Blog Archives

Rambling about shamanism

The consecration of the Great Stupa of Dharmak...

The consecration of the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya in Colorado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve started (very slowly and with little effect) a new blog on Castaneda’s ideas in the Don Juan books.


Concepts in …


As someone who reads Trungpa Rinpoche’s books, seeing the concepts of “gap” and the “looking/seeing” distinction in Castaneda really shocked me. Now, there are talks up at the “Chronicles” website, on Castenada, but I haven’t seen much of them yet. (Partly due to a slow internet connection, and partly due to laziness.) Anyhow, those will probably connect in at some point.


So that’s the project: a small one, and just getting started. Jumping back, however- what’s the connection? Why make that connection?


Is it because Tibetan Buddhism is exotic, and magical, just like shamanism, a kind of spiritual playground?


Is it that shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism (as it morphs into the West) have something to offer to each other? Does that imply a limitation or incompleteness in either, right now?


One thing that’s interesting and addictive about the “Don Juan” books is they (purport to) show the spiritual learning of a skeptical, intellectual American (as he becomes the apprentice of a Yaqui shaman/warrior/man of knowledge, takes hallucinogens many times, and witnesses various strange things and visions). They say that the spiritual path is different for everyone. It’s quite possible, for some people, that the journey is slow and uneventful, with a very subtle gradual shift in consciousness and ability to be virtuous. It’s much more exciting, though, to read about people struggling with the path, having visions, freaking out, struggling with their teacher, and experiencing moments of breakthrough.

It could be inspiring to read these sort of spiritual biographies.

Then again, it could be deceptive, or wishful thinking, or an excuse to not actually sit down and practice. There’s plenty of issues to think about. Of course, it’s also about culture clash, possibly: Asian Buddhism finding ways to exist skillfully in the West, the story of an academic (Castaneda) struggling to overcome his habitual clinging to reason, his arrogance, and learning to interact with a Native Mexican teacher (who in the book, oddly enough, seems very a-cultural, very universal).


Words of the world

Keeping it simple-

Language is important.


I don’t think political correctness makes sense, or works. On the other arm, being outrageously gutsy and offending everyone for the sake of manipulation is not good either.

In terms of the teachings, language is vitally important. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Buddhism gets mixed very liberally (in “THE WEST”) in with liberalism. This corrupts the language of the teachings sometimes. A word like “compassion” takes on a different vibe in liberal settings than it does in say, a meditation center. In itself, that’s not exactly problematic. The problem is that confusion is attached deeply to conventional views of things “as they is” and said confusion gets carried along and transmitted with language.

Then you get the extreme of “it’s just words.” Language isn’t important for practitioners. You meditate, maybe read a little, and the words are just “concepts.” A distraction. That’s really silly. Language is powerful and pervasive and ignoring it is like ignoring… emotions. It’s like ignoring emotions. Yes, emotions aren’t everything, and if you’re enlightened maybe they have no power to sway you or control you but we’re not there yet, so ignoring them means suppressing and (seeing them arise in unpleasant and surprising ways, like a temper tantrum, or bouts of depression).

It’s also a cop out to imagine practitioners don’t need language, because it’s conceptual (and thus not reality itself). (The argument there, I hope is relatively clear; words are concepts, concepts are not exactly reality {chair does not equal “chair”} so they’re irrelevant or distractions.)

Language will get used. It will keep going and going. It will change things. Dharmic people, Christians, anyone serious about the path, should be careful and discriminating about language. After the parinirvana of Trungpa Rinpoche, I wanted to write about that. He was a master of language. His mastery of language allowed the implantation of real Buddhism in America. Look at an academic scholarly book about Buddhism. They’re for the most part not only boring and irrelevant, but lifeless, because the language they use is wrong. It’s not connected to the dharma. They use too many hyphenates too. That’s always a bad sign.

Anything but simple, unfortunately. Here is where I raise my sword and make the exciting part of the speech before the battle. Let me humbly suggest that anyone serious about practice at all, of any tradition, be very thoughtful about using language, especially using it like normal folks. There is a distinction between a practitioner and a normal person. Don’t forget that. Part of that should mean that language is wielded. It’s not some distraction that we’re above. It’s not casual.

Interestingly, I haven’t really prescribed any sort of method for using language, aside from, in a gossipy sort of way, talked down to various “normal” ways of misusing language. Maybe I’ll write about my ideas about that next time. To continue the slander, here are a few more thoughts about what NOT to do with language.

– be politically correct

– be arrogant

– capitalize important words unless it’s traditional (“God” is okay, “Freedom” is not)

– unconsciously use buzzwords

– be “professional” as a way to be arrogant, manipulative, or avoid reality

– be “ironic” about something being enjoyable because it’s a piece of garbage

– imitate the style of spirituality by using detached, cool, or deep-sounding words and phrases


Very well. Happy Amitabha day. That’s all for now.


Four thoughts, new

1. In this life, you have the chance to help yourself and others.

2. Because of death, there’s poignancy and hard work.

3. Helping others, and yourself, involves knowing what to accept, and what to reject.

4. This all happens in the six realms, which are like a stage.

Helping self and others

Death leads to poignancy and hard work

Helping means knowing what to accept and what to reject

The six realms are like a stage

we perform on

(I could not resist this quote, in reference to accepting and rejecting, from “Sadhana of Mahamudra”)

“He is inseparable from peacefulness, and yet he acts whenever action is required. He subdues what needs to be subdued, he destroys what needs to be destroyed, and he cares for whatever needs his care.” Trungpa Rinpoche

(picture at top is of “Nimbus” by Berndnaut Smilde)


Sharing my translations of the teachings of a great Tibetan teacher

My Meditation Challenge

Waking Up in the Dream

Fit Body Freaks

All Things Health and Fitness

Jack Saunsea

Making a living by giving.


Photography by Manos,

Tinfoil Hat Lady

Helping You Think Things Differently.

Detach Yourself...

(R)evolution of Consciousness & (Counter)culture

@meditationstuff (Since 2013; 100+ posts; 50,000+ words and counting...)

Meditation and transformative practice vis-à-vis rationality, phenomenology, neuroscience and {clinical, developmental, evolutionary} psychology because humans.

Colorful Lamentations

Personal musings

Advayavada Buddhism




The Pizza Cleanse

Pizza for Optimal Fitness

%d bloggers like this: