity. Theravada, however it existed in the past, was reshaped according to modern interpretations of the Pali Canon by modern eyes and modern minds.
There are also the Weizza (vijjādhara), or Buddhist Wizards in Burma, which may be related to Southern Esoteric Buddhism. Weizza practices alchemy and magic in order to attain timeless immortality; their purpose is to live long enough for Maitreya to arrive. This fits into the pre-reform beliefs about being unable to attain liberation without Maitreya.
This was a conversation I had on an online Esoteric Group, with “K” , and some good stuff came up, so I have repeated it here.
K: Someone here asked a question that I’m really reeeaaaally curious about its answers, but he phrased it differently so the answers were on another point entirely, so I’m putting it this way : There were around 3 to 5 million people 10000 years ago, now there are about 9 billion people, so how to account for all these new people in the cycle of rebirth? Are new souls being made everyday or its something else? I’m really interested to see what you guys have to say about this
Me: This is a multi-level answer, but here’s a summary.
1) The Universe is eternal, and there are infinite worlds. There are innumerable Trichiliocosms, and each is roughly 1 billion small world systems (a small world system is already a system composed of everything from our local heavens to our local hells, including the local human realm). Thus whatever the population of humans on Earth was, it doesn’t matter because the cosmos is not just full of human equivalent beings, let alone just homo sapiens.
2) In Buddhist cosmology, a universe expands from a state of no life to a state of life everywhere in a full universe. As beings multiply, die, and are reborn in progressively “lower worlds” the structures of the Universe emerge. From the highest heavenly worlds to the human world and eventually all of the hell worlds. When all hell worlds are full, the growth of the universe has reached its maximum. It then declines. The Hellworlds becomes empty of life first and then the preta, animal and human worlds. And then almost all of the Heavenly worlds are annihilated, eventually there is just the winds of karma blowing in a state of no life.
3) There are no souls, but there are chains of causation we experience as a self. These chains of causation emerge from karma leftover from the causal chains of the previous universe. However, remember, all things are Dharma-Nature (so despite no soul, we have an all pervading spirit).
4) However, the number of sentient beings neither increase nor decrease, no matter how many are delivered into nirvana. To understand why requires some serious contemplation regarding the nature of sentient beings and the nature of nirvana and Buddhahood.
K: But I want to ask you about something you said, what is rebirth if not soul based? This is a really interesting prospective you proposed. This is really interesting.
And as you say it’s all about the nature of sentient beings and the nature of nirvana, that’s what makes this problem interesting.
Me: Well, what is a soul? Is it a copy of a self-identity? It is a substance that contains your memories? In what way is this different from your brain?
When you deconstruct the concept of a soul, it is really like any other phenomena.
All phenomena are codependent; they are made of, and sustained by, other phenomena. And they interact via causality (cause and effect).
If a phenomena seems like it has lots of moving parts, that’s because it does. How does a brain work? Moving parts. How does a self-identity work? Lots of moving parts. How does those moving parts work? More moving parts.
This is what is meant by no soul/self, even though we all have a mindstream (which is not static, but dynamic— because it’s moving parts; hence a stream).
The fundamental mechanisms of who we “are” is no different than any other process in the cosmos. Just as all phenomena undergoes change, so do we. Mind-Body dualism is wrong for this reason also— how can mind be separate from body? They are part of the same ecosystem of phenomena. In Buddhism, the constituents of a living being is called “Namarupa” (psychophysical organism), we are mind and body because neither “mind” nor “body” are real; they are just processes.
Rebirth (better described as reorigination) is not about a transmigrating soul object, rather, it is about codependent origination (because of this, therefore that, without that, this ceases). All phenomena are reoriginated moment to moment. The phenomena of you does the same; the cause of your existence exist, so you do.
