Being a Lotus in the Mud: The Art of Living with Awareness

Ideas of ((God)) and Conceptual Imprisonment

Throughout the centuries, people have recognized that there is a fundamental Unifying Principle that is the Source of reality.  Accommodating infinite names, from God and Allah, to Dao and Brahman, this Source is understood to be infinite and self-sustaining.  However, are we conceptually imprisoned by our idea of this Source?  Are our rational abilities of thought powerful enough to conceive of what is First?  In this East-West comparative study, I examine thought’s limitations in conceiving the Absolute, and how we can transcend objectified notions of It.

I begin with an examination of thought, semiotic activity, and the problem of ego-mentalism.  Descartes’ ontological proofs of Infinite Being are then illustrated to understand why the Absolute is significant.  I then transition to authors in Zen to argue that Infinite Being must empty itself to be truly infinite.  This recognition can promote interconnectedness and the advancement of global dialogue.

Watch my lecture on YouTube:

Global Philosophy Forum at Haverford College, Global Dialogue Institute

Consciousness, Connectivity, and Quest for the Unified Filed of Global Wisdom, Science and Spirituality: Making Sense of Our Great Evolutionary Shift Imagining a Transformed World Thriving in Sustainable Economic Justice

Jason Kunen presenting the opening words for the Forum, introducing Dr. Ashok Gangadean

Keynote Speakers who presented:

Dr. Ashok Gangadean

Dr. Peter Brown

Laurence Brahm, Esq.

Global Citizenship and Deep Dialogue in Education

© Jason Kunen 2014

© Jason Kunen 2014

In our global age, with the vast plurality of worldviews and cultures coming into contact with each other, is it not necessary for cross-cultural and inter-faith dialogue, coupled with a sensitivity that appreciates diversity, to be prevalent in society?  Such a skill would require learning the art and ethics of deep dialogue, that is, ways of inquiring into the framework and worldview of the Other without violating it in order to engender real appreciation and empathy.  We need to drastically evolve our current ways of being and living in the world if we are to face the crises of our time.  The presence of conflict, political upheaval, and the question of our sustainability requires new and innovative ways to educate the younger generations.

There is a need for a radical shift in the way in which we structure our learning institutions.  Philosophers addressing this matter, whether in the Western approach as in Plato’s Academy from the Greek tradition, or the Eastern mindset for example in Confucianism, have discerned that we must develop students’ capacities in all areas of life, and help them to connect on a deep level with themselves and others.  They should be well-versed not only intellectually, which is what our schools have emphasized, but should have also cultivated their physical, artistic, intuitive, spiritual, philosophical, and emotional sides as well.  Students need to be able to apply the knowledge they have learned, and also understand the how, why, and when behind this process.  Furthermore, is not the mark of a global citizen and student of wisdom realizing that all people can connect on a deep, genuine level when encountered from the ground of the human experience?  For all forms of life are deeply interconnected and mutually interdependent, and, as many of our wisdom teachers have shown, there is unity in diversity, and multiplicity in oneness.

The difficulty lies is giving people the tools and creating an environment where people can learn to cross worlds.  In other words, how can we dilate our minds in order to appreciate and understand a way of life different from our own?  People can begin to realize a deep interconnectedness by seeing that we are all sentient beings that face common problems both outwardly in society, and existentially, and that these problems can addressed more mindfully and reasonably if we learn how to unite in an authentic manner that does not eliminate difference, but celebrates it.  Uniting to face the dilemmas of the human condition, and seeing that cultures across the globe have been trying to address such issues, we mature to non-violent and more integral ways of dealing with the fragmentation of  inter-religious, cross-cultural, and philosophical conflicts and polar splits as we see in our current situation.

If one were to create an intellectually safe environment with the right teacher that allows students to engage in deep ontological self-reflection and dialogue with other worlds, he or she can reevaluate one’s own framework to develop the process of becoming a global citizen.  Learning to conduct our minds with a global vision allows us to promote harmony and compassion for all beings and the ecology, for we come to a deeper understand the vast relationships, on both a personal and worldwide level, that constitute our being.  This need to promote and facilitate an awakening of a holistic mind and to pave the way towards global unity can be accomplished through innovative pedagogies, awareness of how we are conducting our minds, mindfulness practices, and deep dialogue, among other practices that can be woven into the curriculum.

Related Articles and Videos:

On the Problems of our Age, Interconnectedness and Activism

Humanizing the Humanities: The Relevance of the Humanities in Education

Changing Education Paradigms, by Sir Ken Robinson

On Philosophy for Children, by Dr. Thomas Jackson

((Global Education)) by Dr. Ashok Gangadean

Thoughts on the Meaning of Life – Latest post

What is the Meaning of Life?

