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  • 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: , catuhskoti, , 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.

     
  • hardie karges 10:31 am on June 5, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , MS_DOS, , , Visual Basic   

    Meditation and Mediation, the Twin Foundations of Buddhism 

    Buddhism in Bhutan

    If you need a reason to meditate, then maybe that’s not really meditation. Meditation neither gives nor responds to demands. It simply IS. To be honest I probably think of it as a system re-boot more than anything else, that row of zeroes at the end of a really big number, that means that a dot will soon come, and then things will begin all over again on the other side of some line. Meditation is the dot between the two zeroes. The zeroes represent emptiness, of course, aka shunyata…

    There are all different flavors of meditation, supposedly, according to all the books and the writers, but they all tend to get back to basics, concentration on something, or everything, or nothing. But for me they all represent that same re-boot, a return to primordial pre-linguistic thought, if only for a few moments. Because once we think in a language, we never really go back. It’s simply not possible. But a new language could substitute for the old, just like Visual Basic took over where MS-DOS left off.

    Could humans ever function with a non-linguistic operating system? Of course, because we once did. And then the invention of language (or the manifestation of that instinct, for you Chomskyites) was probably the biggest revolution in the history of mankind. Just ask the Neanderthals, if you’re lucky enough to have some of their DNA. They disappeared as a species shortly after the appearance of language in Homo sapiens, hint hint.

    Ironically, they had all the same hardware and software for language themselves. Apparently, they “just didn’t have much to say.” (Spencer Wells). But that’s not our problem. Our problem is that we have too much to say, and not enough time to say it. So, we race to the finish line, shooting our mouths off and writing the Great American novel ad infinitum, whether anyone wants to read it or not. Meditation can help with that. The only app you need is silence. Mediation? That’s the Middle Path between extremes…

     
  • hardie karges 10:58 am on May 29, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Covid, , , , , , , human sacrifice, , murder,   

    Buddhism 499: the Worst Experiences Sometimes Teach the Best Lessons… 

    And while this may not be one of the Four Noble Truths or one of the folds of the Eightfold Path, it is one of the mystic truths of Buddhism, often cited by the Dalai Lama and very easy to digest in its simplicity. It is easy because it is intuitive, even if it somehow defies common sense. How could the Covid pandemic teach a valuable lesson, after all? Well, if it teaches us how to deal with Global Warming, then that would be valuable, wouldn’t it? And just that it may very well do.

    Think of it as the veritable kick upside the noggin that I could never explain with so much bloggin,’ haha. Didn’t Hitler teach us something? Didn’t slavery? No religion ever prohibited slavery, or even spoke disapprovingly of it, until very recently. It’s even doubtful that murder was considered a sin, until around the time that the Buddha, and then later Jesus, thought to specifically mention it. Why? Wasn’t that obvious? Probably not, sad to say. Because while we stand aghast now while contemplating human sacrifice, they didn’t. They lined up for the privilege.

    So, score one for cultural relativism, and let’s stand reproached for our modern arrogance. Is human sacrifice okay, then? Of course not. We know that now, that every life has value, and it’s only a question of when it begins, right? But isn’t there also a question of when it should end? This is part of the ongoing dialectic towards a higher—and more convenient—truth. What about Global Warming, then? How does that fit? We must live in harmony with Nature, somehow, some way. We don’t need to live with Dodge Charger V-8’s with four-on-the-floor and dual Holley four-barrel carbs, though. We already proved that. Now we need to relearn some of our other previous lessons.

     
  • 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…

     
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