K: I think I’m beginning to understand what you mean but there are some points still. I know that in Buddhism the self is more of a phenomena rather than a concrete thing (the chariot analogy and stuff) but still the problem remains, cuz if it’s just a matter of cause and effect so there will easily be no real continuity, because for stuff to have a causal relationship they must be separate independent “things”, and if the nature of rebirth is just a causal phenomena then the “thing” being reborn is a complete and different new thing, therefore it shouldn’t be regeneration instead it should be just “generation”
Me: Good point. Hence, “re-origination” is a translation that makes the most sense to me (as opposed to rebirth). We are re-originating each moment from the factors that sustain our immediate present existence. If the Sun exist right now, it’s because the nuclear reaction that sustains it is still present, but the sun does not last forever because that nuclear reaction does not last forever. However, stars can be reborn through stellar rebirth (the conditions for a star is once more present). So it is with us.
We are inheritors of our past life the same way we are inheritors of our parents’ DNA (and there is no doubt parents are part of our causal chain to an extent— to be reborn as a human, your mindstream needs to have a causal affinity with both parents, who must engage in a reproductive act. It takes three to come into existence as a human).
“‘I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir’.
— Shakyamuni Buddha
A common allegory used by Buddhists is that rebirth is like a candle lighting another candle. Although the two flames are not exactly the same, one flame caused the other.
Also, check out the Ship of Theseus.
As for things being independent…in Buddhism, the idea is that nothing is independent. Nothing can be.
I honestly can’t really think of an example in the real world we experience that can independently exists because everything is reductive to something else, or caused by something else. It’s better to think of phenomena as PROCESSES rather than things, as dynamic movement rather than static substances that interact. Where does one phenomena end and another begin?
There is a category of things called unconditioned dharmas. Concepts such as Nirvana, True Tathata (suchness) and True Sunyata (emptiness) are unconditioned dharmas, as are Buddhas and Enlightened beings.
Suchness/Emptiness (aka, codependent origination) is something which we can imagine as being like a primordial fluid (true nothingness is impossible). So whatever this fluid is, really exists, but all parts of the fluid cannot independently exist. If there is a big pot of soup that is cooking, gradually over time that soup changes colour, consistency, texture, shape. A potato floats up, and then sinks and then a broccoli bit floats up. It’s hard to say what exactly is in this soup, and where one bit ends and another bit begins. Reality is like a pot of soup cooking, but it will never be finished. It will cook forever. Of course, because we have to conceptualize this instead of truly being it, this too is conditioned. Our “sensation” of what we think Suchness/Emptiness is makes it a conditioned existence.
K: man so many points to discuss ! This is delicious 🤤 if only I could type fast tho😅.
I see what you mean now, I think we agree it’s not a matter rebirth “a transition from life to life” it’s more a matter of movement of change, as you say matter of “re-origination”
H.P. Lovecraft’s Cosmicism is a source of profound spiritual awe.
Lovecraft’s Cosmicism nominally would have us believe that the unknown is terrifying, that deep time, deep space, life beyond, and intelligent life before us, and intelligent life long after us; are sources of terror, and proof of the insignificance of Man.
But those same themes exist in religions today (ie, Buddhism), which instead of dread, generates spiritual awe and insight.
If anything we should feel comforted that long after Man has become ashes or perhaps some cowering mammal crawling in the ruins of the old world, a new race of Man will walk this world: The Beetle-like Coleopteran, building civilization on the ruins of our own (as recorded by the time traveling Great Race of Yith). Just as we ourselves have succeeded innumerable races of Man before us, such as the Flying Polyps which colonized the Earth six hundred million years ago (again, recorded by the Yithians). We are part of a long lineage of life on Earth. Life that existed everywhere in the cosmos, be they composed of matter like us, of something more exotic like Star-Spawn, or even like the Great Old Ones, who are beyond our understanding. All life. All sprawling and spawning without true beginning and without final end.
If anything, we should live life meaningfully precisely because it will not last forever. What will the Yith say of our species when our time has ended? We should make a good impression.
It is true that when Great Cthulhu raises the sunken city of R’lyeh, he will accidentally destroy human civilization and reduce us to squabbling primitives cowering beneath giant Star-Spawn and inhuman cities of Non-Euclidean Geometry. This is because Cthulhu has no conceptions of human morality, of the anthropocentric world, and indeed, does not even perceive humans at all. But this does not make Cthulhu amoral, his existence does not render OUR life meaningless, and his doings are not done against us, nor for us, but for himself, like many beings and many peoples. We are much alike.
