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  • hardie karges 10:06 am on August 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Franz Ferdinand, , Occam's Razor, , , , ,   

    Buddhism for Dummies, Hold the Salsa… 

    My 6th grade teacher was correct: our mouths cause most of our problems. Samma Vaca is Right Speech, part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. Of course, Ms. What’s-her-name knew little or nothing of Buddhism but that makes no difference. Buddhism is at its best as common sense, and that’s what the Eightfold path is all about. Three of the paths that comprise the Eightfold Path you might already know from the Franz Ferdinand song ‘Right Action,’ which also trumpets (and guitars) Right Thoughts and Right Words.

    The other components of the path include Right Intention, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration (meditation), depending on translations and personal proclivities. For example, ‘mindfulness’ is all the rage in online Buddhist circles, but ‘awareness’ or even ‘consciousness’ might be a better translation of the Pali word sati (Sanskrit smrti), since they’re easy to use in any normal conversation, while ‘mindfulness’ is rarely used outside of Buddhist or meditation circles (though ‘mindful’ might be).

    And that’s the way I like my Buddhism, down-to-earth and easy to understand. Zen tries to get all Dadaesque, in its effort to go beyond language, but only confuses many people in the process. And Vajrayana puts the magic in the wand for those who need that, but none of that is really necessary for the Buddhism that the Buddha envisaged. And those early guys admittedly tried to make it more complicated, too, even grouping the Eightfold Path into a three-part collection of ethics, meditation, and wisdom, without really changing anything in the process. Sometimes the simplest way is the best, just like Occcam’s Razor, for a smooth close shave, haha…

     
  • hardie karges 12:03 pm on August 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Vedas   

    Buddhism in a Hindu World: no Time for Selves and Souls… 

    You should be able to find a comfortable balance between low self-esteem on the one hand, and overt selfish egotism, on the other, in the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, non-self or no-self, same thing. But this is one of the more controversial and misunderstood of the Buddha’s teachings, and subject to much abuse by those who want to go too far in the opposite direction from egotism, by claiming that we are all ‘nobody,’ and should somehow be proud of that. And that’s fine, if that’s what you want, but that’s not what the Buddha said.

    Because in one very real sense, the Buddha’s Middle path is not just the original path between luxury and lack, or even the esoteric existence and non-existence of the later Mahayanists. It is also very much a Middle Path between the competing philosophies of Vedic Brahmanism and the Jainism of his day. Those two, in effect, defined a very real dichotomy between the lush and lavish celebratory rituals of the upper Brahmin class and the self-denial of the renunciant rishis who once made India famous as a religious center, and to some extent still do.

    So, the self vs. no-self controversy for Buddhists was never supposed to be a total refutation of all things selfie, such that we are individually nothing at all and should aspire to nothing more than the average leaf blowing in the wind. The Buddhist doctrine of anatta only means that there is no permanent eternal soul to aspire to union with the cosmic Brahmana principle, as Brahmanic Hinduism invokes, and so nothing to worry about on that count. Peace in this life in this world is to be found by knowing the truths of suffering, craving, and impermanence, and then acting accordingly. Now we can get on with our lives.

     
  • hardie karges 8:33 am on July 31, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Magi, magic, , ,   

    Buddhism 498: Emptiness is the Path to Infinity 

    If you’re doing it right, then one day a sense of calmness will come over you, as the zeroes take over, and the fractions become less, a mind divided unable to reproduce itself properly, and the ensuing life even less. Because language knows no natural limit, and so will run on until stopped, vowels and consonants forming verbs and nouns like chickens and eggs, and no one knows which came first, since no one was taking notes in a class too crowded for convenience and too full for breath…

    But people wonder why meditate, since there’s so little time and so little space, that to waste any extra must certainly be counter-intuitive, but, in reality, the exact opposite is the case. Because meditation creates more time and more space in the process of killing it, such that if you really want to experience infinity, then the only way to do that is with emptiness.

    Because infinity cannot exist full of stuff, and that is fundamental to the concept, and who would want it anyway, except a kid at Christmas before the sun’s even up, learning the false lesson of abundance under the magic of the Magi, who got lost on the way to Bethlehem, but couldn’t see any reason to let a good story go to waste? So, a kid in a manger becomes the unlikely savior of humanity, when all we really wanted was a full belly and an empty mind, empty of hate and anger, with Big Ideas optional.

    But we can do that on command with a little silence and a lot of discipline, let the confusion die down and out, and be reborn in spirit every hour of every day with a little self-control and a lot of kindness, creating a world of forgiveness and reconciliation, instead of aggression and competition, for access to scarce resources, to create even more, when the obvious answer is to first consume even less. And that is the difference between Buddhism and Christianity, to consume less or produce more, when the truth lies somewhere in between.

