Commenting on: The dead don’t think
Attempting experiment 1 put me in the mood to try something closer to conventional nāda yoga.
At night, when it is dark and quiet, I turn out the lights and try to halt my internal monologue. This isn’t fully successful: there are short bursts of internal mental audio chatter between the silences. Although it is completely dark, occasional visual imagery flashes like magnesium flares. At one point, I see meaningless cursive calligraphy in black on a dark red background, like old linoleum (dakini script :-)) In between the bursts of mental audio chatter, I listen to see if I can hear anything else through the silence, And there it is: a musical note like B3 on the piano, amplitude modulated at about 1hz. It’s not a real sound, and it’s not internal monologue either.
I find the exercises have the same issue as most Buddhist teaching, they fail to define “thought”. Which then becomes something like “god”, everyone has their own definition.
This isn’t necessarily bad, mind you, might even be useful.
I usually arbitrarily choose to define “thought” as “something that’s verbal or in some other way trying to clearly divide or predict the world”
In so far as this definition goes, I find the exercise “fail” for me, it’s mainly when my attention slips (from the goal, i.e. I forget my intention) or disolves itself (sleepiness)
I feel like having the meta-intention of thinking non-stop brings you into the mode of awareness of your thoughts. This awareness to a certain degree precludes thought.
Thank you for the meditation experiment reports!
I deliberately omit diacritics most of the time, on the theory that they are off-putting for most readers, and the few who know they should be there can supply them mentally.
I included them in the Heart Sutra quote, to give the sense that the language there was archaic and barely understandable for Surya, who would have spoken Magadhan Prakrit. The vetali, of course, is fluent in Sanskrit, being many centuries older, and having had the company of Nagarjuna, Dharmakirti, and others.
When I read Shantaraksita, I thought: some diacritics missing there: Śāntarakṣita
Commenting on: Roaring Silence
I got your newsletter for Halloween. Just thought I’d let you know how things are going. I picked up this book and read almost all of it (just not all the Q/A at the end) and of course did all the exercises, well, “religiously”, since about 2 years ago. I was doing shi-ne for about 1 and a half years before moving on to the next naljor with the visualization exercise. A few days ago, I would guess that nye’mid happened to me as part of the 3rd naljor. Like, everything became a lot clearer. I don’t shy away from what is, and feel like I’m “going into” each moment. Of course, I can’t be sure that’s what it is! I don’t have a lama to work with after all. But it seems our society is heading for a state of isolation and loneliness, so you have to learn to get these things from books rather than interaction with actual people (and just hope you’re doing it right lol).
I liked the addition of that chapter to The Vetali’s Gift. It was entertaining to read, but doesn’t have much use for me as I have already done those exercises. I would love to share it with people, but I don’t think much benefit would come of it as our society is generally leery of religion and superstition. That’s not to say I think this is religious superstition. I think this is wonderfully useful strategies for dealing with pain and the existential quandary of life. But that’s what it looks like when you try to show it to other people, I would imagine. It doesn’t help that I’m terrible at communicating orally.
Assuming I got through the 3rd naljor, I remember the 4th one is attaining a perfectedness in one’s action. I’m definitely not there yet, but I guess after that would come the actual practice of Dzogchen. Is it secret or something? You mentioned your spouse published a book about these practices, which at first I read to be the main Dzogchen practice, but I guess it may be just be the naljors. I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet. Anyway, that’s not to say I wouldn’t be happy with just the naljors, because that’s more than enough to make a huge difference in your life. I’m not sure I’d want to practice the main Dzogchen even if I got there.
Disclaimer: I am not usually a meditator, since meditation tends to be great while I’m doing it and then make me a little nuts. Like spending the evening wanting to bite and claw things and feeling like I’m a tiger after an afternoon of intermittent meditating. This effect could be fun maybe, but it does not feel very civilized, and it can be a bit alarming as it’s not exactly a controlled state. (I think this could be an obsessiveness side effect ??)
