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  • hardie karges 8:05 am on January 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , monks, Amazon, Newton's third law   

    Buddhism in the Modern Era 

    Some people might laugh at a monk in meditation, wasting his life away, but I laugh at the silly fools who cause global warming. Because they are the ones that are not only wasting their lives, and themselves, but they are destroying the world for the rest of us, also, and that is a crime that should be punishable to the maximum extent of the law. Meditation is no crime, regardless of whether you think it does anyone any good or not. It certainly does no one any harm, and that’s the Hippocratic Oath, primum non nocere…

    So why do it? The short answer is for the peace of mind, of course, and that should be plenty. But the industrialists and capitalists are hooked on growth like Skid Row addicts on the junk and other trash that populates so much of our lives. Beauty is so much better, and it is absolutely free, costing nothing in the backyard garden and not much more in Amazon, which in reality is a jungle in the South American heart of darkness, which really isn’t so dark at all, in fact a veritable paradise and biology lab par excellence…

    But the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness implicit in the state of Nature are wasted on people who only judge value by dollar signs and Yelp (!) reviews. Because that is a world that means little in the final analysis of man’s involvement with his planet. Karma may be a sketchy concept, but that sketch packs a powerful punch: we reap what we sow, somehow some way, and that murkiness is important. Because the fact that every action has an equal effect is not karma; that’s Newton’s 3rd Law. That every action has an indirect, perhaps greater, effect is karma, and that’s dharma, law, religion, you name it…

  • hardie karges 6:00 am on January 9, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: civil disobedience, , Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Pancasila, passivity   

    Buddhism and the Power of Emptiness 

    Non-action is not the same as inaction, and it can often counter aggression successfully, with non-compliance and non-cooperation, etc. Because inaction is passive, while non-action is deliberate and intentional, so the better Buddhist response, by far, and a well-tested tactic by such civil disobedience luminaries as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Buddhism’s weakest point is its passivity, by those who misinterpret its dispassion as such. But that is a logical non-sequitur. Dispassion does not imply passivity, even if that is a hard point to make to people in many Buddhist countries where that is the norm.

    And I’ve made my peace with that reality, somewhat, in that at this point in the history of the world, passivity is better than the mindless aggression that consumes so many lives in its quest for legitimacy, usually being marketed as any one of various forms of freedom, which is largely a masquerade and a farce, a caricature of true freedom which is freedom FROM the addictions and cravings that enslave us, not a freedom TO do whatever and whenever we want, no matter whom it might hurt in the process. Because that is a precept as important as any in the Buddhist Commandments, whether five (Pancasila) for the layperson or Eight (Atthasila) for monks.

    First do no harm. Then decide what else is required and necessary. To do nothing is better than to do something wrong or bad. And, when properly applied with strategy and forethought, non-action can be revolutionary. Because dictators and autocrats depend on the acquiescence of a docile populace to rule by force and coercion. That means enough optimism and goodwill to reproduce the human race, without which no ruler can rule. Many, if not most animals, cannot reproduce in captivity. Why is that, do you think? The answer to that is the secret to life and the origin of the science of psychology…

  • hardie karges 5:39 am on January 2, 2022 Permalink | Reply  

    Bodh Gaya, India: Home to the Buddha, Thousands of Monks—and Mosquitoes… 

    Live from Bodh Gaya, India…

    Dharma Bums and Fellow Travelers

    Bodh Gaya, in the state of Bihar (from the Sanskrit vihara, or temple), in India, is top dead center for the history of Buddhism, famous as the place where the Buddha got ‘woke,’ or found enlightenment, whichever translation you prefer, same thing, really. And if Patna did little to show the glory of its previous existence as Pataliputra, then Bodh Gaya goes a long way to make up for that disappointment, not that there are none of the noise, air pollution, and grime that plague so many other Indian towns and cities—there are—but there’s none of that inside the Mahabodhi temple complex itself.

