Words that Produce Silence

In an old interview with William Burroughs that appeared in the Paris Review he had this to say:

In Nova Express, you indicate that silence is a desirable state. 
The most desirable state. In one sense a special use of words and pictures can conduce silence.

Why is the wordless state so desirable? 
I think it’s the evolutionary trend. I think that words are an around-the-world, oxcart way of doing things, awkward instruments, and they will be laid aside eventually, probably sooner than we think.


It interests me, the kinds of words that produce silence in the listener. Not the silence of non-understanding or ignoring but silence as a response. Sometimes I try to find such words and write them down. They are rarely discovered.

Beyond that, silence as an action to which the only response is silence. The mutual silence of understanding. Sharing an emptiness that is simultaneously completely full.

The most profound experiences in human life are all beyond words…childbirth, the horror of outrageous suffering both collective and individual, orgasm, panic, encountering that which we believed was lost forever, terror, extreme natural phenomenon, loss of a loved one, our own deaths…

True creativity often starts where language ends.
~Arthur Koestler


For my own amusement I wrote the last post and this one in E-prime. That means no use of the verb “to be” in any of it’s forms such as “is, are, will be, am, was, being” It becomes quite a task if one writes about Buddhism or philosophical or psychological issues related to being (that’s the noun form so don’t accuse me of cheating) or subjectivity or existentialism. The reason for doing this involves looking for irrational semantic constructions, to clarify thinking, to write more precisely and to improve the quality of my writing. I may or may not do it again, but it gets interesting to try to fit in between the words and the ideas in an effort to make the articulation of the latter more clear. It seems rather awkward at this point but perhaps with a bit more practice that will abate.

It goes something like this:

I am concerned about…becomes…I feel concerned about…or…A concern appears with

This situation is like…becomes…This situation resembles…

There will be a post about…becomes…A future post I have in mind relates to…

It really stretches one’s vocabulary and grammatical ability with regard to verbs. And it does cause a writer to uproot some lazy habits and thinking. I think it might also help with better reading comprehension. When someone wants to write about topics which require a certain amount of precision in their expression, such as philosophy, Buddhism or similar subjects this kind of exercise can definitely be useful.

As an aside, English without the verb “to be” resembles Hindi which does not have a verb to indicate possession, that equates to the verb “to have”, as in “I have a family” “Do you have a map?” which become expressed as “I am a family person” or “I belong to a family” or specific details about the family emerge such as “My family consists of a spouse/children” or in the other instance “Do you sell maps? or “Is there a map here I can look at”?”. The “to be” verb often carries the same or similar meaning as the English “to have” or Hindi offers other ways to indicate possession grammatically such as uses of possessive pronouns, including “mine, ours” and possessive adjectives “my, your, his, her” for example.

Temptation presents itself to carry on with this line of thinking but channeling Sapir or Whorf – Linguistic relativity in the context of experimental languages, which denotes E-prime to a degree – at this time of the morning has limited advisability. Science fiction makes a lot of use of these theories by the way. Think Iain Banks’ Culture series and “Marain” or “Newspeak” in 1984. It also applies to computer programming languages.

I do this kind of thing on a lot of my posts, not this specific exercise but others, to try to rid myself of habitual thinking patterns and lazy ways of expression. I just don’t tend to mention it.

Any posts I write in E-prime get labeled as such. The future tense remains the most difficult to deal with I find.

A few links on E-Prime:


E-prime from the ~riverflow blog. I got the idea for doing this from here. More E-prime links available there as well.



Varieties of Avidya

Bhaisajguru, the Medicine Buddha

ImageBhaisajguru, the Medicine Buddha

Recently Barry Briggs brought to attention various definitions of avidya in a post called Three Poisons. This is usually translated as ignorance. He quotes teacher Ken McLeod, who is a translator, as using the term indifference rather than ignorance. Barry seemed rather partial to the new rendering while Ben in comments brought up some potentially difficult semantic and motivational issues with it.

Personally I’m not sold on the term indifference. And I will return to the issue of translations of this term shortly.

