Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:02 am

Greetings,
zavk wrote:Yes, and I don't know if I am not making myself clear enough, or if you don't want to get it or just cannot get it. But what I have been trying to highlight so far is the need to pay attention to how conceptual groupings still work today in various subtle ways - especially when this habit of conceptual grouping is hidden by the idea that one has 'gotten over' conceptual grouping - so that we can learn how to better defuse this habit of conceptual grouping. Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes, and that they are helpful only to the extent that we constantly allow them to change and transform.
Sorry, I cannot relate to this at all. It feels like some variety of academic activism.

To my way of seeing, healing occurs by means of unity - not by further delineation, conceptual analysis and reductionism. In contrast, healing is holistic and occurs through accentuating and paying attention to that which is common, whereas what you propose seems intent on defining, manifesting and reifying conceptualized grounds for difference and isolation, and therefore for seeing people as numbers encircled on a Venn diagram rather than as individuals.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by zavk » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:43 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
zavk wrote:Yes, and I don't know if I am not making myself clear enough, or if you don't want to get it or just cannot get it. But what I have been trying to highlight so far is the need to pay attention to how conceptual groupings still work today in various subtle ways - especially when this habit of conceptual grouping is hidden by the idea that one has 'gotten over' conceptual grouping - so that we can learn how to better defuse this habit of conceptual grouping. Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes, and that they are helpful only to the extent that we constantly allow them to change and transform.
Sorry, I cannot relate to this at all. It feels like some variety of academic activism.

To my way of seeing, healing occurs by means of unity - not by further delineation, conceptual analysis and reductionism. In contrast, healing is holistic and occurs through accentuating and paying attention to that which is common, whereas what you propose seems intent on defining, manifesting and reifying conceptualized grounds for difference and isolation, and therefore for seeing people as numbers encircled on a Venn diagram rather than as individuals.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Did I say that I am not for the fostering of commonalites (and 'reductionism'? have you even read my posts)? But ok, now that you have evoked the praxis-ideal of commonality, let me say unreservedly that I affirm commonality but precisely because commonality ≠ sameness. If commonality is not commonality-in-spite-of-difference, togetherness-in-difference, then, I'd rather not have anything to do with it. You keep your unity to yourself.

And also, I'm not sure about ingenuity or the degree of critical reflexivity in the suggestion that because you disagree/cannot relate/are not prepared to see things from my perspective - that this is indicative of a kind of 'academic activism' on my part. If it is, well, then, perhaps I better pay more attention to myself.

But let me ask: what is being implied by this phrase 'academic activism'? Perhaps the implication that it just 'mere thinking' or a whole lot of 'over-intellectualisation', 'theorising divorced from practice', etc?

I don't know if this is a helpful notion to imply... I have certainly encountered similar sentiments/implied criticism in real life when people's views are challenged, as if one's thinking is ever disembodied or unconditioned by the exigencies of lived experience. I have definitely encountered such sentiments in the thousands and thousands of pages of this very forum itself - where (and who can honestly deny this?) A LOT of time and effort, a lot of energy, is invested in a certain discursive practice that judges, evaluates, and even excludes, people on the basis of how they construct their arguments, whether they back up their claims with references to this or that text or not.

I dunno.... it all appears very 'academic' to me. When does it become a habit, good or bad, of others and not oneself?
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:34 am

Hi zavk,

I can certainly see where you're coming from, and agree wholeheartedly, as I said in my first post on this thread: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 67#p262175

It's very easy to play the "they should just get over it" card... It's what used to happen all the time in my country (and still does, of course). However, as the Buddha made clear, denial is an ineffective cure...

:anjali:
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by Aloka » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:38 am

.

I'm so sorry if this seems an innapropriate place to post this, but it just came into my mind when reading this thread:

"Dry out that which is past, let there be nothing for you in the future. If you do not grasp at anything in the present you will go about at peace. One who, in regard to this entire mindbody complex, has no cherishing of it as 'mine,' and who does not grieve for what is non-existent truly suffers no loss in the world. For him there is no thought of anything as 'this is mine' or 'this is another's'; not finding any state of ownership, and realizing, 'nothing is mine,' he does not grieve.