    No, there are just Buddhists from all over the world gathering to share some of the well-being that they have acquired through the practice of Buddhism, even if the several traditions may have diverged widely from the original inspiration which was the Buddha’s almost alone, after…

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  • hardie karges 6:07 am on December 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , spiritual bypassing, Three Poisons   

    Buddhism Unmoved: in Support of ‘Spiritual Bypassing’ 

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

    Anger is an object lesson, not just about hatred, which seems obvious, but lust, craving, passion, and all the rest. It feeds on itself until it destroys something, if not everything. This is one of the Three Poisons of Buddhism, along with greed and ignorance, and it would be hard to decide which is worse. Because they all destroy whatever is in their path, like fires burning endlessly and mindlessly, when the obvious solution would be to simply let them go, to burn themselves out. If any three words could sum up the message of Buddhism, it would likely be, ‘let it go.’

    But it’s not always so easy, of course, given the nature of the beast, its very nature being its difficulty to let go. So, in a sense, they are all one, that fire burning, which we Westerners like to immortalize as something romantic called ‘passion,’ while conveniently forgetting that word’s roots in suffering, as in the ‘passion of Christ,’ nothing romantic about that. But so we fantasize, that our greed is our glory and our lust is our love, when nothing could be further from the truth, from any metaphysical viewpoint—at least, not in Buddhism.

    Because Buddhism is a religion and philosophy of dispassion, in both the traditional meaning of ending suffering and the modern meaning of avoiding strong emotion. This drives many Western psychologists crazy, of course, because they sense any emptiness as a cause of alarm. The first thing they teach in photography class is to ‘go for peak emotion.’ And the psychologists want all potential conflicts to be met head-on. To not do so is something they call ‘spiritual bypassing,’ with obvious derision. Well, if avoiding anger is ‘bypassing,’ then I heartily recommend it. For nothing good can come from anger. One man’s religion is another man’s aversion, I suppose.

  • hardie karges 8:07 am on December 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddha-nature, , , , Lin Chi,   

    First Precept of Buddhism: Thou Shalt not Kill… 

    If you meet the Buddha on the road, feed him. Now isn’t that better than the traditional Zen koan: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”? And I know, I know, there are approximately 1000 explanations and clarifications about what Lin Chi really meant, most of them veering toward the ever-popular non-dualistic trend, in the sense that the Buddha-nature (bodhicitta) is within us all, so that if you meet a Buddha that is separate from yourself, then it is likely an imposter—or not.

    After all, who really knows what Lin Chi meant, more than 1000 years ago, or all the other hundreds of koans that are supposed to lead to enlightenment, simply by twisting the mind, or thought, or language, so that there is no other option? Out of the confusion, enlightenment will come, when the limits of language are laid bare—or not. Because who really knows what any of the hundreds of Buddhist philosophers really meant? And who really understands ‘non-dualism’? And why is it important?

    Because what the Buddha himself taught was really quite simple, and I don’t remember non-dualism being part of it. That was Hinduism. What the Buddha taught was compassion, in response to great suffering, and the same commandments and precepts that they all teach. So, language is part of the deal, but so is silence, meditation. Language can’t always solve the problems that language creates, but silence often can, if you just give it a chance.

  • hardie karges 7:10 am on December 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Buddhism: Salvation Nirvana Love Magic… 

    Revenge is never sweet. Find a way to accept your enemy as your brother, and the world will be a better place. This is the social and societal side of Buddhism, which is seldom talked about, but which is fundamental to its value, with accent on the fun. Because, while much of Buddhism has to do with personal satisfaction and peace of mind, there is a tendency to overlook the underlying social function which makes it indispensable to cultures and countries the world over. This is its ‘First do no harm’ function of ahimsa, non-violence, that makes it so attractive across the broad board, beyond the mostly petty distinctions that divide Buddhism, and all religions, for that matter.

    So, when the Buddha on his death bed told his disciple to ‘be a light unto yourself,’ and Saint Paul said to be a light unto the world, the essential message is the same: do the right thing. But Buddha was playing a clever little word game in his message, since the Pali word dipa can mean both ‘light’ and ‘island,’ as in Dipavali, the festival of lights, and Lankadeepa, the island of Sri Lanka. And the light that the Buddha wants is one that is self-contained, like an island, while the light that Saint Paul wants to be shined upon the world is the word of God, received and transmitted.

