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  • hardie karges 10:47 am on May 22, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brahmanist, , , George Harrison, , , , , , ,   

    Self, Ego, Identity, or the Lack Thereof in Buddhism… 

    Permanent self and immortal soul are a convenient fiction, but a fiction, nevertheless. And this is what the whole ‘no-self’ on ‘non-self’ debate is all about, or at least WAS. And if it’s disturbing enough that that principle is often misrepresented, it’s downright ridiculous that there is often even a debate over the preference or appropriateness of ‘non-self’ vis a vis ‘no-self.’ But the issue is very clear within the historical context of the competition and ongoing debate between the Brahmanists, Buddhists, and Jains way back some 2500 years ago.

    And the reverb echoes even today when George Harrison opines during his last days that these souls go on forever, so death is essentially meaningless. And whatever qualms you might have about such a statement from a scientific viewpoint would hopefully be secondary to the hope and optimism that it might do for you in the short-term of this life span. But it’s very popular now amongst ‘non-dualists’ as much or more than Buddhists to claim that thoughts have no thinker and actions have no doer. They even claim that the Buddha said that, but if so, then I can’t name the sutra, and even if he did it was likely in a metaphorical usage.

    Because Buddhism in general is nothing if not mental training, and so to conclude that there is nothing there, nothing at all, would seem counterintuitive. But that is the modern ‘non-dualist’ assertion, that any and all self-identity is detrimental to one’s spiritual well-being. And that may or may not be true, but I don’t think the Buddha said that, because it would render the Eightfold Path pointless. When you believe in yourself, don’t believe too much, just enough to accomplish what you need, not enough to inflate your ego. That’s the Middle Path between excess and lack…

     
  • hardie karges 6:30 am on May 15, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: autoplay, , , , , , , neuroscience   

    Buddhism, Meditation, and the Sounds of Silence 

    Words can do damage. We all know that instinctively. And silence never hurt anyone. We know that, too. So,  I would almost like to make this the Fifth Noble Truth, but I guess it’s too late for that, haha. It’s true, though, and I think the practice of meditation intuited this from the get-go, whether it was ever fully articulated or not, until recently. Because we now know about the language overload and barrage that we are subjected to every day, when such a thing might not have been so obvious two thousand years ago.

    But that’s the first thing that the neuroscience researchers asked me, when they interviewed me as a possible test subject for their research on meditation. “Can you stop the internal dialogue?” Hehe, that’s the whole point, IMHO. “Do you know what I’m talking about?” They asked again to make certain I understood. Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about. And that’s really the only thing that stands out from the entire series of ‘Don Juan’ books written by Carlos Castaneda, in which the shaman Don Juan constantly implores the student to stop that same dialogue, among other things.

    But some people are sensitive to that, at least in sudden form, so it should not be forced. And that’s because we think in a language, or two. There is some debate about whether we thought before we had language, and I believe we did, but once we got it, there’s no turning it off, except deliberately. Otherwise it just goes on and on, seemingly endlessly, until death do us part. And yes, this is likely the origin and mainstay of the ‘duality’ that is such a popular topic in New-Agey forums, whether anyone knows what it means or not. That voice in the background must be the Self or Other, one or the other.

    But there is a social context, also, in which the air waves we all share are simply bombarding us with sound constantly. And if Autoplay on Internet is the worst offender, well, the bar down the street is not much better, nor are the loud-mouthed Americans down the hall at my bare-budget residencia  in Coimbra. Silence is no longer normal. And it should be. How can I quiet the voices in my head, when I can’t quiet the voices all around me? That’s what meditation is for, silent meditation, no app necessary…

     
  • hardie karges 9:41 am on May 8, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: guided meditation, , , midfulness, monkey mind, ,   

    Sati and Samadhi: Meditation and Mindfulness… 

    I’m not sure what mindfulness means. I only know that it is the opposite of mindlessness. But mindfulness is Buddhism’s stock in trade now, what with the advent of secular Buddhism and the rising popularity of meditation. In fact, the two words ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ are sometimes considered synonyms, or, at the very least, ‘mindfulness’ is considered to be a form of meditation. But ‘mindfulness’ is first and foremost a translation of the Pali/Sanskrit word sati, and that word simply meant ‘awareness’ or ‘consciousness,’ both with small letters ‘a’ and ‘c.’