"To be not callous, not greedy, at rest and unruffled by circumstances — that is the profitable result I proclaim when asked about one who does not waver. For one who does not crave, who has understanding, there is no production (of new kamma). Refraining from initiating (new kamma) he sees security everywhere.

A sage does not speak in terms of being equal, lower or higher. Calmed and without selfishness he neither grasps nor rejects."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html


:anjali:

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:53 am

Greetings,

:goodpost:
zavk wrote:If it is, well, then, perhaps I better pay more attention to myself.
If you accept the quote that Aloka provided above, then I envisage that would be beneficial.
zavk wrote:what is being implied by this phrase 'academic activism'? Perhaps the implication that it just 'mere thinking' or a whole lot of 'over-intellectualisation', 'theorising divorced from practice', etc?
Activism = "Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes" (i.e. focus on manipulating the outer world of society in preference to manipulating the inner world of yourself)
Academic = Your opening post, laden with such conceptual groupings and classifications, disconnected from individual experience (i.e. loka) except for where you talked about your personal relationship to certain narratives.

Whereas he, "who does not grieve for what is non-existent truly suffers no loss in the world". Your concepts only exist when you manifest them, and by trying to call out "marginalised" groups you're encouraging others accept them, to reify them, and do likewise - i.e encouraging people to "buy into" these unnecessary delineations between people.
zavk wrote:I have definitely encountered such sentiments in the thousands and thousands of pages of this very forum itself - where (and who can honestly deny this?) A LOT of time and effort, a lot of energy, is invested in a certain discursive practice that judges, evaluates, and even excludes, people on the basis of how they construct their arguments, whether they back up their claims with references to this or that text or not.

I dunno.... it all appears very 'academic' to me.
And indeed it is if it has no direct relevance to one's experience/life/practice, which is precisely why I have no interest in "debate".
zavk wrote:in the suggestion that because you disagree/cannot relate/are not prepared to see things from my perspective
I can see it - I just don't think it's efficacious in the context of the Dhamma for the reasons outlined previously.
zavk wrote:When does it become a habit, good or bad, of others and not oneself?
I cannot find it just now but there is a sutta in which the Buddha gives general/non-situational advice saying that whatever contemplations or objects of attention give rise to wisdom, non-aversion, non-greed are good... whereas those that give rise to ingorance, aversion and greed and not good. Hence the importance of mindfulness in knowing this for oneself, so one can act appropriately.

Finally, I agree with Nanavira Thera when he said... "Only in a vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence, is a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation; and only a man who does apprehend this is prepared to listen to the Buddha s Teaching. But human kind, it seems, cannot bear very much reality: men, for the most part, draw back in alarm and dismay from this vertiginous direct view of being and seek refuge in distractions." To me, academic conceptualizations of the type promoted earlier are distractions.... i.e. thinking disconnected from the goal.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by chownah » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:01 pm

zavk wrote: ..........not to disparage 'Western Buddhism' as such, since I am participating in it too, but merely in hope of encouraging curiosity about the stories of other Buddhists that may be effaced/subjugated/denigrated, even if unwittingly, by the story 'Western Buddhism' narrates about itself.
Ok, then. Consider me to be encouraged to be curious about the stories of other Buddhists as you describe.......so where are these stories? Are you talking about stories from Buddhists alive today or are you just talking about stories about dead Buddhists?
chownah

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by daverupa » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:42 pm

A LOT of time and effort, a lot of energy, is invested in a certain discursive practice that judges, evaluates, and even excludes, people on the basis of how they construct their arguments, whether they back up their claims with references to this or that text or not.
I see a lot more energy invested in discursive exclusions & evaluations of arguments than in discursive exclusions & evaluations of people, though I agree that this latter is simply not useful in any way.

It's a manifestation of the main problem of ossifying processes into entities in order to have a self-relationship with them; MN 1 discusses this.

