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  • hardie karges 9:56 am on October 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhism is not a Religion of the Book, and that’s good… 

    Buddhism is not a New Age conspiracy theory. It is a discipline. But this is one of the problems of Buddhism in America in the 21st century: it is just one of several dozens of items on the New Age menu available to mix-and-match according to whim, or taste. Just add salt and pepper. So, it is not unusual to hear someone say that they are a Buddhist Taoist Rosicrucian, or something like that.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that, not really, as long as it’s well-thought and heartfelt, but it does tend to ignore the centuries of development in the Buddhist world, all of which went into the definition of what we now call Buddhism, which is extremely broad and diverse. So, Buddhism is already bulging at the seams with centuries of dialectic, with or without any extra added input from the latest fad religion to hit the New Age newsstands.

    Because that’s what Buddhism has always done, and the Buddha allowed that. But what is missing now is the discipline, and the dedication, not just to research, and reading, but to the world sangha community, and the traditions that have given this religion and philosophy 2500 years of continuous existence in a world we barely know yet, so something like 25% of its settled history, and almost all of its recorded history.

    That’s why I like to have a connection to a temple, or temples, and monks, not just a Facebook page or a discussion group. Because even if the Buddha and his buddies were doing similar activities, discussing and debating, they were also meditating in caves, often and devotedly. If you’ve never been to a week-long silent retreat, then you don’t know much about Buddhism IMHO. I heartily recommend it. And yes, there are still rishis in this world who spend years in caves unwashed and sparsely fed. Guess what? They don’t smell bad, either. You can’t get Buddhism just from a book…

     
  • hardie karges 10:49 am on October 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhist Non-attachment and Free Will 

    You can be connected to everything and attached to nothing. That is the Holy Grail, for me, at least, of life in general, and Buddhism in particular. Because, despite the apparent similarities, the difference between the two activities is craving, upadana in Pali/Sanskrit, and that is the deal-killer, as articulated in the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, number two, to be exact. Visually, imagine making contact, but without a hook that attaches you to that other surface.

    Now isn’t that preferable? Because without that hook, then you are free. And with freedom comes responsibilities. But with that hook, then you are enslaved. And when you are enslaved, not only have you lost your precious freedom, but you have lost your moral responsibility. Because if there is no free will, then there is no morality.

    So, the metaphysicians can argue all they want about the existence, or not, of free will, using arguments based on reason and logic, but the proof depends on the necessity—or not—of morality. Because free will can never be proven empirically, since it’s an abstract concept, and thus not subject to the demands of reason nor logic. But it is subject to the demands of morality. Ontologically, there is no absolute free will, though a limited one, subject to circumstances. This world is our circumstance. It demands morality.

     
  • hardie karges 11:44 am on September 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , retributi8on, samma kammanta   

    The Buddhist Eightfold Path Does Not Bite 

    Revenge is not sweet. Retribution is not necessary. Equanimity is a path for all situations and all times: cool, calm, and collected. Isn’t it? And, if that is a lesson for the real world of sinners, not saints, then I think that it should go doubly for that saintly world that professes to know better. But religion is the worst offender at much of this, accomplishing with fear what it fails to accomplish with righteousness and inspiration. And so we do good, because we are scared of what might happen if we do bad. Saint Peter at the pearly gates of Heaven just might decide to revoke our visa and send us packing, back down to the Underworld south of Australia.

    But shouldn’t we do good simply for the act of doing good? Of course, we should. Isn’t that reward enough in itself? Can’t we win without someone else losing? Then, there are always the smiles on the young kids’ faces, if we need to quantify our gains by counting more tangible rewards. But isn’t that the problem more than the solution? Are we defined by the transient rewards of shallow victory? Not in the best of worlds. In the best of worlds there is always a sweet spot for conciliation, and reconciliation, that allows everyone to emerge from challenges and struggles with dignity and privilege intact.

    And that is the challenge, to not only do good, but to feel good about it. Anybody can do the right thing under pressure. But how many can do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts? So, the appropriate measures of fear are applied, and then we hope for the best. If the right and correct thing is not done, then there will be Hell to pay, literally, at some point in the future. Christianity and Islam, the Abrahamic religions, specialize in this. But Buddhism does it, too, with application of the principle of Karma above and far beyond its original intent.

