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  • hardie karges 2:16 am on June 2, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , discipline, doctrine, , , , ,   

    Buddhism Basics: Discipline, Doctrine, and Devotion  

    Some people prefer devotion over discipline or doctrine. That’s fine, if the object of devotion represents truth, beauty and goodness. It’s all dharma. The simple fact of the matter is that devotion is a simple act for many people, much simpler than the ‘mind-training’ of original Buddhism or the intellectual rigor of much of later Buddhism, somewhat the opposite of mental training in fact, with verbal tricks and koans carefully selected for the very lack of logic which commends them. 

    And those Three D’s can work in any religion, Christianity included, and probably most especially, since Christianity is nothing if not a devotee cult, ditto Sanatana Dharma, i.e. ‘Hinduism.’ But for Buddhism it’s very arguably the lesser of the three, what with the Discipline orientation of Theravada, and the Doctrinal not-so-dictates of Mahayana, and especially Zen. In fact, Devotion typically defines the religious orientation, i.e. devotion to an all-powerful God, in the Abrahamic religions, often symbolized by the patriarch himself’s willingness to sacrifice his only son to show his fealty to God. Now that’s Devotion. 

    But’s it’s much to Buddhism’s credit that it has other options. Because anybody can do devotion, no matter how demanding the devotional object or subject. And in Buddhism’s full embrace of the 3D’s, not only can Buddhism be philosophy AND/OR religion, but it can also be art, and poetry, and therapy. Because that’s what Zen koans are.  

    And while that may not work for even ten percent of the Buddhist community, well, that’s an important ten percent, because nothing less then the Buddhist high concept of shunyata ‘Emptiness’ is on the line here, and that’s a tough row to hoe. The koans help. Put all the different aspects of Buddhism together and not only is it not self-contradictory, but it packs a powerful punch. That’s what’s needed.  

  • hardie karges 12:04 am on May 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , no self, ,   

    Buddhist No-self (Anatta) and Non-Dualism  

    The Buddhist concept of “No self”, Anatta, doesn’t mean to imply passivity and no confidence. But it does imply non-aggression and no selfishness. Remember the middle path. But this is one of the oldest and thorniest problems that Buddhism has had to deal with, and the modern repercussions are almost as absurd. Back in the old days, 2500 years ago, or so, Brahmanism was consolidating its doctrines of a cosmic Brahman and a cosmic Atman, reality and self, whose highest goal was to unite in some sort of cosmic union… 

    But the Buddha came along and said something like, “Meh,” declaring that the idea of a cosmic self, whether individual or universal, was not only not likely, but wrong. And thus began the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, which was never intended to argue that you and I don’t even exist, but just not in any permanent way. Well, now the ‘Non-dualists” come along and say no, you don’t exist at all, just something like a collective figment of imagination that asserts itself through the power of repetition, so something like a cloud Matrix. 

    But reality is reality, and science doesn’t support the non-dualist conclusion, any more than it supports the original Hindu idea of Brahman and Atman in cosmic union. But science can support the Buddhist attitude, as long as it avoids superstitions (not always easy) and sticks to asking the right questions in order to avoid contentious answers. Ego is a term I usually avoid, though, given the historical circumstance that Freud has forever made in changing our use of that term.

    And that is something which the ‘ancients’ could’ve had no knowledge of, and which is about as familiar to the modern American as quantum mechanics. Passivity has been something of a problem for Buddhism, though, and that is not a desirable conclusion except for monks, possibly. But most of us live and navigate the real world, and it’s nice if we can make that a bit better, without being obsessive about it. As always, the best path is the middle one… 

  • hardie karges 4:44 am on May 20, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhist poisons, , , , ,   

    Fear, Poisons, and Spiritual Bypassing in Buddhism  

    Fear should not be mistaken for hatred or anger. Fear is easily cured by friendship, metta. Fear, as bad as it is, at the least, is not a sin of aggression, and so is much more easily cured, as long as it is caught in time, before it morphs into fear and/or anger, and thousands of kindergarteners lying dying in pools of blood on sacred school grounds. The only Buddhist form of love is really metta, friendship, Platonic love, without craving nor attachment, always forgiving and conciliatory.  

    So, there is a reason why fear is not one of the prime Buddhist ‘poisons’ in the same way as greed, hatred, and delusion. And that is because it is essentially harmful only to the actor who is victim to the farce, and so, not any crime of aggression is actually committed. The others all hurt somebody—someone else—where fear does not, not necessarily, if dealt with in time. If this is a sin, then it is a sin of the heart, of feeling, of emotions, which are largely kept hidden and therefore not subject to further scrutiny. 

