Death

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Dave Spiro
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Post by Dave Spiro » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Well, it has been a while, but what a great topic to come back to.

As someone who has dealt with death on a professional level, (as a former paramedic for 22 years) and a personal level, (a liver transplant recipient, transplanted with 6 months to live, 7 years ago) death and what happens after is something I have come face to face with.

I am not going to re-hash what others have already spoken about, suffice to say that Prof. Joe's insights on death, and eternity has given me a new understanding of what I have come face to face with in my own life. I especially enjoyed the "lightbulb story", and have read it on many occassions.

The idea of experiencing enternity as here and now resonates with me more now than it did prior to my transplant. At the time I was transplanted, I was in many ways, prepared to die. While there was always the flood of emotions that accompany such an event, looking back on it now, and having Prof. Joe's writings as a backdrop, I can see that I was experiencing much of what he wrote and talked about regarding death, and what, if anything happens after. (I did not discover Campbell fully until after my transplant.)
(Whoops! Sorry, I sent that last message prematurely!!!)
The metaphors that Campbell speaks of regarding conciousness I think need to be taken just as that, metaphors for something that we cannot name. They are, in my view, the same type of metaphors that we use when trying to describe God, which in itself is a metaphor.

Does conciousness go on after death? Good question. I would like to think that it does. Are our unconcious dreams more than than the archetypes that Jung spoke of? Is the unconcious that which allows us to experience the collective conciousness that goes on after death? I think in the end we won't know until the time comes for our own experience of death.

I had an interesting experience when I was in the hospital in July of 1997, waiting to be transplanted. I had become very sick at that point. It was about midnight, I had been having a great deal of difficulty getting to sleep, as hospitals are definitely not the best place to do that. I was laying on my right side, facing the window of my room, when I felt something touch my shoulder. It was very palpable, or at least I perceived it to be so. I thought it was my nurse, and when I turned over, for the briefest flash, I saw my father standing there. (He died 9 yeears earlier.)

He just smiled at me, then he was gone. Funny thing is, I was not even thinking about him at the time. 2 days later, I was transplanted.

Looking back on it, and taking Joe's (and others) writings into account, I am forced to wonder if this was:

1. The conciousness of my father breaking through to me in a way, as I was sick and vulnerable to being open to things I may not have been beforehand.

2. A trick of the mind due to the effects of the liver diease that was ravaging me.

3. An unconcious, symbolic image breaking through to my conciousness as a way to reassure myself, to give me hope.

To this day, I am still unsure of what exactly it was, but I do remember the effect it had, that of calming me down. I was able to sleep well after that.

Okay, any thoughts?
"I have a very good understanding with God. I don't understand him, he doesn't understand me." - George Carlin
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Post by rafael brazil » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

“Where o death is thy sting?”, asked the apostle Paul in the Bible.

I fully agree with Bodhi_Bliss that death is related to ego attachment. In this sense, I loved the film The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, especially Nietzsche’s quote: Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.

I think that dying is just forgetting. I believe nature is so wise with us, humans, by naturally and slowly destroying our memories as we grow older.

My grandfather died at 94. For the last ten years of his life, he gradually lost all of his memories, to the point of not identifying his relatives, even the closest ones. Imagine the situation: you forget, forget, forget, until there is nothing left in your brain!

Our western world values our egos too much. Personally, I love to be myself. But, I am certain that this “I” will go away. It’s for the good of the Universe: recycling egos. Many good ones go away so that new ones may be created. Many bad ones also go away, so that new bad ones may be created as well. And life goes on!

I loved your talking on “eternity”. Last night, I was watching the Power of Myth, which is airing in Brazil after ten years. Last night’s words of Joe that stayed with me were: I had many friends who died. My parents died. But the moments I spent with them were eternal, outside of time.

That’s it! Just another couple of quotes, at the edge of sarcasm:

Paraphrasing somebody’s poem out of pure laziness:

Death is everywhere.
Just don’t take it personally.

Or a quote from Woody Allen:

I don’t fear death.
I just don’t wanna be there when it comes.

Or from a fellow Brazilian shaman:

I am not afraid of dying,
I am afraid of not living.

Or from one of the best genius in Brazilian literature:

Life is very dangerous…


Love and adventure to you all!

Rafael.

In order to get where you don't know, you should take the path you don't know - St. John of the Cross
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Post by KellyO » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I’m new to this conversation, but I’ve read your posts with great interest.

I have knowledge of what happens to a person after death. What I’m not sure is how to share that knowledge without sounding odd.

“Knowledge” is a knowing, a recognition of truth. For example, if I listen to a weather report, I may or may not ‘believe’ what the forecaster says will happen. That is faith—either I trust that it will rain tomorrow or I don’t. However, I KNOW that the sun will ‘come up’. That is knowing. Big difference.

