Value and Philosophy

“Man everywhere and at all times, whoever he may be, has preferred to act as he chose and not in the least as his reason, advantage dictated.” That’s what Dostoevsky said in his Notes from Underground. What do you say?

My friend, Henry David Thoreau, said: “A saner man would have found himself often enough in formal opposition to what are deemed the most sacred laws of society, through obedience to yet more sacred laws, and so have tested his resolution without going out of his way.”

As for me, I’m getting tired of being in conflict. I want to live my life very peacefully. I want to find a way to live, without agreeing with the crazy world and without being in conflict with the world either. Let the world go its own crazy way. I’ll stand aside.

If I take anything for granted I cannot be called an earnest seeker of truth, even though it is something the Buddha himself said. I cannot believe something just out of respect for him (and I have the highest respect for him). I want to know for myself.

Another thing I’ve learnt is to communicate with myself. The only person with whom I can communicate with really, really well is myself. It’s not so easy. Every movement, frustration, feeling, pride, boredom (especially when with people because I don’t feel bored when I’m alone) is completely communicated (available to me). I feel completely revealed to myself. I understand myself deeply now.

I no longer have any strong desire to improve myself anymore, which is something most people cannot understand. Do you understand that? And I have no strong desire (wish) to improve anybody either. Now I enjoy a kind of ease, which I have never enjoyed before.

“All things of value must come from this heart.” Quite true. You know, I used to be an intellectual. I valued knowledge and reasoning too much. I read thousands of books on all subjects. But now I read very little although I still value knowledge and reasoning. I can’t preach anymore because I feel it’s presumptuous. Instead I say and share what I have learnt. My heart is opening more and more.

Ideals are less important to me now. I don’t live a formula. I look deeply into my heart. ‘Shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ are not important anymore. I trust my heart instead (my brain is too rational); I feel more alive when I am aware of my heart.

I don’t want judgment; I want understanding. I am not perfect, in fact I am becoming even more imperfect. So I am scared of those who are judgmental. I want to be left alone.

I’ve done a lot of unwholesome things in my life, but I don’t blame myself or others. It’s impossible not to have done anything unwholesome. I am trying to practise dhamma and I’m happy about that.

I like discipline. So when people don’t do things right, I have to tell them off. I know I have to behave in a certain way which is pleasing to the people here in Burma, and when I talk I should say things that they can understand. I can be radical within a certain limit only. In some cases although I don’t accept their value judgments I shouldn’t say anything that will disturb them too much. It is not useful to be in conflict with people. As long as I don’t do or say anything with the intention to deceive them, I feel at peace in my heart. What I am trying to say is that I cannot behave or talk the way I really feel inside. This is Burma. For example, people come to see me and treat me in such a way that it makes me upset because they know I used to be a Muslim. Yet it is wonderful for them to see a monk who was a Muslim too. They expect me to believe all the tales that they believe in. What can I do? I smile.

I was called a Communist when I was young because I didn’t believe in any organised religion. Do I believe in organised religion now? Well, who knows?

How do you remove religious flavour from the Dhamma? I’m trying to do that here.

So I want to get a clear idea about how to relate to people. I don’t like people thinking of me as a certain kind of person which I am not, but that’s inevitable. Everybody in the world is misunderstood. And I would still be upset if they understood me correctly.

As long as I am clear about my motives, it’s OK.

I agree with you about how a stupid person can get a position in an organisation. I have enough of that sort of experience with stupid people. I can understand people better but I don’t want to argue with a stupid person, especially with a stupid person who thinks he/she is smarter. I am becoming more detached from people and organisations. I don’t think much about helping; people use people for their own self-aggrandisement in the name of helping.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process they do not themselves become monsters.” (Nietzsche)

As someone once said: “What? A great man? I always see only the actor of his own ideal.” (Nietzsche) So much of what I do is to show the world (people) that I’m not a fool (not a sucker).

I am changing so fast that sometimes it is hard for me to tell what my attitude will be next year. I find my teachers and friends sitting where they were (where they have always been). I can talk with them only about unimportant matters like health, the weather, and the government. For them the whole of truth has been revealed in books; for me everything is questionable. I have found a lot of ideals unrealistic. What am I going to teach?

The change in me is still going on; I don’t want to interfere with that. One disillusionment after another. Maybe that’s learning — waking up from a beautiful dream into harsh reality.

My values have changed so much that I find it difficult to talk with people. I want to become clearer about my attitude. I mean, I can’t play the role of a Sayadaw; the hocus-pocus is driving me to distraction.

Are you afraid of change? I hope not. If you are afraid of change, you can’t stay a friend of mine. “One has to change to stay akin to me”, as Nietzsche once said.

We want to be something more and different. Why? Is it because what we are is not good enough, or acceptable? Is it because of ego or pride?

One person says, ‘I would like to become enlightened!’ Another person says, ‘I would like to understand what is greed, anger, pride, doubt, etc.’ Which is the proper attitude?