Conceptual categories are useful only so long as they are mutable, in a nutshell, neh? Directly knowing a conceptual category in and of itself as such is different than taking it for granted as foundationally real and building on it...
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by DNS » Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:35 pm

zavk wrote: I think we need to be careful that we don't evoke 'post-racial' as some kind of simplistic utopian rhetoric of "Let's not harp on these issues about racial discrimination, ethnocentricity, and what not. Leave it behind us, let's forget about it." It is very easy for those who have not historically been systematically marginalised and persecuted to just 'leave it all behind'.

But what if those who HAVE been systematically marginalised and persecuted respond by saying: "Wait, what? For the longest time, we have been silenced and ignored. Our plight effaced by a rhetoric of 'Oh we are doing this for your own good' We are all really the same. You just don't know how to see it'. No, screw that! Now that we finally have the means and opportunity to speak about injustice and participate in a history you have denied us, you want us to just forget about it? Whose interest is being served by 'leaving it all behind?' What if I tell you that 'forgetting about it' continues to silence us?" What if the privilege if you have accrued at our expense is precisely because you always tell yourself and force it down our throats that 'We are all the same?' We have never been 'the same'? Are you prepared to deal with that?"
I am trying to find something wholesome in your effort, but I don't see the benefit of harping about racial differences in Buddhism. As I mentioned most Buddhists that I have encountered have Asian monks and nuns as teachers who they greatly admire and respect and hold no racist views that I can see whatsoever. How exactly are Asian Buddhists being marginalized and persecuted?

If you are referring to something in the past, then yes, we could write about this in our texts but who is to be held accountable today for those past wrongs?

And yes, I know what it is like to face discrimination. I come from an ethnic group that has been on the receiving end of discrimination for thousands of years and I have personally experienced it too. In my own ethnic group, similar to immigrant Asians (to generalize), we excelled at education and achieved high positions in society, effectively eliminating most of the discrimination.

"Birth makes no Brahmin, nor non-Brahmin, makes; it is life‘s doing that mold the Brahmin true. Their lives mold farmers, tradesmen, merchants, and serfs. Their lives mold robbers, soldiers, chaplains, and kings. By birth is not one an out-caste. By birth is not one a Brahmin. By deeds is one an out-caste. By deeds is one a Brahmin."
(Majjhima Nikaya 98, Vasettha Sutta 57-59)

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:49 pm

I'm somewhat puzzled by the reactions to zavk's interesting post.
zavk wrote: I share this not to disparage 'Western Buddhism' as such, since I am participating in it too, but merely in hope of encouraging curiosity about the stories of other Buddhists that may be effaced/subjugated/denigrated, even if unwittingly, by the story 'Western Buddhism' narrates about itself.
I took it as a continuation of the discussions we have had about the origins of modern/western Buddhism, the back-and-forth between colonial attitudes and locals, and the way this shaped the way Buddhism was modernized by locals in Sri Lankan, Thailand, and Burma, and interpreted by western immigrants such as Ven Nyanatiloka, etc.

Of course, it is easy to find quotes that suggests that we should just stop worrying and get on with our practice. However, this assumes that we know exactly what that practice should be. A lot of effort is expended here in discussions over what is the real Buddha-Dhamma and what are the cultural accretions, how the Pali suttas compare with the Chinese Agamas, whether or not the Theravada tradition added unnecessary interpretation, and so on. Historical text-critical approaches are discussed and modern philosophical models are invoked in an effort to clarify and understand the Dhamma.

Given this interest in locating and understanding "the real Buddha-Dhamma", and flushing out the "cultural accretions" I'm baffled at the reaction to zavk drawing attention to where some of our own, modern, cultural accretions may have arisen.