    But if it’s the magic that sells the meditation, with promises of bliss and enlightenment, then you better slather your slab with some of that special sauce that makes all the difference between silent aware no-thought breathing and the ‘guided meditation’ of socialites and celebs with scripted narratives and six-pack abs. And if that sounds like Mc Mindfulness, then so be it, whatever gets your butt on the cushion and out of the bars and pubs, because that is the most important thing, to help quiet your mind from all the distractions and internal chatter that constitute ‘monkey mind,’ haha, the dreaded curse of modern man.

    Now, I personally prefer silent meditation, but that doesn’t mean that I think that guided meditation has no value, I just think that true meditation is silent. After all, isn’t the cessation of thought one of the goals of meditation, at least temporary, in some sort of mental ‘re-boot?’ Yes, that is the most important goal, but some people have problems with that, so the incremental approach might be better. Because language is possibly the most important invention ever created, but it doesn’t come without a cost. Can you imagine going back to computers with no language? You get the idea. Now get the cure.

     
  • hardie karges 8:45 am on May 1, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , justice, , Mosaic, moses, , , Roman, sanatana   

    Buddhism and the Mosaic of Laws It Competes With… 

    Repay every aggression with kindness, sooner rather than later. Because in this way, not only can society progress and history advance, but wounds can heal, and toxic attitudes can change. This is one of the prime conceptual bases of religion, of course, all the best ones, that you don’t have to respond “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth,” lex talionis, Roman if not Christian. Because that predates Jesus Christ and his subsequent Christians, going way back to the early Jews, Moses, and the Mosaic law that sits there like concrete, composed of gravel and mud, shards and pieces, cobbled together in an elaborate composite of moral, civil, and ceremonial considerations not unlike the various bodies of law(s) and customs that have subsequently been handed down from the example of it.

    There’s only one problem: that ain’t religion, not most of it. That’s law and politics and culture and custom, almost everything BUT religion, except the parts of it that can be considered ‘moral law.’ And those are almost indistinguishable from the Buddhist precepts: Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, etc., and even then, the attitude most truly religious that they can muster is for the Christians to have no other god before God (Allah), and for the Buddhist to not claim any form of enlightenment that they really can’t deliver–boom. It was up to Jesus to bring true religion to the Jews, just like it was up to the Buddha to bring true religion to sanatana dharma (Hinduism).

    The Muslims kept the ‘eye for an eye,’ famously, of course, and in that sense distinguish themselves form Christians. The Jews did likewise for most of history, only shifting to the more liberal Christian orientation recently, c. 1948. The rest is history. But that’s politics. We want religion. And the lex talionis doesn’t preclude that, of course, it only limits its reach, which is not so bad, all things considered. And the main thing to consider is that it is NOT a proclamation of revenge, in fact just the opposite. Because it limits retribution to the original damage, and, in effect, prohibits the punitive damages that could be considered as revenge, i.e. more than simple punishment, and far more than actual damages. But true religion always tries to heal the transgressor with love and kindness, not revenge or even justice. Religion transcends justice. It should be better than that.

    Note: the word ‘dharma’ has often been translated as ‘law’…

     
  • hardie karges 7:13 am on April 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Buddhism: Enlightenment on the Installment Plan 

    Someone who is truly enlightened would never make that claim for himself. But that is the situation in which we find ourselves, spreading the gospel of gentleness and kindness in a world that seems to reward only aggression and ego. So ‘spiritual bad-asses’ glory in their revelations and revel in their false righteousness, while the truly righteous among us go about their tasks mostly in silence, taking pleasure in their modest accomplishments and finding satisfaction in their commitment.

    And those tasks consist largely in service to mankind, in one way or another, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, materially if not spiritually, at least for a moment, if not for a lifetime. Because truly there is no real difference between the two, such that it is hard to be truly enlightened if you’re truly hungry and it’s hard to be enlightened if you’re much too full. That sweet spot of enlightenment lies somewhere in between, as the Buddha himself brilliantly realized.

    And these realizations are at the heart of enlightenment, it not much more than that, really, in greater or lesser degree, so nothing necessarily metaphysical nor transcendent, not really, just the realization that we are here at a moment in history where consciousness is king, and the mechanics of enlightenment are insignificant. The only important thing is the realization: that we are all connected, however distant; that suffering is ever-present, but can be avoided and mitigated; that change is something to be welcomed, not feared; and that right living is always the best revenge, against the forces that would consume you. There are no enemies, not really…

     
  • hardie karges 7:05 am on April 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhist Metta in the Age of Social Media… 

    Metta is simple and one of the cornerstones of Buddhism: friendship, simple friendship. Or call it ‘loving-kindness’ if that reconciles you with the Hebrew chesed of your Judeo-Christian tradition. Just note that it is not the passion that is usually associated with Christian ‘loving-kindness,’ not even the passionate embrace of a mother and her child. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it’s not necessary. What’s necessary is that the child not experience fear and anger and other defilements and afflictions.

