Ricky M.'s Thoughts

My thoughts on life, relationships, religion, spirituality, the paranormal and more.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Middle Path

I just turned on my internet connection and on 'Yahoo' I see the article 'American Buddhism on the rise'. It's about time, of all the spiritual disciplines, I like Buddhism best. It is the most rational and most practical religion I have ever encountered.

One of the important features of buddhism is the idea of the 'Middle Path', in 'wikipedia' it is defined as follows:

'The Middle Way or Middle Path (Sanskrit Madhyama Marga, Pali Majjhima Magga) is the Buddhist philosophy expounded by Gautama Buddha. Sometimes summarised as the practice of non-extremism; a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and opposing self-mortification.'

Although I like Buddhism, I still make changes to ideas that I read. Attachment or craving is also an important facet of Buddhism. Craving is talked about in 'Four Noble Truths'

'Nirodha: Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering:

It is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, and non-reliance on it'

When we add the two ideas up, we can also say that the middle path is the path between 'craving' and 'not craving'. This is of course my idea, whether Buddha himself would agree with me is something else. To yet add another idea, I believe that staying statically in the center between 'craving' and 'not craving' is somewhat boring. So I personally 'oscillate between the two extreems' of craving and not craving. For a highly simplified idea of what I do, I go through materiality and live like a hedonist for a certain period of time, then when my mind is about to start getting attached, I withdraw to a period of non-attachment. When the non-attachment makes me regain my 'sanity' and begins to get boring, then I go back to my hedonist phase. (I have replaced 'craving' with 'attachment' since they are similar).

The procedure seems to work well for me, but some of my friends can't figure me out. Attachment to me is the start of suffering. If that is so, then what I did, is enjoy life without getting attached. Enjoy the moment, but don't expect it to happen tomorrow, don't expect your friends or loved ones to even be there tomorrow, but love them just the same. Be sweet and affectionate to everyone and anyone with no attachment on whether they are liars, hypocrits or whatever, just enjoy their company. Attachment need not be only on material things, but also on love, expectations and other personal relationships.

For a more in depth explanation, check out my previously published book which I have placed on the web.


Friday, September 15, 2006

The Philippines Isn't too Bad

After hearing so many times that the Philippines is financially deteriorating, I decided to ask people who grew up in the province. Just this week, I met a person who grew up in La Union. She said that life in her province isn't too bad. Actually based on the people I have asked in the past few months, it seems that life in the other provinces aren't also that bad. While income in the province is a lot lower than here in Manila, expenses are also much lower. With ten thousand pesos, all of the people I asked, claimed that one can leave a very reasonable simple life in the province. That amount of money would even include rent, electricity and water in a modest room which you need not share with anybody. That small room could even have a small kitchen.

Just a few years back, I had believed that life in the province was terrible. I would here stories of people with no jobs, or people who just aren't paid enough. I was told of stories in haciendas where people would remain poor. Yet here I was, talking to these supposedly poor people who work in manila with jobs as waitresses, bartenders and like that claim that life is fine in the province. So I asked them, if life is fine there, why did they come here. It seems that a number of the people who transfer here want to earn fast money working as guest relations officrs(GRO's) or work in similar industries. Others have just transferred because they find life in the province too dull. They say that sometimes the whole barrio is asleep by 8pm.

For those that come here due to poverty, I noticed that one major cause was having too many brothers and sisters. Their parents just could not financially support them. This condition was usually amplified if the parents would separate, or if the working parent would grow too ill to work. Sometimes, the children who come here are runaways who refuse to go to school or bolt from overly strict parents. Others are forced to stop school to work due to an unanticipated pregnancy.

If you notice, in the preceding paragraph, the reasons for poverty are really due to unforseen circumstances. Lack of planning, lack of discipline, or in the case of a parent not supporting his/her child just because he/she left his/her spouse for another person, lack of concern.

