Praying to One’s Self

April 17th, 2014

A friend recently asked if I ever prayed for anything. My response was yes, but not in the conventional way. I don’t pray for intervention in the world, but for intervention in my mind, for that’s where I most need help.

We usually think of prayer as an appeal to some higher power. We might pray for someone’s healing, for success in some venture, for a better life, or for guidance on some challenging issue. Behind such prayers is the recognition that we don’t have the power to change things ourselves—if we did, we would simply get on with the task—so we beseech a higher power to intervene on our behalf.

Trying to change the world occupies much of our time and attention. We want the possessions, opportunities, or experiences that we think will make us happy—or conversely, avoid those that will make us suffer. We believe that if only things were different we would finally be at peace.

This is the ego’s way of thinking. It is founded on the belief that how we feel inside depends upon our circumstances. And if things aren’t the way we think they should be, we start to feel discontent. This can take various forms—disappointment, frustration, annoyance, impatience, judgment, grievance—yet whatever its form, the root of our discontent lies not so much in the situation at hand, but more in how we interpret it.

For example, if I am stuck in a traffic jam, I can see it either as something that will make me suffer—being late for an appointment, missing some experience, or upsetting someone—and so begin to feel impatient, frustrated, or anxious. Or I can see it as an opportunity to relax, and take it easy for a few minutes. The same situation; two totally different reactions. And the difference is purely in how I am seeing things.

When I catch myself feeling upset in some way, I find it helpful to remember that my annoyance might be coming from the way I am interpreting the situation. If so, it makes more sense to ask, not for a change in the world, but for a change in my perception.

So that is what I pray for. I settle into a quiet state, then ask, with an attitude of innocent curiosity: “Could there, perhaps, be another way of seeing this?” I don’t try to answer the question myself, for that would doubtless activate the ego-mind, which loves to try and work things out for me. So I simply pose the question. Let it go. And wait.

Often a new way of seeing then dawns on me. It does not come as a verbal answer, but as an actual shift in perception. I find myself seeing the situation in a new way.

One memorable shift happened a while ago when I was having some challenges with my partner. She was not behaving the way I thought she should. (How many of us have not felt that at times?) After a couple of days of strained relationship, I decided to pray in this way, just gently inquiring if there might possibly be another way of perceiving this.

Almost immediately, I found myself seeing her in a very different light. Here was another human being, with her own history and her own needs, struggling to navigate a difficult situation. Suddenly everything changed. I felt compassion for her rather than animosity, understanding rather than judgment. I realized that for the last two days I had been out of love; but now the love had returned.

The results of praying like this never cease to impress me. I find my fears and grievances dropping away. In their place is a sense of ease. Whoever or whatever was troubling me, I now see through more loving and compassionate eyes. Moreover, the new perspective often seems so obvious: Why hadn’t I seen this before?

The beauty of this approach is that I am not praying to some external power. I am praying to my self for guidance—to the true self that sees things as they are without the overlay of various hopes and fears. It recognizes when I have become caught in the ego’s way of thinking, and is ever-willing to help set me free.


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Not Resisting Resistance

October 2nd, 2013

The building where I used to run a meditation group was on the same street as a fire station. One could almost guarantee that sometime during the meditation a fire engine would come rushing past, sirens wailing. Not surprisingly, people would afterwards complain. “How could I meditate with that noise?”

How often have we felt something similar? There’s an unspoken assumption that the mind can only become quiet if the world around is quiet. We imagine the ideal meditation setting to be somewhere far from the madding crowd — a retreat deep in a forest, a peaceful chapel, or the quiet of one’s own bedroom, perhaps. It is much harder for the mind to settle down in a noisy environment. Or is it?

I suggested to the group that the next time a fire engine came blasting by they look within and explore whether the sound really was that disturbing? After the following meditation, a woman reported how the noise no longer seemed a problem. It was there, but it didn’t disturb her. The disturbance, she realized, came not from the sound itself, but from wishing it weren’t there.

