Siddhartha

my favourite passages from the book

“O Siddhartha,” he exclaimed, “will your father permit you to do that?”

Siddhartha looked over as if he was just waking up. Arrow-fast he read in Govinda’s soul, read the fear, read the submission.

“O Govinda,” he spoke quietly, “let’s not waste words. Tomorrow, at daybreak, I will begin the life of the Samanas. Speak no more of it.”

 


And Siddhartha said quietly, as if he was talking to himself: “What is meditation? What is leaving one’s body? What is fasting? What is holding one’s breath? It is fleeing from the self, it is a short escape of the agony of being a self, it is a short numbing of the senses against the pain and the pointlessness of life. The same escape, the same short numbing is what the driver of an ox-cart finds in the inn, drinking a few bowls of rice-wine or fermented coconut-milk. Then he won’t feel his self any more, then he won’t feel the pains of life any more, then he finds a short numbing of the senses.

[…]

And Siddhartha spoke with a smile: “I do not know, I’ve never been a drunkard. But that I, Siddhartha, find only a short numbing of the senses in my exercises and meditations and that I am just as far removed from wisdom, from salvation, as a child in the mother’s womb, this I know, oh Govinda, this I know.”

 


“This is why I am continuing my travels—not to seek other, better teachings, for I know there are none, but to depart from all teachings and all teachers and to reach my goal by myself or to die.”

 


“Oh,” he thought, taking a deep breath, “now I would not let Siddhartha escape from me again! No longer, I want to begin my thoughts and my life with Atman and with the suffering of the world. I do not want to kill and dissect myself any longer, to find a secret behind the ruins.

Neither Yoga-Veda shall teach me any more, nor Atharva-Veda, nor the ascetics, nor any kind of teachings. I want to learn from myself, want to be my student, want to get to know myself, the secret of Siddhartha.”

 


“When you throw a rock into the water, it will speed on the fastest course to the bottom of the water. This is how it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does nothing, he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things of the world like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he is drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him, because he doesn’t let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal.

 


He had heard a voice, a voice in his own heart, which had commanded him to seek rest under this tree, and he had neither preferred self-castigation, offerings, ablutions, nor prayer, neither food nor drink, neither sleep nor dream, he had obeyed the voice. To obey like this, not to an external command, only to the voice, to be ready like this, this was good, this was necessary, nothing else was necessary.

 


“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

Fragments, II

  • It’s OK to spend most of the day planning and writing – even wasting time –, and then a fraction acting with focus. Better than frantically doing the small things.
  • If it’s not a peer relationship, it’s not a relationship: it’s a coping mechanism.
  • Real winning, success in any status game, is to outgrow it.
  • Distress can’t connect with the body, it disconnects from it; eustress is that connection.
  • Write to understand yourself before you write to be understood by others. Hear yourself speak & speak to yourself before you speak to be heard others.

Continue reading “Fragments, II”

Robert Greene in conversation with Tucker Max

“You’ve been listening so much to other people, you’re so self-conscious, you’ve been reading too many books, hearing this that and the other that you’ve lost touch with what’s naturally […] authentic about yourself.

Don’t read my book […] Get in touch with that part of you […] that has this animal power to it.”

 

Relatedly, Hagakure:

“In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. […]

When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths.”

Church

Last year I had tea with a friend’s father.

He was born in the Himalayas, lived through a civil war in Nigeria, and eventually built a successful career in Canada.

I met him at the offices of the firm he founded and built. We discussed business, but ended up talking about life, spirituality, and the lessons he’d learned.

When he was growing up, his own father sent him to church every week without fail. This is what his father – my friend’s grandfather – told him:

“I don’t care about the religious stuff. I just think it’s good for you to spend an hour where you’re not thinking about yourself.”

No reliance | Honesty

From The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs:

“Integrity becomes a mindful practice for the gay man who chooses to maintain it. He cannot rely on the momentum of his past nor his own intentions to make integrity a regular part of his life. He must consciously attend to all the ways in which he can maintain integrity.”

This is true not just for gay men, but for all of us.

Asking, what is true here? What would be the true thing to do, to say? … Honesty. Integrity. These are ground.

The act of listening for those is ground, actually, and hearing out the response. As one is (as one is right now).

We cannot rely on the past. It is not me, as I am right now. Wanting to rely on the past is trying to conjure up the memory of a past judgement or decision –– really, trying to conjure up the feeling behind it (held as ‘correct’ feeling, the ‘right’ decision – trying to remember and feel what ‘right’ felt like, not what is felt now), is an idea of oneself, a different, ‘better’ version of oneself, a story, not one as one is now. The fear of making the current decision in front of oneself. This is judgement, self-judgement – and trying to walk on fog.

Relying on intentions is the same: trying to conjure what is other that one is. The mind, thoughts, verbal ideas This can be mistaking words, the thoughts we take for telling us what our physiological, emotional state is, with the posture, the physiological, emotional reality.

Neither are listening – asking what is felt now – listening to oneself, listening to consciousness.

***

Honesty before mindfulness

Asking myself, what would mindfulness look like in this moment, or the result of “achieving mindfulness” can feel like walking on fog.

Asking, what is true here? What would be the true thing to do, to say? … Honesty. Integrity. These are ground.

Asking about honesty and integrity is the seeing, listening – interoception – of oneself as one is, seeing, listening to whatever is – maybe fear and conflict and division, and what is beyond or beside that – whatever is. Really, not beyond or beside, but after – because impermanence.