Most people don’t have any direction in their life, because they look for a direction outside, in the Bible, in the sacred books of the East, in philosophy or in science. Any direction a person gets from an outside source is not a true direction; it is just a whimsical direction, a direction in the dark. But outer sources can give a hint to a person to find inner direction. Without having this inner direction a person is lost. No inspiration from reading a sacred book or following a saint, a guru, or a Sayadaw can give a person a true direction. I have seen this everywhere.

Only a person who is in despair about the meaninglessness, blindness, and lack of direction can have a chance of finding a direction. To be able to despair about the situation one is in, a person needs a lot of intelligence and observation. (The state of mind of Siddhartha before he set out to become the Buddha.)

A lot of people read dhamma books, follow great teachers, listen to dhamma talks, some can teach dhamma, but I see they have no direction. They just repeat stories, always second-hand, never first-hand. Some of them become famous, and they enjoy their fame, becoming very proud of their success. That’s their downfall. That shows that they have no direction.

Some people become happier by following a teacher, practising some kind of meditation, but there is no real depth in that. Getting excited about a beautiful idea, a beautiful ideal, doesn’t last long. Some people are just looking for a difference, a change. They grab at anything — Tibetan, Zen, Yoga, Southern Buddhism, etc.

“Our highest insights must (and should) sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when they are heard without permission by those who are not predisposed and predestined for them.” (Nietzsche)

People like to be deceived. It is hard to make them let go of a false idea they are clinging to. They get really upset when you say something that threatens their pet ideas (dreams, fantasies, etc.).

People like to believe in myth, I think. It is almost impossible to make them give up believing in it. They are like children. Without make-believe of one sort or another they feel lost; without it their lives become like a dry bone. So if you want to take myth away from them, you have to give them something else to take its place.

People grow old, but they don’t grow up.

“Faith means not wanting to know what is true”. (Nietzsche)

Intellectual honesty is very rare. When teachers talk they talk as if they know for sure, even though they have no experience about what they are talking about. They never express their doubts. Don’t they have any doubts? Is that possible?

I want to live in broad daylight, not in a dream.

When I live by myself, not talking much, I live in a different world. I would call it a spiritual world, but when I talk too much with people, about all sorts of worldly matters, I feel like I’ve been pulled down into the sensual, material, crazy, superficial world, compelled to listen, respond, and to participate in the conversation.

Somebody (I forgot who it was) once told me that some people wear a lot of jewelry and gold ornaments because they are themselves worthless; they only feel worthy when they have these ornaments on. Some people own colourful stones and glittering metals; some have big numbers in the bank; some are temporarily appointed as ministers and presidents (and look how puffed up these people are). If you don’t call that craziness, I don’t know what craziness is! Are there any other ways by which people make themselves feel worthy (or show others that they are worthy), like, for example, wearing robes as monks and nuns? I remember A. used to say, “So much pain in the world”. I would like to add further: So much nonsense in the world!

No matter how much you try not to get into this nonsense drama, you are compelled to take part in it. Have you been in such a fix? People are saying (monks and lay people): “He was an Arahat and his ashes turned into balls of the size of beads in a rosary”, as if that’s the criterion to prove that a monk was an Arahat or not. I want to stay out of the whole thing. (The ashes could turn into balls. So what?)

You need a lot of mindfulness not to get ‘sucked in’ in a conversation. I would like to be more quiet. It would be better for my own peace of mind.

If you can remove nonsense, assumptions, and lies from conversations, you won’t have much to talk about. I’m getting very tired of assumptions, too many assumptions make life unreal. Assumed people doing assumed actions in an assumed situation, living an assumed life.

Beware of those who attach great value to being credited with moral tact and subtlety in making moral distinctions. They never forgive us once they have made a mistake in front of us (or worse, against us); inevitably they become our instinctive slanderers and detractors, even if they should remain our friends. (Nietzsche)

How true. What psychological insight.

I’m afraid I’m becoming more and more radical; I might have to take the road least trodden, where I might be alone; I might have to let go of a lot of my friends’ hands.

I’ve met a few of my friends (some monks, some lay people), it’s hard for me to talk to them because of my unconventionality. I’m trying to understand and adapt to that. I’ll make new friends, and lose a few old ones. People are afraid of radical people, I think, and of change. They find security in old, familiar ideas; new ideas are threatening — people who change their minds are unreliable.

Another quotation from An End to Innocence:

To the extent that they deny the existence of evil forces in themselves and others, again and again in his or her own way each unwittingly abets socially or personally destructive transactions with the people around them… For some the pseudo-innocence takes the form of a life-long search for a magic way to make people care about them. If only they could learn to enchant others with their grace and beauty, to please them with their compliance, impress them with their achievements, or manipulate them with their wiles, then they could live happily ever after. (Sheldon Kopp)

Some changes regarding value judgments are going on in me, which I want to tell you about. A lot of things that I thought would make my life meaningful, fulfilling, successful, and deeply satisfying, don’t seem important anymore, or at least they’re not my first priority anymore. One of them is teaching (helping). Doesn’t sound good? Ha! Helping or teaching can be (and is) an ego trip. I see a lot of contradictions in the way some people teach and the way they live their lives. Why is there contradiction? This is a big and very interesting question for me.