     
  • hardie karges 10:25 am on July 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aristotle, Brahmanists, , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism is a World of Feeling, Thoughts Optional 

    Be kind to humans and other sentient beings, even when they are obnoxious, egotistic, pompous, and overbearing. And this is a tough row to hoe in the age of social media, I know, but that makes it even more important, doesn’t it? I think so. Because the pressure in this social media age for anyone who wants to be an ‘influencer,’ is to crack wise first, and smooth hard feelings later, if ever. But that’s not the correct order of things, I don’t think, not these days or ever.

    Because we are all ‘influencers,’ to some extent or other, but if we’re all sticking our egos in everyone’s faces all the time, then who is left to bear witness? So, we all have a stake in this game, regardless of whether we’re professional or not, because those lines are becoming blurred—at best. This is nothing if not a world of feeling, and I think that’s how Buddhism best makes sense. Because there was no world of reason back then, much less science, even if the Buddha was aware of the power of reason and tried to incorporate it into his practice.

    But reason at its best requires inscrutable logic, and the Indian tetralemma, in Greek, or catuhskoti, in Sanskrit, was far from perfect, and violated the Law of the Excluded Middle of Aristotelian logic, more familiar to our Western thought. But the Indian choices of ‘This,’ ‘That,’ ‘All of the above’ or ‘None of the above’ might ironically have led to the Buddha’s famous Middle Path, which Greek logic only approached with a roundabout dialectical synthesis that came much later.

    There’s more to life than logic, though, of course, and a close examination shows a classical Indian world-view heavily based on feeling and introspection, the deeper the better for the really big questions. That’s the world that the Buddha was raised in, and that was his method by trade, as prophet to the ages. When in doubt, think it out. Though many modern non-dualists may deny that the Buddha ever really intended anything, much less own his thoughts, I think it’s safe to say that he certainly did.

    If the Buddha’s thoughts had had no thinker, then I doubt we’d have Four Noble Truths and twice that number of folds and twists to our middle path of salvation, as defined by the cessation of suffering, at least partially, if never quite total. In every case, too, it’s a world of feeling and perception that is described, defined by name and form, and articulated by consciousness. The Brahmins and Brahmanists saw a world of Cosmic self in union with Brahma. The Buddha begged to differ. That’s the world he lived in, and that’s the world that he bequeathed to us.

     
  • hardie karges 11:44 am on July 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , id, , , , , , superego   

    Buddhism 101: Anger is a Warning Sign of Impending Danger… 

    Anger is like a lying dog, that, when provoked, rises up in consciousness, and strikes the nearest hand that most recently fed it. Because it’s blind, and usually vicious, hatefulness optional, and it infects everything it touches, anger does. But it’s not always so easy to recognize, because it comes in many forms, most often in concert with hatred, true, but equally conversant with deception and denigration and the other delusions of sense perception, always a prime source of suffering, no matter the particular place and time in question…

    And then there is the other ‘poison’ of Buddhism, besides hatred and delusion, which is greed, or sensual desire, with which anger is also often associated. But sometimes the symptom is worse than the disease, and this could often be one of those cases, in which the anger is worse than the moha, raga, or dvesha itself. These are also variously known as the Three Unwholesome Roots and the Three Kileshas, which are also available in a convenient Five-Pack for serious abusers, but who’s counting?

    Still, it all counts as demerit in a lifestyle that prides itself on making merit, and doing good, and so worth making a sea change in order to avoid the choppy waves, right? But that gets into issues of global warming and rising sea levels, when simply wearing a life jacket and learning how to swim might accomplish much the same thing in a much shorter amount of time. Why get a brain operation if a pill can cure the headache? That’s what I want to know.

    Hatred, delusion, and greedy attachments can take a lifetime to cease, overcome, or even diminish, much less cure, though, so in the meantime please do us all a favor and control your anger, okay? It becomes you. And there are many American Buddhist ‘teachers’ who might disagree with that, but they may not be so smart, after all, since they often look to Freud and Jung, rather than Buddha, for inspiration, as if the notion of superego were somehow scientific and Freud’s ego were what the Buddha was really talking about in denouncing the Brahmanistic cosmic atta/atman. It wasn’t. So, let go of all anger, the sooner the better. It sucks.

