Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Buddhist Reincarnation and Buddhist Rebirth

          Since this blog was started several years ago I have  developed all of 19 followers however over 120,000 people have read some or all of my blog posts and one post for some reason has drawn the attention of at least 50,000 people who seem to be interested in the subject that I was posting about. I once did a small post simply titled rebirth and simply put a small epiphany that I had had while I was in meditation. It simply said that nothing ever happens only once.  I think about 80 people read it and I’m not sure they actually gave it any thought if they had I think they might have gotten an impression that I was talking about them as well as myself.

       As some people know who have read this blog I practiced Tibetan style Vajrayana  Buddhism for many years. Certain things happened in my life and I came to a teacher who just happened to be a Zen teacher. I started this blog after a few years of setting with my teacher in order to create a record of this new practice that I had taken on.  But as I’ve mentioned several times before even the eight years I have spent now practicing Zen have no stripped me of my basic Buddhist beginnings and those decades of teachings by some very wise and amazingly educated Chinese and Tibetan monks.  If you’re one of the 50,000 people that read my post on monk versus laymen then you’re aware of my feelings concerning Westerners recent tendency to be enthralled with robes. Especially the wearing of and selling of such spellbinding materials. The only explanation I can find for this is the need to be set apart in a  practice were one is supposed to expand and merge with the other not separate yourself out with some sort of mystical looking garb. But I digress.

            I have unfortunately had the dubious honor of recently reading a web post and watching a lecture by the ever entertaining Brad Warner entitled literal reincarnation or some such thing. I have always been a little bit fascinated by the Western Zen attitude toward reincarnation I suppose it seems a little too magical for modern Western minds that were raised on Newtonian physics and trained in high school laboratories around the American and English world so first I’m going to do what I have a tendency to do which is set a little background work on the basic Buddhist concept of reincarnation. Then I’m going to address Soto Zen and master Dogen and this modern viewpoint that is personified in the lectures by Mr. Brad Warner. Normally it’s against my policy to be condescending toward any particular Buddhist practitioner teacher, but since Brad seems to be so set on attacking anyone who holds the view opposite of his, I’m not going to feel bad if some of my statements are a little bit contemptuous of his.

          Reincarnation commonly called rebirth by modern Zen practitioners or the transmigration of the soul by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Has been a part of Buddhism since its very beginnings. However if you’re familiar all with the history of Buddhism you must realize that Buddha was a Hindu. Many of the basic concepts of the world that he lived in were part of the very fabric of his society and his belief system. Buddha did not invent the idea that the world was subject to constant unending change he simply accepted it as the truth. Nor did he invent the idea of reincarnation.   In Hinduism’s  Rigveda the oldest extant Indo-Aryan text, numerous references are made to transmigration, rebirth (punarjanma), and redeath (punarmrtyu) in the Brahmanas.    One verse reads, "Each death repeats the death of the primordial man (purusa), which was also the first sacrifice" (RV 10:90). Another excerpt from the Rig Veda states (10: 16. 1-4):


“Burn him not up, nor quite consume him, Agni: let not his body or his skin be scattered. O Jatavedas, when thou hast matured him, then send him on his way unto the Fathers... let thy fierce flame, thy glowing splendour, burn him With thine auspicious forms, o Jatavedas, bear this man to the region of the pious... Again, O Agni, to the Fathers send him who, offered in thee, goes with our oblations. Wearing new life let him increase his offspring: let him rejoin a body, Jatavedas. “

            The systematic attempt to attain first-hand knowledge of past lives has been developed in various ways in different places. The early Buddhist texts discuss techniques for recalling previous births, predicated on the development of high levels of meditative concentration      The later Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which incorporated elements of Buddhist thought, give similar instructions on how to attain the ability.     The Buddha reportedly warned that this experience can be misleading and should be interpreted with care. Tibetan Buddhism has developed a unique "science" of death and rebirth, a good deal of which is set down in what is popularly known as “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.”

    I can think of no greater authority on the subject of reincarnation in traditional Buddhism than the Dalai Lama himself so the following is his own explanation of reincarnation translated from the original Tibetan and written by the Dalai Lama himself:


"Past and future lives

In order to accept reincarnation, we need to accept the existence of past and future lives. Sentient beings come to this present life from their previous lives and take rebirth again after death. This kind of continuous rebirth is accepted by all the ancient Indian spiritual traditions and schools of philosophy, except the Charvakas, who were a materialist movement. Some modern thinkers deny past and future lives on the premise that we cannot see them. Others do not draw such clear cut conclusions on this basis.