Knowing, I think, happens from within. You do not question it, you just, well, know it. It is something that resonates with your soul. I think that is why man is so fascinated my myth. It speaks to a knowing-level of the soul. You know it, you’re not sure why, but it is a recognition of truth. It “rings true” at your soul’s level.

So for me, when you hear truth, you just know it.

Knowing what happens after death has a lot, for me, to do with the work that I do with past life regressions. I too believe in a conscious level of being (ego), but also in a super-conscious level (some call this sub-conscious). You are consciously aware of many things; but, you are also sub-consciously aware of much more—you just don’t have waking access to it that’s all. But you do *know* things at your soul’s level.

I will say that up until a couple of years ago, I thought people that believed in reincarnation were, well, nuts (I mean that in a nice way). Then, I tried it for myself. There I was, in medieval England. Now, you can say what you will about it, but from my perspective, my soul’s truth, I was there. Hard to explain, but you can “feel it”. A knowing at a very personal level.

Life and death actually make perfect sense (to me anyway) if you think of it this way. Supposed we come here, in this life, to experience something that we can not experience elsewhere, so that we can learn—grow—perfect.

Suppose that *this* is not our eternal life, but this is the “temporary” life. Real, but temporary. When we “die”, we simply go Home. Call it heaven, call it whatever you want, but just supposed that we are traditionally thinking of it all backwards. If that is Home, where we come from, then *here* would be a sojourn. Why would we do that? Well, I equate it to business school. There are two ways to learn about business. You can just dive into the business world and learn from experience. Or, you can spend years studying, get an MBA, and be full of facts. In the first, you learn first hand. In the second, you have lots of details, but no actual experience. There is a big difference between the two. The *knowing* level comes from experiencing.

So, we come here to experience something, then we go Home, where we are eternal beings. Why come here? Because to *know* pain, anger, suffering, loss, etc., we have to experience it because quite simply, those things don’t exist in our Home…there is no negativity. So, we leave there and come here to learn. (Remind anyone of the Adam and Eve myth? [to eat from the tree of knowledge we must leave paradise]).

Look around. The various modalities are starting to converge. Even physicists are to a point in quantum physics where they can’t explain energy. (We are energy). They can’t explain matter (matter does not exist). Energy can not be created or destroyed. “Ghost
Hunters”. The evidence is pretty irrefutable at this point. Life after death. Near death experiences—all similar. Tunnels, white light, great feelings of joy (Home is better than this place, this school). Past life regressions (I’ve done a lot of these for people). They always can give me a reason why they lived that particular life. Life is not without purpose, it is just hard to see *while you are in it*. Afterwards, people can sum it up quite easily.

I watched one of those “unexplained mysteries” shows about reincarnation yesterday. A woman regressed back to a life in which she knew all sorts of details about this “other woman”. She knew things she couldn’t POSSIBLY know. So she got on a plane and went back to this place, and sure enough, she found evidence of that person. If you do some research, there are books FILLED with past life stories like this—things people know about people and events in the past. I know of one girl (she was 16) who regressed back to a life in the 1930’s and 40’s. She actually died in that life on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked (she ran into traffic and was hit by a car). She traveled there (St. Louis), and met a man who was elderly, who was her brother in that life (the man was mystified to say the least). She went to his house (picked it out as they drove up), walked all around it, and in what used to be ‘her’ room, she said “I wonder if it is still there?”, pried off a piece of base board (which was difficult because it had been painted numerous times) and there was a jar filled with old coins that she was saving in that life for a trip to Hawaii.

Many of us in the West have been told our whole lives that this can not be, so our conscious mind doesn’t want to accept it. Programming. I recently regressed a man from India. He was fascinated by the experience. He also experienced a death that he had in one life that explained his extreme fear of swimming in this life. He said that he of course believed in reincarnation (he was Hindu) he just didn’t think that one could experience it. A different perspective.

So, I can suggest that anyone (who is not afraid of hypnosis) can experience this for yourself. Just keep an open mind, and enjoy the experience. Then, determine for yourself, based on first-hand experience.

So, we each have our own spiritual truth. That which we know is true, and we recognize when we see it. Again, that is why we are so drawn to myths. They are shadows of these truths that we recognize sub-consciously--I believe.

A personal note: I consider myself, very much, a Christian. That is, I believe in the messages that Jesus brought to us. Love God, love your neighbor as yourself, do not judge others, truth is found from within (among other teachings). I do not consider myself of the “formal Christian Churches” (Catholic or any of the Catholic off-springs--protestants, etc.). If you go back to the pre-Bible writings, the Sanskrit, the Dead Sea Scrolls (before they were ‘edited’ for the Bible), you will read much talk of reincarnation, and the eternal aspects of the soul. In fact one of the greatest Catholic foundational thinkers, Origen, wrote extensively about reincarnation. The Church at the time took all of this teachings, except that one. Hummmm.

So, these are my truths, that I’m happy to share. We each must find our own truth. It is difficult to find “hard evidence” but not impossible. I do not agree with the statement that this can not be known while we are here. I do know this, at my soul’s level. So too can you…know your truth, what ever that is.