The posture of asking about mindfulness can be an idea of the past. If the answer, the body’s response is a thought, a verbal answer, the posture was not that of listening, honest inquiry.

At least for a class of decisions – the ones that question our personal morals, our integrity to ourselves, the internal conflict is ultimately a fear of being – listening – as one is.

Honesty leads presence. 

***

Not mundane, not intense

Realizing that in “mundane” moments – when not deeply* distracted, the “problem” is seeking “mindfulness” as some more pleasant or special state, or ideal, and the seeing of the moments themselves as mundane.

In situations where I tell myself a story that suggests the outcome or decisions matter more, paying attention is easier because of the story, which itself lends intensity to the feelings.

But the trick is to pay attention, not to the story, but what is, the totality of one’s internal experience, moment to moment. In the “intense” cases, the story itself, the view it holds, IS the conflict.

To scale oneself

Addendum to Intelligence, redefined.

Learning how to learn is to scale oneself. (Or, rather, to make oneself scalable, to create a framework that makes this possible. Manifesting that (the actual scaling) follows from behaviours, habits?)

Eric Schmidt discussing blitz scaling in the future:

“[…] Machine learning will be the way in which you get that multiplier. For the non-programmers in the room, the way to understand this is that programmers like me were taught to write algorithms that precisely specify the methodology and we got really good at it and we’re very proud of it and we’re very arrogant. A new set of programmers understand how to have a computer learn something, and then the learning model is applied to this problem, and that’s a very scalable model, and that’s going to produce immensely larger companies than the ones we’re talking about, and the speed will be immense because once you learn something the scaling can occur globally in a matter of hours.

Apply this, via analogy, to humans.

1) Learning how to learn is increasingly important. If the way we learn is a machine (or a set of paths in the neural connectome & habits of body), we want a more powerful + effective machine. This will compound the compounding that learning itself creates in our lives.

2) ‘scaling globally’ is a way of describing transference in learning. What Barbara Oakley calls learning via metaphor, what Josh Waitzkin calls transference, what Munger calls mental models; from one thing, all things.*

“The principle of strategy is having one thing, to know ten thousand things.” – Musashi

Digression on strategy:

Continue reading “To scale oneself”

Name

If you only ever speak to be understood by others, it’s as good as not being able to hear yourself think. You invite into your home the noise you lose yourself in. You invite resistance and fear, and forget peace before the external scorecard.

From TF’s intro to Perfectly Reasonable Deviations:

“Feynman’s rough-hewn style of lecturing (“I don’t speak writable English”) had a lot to do with the fact that he preferred to think out loud rather than to present the polished products of prior thinking.

I once saw him deliver a rather shambling talk—something to do with Bose condensates, if memory serves—during which he circled and stalked his prey at length before ultimately admitting defeat. “I’ve given a lecture on this subject every five years,” he said, “each time thinking that if I give this one more lecture, I’ll figure it out,” […]

“Do not remain nameless to yourself – it is too sad a way to be.” – Fenyman

If you only ever speak to be understood by others, what have you found out?

***

Early, something I noticed about the people I most admired was that they all had their own little phrases, sayings, stories – their own inventions that they had devised themselves, or adopted and made their own, that myelinated that which was most important to them.

They wrote for themselves. They took their experience and parsed it for themselves. They didn’t hear someone else’s story read aloud to them and dress it up as their own, trying to be other than what they were.

“Do not remain nameless to yourself – it is too sad a way to be.” – Fenyman

They know their names. Greater wisdom – to be nameless.

Who names you? Who are you speaking to? Who are you speaking for? Who are you writing for?

At best, yourself right now, which is to say, no one.

Anything you want

“When I went to college, my first year there I had three jobs, and it was delivering newspapers and washing dishes and those kinds of jobs in the school cafeteria.

And if you’re the 17-year-old kid and you’re working in the cafeteria and you’re washing dishes and all the other kids are out there having fun and eating, it sticks with you. It makes an impression.

And I said, “Well, this is terrible. I don’t want to do this.”

At the time, I was majoring in English and history. And I was like, “Okay, if I keep doing that, I’m going to continue doing this and it’s not the way to go.”

So I actually went and smooth talked my way into tutoring an advanced computer science class when I was completely unqualified. I didn’t even know the subject matter at hand. So then what I had to do was I had to learn the material well enough the night before that I could be at tutoring level the next morning in the class.

And that was a seminal point, because it showed me a few things. One is you can get to whatever you want to get to. You just have to care about it badly enough.”

 

  • very short feedback loop on learning (teaching it to that class)
  • learning by explaining to others
  • highly incentivized to learn (external accountability, motivation to avoid, motivation to gain)
  • pre-commited to system w/accountability, proved to himself it was possible in doing so

Truth is not the page

Writing, if you’re afraid of the blank page, can you get closer to truth?

This is attachment to a filled page, fear of a blank page.

Faster you can drop something that isn’t working, faster you learn.

Truth maybe isn’t the blank page itself. It’s indifference to a neat, full page and a willingness to start over.

Actually, it’s neither: it has nothing to do with the page, empty or full, everything to do with just writing, doing the work itself. Not the outcome of it.

We get so caught up in form (ex. pretty filled page, appearance of health or agreeableness), we forget function (ex. clarity, actual health, honesty).

If you’re engaged, maybe that makes discarding the old page and turning over a blank one exciting, instead of tough.