I tried the first exercise. I can easily focus on something like breathing, but it feels like that’s a thought. Thoughts follow each other like the knots in a khipu. There always seems to be an active connection to the next one. I banished breathing focus and switched (accidentally) to noticing sounds. Then I managed to not notice the sounds of the fridge and the cars passing and the kids thumping around upstairs and moved on to involuntary visuals. After getting rid of the images, I tried to imagine myself as dead, which led to the unfortunate urge, a thought, to be actually dead so I could win this game and achieve nonthinking. Not great! As you have pointed out elsewhere, it might not be advisable for some people such as an obsessive person-tiger to do much meditating! (Don’t worry, I’m fine.)
So after a bit of self recrimination about the unexpected urge, “Cheap Thrills” by Sia popped into my head, and it was game over. About 20 minutes. Fun exploration. ;)
So, as I read the first experiment, my thought was “I know this one, and the point is that it’s impossible. Still, I can probably do it if I cheat just a little.”
So, I held my inner voice at a constant 1kHz (ish) tone for the duration of the experiment - no mental imagery, no inner speech (apart from the internal 1kHZ tone), no thoughts at all apart from hearing the tone. And held like that until the timer went off for the end of the meditation.
James, thank you for trying this, and for your very interesting report!
It’s great that you got some results from the first two. It’s common to find one can’t get anything from the first, and to have the sense that the second is easy (which can be due to overlooking gaps in thought, as we normally do).
Also interesting results from the third. (That is the actual meditation practice “shi-ne,” whereas the other two are one-shot experiments). I can clarify a couple of things (and maybe I should do that in the texts of the pages as well).
Remaining uninvolved is different from detachment. “Remaining uninvolved” means you don’t push your thoughts along, or pull on a train of thought, or reject ones you don’t like, or massage ones you do.
You aren’t detached when “uninvolved,” though. That would suggest that “I” am over here, and I push my thoughts to be over there, and distance or even ignore them. In shi-ne meditation, you are right there with your thoughts. It turns out that, if you don’t continually manipulate them, sometimes they just stop for a while, of their own accord.
Ideally, there’s no sense of separation: “I” and “thinking” and “not thinking” are aspects of the same bigger picture. That picture includes your body and everything you perceive, the sights and sounds and sensations, and the space you are in, and the earth and sky and all their inhabitants, all together as a vast and glorious symphony.
I’m curious why you are particularly afraid of turning yourself into a zombie. My piece about meditation risks pointed it out as a potential pitfall, but it’s not common, and it usually only comes with intensive meditation of particular sorts. Those sorts do emphasize detachment as a method and as a goal, though!
Their risk is depersonalization/derealization, which does feel like numbness, and like depressive sadness too. So perhaps you know you are prone to that, and recognize that meditation could be particularly risky for you for that reason?
There are meditation methods that aim toward greater connection and involvement with the world. That is characteristic of Vajrayana (and probably other systems too, but it’s the one I know). Typically Vajrayana takes “experience of emptiness” as a prerequisite; and shi-ne is one way to get that. However, some people find they can go for connection and vividness first, and then backtrack to get “emptiness” once a healthy confidence in involvement is established. This might be the best approach for those of us who are prone to depression/depersonalization/derealization.
Just out today is a podcast with my spouse Charlie and Christopher Lövgren, talking about exactly this issue!
It begins with a brief guided meditation that encourages vivid, excited involvement rather than detachment. Christopher talks about his experience some years ago of “feeling like a ghost,” and how the spiritual approaches he was applying made that worse rather than better, and then they discuss the Vajrayana approach of enjoyable involvement.
I worked my way through the exercises. First one: couldn’t manage it, but to the extent I could I felt light and peaceful, and that lingered afterward.
Second one I kept up a buzzing confusion in my head for about five minutes, but by the end I was so cognitively fatigued I was barely able to recite the alphabet. There was lingering fatigue afterward for a bit.