:anjali:
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by daverupa » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:05 pm

mikenz66 wrote:zavk drawing attention to where some of our own, modern, cultural accretions may have arisen.
I saw zavk asking us to reflect on certain racial/cultural issues in order to continually assess whether there was some sort of cultural/racial hegemony being perpetuated alongside our Dhamma narratives:
zavk wrote:I think this question must posed and reposed as an open question.
Conceptual categories may not be immediately available to awareness, though they might underlie... the cultural-hegemony-anusaya, if you like...
Last edited by daverupa on Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by DNS » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:06 pm

mikenz66 wrote: I took it as a continuation of the discussions we have had about the origins of modern/western Buddhism, the back-and-forth between colonial attitudes and locals, and the way this shaped the way Buddhism was modernized by locals in Sri Lankan, Thailand, and Burma, and interpreted by western immigrants such as Ven Nyanatiloka, etc.
Yes, that is fine, but this was added to that discussion by the OP:
zavk wrote:If it were not for a longstanding bad habit of 'white' people pointing an accusatory finger at others, constantly yapping about the moral and/or intellectual faults of others in order to pat themselves on the back,
zavk wrote:But what if those who HAVE been systematically marginalised and persecuted respond by saying: "Wait, what? For the longest time, we have been silenced and ignored.
zavk wrote:You just don't know how to see it'. No, screw that!
zavk wrote:What if the privilege if you have accrued at our expense is precisely because you always tell yourself and force it down our throats that 'We are all the same?' We have never been 'the same'? Are you prepared to deal with that?"
zavk wrote:You keep your unity to yourself.
mikenz66 wrote: Given this interest in locating and understanding "the real Buddha-Dhamma", and flushing out the "cultural accretions" I'm baffled at the reaction to zavk drawing attention to where some of our own, modern, cultural accretions may have arisen.
Locating the real Buddha-Dhamma? That is fine. But see this from the OP:
zavk wrote: If one looks into this other story of how the 'West' came to love the Buddha in the nineteenth century, one would find that it involved the same habit of accusing the natives of traditional Buddhist cultures of getting the Buddha's teachings 'wrong' or 'adulterating' it, etc

If it were not for a longstanding bad habit of 'white' people pointing an accusatory finger at others, constantly yapping about the moral and/or intellectual faults of others in order to pat themselves on the back,

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:55 pm

Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:zavk drawing attention to where some of our own, modern, cultural accretions may have arisen.
I saw zavk asking us to reflect on certain racial/cultural issues in order to continually assess whether there was some sort of cultural/racial hegemony being perpetuated alongside our Dhamma narratives:
zavk wrote:I think this question must posed and reposed as an open question.
Conceptual categories may not be immediately available to awareness, though they might underlie... the cultural-hegemony-anusaya, if you like...
If I understand you correctly, I think we are agreeing with zavk that it is important for us to examine our Dhamma narratives.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:03 pm

Hi David,
David N. Snyder wrote: Locating the real Buddha-Dhamma? That is fine. But see this from the OP:
zavk wrote: If one looks into this other story of how the 'West' came to love the Buddha in the nineteenth century, one would find that it involved the same habit of accusing the natives of traditional Buddhist cultures of getting the Buddha's teachings 'wrong' or 'adulterating' it, etc

If it were not for a longstanding bad habit of 'white' people pointing an accusatory finger at others, constantly yapping about the moral and/or intellectual faults of others in order to pat themselves on the back,
I think you need the whole of the paragraph, where zavk is explaining the irony of how he personally came to the Dhamma and how he therefore has some insight into the various cultural accretions in modern Buddhism:
zavk wrote:As someone who is a certain 'bastard offspring' born on the other side of the bed of colonial history, I have had to come to accept this strange plight of mine. If it were not for a longstanding bad habit of 'white' people pointing an accusatory finger at others, constantly yapping about the moral and/or intellectual faults of others in order to pat themselves on the back, I wouldn't have come to appreciate Buddhism - which has always been a part of my ancestral 'Chinese' heritage, yet I only felt a resonance with it after encountering 'Western' translations of it and the accompanying history of Eurocentric-Christocentric-colonialist attitudes (still persisting today in various guises, btw, including discourses that cloak themselves in the sheepskin of 'Reason') towards a genealogy I at once inherit and betray.
:anjali:
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by rohana » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:57 pm

mikenz66 wrote: I took it as a continuation of the discussions we have had about the origins of modern/western Buddhism, the back-and-forth between colonial attitudes and locals, and the way this shaped the way Buddhism was modernized by locals in Sri Lankan, Thailand, and Burma, and interpreted by western immigrants such as Ven Nyanatiloka, etc.
That's how I read it too.