     
  • hardie karges 1:42 pm on July 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antithesis, , , , , , , , , , , synthesis, , thesis,   

    Buddhism in the Bardo: the Language of Dialectic and the Silence of Meditation… 

    Language cannot solve the problems that language creates. Only silence can do that. This is one of those inherent little foundations of Buddhism, also, like non-aggression and the limits to fulfillment, that often get lost in the shuffle of rebirth, karma, and the endless choices of past lives. But that is the essence of philosophy, and religion, to find some reason to live, without expending too much time and energy in the process, and so often that involves divine intervention—or magic…

    And that’s where Buddhism tried to be different, at least in the beginning, though the pressure to spice things up is almost irresistible, and so Buddhism was not so much different. Like Christianity a few hundred years later, it started with basic precepts, or commandments, and proceeded from that humble starting point. And to be honest, the starting points of Buddhism and Christianity were not so much different in their original conceptions.

    Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat: the basic precepts were very similar in the Abrahamic religions of the Mideast and the Dharmic religions of India. They weren’t that far apart, really, geographically or conceptually, so that may be more than a coincidence. Considering the Aryan migration eastward, also, now proven genetically, the ‘meeting of East and West’ may not have been much more than a meeting at the most convenient location, rather than some journey that required Marco Polos, Fa Hians, and Ibn Battutahs to accomplish, though they did that, too…  

    But Buddhism went through much more of a dialectical process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, over the course of its 2500 years, something implied if not intended, in its mantra of the Middle Path between extremes, so that the three major schools of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana can be seen in precisely that light, something like discipline and devotion having babies, and calling it Dharma. But at the core of them all was always meditation, and that was silent. Christianity still hasn’t learned that trick. Maybe one day they will.

     
  • hardie karges 10:39 am on July 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: awareness, , , , , , smrti   

    Buddhist Mindfulness is more than Mind Fun… 

    As a practical matter ‘mindfulness’ is probably best described as ‘awareness,’ conscious deliberate thought, one thing at the time, not ‘monkey mind,’ i.e. not mindlessness. That’s a direct translation of the Pali word sati, Sanskrit smrti, from which the associated terms originally derive. Despite the parody of ‘McMindfulness,’ it’s sometimes nice to have an almost strictly Buddhist term to stand alone on its own, even if it’s almost equally a curse.

    Because this is where the common sense often ends and the superstitions begin, the minute that you shift away from the common-sense definition and toward one that seems to carry meaning beyond which that was originally intended. But that’s what religion often does, for reasons good or bad, depending on your outlook and orientation. But just because we can give names to certain mental states and conditions doesn’t mean that they actually exist, just because we thought it so. This is one of the problems of language.

    Still, we all know what it means to ‘lose consciousness,’ and that’s exactly what it means to lose ‘sati’ in at least a couple of modern SE Asian languages. Conversely to be conscious, small letter ‘c,’ is exactly what it means to ‘have’ sati in those same languages. I think that it’s good to know that, to know that ‘mindfulness’ was never originally intended as some transcendental transect or shortcut toward bliss, but a normal state that has always been healthy and desirable.

    Because that is the ultimate goal of Buddhism: little ‘b’ bliss, aka ‘happiness,’ alive and awake and oriented toward the simple goals of health and wholesomeness. If some people think it’s negative, that’s only in relationship to Christianity with its half-full cup always overflowing, while Buddhism acknowledges straight-up that we’re all gonna’ die, ain’t no ‘ifs,’ ‘ands,’ ‘buts,’ nor ‘whys.’

    That simple difference means that Buddhism is yer better bet in the fights against Global Warming and poverty, since, if there’s less that runneth over, then there’s more to go around. I’d say that’s a helluva deal, no extra charge for the ‘to go’ cup, haha. And that’s what we really want, isn’t it, a solution to some real-life problems in the real world of beauty and imperfection? Of course, it is…

     
  • hardie karges 11:36 am on June 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , non-aggression   

    Buddhism and Peak Emotion: Chill, dude… 

    If suffering is the reality that Buddhism acknowledges, then non-aggression is the response to that reality, and most difficult. But that is what we must do. And that is the essence of Buddhism, non-aggression by design and intent. The irony, of course, is that that doesn’t require one to DO much of anything at all. Of much greater importance is what you NOT do…

    Do NOT take the bait when somebody on Facebook forces you into denying something that you never really asserted—or at least never intended to assert—in the first place. Do NOT respond for the fifth time to some debatable thesis to which you’ve already responded—identically—four times previously (actual numbers may vary). Do NOT get angry about something that makes no difference to anyone in the first place.

