When people lose touch with fundamental moral sensibilities, this happens

Karma is the direction and composition of your mind-stream. What you think or do today affects your mind-stream in everything thereafter. False excuses only despoil your mind-stream further. Only you can correct your mistakes. Only you can vow to never repeat them. Karma is not punishment or reward conferred by higher beings. Karma is what you do and think and 100% your responsibility. Properly understood, karma is a deeply liberating concept. ABN

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” ~Romans 12:2

This is fundamental morality, the fundamental basis of the conscience. Call it God’s will, the Buddha mind, rational clarity, real science, a profound understanding of karma, humility, decency, pure mind, being a good person. It’s all the same. We all know it and sense it strongly. Beware of those who package it and use it to delude you. The human mind is weak and can be fooled, thus: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” ABN

Consensus through Appeal to Embargo

…There exists a principle of philosophy that I observe, which falls along the lines of Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, also known as the law of action-reaction. That is, unless one is very careful, an appeal to truth will almost always be accompanied by, at the very least, an implicit appeal to embargo​. Nihilism is the embargo, which comes commensurate with the ‘truth’ of not being able to measure outside the bounds of physical reality. Collectivism suffers the embargo which results from the ‘truth’ of a successful deployment of capital. Freedom suffers the embargo which arrives under the awesome specter of an impending cataclysm‘s ‘truth’.

When an advocate appeals to authority of truth, by means of enforcing an embargo of competing ideas – they are typically protecting a lie, or at least hyperbole. Even if that advocate is accidentally correct about their truth in the end, such mechanism still constitutes a lie because of the way in which the truth was enforced – by means of explicit or implicit false dichotomy, and enforcement of a false null hypothesis with no competing alternative idea. Accuracy in such a case, is a mere triviality.


Above is an excerpt from a worthy essay on bad science and erroneous exclusion of competing ideas. The essay is called Sciebam – Religion with P-Values. Throughout the essay the word religion is repeatedly used to represent a close-minded way of thinking. But that itself is a close-minded way of thinking about religion. ABN

Dramatis personae, dramatis spirituum, and Buddhist karma

Dramatis personae are actors in a drama, characters in a play, novel, or movie. Jung used the word persona to indicate our subjective and objective sense of our roles in life, how we behave in various situations. He defined personality (persona-ality) rather flamboyantly:

Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. It is an act of courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of existence, coupled with the greatest possible freedom of self-determination. [C.G. Jung, “The Development of Personality,” 1932]

For my purpose today, Jung’s description of personality, though delightful, is a bit mundane. I want to introduce the idea that in addition to our mundane dramatis personae of this world, we also possess dramatis spirituum or spiritual personae.

This mundane world, in Buddhist terms is the relative world of transitory phenomena and suffering. In contrast, ultimate reality is the realm of enlightened Buddhas where all suffering is ended.

In Buddhism, the word karma can mean many things in English. It can mean action, habit, tendency, a type of attachment, entanglement, the movement of the mind-stream. In a basic sense, it may be helpful think of karma as often meaning habit. Good habits lead to good outcomes and bad habits lead to bad outcomes, though there are many mysterious exceptions to this simple rule as there are to all simple rules.

Karma can be seen as a burden and yet even the worst karma can end in the space of “a single thought.” If in a single thought you are able to see the fullness of your karmic habit, it can end in that very instant. See in a single thought how your anger makes everything worse and you may never have to control it again because it will never arise again. See in a single thought how alcohol is ruining everything and you may refrain from using it ever again.

Our dramatis spirituum are the ultimate actors that we most deeply are, the actors who remember our mind-streams, who are the forces that draw us toward enlightenment, who end bad karmic habits in the space of a single thought.