I have so much time — no need to work for a living; no family to support; not enjoying sensual pleasures, which take so much time; not many people to talk to (I talk about an hour or two a day); practically nothing to worry about and no responsibilities. Since I have so much time, I think a lot about life and its meaning; since I have no other serious matter to think about, it becomes a very serious matter to me. What do I really want? Why?

The things that make me feel desperate are meaningless and childish for some people. Because I have nothing to worry about my livelihood, I think very seriously about things that are beyond most people’s concern.

Since I don’t believe in any dogmatism, I look for my own answer freely.

My point is, sometimes I am really in despair. Sometimes I feel really burnt out. Then I get down to the basics and simple things, and try to look at life afresh without any preconceived value judgment. In those detached, peaceful, clear moments, nothing seems to be very important. Only a few fundamental truths appear very clearly, such as anicca (impermanence), anatta (egolessness), craving (desire, attachment, clinging), and suffering (unsatisfactoriness, pain — mental and physical), lobha (greed), dosa (aversion), and moha (delusion). The worst is delusion. Not having the opportunity to observe is too bad — too many distractions in life.

“… how a man must have suffered to be so much in need of playing the clown!” Is this true, my dear friend? You must know. That was what Nietzsche said regarding Shakespeare.

Because my ideas are radical it is not easy for me to talk with most people who are orthodox. Therefore, it is hard for me to teach. If I really speak my mind, I will end up in trouble. It’s not easy to be honest. I want to be more honest and open but I don’t want to get into trouble. I have to learn to be quiet, or otherwise become a hermit.

In this super busy, supersonic, super distraction, superficial world — is there any hope for the majority of mankind to be sane? I’m not talking about the majority; I’m talking about those few who are above average? Let the average people eat, sleep, listen to rock ‘n’ roll, and die.

People are becoming like manufactured clothes — stereotyped, cheap, short-lasting style with no personal uniqueness. I like things (clothes) that are specially custom-fitted, with taste and quality (yes, that’s very important), and which are long-lasting.

I have read about satellites in a science book: some satellites go around the Earth with increasing radius; they go farther and farther as they go around the Earth, and at a certain point when they cannot go around the earth anymore, they go off, away from the Earth, breaking away from the gravitational force. I feel like that satellite. I feel this very often and very strongly.

Sometimes I don’t feel like talking much. People talk mostly to kill time, not because they have anything special to communicate. Then there is the danger of misunderstanding when you try to communicate something that you feel deeply. You are laughed at. Understanding is a very precious and rare phenomenon.

Just as a physician might say that there very likely is not one single living human being who is completely healthy, so anyone who really knows mankind might say that there is not one single living human being who does not despair a little, who does not secretly harbour an unrest, an inner strife, a disharmony, an anxiety about an unknown something or a something he does not even dare to try to know, an anxiety about some possibility in existence or an anxiety about himself, so that, just as the physician speaks of going around with an illness in the body, he walks around with a sickness, carries around a sickness of the spirit that signals its presence at rare intervals in and through an anxiety he cannot explain. (Kierkegaard)

The Buddha said: “I can see that some people are healthy in body for one day, two days… one year, two years. But if anybody says that he is healthy in mind even for a short while what can he be except being a fool?”

So, who are you, my dear friend? Are you healthy in mind or are you a fool? (Catch 22). If you say that you are healthy in mind, then you are a fool!

Kierkegaard again: “It is always good to be distinguished by something. I ask nothing better than to be pointed out as the only one in our serious age who is not serious.” How do you like that? You want to die while laughing, don’t you?

I would like to write you a few quotations from An End to Innocence. Here is one of them:

There is another breed of pseudo-innocent whose attention is directed mainly toward the maintaining of a saintly self-image. As a strategy for living, saintliness may have its own implicitly exploitative expectations of how others are to respond to one’s purity. Still, the main concern is with continuing reassurance of one’s own angelic innocence. I find that such people always turn out to be too good to be true.

I’ve been thinking about this one for quite a long time. Here’s another one: “super good intentions often result in super bad actions.” What do you think about that? “Unhappy at the outcome of their folly, some of the neurotic too-good-to-be-true innocents end up seeking psychotherapy.” Now, here comes my observation: Mostly, those who cannot help themselves talk a lot about helping others; maybe because they need it. Help people to help themselves, so that they won’t need your help anymore.

People don’t understand what real spirituality is. They mistake spirituality with faith, blind faith — I am for spiritual freedom.

A person who thinks that helping others (distributing dhamma) and serving mankind (or saving mankind) is the most important thing to do with their life doesn’t know what is really important and profound. The most important thing an intelligent person can do is to live their life truthfully, earnestly, intensely, and strive for a deeper understanding of their true nature. Helping should be secondary.

One thing is becoming clear to me: Unconsciously I’ve been looking for a way of life, which is acceptable to any intelligent person and reasonable from every point of view as well as practicable and useful for everybody. I’ve been too concerned about, or I have too much respect for, other people’s way of understanding and thinking. Now I understand that that is not important; I don’t have to explain everything I do.