Read, search, explore. You will know it when you come upon your truth.

Yours in eternity,
--Kelly






<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: KellyO on 2004-11-09 07:26 ]</font>
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Post by Acquaviva » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am


Wong & Suzuki on the soul, reincarnation and karma
10/13/2004 7:48:47 AM

Wong Kiew Kit’s book reveals two distinct realities: the phenomenal and the transcendental. Egoistic persons are not enlightened and they live driven by desires and fears in the phenomenal world of samsara. A spiritually enlightened person realizes that “what it (enlightenment) actually involves is a change of spiritual perspective…where reality is manifested as a unified spread of cosmic energy.” (p.106) To become spiritual egoism must be removed and this requires experiencing the transcendental “interconnectedness of everything in the universe.” (p.295)
Mahayana and Zen Buddhists do believe souls exist in the phenomenal world but individual souls do not exist in the transcendental realm, which is beyond dualism and is undifferentiated. (p282) Individual souls do exist in the phenomenal reality, but when a self attains enlightenment he or she realizes that his personal self or soul is actually an infinitesimal aspect of God (p. 282) Enlightened souls return to the phenomenal world from the transcendental to help those in need of help. This is the Mahayanist concept of the Bodhisattva idea. (p.277)
Wong denies that individual souls exist in the transcendental, but he doesn’t deny that souls may coexist as interconnected inter-individuals; but, he implies it when he writes that experiencing Zen involves experiencing the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. Wong’s interpretation is more like the dice theory of reincarnation rather than the bead theory and the raindrop theory. In the dice theory the same soul is reincarnated from one body to another. However, the movie The Little Buddha leads the viewers to believe that the soul can be divided and reincarnated in more than one body.
Non-atman. Which is unique to Buddhism, means that separate, individual ego-souls do not exist. The denial of a personal, individualistic immortality follows from the Buddhist denial of a “personal” God. With physical bodies we exist as separate and distinct, individual bodies with personalities; however, spiritually we are not separate and distinct. Spiritually we are not separate and distinct, but we coexist as a community of interconnected inter-individuals. Metaphorically, each inter-individual self coexists spiritually as interconnected cells in “the spiritual body” of God. (see Suzuki pg.170) Becoming awakened or enlightened means that one realizes the interconnectedness of one’s spiritual being; and, empathy and compassion spontaneously flow from one’s being.

Quotes from D.T. Suzuki’s Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism, 1907

“ So long as the ego-soul remains, there can be no real abandonment of egoism.” (p.147)

“what Buddhism most emphatically insists on is the non-existence of a concrete, individual, irreducible soul-substance, whose immortality is so much coveted by most unenlightened people.” (164)
Comment: It appears that it is Descartes atomistic, individual ego-soul that is being denied.

Our individual souls have evolved from the Universal Soul, or God. “The soul is not individual but supra-individual.” (165 OMB, Suzuki) The “I” that lives on after death is “ a reflex in us of the Dharmakaya.” (166) Dharmakaya means God.

“The word ‘atman’ is used by Buddhists not only psychologically in the sense of soul, self, or ego but also ontologically in the sense of substance or thing-in-itself…and its existence in this capacity is strongly denied. (170) “so there is no real, eternal existence of individuals as individuals, but a system of different attributes of the force of karma. (170)


Karma D.T. Suzuki

A common misconception of Buddhist karma is that “the deeds, good or evil, committed by a person determine only his own fate.” We are all apart of the spiritual universe and our thoughts and actions have a rippling affect upon others. “Souls which are ordinarily supposed to be individual and independent of others are not so in fact, but are very closely intermingled with one another.” “Even a most insignificant of goodness reaps an unexpectedly rich crop.” The same is true of small acts of selfishness and evil. Consider the law of cause and effect and that karma is organic. One is motivated to do goodness not for ones own reward, but for the spiritual universe and those not yet born. It is totally altruistic. “The doctrine of karma allows in us all kinds of possibilities and all chances of development. We thus escape the mechanical conception of life, and we are saved from the despair of pre-determinism.” The spiritual universe is communally interconnected. “If we desire immortality, let there be the maturing of good karma and the cleansing of the heart from the contamination of evils.”

In summary, we do not exist as separate and distinct soul-like atoms. That is a confusion of the physical with the spiritual. We coexist within a spiritual communally.



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Post by meesticmon » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

As I cannot put my hands on an actual copy of The Hero With a Thousand Faces at the moment, I can only paraphrase - - but somewhere in the first few chapters, Campbell renders a wonderful interpretation of the mystery of mortality, the shedding of the self and collapsing back into the collective unconscious:

And there, where we thought to find another, we shall find ourselves, where we thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god, where we thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
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Post by sopotter » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Wonderful posts and what a series of threads to read—a true delight—thanks for the ideas, information, quotes of Campbell’s and the informal to formal excursions.