This was the essence of Buddha’s realization 2,500 years ago. We all experience what he called dukkha, conventionally translated as “suffering.” In Pali, the language of Buddha’s time, dukkha is the negation of the word sukha, meaning “at ease.” So dukkha might also be translated as not-at-ease, or discontent — an experience we all can relate to.

The root meanings of these words add further insight. Sukha stems from su (good)-kha (hole), and generally referred to a good axle hole in the wheel of a cart. The wheel was a great technological boon of the time, and whether or not it ran smoothly around its axle would have been a primary concern for both comfort and efficiency. Conversely, the root of dukkha is duh (bad)-kha (hole). There is resistance to the smooth running of the wheel, leading to friction and discomfort.

Similarly with the mind. When we accept things as they are, “go with the flow,” there is ease — sukha. This is our natural state of mind — content and relaxed. Dukkha arises when we resist our experience. Our natural state of ease becomes veiled by a self-created discontent.

Thus, as Buddha and numerous other teachers have pointed out, we can return to a more peaceful state of mind by letting go of our attachments as to how our experience ought to be and accept it as it is.

Upon hearing this, people often ask: Does this mean I should accept injustice and cruelty, the homeless sleeping on the streets, or the recalcitrant attitude of my partner? Of course not. There are numerous situations that we should not tolerate, and each of us, in our own way, will be called to do what we can to improve things.

“Accepting our experience as it is,” means just that; accepting our experience in the moment. If we are feeling frustrated, angry, or indignant, accept that feeling. Don’t resist it, or wish it weren’t there; but let it in, become interested in how it feels.

Even more valuably, we can explore the resistance itself. It can be quite subtle, and not easily noticed at first. I find it useful to simply pause and ask: “Is there any sense of resistance that I am not noticing?” And gently wait. I may then become aware of some resentment or aversion towards my experience, or sometimes a faint sense of tension or contraction in my being. Then rather than focusing on whatever I may have been resisting, I turn my attention to the resistance itself, opening to this aspect of “what is.”

Rather than dividing experience into two parts — the experience in the moment, and thoughts and feelings about that experience — any resistance is now included as part of the present moment. Not resisting the resistance, the veil of discontent dissolves, and I return to a more relaxed, easeful state of mind.

That is what is meant by a quiet mind. Not an empty mind. We are aware of the world just as before. Aware of sounds, sensations, thoughts and feelings. We are simply allowing our experience to be as it is. Not wishing for something different, not creating unnecessary discontent.

So when you find something seeming to disturb your inner quiet — whether it be a friend’s behavior, some politician on TV or a passing fire engine — pause and notice what is happening inside. See if there is any sense of resistance to your experience. If so, open up to the experience of resisting; be curious as to what is going on and how it feels. Include this part of the present moment in your awareness, and you may well discover that you can be at ease in situations where you before you would have suffered.


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Big Boat, Big Brother

July 31st, 2013

I recently took a cruise, the first one in my life. It’s never been something I particularly aspired to, but I was invited to give the keynote at a conference being held on a cruise, so found myself with the opportunity to experience this aspect of our culture.

It turned out to be the largest cruise ship in the world, The Oasis of the Seas, a 17-deck, mini-city, with 6,300 passengers and 2,300 crew. A floating entertainment, eating, drinking, sports, gambling, shopping palace. Five-star samsara.

You can get a sense of how big it is by looking at the size of the people alongside the ship…

oasisHaiti

I can’t imagine its ecological footprint. But I doubt many there actually cared; they were having too much fun.

I was fascinated by how every little detail was taken care of, down to the glass plaque in the elevator floors reminding you what day of the week it was.

One thing in particular caught my attention. Cruise photographers roamed the ship taking pictures of guests at events, having dinner, partying. Later you could go to a touch screen, enter your cabin number and see all the photos taken of you. You could then compile them into a DVD for yourself (for a nice price, of course). The photographers never asked your name, or cabin number. But they did not need to. Before you embarked, a photo of you was taken for ID, and stored in the central computer. Face recognition software then made it easy to automatically match your picture with your name.

