I am a human. I do and say human things. I sometimes like other humans, though often i loathe them as well, and no matter what i am committed to the programmed aim of benefiting my fellow humans. But being a human can be tough sometimes with all the silly systems and structures put in place by humans to make life unnecessarily difficult for other humans. I believe this is because humans fear thinking, which inevitably comes without something to distract our silly little ape minds. It’s important to remember what we are, to not take ourselves too seriously, and to not forget that we basically just shouldn’t harm each other or the planet. All other silly ape desires you have are fine to pursue, but they are just that. Humans are dumb. You are dumb. I am dumb. Let’s just play nice and have fun and not stop other people from having fun. If you think the other clothed apes are having fun wrong, all you can do is show them how you’re having way more fun doing whatever you’re doing. Telling them they’re having fun wrong and arguing against them will change nothing except making both you and them have less fun. Have your fun, and if you have enough of it, others will join. Because we’re just silly, fun-loving apes after all.
July 22, 2014
June 15, 2014
About four years ago i went through the Tibetan Buddhist text The 37 Bodhisattva Practices and analyzed them in the context of Christianity to such an extent that (hopefully) a Christian with no knowledge or interest in Buddhism could still benefit from the wisdom if sincerely desiring to be Christ-like. This text has been very helpful for many Buddhists just beginning on the spiritual path as well as very wise veterans of it. Reading it i was feeling it had all the potential of being adapted to another religion, and since at the time i was in a Christian club at school (for the sake of the spiritual discussion), and because i wanted to learn more about the contents of the Bible, i figured i would begin with the Christian adaptation. The Christian model of the saint fit very well as a parallel for a Bodhisattva, and Buddhahood as becoming Christ-like (of course the comparison is by no means perfect, but still i find there is value in this kind of cross-religious analysis and the basis of differences are beyond the scope or intent of this piece of writing). This should (hopefully) be as useful to Buddhists seeking a better understanding or appreciation for the Christian faith as it is to Christians in aiding their spiritual development. I focused on using only verses from the Old and New Testaments, so that its validity would be less questionable to any Christians who don’t have knowledge of or faith in the apocryphal writings. No doubt the addition of these texts would yield a great wealth of relevant verses to add as references. I will also note that i did not include the text of the verses referenced, due mostly to the sake of saving space. I welcome any and all feedback, and/or dissemination of this text for constructive spiritual purposes.
Note that it will be updated periodically as useful feedback comes in.
Thank you all!
Jacob Ibrahim Abuhamada
May 31, 2014
I don’t like politics or economics. I don’t like them, because they engender such powerful emotions and conflict. The matters they involve are the most direct in affecting the overall condition of life itself for a society. I love religion, because people can be content with dialoguing in a kindly manner and the assumption that in the end “we’ll see who was right” but until that time, religion is just a purely personal thing. Politics and economics affect society at large and the smallest decisions at that level have enormous consequences for the suffering of a society. Nothing is clear cut, and you can’t be content with “we’ll see who was right in the end,” because doing so means potentially unraveling the fabric of society or causing immense suffering and pain for future generations. In some cases it can mean saving countless lives and livelihoods. I recognize that as a spiritual person, my highest goal is the reformation of global society into a place of happiness, well-being, wisdom, and freedom. This is the goal of science as well. But one must remember that politics and economics (in theory) have this very same intent. The problem being of course that no one really knows for sure what the best way of doing things is, and you can’t just be content with differing views. Another’s view could mean you lose your job, your most cherished freedom, or your life. So what can we do?
I have great respect for those who can dedicate themselves to the most contentious of subjects and fight for their opinion of the most effective policy to benefit their society. This is a noble aim (not to say that all such devoted individuals are devoted to this aim in particular. Many are of course power-hungry, status-craving, sociopaths, but i do hold respect for those who aren’t). We all can’t have perfect knowledge of the infinitely complex political and economic systems. We will all have our views on the best specific policy, and we are all likely to fight passionately over our particular chosen views. In the end, we won’t really know what the best policy is. One socio-economic system may work perfectly in one society, but be chaos in another.
