Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:05 am

tobes wrote:I take your point here - but might there be an untenable contradiction between extolling the merits of ethical living and actually being an affluent business folk??

"Meditating keeps me calm, sharp and happy so I can trade stocks all day...." Is that really excellent? It's okay if I buy organic butter and say enough mantras at night?

That contradiction is what I'm trying to get at.

:anjali:
Tobes, are you free of contradictions and hypocrisy? I know I am not.

Would it be better if they didn't mediate to be calm? If they didn't buy organic butter? If they didn't say some mantras at night?

I don't think so. It certainly would not be better for them and then, when I have to deal with them, it will be worse for me. Okay, maybe they are not going to get liberated in this lifetime (like I am???) but there are connections being made. Some merit is being produced. If, for the sake of avoiding hypocrisy, we were forced to choose between abandoning all practices or abandoning all samsaric activity I think you will find that most of us would probably choose the first of the two options (we do most of the time anyway).

As a psychologist, I used to run stress management through mindfulness programs. I have had hundreds of "patients" (students). Thrughout the course of the programs (which have a multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of stress: psychological, physiological, social, etc..) I constantly emphasised where the techniques originated from and used many examples from Buddhist literature. From those hundreds about twenty then went on to do a short course on basic Buddhist "theory" and practice: Four Noble Truths, Dependent origination, models of mind, anapanasati, etc... From those twenty, three (that I know of) continue with Buddhist practices. Three out of a few hundred. Does that mean I failed?

As Bodhisattvas we have to work with people exactly where they are at. If we wait for a perfect world with perfect people, well, needless to say, they are not going to need our help are they?

Does the stock broker need a mantra to calm their mind after a day of stomping on the stockholders? We give it to them. We point out the negative nature of their actions, but we also give them a way to deal with the negativity. Why? Sun Tzu says that if you wish to defeat an encircled foe, yet minimise the damage which the foe will cause, you have to leave them a small opening. You have to give them the feeling that they can retreat, that way their will to resist will be lessened.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:09 am

Ben Yuan wrote:This is like saying, you need to confront "love" or "justice" and engage in actions with it. "Move justice x meters north." It simply cannot be done, these are concepts Nilasarasvati, which exist in a religion of abstract fetishising. If you want to talk about anything in reality, you need to be able to sense it with the 6 senses.
First of all, it seems to me that you are fetishising this abstract concept of "reality". Secondly, the six sense include mind, and mind can sense "love" and "justice". If you are having problems sensing them then you need to find a teacher to give you lojong.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:19 am

gregkavarnos wrote:First of all, it seems to me that you are fetishising this abstract concept of "reality". Secondly, the six sense include mind, and mind can sense "love" and "justice". If you are having problems sensing them then you need to find a teacher to give you lojong.

:twothumbsup: Good one.

Of course, you can form any abstraction with the mind and thereby say you sense it. What I mean to say is that what is really being sensed is the presence of mental activity and not their abstractions as objects. To abide in the mental abode of love, which arouses positive feelings, is different from saying it can engage in physical actions. If we are both talking about Nila's post, this is what concerns us, not whether one can abide in it mentally. I hope that is clearer. :cheers:
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby mandala » Fri Jun 14, 2013 11:41 am

tobes wrote:
mandala wrote:Apart from the societal context of the eras, I don't see how Buddhism is any less 'radical' now than in the 70's or 2500 years ago when Buddha was outrageous enough to allow women in the fold or today when practically everyone drinks and parties, lies and cheats as a means to climbing the social ladder, engages in socially accepted killing trips(fishing) and sleeps with whoever you can while trying not to get caught out (except some weirdos who hold precepts).

I mean, at the heart of it, Buddhist practice goes - against - the grain of the majority of socially accepted norms. What motivates us to do the things we do everyday.
A real practitioner will always be a radical, whether they dress up as anarchists or parade around as poets or act out in controversial ways... or whether they go about their business quietly, doing the work on the inside.