The cruise took place at the same time as Ed Snowden was hitting the headlines. And the two came together in my mind, as I thought about the state of surveillance a few years hence.

Face recognition software is improving dramatically, and will soon be able to recognize almost anyone’s mug shot out of billions – not just the few thousand on a cruise. Already some people are not putting an image of their face on Facebook for fear that software may recognize them in other situations. But don’t think that will protect you from the NSA; anyone with a photo ID, e.g. a driving license, is already in the system.

Sometime, not long from now, your face may appear on a CCTV feed. You may just be innocently walking down a street, but anyone wanting more information could instantly pull up your name, date of birth, address, social security number, other places you’ve been sighted. By that time, various databases may be more integrated giving access to your IRS records, telephone and email records, web history, political affiliations, etc.. Anything that is “on record.”

Moreover, don’t feel safe for now because we are not at that point yet. The NSA may not be able to analyze all the data they are collecting at the moment. However, as computing power continues its relentless exponential growth, data-mining will reach the point where they will be able to reach back into the past and process the information being gathered now. And those unbreakable encryptions you feel safe behind today may be crackable in the future.

Whether we like it or not, this is the direction the technology is going, and judging from recent government responses, is not going to stop. Big Brother is here and growing fast.

The moral of this unfolding story? Beware. Be very aware.


Ironically, I write this as the conviction of Bradley Manning sets a legal precedent for the release of information on the Internet being classified as espionage. And I thought they were the ones spying on us.


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Effortless Meditation

February 27th, 2013

You may be surprised to hear that meditation should be effortless, that no striving or concentration is needed. I know I was. When I first became interested in meditation, back in the mid-sixties, I was repeatedly told that it took great mental discipline and many years of practice. Indian teachers had likened the mind to a wagonload of restless monkeys that needed to be tied down and kept quiet.

And my experience appeared to confirm it. My mind was full of thoughts, and try as I may, I could not keep them at bay. Like many others, I naturally assumed that I was not trying hard enough; I needed greater mental discipline, not less.

Then I chanced upon Transcendental Meditation. Its teacher, the Maharishi of Beatles fame, challenged the whole notion of trying to control the mind. The monkeys, he pointed out, were wanting something–more bananas perhaps. Give them what they want and they will settle down of their own accord. So with the mind; it is restless because we are seeking something. And what is it we are seeking? In the final analysis, we all want to feel better–to be happier, more at peace, at ease, fulfilled, content. He argued that if we give the mind a taste of the inner contentment it is looking for, it will be attracted to it and begin to settle down of its own accord.

This made more sense to me than what I’d come across so far, so I learned his practice. And it worked. I found my mind becoming quiet without any effort. Indeed, as soon as I inadvertently started trying to control the process, in the hope that I could somehow help my meditation along, it did not work so well.

Now I am not suggesting that this applies to every type of meditation. Techniques designed to cultivate particular mental skills or states of mind, may well involve a degree of concentration or mental discipline. But when it comes to the basic skill of relaxing into a quieter state of mind, effort generally turns out to be counter-productive.

A quiet mind is not a state of mind to be achieved. It is the state we experience when there is nothing to be achieved. It is the mind in its natural condition, untarnished by fears and desires, and the thoughts they create. When everything is OK in our world, we feel OK inside; we are at ease.
Or rather, that is the way it should be. Yet, even when all our physical needs are met, and there is no immediate threat or danger, we seldom feel totally at ease. More often than not, the very opposite. Leave us with nothing to do, and most of us start getting bored. If someone upsets us, we may hold a grievance days, weeks, or even years later. Or we may spend hours worrying about situations that could occur, but seldom do.