The last one started out well – well, except I had this idea to will/imagine myself detaching from my thoughts, which left me euphoric and just generally seemed unwise after a bit – and with time the thoughts faded. But it left me deeply sad for some reason I can’t quite identify. Besides the sadness is a numbness. Maybe some existential despair in the mix? (I also have this admittedly-excessive fear of turning myself into a zombie through meditation, ever since I read your article on the dangers. I wonder if that fear got amplified by the practice, somehow?)
It’s fading now as I move and bring myself back into the world. Maybe I just overdid it doing all the exercises back to back late in the evening.
Commenting on: Buddhists who kill
Monks live a life of extremes, mainly because attaining enlightenment is extremely difficult. Monks live a life where defensive killing is so incredibly unlikely to ever come up as a part of their lives the just right off all killing as wrong. This is a problem because we all learn Buddhism from Monks. This is where a lot of corruptions of the Buddha’s teachings come, monks making things easier on themselves and then pushing it as the ethics for all Buddhist. The Buddha was the most progressive religious leader for thousands of years on the issue of women, monks undid almost all of it because they blame women for their lust.
Pacifist are protected by other people carrying shields and weapons and then shit talk the people protecting them.
Monks present the Sutras as black and white on the subject of killing, ignoring all of the counter arguments. A big one for me is the story of the mother and father stuck in a desert who kill their child for nourishment in order to be able to survive. Why would someone who thought killing was an absolute wrong use such an analogy?
The question about killing isn’t whether or not you go to hell, heaven and hell are not the goal of Buddhism. The question is whether or not you can attain enlightenment while being willing to kill defensively. I don’t know the answer to this, I’ve never read anything from anyone who did know the answer, except the original Sutras and the are ambiguous.
What I believe is that every moral situation has a morally correct solution. You are never forced to choose a lesser of two evils or a mix of dark and light Karma. I also believe if you can find one exception to a rule it’s more of a guideline. If someone made a virus that could kill all life on earth and you need to kill someone worse than Hitler to keep it from being released, would it be correct to let this evil person kill everyone? Of course not, hence killing is sometimes correct.
A couple of points, the overwhelming majority of people will never have to kill someone, even the vast majority of cops in high crime neighborhoods never kill anyone. The issues involving eating meat and dairy products are far more relevant to people lives than defensive killing. If you are in the military it is your moral duty to refuse to fight if your country has started an unjust war or your commander is giving an unjust order, even if it means your death. Don’t volunteer for the US military.
I really liked your article.
A side not to a couple of the commenters. Judge Buddhism based off of what the Buddha taught not off of the failings of ordinary people. The Path is hard, very few of us live upto it. When reading about Buddha remember not everything was actually said by him, many people have used his name to push their own agenda
You have to judge each sutra based on the overall message of the sutras, listen to what the scholars say is mostly likely authentic and mainly listen to the love in your heart, if you can find it.
Buddha taught that the value of life is a progression plants as the least valuable, still valuable, then insects, thongs get more morally significant as they get bigger. Now we would say the ratio of brain size to body mass determines the level of moral value. Insects probably are not sentient, you shouldn’t try to kill them but there is little moral harm if they are.
One last comment. Many people get very defensive about their own religions and moral systems compared to Buddhism. The Buddha taught a perfect moral system that none of the other religions come close to and few people live upto. Instead of acknowledging this some people feel compelled to make extreme and nonsense accusations against Buddhism to defend their own ego. Reducing your ego is something Buddhism teaches you to do. Instead of telling lies to attack Buddhism, become a Buddhist.
Commenting on: Can we hunt p-zombies with fMRI?
Of the various types of zombie you have identified, only the zombie doppelgänger has much metaphysical clout, as all the others are compatible with materialism, and it is as an anti-materialist argument that that p-zombies are best known.