I feel as if the notion of transcendence might be a bit too simplified, as in nobody knows, because I think many people experience the transcendent in daily living, yet do not realize it as such, for it scares them or they refuse to recognize it for anything and dare not tell anyone for fear of ridicule. The way in which I read Campbell’s use of transcendence is that it refers to the experience that seems best worded today as ‘an encounter with the numinous.’ Numinous experiences are fearful to many, for they are not normal, and seem removed completely from spatialtime as we know it. However, there are some who write about them, and I believe from reading through much of Campbell’s latest works (HJ, WA, IroOS, MI, TAT), and some of his earlier ones, (EC:M, PJ, HWTF, MoG), that the shift in Campbell’s writings comes about through his yoga practice and meditation, along with his studies, so that he experienced some numinous encounters himself. I have no proof for this, but, I think it shows forth in his writings.

In that respect, once one does experience a numinous encounter, the ideas of death, dying, aging, rebirth, soul, spirit, ego, consciousness, unconsciousness, etc. all become rather superfluous to the resonating knowledge of interrelatedness. At least that has been my personal subjective experience in life, and perhaps, erroneously, is what informs my interpretation of Campbell. Since the age of twelve, the first numinous encounter, this has occurred numerous times, and the most recent one this year, 26 years later, suggests a repeating pattern that becomes more intense as I open psychologically to the experience, and/or, it could suggest a need for institutionalization in some views.

What exactly does a metaphor for transcendence mean? You may have gone over this repeatedly beforehand, but if anyone has some soundbytes, they would be greatly appreciated. Who was the German psychologist whom Campbell borrowed this terminology from? I found it once on a website, from a mythologist; wrote her about her quote attributions, and she informed it was not Emile Durkhart, but, some Durkheim or other who was one of Campbell’s well-favored German psychologists. First I heard of this, but, it caught my eye….

Anyway thanks for the thoughts, I enjoy reading them.

Life’s Force,

Scott M. Potter
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Post by dmc » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

The way each of us conceives this topic fascinates me. I suppose, this means, in scientific terms, we all are guessing and postulating , but nothing is proven yet.
I can relate with all that has been said, and learn a lot from each of you.
I agree with Dave Spiro, that , if one has been with dying people over many years, and then faces the experience of death's nearness, one obtains a perspective close to what the truth of this subject may be.
Your experience with your father at that time, Dave, is a familiar one. I have been told of similar occurrences many times.
Again, I see the answer in a change of consciousness where the "I" undergoes a blurring in this moment of "ecstasy", as it were, and is given a glimpse of the "Thou" who was never really lost , but waiting behind the footlights of the present moment.
In dying people, one can sense this movement from the mortal cage . The moment is a very spiritual experience. It is there for those open to receive and witness this rite of passage .
I have always found it a very humbling experience.
Denise.
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Post by sopotter » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

to Zoom100000

The biblical quote on mythological referents to flesh and stone, is concerning dust, and as I read it (and perhaps others do too), it is dried dirt, which is comprised of rotted and decomposed vegetation, along with minerals (weathered stone), or, as in the desert climate they were mostly part of, likely from crushed shells not stone, and if dust from stone then serves as an indirect link at best—not fully relevant, unless you are shooting decomposed bodies and stones, or dust and vigorous bodies. Since you shoot in cemeteries, then the message might come across stronger with the accompanying verse of ‘and so you shall return to dust,’ or whatever it is…

Additionally, would not the pillar of salt that was Lot’s wife also apply then?

Have you incorporated Igneus (sp?), the God of Stone? After a quick search online, I can find no information on him, but found some in an undergrad library in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Aquinas College, which led to a sculpture out of a broken piece of sidewalk, paper maché, clay, plaster of paris and acrylics, entitled Igneus. Igneus was listed as an unimportant God of Stone who was only recognized in certain areas of Greek influence, as I recall it…

Anyway, a few suggestions and thoughts, and the photographs are quite gorgeous—bravo! What do you think of grotesques?

Life’s Force,

Scott M. Potter

Life's Force,<br><br>Scott M. Potter
Dave Spiro
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Post by Dave Spiro » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

My favorite quote about dying? Well, as a part-time actor, it is this:

"Dying is easy, comedy is hard!"

(Attributed to British actor Sir Donald Wolfit, right before he died.)
"I have a very good understanding with God. I don't understand him, he doesn't understand me." - George Carlin
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Post by tmagette » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I was fortunate to get the email concerning this chat. I've been reading it for a few days wanting to get through the whole thing before posting any comments. This site amazes me-and all I ever thought the internet was good for was porn and over-analysis of Star Wars (although I'm sure there's a chat somewhere on this site that covers one of these!)

I invite anyone interested in an immediate meditation on death to view another conversation that I started shortly after the loss of my son. It is called "Searching for Meaning in Loss" under the "Conversations with a Thousand Faces" Forum. It's not nearly as in depth as this one, but it offers some more insight into this, the greatest mystery of all, by some of the same associates on this conversation. I'm sure there's a way to give you a link, but I'm too technically challenged to do it.

