Tag Archives: Buddhism

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis

These are some of the quotes from this book that resonated with me:

1) “As we have seen, the most important messages of life come from the primary relationships with mother, father and siblings and then, in ever widening circles, the culture as a whole. These messages are internalized and we accede to them, seek to evade them, or unconsciously solicit treatment for them. These messages, or complexes, are splinter mythologies, embodied in daily life as fractal personalities, and to ether they enact the ego’s daily dance. Most of the time the ego is in service to these scripts even when it thinks otherwise….Thus, we marry, go to college, join the army, produce children and careers, and only from tim ego time question why or to what end.”

2) “But the question why continues to be asked in the unconscious.”

3) As Jung reminds, “It is not I who created myself, rather I happen to myself.”

4) “Perhaps the highest achievement of consciousness is not the self-serving reiteration of its own glories, its agenda of regressive reinforcement in the face of the late, intimidating cosmos that is our home, but rather its capacity to acknowledge that it has been called to witness, and to serve, to serve something larger.”

Quite consistent with the ideas of Buddhism, the way to a larger life is to become more conscious. Hollis provides a list of questions to reflect upon and answer.  The questions force us to contemplate the areas in which we are living out of habit, rather than intention. This leads to fear, rigidity and resistance to change. Rather, Hollis asks us to consider:

  • 1) Where has life blessed you?
  • 2) Where are you blocked by fear, stuck, rigid, resistant to change?
  • 3) What is the fear beneath the fear?
  • 4) Where were your parents stuck and where has that manifested in your own life? Are you repeating their lives, their patterns or trying to overcome them by compensation?
  • 5) What ideas, habits, and behavioral patterns are holding you back?
  • 6) Where are you still looking for permission to live your life?

Even if you do not believe in a “soul” or are indifferent towards Jungian or Buddhist thought, these are excellent questions to ponder on. This type of reflection can be the difference between living a deeper and “larger life” and feeling stuck and out of control.

Walter Evans-Wentz nomad-anthropologist

I’ve been reading about Walter Evans-Wentz, an American anthropologist who was the first to publish an early translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead in 1927.

He was called a “gypsy-scholar” by his professors at Oxford, not without some truth, since he spent an enormous amount of time in Mexico, Europe and the Far East. This predates contemporary pioneers of Western Buddhism such as Bob Thurman, Uma Thurman’s father and Leonard van der Kujp with whom I had the pleasure of taking Tibetan Buddhism back in my Boston days. We are talking about the year 1919 when Evans-Wentz arrived at Darjeeling and began translating the text.

He was a practicing Buddhist and a yogi. Like some anthropologist who “go native,” Evans-Wentz wanted to permanently stay in India, but was compelled to return to the US during World War II.

According to Harry Oldmeadow in Journeys East, he was a “puritanical and isolated man,” who spent the last 25 years of his life in a motel in Sam Diego, following a strict vegetarian diet, and becoming rather involved with Yogananda’s Self Realization Fellowship in California. Oldmeadow writes: “He spurned public life and never took on the role of spiritual teacher…of his life he wrote…he had ‘striven to love all mankind of all nations and races and faiths…dwelt in the solitude of the deserts, of the jungles, of the mountaintops….” The underpinnings of his theosophical views are evident in his description of himself.

In the Foreword to The Tibetan Book of the Dead, it is stated that Evans-Wentz was more of a practitioner of Hindu yoga than Tibetan Buddhism. He never did learn Tibetan, but did claim that he was the recognized disciple of a Tibetan lama, maybe even the first Western one.

It is also noted that the Tibetan Book of the Dead was read at his funeral in the way that it was originally intended to be read.