Along with such feelings come an almost endless procession of thoughts. Most of them boil down to worries about how we can be more content; yet, ironically, a worried mind is, by definition, discontent. This is the sad joke about human beings. We are so busy worrying whether or not we are going to be at peace in the future, we don’t give ourselves the chance to be at peace in the present.

Given how easily such thoughts spring up, it is easy to assume they must be subdued and controlled. But that approach stems from the same belief that created them–the belief that we need to be in control of things in order to feel at ease.

Thus the advice that occurs repeatedly in a variety of meditation traditions is:

  1. When you realize you have been caught in a thought, accept the fact. Don’t judge or blame yourself. It happens, even to the most experienced meditators.
  2. Instead of following the thought, as you might in normal life, gently shift your attention back to some experience in the present moment. In TM that may be the thought of a mantra, in mindfullness the sensation of the breath, or in other practices perhaps a visual image, or a feeling of love.
  3. Let the attention rest in that experience. Don’t try to concentrate or hold it there. Ah yes, you will be sure to wander off again. But the practice is not so much learning how to stay present, but how to return to the present. If you wander off a hundred times, that is a hundred opportunities to practice gently returning your attention to the present.

Even then, trying and effort can arise in subtle ways. Maybe if I just added this or focused on that, it would be easier. Some of it is so subtle that we don’t even notice we are doing it. A faint resistance to an experience perhaps. Even a slight wanting to have a good meditation can get in the way.

Over my forty years of teaching meditation, I have found the greatest challenge for students is to let go of all effort. They can’t quite believe that they really do not need to try at all. Sometimes, even the most experienced meditators, with years of practice, may still put a slight effort or control into their practice. Once they let go completely they begin to appreciate how effortless it can be, and find themselves dropping even more easily into a state of inner silence.

Recently, I’ve been exploring ways to weed out and dissolve even the subtlest levels of wanting, effort, and expectation in meditation. Encouraged by the enthusiastic response these new approaches have received from both complete beginners and people with many years of practice, I am now making them more widely available online at http://www.peterrussell.com/meditate.


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The Paradox of Free Will

July 24th, 2012

One of my earliest ventures into philosophy, back in high school, concerned the question of “free will versus determinism.” If the world unfolds according to fixed laws, then everything that happens is determined by events that have gone before. Since our brains are part of this world, their state is also determined by preceding events. Hence, so are our thoughts and experiences, and, most significantly, the decisions we make.   On the other hand, we all experience making choices from small things like what to eat, to bigger issues like career and marriage.   We live our lives on the assumption that we do indeed have free will. The two views seem incompatible. Hence the paradox. And the question: Which is right?

I suspect most of you will have pondered this question at some time or other. Many may have landed on the free will side of the conundrum, believing that we do make choices of our own volition. Some on the other side, believing that free will is an illusion. Others, seeing validity in both sides of the paradox, may remain baffled or uncertain.

Over the years I have revisited this paradox many times. In my mid-twenties I wrote a magazine article entitled “And the Opposite is Also True.”   There I argued that it was not a question of whether free will or determinism was correct. I postulated that they were like two sides of a coin; two very different perspectives of the same reality. From one perspective determinism is true; from the other free will is true. But as to what these two complementary perspectives might be, I wasn’t clear.

Then last year, in one of those moments of insight, it all fell into place. I realized that the two fundamentally different perspectives stemmed from two fundamentally different states of consciousness.

But before I explain how this may resolve the paradox, we should first go a little deeper into the evidence for both “determinism” and “free will”.

The Evidence

Determinism, in its original form, holds that the future is determined by the present state of affairs. But this does not imply that the future is fully predictable. For a start, we could never know the present state of affairs in sufficient detail to calculate the future precisely. Even if we could, chaos theory shows that even the slightest uncertainty in the current conditions can, on occasions, lead to wildly different outcomes. Quantum theory added its own challenge to strict determinism, showing that events at the atomic level can be truly random. Today, scientists and philosophers alike accept that the future is neither predictable nor predetermined.  