What we can be sure of, is that we all (excluding the sociopaths) have the best interest of society in mind. We should remember that when discussing such contentious issues with others. Religion has the benefit of sacredness, which usually commands respect from people, making dialogue much easier. Even debates between the most conservative of religious fundamentalists rarely results in emotional outbursts at one another, and this is because of the embrace of the sacredness. I think it’s important that we transmute this force of sanctity to all contentious subjects, as it allows for the most constructive of dialogues and helps all sides to remember what the primary aim actually is: The benefit of society.
Sure many people hold views that are purely going to affect their own lives for the better, but this isn’t always the case. And even for such individuals, they have convinced themselves with full certainty of the positions they hold and why those policies are the best for all in society. We don’t have the right to deny them of this, just as we don’t have the right to deny a religious view. The intent is still in the right place, even if it took some serious cognitive dissonance to get there.
Now i’m not saying to just be complacent with others’ views if you really think they are harming society. Please do not think this. Fight for your all-important social or economic or political cause (i sure will). Again, i simply ask that people always remember that the final aim is the benefit of the whole of society. If this truly becomes the motivation for all individuals who discuss these subjects i hate so much, then i believe most problems would fix themselves and the society in question would reach the most effective equilibrium. So please, fight on for your view, but remember that your end goal is a compassionate one, and argue under the assumption that the person you’re attempting to dissuade or disprove or debate with is operating under the very same principle of compassion. It’s the best we can do until such time as we enter a utopian world of unity and understanding, or we die as a species.
May 15, 2014
I have synesthesia, and more specifically color-grapheme synesthesia. I recommend you read about it if you are unfamiliar. Here’s a video on it i watched recently that does well to address the scope of what it can entail and the need for more reliable studies on it.
In any case, color-grapheme synesthesia is where letters and numbers are perceived as being inherently colored. The perception is purely mental, in that it doesn’t extend into the visual perception of the external environment. I see that all of these words are black, but i can look at them at the more subtle level of my mind’s perception and see vibrant colors. Recently i got the idea of attempting to illustrate this phenomenon in a way that others can understand, whether you have synesthesia or not.
So here is the alphabet, poorly rendered in MSPaint:
Note that the letter “l” is usually light gray, but in certain situations can be black. Also, the letters “z” and “i” are light gray and white respectively. The presence of the black border was simply to delineate them more easily. And note that there is no significant difference whether upper or lower case or cursive vs. print.
Here are numerals:
I figured i would do a little more to show you what this is like for me. Here is the color-alphabet for me in abstract color form, which is for me, nearly equally as obvious as the actual letters themselves:
Weird, i know. You just see a seemingly random series of colors, when i see the alphabet. It’s crazy stuff. And there exists a dire need for continued research in the phenomenon for its implications in the nature of cognition itself and the philosophical implications for epistemology. I hope to see more research done in the future, but this article on the APA website does well to detail what we know about synesthesia and what its implications can be.
I thought i would continue to explore the representation of my synesthesia for those who are interested and for other synesthetes to attempt to do the same. So here’s my name. First showing my name with the letters, and then showing just the abstract of the colors:
Here’s some simple long division:
And to take it to the farthest level i can conceive of right now, i used OpenOffice (screw MSOffice!) to make this simple coloring-book-like image of some trees and bushes by the sea with the sun shining. Instead of filling it with colors, though, i used letters. For me this isn’t a problem to be “figured out” or compared with the original key, as you’ll have to do. For me, and me alone, this image has color, but it’s at a more subtle level than ordinary visual perception. And i think that’s pretty fucking cool.
