But besides corrupting public opinion, the use of force leads men to the fatal conviction that they progress, not through the spiritual impulse which impels them to the attainment of truth and its realization in life, and which constitutes the only source of every progressive movement of humanity, but by means of violence, the very force which, far from leading men to truth, always carries them further away from it. This is a fatal error, because it leads men to neglect the chief force underlying their life—their spiritual activity—and to turn all their attention and energy to the use of violence, which is superficial, sluggish, and most generally pernicious in its action.
…The sole guide which directs men and nations has always been and is the unseen, intangible, underlying force, the resultant of all the spiritual forces of a certain people, or of all humanity, which finds its outward expression in public opinion. The use of violence only weakens this force, hinders it and corrupts it, and tries to replace it by another which far from being conducive to the progress of humanity, is detrimental to it.
We observe the breath, or rather the sensations caused by breathing, in order to bring a moment-to-moment concentration. This calms the heart-mind because it is a neutral object. There are various places where people feel the sensations of breathing more acutely—at the nostrils or upper lip, at the rising and falling of the chest, and in the abdomen. All of these places are valid in terms of vipassana meditation. The Mahasi, however, favoured the abdomen as a place of observation.
As I see it, the fruits of science and scholarship belong to us all even though, as individuals, our actual knowledge is necessarily limited. Strangely enough, practicing scientists and scholars – because of the extreme degree of specialization which is required today – are no more likely to have a satisfactory general understanding than the interested observer, and the amateur will often have more time and energy than the specialist to devote to wide reading and to considering the implications of what is known.
No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.
When people hear others say something about the “voices in their head,” the knee-jerk reaction is usually to think that person is a little nutty. First of all, those who do such a thing are trivializing the plight of those who truly do hear voices in their head and can’t control them. That’s not what I’m talking about here.
If we’re being honest, we should all be able to admit that each one of us, when faced with decisions in our lives, hold internal debates with ourselves about which course of action to take. Picture the angel and devil on your favorite cartoon character’s shoulder. The difference is, in reality, your inner voices are never exactly diametrically opposed, and probably aren’t battles between good and evil, or the “right choice” and the “wrong choice.” Instead, the voices we all have inside of us usually serve to either propel us forward or hold us back in life in some way or another. Ultimately, though, it’s up to us to decide which voice to listen to.