BUTTERFLY DREAM BUFFALO THUNDER
A graduate of Dickinson College, Stefan Schindler taught philosophy, psychology and religion for 40 years at institutions of higher learning, including The University of Pennsylvania, La Salle University, Berklee College of Music, The Boston Conservatory of Music, Dance and Theater, Salem State University, and the Boston and Brookline Centers for Adult Education. For six years, he also taught language and computer skills in a state-sponsored program for immigrants and the unemployed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Co-founder of The National Registry for Conscientious Objection, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a recipient of The Boston Baha’i Peace Award, and a Trustee of The Life Experience School and Peace Abbey, Dr. Schindler received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston College; worked one summer in a nature preserve; lived in a Zen temple for a year; did the pilot’s voice in a claymation video of St. Exupery’s The Little Prince; and acted in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. He has also performed as a musical poet in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City, with the world-beat jazz band The Psychic Pioneers.
He wrote The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Awards for Howard Zinn and John Lennon, and co-wrote the Courage of Conscience Awards for Ram Dass, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama. He has guest-lectured at Boston University and Brandeis University, and has written and recited poems for Peace Abbey celebrations of Martin Luther King and Noam Chomsky. He is now retired and living in Salem, Massachusetts.
Stefan is best known for his essays “The Tao of Teaching,” “A Brief History of Zen,” “The Transpersonal Revolution,” and his youtube lecture on “A Reawakening of Bicameral Mind.” He currently teaches courses on "Biblical Buddhism" and “Socrates and America on Trial” at Salem State University’s Lifelong Learning Institute. His YouTube musical videos include Ox Herding Searching and Butterfly Dream Buffalo Thunder. His poetry music CD is Coyote Chris and Don Stefan. His books include The Tao of Socrates: Eastern Wisdom and The Birth of Western Philosophy; America’s Indochina Holocaust: The History and Global Matrix of The Vietnam War; Discoursing with The Gods: The Art and Practice of Tarot Divination; and Space is Grace. His newest book, Buddha’s Political Philosophy, is scheduled for publication in late 2020 (or early 2021).
He has published essays in the journals College Teaching, Process Studies, Lies of Our Times, and Socialism and Democracy. While in Philadelphia, he published op-ed essays in The Philadelphia Enquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News. Stefan is a frequent contributor to the website Engaging Peace. He also writes for the website Political Animal Magazine.
Humans are walking question marks.
Philosophy is the journey from the love of wisdom to the wisdom of love.
Writing without passion is lifeless; writing without rigor is nonsense.
The Socratic soul is a partner in the quest; the Platonic soul is the wisdom sought.
Mono-polytheism is no more contradictory than the colors of a rainbow.
The flame of Eros is fanned by Thanatos.
Individual innocence is no protection against collective responsibility.
You can’t be a peace-maker if you’re walking around in a rage all the time.
The primary function of American education is to ignorate.
It is better to swim against the current than to be swept over the cliff.
SOARING TO FREEDOM
The active side of infinity is a tremor in the air.
Spirit’s intent, inviting us to dare to stretch our wings.
That’s why Chuang Tzu dreamed he was a butterfly.
Nietzsche quotes Pindar:
“Become who you are.” Then he
adds: "A dancing star!”
THREE BY NIETZSCHE
1. "Life without music would be a mistake."
2. "There is nothing more necessary than cheerfulness."
3. "Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."
in Toltec shamanism:
“The first precept of the rule is that everything that surrounds us is an unfathomable mystery. The second precept of the rule is that we must try to unravel these mysteries, but without ever hoping to
accomplish this. The third [precept] is that a warrior [on The Path
of Knowledge], aware of the unfathomable mystery that surrounds
him and aware of his duty to try to unravel it, takes his rightful place
among mysteries and regards himself as one.
Consequently, for a warrior [on The Path of Knowledge] there is no end to the mystery of being, whether being means being a pebble, or an ant, or oneself. That is a warrior’s humbleness. One is equal to everything.”
Carlos Castaneda, THE EAGLE'S GIFT
THREE BY NAGARJUNA
1. "Do not build fifty palaces, your highness.
After all, you can only be in one room at a time."
2. "Those who think the world is real are dumb as a cow.
Those who think the world is not real are even dumber."
3. "When you throw upon me all of your own faults, you are
like a man riding a horse who has forgotten where his horse is!"