Although many religious traditions accept rebirth, they differ in their views of what it is that is reborn, how it is reborn, and how it passes through the transitional period between two lives. Some religious traditions accept the prospect of future life, but reject the idea of past lives.

Generally, Buddhists believe that there is no beginning to birth and that once we achieve liberation from the cycle of existence by overcoming our karma and destructive emotions, we will not be reborn under the sway of these conditions. Therefore, Buddhists believe that there is an end to being reborn as a result of karma and destructive emotions, but most Buddhist philosophical schools do not accept that the mind-stream comes to an end. To reject past and future rebirth would contradict the Buddhist concept of the ground, path and result, which must be explained on the basis of the disciplined or undisciplined mind. If we accept this argument, logically, we would also have to accept that the world and its inhabitants come about without causes and conditions. Therefore, as long as you are a Buddhist, it is necessary to accept past and future rebirth.

For those who remember their past lives, rebirth is a clear experience. However, most ordinary beings forget their past lives as they go through the process of death, intermediate state and rebirth. As past and future rebirths are slightly obscure to them, we need to use evidence-based logic to prove past and future rebirths to them.

There are many different logical arguments given in the words of the Buddha and subsequent commentaries to prove the existence of past and future lives. In brief, they come down to four points: the logic that things are preceded by things of a similar type, the logic that things are preceded by a substantial cause, the logic that the mind has gained familiarity with things in the past, and the logic of having gained experience of things in the past.

Ultimately all these arguments are based on the idea that the nature of the mind, its clarity and awareness, must have clarity and awareness as its substantial cause. It cannot have any other entity such as an inanimate object as its substantial cause. This is self-evident. Through logical analysis we infer that a new stream of clarity and awareness cannot come about without causes or from unrelated causes. While we observe that mind cannot be produced in a laboratory, we also infer that nothing can eliminate the continuity of subtle clarity and awareness.

As far as I know, no modern psychologist, physicist, or neuroscientist has been able to observe or predict the production of mind either from matter or without cause.

              There are people who can remember their immediate past life or even many past lives, as well as being able to recognize places and relatives from those lives. This is not just something that happened in the past. Even today there are many people in the East and West, who can recall incidents and experiences from their past lives. Denying this is not an honest and impartial way of doing research, because it runs counter to this evidence. The Tibetan system of recognizing reincarnations is an authentic mode of investigation based on people’s recollection of their past lives.

How rebirth takes place

                There are two ways in which someone can take rebirth after death: rebirth under the sway of karma and destructive emotions and rebirth through the power of compassion and prayer. Regarding the first, due to ignorance negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life. We then take rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day-to-day lives. They familiarize themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence. On the other hand, superior Bodhisattvas, who have attained the path of seeing, are not reborn through the force of their karma and destructive emotions, but due to the power of their compassion for sentient beings and based on their prayers to benefit others. They are able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their future parents. Such a rebirth, which is solely for the benefit of others, is rebirth through the force of compassion and prayer.



(Translated from the original Tibetan)

Written by:  H.H. The 14th Dali Lama of Tibet


    In his post and lecture on literal reincarnation Mr. Warner goes to great lengths to be contemptuous of anyone, such as Deepak Chopra, who holds an opposite view from his concerning literal reincarnation, and suggesting of course that the only reason that Mr. Chopra holds these views is to milk money out of gullible Westerners who want to be told that they can live forever. The ignorance displayed by Mr. Warner as to an even a basic  understanding of the concept of reincarnation, the wheel of death and rebirth and the entire purpose of Buddhism in this one statement is so mind-boggling as cause  smoke to rise from  out my ears in utter amazement. I have read many things that Brad has written and at the least I have found him amusing and at the best sometimes quite erudite concerning the basic concepts of Zen and Buddhism.  Now I’m beginning to believe he has a ghostwriter somewhere who has been writing this stuff for him all these years.