When we feel connected to someone, often that is a connection between our dramatis spirituum. It may be just beginning or it may have begun many lifetimes ago. A good simple illustration of this might be the way you remember some people from childhood with a pang of unrequited beauty, unrequited spiritual love. You may have known them only briefly but still think of them and have a strong sense that they may be thinking of you in a similar way. What you are sensing is a karmic connection of dramatis spirituum. This is the deep level many of us sense is where life really lives.

The dramatis spirituum connection you have with your parents or primary caregiver is more complex and filled with far more mundane connections. You may struggle with this connection for many lifetimes before it is resolved on the plane of conscious dramatis spirituum.

I tend to see a current of drama ever present in all things. This is their actions, habit, tendencies, karma, entanglements, desires, realizations, personae, spirituum, mind-stream, enlightenment.

The Five Skandhas

The Buddha’s explanation of the five skandhas is intended to help us understand the emptiness of the self. It is a short explanation aimed at his most intelligent students.

The Sanskrit word skandha means “heap” or “aggregate” in English. Sometimes the Buddha compared the skandhas to heaps of rice. They are the “heaps” of psycho-perceptual data that comprise the “contents” of our minds. The five skandhas are conditioned dharmas (literally, “conditioned things”), which is to say that they are impermanent and empty, and when improperly understood lead to delusive attachments characterized by greed, anger, and ignorance. The purpose of the Buddha’s five skandha explanation is to help us see through the skandhas, or disentangle ourselves from them. In some Buddhist texts the five skandhas are called the “five covers” because they cover our minds and prevent us from seeing deep levels of reality. In others they are called the “five yin (versus yang)” because they cloud the mind and hide the truth from us. I will discuss each of the five skandhas in the sections below.

1) The first skandha is form. Form, in this case, means anything that leads to, or is capable of leading to, the next skandha. Forms can be visual, auditory, or sensory. They can be dreams, memories, feelings, or moods. Forms are often described as being “obstructions” because, though they may lead to complex thought and activity, they are also hindrances to mental clarity since the activity they lead to is essentially delusive. It is important to remember that the five skandha explanation is an explanation of the deluded mind and its thought processes.

The Abhidharma-mahavibhasa Shastra categorizes the skandha of form into three types:

a) Visible forms with a referent in the outer world such as color, size, length, position, shape, and so on.

b) Invisible forms with a referent in the outer world that are associated with the other sensory organs such as sounds, smells, tastes, and the sensations arising from physical contact.

c) Invisible forms with no referent in the outer world such as dreams, memories, thoughts, feelings, and so on. Though a dream may be “visible” to the dreamer, it is called “invisible” here because no one else can see it. This last category of forms is associated with what the Buddha called “mental dharmas.”

2) The second skandha is sensation. Following the appearance of a form, the mind reacts to it with a sensation that is either positive, negative, or neutral. We either like it, don’t like it, or are neutral about it. Though it is possible to become conscious of this skandha, most of us most of the time are not.

Sensations are generally categorized into two types:

a) Sensations of the body coming from the outside world through any of the sensory organs, such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and so on.

b) Sensations of the mind which may or may not come from the outside world. These include moods, feelings, memories, dreams, thoughts, ideas, and so on.

Both kinds of sensation are, of course, based on the prior appearance of a form. Greed and anger have their roots in the skandha of sensation, for if we enjoy a positive sensation we are liable to become greedy about it, while if we do not enjoy it, we are liable to become “angry” or irritable concerning it. The deep meaning of greed is “excessive attraction” to a sensation that we deem to be agreeable or positive, while the deep meaning of anger (or hatred) is “excessive aversion” to a sensation that we deem disagreeable or negative. Neutral sensations often are the result of our ignorance or lack of understanding, though as we progress in Buddhist practice they may be the result of wisdom.

Positive and negative sensations associated with the body are generally considered to be weaker than those associated with the mind, though both types of sensations often are interrelated. An example of this mixture and distinction might be a light slap in the face. While the physical sensation is only mildly unpleasant, the mental sensation will be quite strong in most cases. And yet both are interrelated.