The term indifference can be a facet of the broader category of ignorance.This got me thinking about avidya in general and it’s numerous manifestations. There appear to be quite a number if one takes it out of the ideological realm and puts it in practical terms.

The term Three Poisons is derived from the Three Unwholesome Roots-lobha, dosa, moha and these I find translated as greed/lust/desire/craving, hate/ill-will, delusion/ignorance. Ken McLeod’s translations, which Barry quoted are “attachment, aversion, indifference”.

One might look at some of the types of ignorance through the notion of obstacles to practice.

Fortunately there are all kinds of Buddhist lists relating to these obstacles. These lists include:

1. The ten fetters-samyojana

  • belief in a substantial self
  • skeptical doubt/doubt/uncertainty about the teachings/lack of trust
  • clinging to rules and ritual
  • sensual craving
  • ill will
  • craving for fine-material existence
  • craving for immaterial existence
  • conceit(mana)
  • restlessness
  • ignorance

2. The five hindrances-panca nivarana

  • sensual desire,
  • ill-will,
  • sloth and torpor,
  • restlessness,
  • skeptical doubt

3. The ten defilements or impurities-klesha

  • greed
  • hate
  • delusion
  • conceit
  • speculative/wrong views
  • skeptical doubt
  • mental torpor
  • restlessness
  • lack of shame
  • lack of moral dread

4. The four taints outlined in the Abhidharma-asava

  • sensual desire,
  • desire for eternal existence or becoming,
  • speculative opinions or ignorance of the dhamma or the way things are
  • and ignorance by way of attachment to opinions

5. The five aggregates as they relate to clinging or attachment-skandha

  • matter (rupakhandha)
  • sensations (vedanakhandha)
  • perceptions (sannakhandha)
  • mental formations (sankharakhandha)
  • consciousness (vinnanakhandha)

6. The 8 fold path can be miss-taken

  • Understanding/View
  • Thinking/Intention
  • Speech
  • Action
  • Livelihood
  • Effort
  • Mindfulness
  • Concentration

7. misunderstandings can also arise around the three characteristics

  • All conditioned phenomena are unsatisfactory
  • All conditioned phenomena are impermanent
  • All  phenomena are devoid of Self [That would include nibbāna/nirvana, which is not conditioned.-note added as per comment below for clarification]

That’s a fairly big mountain of obstacles to address. There are facets of ignorance that can be outlined from the above lists.  And if we look further into the Dharma we can also find remedies to these.

These remedies include-

development of the four Brahma-viharas or highest attitudes

  • metta-loving kindness
  • karuna-compassion
  • mudita-sympathetic joy
  • upekkha-equanimity

This can be done by way of:

1. Iddhipada or the four bases of power or success

  • chanda-desire [more on this one in the end note]
  • viriya-persistence/energy/effort
  • citta-intention, mind, thoughtfulness
  • vimamsa or panna-investigation/discrimination

2. Sammappadhana or the four right efforts

  • guarding-prevent unwholesome/unskillful from arising
  • abandon-prevent unwholesome/unskillful continuing
  • develop-cause wholesome/skillful to arise
  • sustain-maintain wholesome/skillful

The 8-fold path itself also serves as remedy.

These 3 latter items (Iddhipada, Sammappadhana, 8-fold path) are part of the bodhipakkhiyā dhammā which is the 37 qualities related to enlightenment.

The precepts also provide direction in avoiding unskillful and unwholesome situations.

I want to look at ignorance as unskillfulness, contrasted with wisdom or skillfulness and try to match up a few remedies for some of the problematic situations. This approach emphasizes the difference between kusala and akusala and can be used to reconcile those.

Kusala – Skillful, tending towards integration and balance, beneficial, good, wholesome…  Leads to liberation.
Akusala – Unskillful, tending towards disintegration and imbalance, detrimental, evil, unwholesome.

~from p.13 of Abhidharmakosa Study Materials Introductory at the Abhidharmakosa Study Blog

Perhaps a chart will make these facets a little more clear.