     I was touched by Mr. Warner’s willingness to admit that the man who founded Soto Zen the guy we like to call Master Dogen, clearly taught reincarnation and rebirth and that his masterwork the “Shobogenzo” has people being reborn all over the place in it. Then of course Mr. Warner makes a long apology for Master Dogen, observing that after all he was just a poor ignorant Japanese monk living in the Middle Ages firmly set in the archaic beliefs of Buddhism and simply didn’t know no better.  He goes on from there to say that his own teacher Master Nishijima who spent his life translating the Shobognzo didn’t really believe in any of that stuff he just left it in his translation and didn’t edited it out in respect for this poor misguided monk from the Middle Ages, poor ignorant Dogen Zenjii.

   Perhaps one of the first things I should say is that Dogen was perhaps the greatest Buddhist scholar in the last  oh I don’t know thousand years. Having read not only his Shobognzo and his extensive record, and compared these to numerous sutras, not to mention perhaps the greatest work ever written in modern Buddhism, The Lamrim, by TsongKhapa, founder of the Gelug school. I am more than ready to say that even though he wrote 700 years ago Dogen, was a bit more of the scholar and probably a little bit more intelligent than Brad Warner. I’m sorry Brad but I’ve meet Dogen, at least in his words and his works. And your no Dogen.
     Now I would like to addressed the simple issue of whether or not a modern student of Zen can endure the ridicule of  people like Mr. Warner if they happen to believe in the traditional underpinnings of Buddhism as taught by both Buddha, Bodhidharma and of course Dogen.  My answer to this question is absolutely. Other than intellectual fashion there is absolutely nothing in the modern compendium of thought and or science that would prove or disprove the reality of literal reincarnation or rebirth.

      And as pointed out by  someone as humble as the Dalai Lama himself there are people who in fact remember past lives. This of course is antidotal proof and despite the numerous cases over the years were people have challenged folks who remember their past lives and so many times find that their memories are quite accurate Buddha didn’t ask you to believe anything on authority so neither will I.  If I were to tell you that several years ago while in deep meditation I had a waking vision of a  past life, or rather a past death, I wouldn’t expect you to believe me any more than I would expect you to believe the last ho I don’t know 2800 years of Buddhist teachings and sacred Scriptures.: Much less the founder of Soto Zen.

      Science tells us that there are natural laws that govern the universe I think one of the first two I was taught when I was a child was the conservation of matter and energy, this was followed by the fact that both matter and energy are more or less the same thing and constantly in a state of flux becoming one and then the other, and at for the last oh I don’t know 15 years modern physicists have also held to the conservation of information, that is to say nothing is ever lost it can change states but it’s never lost. Perhaps the clear mind is at its essence information? But then again I’m not asking you to believe modern scientist either, after all  they keep persisting in telling me that 97% of the universe is made out of something called dark matter and dark energy that we can’t detect it in any way except through its effect on things that we can detect.  I mean what’s more spooky and mystical than that. When Einstein proved that two electrons separated by an infinite amount of space remain connected in some way and when one was affected the other one was affected he call this spooky action at a distance, I mean even Einstein was kind of freaked out by this. But I don’t expect you to believe in that either, after all Mr. Warner says there’s no such thing as literal reincarnation, he makes a great argument for this which as far as I can tell is based solely on his own opinion which he pulled out of his nether regions.

        A way to bridge this gap between the unwillingness of modern people to believe in anything that Newton couldn’t weigh and measure, and past teachings by Buddhist masters was in fact achieved by that poor medieval monk Dogen. When he pointed out that you were going through death and rebirth every instant of your existence. He observed that the you that went to sleep last night is not the you that  woke up this morning, during the night change occurred. If I understand what he was talking about at all I think he was saying that as a Zen Buddhist we should probably be more concerned with what’s going on right where and when you are standing then what may or may not occur in the future. Death is certainly assured and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned it’s that reality doesn’t give a damn what you think it is.

        A modern Zen Buddhists can certainly reject the traditional Buddhist belief in the six realms of existence, while at the same time accepting modern physicists belief that it’s extremely possible that we live in a multi-verse where every possible variation of this universe is occurring simultaneously with this one after all that is science not mysticism. I’m perfectly aware that scientists can saw open your skull sticking electrodes in your brain  and give you what appears to be mystical or spiritual experiences. You can have a painting of a rice cake or you can have a rice cake but you can’t eat the painting.
    It is my belief that every now and then here and there the universe has a tendency to manifest itself as me and perhaps even you. I have no reason to prove this to you and I don’t really care if you believe it or not, but I believe that Buddhism its basic ethics and its basic purpose reflect what Buddha called being awake, perceiving things as they really are, that’s why I’m still a Buddhist and why I’m still trying to figure out that little section of the universe that I seem to find myself standing in from time to time.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Letter to the 1%

1. Dear racists, segregation, genocide and slavery simply never works, just ask Hitler or Pol Pot, or Jefferson Davis and General Lee. Go talk to South Africa and mention segregation.

