Tuesday, November 29, 2011


"All extremism, fanaticism, and obscurantism come from a lack of security. A person who is secure cannot be an extremist."

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

It is good to reflect, what is security?  

It is certainly not merely economic security, especially not in the midst of the arising-passing impermanence of life-death. 

Lack of security is often another side of fear.

What is fear?

What is being no-fear? 

What is giving no-fear?

(c) 2011 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Control Part 3

Carrying the self forward and confirming the universe is delusion.

The political and social realm is often the self writ large. Therefore, the "carrying the self" as the basis of fixing and changing is delusion and attachment that results in suffering and harm on the so-called individual level and for the so-called larger body politic.

In the midst of beginningless greed, anger and delusion, in the midst of the ignorance of dualistic self-centeredness, fiddling with improving and fixing by changing the self, the individual self or self of larger political and social entities (all the varied self manifestations),  may be unskillful - unless our effort is in the midst of at-one-ment, unless it is in the midst of nondoing, nonthinking, it may be driven by reactive self-centeredness.

The use of the control of others is an interesting phenomenon, a counterpoint to various self-improvement enterprises.

It may be hard for us to appreciate that Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, to name a few of the most notorious of twentieth century political leaders, were all trying to fix problems in the lives of  their nation, to improve the lives of their people.

They attempted to use governmental control of others as the way to improve the lives of the people.

Unfortunately, they also believed that there were those who were not included as the people, as "their people", as "their nation."

The "not included" were based on ethnic and racial criteria, religious criteria, social and economic positions, and even intellectual and educational status. It might be the Aryans versus non-Aryan, workers versus the capitalists, or even the 99% versus the 1%.

And this exclusion, this dualism of "included" versus "not-included", has justified all sorts of evils done to those not included. The above noted political leaders were so sure of their own vision (as were many other leaders throughout history) of what was right that they were willing to do all sorts of harm and violence, we can say evil,  in their attempt to attain their vision, to justify their vision. And we know the results of that in killing and suffering in the twentieth century.

In the twenty first century this continues, with extremists on the political left and right who justify using governmental power (and extra-governmental means) to enforce their vision on others and justify their abuses of power in the name of their vision.

This is also found in a number of non-governmental extremist movements in different parts of the world. In general, these sorts of extremist movements justify terrorism against those who are excluded from "their people," who believe and live by political and social norms different than their own, or against those who are not willing to submit to their control.

A recent worldwide example of this is the various forms of Islamist extremists (especially in the Middle East, Africa and south Asia) who justify terrorism against those not included in "their people", those whom they often denigrate by calling them infidels. This is evident in conflict between Sunni vs Shia Muslims, or Muslims vs non-Muslims or simply attacks on those who by the Islamist's standards have "insulted" Islam or not-followed a particular form of Islamic rules.

When we do not see and manifest Shakyamuni Buddha's  "I and all beings of the great earth together attain the way" then we believe that dualistic self-centeredness is natural. For all of us this perpetuates suffering and harm. And when we act it out politically the results are increased suffering and harm.

to be continued...

(c) 2011 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Control Part 2

We may attempt to control what appears, disappears, what arises and passes.

Alternatively, we may attempt to control what we "do" with what arises, passes, the conditions and beings of life.

This "doing with" what arises includes noticing our reactions to what arises, and allowing that noticing to result in our practice effort, in appropriate and skillful response.

If we do not see the difference between these different "attempts to control",
if we confuse these different control attempts and treat them as if they were the same,
then we may be confusing self-centeredness and skillful action.  We may not be able to see what is ours to "do" and what is spinning off into dreams of delusion, attachment, greed and anger.

This confusion, especially if we are acting out of an attempt to control what arises, can result in all sorts of difficulties in life, difficulties in practice. Our efforts may further reinforce dualistic misperceptions and self-centered harm and suffering.

For more comments on this, see this audio talk:


Here is a Jewish perspective on this matter: "Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself." --- Elie Wiesel

(c) 2011 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Control Part 1 - you don't own me

This is an old song, a wonderful Dharma song:

"You don't own me, no,

I'm not one of your little toys.

...Don't tell me what to do,

Don't tell me what to say." 

As a reminder from time to time, as a practice support, we should sing this song to our life, to body - mind, to others, to circumstances; and they can all sing this to us.

To rephrase something Joko Beck taught, "Your life is not about you..."

"Your life is not your business."

Here is a related Dharma talk:


(c) 2011 Elihu Genmyo Smith