Obstacle Ignorance, error or unskillful factor Remedy or wisdom factor
1 ignorance or unskillfulness basic unskillfulness, being unaware, lost and moved through life by samsaric currents, clinging to insubstantiality, clutching at straws, looking for refuge in insubstantial things “It’s fate”, “That’s just the way I am”,  “We have to just go along with it”, “This relative idea is the absolute truth” developing skillfulness, disembedding, learning to recognize and counter compulsions, recognizing impermanence and attempts to cling to it, learning and practicing the Buddhadharma, developing discriminating wisdom (vimamsa)
2 belief in substantial self egotism, atman(soul) beliefs, deep attachment to props of identity, selfishness recognizing anatta (no permanent self), Tibetan Chöd practice
3 skeptical doubt or lack of trust cynicism, insensitivity, arrogance, unreliable grounded perspective, interdependence and interbeing
4 clinging to rules and rituals dogmatism, narrow mindedness, faithless, equanimity, Right View
5 sensual craving lust, addictions, wasteful, renunciation, equanimity
6 ill will anger, brutality, resentment, stubbornness compassion, mudita or sympathetic joy,
7 craving for fine-material existence envy, jealousy, paranoia study of desire (chanda) as in the endnote to this post
8 craving for immaterial existence excessive religiousity, soul beliefs, piousness, fundamentalism, greed in seeking merit accumulation, spiritual materialism study of anatta,
9 conceit, pride arrogance, insensitivity, self-centeredness, low self-esteem, unforgiving study of anatta, compassion
10 sloth and torpor laziness, indifference, unmotivated, convenience oriented, desire (chanda)
sometimes a poison is also a medicine, cultivation of bodhicitta
11 restlessness agitation, anxiety, unbalanced sensations, lack of commitment, indecisive, scattered refuge, clarification of the third of the four basis of power which is citta-intention, mind, thoughtfulness
12 greed hoarding, superficial attachments, uncooperative, miserly generosity, metta, Tibetan Tonglen practice
13 speculative or wrong views or ignoring the way things are defensiveness, combativeness, constricted, confused, hypocritical, Right View, understanding The Three Characteristics
14 lack of shame over-indulgence, performance for attention, histrionics, callousness, extreme ambition Right Action See also #22
15 lack of moral dread behaving without conscience, minimizing consequences, ungrateful understanding of karma, review of precepts, Right Mindfulness
16 skanda-matter-rupa materialism, lust, shallowly oriented clarification of desire (chanda) – see end note of this post
17 skanda-sensations or feeling-vedana hedonism, emotional instability Right Mindfulness
18 skanda-perceptions excessive risk taking, obsessed with novelty, excessive extroversion, lack of shame (one of the kleshas) See #11, 14
19 skanda-mental formations-sankhara over-intellectualism, compulsive theorizing, lost in details See #13, 26, 27
20 skanda-consciousness day dreamy, tormented by mental contents, disorganized thinking, excessive introversion See #10, 13,
21 Inappropriate or wrong
See #1 <————
22 Inappropriate or wrong Thinking/Intention See # 4-12 <———–
23 Inappropriate or wrong Speech petty, gossipy, dishonest, withholding necessary information The 4 Right Efforts
24 Inappropriate or wrong Action passive, complacent The 4 Right Efforts, review of precepts
25 Inappropriate or wrong Livelihood irresponsible, lazy, disrespectful of others, selfish attitude See #7, 12, 15
26 Inappropriate or wrong Effort laziness, apathetic, workaholism and overexertion The 4 Right Efforts
27 Inappropriate or wrong Mindfulness complacent, indifferent, unreliable, mental dullness, overfocused Understanding of skandas (#16-20), Right Mindfulness
28 Inappropriate or wrong Concentration/
unfocused, dissipated See also #20 Right Concentration See also #20
29 Misunderstanding unsatisfactoriness Continuous satisfaction seeking through appetites See # 5, 12, 16
30 Misunderstanding impermanence Rigidity, clinging See #3 4, 5, 7, 8
31 Misunderstanding that all conditioned phenomena are devoid of Self The ignorance of nihilism-“nothing exists” “nothing matters” or the belief in substantial self noted above See #2

That’s just a quick sketch of the ignorance situation when applied to the various obstacles to practice. It’s a pretty neat system of illness and remedy when you delve into it.  There’s a lot more that could be said about all of this (and has been). Pretty much every good dharma talk you encounter addresses some of this stuff from different perspectives.