 2. Dear would be dictators, in the end it just never works, ask Cesare, ask Mussolini ask Stalin, in the end they either kill you or simply watch as you die. Go to Mongolia and ask to see the great Kahn.

 3. Dear super rich who would enslave the majority while you glory in your treasures, in the end they just drag you out and cut off your head. Just ask the Royalty of France. Go have a chat with The Tsars of Russian or spend a day with Pablo Escobar.

 4. Dear politicians and rich who find “science “inconvenient, and simply say its untrue, just ask the people of Pompeii or the people of Easter island.

 5. Dear religious fanatics who think you can force everyone to follow your religion or kill them, it never works, just ask the Mayans and the Catholic Church. Find a Templar knight or visit the Ottoman Empire.

 6. To all those industrialist who think natural resources are never used up, go find a tree on Easter Island. Bring me some California gold, or a few million American bison.

7. Dear Fox News who think lies and fomenting hate and fear will yield power and control for your masters. Ask Himmler how he and the Nazi regime are doing today.

    Would all of you please stop wasting our time, its almost 2015 and we the human race have no desire to go extinct because of a few greedy, stupid people caught in the evil dreams of the past. Go back to the 12th century where you belong and let the rest of use build a future for the human race.
There simply is no place for you in the future.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Buddhism, Zen, .Religion, Philosophy or Nothing.

      For as long as I have practiced Buddhism there seems to be this ongoing argument about whether or not Buddhism and or Zen is a religion or a philosophy. In the last 30 years I have listened to Dharma talks given by Zen practitioners, Tibetan monks, and read dozens of articles and blogs and chat room posts on the subject of whether or not Buddhism and/or Zen is a religion or a philosophy. This question seems to prey upon the Western mind like some sort of rash that needs to be scratched and just won't go away. Frankly I've never been quite sure why so many of my fellow practitioners seem to be obsessed with declaring Buddhism in general and Zen in particular either a religion or a philosophy. It seems like in most Westerners minds a philosophy is more pristine, lacking in the contamination of superstition and outdated beliefs. Religion as a concept seems to be repugnant to many of the people in the 21st century who find their way to Zen in particular. Perhaps this is why so many Western thinkers feel free to rip off sections of the teachings, like mindfulness,  run out of the room with it clutched to their bosoms laughing maniacally and saying to themselves I've got the real center of this now I don't need all that baggage of the last 3000 years of Buddhism.  While others like to stir it in with their own brand of mysticism, usually having rebranded it, they begin to sell it on the street corner as some fresh new idea that just popped into their head because of their spiritual advancement and expertise.

    And so the argument rages as it has  almost from the very beginning of Buddhism,  there are many schools of Buddhism and there have been even more in the past,  and the reason for this is that everyone  has a different Buddhism and this is exactly  what the Buddha knew  was going to be the truth of what he had taught .  Paraphrasing his last words  to his followers  "I've given you everything I've got,  I'm old and I'm worn out,  and now it's up to you to work out your own salvation.  That's a paraphrase but more or less  his advice to the people that loved him  and followed him for years,  right before he died .

     Buddha never asked anyone to believe his teachings in fact   he was like a good salesman he said here try my product  it works  for you  then that's the truth  about Buddhism . Remembering of course  that Buddhism is an idea  more or less  developed  in the thousands of years since he died.  but still he had the forethought  to realize  that everyone  in the end  would have to find the truth on their own.

    The most commonly known illustration of this  is the day that the Buddha was  approached by some villagers  known as  the Kalamas.    Some of the villagers came to him and said that we've had these different teachers and different monks teaching  and each one of them tries to tear the other ones teachings down,  they all try to pull the other  teachers   teachings  apart  to show that their  false teachings .  I'm reminded of the time that Dogen  was approached about the validity of a certain Sutra  it seems like there were two versions floating around  one slightly longer than the other .  as a well-respected scholar of Buddhism he was asked which was the real version  of this Sutra , 's response was,  paraphrasing again ,  if a Zen master can enlighten you with a stick that makes it  the real stick.