    This might be an example of ‘spiritual bypassing,’ though, a trendy claim favored by psychologists when dealing with personal problems by plaintiffs who favor silence over the confrontation, with emotions, that many psychologists prefer. So, that’s why I hold back my full blessings, though they may certainly have a point. But the counterpoint is that that same accusation could be leveled at meditation, also, which is arguably Buddhism’s greatest contribution to world culture and history. As always, the true path lies in the middle… 

  • hardie karges 2:12 pm on May 13, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    Vive la Difference! Between Christianity and Buddhism…  

    Christianity seeks joy out there somewhere, while Buddhism seeks to limit suffering right here inside. And that’s the big difference between the two, the outward search versus the inward search, and the destination for ultimate satisfaction. The idea, in fact, that there may really be no substantial difference between the two is something that only arose later, after the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, and the idea that there may be some transcendent reality to it all, even including the Buddha himself, so maybe just a ‘manifestation.’ 

    But I prefer to leave metaphysical speculations to the late nights and wee hours on Sundays and holidays, when time is free and the atmosphere is conducive to dreaming and the playful dance of fairies in our wildest imaginations. Because meditation is probably the greatest gift of Buddhism to the world, and that requires absolutely no belief in anything transcendent, only the effort to concentrate and ‘let it go’ in accord with Buddhist understanding, which is simple to understand and totally based in the here and the now. 

    And Theravada sacrifices nothing to the larger and later Mahayana school on this count, either, not to mention the modern-day secular practitioners, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, that make Buddhism and its foundational principles such an important tool in the stressed-out modern-day world. Whither Christian mindfulness? Yes, I’ve heard that term, so it’s in the works. The pharmaceutical industry might not like the idea, nor the CBD gummies futures market, but the physical and psychological gain will be palpable.  

    Some things just work better ‘in here’ than ‘out there.’ And if that means that Buddhism is guilty of passivity towards changing the world ‘out there’ to make it a better place, then that criticism is valid. But so is the criticism that Amerika is a contentious hateful society that rejects any efforts at compromise and instead prefers to fight to the death, rather than enjoy life to the fullest, albeit with a few guiding principles to be followed. As always, the middle path lies somewhere in between, details to be worked out in peaceful settings among willing participants. Enjoy.  

  • hardie karges 3:01 pm on May 6, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , feedback, , ,   

    Buddhism, Karma, and the Vicissitudes of Fate…  

    Karma is not fate. Karma is action. But the term is often used similarly, even by those who should know better, and so we are left to deal with it as such. So, when someone says, “that’s your karma,” then what they really mean is that you must have done some really bad things, in this life or a previous one, and now the law of karmic justice is giving you a taste of your own medicine. So, you must suffer some consequences, for your current circumstances otherwise would be unexplainable. And to a limited extent I agree with that assessment, but only to that limited extent.  

    But that’s not fate, which is blind, by definition, and which is variously described as ‘beyond control, ‘governed by supernatural powers’, and/or ‘destiny’ depending on whether the word is used a verb or a noun. But karma implies feedback, to something which occurred previously, and to which many would ascribe ‘multiple feedback loops,’ including, but not limited to, previous lives, the contents of which can only be imagined, or at best surmised by reference to what is now occurring, the two often assumed to have similar, if not the exact same, causal connections. 

    And this is where it often leaves me standing there scratching my head, still wondering how any or all of this could ever be proven. Hint: it can’t, none of it. It’s an attempt to ascribe justice to that which would otherwise have no recourse to justice, the courts too busy with their own peccadilloes and busy work schedules to worry about previous lives, which are at best wild speculation, and at worst total BS. So, I limit my karma to this life and this world, since I surely know that, if I know anything. Another take on the subject would be to assume that it’s all an elaborate hoax to assure that the highest castes and classes of society continue in their dominance of the lower ones, but I’ll leave that speculation to another write…  

  • hardie karges 8:14 am on April 30, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Huineng, , , ,   

    Buddhist Imperfection and the Crazy Wisdom of Zen  

    The Buddha never said we’re all perfect, quite the opposite. He said that we are nothing but ‘heaps’ of causes and conditions that he called skandhas. He never even said that he’s perfect. And those imperfections can be the basis for positive change. He DID list change as one of the causes of our suffering, but significantly less than that of the First Noble Truth—craving. Maybe that’s not surprising, from someone who was born into the lap of luxury, since change for someone of destitute poverty might only be for the better.  