The practice of wisdom-prajna is generally the antidote to ignorance. The development of prajna includes

  • Study (Sanskrit: śruta)
  • Reflection (Sanskrit: cintā)
  • Meditation (Sanskrit: bhāvanā)

This leaves open the questions What to study? What to reflect upon? What meditation? The more precisely we can pin down our ignorance factors the more precisely we can then apply the necessary antidotes. For example if we are willing to concede the existence of mis-perception, sensual desire or any other aspect we can then choose to openly reflect the light of the dharma into those aspects as we study, reflect and meditate. [Is there such a thing as a Concordance to the Suttas? Can anyone recommend something along that line other than Google?]

It is helpful to consider ignorance as darkness. People tend to feel rather bad about themselves when asked to take on the label of ignorant. We know that we know stuff, have had experience and maybe learned a thing or two. But we also know that no one knows it all, no one is utterly perfect. It is only by admitting there’s some darkness that we can manage the situation. We are all unskillful in the dark;banging into the walls, stubbing our toes, tripping on shoes left in the middle of the floor, spilling our glass of water. The dharma is like a flashlight that allows a more skillful orientation. But if we don’t admit that it’s dark it’s like walking through a dark house with our eyes closed as well. Even a flashlight won’t help if we won’t open our eyes to it.

A few things that became obvious when I was working this out was that actions arising from ignorance in pretty much every instance are accompanied by defensiveness and actions that close one off, be they as mild as indifference or outright hostility. When these manifestations appear they are tied to distorted self-beliefs and being embedded in egoic processes hence the defensiveness. If you observe some skillful people, especially when they are in conflict, there remains a sense of openness to their approach. They remain willing to listen, willing to discuss, willing to continue towards solutions to problems, willing to be challenged, willing to reconsider positions in light of new information, willing to accept disagreement with some adjustment but without much defensiveness.

Getting Back to Translations

It seems to me that attempted translations and expositions are slippery things. There are a couple of things to consider about translations versus original terms. I personally prefer the original terms but I know that puts a lot of people off since one really shouldn’t have to learn a whole new language in order to practice. But then again working with new terms does tend to get a person out of their habitual mental ruts which is helpful. And it takes a little bit of effort to come to understand them which again combats the tendency to laziness and expecting to be spoon-fed by others.

Something from the old Usenet news group talk.religion.buddhism, Glossary of Buddhist Terms, has this written in the introduction:

Another reason is that the words that would have to be used to render a Pali or Sanskrit technical term into English (or any other living language) are inevitably freighted with unintended meanings. The advantage of using a “dead” language is that semantic precision becomes less of a moving target.

Languages that are currently in use change so definitions and nuances change as well.

There are some disadvantages to adopting the original terms though, since often the definitions become entangled with currently prevailing notions. Consider the term “karma” as one example. It has come to mean, in popular parlance, something like the “revenge of the gods” or “payback time” or some extraordinary omnipresent, omniscient “force” with all kinds of supernatural odors wafting about it.

Or consider the word “nirvana” which in popular culture has often come to signify some extraordinary and even supernatural state of outrageous bliss where one loses touch with everything. Chogyam Trungpa, among many other teachers, tried to dispel this kind of notion when he said:

If we regard meditation as just getting into a fog so that you do not see, you do not feel, something is terribly wrong. In that case meditation would reduce one to a zombie. The enlightened man would have to be rescued. Someone would have to feed him and take him to the bathroom. We would have to have an enlightenment ward.

Glimpses of Abhidharma

Matthieu Ricard said something similar recently:

The goal of meditation is not to shut down the mind or anesthetize it, but rather to make it free, lucid and balanced.