    Given that anger, or maybe at least a certain form of it, may indeed be necessary when someone’s life or livelihood is in actual danger, ferchissakes don’t waste the precious emotion over the price of rice in China, or the price of gas in Flagstaff. Yes, emotion should be a precious commodity, to be doled out judiciously and with mindfulness aforethought, not something to be tossed around willy-nilly like so many wedding invitations from a bride or groom who really only want the registry gifts.

    But this is the hardest thing for a Western Buddhist to learn, that emotion is something to be avoided, and not encouraged. Defendants in western courts, after all, are expected to ‘show remorse’ and not just prove intent. So, it’s not a bad little trick to learn, TBH, because it might save you some time or some bucks, should you ever need to make amends for your wrongdoings.

    But it will score you few or no points in Buddhism, where actions (karma) speak louder than words—or tears. So, the Japanese PM gets little recognition for multiple apologies for Japanese behavior in WWII, while the German PM wins the prize for Best Actor for dropping on to his knees at Auschwitz and crying profusely. It’s the dangedest thang. But that’s what we’re taught in photography class: go for the peak emotion! And so that’s what we do. And history bears witness to it all…

     
  • hardie karges 9:11 am on June 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Siddhartha Gautama,   

    Buddhism in a World of Pain and Suffering… 

    To love the one that loves you is easy. To love the one that hates you is the challenge of enlightenment. Because we don’t really need religion or philosophy when times are good and grocery store shelves are full. We need religion and philosophy when ‘Times are hard…and the jobs are few’ (Townes Van Zandt). And that’s the foundation stone upon which Buddhism was built, as intuited by Siddhartha Gautama even as he sat upon his throne, while being entertained by dancing girls and God-knows-what-else. A quick trip outside the palace walls proved the Buddha’s worst suspicions.

    Because there he quickly found old age, sickness, disease, and death. Thus was born Buddhism, for which the task was to facilitate the mitigation of those most obvious sufferings. And in his humble estimation the most important things to remember were not about what to do, but what NOT to do, specifically craving. So, if we’re willing to live simple lives, content with simple pleasures, and not possessed by our possessions, and not obsessed with cravings, then life can be good. But if we constantly want more, and more, and more, then our lives will likely go downhill fast, accordingly.

    And I had problems with that concept for a long time, not because I was obsessed with material wealth, but because I saw a passivity in many Buddhist countries that didn’t seem healthy to me, and which I assumed could be easily manipulated by the rich and powerful by their own means and to their own ends. But everything is different now. So, if that is sometimes, or even often, the case, the opposite is the worse risk at this point in time of world history. Because we are killing ourselves with excess, and it is not going softly. Buddhism is better than that. We can learn from nature, but first we unlearn the violence.

     
  • hardie karges 10:52 am on June 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , global hunger, , , Law of Excluded Middle, , ,   

    Buddhist Dependent Origination and the Law of Excluded Middle 

    We worry about Global Warming, and even Global Hunger, but what about Global Hatred and Global Anger? Because the seeds of one are in the other, and there really is no solution short of a comprehensive solution. I mean, is there any real likelihood that Global Warming could ever be solved without also solving other global problems at the same time? It’s not likely. Such is the nature of the Buddhist Law of Dependent Origination, that we are caught in a web of causal connections, even if the details are sometimes best left to the imagination.

    Because the Buddha’s world was one based largely on perception, and introspection, in that order, from the simplest to the most complex, and in which rationality was something radical and revolutionary. But that’s exactly what the Buddha attempted, a full two hundred years before Aristotle, albeit with mixed results. Because Aristotelian logic is an ‘either/or’ choice between any proposition and its negation. There is no middle option with the Law of the Excluded Middle. But Buddhism is all about that middle option, that sweet spot between extremes.

    So, Buddhist logic, aka catuhskoti, aka tetralemma, in addition to the proposition and its negation, also allows both—or neither. Given such logical options, pure perception is likely to be the more accurate description of reality. And that’s what Buddha attempts with the twelve nidanas that comprise the Buddhist Law of Dependent Origination. But words can’t accurately describe a law of nature, so the progression from ignorance, formation, consciousness, name and form, etc., may not necessarily make total sense in the particulars what makes perfect sense in general.

    The Buddha’s path of knowledge was deep introspection, which is the best that you can do without science. Einstein was a master of it with his thought experiments. And Plato did much the same with his Socratic dialogs, forerunner to the modern dialectic of Hegel and others. Jesus’s parables and the Buddha’s sutras accomplish much the same thing, but more in the personal and ethical sphere than in scientific breakthroughs. Einstein’s ‘happiest moment’ and ‘biggest blunder’ were special relativity and the Cosmological Constant, respectively. The Buddha’s were the middle path and the underestimation of women. He was only human, after all.

     
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