3) The third skandha is perception. This skandha refers to the deepening of a sensation. It is the point where the mind begins to latch onto its sensations. At this point conscious recognition of form and sensation normally begins. It is possible to become conscious of the first and second skandhas as they are occurring, but most of us generally are not. During the skandha of perception we begin making conscious distinctions among things.

4) The fourth skandha is mental activity. This skandha refers to the complex mental activity that often follows upon the skandha of perception. Once we have identified (perceived) something, long trains of mental associations become active. Our bodies may also begin to move and behave during this skandha. For example, the simple perception of a travel poster may set in motion a great deal of mental activity. We may begin recalling an old trip or begin fantasizing about a new one. If we are photographers, we may admire the composition of the photo, step closer to it, make an effort to remember it, and so on. All of these behaviors belong to the skandha of mental activity.

5) The fifth skandha is individual consciousness. It is a product of the first four skandhas and is completely conditioned by them. This is what we normally, more or less, think of as being our “self.” The Buddha taught the five skandhas primarily to help us understand that this “self” or consciousness is empty since it is entirely based on the conditions found in the first four skandhas.

The Ekkotarika-agama explains this point very well. It says, “The Buddha said that the skandha of form is like foam, the skandha of sensation is like a bubble, the skandha of perception is like a wild horse, the skandha of mental activity is like a banana tree, and thus the skandha of individual consciousness is nothing more than an illusion.” The trunk of a banana tree is made of leaves curled together. From the outside, it may look substantial, but if we examine it closely we will find that one leaf pulls away from the next, leaving ultimately nothing behind. The trunk looks substantial, but in truth it is “empty.” In just this way, our individual consciousness may look substantial to us, but if we peel it apart, we find that there is no self within—it is empty.

How to Understand the Five Skandhas

Though most of us are not normally aware of the first two skandhas it is possible to become aware of them through meditation and mindfulness practices. Though it is easier to begin understanding the five skandhas by thinking of them as being separate and distinct, it is important to realize that any of the last four skandhas can give rise to the skandha of form. Mental activity itself, for example, can generate whole new trains of forms, sensations, and perceptions.

Another important thing to understand about the five skandhas is that our minds move very quickly from one to the next. The five skandhas produce a snow storm of impressions and mentation, upon which rests our unstable conscious world. When we become overly attached to this snow storm or to the consciousness built upon it, we generate the karma that ultimately fuels the five skandhas in the first place.

The Explanation of Mahayana Terms (en 1212) says that the skandhas can be understood as being either good, bad, or neutral. The goodness mentioned in this explanation should be understood as being a relative goodness that arises within the phenomenal world—though it is “good,” it is not the same as an enlightened vision that completely sees through the five skandhas. For this reason, we will use the word “positive” in place of “goodness” in this discussion. The Explanation says that positive activation of the five skandhas can be of three types: activation by a positive form, such as a Buddhist image; activation by skillful means, such as a desire to help someone; and activation within a pure-minded person. The Explanation says that the three bad or negative types of activation of the five skandhas result from: simple badness within them, as may have derived from low motives or moodiness; contaminations within them, such as selfishness during an act of kindness; and negativity that is simply the result of bad karma. The Explanation says that the three neutral types of activation are: formal activations that result from the performance of rituals; activations resulting from the practice of a skill; and neutral changes among the skandhas themselves.

How to Contemplate the Five Skandhas

The second noble truth of Buddhism is the cause of suffering. Generally, this cause is explained as clinging to a false self. By contemplating the five skandhas, we learn to understand both that the self is empty and why it is empty. This contemplation appeals to the rational mind for it allows us to use reason to convince ourselves that the “self” we call our own is, in truth, an illusion.