    But this distinction, which is really and truly only a small distinction, also defines the difference between Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, with its Buddha-nature, Bodhisattvas, and shunyata, or Emptiness. This is the message to forego Nirvana until all of us are ready, and so project that Buddha-nature on to the world. Is that nature not a light to be shined? And that zero that defines emptiness also defines a center. Is that not the same distinction between us and the world, and so really a non-distinction? Of course it is, and it isn’t, so the only thing left to do is save yourself, and then save the world, simple if not easy.

  • hardie karges 6:59 am on December 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    The Ways and (Skillful) Means of Buddhism… 

    ‘Skillful means’ is not about telling people what they want to hear. It’s telling them what they need to hear, in a way that’s acceptable to them. And if this sounds obvious, it can be more complicated than it seems. It can even contradict one of the main precepts in the Eightfold Path, in fact, if it fails to acknowledge the importance of Right Speech. One of the Buddha’s later commentators, in fact, even bragged about how the Buddha could preach about cosmic Self to the Brahmanists, while preaching non-self to the already-committed Buddhists. Fast-forward to the future and a prominent senior Buddhist monk today claims that Buddha, in fact, was never committed to a doctrine of non-self, but was undecided about it (so that we can now accept rebirth with no issue of what it is that gets reborn). But this is not ‘skillful means.’ And this is not Right Speech.

    As the New Testament of the Christian Bible is often paraphrased: “Let your yes be yes; and let your no be no.” Bingo. That Buddhism is an open doctrine is fine, and to be commended. That it sometimes gets twisted almost beyond recognition is not always so good. But that’s exactly what happened when Mahayana went in two almost opposite directions from its shunyata (emptiness) starting point, one leading to the Vajrayana of Tibet, the other leading to the Zen of Japan. And for a long time, that’s where Buddhism stood, and stalled, and those are the two extremes that made the biggest impact in the New World—until now. Because now there is a new dialectic to that interplay of magic and trance, and it should be no surprise that the only realistic synthesis would be a return to the primal roots of early Buddhism. So, Theravada now finds its best messaging in its simplest Forest Temples, and the debates in the background resume.

    Only this time it is not the background of Brahmanism and Jainism, but dozens of so-called ‘New Age’ ideas and the general air of conspiracy. But for me Secular Buddhism is the rightful heir to the debate with religiosity, something which original Buddhism had not the luxury, because Science as we know it did not exist. But Reason and rationality did, embedded in the nature of cause and effect, the words for which define ‘reason’ in more than one Asian language. And that’s how Buddhism won the original debate, for me, at least, because it was the rational option. And it still can be, if it can find its peace with Science, because that is the air we breathe in this day and age, logic and testing. We only need a belief system to make sense of it all. If not, then ‘belief’ becomes a bad word, synonymous with ‘faith,’ and we are left to our own devices to find succor and solace. I find no contradiction between my Buddhism and the best science we know. If forced to choose, then I will refuse, and let the chips fall where they may.

  • hardie karges 4:22 am on November 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , salvation, skandha,   

    Buddhist Enlightenment on the Installment Plan… 

    Buddhism in Bhutan

    Don’t worry about salvation. That implies a soul to be saved. Enlightenment is plenty. Sabbe dhamma anatta. That means that all dharmas are without self, the word ‘dharma’ usually translated as ‘phenomena’ when plural, an innovation of the Abhidharma era. So this is a bit different from the original singular dharma, often translated as the ‘law’ or simply the eternal teachings, presumably sublime if not subtle, whether those of the Buddha or those from the Vedic Brahmanism which preceded him. What we call ‘Hinduism’ is what they call ‘Sanatan(a) dharma.’ Dhamma is the Pali form of the Sanskrit dharma, the language in which the earliest Buddhist teachings appear.

    But somewhere along the way the concept of salvation appears, and certainly after the time of Christ, they famous for that concept, though that does not necessarily imply causality. Because it also seems to come from a different place, far from the Buddhist birthplace of Buddhism in India, though they, too, with an all-encompassing and soulful atman, which is no doubt the source of the Buddha’s inspiration, in opposition to that concept. I first noticed salvation with my study of Zen, which could give it an origin in China or Japan, China certainly with significant Christian influence early on with the Silk Road Nestorians, though Japan had its own Christian influences later. Japanese Zen even somehow twists the non-self skandha ‘heaps’ of conditions of which we are all composed into an ersatz perfection from which we are all carved, very Christian Scientist.