Filipino's are relatively a happy-go-lucky bunch of people. As I've heard, in other countries, you need an appointment to talk to your friend, in here talking and texting is a pasttime. In countries in the temperate zones, lack of foresight could be fatal in winter. With relatively better weather here, a lot of us have grown less determined to fight for survival. I also think Filipinos are too soft and too nice. When a worker does a job, sometimes he will not even quote his price, sometimes he just says that it is up to you. Worse, sometimes he may even refuse payment, even if he is poorer than the person he is doing the work for. In contrast there were two cases when a foreigner asked me to install internet on his computer. I just bought a 100 peso internet card to provide him with the service. After paying me for the card, they even insisted on giving me a few hundred pesos more.

I think that trouble starts when simple people work for ambitious people. Ambitious people will pay for what they can get away with, in contrast with what the work is worth. Simple people on the other hand will just take whatever is given. Is this what is happening to the provinces where poverty exists. Is this also what is happening in Manila. I really haven't interviewed enough people to say that this is the case.

What if the province only had simple people? Some would say that with no ambitious people, there would be no jobs. I don't think so, here in Manila, I have walked in these areas and have found that there are a lot of self employment which people could have. Some have a little grocery store. For those who can't invest as much, they could start a small tailoring business. They could fix electrical appliances. Others have little eating places, others sell rice, or barbecued food. In the province, I remember that our neighbor in the back even had a few pigs, and no, they didn't smell. Now, some people even sell cellphone load from their cellphones.

So we see that life is not so bad in the province. What surprised me though is that the person who I talked with a few days ago said that it is not hard even to be quite rich in the province. In La Union, she said that the people who have resorts which cater to tourists rake it in. I guess the idea is to cater to the people coming from Manila while having the low expenses in the province. She said that one just has to be hardworking to be fine. Take note, she said hardworking, she didn't say that one has to be intelligent or even have a college degree.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reason, Gut Feel or Faith

A lot of religions are faith based. I got surprised when I found out that one was not. Buddhism claims to be logical. Buddha even went to an extent to show how logical he was by instructing the kalamas with what is known now as the Kalama Sutta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalama_Sutra).

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing ;
nor upon rumor ;
nor upon what is in a scripture ;
nor upon tradition
nor upon surmise;
nor upon an axiom;
nor upon specious reasoning;
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over;
nor upon another's seeming ability;
nor upon the consideration, "The monk is our teacher."
Kalamas, when you yourselves know: "These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness," enter on and abide in them.'

I find the writing, very nice, concise and direct to the point, something I frankly woulnd't expect from a religion. Buddhism though did not stop at rationalization, how then would buddha be able to explain his views on the afterlife and even his previous reincarnations. Although the public was urged to test ideas given by faith with logic, it seemed that the more enlightened ones would acquire knowledge from still other sources.

Different people have different ways of getting knowledge. Some use the words gut feel, intuition, even divine inspiration. I prefer to use the term intuition, 'gut feel 'to me sounds like I'm waiting for a disaster to happen and the term 'divine inspiration' seems to suggest that the person who gets the knowledge can not be questioned because it is from God. I feel that all intuition must be taken with a grain of salt and validated before being taken seriously. Schizophrenics also receive messages by hearing voices in their heads, but they are not necessarily correct.

Different strokes for different folks. I feel that if one is enlightened, or simply deeply intuitive, he/she must be able to discern what is right or wrong because he/she has evolved to such a state that just thinking of doing something bad is disgusting to him/her. This person does things not out of faith, not out of fear from retribution of people, not out of fear of going to hell, but simply because he/she knows what is right and wrong. Other people though who are not yet in this state, have to be told what to do, what is right and wrong. If this is the case, then so be it, it is best that they behave out of faith than out of intuition.

There are those who believe that man must believe in God. They feel that without any concept in God, man will go amock and do what is wrong. Excuse me, not all people are like that, there are people who behave even when they are not threatened. Buddhists are basically atheist, they have no belief in a creator God. How often have you heard of an unpleasant Buddhist. People who are inherently good are better than people who have to be threatened to be good. If you have a dog, would you want a dog who only behaves when it is on a leash, or a dog which behaves even when it is not on a leash.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Will Everything Ultimately be Answerable by Science

As of now, there is still much to be learned from about our planet. It's been a long time since man has even gone down to the bottom of the ocean. And there's definitely a lot more to be learned from our solar system(did you know Pluto is no longer considered a planet), not to mention all of the other galaxies.