Mainstream? As far as I'm concerned, if affluent business folk take an interest in Buddhism seeking a bit of calm & happiness.. that's great.
If it's chic to have a Buddha statue in your uptown apartment, excellent. There's space for everyone, in whatever capacity and commitment and tradition and environment.
And that's what i see.. not one 'target group'.. as diverse as the teachers are, so are the students. Or maybe it's the other way around ;)

To me, the most "radical counter cultural movements" that could exist today, would be those extolling the merits of ethical living in the greedy, selfish and money-hungry world we live in.


I take your point here - but might there be an untenable contradiction between extolling the merits of ethical living and actually being an affluent business folk??

"Meditating keeps me calm, sharp and happy so I can trade stocks all day...." Is that really excellent? It's okay if I buy organic butter and say enough mantras at night?

That contradiction is what I'm trying to get at.

:anjali:


Ah, I see where you're pointing... but no, I don't think there's necessarily a contradiction.

There's nothing wrong with being rich, or having a successful business or having lots of nice possessions - and that doesn't preclude someone from living ethically either.
In fact, how wonderful it would be to have high-flying Buddhists setting an example in the business world of how to be successful AND honest, generous, kind etc.

If we accept that attachment is not about what you have, it's about the craving/clinging state of mind towards those objects then naturally it's possible to be 'well off' and not be a greedy piggy.

A meditating stock broker.. I'm not sure what the problem is there? At the least it could mean one less person committing suicide when the markets crash.
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:43 pm

Ben Yuan wrote:Of course, you can form any abstraction with the mind and thereby say you sense it. What I mean to say is that what is really being sensed is the presence of mental activity and not their abstractions as objects.
So you believe that the two can somehow be seperated? That there is an object outside of the mental abstraction? How so?
To abide in the mental abode of love, which arouses positive feelings, is different from saying it can engage in physical actions.
I do not understand what you are trying to say here.
If we are both talking about Nila's post, this is what concerns us, not whether one can abide in it mentally. I hope that is clearer. :cheers:
All action starts and ends with mind: physical, mental, or speech. You cannot have the physical without the mental.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:47 pm

As far as I understand thus far, which is meagre, I had the impression that the physical and mental were interdependent, and did not have a one way relationship either way. But I may be mistaken. Essentially what I have argued is that concepts don't exist in the world - whatever you think about the mind, they ultimately don't "exist" also in the mind.

This tangent has gone quite off topic. I suggest we conclude it for the sake of the thread.
Last edited by Zhen Li on Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:00 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:You cannot have the physical without the mental.


The reverse is also true.
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:11 pm

Malcolm wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:You cannot have the physical without the mental.


The reverse is also true.
I'm not denying that, I am just getting Ben to look at his premise of the seperation between real (physical) vs assumed (mental).
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:19 pm

I don't see how interdependence makes it any more real. I had the strange impression that it had the converse effect. :shrug:
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:42 pm

Ben Yuan:
If you don't believe me Nilasarasvati, you can provide a concrete example for exactly how I can do this right now. What action would I take to act in a non-individual way? It is the proposal of a fallacy, and cannot be done.


Do you mean beyond myself as an individual? Because yes--of course--I might not have made that clear.
I myself am the ground for all relative experience and the whole path. Nobody can attain liberation for me.

All I meant was the same simple shared karma of having a conversation with more than one person at the same time. Or speaking to a crowd at a funeral. That's the ground for what I'm talking about when I say "confronting/finding the antidotes the three poisons on more than an individual level." Don't you ever practice for others? What does that really mean, if we are all isolated little bubbles?

So, I might just march in a demonstration in Turkey. I might sit in a White-only section of a diner in Selma, Alabama. I might give blood! I might start riding a bike instead of contributing to fossil fuel use, whatever, so long as it's motivated by Bodhicitta. I'm just asking "what excuse do we have not to?"

Ben Yuan:
What actual thing can one do to interact with a so called "system?" Can you draw a picture of this "system?" What dimensions does it have? What colour, taste or smell does it have?


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"Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!

Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
" ---Allen Ginsburg, Howl, 1955

There ya go.
Just because it isn't truly existing doesn't mean you can't experience it and understand it (and confront it) on the relative level. :popcorn:
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:50 pm

I'm not sure what this has to do with Tantra or transgression anymore.

But what you described made sense. When you are talking about individual actions and responses to problems we confront daily. When it is abstracted, it means nothing. That's why you have emptiness of emptiness.
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby tobes » Sat Jun 15, 2013 6:44 am

Ben Yuan wrote:The problem with that, Nilasarasvati, is the problem of universals. I would argue that agglomerations such as "society" only exist because we have rendered ourselves temporarily unconscious to the particulars. In the end, in whatever action you take, you are a particular (and not even that, ultimately). Thus, when you try to tell people about universal problems, people become hopeless, they cannot do anything, simply because the description you have provided them has no relation to the reality within which they find themselves - they see themselves as a particular, or particular agglomeration, which when universalised into a still greater agglomeration, makes one even more hopeless. While on a so called "social level" you can only make changes on an individual bases, of you want to give people hope, give them emptiness. Ultimately their "individuals" are not themselves, and they lack any control over them because they are also false agglomerations.

Thus, we say, we vow to liberate all sentient beings, but in order to do that, a Buddha's skillful means are adjusted for each "individual." What helps Sariputra attain enlightenment is not the same as what helps Ananda. "Systems" like Tantra, are just generalisations, ultimately, there is only your own practice, and even then, there is nothing.
Just because we believe that the three poisons are the root of all suffering doesn't mean we can only cure (or must confront) those poisons on an individual basis.

If you don't believe me Nilasarasvati, you can provide a concrete example for exactly how I can do this right now. What action would I take to act in a non-individual way? It is the proposal of a fallacy, and cannot be done.

What actual thing can one do to interact with a so called "system?" Can you draw a picture of this "system?" What dimensions does it have? What colour, taste or smell does it have?

This is like saying, you need to confront "love" or "justice" and engage in actions with it. "Move justice x meters north." It simply cannot be done, these are concepts Nilasarasvati, which exist in a religion of abstract fetishising. If you want to talk about anything in reality, you need to be able to sense it with the 6 senses. And that doesn't even give you any information on how to interact with it, or whether you can at all - if you even have the freedom to within dependent origination. In the end, there's no one acting, and nothing which is the object of action.


You are in effect denying the (conventional) reality of structure and privileging the (conventional) reality of agency.

A concrete example of the kind Nilasarasvati was pointing towards would be the civil rights movement united by a normative ideal of racial equality. Whilst there is something conceptual and abstract about that ideal, one can also see that it was a dialectical response to another conceptual and abstract ideal - namely that whites are superior and ought to hold social-political power over negroes. Both of these ideals have had very real structural effects, and I think we would agree that the civil rights movement was profoundly right to overturn the previous ideal and thus overturn the structure of institutionalised racism.

If everyone involved in that movement were Buddhists who adopted your particularist ontology, there could be no common agenda, and no hope at all of working together to bring racial equality into structural reality.

:anjali:
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby tobes » Sat Jun 15, 2013 6:55 am

gregkavarnos wrote:
tobes wrote:I take your point here - but might there be an untenable contradiction between extolling the merits of ethical living and actually being an affluent business folk??

"Meditating keeps me calm, sharp and happy so I can trade stocks all day...." Is that really excellent? It's okay if I buy organic butter and say enough mantras at night?

That contradiction is what I'm trying to get at.

:anjali:
Tobes, are you free of contradictions and hypocrisy? I know I am not.

Would it be better if they didn't mediate to be calm? If they didn't buy organic butter? If they didn't say some mantras at night?

I don't think so. It certainly would not be better for them and then, when I have to deal with them, it will be worse for me. Okay, maybe they are not going to get liberated in this lifetime (like I am???) but there are connections being made. Some merit is being produced. If, for the sake of avoiding hypocrisy, we were forced to choose between abandoning all practices or abandoning all samsaric activity I think you will find that most of us would probably choose the first of the two options (we do most of the time anyway).