    But we Westerners, particularly Americans, are raised on a diet of emotional cocktails, roller-coasters and built-in toasters, speeding up and then putting on brakes, heating up and then cooling our feet, such that life is nothing but one vast mood swing, which we must then ‘shrink’ by repeated visits to the therapist of our choice. To be a ‘bad-ass’ is a compliment in the US of A, and it shows in our interactions with the world. We fight our enemies to the death on battlefields, while never questioning the enemy within.

    This is one reason why it’s so difficult for Americans to be good Buddhists. Because we look for enlightenment in dialogue and debate, rather than the silence that brilliantly illustrates Emptiness, if not strictly define it. Because we look for our meditation in the words of some endless rap from some best-selling app from the online app-store of one of the world’s richest men, rather than that same silence which the Buddha himself used, as do thousands of monks to this day.

    And whether those monks win or lose the debates that some “spiritual bad-asses” (actual quote) find so rewarding and illuminating is not important. What’s important is quieting the mind (i.e. consciousness) by the necessary hours of silent and still sitting that make life itself the only reward necessary for a rewarding existence. All the cars and bars and Hollywood stars on assorted sh*t-stained sidewalks are but illustrations in a magazine that most people can’t sit still long enough to actually read.

    Compared to these challenges, metta is a literal piece of cake, to be shared with friends on any given day, and maybe even twice on Sunday, or Christmas, or Easter. The world is our sangha, our community, and strangers are as much a part of that as family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. In fact, that can be its greatest reward, communion with strangers as if they were lifelong friends. You can’t know that pleasure until you test those waters. The first rule of friendship is to be friendly, simple. Smile. Happy Easter. Happy Buddhist New Year.

     
  • hardie karges 6:54 am on April 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Dawn of Everything, , , judgment, , , , ,   

    Buddhism 101: The Difference Between Cravings and Needs–and Karma… 

    Be careful with judgments. The craving for food of a wealthy person is different from the craving for food of a poor person. If that means that there are good cravings and bad cravings, then we are simply getting bogged down in words, because the craving to be avoided is for something beyond what is necessary. Thus, the craving for food of a starving person is not a craving in the sense that Buddhism abhors. That is a need, not a craving. The craving that Buddhism abhors is the incessant call for more, more, and more far beyond what is needed to sustain the life of someone and his significant others.

    This is implicit, of course, in the Middle Path between luxury and lack, which is at the heart of original Buddhism, before the re-birthers decided that it was always all about that: rebirth, past lives, and the generation-jumping karma of retribution. And that original impetus is definitely what we need now, in our economic stage of advanced capitalism, to be reminded that craving is at the heart of our problem. There is even some scientific evidence coming out now in the best-selling book ‘The Dawn of Everything’ that gluttony and craving are at the heart of certain violent and slave-trading cultures.

    Suddenly it all starts to make sense, doesn’t it? The lifestyles that reward gluttony and craving demand violence and other defilements to sustain them. The one feeds the other in a never-ending cycle of degradation, and our lives suffer as a result. Life is not so difficult, after all, certainly not as difficult as the ‘multiple feedback loops of karma’ invoked by some high priests of reincarnation might make you think. Just be kind, and gentle, and respectful to the rights and dignity of others. The rites and rituals can come and go, but what you don’t do is sometimes more important than what you do.

     
  • hardie karges 6:42 am on April 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ignorance, , , , , ,   

    Buddhism of the Present Moment: Averaging Past and Future, Science and Superstition… 

    The one who can control himself, can control the world—his world…

    Sometimes the only way to remove hatred and ignorance from our lives is to remove the haters and ignorant people from our lives. And fortunately, that’s still possible, as our increasingly crowded world still has some empty places yet to be traversed and social ambitions yet to be fulfilled. But what happens when there is no place to hide, when social mobility comes to a standstill? Where do we go then to find peace and quiet, to find love, knowledge, and acceptance, where before there was only ignorance and hate?

    The obvious place to go is inside of course, deep inside, within our own minds and consciousness, both terms that I use with some trepidation, science-lover that I am, when what I really mean is memory. Because other than the constant (live) stream of sense perceptions that occur in real time, then all we really have is memory, which is anathema to the present-moment Buddhist or Eckhart Tolle disciple, but which is nonetheless a major part of our conscious waking moments.