Now for my two cents-I believe it was in the above conversation that someone said that the purpose of death is to give meaning to life. If Adam hadn't eaten the apple and brought both knowledge and death into the world, we never would have had a book written about it. He and Eve just would have gone on forever, and what kind of story is that? Every book, even the oldest and longest ones must close.

I forget who it was that I read about, but he said that as a child, he was terrified of heaven. "Heaven" I thought, "that's odd-most parents put the fear of Hell into their children." He went on to say that when he asked his Sunday school teacher what Heaven was like she told him that it was a place where we worhip God all day. He was so scared of sitting in church for all eternity! Funny how one's concept of Heaven could be another's idea of Hell.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share those anecdotes and invite you to the other forum. Keep up the good Chat!
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2004-11-09 17:20, sopotter wrote:

... The way in which I read Campbell’s use of transcendence is that it refers to the experience that seems best worded today as ‘an encounter with the numinous.’ Numinous experiences are fearful to many, for they are not normal, and seem removed completely from spatialtime as we know it. However, there are some who write about them, and I believe from reading through much of Campbell’s latest works (HJ, WA, IroOS, MI, TAT), and some of his earlier ones, (EC:M, PJ, HWTF, MoG), that the shift in Campbell’s writings comes about through his yoga practice and meditation, along with his studies, so that he experienced some numinous encounters himself. I have no proof for this, but, I think it shows forth in his writings.
Actually, though your references to Campbell's works are right on, he did not meditate or practice yoga or use entheogens. Alan Watts once asked Campbell what form of meditation he preferred, to which Joe replied, "I underline sentences."

Campbell's discipline was that of the scholar, that of the mind - a form of rajah yoga, one could say. The way of the scholar, as practiced by Campbell, is as intense a discipline as, say, Zen - and it's a discipline Joe followed throughout his life.

Your next point, though, really resonates with my own experience, Scott:
In that respect, once one does experience a numinous encounter, the ideas of death, dying, aging, rebirth, soul, spirit, ego, consciousness, unconsciousness, etc. all become rather superfluous to the resonating knowledge of interrelatedness. At least that has been my personal subjective experience in life, and perhaps, erroneously, is what informs my interpretation of Campbell. Since the age of twelve, the first numinous encounter, this has occurred numerous times, and the most recent one this year, 26 years later, suggests a repeating pattern that becomes more intense as I open psychologically to the experience, and/or, it could suggest a need for institutionalization in some views.
You may want to check out this past January's Practical Campbell essay, "Answering the Call," which you can link to here: http://www.jcf.org/practical_campbell.php?id=1 , which recounts similar numinous experiences in the life of Christine Grof, one of Campbell's students at Sarah Lawrence. Well after she graduated and started a family, these numinous experiences led Christine and her family and friends to question her sanity - until she turned to her old teacher for help.
Who was the German psychologist whom Campbell borrowed this terminology from?
That would be spiritual psychologist Karlfried Graf von Durckheim, from whom Campbell borrowed the phrase "tranparent to the transcendent."

Thanks for sharing, Scott.

blessed be
bodhibliss


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Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

In another of those awing synchronicities I've come to associate with Joseph Campbell's teachings and these forums, the inception of this thread coincided with Buddhist teachings I was receiving on death and dying. As the topic unfolded, I've read each message with rapt fascination and have been enlightened and inspired by the honesty, considered self-analysis, and wisdom of each of the authors. To you all, I offer my most humble thanks and appreciation for what can only be described as the great gifts you've generously shared.

NightsWatch, at the beginning of the thread, you shared your struggles to find peace with the prospect of dying. I would say, finding peace with death is a lifelong process. Almost daily, it sometimes seems, we are challenged to make sense of our mortality as well as our existence. To me, it seems we find a brief peace with our inevitable end, live from it for a while, then life offers a challenge to that peace and we again have to sort through our fears, regrets, joys, and longings to find a new peace, one that now encompasses more. Perhaps we are being schooled by these challenges to our peace in an incremental training for the time when we will, through willing courage or fearful trepidation, relax our grip on the reality we currently call "living." We know, through scientific inquiry, that the reality we perceive as being "real" is not the complete picture; we seem solid yet we are composed of matter and energy arranged in intricate compositions of space and form. Is the body more real than its basic constituents or are we only perceiving a part of the picture and calling it the whole?