On the other hand there are some good reasons to use the original terms. For example from the same Glossary of Buddhism mentioned above:

One reason is simply that these “foreign” terms have the authority of 2500 years of tradition in many cases, and are understood by members of all Buddhist traditions (even if their first language is something like Finnish or Swahili).

If we are all saying karma rather than “cause and effect”, “Ursache und Wirkung”, “årsak og virkning” “”na kusababisha athari” (German, Norwegian, Swahili) then there is a common Buddhist language set that facilitates communication.

So each of us has to decide which is given the weight, a common Buddhist language or individual linguistic preferences.

Links, References Consulted and Inspirations

Dharma Lists from Insight Meditation Center

No Religion by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

The Five Aggregates by Ven Thubten Pende

Noble Eightfold Path


Upadana (clinging)

Abhidharmakosa Study Blog

End Note on Desire as Remedy:

[Nathan had a good post today about questions regarding the usefulness of desire so perhaps others will find the following useful]

Iddhipada-vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of the Bases of Power from Access to Insight. Particularly the element of desire which is both poison and medicine:

“And how is desire overly sluggish? Whatever desire is accompanied by laziness, conjoined with laziness, that is called overly sluggish desire.

“And how is desire overly active? Whatever desire is accompanied by restlessness, conjoined with restlessness, that is called overly active desire.

“And how is desire inwardly restricted? Whatever desire is accompanied by sloth & drowsiness, conjoined with sloth & drowsiness, that is called inwardly restricted desire.

“And how is desire outwardly scattered? Whatever desire is stirred up by the five strings of sensuality, outwardly dispersed & dissipated, that is called outwardly scattered desire.

Paracelsus the alchemist-physician related a similar notion in the 16th century when he noted:

Alle Ding’ sind Gift, und nichts ohn’ Gift; allein die Dosis macht, daß ein Ding kein Gift ist.“All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous.”

Which is often interpreted as:

The only difference between a medicine, an intoxicant and a poison is the dosage.

Further on desire as a skillful means Ajahn Thanissaro writes in Wings to Awakening

…although the desire here is directed toward a state of concentration — which is a type of becoming — if that becoming is aimed at going beyond becoming, this desire shifts from a cause of stress to part of the path to its ending. And even though the desire for Awakening, when not yet realized, can be a cause for frustration, that frustration counts as a skillful emotion, as it leads to further efforts along the path [§179]. It is to be transcended, not by abandoning the desire, but by acting on it properly, as explained below, until gaining the desired results.

And he hits the nail on the head with these prescriptions a little further down in the same section. I’m just going to quote the whole thing because it’s so pertinent [emphasis mine]:

Many popular Western writings criticize the four qualities listed in the bases of power — desire, persistence (effort), intent (will), and discrimination (the discriminating mind) — as enemies of proper meditation, both in that they interfere with the calming of the mind and are antithetical to the goal of the Unfabricated, which lies beyond desire, effort, and the categories of discrimination. The first part of the extended formula deals with the first of these criticisms.

  • There is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion, thinking, ‘This desire of mine will be neither overly sluggish nor overly active, neither inwardly restricted nor outwardly scattered.’ (Similarly with concentration founded on persistence, intent, and discrimination.)

This passage shows that the problem lies, not in the desire, effort, intent, or discrimination, but in the fact that these qualities can be unskillfully applied or improperly tuned to their task. If they were absent, the practice — if it could be called a practice — would stagnate from loss of direction or motivation. If they ran wild, they would interfere with mindful concentration. So the trick is not to deny them, but to tune them skillfully so that they will help focus the mind on the present moment. Thus, for instance, in the practice of meditation, as with any skill, it is important not to focus desire too strongly on the results one hopes to get, for that would interfere with the mind’s ability to focus on giving rise to the causes leading to those results. If, instead, one focuses desire on putting the causes in proper order in the present moment, desire becomes an indispensable part of the process of mastery.