WEB POSTED ESSAYS:
VIDEO OF LECTURE ON:
SONGS FROM THE CD COYOTE CHRIS & DON STEFAN:
GRECO-BUDDHIST NAVAJO MEDITATION
BUDDHA'S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
Appearing late 2020 or early '21
PATH TO THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM
"The demand to abandon illusions about our condition is a demand to abandon the conditions which require illusion." - Karl Marx, echoing Plato, Buddha, Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, Blake, and Meister Eckhart
The purpose of life is learning and service, and karma is the teacher. Karma teaches that Wisdom and Compassion are two names for the same.
Love is all you need on the magical mystery tour to enlightenment.
Behold Lucy in the sky with diamonds, graceful and serene.
I am you, you are me, and we all live in a yellow submarine.
Dear Prudence, won’t you join us for the dance?
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
BUD, BLOSSOM, BLOOM. See the path, walk the path, become the path.
THE CROSS AND THE BODHI TREE
The cross as a symbol of suffering parallels Buddha's first and second noble truths.
The cross as a symbol of redemptive awkening parallels Buddha's third and fourth noble truths.
Buddha's 1st noble truth: The unenlightened life is fraught with anxiety, sorrow, and suffering.
Buddha's 2nd noble truth: The cause of suffering is ignorance, manifest as misdirected and excessive desires.
Buddha's 3rd noble truth: Nirvana -- freedom from suffering -- is possible.
Buddha's 4th noble truth: The 8-Fold Path (to nirvana) -- Right thinking, speaking, intention, action, vocation, effort, concentration, and meditation.
BUDDHA AND THE LEAVES
Shakyamuni was sitting in the forest beneath a tree, in front of a small group of disciples. Shakyamuni picked up a handful of leaves, and asked – "Which is greater? The number of leaves in my hand, or the number of leaves in the forest?" The disciples replied – "There are more leaves in the forest." Shakyamuni then said – "Just so. What I know is more than what I have taught."
DREAMING -- In my dreams, I've met John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Seth, Jean-Paul Sartre, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Maurine Stuart Roshi (my first Zen teacher). I was gifted with a long dream about the entire history of Tibetan Buddhism. I've had many dreams about lions, tigers, leopards, and panthers. I've dreamt about a golden glowing buffalo standing next to a purple glowing buffalo. I've had two Solar Initiations on the dream plane: 1) Hit twice by lightning, then viewing a desert when a voice behind me said: "This is the wind that blew when Christ walked the earth." 2) Once flying into the sun on the back of a giant Horus the Hawk. I dreamt of Nietzsche's Will to Power, open at the middle, where the left page was written in Hebrew, and the right page was its transcription into musical notes. I woke up one morning to see a white leopard sitting on the end of my bed, staring at me, then fading into a cloud of photons. Once in "real" life, Lewis Randa and I were strolling the green pastures of The Peace Abbey. He stopped and said: "You know, Stefan, my life is more interesting than I am." I replied: "I know what you mean. My dreams are more interesting than my life."
THE YIN AND YANG OF DETACHMENT AND COMPASSION
The peacemaker’s path is a rhythm, a balance, a dialectic. Faced with the horrors of the postmodern world, it is necessary to refresh oneself daily with what Kierkegaard calls “infinite inwardness.” In Asian terms – Buddhism is a way of staying sane in a world gone mad, and a way of healing the madness. Detachment and a passion for compassion go together like Yin and Yang.
It's not a question of cultivating apathy, in any degree. It's a question of letting go, having faith, taking the time to put the world on hold to sink into the bliss-wisdom-grace of one's own enlightened heart, there to be nourished, strengthened, and refreshed, so as to return to the world with a passionate but equanimitous dedication to peace and justice.
Total freedom from suffering is a nirvanic ideal, and if we're lucky, we occasionally catch a fleeting glimpse of it; but striving for it is like a monkey trying to grasp the moon’s reflection in a pond. Buddha was a pragmatist. His path to equanimity – balancing compassion and detachment – is a Middle Way. For us, it’s a razor’s edge. And Socratic refreshment of the soul – Kierkegaard’s boundless faith in what Plato calls the Good, the True, and the Beautiful – can benefit from meditation, but just as easily be found in a walk in the park, a walk in the forest, a walk along the beach, baking bread, or pruning a garden.
You and I and so many others ... we're just Pilgrims on The Path, and it's OK to feel, really feel, sorrow, even anger, so long as we attempt to respond to those emotions with some degree of enlightenment. For us, a broken heart is an Opening Heart. Crucifixion leading to Resurrection. Not merely once or twice in a lifetime. Rather, the more informed one is, the more haunted life becomes by the tragic and absurd – all the unnecessary and ceaseless suffering humans cause other humans – and the crucifixion-resurrection rhythm becomes a part of every day, for decades.