As you say, zombie doppelgängers are undetectable by physical means. Few, if any, philosophers think they could exist in the actual world (not even Dennett - see below.) It is certainly convenient to have an argument in which a philosopher’s conception of what is merely logically possible (a very weak claim which only requires a premise to be not obviously contradictory) counts for more than any amount of scientific evidence to the contrary, but, as Marvin Minsky pointed out, Chalmers’ zombie argument begs the question by presupposing the separability of mind and matter.
As far a I know, Dennett is speaking with his tongue in his cheek when he says “We’re all zombies” - in “Consciousness Explained”, he appends this footnote: “It would be an act of desperate intellectual
dishonesty to quote this assertion out of context!” He is pointing out, I think, the inconsistency of believing in zombies while claiming to know that we are not zombies (introspection cannot be trusted as infallible, even just about oneself, given Cotard’s syndrome and other delusions.)
In “The Unimagined Preposterousness of Zombies” Dennett gives examples of philosophers equivocating over what it means to be a true zombie doppelgänger: “when philosophers claim that zombies are conceivable, they invariably underestimate the task of conception (or imagination), and end up imagining something that violates their own definition.” His position on qualia seems somewhat similar - that the term has been so loaded with metaphysical assumptions that it has no meaning.
Commenting on: Lovecraft, Speculative Realism, and silly nihilism
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Commenting on: (To be continued…)
I love all of your websites, but this one in particular. Willing to do anything it takes to get more of this from you. Evidently your tantra is too powerful for death threats to be effective so I can only hope praise and pleading work. Humor and horror are in the exact right mix here.
Commenting on: Sleeping with Sukhi
A couple of days ago, I had an “undone by recursion” moment, thinking about this story. It went roughly like this:
So, you have some (formal) grammar that includes recursive definitions, and you use proof by induction to prove some theorem about all gramatically correct expressions.
But wait, thinks I. If you’re really trying to prove this sort of theorem rigorously, surely you’ld need something like Peano’s 9th axiom, only for grammars rather than integers. Some axiom that says it’s ok to do induction on grammars, because the recursion always terminates in a finite number of steps. That guarantees you no sentence in the grammar is - for example - a circularly linked list that causes the parser to run forever. You could probably write that sentence in a finite number of symbols, around the circumference of a bracelet, for example…
Commenting on: Visions in the charnel ground
also that same one will explain the blue-black silk dress!
also that same one will explain the blue-black silk dress!
For small values of “explain.” Readers who are familiar with the background mythology will understand the implication. Bits of backstory are supposed to get progressively revealed, so that at the end everything makes sense even if you don’t know any Buddhist history, but those who do can have fun realizing “OH! I see what’s going on here!” when it’s not yet explicit. (Pulling this off may be slightly tricky.)
It shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be
It shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be
—is meant to suggest that each of the visions refers to a scene within the novel that hasn’t been explained yet.
Like the dakinis, you also apparently exhibit precognition (slightly distorted). The Acting Interim Chancellor of Nalanda University shows up two scenes into the future from the episode I most recently published.
I’m hoping to get another one done Real Soon—it shouldn’t be as difficult as the sex scene—and the one with the Chancellor is also reasonably straightforward. I think. Oh, actually, also that same one will explain the blue-black silk dress!
Certain institutions other than my own appear to have gone even further down the Lich King route: “Hey, students, we need you to be here in person so we change charge you rent for your rooms. But we’re going to put you under house arrest so you can’t go outside.”
The pandemic handling is merely a symptom … there also the question of research grants…
I have just realised that the zombie apocalypse can be read as a commentary on the present-day state of our universities. Though, if that is the allegory, the Lich King would be the vice-chancellor.
At a nameless institution, towards the start of our current pandemic.
Vice-chancellor to faculty: you’re going to be doing in person teaching, because that’s what the government wants.
Faculty (and students) to vice-chancellor: nope, that is not happening.