Even before, I used to do what I wanted, but I tried to explain it in a way that looked reasonable to other people. Now I see that my private life is of no concern to others. I live (and will live) my life so that it is satisfying to me, and not according to what other people think I should do.

I don’t want to deal with any organisation anymore. Too much talking, petty fights, rivalry and slander; I would like to be beyond all these. I’m sure I’m not an organisation person. I don’t want to be one anyway, but I will try my best to help anybody who comes my way.

I have a habit of identifying myself with humanity; everything which is a problem to mankind is my concern. I don’t know whether this is good or not, but I have learnt a lot that way. Now, I see what a big burden this is. Why should I try to solve all problems? (Mentally, I have the habit of solving problems.) Who am I to solve all problems? I cannot solve another’s problem; I’ve got enough of my own. Some people think I don’t have any problems. Yes, not their kind of problems, but I’ve got my own kind of problems nonetheless. Desperately I try to find the answers to my kind of questions, questions that most people don’t think about. Answers that satisfy most people are not satisfactory to me. For most people, all the answers to all the questions are in books, but not for me.

A castle built with cardboards, blown away.

Very hard to let go of dreams. (Sayadaw U Jotika)

Petty problems keep the mind busy (occupied).

I’ve got a lot of things that most people want. Every time I tried to get something, I thought it would make my life more meaningful, but when I got what I wanted I found that it was only superficial, just another stepping stone, another thing to let go of. There is a kind of awakening in every letting go, until nothing is left to let go of.

What I’ve done and what I’m doing seem very important to me, but it doesn’t seem to be of any importance to anybody else. After I’m dead, I’ll be forgotten. No big deal. The most important thing for me is to live a deeply satisfying and meaningful life, meaningful for me.

Praise and blame are not so important for me, mostly they are biased.

A lot of things are now losing their importance, their hold, their grip, their charm on me, for example, politics, progress in science and technology, and even religion.

It is amazing what people believe in. It seems to me that people cannot live without believing in something. I wonder what it would be like to live my life without any kind of belief or expectation (aspiration). Can you imagine that?

Busy, busy, busy. Unnecessarily. So crazy, so meaningless. Is there intelligent life on Earth? What is intelligence?

What a waste it is not to do what is really meaningful to you and do what people expect you to do. Do you know what is really meaningful and deeply satisfying to you?

To be happy is not enough for me. I want to understand everything deeply, to understand not just by thinking but by living, living the real life and not the ideal.

Although I conform (I have to) bodily, in many ways, with the established tradition, mentally I live a unique life.

This smart commentator in the mind is a nuisance (a thorn in the flesh); it has to put a footnote to every phenomenon. What do you want people to learn? What do you want them to be? How are you going to do that?

But, how are you living your life?

I am reading Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript. I’m enjoying reading it which is surprising. I like his style very much. I’ve got another of his books Sickness unto Death, which I have read through quickly. I will read it again. Do you know any good books on existential philosophy? I’ve never read Jean-Paul Sartre. Enough about books.

I would like to quote a passage from Concluding Unscientific Postscript:

Let us then proceed, but let us not try to deceive one another. I, Johannes Chimacus (he used this assumed pen-name when he wrote this book), am a human being, neither more nor less; and I assume that anyone I may have the honour to engage in conversation with, is also a human being. If he presumes to be speculative philosophy in the abstract, pure speculative thought, I must renounce the effort to speak with him; for in that case he instantly vanishes from my sight, and from the feeble sight of every mortal. (Kierkegaard)

Very well expressed! Exactly the way I feel about myself and other people. I am a human being, neither more nor less; not just a monk, and I like to engage in conversation with a human being.

When I talk to somebody who is acting a role (either of a monk or a teacher, or a guru, or any kind of role), I feel very discombobulated. (Ha! Ha! I found a big word in the Synonym Finder [means: thrown into confusion].)

To call yourself something, a monk or a guru or a philosopher, is very limiting, confining, restricting, binding. I want to be able to talk freely; to have to talk a monkish-talk is really dull. (I have the deepest respect for the Buddha, please don’t forget that.) So, I’m in a fix, in a predicament. These days, especially in Buddhist culture, to be a monk is to act like a monk. You don’t speak your mind. You say what a monk should say, what people expect you to say. You pretend that you understand and believe everything in the sacred books. Even though you don’t understand everything, you believe everything anyway. Can I do that? I can’t talk to most of the monks because they will say what they should say, not what is really in their minds. (In most cases they have nothing in their minds.) I’m not just saying blah blah blah, my dear friend. This is something I feel very strongly.

The word ‘Buddhist’ is a newfangled word. In the olden days they used samma-ditthi-vadi (one having right views). Do Buddhists have right views these days?

“Of all evil I deem you capable: therefore I want the good from you.” (Nietzsche)

People want to daydream; they don’t want mindfulness, mindfulness of the present, because in the present there is nothing one can daydream about.

