Trump in conversation with masters of non-duality

Like the rest of the rational world, I have followed the recent political career of Donald Trump with some bemusement. As I was falling asleep last night, I had a wild idea. What if Donald were in conversation with an imagined, idealised amalgamated version of all the masters of non-duality who I admire so much (Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta, Toni Packer)? What might they tell him?

So here it is. Donald Trump in conversation with the Amalgamated Masters of Non-Duality.

Donald: When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people…

It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.

Amalgamated Masters: Donald. Do you sense that the threat you feel about Mexicans comes from a deep and subtle feeling of fear? And that the fear itself arises from a feeling of being cut off from the world, of being an isolated, vulnerable ego, desperate to protect itself through lashing out? Can you watch the sense of division from which you are operating and see whether a more open, spacious response to “the other” is at all possible?

Your hostility towards Mexicans (and, it seems, towards virtually the whole Hispanic world and perhaps the rest of human society) stems from the illusion that you are a person, limited in space and time, who has been born and who will die. Can you realise instead that you are pure awareness itself? That you are unlimited peace and love illuminating the cosmos? That the divisiveness you feel is simply a movie playing in your mind, an illusory overlay to the simple truth of Being?

Yet, Donald, you are no different from the rest of human society. You are a symbol of the divisiveness and fear that pervades the human mind. The world is made up of people like you: fearful, hostile, acquisitive. It will require much patient investigation into the inner workings of our minds before we can become truly inwardly free of our limited egos. And so, actually Donald, you are like a beautiful jewel, pointing out to us the nature of our own minds and hearts.

🙂 I could go on and on. But enough, as a fun activity and a pointer!



A man who moves with the earth will necessarily experience days and nights. He who stays with the sun will know no darkness. My world is not yours. As I see it, you all are on a stage performing. There is no reality about your comings and goings. And your problems are so unreal! Nisargadatta Maharaj

When I first read these words, they seemed so unkind, even cruel. But as I stayed with them, the deeper reality within them began to unfold in my mind.

We are playing roles all our waking lives. We get attached to these roles—I am a friend, a colleague, a lover, a daughter—and our emotions are hooked onto them as well.

But ultimately, these roles are empty of essence. And paradoxically, because these roles seem attached to me, they might cramp open action and compassion.

Can we move with the sun, free and unattached, yet loving and compassionate towards all? Holding this possibility in our minds, we live our days, mindful of the ephemeral nature of our roles.

Bus journey

So I’m sitting in a bus, watching the traffic pass by and noticing the patterns of shade thrown by the trees on the road. It’s sunny but there are big fat clouds in the sky, blocking the sunlight when they drift across and cooling everything right down. A little boy is sitting right opposite me. Big grin, gaps in his teeth. I’m feeling peaceful and happy watching him play his video game and occasionally stop and gaze out at the world floating by him at the pace of a crawling bus. Happier still at the play of light and shade and cloud and sun, a thermos of coffee in my hand.

Then I notice this guy get on the bus, with a kind of angry energy around him. He is almost clean shaven, with a red mark on his forehead. He locks his gaze with mine from the moment he gets in. My brain patterns instantly change. I can sense my body tensing and my mind throwing up angry defensive thoughts. He walks very slowly down the aisle and then sits opposite me. Stares at me, challenging, and stares away again.

In an minute, for no obvious reason, he switches seats and sits right beside me. I can smell the alcohol on him. He presses into me and I press back , fighting for control over seat space. All my self-possessed peaceful energy of a few minutes ago has evaporated. We are silently pushing at each other, mentally and physically, and for no reason at all I’m suddenly exhausted.

He stops trying to dominate the space. I sneak a glance over at him. He’s fallen asleep and looks curiously defenceless. A doubt enters my mind: was he pushing me or was I imagining it? His head lolls over to my shoulder. I feel spasms of irritation and compassion flood my system. I want to get off the bus as fast as possible.

Whole universes rising and falling within our minds and bodies in the space of minutes.

Relentless awareness. The dissolving of all the boundaries and the tricks of the self.

Mind and Life

Many of you might already know of the work of the Mind and Life Institute. This is an endeavour headed by the Dalai Lama, and it includes many eminent scientists in the fields of psychology, neurobiology and physics. The aim of the Institute is to “promote a scientific understanding of the mind to reduce suffering and promote well-being.”

I really like that aim. It seems one of the really worthwhile goals that as a species we can strive towards. That, and better and more engaged and compassionate education of our young.

As part of the Mind and Life initiative, many renowned scientists have dialogues with the Dalai Lama on science and buddhism and the meeting ground of the two, particularly in the mind sciences. These dialogues are online here. They are stunning. They reveal so much about the depth of our understanding and also the directions we need to pursue.

Please do watch them. I would love to discuss them with others.

The Bell, by Iris Murdoch

the bell murdoch

They came quite suddenly out of the wood onto the wide expanse of grass near the drive. The great scene, the familiar scene, was there again before them, lit by a very yellow and almost vanished sun, the sky fading to a greenish blue. From here they looked a little down upon the lake and could see, intensely tinted and very still, the reflection in it of the farther slope and the house, clear and pearly grey in the revealing light, its detail sharply defined, starting into nearness. Beyond it on the pastureland, against a pallid line at the horizon, the trees took the declining sun, and one oak tree, its leaves already turning yellow, seemed to be on fire…

This gorgeous novel does not treat meditation explicitly. But it does address many spiritual questions: what constitutes goodness and virtue and beauty, how is one to live and love in the world without causing harm, what are compassionate states of mind. As such, it ranks as one of the most thoughtful and deep novels I have ever read, written with crystal clarity.

The novel concerns a lay religious Anglican community in England. It treats the private lives of several individuals there: en erring wife, afraid of her bullying husband; the head of the community, who grapples with his past and his homosexuality; a young boy who comes there to find himself before joining university. All are drawn together through a series of bizarre events on the estate.

The richness of the themes, the sense of mystery and, almost, sacredness that pervades everyday life, the portrayal of the depth of human minds: these are hallmarks of Murdoch’s novels. I envy those who are yet to read this work.

Optimism and pessimism

When I talk to people or when they read what I write, they often tell me that I am a pessimist. I should focus on the positives in life, they say, instead on focussing on negative factors such as insecurity, death and fear.

However, I tell them that I am merely being realistic. The meditative mind faces facts and does not run after ideals.

Fact: our bodies and minds face impermanence and death every day.

Fact: the world is burning with violence and war, both at micro and macro levels.

Fact: personal sorrow and societal sorrow have tremendous weight.

I don’t deny that people can be generous and compassionate. But these human qualities don’t seem to be our default mode of operation, in personal life or at a wider scale. If they were our default mode, society would function very differently.

I feel it is important to recognise these issues at a very very deep level. If we don’t recognise them, if we paper over them in order to feel better about ourselves, then we will never give our human problems the serious attention and energy they deserve.

Our houses are burning. We need to wake up to this fact.

Pale Blue Dot, by Carl Sagan

A piece on humility, time, space, love, violence, ideology, meditation, life and science

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.