I'd say unless you're an Āriya, you already have biases and prejudices, even if you disagree with them on an intellectual level (just as understanding anattā on an intellectual level doesn't stop one from I-making and mine-making). So clearly it's better to understand that they're there and be aware of them rather than denying any prejudices and going on with a 'color-blind' attitude.

In some countries the Buddhist community can be extremely segregated along racial and ethnic lines - and I'd guess sometimes even more segregated by socio-economic lines. And then there are some who openly advocate taking out the 'Asian image' of Buddhism: Merchandising the Buddha.

:anjali:
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by zavk » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:46 pm

Thank you to those who are picking up on salient points and the objective of the initial posts and subsequent clarifications.
David N. Snyder wrote:
mikenz66 wrote: I took it as a continuation of the discussions we have had about the origins of modern/western Buddhism, the back-and-forth between colonial attitudes and locals, and the way this shaped the way Buddhism was modernized by locals in Sri Lankan, Thailand, and Burma, and interpreted by western immigrants such as Ven Nyanatiloka, etc.
Yes, that is fine, but this was added to that discussion by the OP:
zavk wrote:If it were not for a longstanding bad habit of 'white' people pointing an accusatory finger at others, constantly yapping about the moral and/or intellectual faults of others in order to pat themselves on the back,
zavk wrote:But what if those who HAVE been systematically marginalised and persecuted respond by saying: "Wait, what? For the longest time, we have been silenced and ignored.
zavk wrote:You just don't know how to see it'. No, screw that!
zavk wrote:What if the privilege if you have accrued at our expense is precisely because you always tell yourself and force it down our throats that 'We are all the same?' We have never been 'the same'? Are you prepared to deal with that?"
zavk wrote:You keep your unity to yourself.
mikenz66 wrote: Given this interest in locating and understanding "the real Buddha-Dhamma", and flushing out the "cultural accretions" I'm baffled at the reaction to zavk drawing attention to where some of our own, modern, cultural accretions may have arisen.
Locating the real Buddha-Dhamma? That is fine. But see this from the OP:
zavk wrote: If one looks into this other story of how the 'West' came to love the Buddha in the nineteenth century, one would find that it involved the same habit of accusing the natives of traditional Buddhist cultures of getting the Buddha's teachings 'wrong' or 'adulterating' it, etc

If it were not for a longstanding bad habit of 'white' people pointing an accusatory finger at others, constantly yapping about the moral and/or intellectual faults of others in order to pat themselves on the back,
Gee... reading it like this, this zavk guy seems like a real grade A SOB a-hole! But I guess we are living in a world of soundbites (kinda like what we confront in meditation, isn't it?) Reading the above 'remix' reminded me of videos like this:




Ah well, it's fair game I suppose. :popcorn:

But there's one particular phrase isolated above that I really wish to redress (it's up to anyone else if they wish to read the others in context or not):
zavk wrote:You keep your unity to yourself.
Soundbites are sexy but if we don't get seduced by them we might find that what was written was in fact:
zavk wrote:But ok, now that you have evoked the praxis-ideal of commonality, let me say unreservedly that I affirm commonality but precisely because commonality ≠ sameness. If commonality is not commonality-in-spite-of-difference, togetherness-in-difference, then, I'd rather not have anything to do with it. You keep your unity to yourself.
Don't be dishonest and cowardly in your assessment - even if, especially if, it is uncalculated, as I believe this is. So no offence taken. But if such effects occur, then, that's something to pay attention to.
Last edited by zavk on Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
With metta,
zavk

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