Horizon at Sandy Point

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When we die

“We are stardust; we are golden…” sang Joni Mitchell of the “child of god” heading to Woodstock, in her 1970 anthem

The quantum theory of consciousness now proposes
That the conscious energy of our minds
What we call the soul
Is unextinguished – and liberated - when the body dies.
Scientists Hameroff and Penrose present the hypothesis
That death is a threshold
That there is a quantum soul that exists after a body dies.
The immortal soul, they say, returns to the unconscious universe
When it is no longer sparking and singing in the cells of a living brain.

This certainty underlies the traditional practice
Encoded in the Tibetan Book of the Dead
Which is a text for guiding souls transiting from one plane of existence to others:
Prayer poetry for the liberation of souls
recited by dedicated mediators, meditating on their behalf.

The prayers gather momentum in the days before and immediately after death.
If death is unexpected, recite the passages for the “liberation by hearing” in the days that follow:
For hearing continues beyond the body.

O child of the universe, do not be afraid
For at the moment of dying, the pure heart
Is liberated to the great unconscious
What some call heaven
Others purgatory
And science calls the universe.

O child of the universe, do not fear
The compassionate ones
Who appear to help you on your way
Assembling at the time of your passing:
Your liberation is at hand
Abandon all thoughts of fear and terror
Recognise what you see now
Are projections of your own mind:
The light and the dark
Your wisdom and insecurity
Satisfactions, achievements, and your yearnings.

After death, the Tibetans claim, hearing is the sense retained
By the departing and wandering soul.
Hearing opens the way to the Great Liberation.
Hear and do not fear, O child of the universe:
The light beings of wisdom are benevolent;
The light beings of wrath and envy are not far behind.
Recognize all as projections of your own mind.
Stay relaxed in a state free from thinking.
At any moment, your liberation is possible
Just recognize the play of your own mind
In the luminous light path of pure wisdom
Ignoring the wrathful deities and contradictory manifestations;
The seductive and sensuous, the beautiful or bizarre;
Recognize all as projections of your own self,
And be instantaneously liberated.

It’s impossible not to be liberated, according to the Tibetan Book,
To the Pure Realm of Space:
In this state, after life in a physical body
The mind becomes astonishingly infinitely clear
Just hear, without disbelieving, to be liberated.

O child of the universe,
Liberation is at hand
When you realize that all life is Maya, an illusory state.
Moksha - liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth - is freedom
From ego-consciousness and karma.

O child of the Universe
Recognise who you are
Your true nature is not to be reborn.

None of this is consolation for loved ones left behind.
We too have a duty to the dying:
O child of the universe, do not be sad, do not weep
Do not cling to the departing lover
Do not hold her back with tears and pleading
Do not delay him with children or responsibilities
Sing them on their way with the reminder that
Liberation to the universe is certain.


The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambala Pocket Classics

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How we are racist

Trinidad and Tobago prides itself on being the most ethnically diverse nation in the world. Tolerance is one of our watchwords. We are remarkably harmonious in our interactions. We have perfected the art of getting along; and it's no artifice, we genuinely like each other. To be Trinbagonian is to be an amazing amalgam of Afro, Euro, Indo, Sino, Amerindo, Christian, Hindu, Orisha, Muslim ... We wear the garb of many continents. We enjoy all foods with equal relish. We are oriented from birth with an array of multi-lingual multi-cultural words, sensations and responses. We are curious about all tribes and appreciate differences. Our ability to discern roots, mixtures and bloodlines extends to fine shades of distinction, especially in skin colour: high brown, darkie, blue-black, yellow, brown, cream; hair texture: kinky, natty, straight, fine, naturally curly... . By and large, such knowledge which is innate in the average Trinbagonian is a source of enjoyment, amusement, even superiority over other nations.

However, the same enculturation provides us with the means to taunt, to undercut, to undermine the close-woven fabric of our harmony. We become savages with our tongues: picong we call it, or fatigue, or joke. Witness the current debacle over the expenditure on "roti," where the leader of our country is able to question, humble, demean not just the opposition, but the tribe, the perceived sector of roti-eaters and their partisans. Truth is that I - like all Trinbagonians - enjoy a good roti, it's not just part of our tradition, it is part of our diet. The tone, the taunts, the remarks, about roti, now sully all of us who take delight in the traditional style of eating, with our hands, off a leaf. It picks at long-healed scabs where roti in your lunch box was something you hid to eat. It marks and subliminally separates those who eat roti, those for whom Divali has special significance. More than that, it is deliberate, orchestrated, a politician's strategy.

The other side is no better in its racial stereotyping of the other's "outside children."

The defence might say: "but look, is true, they did spend that amount on (mere) roti," and we have already lost sight of the actual issues, overspending, waste, failures of accountability, behind base schoolyard heckling. Truth is bi-partisan politicians' platform agendas are seldom about cohesion to create the common good. And when the electioneering is over, winner takes all, the slurs remain. It's hard to remember what the way forward together might be when what you are feeling is victory over the other, or the hurt of the taunt.