A lot of ideas which before would be considered as givens are now being questioned. In the beginning there was Newtonian physics, then there was an extention of physics which was added by Albert Einstein. Mass of an object was not anymore constant. Time does not necessarily progress from past to present to future.

Luckily scientist know this and have no qualms about changing theories about the world. We have different theories how the universe was created. So much is changing.

Sometimes I begin to wonder, will the influx of new discoveries ever stop? And at the rate this is going, what shall we discover next? People are beginning to test cloning. Will immortality come in the future?

When I was young, I tried to read very hard a certain book. The book was 'The Tao of Physics' by Fritjof Capra. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tao_of_Physics

The full title is 'The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism'. I remember that the heavy physics left me 'brain dead' and certain parts were such that I could make no sense of them at all. Some parts which I vaguely remember is that it was explaining that in Eastern Mysticism, Taoism states that there is Yin and Yang(Feminine and Masculine). In Science you shall notice that when you look at building blocks of matter we also have positive and negative charges of particles. Both show that polarity exists in a lot of things. In Easterm mysticism we are taught that with God, everything is viewed as one and that the separation of past, present and future does not exist. We are taught in Physics that in certain conditions time is not what it seems to be, time may even stop. Time are not viewed as a flow from past to present to future. That book was in 1975.

Will Science eventually catch up and explain the ideas in Easterm Mysticism? Will Science eventually explain the concept of God? How about the ideas concerning the afterlife. Is the law of karma really a scientific law which has somehow just been tied up to morality?

To make things worse, is God the one who made the laws of the universe, or is God just a more 'superior' entity which is still bound by the laws of the universe. If so, then God may not necessarily benevolent. Are we just creatures created by our creator for his/her pure pleasure and does he/she just consider us as one of the creatures, just the same way we enjoy watching animals in a zoo?

Blasphemous as those ideas may sound, you can't help but think. A number of religions though are based on faith, so with this, a lot of people don't think but just rely on hope.

Extending furthur, how about tackling the idea of religion. Is religion really a means to the truth, or was it made only to serve a purpose, the purpose to keep people good till they die, just the same way parents keep us good, by telling us to be good till Christmas so that Santa will give us good gifts on Christmas.

Could I request the readers to comment? I would want to know your ideas. I might follow up your comments with additional articles. Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Suicidal Ants


When the experts looked to nature, they encountered suicide bombers among the ants. Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson, in their book Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration, explain that the colony is the unit of meaning in the lives of ants. For the loyal, sterile worker ant, the key issue is the protection of both its queen ant and its worker brothers and reproductive sisters so that they can survive to establish new colonies. In one ant species, worker ants will voluntarily commit suicide to defend their colony, exploding themselves by muscular contraction to spray poison over their enemies. Holldobler and Wilson call destroying enemies by committing suicide in defense of the colony “the ultimate sacrifice in public service” for the ant.

Interesting. The problem with this idea, is that it seems to conflict with the the idea of natural selection'.


Natural selection is the process by which individual organisms with favorable traits are more likely to survive and reproduce than those with unfavorable traits. Natural selection works on the whole individual, but only the heritable component of a trait will be passed on to the offspring, with the result that favorable, heritable traits become more common in the next generation. Given enough time, this passive process can result in adaptations and speciation (see evolution).

Isn't 'natural selection' one of the ideas of evolution? As it says 'individual organisms with favorable traits are more likely to survive and reproduce', why then has this kind of ants survived? One possibility is that the specific ant specie which they are in actually thrives better due to this specific kind of ants within them, hence making this specie more survivable. I really don't know, we might as well ask a 'evolution' expert on this one.

Phone Telepathy

"Each person in the trials was asked to give researchers names and phone numbers of four relatives or friends. These were then called at random and told to ring the subject who had to identify the caller before answering the phone.