I have a question about the following part. Are we supposed to recognise the costume from somewhere:
“Her dress was silk, the blue-black of the center of the sky as night falls. Two silver bats clasped shoulder straps, gathering folds of cloth that held her breasts high. “
Commenting on: Drinking the sun
This makes sense—thank you!
Thank you about updating these series. I drank them as needingly as I did it a couple of years ago before the update.
I feel your blockage on nobility might be connected to the change of context required to explain and experience nobility. Thus far you’ve focused very much on the individual person and just a little bit on interpersonal relationships in the form of recognizing your shadow elements in the actions of others. Nobility on the other hand can only be explained and experienced in a social context while recognized by others.
e.g. You cannot claim to be noble while sitting on a mountain top, doing nothing, interacting with no-one. You can be recognized as noble when you eat your shadow and drink the sun and the result of these efforts and psychospiritual growth becomes apparent in the way you show up in you personal, professional and social life and relationships.
The secondary sources I’ve read are a bit vague around the edges. However, my understanding is:
Panini’s metagrammatical formalism definitely allows recursion. It’s similar to BNF, and so can express context-sensitive grammars, including center-embedding.
You can write a non-recursive grammar in a formalism that allows recursion. However, Panini’s specific grammatical rules are recursive, and do allow the generation of unboundedly long strings. I believe this includes center-embedding (but am not completely positive about that).
Panini almost certainly didn’t intend unbounded recursion. He was writing a grammar that was meant to specify a spoken language in which excessively long strings would be pathological. The grammar was more permissive in that respect than he probably meant it to be.
However, centuries later, people exploited the flexibility of the grammar to invent much longer, highly complex constructions that would probably never naturally occur in speech, and hadn’t previously been used in writing, for use in fancy literary language. The poet/playwright Kalidasa is often mentioned as having taken this to extremes for effect. Apparently it’s clever and elegant and spiritually transporting. I don’t know even basic Sanskrit, never mind fancy literary stuff, so I have to take others’ word for that!
Panini was definitely a major influence on European grammatical theory, starting in the early 1800s.
I don’t know whether there’s influence from there to Frege (and therefore to Hilbert, Turing, etc.) I would like to, though!
Reading this again, what came to my mind was the history of mathematics question of who first used recursive definitions and who first gave a name to that style of definition.
Used in the nineteenth century for sure, especially in German language texts. This is way later than the period the story is set in, of course.
Before that … it’s a good question of what counts as a recursive, as opposed to iterative, definition. Fibonnaci’s famous problem about reproducing rabbits is a recurrence relation.
I haven’t checked, but presumably Panini’s Sanskrit grammar doesn’t have explicitly recursive grammar rules.
I read a couple of Berne’s books a very long time ago. I’m afraid I don’t remember much! It’s not consciously a source, but there may be some influence.
After reading this series (particularly the emphasis on childlike behaviour) and Meaningness (particularly the stances) I found many similarities with Transactional Analysis (in the concepts resp. of Free Child and the Ego States). Is this intentional/known?
Commenting on: Disgust as Buddhist practice
Commenting on: No sex or funny stuff
So, vaguely inspired by this, I decided to ask some questions of the GPT2 machine learning algorithm. For those who don’t know, the algorithm uses a huge amount of data trawled off the web to guess which word comes next after an initial string.
In the following, Sukhi’s dialog is typed by me and the Venerable Udayin’s dialog is entirely machine-generated by the GPT algorithm as a response . The only initial hint I gave it was two paragraphs from the vinaya.
You ask, “And the Fourth Noble Truth, Venerable Udayin?”
He says, “That this craving, this attachment to the idea of escape, causes more suffering.”
“Yes,” you say, “it is as you say, Venerable Udayin. Dukkha, anicca, anatta, and nirodha.”
He stands and touches your head again. “Yes. You are wise, my dear Sukhi.”
He says, “Have you come to ask me for something?”