As a psychologist, I used to run stress management through mindfulness programs. I have had hundreds of "patients" (students). Thrughout the course of the programs (which have a multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of stress: psychological, physiological, social, etc..) I constantly emphasised where the techniques originated from and used many examples from Buddhist literature. From those hundreds about twenty then went on to do a short course on basic Buddhist "theory" and practice: Four Noble Truths, Dependent origination, models of mind, anapanasati, etc... From those twenty, three (that I know of) continue with Buddhist practices. Three out of a few hundred. Does that mean I failed?

As Bodhisattvas we have to work with people exactly where they are at. If we wait for a perfect world with perfect people, well, needless to say, they are not going to need our help are they?

Does the stock broker need a mantra to calm their mind after a day of stomping on the stockholders? We give it to them. We point out the negative nature of their actions, but we also give them a way to deal with the negativity. Why? Sun Tzu says that if you wish to defeat an encircled foe, yet minimise the damage which the foe will cause, you have to leave them a small opening. You have to give them the feeling that they can retreat, that way their will to resist will be lessened.


I admit to being a walking mess of contradictions.

I take your general point - maybe what I'm trying to say is ethics is not some add on to what you do. It is, principally, what you do (and how you do it).

In thinking about the shift from Ginsberg/Trungpa radical land to now, I think there is a sense in which Buddhist practice has become 'and add on' to what is really structuring actions - capitalist values.

There you go, there's my big unfounded claim....

:anjali:
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby tobes » Sat Jun 15, 2013 7:02 am

mandala wrote:
Ah, I see where you're pointing... but no, I don't think there's necessarily a contradiction.

There's nothing wrong with being rich, or having a successful business or having lots of nice possessions - and that doesn't preclude someone from living ethically either.
In fact, how wonderful it would be to have high-flying Buddhists setting an example in the business world of how to be successful AND honest, generous, kind etc.

If we accept that attachment is not about what you have, it's about the craving/clinging state of mind towards those objects then naturally it's possible to be 'well off' and not be a greedy piggy.

A meditating stock broker.. I'm not sure what the problem is there? At the least it could mean one less person committing suicide when the markets crash.


Fair enough. I suppose it comes down to whether one thinks that contemporary capitalism is pernicious or not. If it is not pernicious, than I agree that there is no real problem.

In the spirit of Ginsberg, I think that it is pernicious, and therefore, there is indeed an untenable contradiction between claiming to live a moral life whilst practicing that which is pernicious.

But you know, I'll need more than Ginsberg and Radiohead to make that argument...

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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby greentara » Sat Jun 15, 2013 7:28 am

Freed by his virtue, this old friend of mine
Trusts in the Way and delights in woods and streams.

While sitting in meditation
He journeys to the land of no more doubts.
While living in the discipline of poverty
He attains everything valuable under heaven.

He breathes and dissolves the barriers between distance and time.
He writes and his brush penetrates clouds and smoke.

With an impulsive laugh he dismisses doctrinal conundrums.
With habitual failure to distinguish shallow from deep

He achieves Chan.

Master Hsu Yun
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby tobes » Sat Jun 15, 2013 8:07 am

So does the Chan master join in the civil rights movement or does she consider it a trivial diversion from the ways of heaven?

Or to use a more contemporary example, does she sit with Occupy? Should she?

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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Sat Jun 15, 2013 8:16 am

I think that alternatives to capitalism and unsustainable growth are obviously desperately needed. But modern economic liberal democracy has measurably benefitted billions of people. Whilst it is true that the planet is up against some desperate challenges in terms of resource and food shortages, it is nevertheless the case that both standards of living and life expectancy have trended upwards since the Industrial Revolution. I am deeply sceptical about whether or how this could have happened without a capitalist economic model.