I also of course love to study languages. I’ve been studying Arabic for quite some time and i was wondering if this might happen for the foreign alphabet as well. I will do a new post in the future as my Arabic becomes more fluent and these letters become more deeply ingrained in my subconscious, but for now i am noticing that letters representing the same sounds as in English like the Arabic letter fa (ف) are differing slightly in the shade or the vividness. Vowels (alif (ا), ya (ي), and waw (و)) are the most vivid and differ from their Latin equivalents somewhat. Alif is red like “A” but is darker when making the long “ah” sound as in “father”, and lighter/more fiery when making the sound of the a in “apple.” Ya is a golden yellow-orange (obviously related to E and Y), and waw is seeming indigo-violet (similar to the letter O, but darker and more purple). But Arabic also has letters that don’t exist in English or the Latin alphabet in general. ‘Ayin (ع) is a very deep, blood-orange, while ghayn (غ) is like a dark gray-brown.
I will write more on some of the other letters as their colors become more obvious to me. It’s especially interesting to me that there are connections between the new letters and the concept they represent, like as if fa is just an “f” in a weird form, meaning that it still maintains the overall orangeness. What this says about my cognitive processes i’m not sure yet, but i’m excited at the mere prospect of uncovering the meaning.
Jacob Ibrahim Abuhamada
April 26, 2014
There is a pretty obvious disparity between being religious and being spiritual. Religion is about following rules; establishing order to an individual and a society. Spirituality is about an experience; about feeling spiritual. Religion says you need to donate to the poor; spirituality causes you to want to do it, and to feel good from it.
Religion has been necessary as a safeguard for society, since spirituality can be difficult to define, learn, experience, and thus near-impossible to ensure with the society otherwise. The difficulty is illustrated in the common ethical/legal idea that while the ideal ethical society wouldn’t need laws like “don’t murder” (because no one would anyways), in the real world we need the law in place because not everyone abides by the same behavioral and social patterns. But spirituality is the paramount purpose of religion, and it has been largely supplanted and suppressed by many religious institutions today.
I don’t see much spirituality in religion anymore, and i think this is fueling the rise in the number of the world’s non-religious. Recently i went to Mecca, the Islamic holy land, and i’ve been amidst the ultra-religious, ultra-Islamic Saudi society, and it has been this experience which brought this subject to mind.
While in Mecca i saw no spirituality.
I will repeat this again, because it bears repetition. I was in the holy center of the world for as many as 1.5 billion human beings, was surrounded by tens of thousands of Muslims on pilgrimage in their most holy place, and i saw no spirituality–I saw only religion. I may not exactly be Muslim by most conservative standards (whether i am or not is up for debate, but through study of the Qur’an i believe that my Omnism and general morality implies that i am), but i am a lover of spiritual experiences and i seek them in all places and times, and i am extremely reverent towards all things sacred.
While circumambulating the Ka’aba there was little sacredness left, highlighted by the absence of love or recognition of others. Everyone cared only of their own pilgrimage, pushing and shoving each other as they walked, many not looking where they were going, many going against the flow of traffic to get up to the Ka’aba or to leave, and always doing so in the rudest of ways. It took every ounce of mental effort to keep track of my aunt, cousin, and grandmother and to not blow up in rage at these people around me. I wasn’t given a chance to sink into a spiritual calm, or to admire the wonder and beauty of the place, or to contemplate the importance and the meaning of the core ideals that Islam embodies. In the bathroom, while washing my feet (only because they were dirty), i was given a stink eye by a guy because i wasn’t doing a full wuDu’, the process of ritual cleansing done by all Muslims before prayer. While i’m very happy to have been given the chance to have gone, i’m very sad not to have seen the loving-kindness that i’ve come to expect from devout Muslims.
Through my time here practicing Islam and studying the Qur’an and learning Arabic and living within this culture, i see such a gaping disparity between the vision of the Qur’an and the common Islam of today. For one example, the Islam of the Qur’an sought peace and brotherhood between it and neighboring religions, and asserts that they will go to heaven too so long as they love God and act righteously (e.g. 2:62). So many Muslims i’ve met here in the Middle East believe that other religions result in hell. For another example, at the end of the group prayer you’re supposed to turn to your right and then to your left, saying As-salaamu-‘alaykum (peace be upon you) each time. While there is a person on either side of you, nobody actually says it to the person sitting next to them; instead they say it quietly while looking at the ground. This practice obviously had the original meaning of establishing brotherhood between Muslims! And at the very least it would have the potential to. But instead it’s treated like a mere rule to follow; in other words: It is religion without spirituality.