    But that’s arguable, also, so let’s just split the difference and apply the Buddha’s own Middle Path to conclude that change can go either way, good or bad, which is convenient, since it’s inevitable. The point is that, in its origins, imperfection is at the heart of the Buddha’s vision, though the Zen sect of the Mahayana school would, like some Christian sects (such as Christian Science), reverse that position and argue that manifesting our innate perfection is only right and proper. 

    They also said that if you meet the Buddha on the road, then you should kill him. Hmmm. Obviously, there’s a logical explanation to that apparent exhortation to violence, but I won’t go into it. I’ll only say that I prefer a simpler approach to enlightenment. The Zen thing is to show the limits and traps of language, and I agree whole-heartedly with that, but I don’t necessarily agree to a Dadaist approach to it. One of the Christian sideline precepts is to say what you mean and mean what you say, (“Let your yes be yes and your no be no”), and they just might have that right. 

    No, I don’t think that anyone has all the answers, and it is to Buddhism’s credit that so much dialogue is allowed, and even encouraged, which promotes a larger dialectic. In fact, this is how the Zen master Hui-Neng upstaged the heir apparent to replace the current master, to whom he was only a rank (in)subordinate. Thus began the line of thought that we are not here to train our minds but to acknowledge the illusion of reality, so something like an alternative Mayanist (haha) school, which thrives to this day as subplot to many more orthodox traditions. We are not perfect, but this is why we practice… 

  • hardie karges 10:42 am on April 22, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mark Epstein, , Roman numerals, , ,   

    Samma Vaca: Right Speech on the Buddhist Middle Path  

    This is something so difficult for so many people that often no speech is better. Because Buddhism didn’t start the old ‘Silence is Golden’ saying, but it probably could have. Because it’s such a valuable tool in the workshop of life that its effect is invaluable. I think that it can easily be seen as the sonic equivalent of Emptiness for Buddhist purposes, that same shunyata Emptiness derived from the Pali/Sanskrit shunya zero (yes, THAT zero), which is not really a number, but a concept, and which largely expanded the original anatman no-self doctrine to everything. 

    But, if easy convenient symbols for that powerful metaphor are hard to find, then silence is one of the easiest, maybe even easier than the eponymous shunya itself, i.e. zero. Because number systems did just fine for many years without the place holder and multiplier that we call ‘zero’ in the English language. And, despite some interpretations that it’s necessary for a decimal system, well, in fact, it is not, and our own (!?) Roman numerals are the proof of that, easily countable up to about 5000, and not so hard to write as V. But you wouldn’t want to see 4999. 

    And, so it is with speech. Sometimes less is more, not just figuratively, but literally, and numerically. Because, if the zero allows easy multiplication, with possibilities of infinity, then silence can do the same. Until I say something, then anything is possible, and the future is wide open. But once I commit to speech, and language, then its reach is definite, certain, limited—and past tense. But what is ‘right speech’? After all, we can’t be silent ALL the time. What everybody wants in life, whether they know it or not, is to feel good.  

    So, in brief, right speech is speech that makes you feel good, though not just you, but all the other people within hearing range, or in the case of written speech, then all potential readers. But that’s easier said than done. Because ours is a world of fierce differences and often acrimonious debate, even when the potential results are more futile than feudal. Still, we persist in advancing our agendas. Silence allows time and space to see the other side. But, if you must speak, then say nice things, constructive and conciliatory. And think good thoughts. That’s two steps of the Buddhist Middle Path right there. You’re halfway home. 

    Author’s note: just after writing this, I discovered a passage in Mark Epstein’s ‘Thoughts Without a Thinker’ that resonates in total agreement, in the section called ‘Holding Emotions’: “The Buddha taught a method of holding thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the balance of meditative equipoise so that they can be seen in a clear light.” Nice, couldn’t have said it better myself. Enjoy. 

  • hardie karges 9:17 am on April 15, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhist Mindfulness: No Shortcuts to Salvation  

    Mindfulness, sati, requires some awareness of the unpleasant details, also, unfortunately or fortunately, for this is the nature of existence, the existence of suffering and the ways to ameliorate it, on a path to cessation, if not the twenty-five-dollar cure that we’ve grown so accustomed to expect, in some binary fashion, now you see it and now you don’t, as if there were indeed magic bullets that can hit every target, with never a miss—at least in theory. 