To see my mind through and through, and not to deceive myself is now the most important task for me. When I don’t believe in something, it is very important for me to see clearly that I don’t believe in it instead of trying to believe it.

I wish I had some humour like Mark Twain, or at least like you. A man cannot survive (cannot protect himself from going nuts) without it. I’m too serious about mankind. Can human beings think straight?

I’ll tell you a story. Yesterday, a monk came to see me. He’s thirty-nine years old. I’ve known him for a long time. He told me that he aspired to become a Buddha. Not only that but he said he’s sure that he’s going to become a Buddha. When I didn’t take him seriously and said, “Nobody can be sure about that”, he got very upset and talked for another two hours trying to make me believe him. He went around and told everybody he’s going to be a Buddha. That sort of megalomaniac is not rare in Burma. Ha! Ha! Better to laugh than to get upset. It’s hard for me to float along. I wish I could say, like T.P.S., “Is that right?”

Since a lot of things are losing their importance for me, things that nobody can find out for sure whether they are true or not, I’ve found that I’ve less and less things to talk about. The things that I’m experiencing at present become more and more important for me. Without trying to attain anything, I am able to see things very simply and clearly. I feel more strongly now about the things happening to me.

The present phenomenon is the only thing I have, whether I like it or not; so it is more important for me. Without much diversion, I can observe things easily.

“One must shed the bad taste of wanting to agree with many.” (Nietzsche)

I would like to repeat (that idea), very experimentally, hesitatingly, tentatively. It could be easily misunderstood. Because words could be misconstrued, stretched.

I think a person’s (my) most important task is to understand themself (myself) well; to understand everything happening in life deeply and not just philosophically; to understand my own motive and attitude very clearly when I say something or do something; to understand without distortion how I feel about something I’ve heard, seen, etc. (the true reaction of my mind); not to be deceived by anybody, or to deceive myself; not to follow anybody; not to have an ideal just because it sounds beautiful, but to find out for myself whether it is natural, possible, and about the consequences; and to know my own capacity when I undertake to do something. When I understand all those things clearly then I can think of helping others. Otherwise I will be deceiving myself and also deceiving others in the name of helping others. Helping others can become self-aggrandisement. I see this self-aggrandisement everywhere. That is why I talk about it again. Excuse me for repeating myself.

“A matter that becomes clear ceases to concern us.” Guess who said that? (Nietzsche)

I’ll tell you a story about a snake. Once upon a time there was a snake. One day a bee came and stung him on his head and would not let go of it. The snake tried to get rid of the bee but couldn’t. Then the snake saw a bullock cart coming with a heavy load. So the snake said to the bee, “I’ll let you know.” He went to the track and laid his head right on the way of the wheel. The wheel rolled and killed the bee. The snake was really successful in punishing the bee. See how smart the snake was? No shortage of smart people like that in the world.

What do you expect of me, my dear friend? To be perfect? Well, I am perfect in only one way — I am a perfect FOOL! Not really stupid but quite a big fool, and I feel quite OK about that. I have enough courage to say “I don’t know”.

People don’t change radically. Transformation is possible only through meditation. Even then, it takes a long time. Deep awareness which sees anatta (selflessness) clearly is necessary, and that is hard work. So I don’t expect too much.

What you wrote about Bangkok is really shocking. Will Burma (Rangoon) become like that one day? That is the price you pay to become modernised. I would rather live in the mountains, eat simple food, live in a simple hut, breathe pure air, do things at a leisurely pace, not worry about money and status, with no week-days or weekends, and no luxury.

We want so much admiration, recognition, respect and love that we think quite a lot about what to do to get them. That way we don’t live for what we value most but for what others value most. It is very important to find out what we value most and live it without being in conflict with others if possible. We create values and live them. So it is very important to find out whether those values are really worth living for.

Some people think it must be like devaloka (a heavenly realm) to live in B. where you can enjoy all the sense pleasures and where you can get all the luxuries. How hard it is to understand that sense pleasures and luxuries are empty like dreams.

I want to have a friend who is not rigidly, blindly and indiscriminately following a set of rules or formulas; who is observant; who lives his life intelligently; who learns and grows as the years go by; who is flexible (who understands a situation and acts accordingly); who wants to find out for himself even the most simple truth (taught by the wisest man in history); who won’t take anything for granted (but with due respect), but tries instead to find out for himself; a man who is alive and not lukewarm, who is not afraid to stand alone.

What a funny thing fame is – how empty and annoying.

When I hear from some friends what people say about me, I don’t know whether to laugh or to get upset. What crazy, funny stories people invent. People are stupid and crazy; there is no doubt about that. They want to be deceived, yet they deceive themselves. I know they are basically really nice, simple folks; they don’t want to believe the truth, and they are too ready to believe fantastic stories. Why are people so ready to believe fantastic stories? What do they gain by doing so?