The Islam in Saudi and of much of the modern world is the following of rules. I’m sure that many Muslims have profound spiritual experiences today as they used to through the following of these rules, but the spiritual core is lost to the general public. The one branch devoted to spiritual experiences—Sufism—is considered by many Muslims to be a misinterpretation of Islam, if not downright heretical. But the Sufi’s aim is the core lifeblood of the religion as a whole: Constant remembrance and reverence for God in every word, thought, and action you carry out. When you remove the spirituality from the religion, you’re left with a shell of rules and fundamentalist fairy tales. Islam has not lost all of its spirituality, but it’s in a dire state. The peace and calm of prayer has to come out of your head for it to mean anything, and this is what’s most important. Not the number of prostrations i do, the times i pray, the avoidance of pork, or the manner of cleansing myself before i pray.
By now if you’re a Muslim, you’re probably not very happy with what i have to say. If you’re not Muslim you may be saying “I knew it! I knew Islam was false!” Well first of all: No it’s not a false or bad religion. And second, for you Muslims who feel angry at this: I love the Qur’an. I profess that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is a prophet of God. Third, and most importantly:
My experiences with other religions have shown me the same chasm.
Like Gandhi seemed to notice nearly a century ago, i see little of Christ in most Christians today or Christian communities. Chances are, you already are aware of this, reader. Even amongst Christians this is no secret — there are so many sects, factions, and new churches divided over almost every single superficial matter you can imagine — and of course with many sects, the others are considered wrong and un-Christian-like.
In Judaism, the lack of Jewish spirituality is very obvious, and many Jews will be the first to admit that they aren’t religious, or if they are it’s because they want to preserve their ancient culture; and the spiritual ones i’ve met all drew their spirituality from Eastern religions!
And while i choose the label of Buddhist and am most fond of Eastern religion, they too are often in a similar position. So many of the Buddhists i’ve known are more concerned with doing everything in the exact order and exact manner of how it’s written, rather than focusing on the core of the meaning in facilitating spiritual experiences and spiritual-psychological growth and transformation. Many of these fundamentalists will speak highly of dialogue with other religions, but will chastise you as a Buddhist for not adhering to some core Buddhist belief like reincarnation or reliance on the guru—and i say this from personal experience.
So is it really any wonder that people of the modern world are leaving religion in droves?
Atheism, agnosticism, and apathy towards religion is on the up and up across all cultures. Even those who still consider themselves a member of their birth religion very often don’t participate or adhere to it in any significant way. It seems we may not need religion anymore. Do we? To know this we need to examine the role it plays for humans. I’m most fond of Joseph Campbell‘s four functions of mythology as the answer to this: The social (for the organization of society and community and the integration of the individual into it), the cosmic (for explaining the nature and origin of the cosmos and the individual’s place in it), the psychological (helping the individual to grow and overcome obstacles in their psyche), and the transcendent (facilitating spiritual experiences).
The first two are fulfilled by modern global politics, science, and technology, but the last two are lacking. They are what is most needed in the globalizing world, and the chief reason religion is still around at all. But i don’t think we need religion so much anymore, or at least we won’t need it before long. It’s about the spiritual experience now, and that should be approached the way we approach the first two, which is to say, scientifically. We need to compare experiences and practices around those experiences. We need to experiment with spiritual experiences and share them with each other.
I was reading my favorite sacred text recently (which i believe to be the most profound sacred text of any religion or spirituality) called Self-Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness. The point of the text, as i understand it, is to highlight and underscore what the experience of the ultimate Transcendent ideal is at the level of one’s consciousness, and it explains how to go about bringing forth such an experience. It doesn’t make metaphysical claims, and none of its main points are really things that would be considered sacrilege by any religion. The very first thing explained by the text is how there are so many different practices to reach enlightenment, and that each practice holds potential danger to lead one into judging others and falling back into dualism (the transcendence of dualism being the realization of the experience of this Transcendent ideal). The next thing it does is list all the different words that exist naming the Transcendent ideal that we experience, even including that the theists (Tirthikas) call it the “soul” or “Self,” (no small deal for a religion built originally around the denial of the existence of an immortal “Self.”) and then clarifies that they are all pointing to the very same phenomenon.