You ask, “Venerable Udayin, what are amrita and rakta?”
He says, “Amrita is the elixir of life. It is made from the tears of the gods. It can prolong life and grant immortality.”
He says, “Rakta is the blood of the blessed. It has the power of magic, and can turn those who drink it into vampires.”
I am astonished what GPT has learned from the web (some of it possibly of doubtful accuracy), Note: I did not prime the algorithm with anything about what these words might mean, or tell it what the fourth noble truth was. (I did tell it I was called Sukhi).
Yes, thanks. Surya did get bitten in the previous installment. I’d forgotten it was explicitly described, rather than just implied. The young monk does look like he’s being lined up to be next, though.
Oh, also, forgot to mention, an AMAB trans-ish character has a romance with a man later on. From what I know so far, neither of them gets bitten though.
Uh, did you not notice that there was a neck biting at the end of the previous episode?
(That might clarify what is going on in the most recent one…)
Given this is a vampire novel, genre convention would suggest that somebody is going to get bitten in the neck (or equivalent) at some point.
The only suspense is in who gets bitten, and who by. Vampire novels are fairly diverse, so gay vampire, lesbian vampire, heterosexual vampire are all possibilities. (Indeed, bi vampire is probably the default for the genre),
The other thing we can guess from this scene is that it’s the young monk who is at some point going to be bitten in the neck.
Genre convention would suggest that some Twilight-like agonizing over “I really want to have sex with the vampire, but I’m a monk (or a respectable Mormon girl like Bella)” is needed. Perhaps not as overdone as in Stephanie Meyer.
I think you were right to just go ahead and write that last chapter!
The one bit I ‘stumbled’ on was this:
when it was all the way in it needed to come back out, and when it was out it needed to go all the way in
when it was all the way in it needed to come back out, and when it was out it needed to go all the way in
And by ‘stumbled’ I mean that I noticed that as something I was reading (instead of just continuing to read the text), and that it seemed ‘off’.
After re-reading it, it seems fine. I don’t remember clearly, but I might have had the same kinds of ‘stumbles’ reading other romance novels (or ‘romance’ writing in other works), and I’ve actually enjoyed a few. (I’m intimidated by the idea of trying to find other good ones. I mostly just enjoy them in not-romance-novels when I happen upon them.)
But I think it was mostly great and that you’re, in fact, perfectly capable of writing this kind of stuff!
I’m (re-?)reading the whole story now and loving it!
The recursion joke(s) are particularly funny!
The “infinity unrolled” ‘being undone by recursion’ bit reminds me of something I remember experiencing as a kid – a feeling of flying or ‘zooming’, but “infinity unrolled before him” is an even better description. Thinking back on it now, I think it would happen when I was in a ‘trance’ or similar kind of ‘meditative’ state. I only remember it happening at night, after I was supposed to be asleep, and I remember it most vividly as happening when I was looking out the window of my bedroom and rubbing a part of a soft blanket folder over onto itself. Something about the sensation felt ‘infinite’. Weird!
“It is no shame to be undone by recursion” – truly! I tell my own ‘pupils’ that, and don’t qualify it with “the first time”. Indeed, even with the most careful spells (unit tests), a failure to properly tame recursion can be fatal (require killing the test job)!
Commenting on: My father dies
In case anyone else is interested (as I was), this seems to be the image shown: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/work-of-art/a-flayed-man-holding-his-own-skin
As I puzzle more over the various ways in which a monk could possibly receive a Higher Yoga Tantra empowerment without violating the vinaya, it occurs to me: as far as I can see, there is nothing in the vinaya prohibiting a monk from consuming what is known is Sanskrit as rakta (i.e. red stuff, blood, menstrual blood, vaginal lubrication). A monk would need to be careful, of course. Actually touching a woman in order to bite her neck looks to be forbidden. Having a woman who is not the monk’s relative do his laundry is also right out, because that might lead to them having sex. But actually consuming rakta, e.g. from her previously worn garments, appears to be an omission in the vinaya.
