Thursday, July 7, 2016

Wandering: "Achilles' Last Stand" (Led Zeppelin)

Ironman KMSA; Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
The Triumph of the ancient Greek hero Achilles in Corfu Achilleion (wiki)

Ironman KMSA This is my favorite band and song, "Achilles' Last Stand," by the British rock group Led Zeppelin, the opening track from their 1976 album Presence. It was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at Page's house in Malibu, California where they stayed for a month while Plant recovered from a serious car accident he had in Greece in 1975. The song was then recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany.

Lyrics: "Achilles' Last Stand"
Jimmy Page, Robert Plant (
Achilles in battle with Hector with the help of the Goddess Athena (bernicekahay)
Presence album cover
It was an April morning when they told us we should go
As I turned to you, you smiled at me, how could we say no?

With all the fun to have, to live the dreams we've always had
Oh, the songs to sing, when we at last return again

Sending off a glancing kiss to those who claim they know
Below the streets that steam and hiss, the devil's in his hole

Oh to sail away to sandy lands and other days
Oh to touch the dream hides inside and never seen.

Into the sun the south the north, at last the birds have flown
The shackles of commitment fell in pieces on the ground

Oh to ride the wind, to tread the air above the din
Oh to laugh aloud, dancing as we fought the crowd

To seek the man whose pointing hand, the giant step unfolds
With guidance from the curving path that churns up into stone

If one bell should ring in celebration for a king
So fast the heart should beat as proud the head with heavy feet

Days went by when you and I bathed in eternal summer's glow
As far away and distant our mutual child did grow

Oh the sweet refrain soothes the soul and calms the pain
Oh Albion remains sleeping now to rise again

Wandering and wandering, what place to rest the search?
The mighty arms of Atlas hold the heavens from the earth

The mighty arms of Atlas hold the heavens from the earth
From the earth...

I know the way, know the way, know the way, know the way
I know the way, know the way, know the way, know the way
Oh the mighty arms of Atlas hold the heavens from the earth.

Wandering and wandering
Ven. Thanissaro (Geoffrey DeGraff/ edited and expanded by Wisdom Quarterly
Peace pagoda, Buddhist Gaden Batersea Park (Andrea Grasso/
Siddhartha wandered until nirvana.
In ancient Buddhism samsara -- which literally means the continued "wandering-on" -- is the problem as it entails every form of dissatisfaction, disappointment, lack of fulfillment, suffering. The final solution is nirvana.

[Modern Mahayana Buddhism says, "Don't worry, they're the same thing, samsara is nirvana, and some foolishly buy the slogan. But it's certainly not what the Buddha said. In many ways he taught of the near inescapability of this "hamster wheel," round of rebirth, Wheel of Life and Death, samsara.]
Many people think of samsara as the Buddhist name for the place where we currently live -- the place we leave when we go to nirvana. But in the early Buddhist texts, it's the answer not to the question, "Where are we?" but to the question, "What are we doing?"

Instead of a place, it's a process: the tendency to keep creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, we create another one and go there. At the same time, we bump into other people who are creating their own worlds, too.
Countless worlds of rebirth in 31 general planes
The play and creativity in the process can sometimes be enjoyable, as the Hindus describe a kind of lila or "divine play." It's all just GOD at its sport, Brahman knowing itself.

In fact, samsara would be perfectly innocuous if it didn't entail so much ignorance and real suffering. Enlightenment and freedom are much better! The worlds we create keep caving in and killing us.

Moving into a new world requires effort. Not only the pains and risks of taking rebirth again and again and again, but also the hard knocks -- mental and physical (born deformed, disabled, ugly, short lived, in hellish places, resorting to miserable and deplorable deeds in ignorance, etc.) -- that come from going through childhood into adulthood, over and over again.
The Buddha once asked monastics in training, "Which do you think is greater, the water in the oceans or the tears shed while wandering on through this samsara?" His answer: the tears, an unsettling thought as we gaze at the ocean or play in its waves.
In addition to creating suffering for ourselves, the worlds we create harm others and feed off the worlds of others, just as some of theirs feed off ours. In some cases the feeding may be mutually enjoyable and beneficial, but even then the arrangement has to come to an end.

More typically, it causes harm to at least one side of the relationship, often to both. When we think of all of the suffering that goes into keeping just one person clothed, fed, sheltered, and healthy -- the suffering both for those who have to pay for these requisites as well as those who have to labor or die in their production -- we see how exploitative even the most rudimentary process of world-building can be.

The solution
Honor to the Mahamuni, the Great Sage who found freedom from samsara (Alex Eidlin)
This is why the Buddha tried to find the way to stop samsara-ing, this endless wandering. Once he found it, he encouraged others to see the problem as it is and to realize that there is a solution. That solution is a path to follow to bring about enlightenment and freedom rather than drowning in ignorance life after life.

Because wandering is something each of us does, each of us has to be the one to stop. It is not being done to us. We, like the hamster, keep treading. Stop and the wheel stop. Continue and it continues indefinitely/endlessly, seemingly forever.

If samsara were a place, it might seem selfish for one person to look for an escape from it, leaving others behind.
But when we realize that it's a process, there's nothing selfish about stopping it. In fact, it's an unselfish act. Selfishness is what is pushing on in this wandering -- impelled by craving, dragged down by anger, ensnared by delusion.
It's like giving up an addiction, a very abusive habit. Is it "selfish" to want to stop being addicted? No, far from it; it's selfish to keep going. And we know how it ends for addicts.
When we learn the skills needed to stop creating our own worlds of suffering, we can share those skills with others so that they can stop. We have next to no power to help them now. We are drowning and do not even comprehend the sea of trouble we're in.
At the same time, we'll never have to feed off the worlds of others, so to that extent we are lightening their load as well.
The Buddha likened the practice of stopping samsara to the act of going from one place to another: from this side of a river to the "further shore" of safety (nirvana). But the passages where he makes this comparison often end with a paradox: the further shore has no "here," no "there," and no "in between." Nirvana is no ordinary thing. It is unique in all the conditioned world and is sometimes called "the unconditioned element," which makes sense when we understand the Abhidharma, otherwise we are very likely to miscomprehend and wrongly grasp it in our delusion.

From the perspective of place, it's obvious that samsara's parameters of space and time were not the pre-existing context in which we wandered. They were the result of our wandering.
For someone addicted to world-creating, the lack of familiar parameters sounds unsettling. But if we are tired of creating incessant, unnecessary suffering, we might want to stop.

After all, we can always resume building if the lack of "here" or "there" were to turn out to be dull, even though the Buddha called it the "highest bliss," unending peace, relief, freedom, deliverance, emancipation, and liberation among other names like the "deathless state."

But of those who have learned how to break the habit, no one has ever felt tempted to samsara again.

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