From the ars technica website by Joe Mullin - Aug 27 2013:
"Yesterday, the ACLU filed a declaration
by Princeton Computer Science Prof. Edward Felten to support its
quest for a preliminary injunction in that lawsuit. Felten, a former
technical director of the Federal Trade Commission, has testified to
Congress several times on technology issues, and he explained why
"metadata" really is a big deal...Unlike the actual
contents of calls and e-mails, the metadata about those calls often
can't be hidden. And it can be incredibly revealing—sometimes
moreso than the actual content".
Big deal, this NSA data-collection storm. Since it
truly is a World-Wide Web, it can be understandable that someone
somewhere is potentially looking at your metadata, regardless of
where in the world you might be. I don't know about you, but I don't
live globally. I know that things I do could have some big-picture
impact, but I can't really see it. So I live locally, which can
actually include people from Japan and Jersey City, Korea and
Kalamazoo, but generally one-to-one; if they're far enough away,
probably electronically, and maybe collected by the NSA.
On a personal level, what sort of data collection do
we do? We take notes, either based on personal observations or things
that we've heard other people say, assuming that it's based on their
personal observations. Thereby revealing this data collection as The
Great Generalizations, like “All atheists are evil and not only
immoral, but a-moral since they have no God.” “Christian
fundamentalists are intolerant bigots with a room temperature IQ
(which in Celsius is really low).” “Jews are money-hungry.”
“Buddhists are wimps.” “Muslims are intolerant and violent.”
And many of these data are accepted as fact, since it's “common
knowledge", or maybe, "It's in Wikipedia, it must be true.”
But quite often, there's no real objective evaluation
of fact or reality, so the veracity of any of these statements is at
best suspect, and very often just plain wrong...unless it agrees with
Taking it down another notch on the personal scale,
let's look at what data we collect locally in a third-person way:
“That guy, he's just a jerk.” “Man, she's really got it
together.” “I'm a mess.” “I'm the best thing since sliced
bread.” “Look at the way they do sitting meditation, can't sit
still for more than a minute.” “Wow, that Roshi, he's
enlightened, I'll never get there.” “I am SO freakin'
enlightened.” “Oh, well he's Hinayana, so you know, he's just in
it for himself.” “I save all sentient beings on a daily basis.”
“Hmmm, Zen...that's nice, but it's not the True Teaching.” “Pure
Land...Oh. Are you a fisherman or something?”
There's something even more personal—keeping score
of my actions...and yours. The Metta-Data.“I helped an old lady
cross the street, I'm so proud of myself.” “She was mean to me,
so she'll get it back ten-fold.” “I drive a hybrid, I care so
much for the environment.” “Well, he does drive an SUV, so,
y'know...” “I take a bike to work!”
All more data collection. All based on there being
some sort of real, enduring, self. Separation between you and me, us
and them, self and other. And inherently delusional. It's the reality
of things that are thought, and delusional nonetheless. Can do things
to gain “points” on the karmic scoreboard? If one does something
“good,” but the intention is to gain anything, well...not bad,
but not necessarily good.
Some Buddhist traditions put forth that one
can not only accumulate merit, but that this merit can be transferred
to another, such as a loved-one who has died, so that they may enjoy
a more favorable rebirth.
Diamond Sutra speaks of merit: “Subhuti, what do you think? If
anyone filled three thousand galaxies
of worlds with the seven treasures and gave all away in gifts of
alms, would he gain great merit? Subhuti said: Great indeed,
World-honored One! Wherefore? Because merit partakes of the character
of no-merit, the Tathagata characterized the merit as
great...Subhuti, I will declare a truth to you. If a good man or good
woman filled three thousand galaxies of worlds with the seven
treasures for each sand-grain in all those Ganges rivers, and gave
all away in gifts of alms, would he gain great merit? Subhuti
answered: Great indeed, World-honored One! Then Buddha declared:
Nevertheless, Subhuti, if a good man or good woman studies this
Discourse only so far as to receive and retain four lines, and
teaches and explains them to others, the consequent merit would be
Wait, what? Is it
merit or no-merit? Is it something that can be accumulated, stored
up, kept? Merit is no-merit, thus it is called merit. This,
provisional convenience sake, pointing to the Relative, we call it
When Bodhidharma came to China, he was summoned to
meet with Emperor, who said to him, "Since
I came to the throne, I have built many temples, published numerous
scriptures and supported countless monks and nuns. How great is the
merit in all these?"
Bodhidharma's response, “None whatsoever.”
The emperor asked
him what the essence of Buddhism was. Bodhidharma's reply: “Vast
emptiness, nothing holy.” The emperor went his way (I like to think
with one eyebrow raised and with teeth clenched), Bodhidharma the
other. So all the temple building, financial support for the monks,
even just not killing them as foreign barbarians, or home-grown
heretics...Nothing. Not bad things for an emperor to do (or not do),
just not necessarily good.
are still dualistic, and dualistic concepts
to boot. Accumulating “good” karma, attaching to “good”
karma, revulsion at “bad” karma are elements of
another spoke in the samasaric wheel. Good,
not-good, so we call it good.. Bad, not-bad, so we call it bad.
What is Metta?
It's a Pali word, usually defined as loving-kindness. Sometimes it's
described as compassion, but that somehow falls short.
Altruism...that's in there, but not the totality. So far as I'm
concerned, metta is
just metta. Words, as
they often do, don't quite hit the mark in describing the actual mind
of metta. It's one of
those Absolute things; so far as I can tell, there's no not-metta.
Maybe it's not manifested at all times, but it's there, like
Here, from the Pali
Canon is the Metta Sutta:
is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise,
seeks the good, and has obtained peace.
one be strenuous, upright, and sincere,
pride, easily contented, and joyous.
one not be submerged by the things of the world.
one not take upon oneself the burden of riches.
one's senses be controlled.
one be wise but not puffed up and
one not desire great possessions even for one's family.
one do nothing that is mean or that the wise would
all beings be happy.
they be joyous and live in safety,
living beings, whether weak or strong,
high or middle or low realms of existence.
or great, visible or invisible,
or far, born or to be born,
all beings be happy.
no one deceive another nor despise any being in any state.
none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.
as a mother at the risk of her life
over and protects her only child,
with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things.
love over the entire world,
below, and all around, without limit,
let one cultivate an infinite good will toward the whole world.
or walking, sitting or lying down,
all one's waking hours,
one practice the way with gratitude.
holding to fixed views,
from sense appetites,
who achieves the way
be freed from the duality of birth and death.
If one can
perform acts of metta,without
the notion that it will have any payoff whatsoever, that is having
the mind of metta. If
one can realize that there is no merit in having the mind of metta,
and have that mind regardless, then one gains great merit. And
no-merit. And that's OK.
But don't keep score, don't puff yourself
up for having done something “good,” don't denigrate someone who
doesn't live up to your standards. Don't practice spiritual
materialism, as Chogyam Trungpa called it, as if there were riches to
be accumulated and clung to.
bother collecting the Metta-Data. It's just a creation of thinking
(which is no-thinking, therefore we call it thinking).
may you and all beings be happy.