In contemplating the five skandhas we should be mindful that we begin to generate karma during the skandha of perception. At the same time, it is important to realize that the very forms we see and the sensations that result from them are heavily conditioned by our past actions, by the accumulation of karmic “seeds” or influences that are already stored in our minds. Two people may see exactly the same form, but have very different responses to it because their karma is not the same. Since their karma is different, their sensations and perceptions, and especially their mental activity and consciousness will be very different.

The Numerical Teachings of Great Ming Dynasty Tripitaka says (en 1213) that the most important way to understand the five skandhas is to realize that each of them is empty. As we become familiar with the five skandhas, we will find it easier to identify each one and contemplate its emptiness. We can think about them from first to last or from last to first.

If we choose to think of them from last to first, our contemplation will consist of a series of questions, whose answers should be considered deeply. We begin by asking ourselves what the skandha of individual consciousness is based upon. The answer is the roiling mentation of the skandha of mental activity. The skandha of mental activity becomes apparent as soon as we sit down to meditate. Having identified this skandha and appreciated its fundamental emptiness, we can ask ourselves what it is based upon. The answer is the skandha of perception. First the mind seizes one of its impressions (the skandha of perception), then a long train of thought and emotion follows (the skandha of mental activity). Having appreciated this process, we then ask ourselves what the skandha of perception is based upon. The answer is sensation—of the many forms and feelings passing through our minds, one of them gave rise to either a positive or negative sensation (neutral sensations are usually ignored by the mind). It is this sensation that led to the skandha of perception. If we can appreciate this, then we can ask what the skandha of sensation is based upon. The answer is form—either an outer or inner form. Were it not for this form, none of the other skandhas would have arisen.

If we choose to contemplate from the first skandha to the last, we may choose a form and then carefully watch how our minds process it. We will see that form leads to sensation, then to perception, then to mental activity, and lastly to individual consciousness—a state of mind deeply colored by the skandhas below it. Bear in mind that when the five skandhas are simply happening of themselves and no one is watching them, we are normally unconscious of the activity of the first two skandhas. Before most of us are even aware of what we are perceiving, we have begun to react to it. It requires some skill to see that forms give rise to positive, negative, or neutral sensations before they give rise to the skandha of perception, but this is the case in a normally active mind.

The quotation cited previously from the Ekkotarika-agama can also be used as a very fine contemplation. The agama said, “The Buddha said that the skandha of form is like foam, the skandha of sensation is like a bubble, the skandha of perception is like a wild horse, the skandha of mental activity is like a banana tree, and thus the skandha of individual consciousness is nothing more than an illusion.” The skandha of form is like foam in a stream—at any moment scores of forms contend for our attention. The skandha of sensation is like a bubble—suddenly we react to a single bubble within the foam. The skandha of perception is like a wild horse—we can never be sure which way our mind will turn at this point. The skandha of mental activity is like a banana tree—it consists of many things wrapped together. And thus, the skandha individual consciousness is empty, an illusion.


UPDATE: FIML practice can be understood in terms of the five skandhas in this way: A FIML query begins at or interrupts the skandha of mental activity. Through training and prior agreement, partners learn to identify a fraught psychological response at the third skandha–perception–and thereby shift away from habitual mental activity to FIML mental activity. The FIML query at this points implicitly asks is my habitual perception based on fact? The FIML query should be made in as neutral a tone as possible to avoid influencing your partner. Your partner’s reply will either confirm or refute your habitual perception. FIML is a dynamic and very powerful form of mindfulness that allows partners to be much more objective about the granular workings of their minds. After hundreds of FIML queries, partners will establish a database of objective insight into their own (and each other’s) psychology that is much more accurate than what can be done alone or through general discussion with anyone. ABN

first posted NOVEMBER 2, 2021

FLASHBACK OCTOBER 2, 2020: Mathematics goes woke

It is time for all members of our profession to acknowledge that mathematics is created by humans and therefore inherently carries human biases. Until this occurs, our community and our students cannot reach full potential. Reaching this potential in mathematics relies upon the academy and higher education engaging in critical, challenging, sometimes uncomfortable conversations about the detrimental effects of race and racism on our community. The time is now to move mathematics and education forward in pursuit of justice.MAA Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics, “ANTI-SCIENCE POLICY AND THE CENSURE OF DISCOURSE ON RACE AND RACISM” at Mathematical Association of America (October 2, 2020)