But even though the future may not be fixed in a classical sense, this does not necessarily give us free will. The activity in our brain is still determined by preceeding events—some random, some not—and so are our experiences, including our apparent experience of free choice.

In recent years, neuroscience has found interesting evidence to support this conclusion. In one oft-quoted experiment, subjects were asked to make a flick of their wrist at a time of their own choosing, and to note the position of the second hand of a clock at the moment of choosing. However, simultaneous recordings of the subjects’ brain activity showed that preparations for movement were occurring about half a second before the conscious decision to move.

Subsequent experiments have confirmed these findings. Scientists have been able to detect associated brain activity occurring as much as a second or more in advance of the conscious experience of making a choice. They conclude that our decisions are being driven by unconscious brain activity, not by conscious choice. But when the decision reaches conscious awareness, we experience having made a choice.  

From this perspective, the apparent freedom of choice lies in our not knowing what the outcome will be. Take, for example, the common process of choosing what to eat in a restaurant. I first eliminate dishes I don’t like, or ones I ate recently, narrowing down to a few that attract me. I then decide on one of these according to various other factors—nutritional value, favorite tastes, what I feel my body needs, etc. It feels like I am making a free choice, but the decision I come to is predetermined by current circumstances and past experience. However, because I do not know the outcome of the decision-making process until it appears in my mind, I feel that I have made a free choice.

Yet, the other side of the conundrum persists. The experience of making choices of our own volition is very real. And we live our lives on the assumption that we are making decisions of our own free will, and directing our own future. It is virtually impossible not to.

A Self that Chooses?

Implicit in the notion of choice is the existence of a “chooser”—an independent self that is an active agent in the process. This, too, fits with our experience. There seems to be an “I” that is perceiving the world, making assessments and decisions, and making its own choices. This “I” feels it has chosen the dish from the menu.

The experience of an individual self is so intrinsic to our lives that we seldom doubt its veracity. But does it really exist in is own right? Two lines of research suggest not.  

Neuroscientists find no evidence of an individual self located somewhere in the brain. Instead they propose that what we call “I” is but a mental construct derived from bodily experience. We draw a distinction between “me” and “not me” and create a sense of self for the “me” part. From a biological point of view, this distinction is most valuable. Taking care of the needs of this self, is taking care of our physical needs. We seek whatever promotes our well-being and avoid those that threaten it.

The second, very different, line of research involves the exploration of subjective experience. People who have delved into the nature of the actual experience of self have discovered that the closer they examine this sense of “I” , the more it seems to dissolve. Time and again they find there is no independent self. There are thoughts of “I”, but no “I” that is thinking them.  

They find that what we take to be a sense of an omnipresent “I” is simply consciousness itself. There is no separate experiencer; there is simply a quality of being, a sense of presence, an awareness that is always there whatever our experience. They conclude that what we experience to be an independent self is a construct in the mind—very real in its appearance but of no intrinsic substance. It, like the choices it appears to make, is a consequence of processes in the brain. It has no free will of its own.  

Complementary Perspectives

Nevertheless—and this is critical for resolving the paradox—in our everyday state of consciousness, the sense of self is very real. It is who we are. Although this “I” may be part of the brain’s model of reality, it is nevertheless intimately involved in the making of decisions, weighing up the pros and cons, coming to conclusions, choosing what to do and when to do it. So in the state where the self is real, we do experience our selves making choices. And those choices are experienced as being of our own volition. Here, free will is real.  

On the other hand, in what is often called the “liberated” or “fully-awake” state of consciousness, in which one no longer identifies with the constructed sense of self, the thought of “I” is seen as just another experience arising in the mind. And so is the experience of choosing. It is all witnessed as a seamless whole unfolding before one.

When I appreciated the complementary nature of these two states of consciousness the paradox dissolved for me. Whether or not we experience free will depends on the state from which we are experiencing the world. In one state of consciousness there is free will. In the other, it has no reality.  