My father was deeply involved with birth-control planning in the 1960's. He read the Club of Rome reports and was convinced that by the end of the last century, India would see mass starvation and economic collapse. Now we have global industries based in Hyderabad and Pune that employee miliions of people and have freed them from subsistence lifestyles. He never saw that coming. I work with those people on a daily basis, the company I am in is part of this much maligned 'global economy'. And generally speaking it is something I consider myself lucky to be part of.

I think the the main thing Buddhism has to contribute, is to teach people to find happiness and contentment in themselves rather than in externals and possessions and the continual chasing after power and pleasure. That does not necessarily mean abandoning capitalism, but adopting it to the 'small is beautiful' type of model proposed by Schumacher decades ago. I think small-scale enterprises and local communities need to be fostered as alternatives to globalism. That is possible, it is do-able, but the challenges involved are enormous. So the model I am starting to think is most beneficial in those circumstances is 'Buddhist Humanism'. And I think there's a fair amount of work being done under those auspices.
He that knows it, knows it not.
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby greentara » Sat Jun 15, 2013 8:32 am

"Here! Let me rap you on the head with my stick!
Shut up, foolish face! Stop talking a minute!
Don't be so quick to argue!
The mystery is so exquisite! It can't be discussed!"


Alot can be said but all true motivation in Buddhism is the basic yearning for liberation, nirvana.
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby Nilasarasvati » Sat Jun 15, 2013 4:42 pm

I think the the main thing Buddhism has to contribute, is to teach people to find happiness and contentment in themselves rather than in externals and possessions and the continual chasing after power and pleasure.


I like this--it's a very grounded and pragmatic response to our conversation here.

But there are those quotes--like somewhere in Bodhicaryavatara Santideva says "You still see the poor everywhere. Shouldn't that be taken as evidence that the Buddhas of the past did not perfect generosity?"

So no matter what we do...how great our practice is...we will always be striving to empty a continually refilling Samsara.


:soapbox: *weird Thurmanesque rant to ensue*
Thats why my tack is to push people aspire for more. Aspire for nothing less than the complete relative and absolute happiness and justice and liberation we talk about all the time on the cushion but then, when we get into the "Real world" we're contented to justify away as the ills of various systems because they're the best system we can figure out. Guess who benefits most from those ills, btw? Us, the justifiers. :toilet:

As long as our aspirations are only limited to our imagination and compassion, why would we sit and rationalize the faults of Capitalism or Communism or any other Ism? John Lennon was a very human guy, but he might as well have been Samantabhadra when he sang Imagine.

Once you've made a lot of aspirations that seem crazy, they seem less and less crazy. And you start to develop nondual wisdom and you start to be able to do "the impossible."
At least, that's my understanding of all these Tigress-feeding jatakas. :reading:

The traditional lojongs, I've repeated them so many times without earnestness. So I want to encourage myself take greater weirder more creative vows of aspiration! May I emanate as millions of biodegradable diapers! May I manifest as free condoms all over Africa, in fact, may I manifest as condoms everywhere! May my merit take shape as the vanquishing Mudra that slays of the Demon King of HIV! May my merit staunch the greed of corrupt police from Mexico to Myanmar!

Nothing could be more radical than Bodhicitta! It needs to be palpable, poetic, unfathomably vast! May it arise where it has not yet arisen! Allez! Allez!
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Re: Transgression, Tantra, Radical vs Conservative Buddhism

Postby MalaBeads » Sat Jun 15, 2013 4:55 pm

tobes wrote:I admit to being a walking mess of contradictions.


Well, there you go and thats the nub of the problem, isnt it?

I am also this way, make no mistake about it.

And what is inside gets reflected outside.

So theres the dilemma.

I do not sit for revolution (as i heard Ginsberg once say).

Why? Because my sitting for revolution would only create revolution because theres still plenty that is unresolved inside me.

Sitting for revolution is a fine idea if we were already settled and at peace inside. But if we are not (and who is really?) then we will only create more problems on top of problems. Ginsberg had a lot of seemingly wonderful ideas but was internally himself a bit of mess.

It takes one to know one.

Cheers.

:smile:
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