Of course, now, you can buy substitute rakta that’s basically just a red herbal drink, which is obviously OK. A fictional vampire might scorn such synthetic substitutions.
Have I missed something in the vinaya here?
Thanks for the reply, David!
doesn’t require you to actually do it with a real partner to receive the empowerment.
doesn’t require you to actually do it with a real partner to receive the empowerment.
Yes, that’s right. The scriptures are unambiguous that karmamudra is essential, but that is not now the case. Initiation/empowerment (abhisheka/dbangs) has had a very different function than it did according to scripture, for several centuries at least. It’s given casually to people who have no interest in practicing anything at all, and functions mainly as entertainment during fundraising events. Actual sex is never involved. As far as I can tell, even visualized sex is very rare.
I don’t know all the details of how and when and why the function of dbangs changed. It’s a key historical question (I think) and I’ve collected some relevant factoids, but there’s no extended discussion anywhere, so far as I know. This would be an excellent PhD thesis topic for someone.
As you suggested, there’s an inherent conflict between vinaya (the monastic vows, of which celibacy is #1) and tantric practice (particularly karmamudra, but really the whole thing). Most of the text of “Sleeping with Sukhi” is about that, in fact! The history of Vajrayana is largely the history of people working out different ways of fudging this contradiction. The novel is set in the early 700s, when it appears that the scriptures were understood literally, and abhisheka did require actual sex.
Another important historical and practical question is what happened to actual karmamudra practice in different strands of tantric Buddhism. Officially it got mostly eliminated. However, there seem to have been, and to still be, secret exceptions, so that high-status monks practice it while saying they don’t—analogous to the faculty at Nalanda sneaking off to charnel grounds at midnight. How much of this there is and was in different places and times and lineages, and the specifics of what they practiced, would be great to know, but probably impossible to find out.
Fortunately, there are also a few lineages that have continuously acknowledged that yes, karmamudra is a thing, and always has been. Actual permission to practice has been rare, and requires a great deal more than a routine dbangs.
Sorry about the Sanskrit! I’ve never studied it properly and couldn’t put together sentences with even the grammatical complexity of “the cat is on the mat.”
Her breasts swelled like recursive stupas
I was falling about laughing at this point. If this meant to be a serious erotic sex scene, a nomination for The Bad Sex Awards would be in order. As the whole thing is a comedy, it works.
A serious question about the scene: My understanding of the third empowerment, in present day real vajrayana as opposed to the fictional alternate reality vajrayana of the novel, is that it gives you permission to perform karmamudra but doesn’t require you to actually do it with a real partner to receive the empowerment. (Consorts can be imagined etc,) I take it the fictional/historical tantra of the novel has a stronger requirement to actually do karmamudra than our present, ethically-acceptable-to-feminists, version? (I can think of some actual historical texts that strongly imply that karmamudra with a partner is optional … e.g. for monks who aren’t allowed to have sex, people with intersex conditions who physically can’t etc.)
P.S. I was hoping for some actual Sanskrit.
Slightly more seriously....
Negative Theology -> Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite -> Nicholas of Cusa -> Mauruce de Gandillac -> (Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Deleuze)
On my bookshelves at home I have Pseudo-Dionysius in the same section as Derrida’s Of Grammatology.
“I mean, when the old guard at Nalanda dies, the younger faculty can teach new doctrines and practises”.
As I read that, I’m thinking: Surya has been (anachronistically) reading Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions.. A day or two passes, and I see your twitter again: yep, gratuitous Thomas Kuhn.
I wonder if this is actually an improvement over all those “how to write a sex scene” books, or even worse.
P.S. From the conventional hagiographies of the postmodernists, I had gathered that Georges Canguilhem, rather than de Gandillac, was the principal intellectual influence. (Or should that be from a namthar of Derrida…)