Free will and determinism are no longer paradoxical in the sense of being mutually exclusive. Both are correct, depending upon the consciousness from which they are considered. The paradox only appears when we consider both sides from the same state of consciousness, i.e, the everyday waking state.

I like to illustrate this with Hamlet pondering the question of “To be or not to be?” The character in the play is making a choice. And if we have not seen the play before, we may wonder which way he will choose. This is the thrill of the play, to be engaged in it, moved by it, absorbed in its reality with all its twists and turns. However, we also know that how the play unfolds was determined long ago by William Shakespeare. So, we have two complementary ways of viewing the play. At times we may choose to live fully in the drama. Other times we may step back to admire his creative genius.  

So in life. We can be engaged in the drama, experiencing free will, making choices that affect our futures. Or we can step back and be a witness to this amazing play of life unfolding before us. Both are true within their respective frameworks.

A Will Free of Ego

Although, in the liberated state of mind, there may be no free will in the sense in which we normally think of it, there is instead a newfound freedom far more fulfilling and enriching than the freedom of choice to which we cling.  

The will of the individual self is focused on survival. Its foundation is the survival of the organism, fulfilling our bodily needs, avoiding danger or anything that threatens our well-being. In other words, keeping us alive and well, fending of the inevitability of death as long as possible. Added to this are various psychological and social needs. We want to feel safe and secure, to be feel stimulated and fulfilled, to be respected and appreciated. We believe that if we can just get the world to be way want it—and here the world includes other people—then we will be happy.  

In the liberated state, the ego no longer drives our thinking and behavior. When it drops away we discover that the ease and safety we had been seeking are already there; they are qualities of our true nature. But it is the nature of the ego to plan and worry, to seek the things it wants, avoid the things it doesn’t want. In so doing creates it tension and resistance, which veils our true nature, hiding from us the very peace of mind that we are seeking.  

The life-changing discovery of the liberated mind is that it is already at peace. Nothing needs to be done, nothing needs to happen, nothing needs to change in order to experience peace. There may still be much to do in the world; helping others, resolving injustices, taking care of our environment, etc.. But we are free from the dictates of the ego; we are free to respond according to needs of the situation at hand rather than what the ego wants. Here our will is truly free.  


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What is Wisdom?

June 1st, 2012

Humanity is too clever to survive without wisdom. — E.F Schumacher

What is wisdom? We hear the word a lot these days—the need for wisdom, the wisdom traditions, wisdom schools. We each would like to have more wisdom. And for others to have it as well. Too much human hurt and suffering comes from lack of wisdom. But what is this quality that we hold in such high regard?

Most of us are familiar with the progression from data to information to knowledge:

  • Data are the raw facts; the letters on a page, for example.
  • Information comes from the patterns and structure of the data. Random letters provide little Information; but if they spell words and the words create sentences, they carry information and meaning.
  • Knowledge comes from generalizations in the information. We build up understandings about the world, ourselves, and other people.

Wisdom concerns how we use our knowledge. Its essence is discernment. Discernment of right from wrong. Helpful from harmful. Truth from delusion.

We may, for example, come to understand that deep down each of us wants to be loved and appreciated. But do we then use that knowledge to manipulate others for our own ends? Or do we use it for the benefit of all, considering how to respond to a situation in ways that are truly caring?

At present, humanity has vast amounts of knowledge, but still very little wisdom. Buckminster Fuller called this time our final evolutionary exam. Is our species fit to survive? Do we have the wisdom that will allow us to use our prodigious powers for our own good, and for that of many generations to come?

It is a common perception that wisdom comes with age. The wise ones have learned from experience that there is more to life than acquiring wealth and fame. They know that love and friendship count for more than what others think of them. They are generally kind, content in themselves. able to discern their true self-interest.

But why wait until old age? In an ideal world we would finish school not only with sufficient knowledge for the life ahead, but also with the wisdom of how to use that knowledge.

