Dear Michael and David,
thanks for your replies; this is getting a bit dense, so I’ll tackle what I can today. Also, here’s my disclaimer: I teach Hinduism (very, very old school—Adi Shankara, Patanjali, etc.,) and Plotinus. While I’ve had the honor and grace of being in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama many, many times, and have studied various Tibetan texts in preparation for these visits, I’m neither a Tibetan Buddhist, nor much of a Buddhist at all, which may clash with the energy of this thread. At the same time, I think that this thread is not the place to engage in fisticuffs between Hinduism and Buddhism; I offer my understanding of the former because, like you-all, I think that meditation is fundamental to good astrology, and vice-versa; I wouldn’t do one without the other!
If you like, I’ll step aside from this conversation so that the theme of Buddhism and Astrology can be developed without distractions—a worthy task in its own right.
Continuing for the moment, then:
Michael Erlewine wrote:You write:
“The problem with our thoughts, even trivial ones, isn’t the thoughts themselves, it is that they come back around. “
In the teachings I have worked with “mostly Mahamudra teachings), this is not stated as a problem. In fact, in these teachings thoughts are not considered a hindrance of any kind. Quite the opposite. Without thoughts we would not be able to learn much about the mind. This is what I have been taught.
What I’m trying to say here isn’t that ‘thoughts are bad’ per se. It’s the SAME thought recycling in our mind like an advertising jingle that’s bad. Such pseudomantras are like a computer virus; they fill the lower mind’s attention and carry neither meaning, value, nor purpose. Pass a thought through the mind once: it is reason—the mind in motion; pass it through twice: it is reflective consciousness (if you’re aware) at best, but is more likely the shift from understanding to memorized opinion, and from thence to sheer rote. So I say we must think in order to understand and to complete the mind, and while thought is not the fully refunded to mind until the mind shines clear and creative, thought is never anything other than the mind in motion, no matter how independent or concrete it may be.
So what is properly cyclic is the function of the mind, its faculties such as synthesis and distinction. A more concrete version of this is our sense organs, for example the eyes repeatedly, reliably ‘cycle’ perception, so also, perhaps, our astrological mind’s eye; such faculties are sub-routines (gack—what a poor metaphor!) that are movements within the mind. A better metaphor: the planets move within the solar system, and again they move upon themselves, and, by the regularity of their movements, they are planets, not comets, meteors or other random objects. As spheres in spherical motion, planets are (in my view) super-minds, what the Greeks and others speak of as the Mundane Gods. When the mind becomes, through cyclic (spherical) motion, spherical in shape it is properly sambhogakaya to Buddhism, dianoia to Plotinus, and, as David said, savichara samadhi to Hinduism.
Michael Erlewine wrote:You write:
“The mind—the mind that arises in existence—must move, for that is the nature of existence.
In my understanding, nothing is said about the mind (“must move”) as in “having to move,” only that it does move, ceaselessly, always has and always will.
It is my belief that we’re saying the same thing here. The mind moves for that is the nature of mind; it could be called self-motive in the sense that nothing ‘outside’ it moves it. … or does it? I would suggest that Ideas (read degrees) do irradiate the mind and thereby energize it. At the same time, the mind is self-energized, so that it receives this energy according to its own cyclic nature. This obviously takes this thread in a different direction, so I’ll stop here.
Michael Erlewine wrote:You write:
“… an act you Buddhists think is a bad thing!”
Of course, this comes like a shot out of the blue, a non sequitur if I ever saw one . There are many forms of Buddhism. In which form of Buddhism did you find that thought in? Again: not in teachings I am familiar with.
Sorry about that Michael—it was a shot out of the blue – I am often in arguments with a strong group of Madhyamika folk in Ithaca… local folks that I’ve been talking to for 40 years, and they’ve got me a little trigger-happy. I’ll try to keep at least one of my Virgo or Scorpio planets tucked away from now on…
Michael Erlewine wrote:Next you go on to describe thoughts tumbling in the dryer of the mind. I liked reading that, but I became aware while reading that ‘thoughts’ are being somewhat materialized here, becoming the main focus, when in the teachings I know, it is immaterial as to what thoughts do or not do. Rather, it is the nature of the thoughts that is the focus, not the subject matter of the thoughts or their behavior. We may have a real difference in approach here, so do go into more detail.
Okay, there are several points here—points that live conversation would probably clean up faster… I was afraid that my image might invite over-careful examination; I meant it as a feeling-value, not a technical description. After all, how can one use a perceptual construct to describe that which is prior to perception?