    So what was originally intended as something simple and akin to the Golden Rule, and based on Right Actions, samma kammanta, in the original early Buddhist conception, becomes a generation-jumping act of retribution in Tibet 1000 years later. Sometimes some people need to be whupped upside the head, I suppose, when simple logic and simple pleasures don’t suffice, but that is not preferable, and useful only as a last resort. The bottom line is simple and resolves into a matter of belief: If you believe in karmic retribution, then you will be subject to karmic retribution. Do the right thing—simple.

     
  • hardie karges 11:19 am on September 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhism: in the Face of Race, and Caste… 

    Buddhism is an implicit, if not explicit, rejection of any and all systems of caste and social class. Because we are only united in our imperfections and suffering. If we were all perfect, then we would have no need of each other. Which is not to say that anyone should feel slight nor slighted by the lack of perfections. And many of the Zen masters in fact claim just that, that we are all perfect, but the Buddha never said that, or anything even close to that. In fact he was quite emphatic that, when it comes to any ego, soul, or permanent and lasting self, that “there is no there there,” to quote Gertrude Stein, in reference to Oakland, CA, USA.

    And so we are all little Oaklands of the outfield, near the bleacher seats, roaming our turf with really no overriding rights to any of it. He even went so far as to refer to our skandhas, or ‘heaps,’ ‘aggregates,’ as if we were nothing more than some circumstantial piles of adjectival sand drifted up into corners, awaiting the next puff of wind to blow us a bit farther down the road, or indeed blow us right back to from where we came. In other words, all claims to divinity or even Trump’s ‘good genes’ are but the blatherings and BS of haughtiness and hubris. And so, it’s no wonder that the priestly class of India’s Brahmin caste found more work in the rites and rituals of what later came to be known as ‘Hinduism,’ though their wives were often Buddhists.

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  • hardie karges 9:09 am on September 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carlos Castaneda, , , , Gardenm of Eden, , , ,   

    Buddhism: The Limits of Language and the Benefits of Meditation 

    The wisest person has the mind of a child, always open, always learning, with no preconceptions, and higher advanced concepts optional. It almost seems like we spend the first half of our lives cluttering up our minds with useless nonsense, and then spend the second half of our lives trying to undo all that. Ha! But language is like that, isn’t it? Once we invented it, then we made it part of our central conscious operating system, as if nothing could be more natural. Could it have been any other way? Was the invention of language merely an accident? It’s debatable. Could we have made a decision to keep it as a plaything but reject its centrality in our conscious interface with reality?

    The experience of our modern computerized world would indicate that once we have a new language, then not only will we certainly use it, but it will spread like a virus within us, restless and hungry, assuming a centralized position with our process of consciousness and expanding as rapidly as it can. It almost sounds like a business, ha! But mostly it sounds like DNA. And that is why anthropolinguistics was once so crucial to the study of prehistory prior to the advent of DNA genomics. Because language also mutates and so leaves ‘markers’ along its historic path, all of which can be coordinated chronologically, just like non-recombinant y-DNA and mt-DNA do…

    But what’s good for business and cultural evolution are not necessarily what’s good for healthy human psychology. And so, we meditate, to reverse that very process that is so profitable for our wallets and dangerous for our enemies. For it is no accident that the remaining hominid species besides our own disappeared soon after our acquisition of language. And so the prime purpose of meditation is to stop the internal dialogue, if only for a second, or a few minutes, or an hour, or a lifetime. When I discussed meditation with some neurological researchers, that’s the first question they asked: “Can you stop the internal dialogue?” That’s the main point that I can remember of Carlos Castañeda’s Don Juan character, also, in his ‘Tales of Yaqui Power,’ etc…

    Is language the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden? Maybe. The analogy would seem to hold, not that good and evil are really on offer, but the fallacious and pretentious knowledge of such is always a temptation, and forever destined to fail. With language we are suddenly faced with a duality of mind and body, one doing all the talking and the other a captive audience. We externalize the dialogue to turn all that brilliance and perspicacity loose on the world, but with mixed results. It seems that language creates more problems than it can solve and resolve. And so we meditate. The mind is a minefield, enmeshed in views. Sometimes it’s simply better to forego thought, or at least language…

     
  • hardie karges 9:33 am on September 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Snaskrit   

    Buddhism: Self, Consciousness, DNA and Thought… 

    I am not the same person as yesterday, and I will be a different person tomorrow. I am not DNA code. I am skandhas, anatta, anicca. For those of you unfamiliar with Buddhist terminology in Sanskrit or Pali, then anicca is impermanence, anatta is non-self, and skandhas are the ‘heaps’ of conditions that comprise us. If this all sounds a bit like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, then please see my previous blog. So, in essence, we are phenomena, undefined and of an uncertain nature. Even the best scientists have not yet figured it all out, and that won’t change the Buddhist perspective, anyway, because it would likely only be later disproven.