    But, until someone can bio-engineer us with eternal life or create us a Virtual Reality so perfect that we can’t tell the difference, then the (not-so?) harsh reality is that each and every one of us will die, later if not sooner, peaceably if not in agony. And this is the truth of Buddhism, that suffering is ubiquitous, and implacable, if not the all-embracing disastrophe that it so recently was. But that was likely due to the dubious emboldenment of patriarchy, in distinct contrast to the previous matriarchal survivalists that sustained us for so many millennia. 

    But the point is that Buddhism is not pessimistic, but realistic, and the obvious corollary would be that the silly-eyed optimism of capitalistic Christianity is itself the cause of many of our problems, especially global warming, for which it is singularly unprepared to offer a credible solution, given the demands of economic growth. But Buddhism can offer that solution: conscious mindful existence that accentuates self-sufficiency, not the excesses of abundance and infinity that capitalism and Christianity demand.  

    In other words: less can indeed be more, in quality if not quantity, and that is the important consideration, now, isn’t it? Yes, I think that it is. And that is also the cautionary tale with so-called ‘mindfulness.’ Be careful which way you turn your gaze of awareness, because you will have to deal with the circumstances in your field of vision. And that is good. Buddhism in its origins never pretended to transcendence. This is the real world we find ourselves in, and that is the challenge… 

  • hardie karges 8:22 am on April 9, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddha Mind, , , , , , , ,   

    Buddha Mind and the Incremental Steps to Enlightenment  

    Buddha mind is best all the time. But a little bit is better than nothing. That should go without saying. Because this speaks to the nature of thought and the nature of consciousness, but mostly to the nature of awareness itself, sati, which is essential to the development of samadhi, a more meditative state which is probably the best one-word definition of ‘Buddha mind.’  

    But the problem is the problem of any definition, or lack thereof, in which words compete with themselves for attention, and clarity is often lacking. After all: what is ‘mind,’ anyway? But I think that we can assume that whatever ‘mind’ is, then ‘Buddha-mind,’ must be the cooler (literally) and more meditative version of that, full of kindness and compassion, and with a heavy dose of intuitive wisdom, the kind less analytic, and much less critical.  

    But my point is that this is not a yes-or-no binary choice. This is a choice of many incremental intermittent steps, and none is too insignificant along the pathway to enlightenment, whatever that is. Because this is a Mahayana concept, so a full step toward a transcendental Buddha, world-inhabiting and mind-manifesting; and a step away from the more (non) self-centered and discipline-oriented early Buddhism of Theravada, aka Hinayana. Don’t worry about enlightenment. I’m sure that we’ll all recognize it when we see it. The point is to make the world a better place. ASAP. 

  • hardie karges 9:23 am on April 2, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism 101: Meditation with no Mediation, except the Middle Path… 

    If you’re sipping tea while doing meditation, then it’s not really meditation, unless you’re meditating on the tea itself. And that’s a very nice thing to do, I hear, and it would seem, though I’ve never directly participated in it myself, it being a thing very Zen-like, and my own practice being something very different from that, a more-or-less traditional form of Buddhism. But the result should be the same: a calm and peaceful form of abiding, insight optional. 

    The point is to be very aware of all things that are occurring, and with as few distractions as possible. So, in a tea meditation ceremony, the point is to be aware of all things involved in the ceremony, from the preparation to the smell to the little buzz of brain neurons firing. In traditional meditation the point is to concentrate on the breath or something else innocuous yet transcendent, to liberate the mind from its usual task of struggling for survival in a dog-eat-dog world.  

    In either case, traditional silent meditation or a more elaborate ceremony, the point is to be attentive to the point of hyper-attention and to not be distracted. Because, to be distracted is to disrupt the whole point of the meditation, which is sati, or awareness, and samadhi, a term variously translated as something in the range of feelings from absorption to transcendence, so akin to dhyana, the term from which the Chinese chan and Japanese zen derive. I still prefer traditional meditation, seated, serious, and silent, with some misgivings about guided meditations, but very open to more active but silent forms such as the tea ceremony and walking meditation.

    The problems arise with the lack of definition and subsequent degeneration of the form, but not to the point of dismissal. Walking meditators just might need to decide whether to walk fast or slow. A brisk walk can be very satisfying, but I’m not sure that it’s meditation. It’s probably best to master the art of silent sitting before any experimentation. The point is to reboot consciousness, starting at zero, with a fresh outlook on life, language optional, because language is the classic conundrum. We can’t live with it and we can’t live without it. Be safe out there.

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