Passage §67 deals with the second criticism — that desire, etc., are antithetical to the goal — by showing that these qualities are necessary for anyone who pursues a path, but are automatically abandoned on reaching the goal at the path’s end. The image of the path is important here, for it carries important implications. First, the path is not the goal; it is simply the way there, just as the road to the Grand Canyon should not be confused with the Grand Canyon itself. Even though many stretches of the road bear no resemblance to the Grand Canyon, that does not mean that the road does not lead there. Secondly, the path of practice does not cause the goal, it simply leads there, just as neither the road to the Grand Canyon nor the act of walking to the Grand Canyon can cause the Grand Canyon to be. The goal at the end of the Buddhist path is unfabricated, and therefore no amount of desire or effort can bring it into being. Nevertheless, the path to the goal is a fabricated process [§105], and in that process desire, effort, intent, and discrimination all have an important role to play, just as the effort of walking plays a role in arriving at the Grand Canyon.


“There is no ‘I’ existing as some substantial thing; there is only the ceaseless flow. This is true not only of me, but of all things.” — Kosho Uchiyama, “Opening the Hand of Thought”

Listening to so much Bob Marley over the past few days has renewed my interest in the philosophy, faith and beliefs of the Rastafarians.  As someone perpetually interested in what goes on in the world and why, the Rastafari movement was one that I found interesting as soon as I came into contact with it many many years ago. 

The Rastafari movement is not called “Rastafarianism”. The “ism” is somewhat offensive for quite a few reasons, mostly to do with Babylon things.

They especially reject the word “Rastafarianism”, because they see themselves as “having transcended -isms and schisms.” This has created conflict between some Rastas and some members of the academic community studying Rastafari, who insist on calling this faith “Rastafarianism” in spite of the disapproval this generates within the Rastafari movement. Nevertheless, the practice continues among scholars, though there are also instances of the study of Rastafari using its own terms.

from Rastafari movement

There is a well developed religious philosophy and several major sects within Rastafari. For a brief time there was a Black Supremacy aspect to some of the Rastafari philosophy. This tended to coincide with civil rights issues in other places at the time. However after a speech in 1963 by Haile Selassie Emperor of Ethiopia (who is considered to be the second coming of the Christ by the Rastafarians) at the United Nations in which he said:

“That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil….

We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.”

much of the issue was reoriented away from dominance thinking back to a more egalitarian viewpoint.

I won’t go into all of that but one thing that really strikes me, as a Buddhist, is the concept behind Iyaric or particular vocabulary used in Rastafari.

I&I (or I and I or InI)

From Rasta-ites Question and Answer

I&I signifies I&I unity with JAH the Most High. As in I and I God, it is also used to signify I&I Rastafari bredren and sistren, also signifying I&I unity with the Most I. So it can mean I or we or even you, although now more I’s would say “the I” for you.

The dictionary definition below is from the Rasta Patois Dictionary

“I and I, I&I:
I, me, you and me, we (1)Rastafari speech eliminates you, me we, they, etc., as divisive and replaces same with communal I and I.  I and I embraces the congregation in unity with the  Most I (high) in an endless circle of inity (unity).”

From Rastafarian vocabulary

I replaces “me”, which is much more commonly used in Jamaican English than in the more conventional forms. Me is felt to turn the person into an object whereas I emphasises the subjectivity of an individual.

I and I is a complex term, referring to the oneness of Jah (God) and every human. Rastafari scholar E. E. Cashmore: “I and I is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness, the oneness of two persons. So God is within all of us and we’re one people in fact. The bond of Ras Tafari is the bond of God, of man. But man itself needs a head and the head of man is His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I (always pronounced as the letter ‘I,’ never as the number one or ‘the first’) of Ethiopia.” The term is often used in place of “you and I” or “we” among Rastafari, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah.

The recognition of the oneness and unity of people, people with their god concept and people as equal expressions of a god or as maintaining a “sameness within difference” has appeared in many religions. Hinduism is the example that first comes to mind.

