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SOCRATES, The Original Western Guru Blog Post #4: Virtues or Qualities of the “GOOD”

The importance of what Socrates calls the “good” connects his philosophy not only with Eastern spirituality but even with the teachings of Jesus. For Socrates the “good” is similar to the “yamas” and the “niyamas” within Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in that it involves virtue but is also more than that. In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali lists virtues that a spiritual aspirant must acquire and also lists the types of actions that must be avoided. We could call this morality in that it judges actions to be good and bad in degrees but we could say that these are simply instructions within the science of spirituality. In other words, the Eastern gurus call us to act virtuous or morally correct because they recognize that this type of behavior leads to the best of all possible lives. According to Patanjali, the spiritual aspirant must be virtuous in order to reach the highest levels of peace and joy. The Buddha’s instructions within the famous “Discourse on Effacement” (MN 8) are similar: the Buddha calls for monks to act virtuously so that can they can succeed in clearing suffering out of their lives.

Socrates also heavily emphasizes the “good” as a way for a philosopher to get to truth. He connects the “good” with moral ideas of justice and self-control (which he calls temperance and moderation) but also links the “good” directly with the identity of Divinity. Socrates in fact sees the “good” and the Divine to be synonymous. For him, the very structure of existence is “good” and is aligned with aspects of the “good” like justice and beauty BECAUSE the “good” is the true creating Divine principle. In other words, we exist in order to recognize, highlight and promote (we could even say worship) the “good.” [NOT that the world is “good” because it is created by the good God.] So being “good” pays us back by producing a “good” life because it connects us with the Divine archetypical structure of life.

Thus for Socrates, the philosopher knows that being “good” is truly the wisest and most beneficial way of living because of the obvious logical connection. For Socrates, a “good” life logically develops through connection with and alignment with the “good.”  Much of Socrates’ conversations, just like the Buddha’s sutras, involve the “guru” trying to describe what being “good” looks like in practice so that the disciples bring their behavior into alignment with it.

“Socrates argues that . . . our ‘salvation in life’ depends upon an ‘art of measurement’ that will overcome the power of appearance and get us to act rightly always.” FROM the introduction to Plato’s Protagoras by John M. Cooper (Complete Works of Plato, 1997)

In the “Discourse on Effacement” the Buddha teaches that meditation is not enough to realize the goal of life, one must become “good” in word and deed. In that sutra he lists the many do’s and don’ts of “good” behavior:

“But herein, effacement should be practiced by you: others will be harmful, we shall not be harmful here – thus effacement can be done. Others will kill living beings; we shall abstain from killing living beings. . . . Others will take what is not given. . . .Others will be unchaste. . . .Others will speak falsehood. . . .Others will speak maliciously. . . .Others will speak harshly. . . .Others will gossip. . . .Others will be covetous. . . .Others will have thoughts of ill will. . . .Others will have wrong views. . . .Others will have wrong intention. . . .Others will use wrong speech. . . .Others will commit wrong actions. . . .” and this list continues with 29 more prerogatives of “good” behavior.

 

“what is advantageous is nothing other than the movement of a soul in accord with the movement of things.” —Cratylus

Socrates sees the “good” and the Divine as inseparable and describes them both interchangeably, in a similar manner to many Eastern spiritual texts. He also commonly describes the “good” synonymously with more concrete virtuous ideals like “justice.”

 

“Because the good penetrates everything, it has the power to regulate everything.”– Cratylus

 

“It is governor and penetrator of everything else, it is rightly called ‘just.”— Cratylus

 

“In God there is no sort of wrong whatsoever; he is supremely just.” —Theaetetus

 

TEMPERANCE is another quality of the “good” that leads to the best of all possible lives, according to Socrates. He describes temperance as not only control over our indulgence in sensual pleasures but also as a type of humility and lack of self-importance. Again we could see this as a preaching of “morality” but that would miss the more important philosophical connection between being “good” and living “good.”

Temperance is“to obey the rulers and to rule [over] the pleasures of drink, sex, and food for themselves.” –Republic ch.3

 

“. . . then it would be of the greatest benefit to us to be temperate. Because those of us who had temperance would live lives free from error and so would all those who were under our rule. Neither would we ourselves be attempting to do things we did not understand—rather we would find those who did understand and turn the matter over to them [a description of humility] —nor would we trust those over whom we ruled to do anything except what they would do correctly, and this would be that of which they possessed the science. And thus, by means of temperance, every household would be well-run, and every city well-governed, and so in every case where temperance reigned. And with error rooted out and rightness in control, men so circumstanced would necessarily fare admirably and well in all their doings.” –Charmides

Socrates describes justice as one aspect of the “good” and as an aspect of the “good” recommends it universally to philosophers as a way of making their life “good” in the highest sense.