    Go figure. But somehow, it’s all still Buddhism, even if the Mahayana ‘tradition’ went two vastly different directions from the center, Zen with its Dadaist koans and meditative trances, while Tibetan Vajrayana Mantrayana Tantrayana allows magic, mantras, and even sex, but most of all devotion, and karma, to influence that sacred path to Enlightenment. And enlightenment is the key concept here, for even if it lends itself to some juju and some woo-woo, it’s still likely preferable to the dubious concept of Nirvana, with its close connections to death, no matter how parinirvana your nirvana. Seems Kurt Cobain hit it on the head, after all. The concept of Nirvana seems to contradict the concept of the Middle Path, without much further discussion, as does the concept of bliss, since one extreme almost always leads to the other, while the center is the sweet spot of deliverance. That sweet spot is my Buddhism, all extremes avoided.

  • hardie karges 4:11 am on November 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Buddhism at the Crossroads: First Do no Harm… 

    ‘First do no harm’ is part of the Hippocratic Oath. It should also be part of the Buddhist Oath, or fundamental precepts. ‘Primum non nocere’ as later formulated, this is more than just a cute little saying. This is fundamental to Buddhist principles. Because there really is no call to action. If anything, the reality is almost the exact opposite. The cute aphorisms are numerous: ‘A wise man once said nothing.’ ‘Don’t just do something! Sit there!’ You get the idea. Buddhism is first and foremost a religion of renunciation, and that is a fact of history. Nothing can change that. Meditation is the practice of Buddhism, no matter your sect or sex.

    Other things do change, though, and Buddhism is an ongoing dialog and dialectic, which I think is good, for the most part, though, if it doesn’t Christianize Buddhism totally, haha. It goes both ways. There is Christian mindfulness now, also, just as there is Buddhist ‘lovingkindness.’ The world is getting small as populations grow and grow, and soon there will be no place to hide. Buddhism is made for an over-expansive world. It shows how to find peace within, even when there is little peace without. We are a young species and prone to failures. Time will only tell if we will eventually survive and thrive, now by doing less, rather than doing more. The hard stuff was easy. The easy stuff will be hard.

  • hardie karges 1:52 pm on November 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Buddhism 499: Emptiness Ain’t so Empty… 

    Sunyata is more than Emptiness, as Sunya, Zero, is more then the number 0. It is a sea of possibilities. We need only two digits: 0 + 1, just as Reality has two opposing aspects: Emptiness and Fullness. Nature usually lies somewhere in between. This is an important concept in Buddhism, and the source of much confusion. Because Emptiness has a bad connotation in western psychology, suggesting loneliness and depression, but that’s not what the Buddhist concept is all about. First and foremost, the concept is an extension of the original Buddhist concept of anatta, anatman, or non-self, which is something of a middle position between the Cosmic Self of Brahmanism and the total annihilation of Jainism.

    I think of sunyata as a mathematical reality, 0, in opposition to a hypothetical 1, in which the common-sense reality of myriad numbers find their places best described as fractions finding frequencies in which to exist as agents of solidity, or not, in multiple colors and sounds. I assume that this conceptual dichotomy is the foundation of F.S.C. Northrop’s distinction between the undifferentiated and differentiated aesthetic continuums, but I don’t think that this is a genuine dualism but merely a conceptual one, a mathematical one. Because the invention of the mathematical zero took many centuries, and it appears that Buddhist monks were at the heart of it all along, so not merely a concept bought or borrowed.

    But we Westerners are junkies for abundance and fullness, until our cups runneth over, and so skeptical of anything that might place a limit on that, and the absolute freedom implied. But aren’t the lights and sounds of everyday existence nothing but limits on the absolute fullness that would be pure white light on the one hand, or black-hole gravity on the other? Our existence is a phenomenon, and one that is hard to describe in words, and so math is the language of science. But words are the language of philosophy and religion, and so we do the best we can, given the limitations inherent. So, the best part of Emptiness is that it’s indeed boundless in its purity, so that’s a win for our ontological needs. But the beauty comes with its sublime limits, of light and sound, and that’s a big win for us aesthetically. Win-win? Nothing wrong with that.

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