In the form of Buddhism I study, we are taught not only to contemplate death through envisioning ourselves actually dying, but also to expand the "moments" we experience in timelessness in order to break the cycle of our unconsciousness and consciously participate in the sensations and perceptions experienced as the body dissolves. Rather than a morbid celebration of death or the negation of the value of living, I see the Tibetan practice of phowa and the "liberation through hearing" of the Bardo Tödrol Chenmo as imminently practical, spiritual tools that emphasize why life and death are precious opportunities. We are educated, from an early age, in the tenets of how to live but few of us are educated in the equally important business of how to die. In teaching about the bardos, or gaps of life, dream, dying, and existences after death, our teacher gave us the following insight which I find profoundly practical: "When we grab the bardo, we grab both life and death. Death happens in every moment. Life happens in every moment. When we change our view of what is living and dying, we help ourselves in a spiritual way. We should look at ourselves as both a living and dying person. If we use common sense, we can see that since we came into existence we have been living and dying."

There have been a number of phenomenal conversations here on similar topics which I would recommend to you and anyone else with an interest in the subject and the time. In addition to the discussion mentioned by tmagette, these discussions may be of interest:

Universal Consciousness

Universal Consciousness Part Two

Afterlife

Ruiz, your amazing insights have been powerfully illuminating and I'm grateful to have read them. Early in the conversation, you asked if Buddhists believe in a Consciousness beyond consciousness and received a masterfully expressed answer from BodhiBliss that successfully encapsulated, through brilliant means, why the answer is "yes" and "no." Though I lack BodhiBliss's greatness of mind, skillful scholarship, and talent for written expression, I would like to add some bits of information regarding the Mahayana Madhyamaka/Madhyamika (Middle Way) school of Buddhist thought's teachings on the nature of "emptiness" that are almost surely more than anyone wants to know but I hope will clarify why I believe that this school's concept in general, and its Prasangika sub-school and Nagarjuna's concept in particular, don't constitute nor advocate nihilism but reliance on non-dualism though the non-dualism dealt with is that of anatta rather than that of atman.My sincere apologies for the lengthy digression into the minutiae of Buddhist philosophy but I have a genuine fondness for Nagarjuna's writings. :smile: Rather than relying on my own poor understanding, I'm providing quotes from works whose authors can unravel these complexities with clarity.

From Nagarjuna's The Precious Garland of Advice for the King, stanzas 48-51, translated by Jeffrey Hopkins and Lati Rinpoche with Anne Klein:
When this is, that arises,
Like short when there is tall,
When this is produced, so is that,
Like light from a flame.

When there is tall, there must be short,
They exist not through their own nature,
Just as without a flame
Light too does not arise.

Having thus seen that effects arise
From causes, one asserts what appears
In the conventions of the world
And does not accept nihilism.

He who refutes [inherently existent cause
And effect] does not develop [the view of] existence,
[Asserting] as true what does not arise from conventions;
Thereby one not relying on duality is liberated.
Nagarjuna also writes in his Mulamadhyamakakarika (Fundamentals of the Middle Way) that in a system where emptiness is not possible, nothing is possible. In a system where emptiness is possible, however, everything is possible.

The 14th Dalai Lama attributes to the writings of Dharmesvara the idea that the Prasangika sub-school's view and the view of its founder, Nagarjuna, constitute nihilism. In addressing Dharmesvara's finding, His Holiness offers an explanation of the Shen-tong or "emptiness of other" school's view:
This school maintains that conventional phenomena are empty of themselves, and that all phenomena are ultimately empty of existing conventionally. One could interpret this view of emptiness -- that sees conventional phenomena as being empty of themselves -- in the following way: phenomena are conventional because they are not their own ultimate nature. In that sense, they are empty of themselves. However, many Tibetan scholars who subscribe to the Shen-tong view do not interpret emptiness in such a manner. Rather, they maintain that if phenomena are empty of themselves, that is, of their conventionality, they cannot exist at all.

As we can read from history, many masters belonging to this group actually achieved high realizations on the Generation and Completion Stages of tantra. Since they must have achieved these realizations by means of the practice of meditation conjoined with their own view of emptiness, it would seem that they must have achieved some profound understanding or interpretation of their particular view of emptiness. However, if we were to understand their view -- that things are empty of themselves -- as literally signifying that things do not exist, then this would be tantamount to asserting that nothing exists at all! This, then, would constitute falling into the extreme of nihilism. This consequence, in my view, arises because of an inability on the part of the Shen-tong proponents to accept an identity and existence of phenomena that derives from a mere dependance on others. That they maintain the literal meaning -- that conventional phenomena do not exist and are empty of themselves -- becomes clear when we examine their position on the ontological status attributed to ultimate truth. They maintain that ultimate nature is a truly existent phenomenon, existing inherently and in its own right.So when they speak of the emptiness of this ultimate natural truth, they are saying that ultimate truth is empty of conventional phenomena.

Dharmesvara, the spiritual son of Yungmo Mikyo Dorje -- one of the founders and the foremost proponent of this view -- asserts in one of his writings that Nagarjuna's view of emptiness is a nihilistic view. In Dharmesvara's own view, because conventional phenomena are empty of themselves, the only thing that exists is ultimate truth, and that ultimate truth exists truly and inherently, as an objective entity.