    Buddha's response to the Kalamas was something like this :

“Do not believe in anything simply  because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it  is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because  it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything  merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in  traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But  after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with  reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then  accept it and live up to it."

      I've heard even the Dalai Lama  referred to Buddhism  as a nontheistic religion  and if you've ever practiced  with the Tibetans  you certainly can't miss the religious aspects of their teachings .  I've heard arguments  ad nausea  that Zen is different  is a different creature  all together  apples and oranges.   when you ask a Zen master is Zen is a religion or philosophy  you will probably give you a stern look  and tell you that Zen  is a way of being . That it is a state of mind.  One might even say that the Zen master would tell you that either you  or Zen is a tool  is up to you to figure out which . 

     Of course this obsessive need  to categorize  the practice of Zen   and  the middle way of Buddhism  is not an  irrational  desire,. after all we all like to know what that we  are doing.   That being said,  I would like to come back to the point  that Buddha made that  you have to work out your own salvation,  many people make  Zen and Buddhism a religion , and many people will fight you to the death,  verbally of course,  claiming it's a philosophy  which is of course much more reputable than religion.  I sometimes think  that the need  for religion  is genetic,  a safety mechanism  built into the human psyche  in order to cushion the fact  that we're all going to die and none of us has a clue  as to what happens  to the individual after that .  I think everyone feels helpless  and frustrated  by the fact that we have this wonderful sentient  mind and in just a few years  it appears it will simply  evaporate like a mist on a warm day . This is part of the Puzzle of being alive and knowing that someday soon you won't be. The end result of course of this puzzle is more often than not a deeply seated fear followed by an almost overwhelming need to believe in something that tells us this is not  so.

      At this point I would like to point out that Zen as a practice was created by people   who  considered  themselves to be Buddhist, and that Buddha himself  was a Hindu Holy man. He had a firm view of the nature of the universe and the world we live in.  Like most Hindus he took his world view as a given not speculation but  as a simple matter of fact.  In the 21st century especially among Westerners and particularly among  many  western  Zen practitioners  this worldview has either been rejected or  they are completely ignorant of it.  To put this as clearly as possible, or at least as clearly as possible for me, Buddha believed that all humans reside in the state of existence called samsara. The official definition of samsara that has developed over the  millennia is something like this:

