May 24th, 2007

sp in river

just another one // introspective

So yeah. I don't know how I should feel about this, but the more I read up on the Theravada school of Buddhism the more instances I have of "yeah that makes sense" and "well, duh". I mean, in one way it's no big surprise since I've long since admitted that I take a lot of my beliefs from the Buddhist teachings. But I had come to more than a few ideas through my own contemplation and observances of events and the world. Also worth noting, I came to Buddhism not through the Theravada school but through Zen/Chan which is descended from the Mahayana school. But I had all along been rejecting some things that were considered important in Mahayana Buddhism (and to some extent in Zen/Chan), which is why I didn't claim to be an adherent of that particular faith. Now here I am doing some reading on the history of Buddhist schools and the split between them (which I have always known existed but was never terribly knowledgeable about) and I'm finding that the bulk of what I rejected from the Mahayana school was what the founders of that school thought Theravada was lacking and thus chose to add in (along with some other changes they made).

So yeah. I had taken one school of thought, rejected some parts, and wound up coming *damn* close to the school of thought they were splintering off from.

Now, I'm not saying I'm going to jump up and convert. I'm not saying I'm entirely in agreement with Theravada 100%. I just know that so far, from what I've read (admittedly not much), I haven't found anything I disagree with. At least, nothing I disagree with strongly. So far the extent of my 'disagreement' with what I've read has been of a 'word-choice' level. The message is the same I just would have worded it somewhat differently.

This reading and research has been spurred by my continuing listening to Gil Fronsdal's talks I mentioned a while back. I've been listening to his podcasted talks almost, well, religiously (and not the 'just on major holidays' kind of religious, either) for months now and what he's said has prompted me to reconsider a few things. Not because I somehow "want to believe" or anything like that but because he would say something that I initially have issues with, but I can't place why and when I ponder it I find that my problem arises from my instinctual agreeing with him, but my mentally disagreeing. I have found some minor areas of faith where I have been forced to re-evaluate what I believe in, and what I promote as my values, and through this process I have been able to create what I feel is a more consistent worldview. I have a few less internal conflicts, and I am finding it easier to live as I have wanted to live but had previously found difficult. Perhaps the ease is more from practice, but I think some may also be attributable to these small moments of 'faith adjustment'.

What most recently prompted me to begin reading these works in earnest, though, is a talk I listened to through the Audio Dharma podcast (the one with Gil Fronsdal's talks) where they had a guest speaker give a talk that got titled "bringing wisdom to good will". Listening to it, I had a minor 'eureka' moment. He presented an answer to a problem I had been leaving unsolved in my thinking. Something which I had wrestled with for a while but had failed to come up with a reasonable 'solution' to. With that, I decided to finally start looking at Theravada (it had been on my 'to-do' list for a while anyhoo) with some real intent. I figured that if it held such simple bits of thought that made so much sense then it would be worth my while to read what I could and take what I needed from it (as I had from the various other religions I have looked at in the past).

I never expected to find so much I agree with.

oh, and while I'm here // music review

Just a quickie note: "Year Zero" by Nine Inch Nails is likely the best album they've put out in a _long_ while. I mean, sure "With Teeth" had some nice moments -- particularly the last two tracks (and not just because they meant the album was over). But it had lost some of their flavor. Or perhaps it would be fairer to say "The Fragile" lost their flavor and "With Teeth" simply neglected to find it again? Of course, I liked "The Fragile" as well, but it wasn't any "Downward Spiral", and till now they hadn't had anything like "Pretty Hate Machine" since, well, "Pretty Hate Machine" itself. :)

"Year Zero", though, makes up for all that. I have been listening for this album on repeat for weeks now. Far longer than I normally will when first appreciating a new album. Some tracks are certainly better than others. Some could probably be cut without significantly hurting the overall work. But even those that I think are the worst on the album prove to have their place in the overall story and they are still good pieces. There is more of the old-skool NIN that we grew up on. The heavy industrial tones they carved a niche with are there on at least half the album. But at the same time they are put together with a more sophisticated touch that has obviously been learnt from their last two works. The album has a much 'darker' feel to it than I got from the previous one, and there also seems to be a much more concerted effort behind it.

Overall, I think this is easily one of their best albums. Perhaps not *the* best -- I'd have to re-listen to the catalogue a few times to decide that -- but certainly in the top few. And I'd likely want it to be a "desert island disc" for me (though that could just be the current fascination talking).

edit: added link