JUSTICE: “the just man never harms anyone, since everything he does is for the benefit of all.” –Clitophon

This is the same practical benefits of virtue made within many Eastern spiritual texts. Remaining harmless to others, taking less in life, being generous with everything one has, being patient, refraining from injust or unfair business practices, etc. are traits recommended both in the East and in Socrates’ writings.

“. . . people who are truly and fully just thereby lead a better, happier life than any unjust person could.” –Republic ch.3

 

“. . . how much more advantageous it is for the individual to be just rather than unjust.” —Republic

 

“. . . just and unjust actions are no different for the soul than healthy and unhealthy things are for the body.” —Republic ch.5

 

“Injustice, Thrasymachus, causes civil war, hatred, and fighting among themselves, while justice brings friendship and a sense of common purpose.” –Republic

 

“. . . just people are cleverer and more capable of doing things” –Republic

 

“Justice? I myself put it among the finest goods, as something to be valued by anyone who is going to be blessed with happiness, both because of itself and because of what comes from it.” –Republic

 

To be “good” is to have high principles and to act in accordance with them; in other words, to be a decent human being not out fear of a punishing God but from the realization that being “good” is logically the most beneficial way of living.

“a decent person is most self-sufficient in living well and, above all others, has the least need of anyone else. . . it’s less dreadful for him than for anyone else to be deprived of his son, brother, possessions, or any other such things. . . . [he] bears misfortune most quietly.” –Republic ch.3

 

To this list of characteristics of the “good” (the just, the temperate, the humble) Socrates adds other virtues like moderation, courage, frankness, high-mindedness, single-mindedness, concentration and truthfulness:

“neither we, nor the guardians we are raising, will be educated in music and poetry until we know the different forms of moderation, courage, frankness, high-mindedness, and all their kindred, and their opposites too.” –Republic ch.3

 

Socrates even includes attention or a focused mind as part of being “good” just as the Buddha did: “single-mindedness or truthfulness (these being the same thing)” –Cratylus

 

Finally, Socrates connects the “good” not only with the Divine but also with “truth” in the highest sense of the word. But since the “truth” is really a description of the “good” it remains below the “good” in primacy:

“what gives truth to the things known and the power to know to the knower is the form of the good.” —Republic ch.7

 

“Both knowledge and truth are beautiful things, but the good is other and more beautiful than they.” —Republic ch.7
“Not only do the objects of knowledge owe their being known to the good, but their being is also due to it, although the good is not being, but superior to it in rank and power. . . . one [is the] sovereign of the intelligible kind and place, the other of the visible.” —Republic ch.7

Because the good penetrates everything, it has the power to regulate (kerannutai) everything. –Cratylus

Many other quotes from Eastern scriptures could be included here, outlining the importance of virtuous behavior in their science of spirituality. Quotes from the Gospels of Jesus would show that the New Testament contains nearly identical recommendations. The point I am making here, overly briefly perhaps, is that “being good and doing good leads to the best of possible lives” is clearly a central aspect to the teachings of Socrates and to the major spiritual gurus of the East.

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SOCRATES, The Original Western Guru, INTRO

death of socrates

SOCRATES, The Original Western Guru

In the summer of 2016 I gave a presentation on the teachings of Socrates as a type of “spirituality” to The Santa Fe Philosophical Society Meetup. My argument to them was, in essence, that the so-called “philosophy” of Socrates, as described by the ancient Greek author Plato, is the same as what was taught by Indian gurus of the ancient world. I boiled down all of Socrates teachings to the idea that “Doing and being ‘GOOD,’ in the highest sense of that word, leads to the greatest of all possible lives.” This is, of course, an over-simplication of an incredibly profound body of teachings, but it is, I believe, still valid with that caveat.

In that presentation I briefly went through a number of ways in which Socrates’ teachings match up with Eastern scriptures. I primarily used Hindu and Buddhist scriptures to make the comparison but I believe I could have just as easily used other Eastern sources as well.

The results of that talk inspired me to write a book outlining my point extensively and that inspiration to write a book has been reduced somewhat to write a series of blog articles. And so, this is the first in a series of articles in which I would like to share with you the details of this startling and exciting connection between Western and Eastern thought. For, if I am right and there is a strong similarity between the teachings of Socrates and what is considered Eastern “Spiritual” teachings today then a bridge is created. That bridge shows cultural unity instead of division and can help westerners to feel more at home following “spiritual” principles. If Socrates is truly a “guru” on par with the “gurus” of Indian thought then that East/West divide starts to look a bit artificial and “spirituality” in the form that is studied today can be recognized as the property not just of the East but of all cultures and all races.