Michael, here you say (and again below, unless I’m misreading you) that what the thoughts are about is immaterial, and yet you say earlier that “Without thoughts we would not be able to learn much about the mind.”
by which I understand you to mean that it does matter what the thoughts we have are about. I do think that it matters, and matters a great deal what thoughts we are having, generating. Thoughts which might be called impersonal are of benefit to the mind, which is itself impersonal; no judgment here, just a matter of matching like to like, or rather reshaping the thought so that its own quasi-independent movement is realigned to the movement of mind. When water is moving fast and cleanly, it is transparent and the surface appears still; slow it down and ripples appear that we can distinguish from the water itself as though a form without substance is a thing…
As far as material/immaterial, the former is to me but a believed shadow of the over-extraverted attention, nothing more, albeit nothing less. Thoughts are currents within the mind, and to me are illumined currents informing the mind as well as being integral to it. Such illumination is derived from Ideas, from the degrees, laws or bija-seeds that are some of the transcendent origins of manifestation. A view from the Hindu/Platonic perspective, relevant insofar as the planets are motions or ‘minds’ within us, and the degrees & aspects are their illumined/illuminating thoughts.
Michael Erlewine wrote:As for harnessing the wind-power of thoughts for Samadhi, I have no argument there, with the exception that, again, instead of seeing through thoughts to their nature, you are materializing them again – putting them to work. This may be all well and good, but appears to me as a major distraction.
“The idea here is to release the mind from tossing rags – complexes – around, and allow it to do its proper function, so long as it continues to operate as ‘other’ than becoming itself. “
Well, here it branches in all directions, which is why we will have to get to know one another through this discussion. You might have to elaborate here, lest I think that (once again) we are introducing a subject and an object, etc. For example, ‘who” is it that allows the mind to do its proper function? That kind of thing.
Michael, your comment is illuminating! I thought I was saying something simple, but your questions point out the assumptions I’m making here. I’m not introducing a subject and object where the object is considered somehow other or outside and imputed to have its own existence. I’m saying that thoughts, when they are in turmoil become a content of the mind, which becomes a container in turn. As far as the ‘who’ is concerned, for me that’s easy: the Soul as the evolving relationship between Being and Becoming, and between Being and the Real. This is neo-Platonic view may not apply here, but I see the Soul as embodying itself as the cosmos, which sets up a domino effect within itself, and that in turn gives rise to individual ‘souls’ within the cosmos—namely ‘us!’
Michael Erlewine wrote:This last sentence needs some elaboration, again, lest we give the natal chart and the ego power they do not have. I guess you would have to detail what you mean by “fixity of the natal chart.” It does not sound like a ‘good’ thing.
This is fun. My overall take away is of too much concern about ego, as opposed to examining the ego (like the old game of pick-up-sticks) and taking a few sticks away, so it is more transparent. The ego comes out of this discussion fully intact, perhaps even stronger. What is that?
Michael, I’m not sure where you got the impression about the ego. At any rate, my view is that the ego is the apparent center of the subtle body as it is interfaced with the body, and while it may be illusory, it still has power and is present so long as the body-mind interface is experienced as a dual. To that end, I think that the ego’s structure is found in the aspect pattern of the natal planets; the evolution of the ego—and psyche are to be found in the history of the transits and other motions brought to bear on the natal chart. And while such attention may be unspiritual, it surely commands the bulk of our experience.
I thought I said that a better meditation for an individual is to attend not to this fixed field of preset relations but to be mindful of the planets in motion as they are today—the mundane chart as it were. Life is motion, there is neither any reality to be found in the ego nor in contents believed to be ‘objects’ which are infused with a fixity they cannot support and do not need. This is one view of the natal chart, from the point of view of becoming.
The other view is from the perspective of Being. Being cannot “be” elsewhere, for ‘where’ itself is a characteristic of becoming, not being. Therefore Being, as Plotinus says, is an immediacy which may appear as ‘here’ to the perceiving mind. Be-ing, while dynamic, doesn’t exactly move, for motion requires some sense of ‘here’ and usually a ‘there’ as well. The Soul, in contemplating Being, takes a snapshot of Being, forms an image of it, as it were, and that impression is further mimicked by the embodying impulse which fixes a moment of time/space which partially reflects this impression. That impression, then is the natal chart, and is far, far from any sort of ‘me’ or ‘mine.’ Contemplating the chart as a mandala of the soul requires impersonality from the get-go; the ego has no locus in the soul, thus the insights gained are not about ‘me’ or even “I,” but about the characteristics of Soul itself, universal soul. Such a universal soul is not unlike the Boddhisattva, albeit not identical either. My own view is that the various teachings of the world don’t converge, but diverge, that the Mystery of consciousness is just that, a mystery. …