The question then naturally arises: How can we develop wisdom? It turns out that the wisdom we seek is already there, at the heart of our being. Deep inside, we know right from wrong; this discernment is an intrinsic part of being human. But the quiet voice of this inner knowing is usually obscured by our busy thinking minds, forever trying to help us get the things we believe will bring us peace and happiness and avoid those that will bring pain and suffering.

So the real question is: How can we allow the inner light of our innate wisdom to shine through into daily awareness and guide is in our decisions? And that, as many have discovered time and again, comes not from doing more, but from doing less.

See also: Letting Go of Doing  |  There is No Such Thing as Ego  |  The Path of No Path


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Where Did Language Come From?

January 6th, 2012

It is commonly assumed that modern languages evolved from grunts and groans into the complex forms we know today. Over the eons, vocabulary expanded and grammatical structures became increasingly more organized. Yet the history of modern language points towards the very opposite. The complex grammatical structure of language tends to decays over time.

English is the newest of the modern languages. It emerged some 800 years ago after the Norman invasion of Britain, a synthesis of French and Anglo Saxon, with its primarily German roots. In French, nouns have gender, either masculine and feminine. In German nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. But in English nouns have lost their gender (apart from a few exceptions such as ships being referred to as “she”.

Similarly the grammatical case of nouns has been lost in English. In German nouns have four cases: nominative (subject), accusative (object), dative (indirect object), and genitive (possessive). We do still have these cases in pronouns: who, whom; they, them; she, her. But otherwise nouns don’t change their spelling according to case.

If we go back even further to ancient Greek, we find five cases. And in Latin there were six cases. Going back even further to Sanskrit, which is considered to be the root of Indo-European languages, we find 8 cases. The older the language, the more cases there were.

We see a similar trend with verbs. In French and German verbs change their endings according to the person—first, second or third person, singular or plural—e.g nous arrivons, vous arrivez, ils arrivent. And the same happens in German, ancient Greek, Latin and Sanskrit. There are remnants of this in English where we add an “s” for the third person singular—she comes—but other than that verb endings don’t change. Except in irregular verbs such as “to be” – I am, you are, she is.

In short, grammatical structure appears to decline over time, losing a lot of its complex rules and decaying into simpler and simpler forms. Left to human beings and the passage of time, language does not evolve into more and more complex forms; the evidence suggests the exact opposite. The most complex grammatical rules are in the oldest known languages.

So the question is: How did these complex grammatical structures arise? Where did the eight cases of nouns in Sanskrit come from? Or the variety of verb endings?

I have posed this question to various linguists, historians, and intellectuals of various persuasions, but no one has been able to give me a satisfactory answer.

Some schools of Indian philosophy maintain that Sanskrit was divinely inspired. And there might possibly be some truth in this. Erich von Däniken and others believe that thousands of years ago humanity was visited by ETs, who appeared as gods to the people of the time. He proposes that they interbred with human beings, jump starting civilization. However, as we now begin to map our genome and those of related species, we find no evidence of any such intervention; there are no sudden gaps or intrusions of new genes.

On the other hand, when we consider the origin of modern languages there does indeed seem to be a gap, a missing link. Could it be that visiting ETs noticed we were beginning to use language, and decided the time was right to introduce to us a sophisticated language with a complex grammar. If so, and if we ever do come in contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, we may do well to try communicating with them in Sanskrit rather the modern English into which it has devolved.


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The Self – video

December 12th, 2011

New cool video created by deaddrum1, sampling audio by Peter Russell on the Self. with added music and images.


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Touching Essence

November 20th, 2011

Letting go of the obstacles to knowing our true nature. Talk at Unity of Davis, Sept 2011.

Listen to mp3


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Forgiveness Meditation

November 20th, 2011

I was asked to create this for the 10-yr remembrance of 9/11. But it is also valid for forgiveness in general.

Listen on Meditation page


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