Hello Friends,

I apologize for not having written an article in some time.  However, I have recorded a lecture on the question, “what is the meaning of life?”

Leave a comment and let me know if you think I should continue making lectures, or if you prefer a written article, a video, etc.  I would appreciate your ((feedback))!  Many thanks!

What is the Meaning of Life?:

Related posts:

On Destiny, Meaning, Purpose and Fear Part 1:

Part 2:

Navigating the Mazeway: Fulfilling our Best Possibilities As Individuals and As a Society, by Tony Parrotto

The Mazeway Project

That Which Is, by Martha Randolph and Elizabeth Campbell

Wakeup Calls: Ordinary People – Extraordinary Events by Fred Cheyette

Ethics and Interdependence – The Shift from /I==It/ to ((I==Thou))

© Jason Kunen 2014

© Jason Kunen 2014

With the plurality of worldviews, religions, philosophies, and interpretive frameworks easily accessible through technology, it is clear that we need to reexamine our position on ethics in relation to the present, global age. It seems that many people have taken a relativistic stance on ethics, perhaps primarily due to the fact that being able to Dialogue across worldviews and frameworks is not a common skill, and therefore few know how to coherently integrate and understand multiple perspectives, particularly where religion is invovled.

What I would like for us to examine together is whether we can have secular ethics based on the common ground of experience, without relying on any religious, philosophical, or abstract metaphysical proposition. Let us start completely clear, with no motive to prove one idea over another or arrive at any particular conclusion.

Ethics is not an isolated abstract idea, but occurs in relationship. Life is constituted of relationships: to people, nature, objects, ideas, images, thoughts, emotions, and so on. As Krishnamurti says, “to be is to be related.” Ethics, therefore, is the conduct we embody within these roles and relationships.

So, if we are to examine the way in which we conduct ourselves in relationship, a natural starting point would be to first observe who is the self that is in these relationships. If we consider the image we have of ourselves, what is it that we find? Is it not the accumulation of memories, conditionings, and knowledge about ourselves? This is not according to the philosophy of someone else or of the author; you can see this for yourself if there is curiosity to inquire, without forcing oneself to arrive at an answer. If the image we have of ourselves is the collection of memories and details about ourselves, is this not a definition? This is an attempt to define ourselves.

However, to define oneself involves cutting oneself off from everything that one is not, or at least, it appears that there is a separation. If I want to define myself, to wear all kinds of religious, political, national, economic, racial, ethnic labels, do I not need to create a gap between that which is ‘me’ and that which is not ‘me’? If I call myself a Catholic or a Buddhist, or a Democrat or a Republican, doesn’t this separate myself from all others who are not wearing the same label? It is this process of separation that is the cause of conflict and violence. We are not saying that politics, or religion, or some other thing is the cause of problems. The real troublemaker is the habit of our mind to buy into the illusion of definition, of separation.

In order to define something, one needs to separate oneself from the thing one is trying to describe. Definition requires some thing is singled out in an attempt to classify it. But this process involves objectifying that which is on the screen of awareness, thereby creating a distinction between the observer and the observed. This division causes further conflict, however, we shall not go into detail of that at the present time, but if one is interested, Jiddu Krishnamurti has much to say on that subject.

In other words, we are using a mental software that is programmed to objectify all experience and life in an attempt to classify and analyze it. We can call this an /I==It/ way of minding. Of course this has its use, but we have been conditioned to apply this to all aspects of our life, particularly our psychological life, and this creates much suffering and mental anguish. When something is seen as separate from us, as an ‘other,’ and something lesser, do we not mistreat, misuse, or act against it? If one looks at this habit of mind closely, one will realize that it is when we objectify, that we cause harm to others. Thus, this /I==It/ technology of mind is destructive in our relationships.

When we become aware and understand this process, that is the very action needed to ((rehabilitate)) the mind. In the understanding that the image of ourselves, definitions, and the objectifying nature of our /mind/ is an illusion brought on by thought and conditioning, we begin to develop a sense that all things are interconnected. To break that /cycle/ not through force or discipline but by awareness, sensitivity, and understanding, we ((See)) Life and Reality as undivided from ourselves. Is this not echoed throughout our wisdom teachings from across the ages? To love one another as oneself…is this not one of the crux of the teachings of many of our great teachers?

By breaking this conceptual prison through awareness, understanding, and curiosity to look at ourselves, we shift from an /I==It/ technology to an ((I==Thou)) technology of mind. Such a ((transformation)) is to see the Sacredness of all Life, of all Reality. In that way, how could we possibly even think of harming another? When you are aware that you are the world and the world is you, one directly perceives that to cause harm to another is to cause suffering to oneself. To make the leap from /I==It/ to ((I==Thou)) is to affect the entire web of relationships.