    Because the Buddhist perspective is to deny any special preeminent position to the self or the soul, or any other permanent fixed immortal and eternal personality, which is the specialty of some religions, notably Christianity, and in a different way, Hinduism. Thus, this is an ontological position, in the hierarchy of Being and beings, but it also serves to deflate the over-puffed egos of Alpha males and others with more stuffing than substance to their personalities. All that is vanity, hubris, and a threat to the natural order, the human race, and psychological health, which the Buddha intuited long ago, without the benefit of science.

    The fact that Buddhism traditionally reserves a place for a poorly defined ‘rebirth’ seems to show that it is still conflicted with its role in the larger Indian tradition, since it’s difficult to say exactly what it is that gets reborn. The fact that it is unconcerned with that inconsistency would seem to indicate that it’s playing the long game and is willing to let that issue work itself out eventually. The Buddha himself said something similar to that effect, that it’s better to live as if rebirth were a proven fact, even though that proof is not yet there. I’m okay with that. Thus, it also indicates that Buddhism is something of an open doctrine. I’m okay with that, too. Sounds like the Middle Path to me.

    Now I love DNA, but that’s not the subject here. The subject here is me—or the lack thereof. DNA can tell the provenance and much of the story that its humble sponsor—me—and my forebears have taken over the last umpteen millennia—and counting, but it still can’t say much about me. And that thread of DNA winds back into time immemorial, not always recombining, and so may be almost eternal, and thus immortal, but that’s not me. What is ‘me’ is a jumble of memories and perceptions, sensations and reflections, that all often go under the general term ‘thought.’ But consciousness and thought are not synonymous. Thought depends on language. Consciousness does not. That is the difference, and in many ways it is superior. Cogito ergo no sum. Scio ergo sum.

     
  • hardie karges 8:30 am on August 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , logos, Persia,   

    Was Heraclitus the Original Buddhist? 

    Was Heraclitus the Original Buddhist? If not, he certainly missed a good opportunity, because it was he who once said: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.” And a clearer and more succinct articulation of the Buddhist principles of anatta and anicca have never been spoken, the former best defined as ‘non-self’ or ‘no self,’ particularly in the sense of a permanent eternal soul like that of the contemporaneous Brahmanic religion, or Hinduism, as we now know it. But of course Heraclitus was not a Buddhist, per se, but a philosopher of change, and maybe best known for his other famous quote: “The only thing permanent is change.”

    And so he tackles two major Buddhist themes—self and change—with no knowledge of the Buddha himself, apparently, though the possibilities are there. I’ve written often about the genetic and cultural connections between the Greek and Indian philosophers, so I won’t do that now, but it’s interesting that not only do they share significant genetic ancestry, but are contemporaneous in the case of Heraclitus, who lived almost exactly the same time as the Buddha. Add to that the fact that he and the other Ionian philosophers were technically part of the Persian Empire, which spanned the entirety of the 2000mi/3000km between the Greek and Indian mainlands, so it’s tempting to speculate.

    Maybe they had Twitter pigeons? Ha! But the main difference is that the Buddha saw change as a cause of suffering, second only to craving, and Heraclitus did not. For him it was simply a fact of life, like fire, for him the basic ‘stuff’ of existence, as with the Vedic ‘acharyas’ and ‘pandits.’ ‘Basic stuff’ was the obsession of all pre-Socratic philosophers, many of them Ionian, the original word that meant ‘Greek’ in most Asian languages. His logos was also very dharma-like, and Buddhist dharma, in particular, is not fixed, but flexible enough to adapt to a variety of circumstances over time and over space.