Dreaming a Life

Recorded spontaneously in winter 2015, this track is about going within to find a source of Eternal peace

Kilaya just shared ‘Used Shoes For Guatemala Kids’ with you on One Today

Merry Christmas! Just donated to ‘Used Shoes For Guatemala Kids’. Give $1. Change a lot. https://onetoday.google.com/p/bqnr5b4m

SPIRITUALITY & GOD/DESS

What is SPIRIT?
Spirit is the term used to indicate the source of blessings or gifts which inspire, support and even push us to gain wisdom and the freedom that comes from wisdom. Wisdom can also be described as direct, dependable knowledge of the absolute truth of who we are, why we were born and why we will die.

What is GOD/DESS?
GOD (or GODDESS) is the term commonly used to describe Spirit as something we can have a personal relationship with, in which real two way communication can occur. Addressing (or praying to) God (or GODDESS) is a way of declaring that Spirit has the power to interact with us on our level.

Why do we need Spirit or God (GODDESS)?
Nothing in our physical world has the power to give us wisdom. Acquiring wisdom is a miraculous/mysterious affair that can only happen with the blessing of Spirit. This spiritual force is counter to the physical forces of the material world and that is why we can call it something special: “Spirit,” or “God,” or “GODDESS.” Spirit teaches us about the value of wisdom, shows us the path to wisdom, inspires us to tread that path, assesses our efforts on that path and finally CAN reward us with wisdom for those efforts.

We need Spirit or God (GODDESS) because the natural influence of our physical lives is to push us away from wisdom and into greater and greater ignorance. We need Spirit or God (GODDESS) because wisdom is better for us than ignorance. Wisdom creates love in our hearts and peace in our minds. Ignorance creates anger in our hearts and anxiety in our minds. The benefits of spiritual wealth (wisdom) are greater than the benefits of material wealth because only spiritual wealth actually gives us what we want: true happiness. No amount of material wealth can ever give us what we truly want, happiness, because that wealth can disappear as fast as it can be gained whereas wisdom, once gained, gives us happiness and cannot ever be lost.

What is SPIRITUALITY?
Spirituality is the choice to go after wisdom in spite of the physical/social demands for comfort and security. Spirituality is the waging of a war against the pressures of material anxiety in order to attract and make proper use of the blessings from Spirit. The specifics of that war, including the timing of victories and defeats, come from Spirit and the only choice we can make is how fast we advance when we win a battle and how long we stay down when we lose a battle. That choice is a result of our attitude and can shorten or lengthen the duration of the war. The perfect attitude is infinitely patient and generous, courageous, indefatigable and zealously enthusiastic. Such an attitude is a certain sign that the war is almost over with Spirit, the victor, and wisdom, the prize.

The Middle Path — on soundcloud

A spoken word track to return us to the middle of the road, back from the edges, away from extremes, a reality check on our “spiritually” ambitious egos! lol. Have fun with yourself! If you don’t then no one else will.

What is Yoga, Really?

Yoga means spiritual practice. Yoga is a series of changes to your behaviors and a way of guiding the timing and sequence of those changes. Yoga is reprogramming. It is developing new habits that create greater happiness AND success in life. Remember that spiritual success in Yoga is not JUST internal happiness but IS ALSO external success as well. Yoga is meant to fulfill our every desire on levels we don’t even know are possible. In fact, the Buddha taught that the real difference between spiritual and non-spiritual people is that non-spiritual people are content with what are really petty desires in life. They don’t know what’s really possible and so, they are happy with what they have. And this is one of the many seeming paradoxes in Spirituality: discontent with your life as you have lived it is necessary in order to put forth the effort required to experience REAL contentment. And contentment with a materially oriented life can block you from putting in the effort necessary to gain an even higher, more stable type of contentment possible through effortfull spiritual practice.

Yoga is divided into 4 separate types that all lead to the same goal which is a type of direct knowledge that eliminates all sorrow in life and replaces it with a peaceful loving joy. All types of yoga involve 2 principle activities: meditation and the development of virtue. Meditation is the cultivating of inner peace and the cultivation of virtue is learning how to love and effectively express that love. How you practice meditation and develop virtue looks differently within each of the four types of yoga.

2 of those types of yoga are geared towards renunciates and 2 of those are for householders. Renunciates must simplify their lives down to the bare bones while householders can keep their lifestyles and all their possessions.