I enjoyed reading The Illusion of Technique. The Buddha said, ‘Ma naya hetu,” which means ‘Don’t believe something (idea) to be true just because it agrees with the system (of philosophy)’. Technique or system is deceiving; techniques and systems are inventions of the human mind. Nature doesn’t fit into any system strictly. Even the Abhidhamma [see glossary] cannot really explain natural phenomena completely; it is lacking in many ways. I read them, try to understand them, test them and learn something from them, I know you are disappointed with Western philosophy, and I am not satisfied with it either, but I think I can learn something from them. Most of the existential philosophy is very depressing. They tell you how terrible life is but they can’t tell you how to live your life peacefully. Most of the philosophers are all head, muddle-headed. All they do is thinking; they aren’t even happy, and many of them went crazy. Most people don’t think so much, don’t read philosophy, and they’re happier than most philosophers. The more I read these philosophies, the more I appreciate the teachings of the Buddha, which are so practical and meaningful.

Metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekkha (equanimity), sila (morality), samadhi (concentration), sati (mindfulness) and panna (wisdom) — these things are really meaningful and important in life, and if one develops them, they can really make a difference in one’s life.

In many ways and for many people, philosophy and science helps a lot to free the mind from dogmatism. That’s the best thing about them but they also create a vacuum in people’s mind; people are left empty, disillusioned and lost, but can we really blame philosophy and science for that? Philosophy and science helped me to free my mind from believing in my parents’ religion yet that left me in limbo also. Now it is my responsibility to give meaning to my life.

Reading existential philosophy helps me, in some ways, to understand Westerners and their problems, their way of thinking and what is lacking in their thinking, and how they are trying to solve their problems. Can the teaching of the Buddha help them? How? Is the way most Sayadaws teach suitable for Westerners? No? Why not?

Understanding others is important in understanding oneself.

This world is crazy, absolutely senseless, a fake, a show, a conceited show. Fools get caught in its snare. Vain glory. False possessions.


I pretend that I came

To improve the world and make people happy.

In fact I feel empty inside.

It’s frightening to see how ugly I am.

Got to do something to cover this ugliness.

Empty and meaningless I am.

Looking for something to fill this emptiness

and meaninglessness.

I thought I’ve got something, at last, to make my

life fulfilled. Something beautiful and meaningful.

Looking closely I found. It too is empty.

I want to teach people. Why?

But I myself am deluded.

To hide my delusion I must teach people, and

pretend that I know.

Talking about love. Big Beautiful Words

Flying high like eagles.

But my heart is filled with anger and frustration.

Pretending to be detached.

And secretly craving to be well-known for

being detached.

Talking about wanting few. And yet enjoying luxuries.

Pleased and proud for being endowed with presents.

Talking about purity and chastity but haven’t got

courage to look oneself in the eye.

What hypocrisy.

People said, “You are a beautiful person,

Wise and happy.” I wish that were true.


* * * * *

Seeker of truth

Follow no path

All paths lead where

truth is here. (e. e. cummings)

“So much of my Dhamma connection has fizzled, partly because of my laxness, partly because I’ve become so disillusioned with the usual forms and institutions.” I can understand that very well, my dear friend. My situation is not much different. It is very hard to talk to monks, my former teachers and friends who are monks. I try to understand them and also myself. Metta and karuna I have for them but no deep mutual understanding. There is a big gap between us, and I have no hope of finding a monk with whom I can share my deepest thoughts and feelings and insights. It seems to me that the more you know, the more lonely you become intellectually.

Well, anyway, I am not so upset about that anymore although I still yearn for an open communication, free from being judged. I am trying to learn to live with that loneliness; I have to. I feel like I am a star, a million light years away from another star! I think everybody is desperately lonely. Some are more sensitive and so they feel it more.

I feel very free in my mind though, with only wholesome and unwholesome thoughts as my guideline. Unwholesome thoughts are painful and are also causes for pain, whereas wholesome thoughts are peaceful.

“… there’s no vehicle left.” Do we need any vehicle? I think if we practice mindfulness in its completeness (not leaving out any part of our life), it should be enough.

I don’t think I could ever become a member of an organisation because I cannot stand being bound by party dogma. I want to live mentally free. I might never accomplish anything significant ‘in the eyes of others’, but I feel OK about that. Internally, however, I feel a kind of freedom which I did not feel before and which most people don’t know of. By this I don’t mean any stage of enlightenment in its formal sense.

My dear friend, you can live a peaceful life if you are clear and wise. Why are you so concerned about others? Do you think you are responsible for them?

It is not worth being unhappy about anything. I don’t mean I am always happy, but I can see that when there is a big ego identified with something there is also unhappiness.

Your words again: “I guess what I’m saying is that I have yet to resolve, within my own mind, the Big Question of what kind of balanced form the practice of the Dhamma can take here in the West, being both true to genuine practice and at the same time meet the strange material needs of this culture.” This is a Big Question. Answer this question for yourself first.

I think the first and most important thing a person should clearly see in their practice is to see the truth that unwholesome thoughts make a person unhappy. It’s not about trying to overcome them, but just to see them plainly and clearly.

What do people want? They want happiness and they don’t want pain. So see what makes you unhappy. People don’t see that it’s the unwholesome thoughts which make them unhappy; it’s hard for most people to accept that. They think that sensual pleasures and all the things they want can make them happy. If you are happy inside you don’t need much to be happy.