    Whether the Buddha intended it that way or not is debatable, but if he considers change a source of suffering, then it is doubtful. That’s just the way it is, and thus proof of the reality, if not the suffering. The suffering is yours—or not. I remember crying when my family moved from the city to the countryside when I was eight years old. Now I seek out new countries all the time, 155 and counting. So, it is not a source of suffering for me, obviously. Thus, the Buddha may have made the mistake of over-generalizing. He was only human, after all. The transcendent Buddha came later. That’s Mahayana: Zen and all that jazz. Craving is still the main cause of suffering, that and attachment to self, as ego. That’s the other aspect of self to be avoided, however impermanent, always doomed to fail.

     
  • hardie karges 8:28 am on August 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , herd immunity, , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Herd Immunity against Hatred 

    The best religion gives herd immunity against fear and hatred. The best philosophy explains the reasons why. Of course, that is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot these days, herd immunity, that imprecise ratio between a disease’s capabilities and its limits. Because at some point, if enough people have achieved immunity, whether natural or artificial, then everyone is immune, simply because the virus can’t reproduce itself fast enough, given those odds of success—voila! Herd immunity. It’s easier said than done, though, and some diseases never meet that level of resistance, and so recur endlessly.

    And so it is with fear and hatred, or revenge and anger, and many other sins of the soul, or the mind, or consciousness, anything but flesh, which is relatively easy, by comparison. Because the flesh has medicines and vaccines, but the mind only has willpower and training, compassion and kindness, to defeat those invisible enemies. And if left unchecked, the hate and anger multiply ad infinitum, until we are all infected, and subsequent generations, too. But there is a cure, and it spreads exactly like the disease, and in inverse proportion.

    Because one simple act of kindness can spread from person to person until we are all not only immunized but blessed. And that is the goal, to be blessed, not cursed. For even though Buddhism acknowledges the ubiquity of suffering, that is not a curse, but simply a warning. Right thoughts, right actions, right intent, right livelihood, right awareness, right efforts, right speech, and right meditation are the Middle Path between that morass. The path may be winding but the destination is clear.

     
  • hardie karges 10:43 am on August 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , atman, atta, , , non-self, , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Limits of Suffering… 

    Suffering doesn’t have to be painful. It is only painful if you refuse to accept it. Buddhism is famous for its acknowledgement of suffering, of course, to the point that it must deal with charges of pessimism, when nothing could be further from the truth, to be honest. It is simply realistic: you are not immortal, you are not eternal, and you are not the center of the universe. We shouldn’t need to appeal to Science to prove something so obvious and fundamental. You will die. Get over it.

    But these are the kinds of feel-good epithets that get tossed to the hungry lions we are, anxious for abundance and thirsty for fulfillment, of the fluid levels in our bodies and the ego levels in our mind, such that we will entertain fantastic notions in order to satisfy those notions of grandeur and grandiosity. If that is the shorthand definition of optimism—egotism—then maybe pessimism is better. But I won’t cop to that, and don’t think that is necessary.

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  • hardie karges 10:44 am on August 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alexander the Great, , , , , , Hindi, , , , , , , , , , shaman, , , , , Yaqui   

    Buddhist Metta-tation, Friendship Beyond Thought, Language Optional… 

    The truest love is metta, friendship, without all the burdens of possession. That’s Buddhist love, of course, without all the weeping, wailing, and the gnashing of teeth. The Pali word metta often gets written up as ‘lovingkindness’ by latter-day Buddhists, mostly American, who want the passion that term implies, but the Buddha likely intended nothing of the sort. That’s a Christian term, too, from the Hebrew chesed, with a heavy dose of devotion implied, but the Buddha seemed to intend none of that, and the word’s presence in many other Asian languages of the time reflects none of it, either.

    So ‘lovingkindness’ would seem to come from a totally different line of descent by genome. Culture is not genome, though, of course, though they often parallel one another, and the ‘Judeo-Christian’ tradition seems to reflect that. So, we Westerners tend to be emotion junkies, even when that emotion is not necessarily a pleasant one. We are implored to embrace suffering, by that logic, even though suffering implies pain, and the heavy dose of sadness that often brings. The fact that the Pali word dukkha means ‘suffering’ and the related word dukhee means ‘sadness’ in modern Hindi would seem to reflect that range of intent.

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