If anything, those beings closer to us in nature— such as the Elder Things— who may perceive humans as animals to be used and abused are more terrifying; but can we blame the Elder Things for their lack of insight when we ourselves have a tendency to reduce our animal brethren to mere objects? It is doubly saddening that the Elder Things are not only our predecessor in the lineage of Earthly intelligence, but they are also our direct creators, having genetically experimented with indigenous lifeforms to accelerate human evolution. But like father, like son.
If we do not fear miscegenation (inter-racial sexual relationships) we have no logical reason to fear the Deep Ones intermingling with humans either and creating hybrids (if in fact, there was any actual miscegenation, and the Deep Ones don’t just implant parasites in human hosts, who guide them towards the sea and then burst out of their chest— but this too is found in the animal kingdom, and are we not animals? Peace, peace!).
As always, if we are distressed by our individual lives, or for humanity as a whole, calm down, and remember that before us were other great races, and after us there will be other great races. For after us come the Beetle-men, but after them the Yithians do not say the Deep Ones will reign, for they were already old in this world and will fade in time. Take comfort that nothing lasts forever (not even the Yithians, doomed to die in a time not their own). And that no matter what horrors we face, we will not only see the Rise of Cthulhu, we may even live to the next cycle of His eventual slumber again. What glorious sights humanity shall see. What new and alien forms we will evolve into!
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
The Five Precepts, the Five Constant Virtues, & the Five Elements.
The Five Elements in Chinese thinking are metaphors for phases of transforming energy that interpenetrates all phenomena. The Five Elements (Wuxing— “the five processes”) has its origins in Bronze Age China (possibly earlier). Eventually it was further developed as a concept of process phenomena, contrasted to the static “building block” of Greek Elements. Wuxing is applied to everything in Chinese thought, from medicine to astrology.
The Five Constant Virtues are Confucian doctrines about the intrinsic inter-related qualities that all human beings possesses.
The Five Precepts are Buddhist “training rules” that a serious practitioner upholds— however it is deeper than the simple list of restriction it appears to be.
1. Do Not Kill (Buddhism)
Wood Element [Jupiter]
Love all so you do not wish to kill— this is the true meaning of Ahimsa. It is not do no harm. It is love all so you wish harm on none. It is sustained by faith (Earth), it generates propriety (Fire) and it is overcome by Righteousness (Metal). *Benevolence in Confucianism is Ren, quite literally “two-peopleness” or “Mutuality”. It is the inner quality of a sage, and cognate to the Christian Agape.
2. Do Not Commit Sexual Misconduct (Buddhism)
Fire Element [Mars]
Propriety* means to respect rituals and social boundaries so you do not transgress against others. It is sustained by Benevolence (Wood), it generates Sincerity/Faith/Trust (Earth), and it is overcome by Wisdom (Water). *Propriety is Li (禮), meaning ritual-etiquette.
3. Do Not Lie (Buddhism)
Earth Element [Saturn]
Sincerity/faith/trust* is the ground of spiritual practice and of living. Without it you cannot be genuine in your motivations, and others cannot trust you. It is sustained by Propriety (Fire), it generates Righteousness (Metal), and it is overcome by Benevolence (Wood). *Sincerity, faith, and trust are the same Word in Chinese (信), also meaning Trustworthiness.
4. Do Not Steal (Buddhism)
Metal Element [Venus]
To do good and to do so correctly. It is is sustained by Sincerity/Faith/Trust (Earth), it generates Wisdom (Water), and it is overcome by Propriety (Fire).
5. Do Not Ingest Intoxicants (Buddhism)
Water Element [Mercury]
To be clear minded and to have insight into matters and events. It is sustained by Righteousness (Metal), it generates Benevolence (Wood), and it is overcome by Sincerity/Faith/Trust (Earth).
Sustaining, Generating, and Overcoming.
Each element is sustained/generated by another, but if there is “too much” of an element, it becomes too strong (which leads to problems). Each element is also overcomed (“destroyed”) by another Element— the overcoming element helps constrain excesses of an element that is too strong (but the overcoming element might itself end up eroding an element too much). Apply this logic to the virtues implied here, and you can see all of them can be problematic if too strong or too weak, and how it can impact the entire ecosystem. It must be in balance.