Daily faced with the Chinese holocaust in Tibet, going on sixty years now, perhaps there is no more broken-hearted person in the world than the Dalai Lama, and yet, from the depths of that abyss he daily rises to teach peace and work for peace, with a smile and a sense of irony and humor, because in that same abyss he finds a measure of peace, where the finite is kissed by the infinite.
KARMIC ROOTS AND FRUITS
What we do to each other we do to ourselves.
What we do to animals we do to ourselves.
What we do to the planet we do to ourselves.
Buddha's political philosophy in a seashell.
Geist is the gusto in the spice of life.
Once, twice, thrice.
Shaman, healer, sage.
Turn the page of eternal return.
See the lily of the field, how it sprouts
from the strife of being and becoming.
The Pythian priestess
seeks to please Apollo’s steed
and stirs the soul
Go forth and tease those who think they know; and with your glowing
unknowing, stage the show
that might provoke
the sleepwalkers of Athens
to a greater and more lucid dream.
A WESTERN WALK TO SHAKYAMUNI
Aristotle says in his Metaphysics – “Even a man who is fond of myths is in a way a philosopher, since a myth is made up of wonders.” There might be some truth in this, inasmuch as Aristotle also says that “philosophy begins with wonder,” and insofar as the search for truth is a general definition of philosophy. Also, if we take a hint from Plato, we might be inclined to agree that a myth is a fantasy which contains a kernel of truth.
Now, in its colloquial sense, the phrase “made up” indicates something false, illusory, deceptive. But if we say instead that a myth is made of wonders, then we are strolling through a park beside Plato and Aristotle with what Nietzsche calls “ears behind the ears,” attuned to what Pythagoras calls “the music of the spheres.”
Such harmonies can be expressed in the language of mathematics, but they also ring with the mystic chords of poetry. For music is a kind of poetizing, and poetry is an imagistic language, much like a finger pointing to the moon.
You and I and Plato and Aristotle, strolling through a park as the sun sets, pause to gaze at the rising moon’s reflection in a pond, each of us perhaps pondering the maxim: “As above, so below.”
Now, Buddha was often called a lion among men. Yet, his most penetrating lion’s roar was his noble silence. And thus, listening to the soft whisper of the music of the stars, gazing upon the moon in the pond, we come to see that Pythagoras, Buddha and Socrates agree: Truth is in the silence between the notes.
I suggest that Mara is best understood as The Tempter, and that Buddha understood that Mara serves a pedagogical, karmic, and evolutionary function (in much the same way that Jung said "The Shadow is our friend," even if that seems paradoxical). To interpret Mara as "the devil" (with all the Western connotations of that term) is, I suggest, as misleading as calling fierce-looking Bodhisattvas "wrathful." Such Bodhisattva's have transcended wrath, and are to be called fierce rather than wrathful, because their ferocity is appropriate to their Loving Function as Dharma Protectors (Dharmapalas). Mara sets us up for temptation and disappointment in order to teach the lessons we still need to learn on The Path to Awakening. This is, as it were, a divine function, pragmatic and necessary, for which, in time, the enlightened sage expresses gratitude.
Note that stormy disagreements in a romantic relationship offer opportunities for learning about the immaturity of our expectations and the potent dangers of our projections.
As Joseph Campbell makes clear in his exposition of The Hero's Journey, every hero is tempted along The Way, facing dragons, obstacles, hardships and seductions, quintessentially exemplified in Homer’s Odyssey, and in the adventures of Arthurian knights in Quest of the Holy Grail. In sum, Mara is probably best thought of as Buddha's soul-brother. Buddha teaches. Mara tempts. But those temptations are teaching tools, in service to The Path to which Buddha points. Buddha says to Mara: “People give me the credit, and lay on you the blame. The wise, however, know that we are the same.”
To call Mara "devil" or "evil" is, I suggest, to completely miss what Buddha and Jung (and Campbell) well understood. It is to be trapped in the dualistic exclusivism – the separative thinking – which misses the dialectic, the paradoxical splendor, of The Middle Way.
UNDERSTANDING MARA, PART TWO
We noted in Part One – called simply “Understanding Mara” – that Mara is best thought of as The Tempter, rather than devil or evil. Mara performs a pragmatic and necessary function in the process of educational evolution (a process Buddhism calls Awakening). Accordingly, we also noted that Mara is very much like the Jungian notion of the Shadow, the “dark side of the self,” which sets us up for temptations and disappointments in order to teach us lessons we still need to learn on the path to what Jung calls Individuation (the maturation of desire, the maturation of freedom, which Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli, a contemporary of Freud and Jung, calls Psychosynthesis).