Within monotheistic traditions one might mark the differences between the god concept as either “transcendent” or “immanent”. Transcendent gods are differentiated from people and unreachable. Immanent gods dwell within or can be reached by human beings. Sufism, gnostic traditions within Christianity and Judaism all have the element of the immanent which sets them apart from the mainstream which views a god as something “other” or “out there” somewhere.

With traditions that don’t maintain such god concepts there is still this sense of unity. Buddhism exhibits that.

The I&I expression strikes me as quite similar to a lot of Buddhist concepts.

Interdependence (another I word) in the English language doesn’t go far enough to really capture how we are all in this together.

Intermersion if there is such a word might be more apt.

There is no end of one I and beginning of another.

I and I.


A little history and background of the Rastafari movement

Musical Interlude-Niyabinghi chants

Reggae music is not the only music associated with the Rastas. Burra style drumming, which influenced Hip-Hop appears. Of more central importance in the expression of the Rasta beliefs are Niyabinghi chants. Niyabinghi is also the name of one of the major “houses” or “mansions” (groups) of Rastafari.

Niyabinghi chants

are played at worship ceremonies called grounations,[14] that include drumming, chanting and dancing, along with prayer and ritual smoking of cannabis. The name Nyabinghi comes from an East African movement from the 1850s to the 1950s that was led by people who militarily opposed European imperialism.

Here is a grounation in South Africa which includes Niyabinghi chants, preaching, worshipful dancing and group walking chants in circumambulation.

And here is a much larger grounation with onlookers in Jamaica.


Someone in YouTube comments has written down some of the words for this latter video.

Them gi wi basket fi go carry water. Them gi wi basket fi go carry water. Ohhhh Jah Rastafari rule this land. Ethiopia land, Waa go home a Ethiopia land . Waa go home a Ethipian lan land oooh. Jah Rastafari rule the land. Repartriate, Go get a dread mek wi repartriate whaooo, Jah Rastafari rule the land…..

Northern Europeans Channel Abhidharma? [The Woo Files]

Subtitle: but are too glum to make much of it.

The Fantoft stave church in Bergen Norway. Allegedly burnt down by Norwegian Black Metal music fans.


Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew: The Million Beer Bottle Temple at Khun Han Thailand.


Notice any resemblance? I sure do. (layered roofs, pointed things, central tower, angles of the roof, pillars, etc) That must mean something. And the Thai temple was made partly with Heineken bottles. That must mean something too. Coincidence? I think not!

[OK.  I’m done channeling Sarah Palin now. I hate it when she talks foreign policy.]

Got to thinking about all the emotional terms, many I’ve used in this blog, that are so descriptively labeled in German and related languages (from the Old Norse (Scandinavian) languages as well as geographically nearby places).

Many seem to be very melancholy or broody terms. It is quite true that us Nordic types often enjoy sitting around and brooding.

My great grandfather came from Norway specifically because of the brooding potential the unclaimed frigid prairie of Canada offered. He went first to Minnesota but it wasn’t quite broody enough so he picked up a wife of similar temperament and went even further into the hinterland.

Vast swaths of clumpy grass and gnarled shrubs, dry heat that shrivels the pores, freezing winters that never seem to end-it’s the kind of thought that really gets a brooder excited. But not too excited.  And he brooded well there, for 98 years. There were times of really deep and profound brooding for him, mostly between the births of his 13 children. My great grandmother, a German, brooded in quite another sense. And she brooded well too.  Obviously.

Another set of great-grandparents combine a Swede and a Lapp-lander. In the latter case reindeer herders really know how to brood on the move. A very useful ability.

I was once accused of brooding in my office by a former boss. Month end reports were immanently due and I didn’t have time for chit-chat with her. She went back to her office and closed the door.  This is brooding by proxy or projected brooding and doesn’t really count though.

So it’s with this somber emotional panorama, as vast as the prairie sky, but infinitely more gray,  that I delve into the subject of brooding and it’s categorizations.