AUTHORITY CREDULITY: Opposite of unsound conspiracy belief yet causes worse harm

Authority Credulity /philosophy : agency/ : the opposite of a conspiracy theorizing, but even worse in terms of harm imparted. Believes authority with very little question. Will craft/propose an extremely complicated, stacked and risk-bearing explanation and tout it as being superior, just so long as it conforms with what they view as being official. Vulnerable to and often exploited by authorized propaganda outlets, through bearing an abject weakness in ability to grasp asymmetry, spot patterns or develop intelligence. Seeks to be an agent which foments conflict between what they view as authority, and everyone who disagrees.


What covid shows about risk-benefit assessment

I discussed basic covid risk-benefit assessment here: The covid/vax risk-benefit assessment is easy to do on your own.

Today I want to add a significant psychological factor to this assessment and also note that this factor is prominent in almost all risk-benefit assessments.

The factor is the approval or disapproval of others if your assessment turns out to be right or wrong. If you are right people will admire you (or feel envious, vindictive, etc). If you are wrong people will mock you (or feel happy, gloat, etc).

It is important to recognize this factor while you are making your assessment and do everything you can to avoid being influenced by it. You have to be a seasoned, courageous philosopher to do this well. Be sure to explain this factor to your SO and close friends. Best of all, teach them to see the importance of it and not do it in their thinking either. Then none of you will have this effect on each other.

With covid, we accept a risk-benefit with the choice of getting the vax or not getting it. Remove the above described psychological factor from your decision process and your mind will be clearer and best able to make the decision that is right for you.

It is probably true that most people invest money quietly and take their losses in silence, only reporting their wins, if that. Doing this generally allows for better risk-benefit assessment because the above psychological factor is removed.

This same principle can be valuably applied to all kinds of predictions. When we make assessments of how the future might be, we want to be careful not to see our options as bets we will be proud or ashamed of when they happen or not.

In a Buddhist sense, this is no-self, mindfulness, and nonattachment all working together to make us think more clearly and thus conclude more accurately and wisely. ABN

Could Multiple Personality Disorder Explain Life, the Universe and Everything? We may all be alters—dissociated personalities—of universal consciousness:

In 2015, doctors in Germany reported the extraordinary case of a woman who suffered from what has traditionally been called “multiple personality disorder” and today is known as “dissociative identity disorder” (DID). The woman exhibited a variety of dissociated personalities (“alters”), some of which claimed to be blind. Using EEGs, the doctors were able to ascertain that the brain activity normally associated with sight wasn’t present while a blind alter was in control of the woman’s body, even though her eyes were open. Remarkably, when a sighted alter assumed control, the usual brain activity returned.

This was a compelling demonstration of the literally blinding power of extreme forms of dissociation, a condition in which the psyche gives rise to multiple, operationally separate centers of consciousness, each with its own private inner life.


Many Buddhist believe a cosmology similar to what is described in this essay—that the entire universe is conscious and that individual living beings are but temporarily dissociated from that consciousness. This view also explains how an individual can “take rebirth” without any soul or pudgala flying away from the body; how rebirth can happen “simply” due to there being karma that causes the universal consciousness to create another physical entity. For more on this see these other essays by Kastrup. ABN

A perfect moral, dramatic, pragmatic, linguistic, psychological, spiritual, and emotional act…

…is a proper FIML query.