“Except for the ascetic ideal, man’s life has been animalic and meaningless.” (Nietzsche)

“The most spiritual men are the strongest ones.” (Nietzsche)

“Even a single compromise with the tastes of public opinion might lead a thinker eventually to lose his intellectual integrity.” (Nietzsche)

“Great power reveals itself in great self-mastery.” (Nietzsche)

For everyone who does not know

How to control his inmost self would fain control

His neighbour’s will according to his own conceit. (Goethe)

What is your most beautiful fantasy?

Ah! Beautiful dreams! They made me happy; they nourished me; they were useful when I was young. Now I know they are only dreams. Sometimes I wish I can become dreamy again. Such ignorant bliss! But no that’s not possible. I have to climb this mountain, alone, in the bright noon. I long for a companion but, alas, I couldn’t get one. I must make my mind and body stronger so that I might be able to climb to the top alone.

I know what loneliness means. I’m preparing myself for that. That is my destiny. Sweet, sweet loneliness.

My dearest friend, get deeply in touch with yourself.

I am less and less inclined to teach, but I’m still interested in talking to intelligent, open-minded people, not to orthodox Buddhists who believe everything in the texts. Worst of all I can’t listen to somebody who talks like a preacher, as if he knows everything.

If you write your story then I’ll read it. A person who is a battleground of conflicting ideals; a Jewish-American Buddhist; a person who knows too much and doesn’t know what to do with his life; a person who sees the farce (joke) in the world and can’t take anything seriously, including himself, which has become a serious problem for him. (This is true for me too, but I am much more aware of my mind.)

Let go! Watch!

“Instead of appreciating your kindness, they think you are cheap, stupid and for use and they start to manipulate. Why?” That’s because they have no respect for other people. They have not learnt to have a good relationship with people. Maybe they were never treated with respect. We learn these things from our experience, not from books, maybe they’ve lived with people, parents, spouse who manipulate each other.

It is very hard to find someone who doesn’t manipulate others. We manipulate others because we don’t trust or respect them, and we don’t trust ourselves either. If we respect and trust each other we won’t manipulate each other. Manipulation is a sign of weakness and immaturity.

Life is mystical.

Those who cannot feel it will find no joy or wonder.

Those who try to explain away life are vain.

They will never succeed.

I’d rather be a mystic than a scientist.

Some mystics are also scientists. (Sayadaw U Jotika)

Deception (self-deception) never leads to growth or insight. If you want to see the truth you need courage and honesty first.

We are part angel and part demon. If we deny the demon it will haunt us from the dark; let the demon come out into the daylight.

Make-believe, maya (illusion), and autosuggestion make life even more empty.

There are all kinds of dependence which in our society — having so many anxious, lonely and empty persons in it — masquerade as love. They vary from different forms of mutual aid or reciprocal satisfaction of desires (which may be quite sound if called by their right names), through the various business forms of personal relationships to clear parasitical masochism. It not infrequently happens that two persons, feeling solitary and empty by themselves, relate to each other in a kind of unspoken bargain to keep each other from suffering loneliness. (Rollo May)

“The tragic issue is the issue of seeing the reality and the truth about oneself.”

For those who get distracted easily, it is better to keep their mind busy noting one thing after another; for those who are calm and mindful, they can just watch whatever comes naturally.

“When you are thwarted, it is your own attitude that is out of order.” (Meister Eckhart)

If you have nothing to live for it means you value nothing in life, you have no centre. All the ideals you valued were borrowed. In a time like right now, you have no firm ground to stand on.

“… one can never apply some centre from the outside.”

“Difficult as the task is, we must accept ourselves and our society where we are, and find our ethical centre through a deeper understanding of ourselves as well as through a courageous confronting of our historical situation.”

“And the most constructive place to begin learning how to love is to see how we fail to love.” (Rollo May)

To forgive is to understand.

To forgive is to be free.

When you cannot forgive somebody you are in bondage.

When you see anatta who is there to forgive. (Sayadaw U Jotika)

Here are a few extracts which I find very thought-provoking:

“Now it is a well-known psychological tendency that when we repress one attitude or emotion, we often counterbalance it by acting or assuming an attitude on the surface which is just the opposite. You may, for example, often find yourself acting especially politely toward the person you dislike.”

“Furthermore, if we do not confront our hatred and resentment openly they will tend sooner or later to turn into the one effect which never does anyone any good, namely self pity. Self-pity is the preserved form of hatred and resentment.”

“… no one can arrive at real love or morality or freedom until he has frankly confronted and worked through his resentment.”

“Freedom is not rebellion.”

“Freedom means openness, a readiness to grow; it means being flexible, ready to change for the sake of greater human values.”

“… man always live in a social world, and that world conditions his psychological health.”

“The good society is, thus, the one which give the greatest freedom to its people — freedom defined not negatively and defensively, but positively, as the opportunity to realise ever greater human values.”

“Freedom is man’s capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mould ourselves.”