While those writers of the Abhidharma were busy categorizing mind states and consciousness some European (tho Europe hadn’t been invented yet really) people, waiting for the sun to rise more than a few degrees above the horizon, also took to inward exploration and analysis as well.

And it’s been done to such a level that it’s practically a cultural art form.

I’ve mentioned:

  • Schadenfreud-pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others
  • Freudenshade-sorrow at another person’s success.
  • Angst-an intense feeling of strife

but there are a whole lot more words and phrases worthy of long, considered and painful reflection.

  • Weltschmerz-meaning world-pain or world-weariness… The psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone’s own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstance..mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state…a mood of sentimental sadness
  • Sehnsucht-“longing”, “yearning” and “craving”, or in a wider sense a type of “intensely missing”.
  • Sturm und Drang-an 18th century literary movement; “storm and stress” in English, although the literal translation is closer to “storm and urge”
  • Weltanschauung-refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it. It is how we see the world from our little Umwelt-world of private experience that is impossible to share fully. “self-centered world”
  • Sorge-grief, sorrow, worry, apprehension, anxiety, care, trouble, uneasiness, concern
  • Kummer grief, sorrow coll. trouble
  • Leiden suffering, pain, grief
  • Trauer mourning
  • Götterdämmerung-“twilight of the gods,” the total, violent collapse of a regime, society, institution; term borrowed from Wagnerian opera

  • Hinterland-“back country” -remote lonely area

  • Kitsch-something gaudy or pretentious, in poor taste

  • Masochism-pleasure in receiving the pain. Named for the Austrian novelist Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895)

  • Waldsterben-“forest death,” a term used for the decline of the world’s forests

Some lovely music to listen to while pondering the inevitable.

From nearby languages


Sisu from sisu “stamina, (colloquial) guts.”Sisu refers not to the courage of optimism, but to a concept of life that says, ‘I may not win, but I will gladly give my life for what I believe.'” Aini Rajanen, Of Finnish Ways, 1981, p. 10.

Finns seem to have a bit more kick-ass to their brooding. Must be the saunas.

Old Norse Words that Made it to English

  • anger angr (“=trouble, affliction”); root ang (=”strait, straitened, troubled”); related to anga, plural öngur (=”straits, anguish”) English provenance = c 1250 CE
  • awkward the first element is from Old Norse öfugr (“=turned-backward”), the ‘-ward’ part is from Old English weard
  • berserk berserkr, lit. ‘bear-shirt’, (alt. berr-serkr, ‘bare-shirt’) frenzied warriors
  • die deyja (=”pass away”)
  • Hell may be in part from Old Norse Hel, the daughter of Loki and ruler of the underworld in Norse mythology
  • mistake mistaka (=”miscarry”)
  • scare skirra (=”to frighten)

(from Wikipedia List of English Words of Old Norse Origin)


Phrases and quotes

Here’s some broody phrases that encapsulate the entire Zeitgeist.

  • Was kann ich wissen? Was soll ich tun? Was darf ich hoffen?: “What can I know? What shall I do? What may I hope?” — Kant
  • Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir. Amen!: “Here I stand, I cannot do differently. God help me. Amen!” — attributed to Martin Luther
  • Mit brennender Sorge  “With burning anxiety” is a Catholic Church encyclical of Pope Pius XI, published on 10 March 1937 (but bearing a date of Passion Sunday, 14 March)

    Totentanz Dance of Death by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is a famous German poem. You can read the dual-language version yourself.

    And don’t even get me started on the delectably grim Brothers Grimm. Here’s a whole website Grimm Stories of their works available in multiple languages. Perfect to read to the children before bedtime. Hey my parents did it and look how I turned out.  


    Yes Homer Simpson was right when he stated,”Those Germans have a word for everything!”

    Here is a recent Icelandic contribution to the fertility of the soil in Europe. All that ash is going to be good for the next growing season. Trust me I’m from Saskatchewan. We know all about fertilizer.


    Here’s some lovely Death Metal to just make your day.  Children of Bodom (from Espoo Finland) doing Rihanna’s Umbrella. Are you f*ing kidding? Maybe.