If one inquires into what real relationship is very seriously, one will find that one’s individual consciousness is in fact, not at all individual! If we know how to look at the anger, frustration, desire, hope, jealously, greed, confusion, uncertainty, insecurity, acquisitiveness, competitiveness, comparison, conflict, loneliness, the craving to become something, the search for something greater, moments of joy, the clinging to those memories of happiness and wanting to repeat it, and so on, within ourselves, we can recognize that this is the ground of the human experience…it is a shared experience common to all humankind. So, when we inquire into these matters, we are really looking into the consciousness of all humankind.

Ethics, therefore, is when ((right relationship)), ((I==Thou)), is one’s being, and it affects all of our relations. One understands, not intellectually, but through one’s heart-and-mind, that any separation between oneself and anything or anyone else is only an illusion of thought. Therein lies the foundation of compassion. That which is unethical comes to be when live from a place of /I==It/, whereby we perpetuate conflict, violence, division, and and so on.

Related Articles:
On Relationships
Philosophy is a Path of Happiness
Meditations on Zen and Martial Arts Philosophy
Other essays:
Navigating the Mazeway: Fulfilling our Best Possibilities As Individuals and As a Society, by Tony Parrotto
The Mazeway Project
That Which Is, by Martha Randolph and Elizabeth Campbell

((Philosophy)) is a ((Path of Happiness))












I recently saw a play called Philosophy for Gangsters, where it was suggested that philosophy and happiness have nothing to do with each other.  After hearing this, I thought for some time about this topic.  Does philosophy lead to happiness?  Is there a connection?

Philosophy is the “love of Sophia,” meaning wisdom  Let us inquire into these two terms.  ((Wisdom)) may perhaps best be suggested as understanding the nature of ((Reality)), in other words, seeing the truth of ((what is)) in the moment.  Love, not /exclusive/ or /possessive love/, but ((real love)) seems to be a ((total absorption)) with something, such that no /divisions/ or /separateness/ exists between one and the other.

We may not necessarily even be speaking of romantic love, but ((love)) in general.  Imagine for example, the martial artist who becomes absorbed in his or her practice, or the athlete that loses his sense of self on the field such that there is just movement, or the musician who is lost in the music.  A sense of /self/ disappears, and there is only ((action)).  The kind of love which we speak is unconditional; there is no separation between /one/ and the /other/ on any level, but a complete and total ((union)).

((Philosophy)) therefore would mean a ((total absorption and understanding into what is)), i.e., ((the nature of reality)).

Through ((wisdom and love)), we break through the /illusion of separation/.  ((Seeing)) that there is no /separation/ is already the flowering of ((love)).  Thus, ((wisdom-and-love)), ((truth-and-compassion)), are interconnected and co-arise.

As we said in previous articles, an “I” appears to exist because of memories and sensations.  However, if we look closely with sensitivity and awareness, we can see that it is thought that creates a thinker.  The narrative we tell ourselves everyday is an illusion, perpetuated by thought in order to preserve a sense of continuity.  This separation between the thinker and the thought, the experiencer and the experienced, creates conflict and divisions within us.

Since thought operates only in the past and projects the future, there is a conflict between what should be (according to thought), and what is.  This /self/, the /ego/, projects all kinds of labels, categories, divisions, and judgments on reality and experience.  As we can never escape from the present, from what is, we lead a double life: experiencing what is, and what we think should be according to our desires, thoughts, conditionings, and memories.

In order to define itself, thought creates labels, judgments, and all kinds of divisions.  This causes us to objectify all experience, people, relationships, language, and reality, and view as /other/ anything which does not fit our own definition.  The /ego/ operates in an /I—It/ technology of mind.  ((Wisdom-and-love)), brought to Life through ((Living Philosophy)), creates a shift from /I—It/ to ((I==Thou)), whereby objectifying habits are dropped, and there is insight in the ((Sacredness)) and ((Interrelatedness)) of all things.

Without any /divisions/ or /separateness/, there is no inward conflict, for conflict can only exist between /one/ and an /other/.  Without conflict, there is not only ((clarity)), but ((order)).  In this sense, ((order)) is not forced, disciplined, or adherence to some moral law, but is a natural spontaneity that is in itself ((ethical, creative, and harmonious)).  For the one who embodies ((love-and-wisdom)), he or she would not even consider /violence/ or /actions/ that would harm others, for they are ((aware)) of the ((interconnectedness of all things)).  Order seemingly brings about virtue and goodness then, and these give rise also to harmony.  Of course, we must keep in mind that these ((qualities)) such as order, virtue, wisdom, love, etc., do not arise in a linear or cause-and-effect manner, but also ((co-arise)) together, and are ((interrelated)).