It is perfect (in no special order) morally because it seeks truth and goodness between two people; dramatically because it uses our innate dramatic instinct to question our own deep sense of live drama in the moment; pragmatically because it is eminently practical; linguistically because it is an extremely good use of language, possibly the best use; psychologically because it benefits both the self and other in profound ways while also revealing deep behavioral patterns painlessly; spiritually because it stimulates the spirit and spiritual metacognition, bringing both partners closer to their ideals; and emotionally because it forestalls false negative and destructive emotional responses, replacing them with joyful understanding. FIML is a pursuit of truth shared by two people. It is a technique, a method, that can be used in any religion, philosophy, world-view, or lifestyle. In the beginning, FIML does not even depend on scrupulous truthfulness because the practice itself will reveal the value of truthfulness, which ultimately will require almost no effort. Truthfulness is an instinct or inkling of deepest consciousness. Once seen, it calls forth itself.


Putin warns the West is destroying itself: “It happened in our country before and after the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks followed the dogmas of Marx and Engels. And they also declared that they would change the traditional lifestyle, the political, the economic lifestyle, as well as the very notion of morality, the basic principles for a healthy society”

“The preparedness of so-called social progress believes in bringing a new conscience, a new consciousness to humanity, something that is more correct,” Putin said. “But there is one thing I would like to say: The recipes they come up with are nothing new. Paradoxical as it may seem, this is something we saw in Russia. It happened in our country before and after the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks followed the dogmas of Marx and Engels. And they also declared that they would change the traditional lifestyle, the political, the economic lifestyle, as well as the very notion of morality, the basic principles for a healthy society. They were trying to destroy age-old and century-long values, revisiting the relationship between the people, they were encouraging informing on one’s own beloved, and families. It was hailed as the march of progress. And it was very popular across the world and it was supported by many, as we see, and it is happening right now.”


What Putin is talking about is an insidious, almost hidden form of KOBK. These KOBK forces have already conquered virtually all of American cultural high-ground. They are actively trying to destroy our society and falsely claiming to be able to “replace” it with impossible-to-realize dreams. You must understand that when your opponent is playing by KOBK rules, you have no choice but to fight back with full knowledge of what they are doing, fully recognizing how successful they have already been. USA and Western democracies are weak in strategic thinking due to many easy decades and the influence of a bad side of Christianity that promotes a mushy love and tolerance over realistic wisdom and action. Properly understood, Buddhism does not have this problem because wisdom is always the paramount virtue; without wisdom all other virtues are prone to error. ABN

Buddhism and KOBK: Kill-or-be-killed

Buddhism holds that the human realm is ineluctably characterized by delusion. That means the human realm, NOT individual humans.

KOBK is a deep feature of the human mind, at both societal and individual levels. At the societal level (more than a small group), KOBK cannot be eliminated. This is so because large groups always communicate on levels that do not represent the fullness of human subjective experience; and this causes serious mistakes to arise and accrue, leading to clashes, violence, war. From a Buddhist point of view, this might be thought of as the basis for the delusion that always binds human life until at an individual level, it is seen through and completely understood causing enlightenment or freedom from all delusion and the cessation of rebirth in the human realm.

In Buddhism, a full understanding of suffering, dukkha, the First Noble Truth yields complete enlightenment instantly.

Before we attain that stage of existence, Buddhism councils us to behave compassionately toward all other sentient beings while keeping our spiritual eye on ultimate wisdom, total liberation from the dukkha of the human realm.

Buddhism does not reject new ideas. KOBK is a game-theory explanation of one reason the human realm has always been characterized by delusion and suffering. This analysis of KOBK should not in any way encourage any intelligent person to consciously engage in KOBK behaviors (except in some kinds of self-defense). If KOBK is fully understood, it should help us as individuals and friends to better access the ultimate reality of the Buddha Mind, the Tathagata, Logos, God.

In Buddhism we did not “originally sin.” We are originally good but we are living in a pretty rough place. If we understand that many people with enormous earthly power feel forced to engage in KOBK, we will better understand this realm.

further reading: How to understand the deep strategy of earthly political power: KOBK