These yogas CAN be mixed together, however, taking one exercise from one and one exercise from another ONLY AFTER one yoga has been selected as the primary yoga. Chosen as a primary yoga, the first two push you to become a renunciate while the second two are easier to practice as a householder.

The 4 types of yoga are Jnana, Kriya (sometimes also called Raja), Karma and Bhakti. These 4 divisions are present in all forms of Spirituality although some traditions might artificially emphasize one over the others.

Simply stated:
Jnana Yoga is purely mental contemplation. Daily affirmations are a good example of Jnana Yoga practice. The idea is that if you repeat the same thing over and over to yourself eventually you will believe it, feel it and act from this new point of view.

Kriya Yoga is about aggressive willpower. It centers on pushing past the normal limits of the human body. The stretching that happens in yoga studios across the US are a type of Kriya yoga. It is meant to involve the level of training that an Olympic athlete would undergo.

Karma Yoga focuses on rendering service to others. It tries to make the world a better place or to help someone else who is already doing that. In karma yoga you go beyond your own limitations by thinking about the needs of others. It centers on compassionate action towards the poor and needy.

Bhakti Yoga is all about the heart and is focused on developing faith in the Ultimate Goodness behind all of life (which some choose to call God or GODDESS but using a name is not strictly necessary). Prayer and religious ritual are the principle examples of bhakti yoga but music and even dancing can be also be involved.

All Yoga is based on the “fake it till you make it” principle. So, for example, you don’t have to have faith in order to practice bhakti yoga. Practicing bhakti yoga WILL lead you to develop faith by learning how to act AS IF you had it. Similarly, you don’t have to know who you are or what life is about in order to practice jnana yoga. You will gain that knowledge first hand by studying and repeating that knowledge to yourself over and over. Also, you don’t have to feel compassion towards others to practice karma yoga. You will gain that compassion in the process of interacting with others in an effort to help them. And you don’t need to have courage, fortitude and discipline in order to practice Kriya Yoga. You will gain those traits by adopting it’s specific exercises.

Meditation comes in 4 different styles, corresponding to the 4 yogas. And meditation, in each of its 4 forms, must always be coupled with the development of virtue if real progress is to be made.

Jnana meditation is like Buddhist vipassana practice where attention to everything is emphasized and the changing nature (or emptiness) of all things is to be observed.

Kriya meditation involves mental tricks to help you sit for longer periods and can involve special visualizations. The branch of kundalini yoga is an example of kriya yoga meditation. Kriya meditation can involves special hand gestures called mudras and special breathing techniques.

Karma yoga meditation and bhakti yoga meditation involve the heart. These meditations artificially create feelings of loving kindness for others, love for life or the present moment in all its particulars and love for the over-arching blueprint or Divine architecture of life (using an image of God/GODDESS, or not). These meditations are meant to be practiced WHILE active in the world. You don’t need to sit still for these meditation types.

Again, the first two yogas, jnana and kriya, naturally push one to simply life while the other two are just as easy to practice in a life with lots of material responsibilities. In the second two, the complications of normal life are used as opportunities to go deeper rather than seen as hindrances to progress.

And also, the 4 yogas are not exclusive to each other. You can mix and match practices from different ones but it is helpful to carefully pick one as your primary focus that truly suits you. Success in one yoga will automatically lead to success in the others. The end result of all 4 is the same state of liberation produced by possessing both Ultimate Wisdom and Supreme Love.

A New Book Published!

Dear Loved Ones, far and wide!

I am currently spending my second winter in a row on cold and snowy eastern
Long Island, NY. Besides working to make money in order to be with my guru, Amma, I am able to write and publish books in the relative solitude here. And so, I
am pleased to share my latest book with all of you.

liimmtm-cover-for-kindle

Entitled “Love Is In My Mother, The Moon,” it is a book of poetry, so if
you’re into that kind of thing please feel free to check it out here:

https://www.amazon.com/Love-My-Mother-Moon-Amritapuri/dp/098880154X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484696822&sr=1-1&keywords=love+is+in+my+mother%2C+the+moon

It’s available in a paper or an e-reader edition and you can even download
a large free sample in the Kindle edition.

Blessings,
Kilaya Ciriello

Spiritual RAP

One of the regulars at Amma’s ashram put together a video of him rapping. It’s great and has incredible shots of India, both street life and wild. He used a drone for many of the shots. If you’re so inclined to watch a profound and meaningful rap video, it’s here:

http://tinyurl.com/h7f6qn5

High vibration music video

http://www.patreon.com/posts/4511871

A delight from a fountain of musical delight: Janapriya.