                Saṃsāra (Sanskrit, Pali; also samsara) is a Buddhist term that literally means "continuous movement" and is commonly translated as "cyclic existence", "cycle of existence", etc. Within Buddhism, samsara is defined as the continual repetitive cycle of birth and death that arises from ordinary beings' grasping and fixating on a self and experiences. Specifically, samsara refers to the process of cycling through one rebirth after another within the six realms of existence,  where each realm can be understood as either a physical realm or a psychological state characterized by a particular type of suffering. Samsara arises out of avidya (ignorance) and is characterized by dukkha (suffering, anxiety, and dissatisfaction). In the Buddhist view, liberation from samsara is possible by following the Buddhist path.
         Some Buddhist simply call this a continuous cycle of  death and rebirth , and of course Westerners like to refer to this  by the handy name of reincarnation and Zen practitioners  just call it  rebirth,  if they call it anything at all . But the main point here   is that we are all  deluded  tricked by her own mind  into filtering out the real world  as it truly exists.   Buddhist teachings  basically say  that the world is filled with suffering  and that suffering  is caused by our own delusions .   My humble opinion  is that this obsessive need to classify  Buddhism and or Zen  is a wonderful example of what the Buddha was talking about.  
          Historically Buddhist cosmology typically identifies six realms of existence: gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hells.These realms can be understood both as psychological states and as aspects of Buddhist cosmology. we as modern Westerners of course cannot accept the possibility of this because were all scientific and stuff  and this is just obviously  primitive superstition .  I could point out  that modern scientists  have conjectured  that the multi-verse is composed  of every  possible alternative  universe.  they also say that 75% of the universe is made out of something we can't see  smell touch or feel  called dark matter  and dark energy. but of course they're not superstitious  because they are scientist .   And of course scientist cannot believe in rebirth   despite the fact  that they do believe in the conservation of both energy  and matter and information,  which just happens to be one of the fundamental truths that Buddha said  rose in his mind when he woke up.  Back in the day   Buddha summarized three great truths,  which Einstein laid later put into a formula.  matter and energy of the same thing  nothing is ever lost and you just happen to be made out of matter and energy  and that ego you call you  that mind that you think with and the DNA that supports it is basically  information.  Buddha taught  that everything was one ,  that everything was in constant flux  and that  nothing was ever lost. but of course he didn't have a mathematical formula  to back up his awakening  it was an experience  and an observation   an epiphany a  if you  well .  We of course as modern people  can't believe in a bunch of superstitious claptrap,  but we can believe the same thing if a group of physicists tells us it's true . 
        I once heard a very elderly Tibetan monk comment that he didn't understand why people would bother with Buddhism if they didn't believe in rebirth and karma.  At the time that seemed like a very refreshing statement since most of the people in the room didn't believe in either.  And I would point out that karma is basically the law of cause and effect " Another very scientific concept That Westerners all believe in  and take for granted  in all their daily lives and comings and goings."    Karma simply applies the law of cause and effect to the information that's gathered together and organized into you. Even the brightest  western people refuse to extend Cause-and-effect to their personal existence and place in the universe. It seems it would never occur to them that maybe the thing we call morality Is a natural law that pertains to them even if there is no Santa Claus or God enforcing it. Perhaps the modern Westerner should consider the fact that maybe the Things we call good and the things we call evil,  the things we call right and the things we call wrong might in fact reflect reality as it pertains to sentient beings.
    I myself have never been afraid of the word  spirituality After all I can always say that  my spiritual essence exists somewhere in the microtubules of my  brain  on a quantum level and feel really scientific. Nor am I afraid of the word religion despite the fact that more damage more harm and more mass murder has  been that done in the name of religion than probably any other concept in history.  My  Zen teacher told me many years ago that his Zen and my Zen were not the same Zen and never would be.  When he told me that, I thought he was bragging that he was enlightened and I never would be. It took me a while to realize what he was actually saying to me and that it was true.
      There's one thing that I'm absolutely sure of, and one thing only: Reality doesn't give a rats rear end what I think it is. My only task in Zen, and Buddhism for that matter ,  is to root out that little rascal we call reality and see things as they really are.  And if I ever accomplish that  then and only then I will be Awake.  Buddha said this would make me suffer less, The fewer delusions the less you suffer and frankly I believe this is true.
       I gave up  Vajrayāna  Buddhism And came to Zen because I've finally realized that some people may be able to think their way two awakening but I just didn't think I could. Bodhidharma  the father of Zen  taught that there were two  paths to awakening,  Through reason Or through practice. Look it up! I'm sure there are those that think he only taught that one could awaken by staring at the wall. But that is not true.
       Zen is not for everyone, neither is Buddhism, To some people  Zen and or Buddhism is a religion, To others it's a philosophy, to others it's nothing. Buddha knew this was true back when he was walking around India teaching the Dharma.  That's why he said try it and see if it works for you.  Just remember that you live in samsara, whether you like it or not,  and your samsara is going to be different from everyone else's just like your Zen.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Being an Old Man

       In 62 years I have been a child and I have been a man. I have been a soldier, seen, walked and dealt with death. I have been fear and hate and I have feared and been fearsome. I have run scared as fire and flaming steel rained down on me and my fellow soldiers. I have seen those I love die and watched as those who decades before tried to kill me come to my country and enjoy the freedoms my friends died for as if it was as free and natural as the air and the sun that warmed their faces. 

        I wake each morning In a world where innocent children die un named and those who kill them say they are the will and hand of God, I try to find purpose and reason but find only madness. I listen to a child with cancer, a politician who has grown rich selling hate and distrust and a mullah asking young men to blow themselves up to kill people neither of them know, all saying that they know God is with them. 

        When I sit and watch my mind as it struggles to make some sense of all this what I see is a mouse caught in a maze that has no exit, no beginning and no end. I ask myself if I made this maze or perhaps I am the maze. What wisdom is there to be had here? I was sure by now I would have at least a clue but alas I don’t. I know a billion people who say they have the answer, they have the key. These are the ones who seem the most deluded and do the most harm, where they walk the flowers wilt and only shadows follow them to their endings. But I still see beauty in the sunset, and laugh when babies smile. I think one day I will hear a song and it will be my song to sing. Perhaps one day we will all hear our song and dance out of the maze into a world with no questions or answers, just really good friends and lots of space to dance in.