We then noted one of the most important lines in Jungian psychology – “The Shadow is our friend.” This is a paradox, not a contradiction. As Kierkegaard said – “Paradox is the passion of thought, and a thinker without paradox is like a lover without passion – a mediocre fellow.”
By putting temptations, challenges and obstacles in our path, Mara forces us to face the limits of our understanding, patience, perseverance, courage, compassion, humility, faith, and discipline. Buddhism calls these obstacles kleshas. Kleshas include fear, lust, and pride (the “three temptations” of Siddhartha beneath the bodhi tree), greed, hostility, and delusion (the “three poisons”), and sloth, envy, worry, and doubt.
We also noted that being tested is a quintessential factor in the tales of Arthurian knights in quest of the Holy Grail. For example, Parsifal, the only knight to succeed in the quest, spends five years in what T. S. Eliot calls The Wasteland, and spiritual literature in general calls The Dark Night of the Soul. We might here take note of the many tests confronting Odysseus on his twenty-year journey home to Ithaca (after the Greek army’s tragic triumph over Troy in The Trojan War to retrieve Queen Helen). During his long odyssey home to his wife Penelope, Odysseus loses his ship and his crew, and has to face the Cyclops and the Sirens, and is more than once both stranded and bewitched. He also visits the underworld – Hades, land of the dead – where he meets the hero Achilles, and Achilles says he would rather be a slave to a poor peasant on earth than forever be the subject of heroic songs in his honor, thereby illustrating (for the astute reader) one of Buddha’s most important teachings; namely, “life is precious, endowed with freedom and opportunity” – a life Achilles wasted in pursuit of fame and glory.
We also noted (though I’m here expanding a bit) that Siddhartha, Parsifal, and Odysseus exemplify what Joseph Campbell calls The Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey typically encompasses three stages, which Campbell calls Departure, Initiation, and Return. The Mara-Shadow archetype is a complementary force to the universal archetype of The Hero. The trials and temptations of the adept on The Path to Awakening occur most vividly during the Initiation stage. Hence Mara’s “three temptations” of Siddhartha during his night-long vigil beneath the bodhi tree, a vigil culminating in his nirvanic enlightenment “with the rise of the morning star” at dawn. That star is most likely Venus, symbolic of the Love and Compassion – maitri and karuna – which are integral to Buddha’s teaching of wisdom (bodhi or prajna). Thus also it is often said that “the two wings” of Buddhism – the twin pillars of Awakening – are Wisdom and Compassion (supplemented by upaya – “skillful means” – of which Buddha was a perfect practitioner, shaping his discourses to the needs and development of his audience).
Tangentially, it is worth noting what Campbell says of Judas. At the Last Supper, Jesus says – “To whomever I give the sop, he will betray me.” Campbell says: “Is that not a command?” Judas has to play the role of the Shadow-Mara archetype in The Passion Play, in order for that drama to reflect the human condition. Out of love and respect for the Christ, Judas did as he was told. He has been mistakenly blamed ever since, the symbolism of his role completely missed in a rigidly dualistic, simplistic, non-dialectical interpretation of The Passion Play’s reflection of the forces operating in our own psyches.
Now, let us imagine Buddha and Mara – whom we earlier called Soul Brothers – high on a cliff at sunset, while behind them is a spacious cave (symbolic of the Inward Journey, not unlike the Labyrinth in the tale of Theseus, where the Minotaur signifies the Mara-Shadow’s force and ferocity).
Buddha has prepared a campfire, and invited Mara to tea and dialogue. They pour each other a cup of tea, bowing gracefully before partaking, each respecting the other’s function in what might be called Buddhism’s Perpetual Passion Play. Buddha says to Mara: “People give me the credit, and lay on you the blame. The wise, however, know we are the same.”
PERCHANCE TO DREAM OF I AND THOU
Usually just a humble gawker,
sometimes a philosophic squawker,
riding my samadhi carpet to samadhiville,
having ingested, like Neo, the red pill,
I wander in wonders too sublime to tell,
chanting softly to the chimes
of a distant bell, knowing that
with Beauty all is well.
NIETZSCHE AND NIRVANA
THE PARADOX OF AGNOSTIC GNOSIS
If nirvana is communion
with the Buddha-Nature Dharma Circle
whose circumference is nowhere
and center is everywhere,
its joyful irony is found in the mirror
of Ubermenschean authenticity
in communion with the Cosmic Song
whose origin is nowhere
and echo is everywhere,
otherwise known as the Eternal Return
of the same in the dance of differece.