It becomes obvious that adherence to such a philosophical viewpoint directly contradicts the view of emptiness as explained in the Perfection of Wisdom, or wisdom sutras. There, the Buddha explicitly and clearly mentioned that in the sphere of emptiness, there is no distinction whatsoever between conventional phenomena and ultimate phenomena. He expounded the empty nature of ultimate truth and established as a part of his fundamental teaching on emptiness that all phenomena, ranging from form up to omniscience, are equal in being empty.

Although the proponents of the Prasangika view -- the highest philosophical school of tenets -- speak of phenomena as being empty and as having an empty nature, this is not to be misinterpreted as implying that phenomena do not exist at all. Rather, phenomena do not exist by themselves, in and of themselves, in their own right, or inherently. Because phenomena possess the characteristics of existing and occurring and are dependent on other factors -- causes, conditions, and so forth -- they are, therefore, devoid of an independent nature. Consequently, they have the nature of being dependent. The very fact that they have this nature of dependence -- being dependent on other factors -- is an indication that they lack an independent status. When Madhyamaka-Prasangika proponents speak of emptiness, they speak of the empty nature of phenomena in terms of dependent origination. Therefore, an understanding of emptiness does not contradict the conventional reality of phenomena.
While these citations don't speak directly to your question, Ruiz, I appear to have an attachment to the importance of explaining how it can be determined that Nagarjuna's writings don't fall into the extreme of nihilism. For me, establishing this determination is important because falling into a nihilistic view would deter one from cultivating great love and compassion, the other chief aspiration for attaining enlightenment in the Tibetan Buddhist practice.

Vissi





<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Vissi on 2004-11-11 21:38 ]</font>

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Robert G.
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Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

There's so much I'd like to reply to, but one thing in particular caught me.
If Adam hadn't eaten the apple and brought both knowledge and death into the world, we never would have had a book written about it. He and Eve just would have gone on forever, and what kind of story is that?
Leaving aside the fact that the actor here was Eve, it seems to me that in the text there is no indication that Adam and Eve were created immortal, in fact just the opposite. Death was inherent in their nature, according to Genesis. This seems to me to be one aspect of life that is actually more accurately depicted in the Biblical text then in other traditions, for instance mythologies that postulate a "time when there was no time" or those that pretend "there is no such thing as death."

The imagery of the Hebrew tradition is undoubtedly borrowed from a myth that likely intended some other message. I personally feel that the Bilblical text is an advancement, a step towards making human life signify in a way that is foreign to traditional and Oriental societies. I even think that this is where the European ideal of the individual plugs into the Biblical: death as an important fact for each and every person, not a metaphor or an image. How one meets (or evades) that fact is up to each, but it is only with respect to it that you can say
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

After this thread has been featured in the weekly E-Mail Update, there are so many new posts in this thread - we have never received such an extense reaction on a featured thread before! Death is one of the most powerful reasons for mythologizing the world.

It would be great, if it was possible to continue the conversation by inventing several subthreads. So many different subjects have been touched on, that I am not able to refer to each and every post at once. So I will try to pick up a few of your ideas in a series of posts.

From the eNewsletter: "Ultimately we all face that dark gate. How has your study of myth and mystic tradition helped prepare you?" I have studied the mystical and mythological literature on death more than anything else, and I understand the concept of eternity, and the idea of letting go ego (as mentioned in several posts) - at the same time I admit, that no myth and mystic tradition was able to prepare me as much, that it would have been taken away my fear of death. The fear of not being there anymore.
On 2004-11-09 10:54, meesticmon wrote:
As I cannot put my hands on an actual copy of The Hero With a Thousand Faces at the moment, I can only paraphrase - - but somewhere in the first few chapters, Campbell renders a wonderful interpretation of the mystery of mortality, the shedding of the self and collapsing back into the collective unconscious:

And there, where we thought to find another, we shall find ourselves, where we thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god, where we thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
Meesticmon, I suppose you are referring to the chapter about the world navel. One of the most amazing symbols for eternity, from my point of view. If there is no afterlife of the individual personal consciousness, and "eternal life" refers to the same consciousness that is alive in yourself and your friends and foes, how is it possible for the strong Western ego, to accept death? The reality of eternity, understood as the timeless and formless now, may be a comfort for the enlightened mind. But is it a proper mythology for the strong Western Ego?
On 2004-11-09 05:53, rafael brazil wrote:
I loved your talking on “eternity”. Last night, I was watching the Power of Myth, which is airing in Brazil after ten years. Last night’s words of Joe that stayed with me were: I had many friends who died. My parents died. But the moments I spent with them were eternal, outside of time.
Rafael, this is something I do not understand, though I have contemplated on those words from "Power of Myth" many times. Campbell speaks about his parents, who had passed away a long time ago, and then he says that he has not really lost them, because of the eternal quality of that experience. I have to admit, that I don't understand.

Eternity has something impersonal for me; Since we do not love mankind, but individual personal beings (including ourselves), I'm wondering how it is possible to take comfort in the idea of eternal life.