“… the less self-awareness a person has, the more he is unfree.”

“As the person gains more consciousness of self, his range of choice and his freedom proportionately increase.”

“Freedom is shown in according one’s life with realities.”

“It is doubtful whether anyone really achieves health who does not responsibly choose to be healthy.”

“Thus freedom is not just the matter of saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to a specific decision: it is the power to mould and create ourselves.”

“Freedom does not mean trying to live in isolation. It does mean that when one is able to confront his isolation, he is able consciously to choose to act with some responsibility, in the structure of his relations with the world, especially the world of other persons around him.”

“The basic step in achieving inward freedom is ‘choosing one’s self’. This strange sounding phrase of Kierkegaard’s means to affirm one’s responsibility for one’s self and one’s existence… accepting the fact that one must make his basic choices himself.

“The mark of the mature man is that his living is integrated around self-chosen goals: he knows what he wants…

“… the beliefs and traditions handed down in the society tend to become crystallised into dead forms which suppress individual vitality.

“The real problem, thus, is to distinguish what is healthy in ethics and religion, and yields a security which increases rather than decreases personal worth, responsibility and freedom. The person in our day, therefore, who seeks values around which he can integrate his living, needs to face the fact that there is no easy and simple way out.”

“… more accurately, is it not the conflict between every human being’s need to struggle toward enlarged self awareness, maturity, freedom and responsibility, and his tendency to remain a child and cling to the protection of parents or parental substitute?” (The message is: Grow up!)

“Does a given individual’s religion serve to break his will, keep him at an infantile level of development, and enable him to avoid the anxiety of freedom and personal responsibility? Or does it serve him as a basis of meaning which affirms his dignity and worth, which gives him a basis for courageous acceptance of his limitations and normal anxiety, but which aids him develop his powers, his responsibility and his capacity to love his fellow men?” (Rollo May)

“The problem of being prey to someone else’s power is reinforced, of course, by one’s own infantile desire to be taken care of.”

“They have been taught that happiness and success would follow their ‘being good’, the latter generally interpreted as being obedient. But being merely obedient, as we have shown above, undermines the development of an individual’s ethical awareness and inner strength. By being obedient to external requirements over a long period of time, he loses his real powers of ethical, responsible choice. Strange as it sounds, then, the powers of these people to achieve goodness and the joy which goes with it are diminished.”

“… the person who surrenders his ethical autonomy has relinquished to the same degree his power to attain virtue and happiness. No wonder he feels resentful.”

“The neurotic uses of religion have one thing in common: they are devices by which the individual avoids having to face his loneliness and anxiety.”

“… the human being is in the depth of himself basically alone,… there is no recourse from the necessity of making one’s choice ultimately alone.”

“… despair and anxiety can never be worked through until one confronts them in their stark and full reality.”

“Maturity and eventual overcoming of loneliness are possible only as one courageously accepts his aloneness to begin with.”

“What anxiety makes me now wish to run to the wings of an authority, and what problem of my own am I trying to evade?”

“We define religion as the assumption that life has meaning.”

“Religion is whatever the individual takes to be his ultimate concern.”

“… psychologically, religion is to be understood as a way of relating to one’s existence.”

“But we do mean to emphasise that unless the individual himself can affirm the value; unless his own inner motive, his own ethical awareness, are made the starting place, no discussion of values will make much real difference.”

“Love demanded as a payment is not love at all.”

“We receive love not in proportion to our demands or sacrifices or needs, but roughly in proportion to our own capacity to love. And our capacity to love depends, in turn, upon our prior capacity to be persons in our own right.”

“The reason we do not see truth is that we do not have enough courage.”

“When one has been able to say ‘No’ to the need that he be ‘borne up’, when, in other words, he is able not to demand he be taken care of, when he has the courage to stand alone, he can then speak as one with authority.”

“The more a person is able to direct his life consciously, the more he can use time for constructive benefits. To be able to see truth thus goes along with emotional and ethical maturity. When one is able to see truth in this way, he gains confidence in what he says. He has become convinced of his beliefs ‘on his own pulse’ and in his own experience, rather than through abstract principles or through being told.”

“The more a person lacks self awareness, the more he is prey to anxiety and irrational anger and resentment: and while anger generally blocks us from using our more subtle intuitive means of seeing truth, anxiety always blocks us.”

“I have been a learner all my life, but I make truth, which is universal, my own from within, through the exercise of my freedom, and my knowledge of truth is my own relation to truth.”

“To be capable of giving and receiving mature love is as sound a criterion as we have for the fulfilled personality.”

“… the most important thing at the outset is to call our emotions by their right names. And the most constructive place to begin learning how to love is to see how we fail to love.”

“But when ‘love’ is engaged in for the purpose of vanquishing loneliness, it accomplishes its purpose only at the price of increased emptiness for both persons.”

“Love, as we have said, is generally confused with dependence: but in point of fact, you can love only in proportion to your capacity for independence.”

[Most of these quotations have come from Man’s Search for Himself by Rollo May or Freedom to Learn by Carl Rogers]