Why do i bring this up? In my opinion this represents the future of religion and spirituality: The end of the religious institutions involving mere rules and the division between them and the “others” and the flourishing of a subjective, individual-centered recognition of spirituality as one of the human necessities. Spiritual experience is something that is ubiquitous throughout the world. It is experienced in nature as often as it is in temples, and probably in isolation far more often than around others. It comes as an overwhelming peacefulness, clarity, wakefulness, presence, and bliss. It is inarguably positive in-and-of itself, but it is largely ignored by a rapidly globalizing society which doesn’t know how to bring out these experiences in the mind.
The extent of the need for religions is the diversity of needs by humans to raise their consciousness to some kind of a spiritual experience. Some need a congregation, some need a very specific order of actions to do in repetition, many need ritual. The variety of sources for these transcendence “triggers” and “catalysts” will of course be drawn from the diverse, ancient religious traditions that exist today. We already see this happening to some extent with all the completely new sects and religions that keep popping up. But i don’t believe this will save the institutions as they exist in their present form; it will merely preserve the link to the cultural history.
So while institutionalized religion evolved out of spirituality, it is in spirituality that i believe it will meet its death. Modern society has done away with the need for religion, because its needs regarding religions’ functions have changed. We need guidance on the path to spiritual experiences and overcoming our problems as they arrive in life. The latter is aided by the discipline of psychology, but the former has no significant scientific basis as of yet. When the day comes that the spiritual experience at the level of one’s consciousness is approached scientifically and appreciated for what it is, religions as we understand them today will be relegated to mere cultural history.
Jacob Ibrahim Abuhamada
Please share and please comment with your thoughts on the matter!
These words may mean different things to me than they do to you, but then we’re getting into a discussion of human opinions, and we’ve departed from a discussion of the Word of God.
Granted they are the least, as far as percentages of adherents go, and the fundamentalists are never the monastics or religious leaders, which is very relieving–and of course i’m only speaking in terms of my own personal experience.
It’s actually more considered a chapter or section of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but it stands alone as a separate entity in both style as well as message in my opinion.
The word used is atman, and the emphasis is obviously leaning towards the Upanishadic tradition. But to me this holds massive import, as the Upanishads are another of my most favorite holy texts, and they are devoted to explaining the union of the atman with Brahman or God. So this one casual line in this text goes on to assert the validity of a theist’s recognition of the Transcendent, or God as another name for the Transcendent as it’s expressed in Buddhism: Emptiness. And of course the core definition of both is that they are transcendent of all possible descriptors. Buddhism does a phenomenal job at analyzing and extrapolating the meaning of this and how it forms the basis for reality itself. For the strongest insight into this, you should read the Mulamadhyamakakarika. But do so with commentary. It’s almost impenetrably complex otherwise.
- I’m with B. Alan Wallace when it comes to this. For more on his work on trying to establish a scientific discipline around the exploration of spiritual states of consciousness, click here.
April 16, 2014
I stare at the wall
I stare beyond the wall
My mind is the focal point
She sits, poking at her phone
Its bluish light illuminating her face with a faint glow
We say nothing
The room lies perfectly still
We are frozen like sculptures
Our minds explode with emotion
Anguish, fear, rage, despair
This is a scene of poetry.
These words are only a painting.
A painting does not convey the poetry.
The inspiration for this poem came from a friend of mine who told me that his philosophy in life was to see everything as poetry. Even an intense argument with your girlfriend is poetry. So last year, after or in the midst of a heated argument with my then girlfriend, i kept this in mind. And all i could think to do was to write a poem about it. So i did.