According to Campbell, it's just a shift of perspective, but what a difficult one! According to Campbell, the typical Western Ego is so strong, that it's much more difficult to transcend it, than a traditional Eastern ego. I don't see that there's any Western mythology, that prepares the strong Western Ego for death properly. All that we have is the mythologized quest, but not the realization of the grail. I'm wondering if a proper mythology might arise from the near death experiences and previous life regressions.
On 2004-11-09 06:41, KellyO wrote:
I have knowledge of what happens to a person after death. What I’m not sure is how to share that knowledge without sounding odd.
Kelly, you do not sound odd at all - at least not in the JCF forums. It's just the right place to talk about near death experiences and previous life regressions.

All I know about the latter is from the books and taped lectures of Campbell's friend Stanislav Grof.

You were talking about "knowledge" in contrast to faith or belief, that has grown out of your experiences. I have heard the same before from other people who have experienced something similiar.

I'm wondering though, if these experiences might be be based rather on symbolical truths, than factual truths.

Ruiz and others, in this thread, have refered several times before to these questions: How to prove a metaphor? What does the metaphor refer to? To something metaphysical? And if so, how to speak about metaphysical realites, if not by use of metaphors?

I don't see a way to prove, that near death experiences and previous life regressions are speaking of metaphysical truths. We only can talk about it in a poetical-metaphorical way, but this way of talking about it offers no absolute truths in any way.

Different interpretations are possible. If there is a collective unconscious, the experiences of previous lifes, for instance, might be based on other sources, than the factual previous life of a person. Fascinating experiences indeed, but experiences of what? Maybe just symbolical references, originated by our unconscious?

Furthermore, how should it be possible, to take comfort in the idea of factual reincarnation, since mankind will not exist forever. Our planet has a limited lifetime, and so has the galaxy, maybe even the universe. No matter, if we will be reincarnated, sooner or later we are facing death as an ultimate borderline.

And if heaven is (according to Campbell) here and now, and nowhere else - or everyhwere else, but not a metaphysical reality outside the factual universe, how should it be possible to take comfort in near death experiences and the idea of an afterlife?

Dennis, I like those statues you have photographed in a very skillful way. I found many statues on European cemetaries, especially form the nineteenth century, that are showing highly sensual images of the human body. Interesting combination between eros and death. In the tradition of European painting, you find the same topic of "death and the maiden": The two opposites of death and eros, that complement one another. Death, again, as one of the most powerful reasons for mythologizing the world. In my hometown there lives a quite successful photographer, Isolde Ohlbaum. She has published two books with photographs, that are similiar to your own, and hence might be of interest for you. In her books, next to the photos, there are poems from Rilke and other great poets who had something to say about death. (The website is in German. Please click on "Engel" or "Skulpturen", and afterwards on "dazu hier" and then "Blättern Sie hier" on the bottom of each page.)

_________________
... With you the world arises, and a fresh start gleams on all the fragments of our failures - Rainer Maria Rilke

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Post by walker » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi, All!
Very enlightening thread! Many thanks to all!
I am new to these forums and not a native English speaker and I know very little, but suspect a few things.
How can a frog deep down in a well imagine the greatness of the sea?
I suspect there is no “Out There” or “In Here”. I suspect all is One, or maybe better still: all is nothing.
I suspect our dearest labels, such as consciousness, energy, matter, spirit, soul, and many others alike, point to nothingness. A pregnant nothingness. Which is simply another way of saying I know absolutely nothing about it. Some scientist once described an electron as a vortex in the vacuum.
I suspect there is no sense in asking what was “before” the Big Bang and don’t take this provisional hypothesis too seriously also.
I suspect nothingness manifests itself in a continuum of space-time that seems to evolve into ever greater complexity. I suspect what we call life is the present greatest complexity space-time has been able to achieve in this infinitesimal part of the Universe we think we know.

Eternity is the Moment
The Moment is Reality
Reality is the Subtle
The Subtle is Void
The Void is Eternity

I suspect one doesn’t go anywhere after one dies, because there is no “after”, no “other” place to go and this is “it”. We are there already! Eternity, like JC said, is here and now and has nothing to do with space-time.
I suspect death is just the exhaustion of a bet evolution (=nothingness?) has made in each creature to foster its eternal and continuous thread. A simplistic analogy: dump the old computer hardware (body, maybe?) and install upgraded versions of successful software (mind, maybe?) in a new one. Consciousness is like the owner, continually upgrading forever. The problem seems to be that nature’s computers have no hard disks! All is stored in RAM.
I know I chill and shiver when facing the unknown. It doesn’t make any sense to feel this because the mystery is ever present. So why do I fear? I don’t know!

A Eternidade _© o Instante<br>O Instante _© a Realidade<br>A Realidade _© o Sutil<br>O Sutil _© o Vazio<br>O Vazio _© a Eternidade<br><br>walker
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