Therefore, if there is no /self/ in conflict or that is /divided/, but simply the ((manifestation)) and ((action)) of these ((qualities)), would this not be happiness?  For the very /pursuit/ of happiness obstructs its flowering, because there is a pursuer and the pursued.  But without that conflict, and just the ((total absorption and flowing into what is)), ((the present moment)), there is bliss.

Thus, ((Philosophy)), not intellectual jargon, debates, and complex theories, but real ((Living Wisdom)) is the key to ((Happiness)) and ((Human Flourishing)).  This ((meditative intelligence)), the ((understanding and awareness)) of ((what is)) is ((Living Philosophy)).  ((Philosophy)), therefore, is a ((Way of Liberation)).  It is not a path “towards” happiness, as that would create a division between the path and a goal, but rather, ((Philosophy)) is a ((Path of Happiness)).

Related Articles:

The Game of Life – Don’t Take it Personally

On the Nature of Happiness

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

When Life Falls Apart

On Uncertainty

Link to my book – Meditations on Zen and Martial Arts Philosophy

Link to my other essays –

Navigating the Mazeway: Fulfilling our Best Possibilities As Individuals and As a Society, by Tony Parrotto

The Mazeway Project

That Which Is, by Martha Randolph and Elizabeth Campbell

The Game of Life – Don’t Take it Personally

© Jason Kunen 2014

© Jason Kunen 2014

We have become so caught up in playing the game of life that we have confused playing the game with really living itself.  When we are obsessed with what masks we wear to show the world, it is no wonder that we are an age of judgment, anxiety, and self-importance out of fear.

What do I mean when I say “playing the game of life?”  It is the daily struggles, the conflict, the pain, loneliness, anger, frustration, desire, judgment, self-consciousness, anxiety, and concern with our self-image and how we appear to others.  How many masks do we wear everyday?  And is seems that we have become so accustomed with putting up a facade that we ourselves come to believe this very illusion.

These masks are constructed based on ideas of ourselves, the images we believe other people have of us, the memories, experiences, psychological scars, and our conditionings.  But wearing a mask constricts your vision.  Psychologically, retaining this image we have of ourselves and others limits what we see and how we interact in the world.  When you carry around an image of yourself all the time, you naturally set yourself up to be hurt, anxious, lonely, and frustrated, and counteract such feelings by trying to build up even more self-importance.  In putting oneself on a pedestal, there will naturally be a fear of falling off it.

We crave psychological security and comfort, which leads us to cling to what we know, to the story we tell ourselves everyday, in order to have some kind of certainty.  But nothing is static, and therefore, there is always the constant threat of insecurity.  Certainly, we need memories and experiences in order to function in the world, carry out various responsibilities, and perform at our job, but we must ask ourselves, is this all that there is?  Because we feel that outside of playing this game there is nothing, we feel fear and uncertainty, as though there is an empty void waiting to swallow us into nothingness.  The more we feel such psychological fear of letting go, the more we realize how much we are psychologically dependent on the known.  And in fact, what we really fear is not an actual void itself, but merely an idea in our mind that we have of it…the fear we have is of not wanting to let go of the known.

So, if you are at all interested in this sort of inquiry, be aware of your mental habits, your relationships, your interactions, your judgments, and your mental attitude while playing the game of life.  If you are sensitive, if you’re really curious, you will see how absurd it is to take life seriously and personally.  This is not a claim that we should waive our responsibilities, disregard courtesy, or have the right to do whatever we wish…that is thinking immaturely.

It is simply to say that we take the game of life so seriously, so personally, that we accumulate more and more baggage and scars, and because we have been hurt in the past, we try to control and shape the future according to our desires to we don’t get hurt again.  We fall into a vicious cycle of pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain.  Such thinking prevents us from learning various lessons in life, and enjoying things as they.  Whether life is a tragedy or a comedy is largely a matter of one’s mental attitude.

I am contemplating making follow up videos on Youtube to these posts.  If you think that would be helpful and interesting, let me know.  I am also open to suggestions for topics.

If you like these posts, please share them with others.  There are links to share this on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and others below.  Many thanks!

When Life Falls Apart – Last week’s post

Navigating the Mazeway: Fulfilling our Best Possibilities As Individuals and As a Society, by Tony Parrotto

The Mazeway Project

That Which Is, by Martha Randolph and Elizabeth Campbell