"The hit rate was 45 percent, well above the 25 percent you would have expected," he told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

"The odds against this being a chance effect are 1,000 billion to one."

I still don't know if I'm capable of doing this. Too few people call me at home. I do however do something else which at times has freaked several of my friends. When people think of me, there are times when I call them up on the phone after or sometimes even during the time they are still talking about me. The time elapsed between they talking or even thinking about me varies. If we haven't talked for years sometimes the elapsed time is around two weeks, but if we are close and we have just talked within the week, the elapsed time can be minutes. We may all really be connected in some sort of way, just the same way people who are in love seem to know how their loved ones are.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What Sacrifice?

I just came from a talk this morning on volunteerism on helping the less fortunate. Some speakers described that they had transferred to volunteerism since their materialistic lifestyle then had left them feeling empty.

A lot of people assume that helping others involves sacrifice. I had believed this for years, that an 'investment' in sacrifice will give you a proper place in heaven. But as I grow. I discover that helping does give me pleasure so different from pleasure derived from material acquisition. If so, would this still be considered sacrifice?

Helping people involves a certain amount of love(for lack of a better term). I have yet to see religious scripture that doesn't believe in loving one another, and yet as people grow old if you'll notice, their love seems to only encompass their spouse and their children. When a person is not committed, they say that that person will grow up lonely. Huh? People have friends don't they, or do people think that friends are just there to be used. Who says that old people can't have young friends. If some people who are socially unequipped can find friends on the Internet, why can't old people find friends? Then when a person is childless they say he/she is unfulfilled. When he/she says that he/she will adopt, they say "but the kid is not your own blood!". Well, I still think that some people can love even though there is no commitment or if they are not related by blood.

Whatever happened to religiosity. Is religious hypocrisy alive and well on planet earth, or is or do people only want to believe the part of their religion that they agree with. And then I heard a woman say "but only God can give unconditional love". The bad thing is that people who can't give unconditional love sometimes actually look down on people who can give unconditional love. People who can give unconditonal love are not necessarily abnormal, it's just that they are not typical.

So the next time you look at a volunteer or a single person, look at him/her with a different set of eyes. Not only is he/she enjoying himself/herself, you may also be missing out on a big part of your life.

Who's the Coward

Euthanasia has always been a contraversial topic. A number of people claim that people do not have the right to take their own lives, even if they are bedridden with a terminal and painful disease. Some will claim that it is 'a waste of life'.

If a person who is in severe depression, incoherent and unable to decide for himself commits suicide, then I would call this 'a waste of life'. But for those who have lived fruitful lives and have been able to finish all their responsibilities and commitments, whose extension of life only causes them to be a burden to themselves and society, then I feel that suicide is justifiable. To call people who end their lives due to this reason, cowards, for me is unfair. If these people are cowards, what then are the people who continue their lives, finish their relatives' life savings only to die. What did they accomplish. Would it be fair to call these people cowards since they did not allow themselves to die gracefully hanging on to their last breath and not accepting their death while they profess that they believe in an afterlife anyway.

What about people who just will themselves to die? I have long suspected, that some people can will themselves to die if they have lost all purpose in life. My maternal grandmother, had been bedridden for several years. Her husband who had no known disease at that time then requested to lie down beside her side by side so that they both die at the same time. Considering the request silly, his relatives had him wheeled out of the room in his wheelchair. In two weeks he was dead. My paternal grandfather was the head of a top 1000 company here in the Philippines. At around 96 he retired. By that time, his hearing and memory were bad. Within the year his wife died. By around 97 he died. Suicide by my grandfathers is of course ruled out, but did my grandfathers will themselves to die?

I myself would want to die in similar cases. I find no reason to prolong living should I find myself a burden to myself and society. What will be my point in living? Even for selfish purposes, I find no good reasons. I remember reading somewhere that a person's 'status' in the afterlife would be partially dependent on his mental state upon death. If this is so, then the more I would want to die with no pain and stress.