    Besides those two there are only dreams, which occur in present time but in an undefined space, and conscious thinking, which some ‘non-dualists’ and latter-day Buddhists (‘thoughts without thinkers’) insist is not really real, but which nevertheless occupy reams and tomes of studied critiques and analyzed comparisons for the only purpose of knowledge itself, any benefits to be derived in subsequent interactions with the same world of biology, chemistry, and physics, or language, history, and psychology, from which it ultimately came in the process of experiment.

    And none of that can reasonably be denied, though it could certainly be claimed that we have spiritual lives that are bigger and better than all that. And I would tend to agree. So, the challenge is to make sense of it all, science and meditation, or action and renunciation, so that we can combine lives of action with our spiritual lives, which should also include science, and not just deep introspection, which was all that Buddha—and Plato—had. The answer is implicit, of course, in the Middle Path.

    Because that concept of the Middle Path works not only between Buddha’s luxury and lack, or the Mahayanist dichotomy of existence and non-existence, but still works for a modern secular dichotomy between introspection and science. And that is the supreme beauty of Buddhism, of course, that it is an ongoing dialectic, in which wrong choices are corrected. The Buddha himself wasn’t perfect, and even accepted a lesser status for women, which often figures prominently in misguided Buddhist theses for past lives and reincarnation, hint hint. But we can correct the mistakes of the past with the revelations of the present. And so we must.

     
  • hardie karges 4:50 am on March 27, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism: Life in the Slow Lane… 

    It’s okay to enjoy life, even love it, and still be a good Buddhist, as long as you don’t pretend to possess or attach, crave or covet. Because, even if Buddhism is a religion of renunciation, at its origins, and at the core of its being, it is still pragmatic and rational in its acknowledgement that the average life, for the average householder, must be properly maintained and nourished if any of us are to even have anything to renounce. Renunciation, after all, is not poverty. It is a conscious rejection of the supercilious aspects of human existence that lend it its falseness, and which tend to reduce us to its servants, not its masters.

    Because the master of human existence is the one who can take it or leave it, in its fullness or its emptiness, each of which is valid and credible, neither of which is complete in and of itself, and both of which can serve as valuable paradigms toward fulfillment in the right place and in the right time, the details of which are to be established later. Because Buddhism is nothing if not a fertile middle ground for resettlement, after all the thrusts and forays of penetration and conquest have run their course. Those are but illusions, after all, while the real stuff of life is to be found not in articles of consumption, but in the abstract concepts that occupy thought, feeling, and action. There is nothing mystical about Buddhism in its essence. The Middle Path is all about rationality, ratios, and rations…

     
  • hardie karges 5:39 am on March 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , demmocracy, , , triple religion   

    Caveat Emptor: Buddhism’s Fine Print… 

    You can spend your life pursuing objects of craving, or you can reduce your need for them. Christianity or Buddhism? Your choice. And yes, it’s really that simple, almost. The Buddhist Precepts and the Christian Ten Commandments are almost exactly the same, after all. And other differences purported if not actually reported are a little bit harder to define, like the bit about passion and dispassion. Now I fully trust my sense of that, but it is a harder point to sharpen, and anyway doesn’t make so much difference for the average individual living his daily life.

    Then there’s the question of a creator God, which is probably as much a thorn in the side of many Christians as the question of rebirth is for many Buddhists, which is the role of belief and superstition in the practice of either. And so, once again, the similarities abound. But the opposites are palpable. To crave or not? That’s a real difference, and lies at the heart of Buddhism, the disavowal of that. And the desire for that lies at the heart of the Triple Religion that we might call Christianity-Democracy-Capitalism, my term, not to be confused with the Triple Religion of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, which is often invoked for China and sometimes Vietnam, at least before Communism.

    But few choices are truly binary in real life, even if the issues involved often are. To desire or not desire? I think that I might be able to divide my time appropriately between the two. After all Buddhism is built on a Middle Path between extremes, the worst of either to be avoided, while the best of both are to be imbibed of judiciously, with neither lack nor excess. And if this ultimately involves the mixing of religions, then so be it, as long as it’s articulated, so that we’re not pretending that grace, forgiveness, and passion are at the heart of Buddhism. They aren’t. That’s Christianity. So mix in equal portions, like salt and pepper. And there might even be a new Triple Religion possible, Buddhism-Democracy-Socialism, sounds good to me.

     
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