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  • hardie karges 10:45 am on September 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: America, compulsive, David Lynch, Elephant Man, , , , obsessive, poison ivy, scratch, temptation   

    Buddhism and the Itchy-Scratchy Distractions of Meditation 

    One of the least heralded benefits of meditation is the realization that, besides any insight or ‘calm abiding’ that might occur, all those little itches and distractions will simply go away if left unanswered. And this might seem like a small side benefit, if it’s even a benefit at all, but for me, it’s huge! But let me first state that the most obvious benefit of meditation for me is the systematic effect of ‘reboot’ that I get immediately afterward, like that same effect when restarting your smartphone or laptop, and maybe just like a good night’s sleep, admittedly, but that’s something I rarely get.

    And that’s predictable and probably even measurable, but pales in comparison to this other effect that I’ve never seen discussed, or even alluded to, but quickly comes up with any Western meditators on how we can emulate the much more successful Asians, most monks and many laypeople, who can apparently sit (e)motionless like statues for hours at a time, while we all get the ‘itchie scratchies’ and it shows in our poor meditation habits ( I’ll avoid the word ‘performance’). The revelation is that those little distractions will simply go away if left alone, and that’s not by ignoring them, but just the opposite.

    But first a little backstory. By birth I am the most compulsive obsessive creature in God’s creation, if judging by my childhood behavior, such that I doubt that I’d still be alive today, if that could not be corrected. I would often eat myself sick, simply because I couldn’t stop, but that was hardly the worst of it. The worst of it was the summer season in the poison ivy country of the American Deep South and the added fact that my family lived surrounded by woods.

    So, at the worst, when I’d come in contact with the dreaded plant, not only would I scratch, I’d scratch until my eyes were all swollen shut, and any soft spot on my body would be deformed grotesquely, red and rash-like and ready to ooze its venom for any and all sightseers. The Elephant Man had nothing on me (remember him? From the David Lynch movie? David Lynch is now my weatherman on KCRW, btw). But I digress. This was a horrible situation, and my parents didn’t believe in medicine, so I was pretty much left to my own devices on how to deal with it.

    The answer is simple, of course. Do nothing. Literally, absolutely nothing. Especially, don’t scratch it! Ever. For any reason. So that’s what I learned to do. Yeah, but I must’ve missed those beautiful Mississippi woods, right? Wrong. I built a cabin in those same woods only a few years later, and guess what? That’s right. You guessed it. I never got poison ivy in five years, not even once. Call it what you want: will, self-control, or mindfulness, but the upshot is that my life was changed by the process, rather than consumed by it, and I’m a better person for having gone through it.

    And I didn’t do that by running away from it or pretending that the aggravation didn’t exist. I did it by staring it in the face and staring it down in the process. And that itch is a good metaphor for many of life’s obsessions and temptations, of course, such that the lesson therein can be applied across the board, or to the extent that you so desire. Ah, desire, but that’s another level of temptation, now, isn’t it? Bottom line: just because you have an itch doesn’t mean that you have to scratch. Maybe I should meditate now. Now what’s the Pali/Sanskrit word for ‘reboot?’ Right, re-buddha…

     
  • hardie karges 11:02 am on September 4, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: America, , , , , , , , , sarmatha, , ,   

    Buddhism 499: Self-control and the Benefits of Meditation 

    Self-control should not be an affront to your Western freedoms. It should be the foundation of your Eastern practices. But this is a tough pill for many Westerners to swallow, because it invokes the dreaded ‘C’ word, control, mattering not to many that self-control is a totally different activity than controlling others, which for me is a hideous affair, usually. Self-control, on the other hand, is the cause and effect of some of my life’s finest moments, not the least of which are simple meditative moments, the practical foundation of Buddhism.

    And all Asian monks know this, and can attest to it fully, while Westerners resist and desist, and their meditative practices often show it, twitching and flinching while struggling to finish a half-hour of meditation, while I’ve seen even Asian laypeople sit motionless for hours. But was it sarmatha or was it vipassana or was it mindfulness meditation or was it that new style that somebody was doing on TV? And there’s TM, the one that the Beatles made famous, with their Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and which has gone on to be bliss of choice for Hindu-style practice, complete with secret password.

    But all Buddhist practices derive from some version of anapanasati, awareness of breath, and to there they all return—eventually. And to be aware is very much within the practice of control. Because you don’t really have to do much of anything to meditate properly. But there are some things that you should definitely NOT do, and distractions are at the top of that list. Life itself can be extrapolated from this practice, also, giving meditation a central place and practice in your life. It’s simply a good approach to life, calm and collected, and likely to produce a ripple effect that radiates outward. Don’t you wish everybody would participate?

    So, if you’re looking for something like ayahuasca, then Buddhism is the wrong place to look. Because there is nothing here, really, to get excited about, and just the opposite, in fact. There is much here to get calm about—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but without all the weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth. We Westerners are emotion junkies, though that doesn’t mean that we are ‘evil,’ as certain pro-Putin pushers suggest outright. What the West loves was perfect for a world growing up and reproducing itself. What Buddhism offers is perfect for a world finding itself. The future is at stake.

     
  • hardie karges 11:24 am on July 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , America, , , , , , , inanition, , , , , , , , ,   

    The Rocky Middle Path of Buddhism in America… 

    “Give me liberty or give me death” is America’s battle cry for independence, of course, as so brilliantly elucidated by Patrick Henry, and seconded by many others, notably the license plate slogan ‘Live Free or Die,’ among many others of similar emotion. And by ‘America’ I mean the USA, not the lower 40, though they are largely complicit, as is Europe the mother country, in the case of North America, which lacks the large indigenous base of many of the other more southern countries. Even Mexico is around 65% indigenous the last time I checked.

    And freedom is all well and good, as long as we know the details of the liberties and freedoms referred to, but which can be detrimental, and even deadly, if left for imaginations to run wild and machinations to double down in derailing the original intent of a simple life without a lord and master to serve at every beck and call. So now we consider mask-lessness as an inalienable right, even during a pandemic, ditto vaccines, and any restriction on movement during the same world emergency to be a violation. So the Western insistence on freedom to the maximum extent comes very close to an implicit death wish.

    (More …)
     
  • hardie karges 8:36 am on July 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: America, , , , , , , , , ,   

    Musings on the Buddhist Concept of Shunyata: Emptiness Ain’t So Empty… 

    Stephen Hawking was famous for saying that ‘Black holes ain’t so black,’ and so the title here is more than a little bit coincidental, and in fact quite intentional, because the meanings of the two concepts—black holes and ‘shunyata’—are quite similar. Because if the Buddhist concept of ‘shunyata’ is usually translated as ‘emptiness,’ then that is by an English layman’s choice, and is not necessarily the best choice. And if that choice supposes that Buddhism is nihilistic, and that life is meaningless, then nothing could be further from the truth.

    For Buddhism, and Indian philosophy in general, in fact has a long rich and varied history, and every bit the equal of its Greek counterpart on the other side of the great divide between East and West, even if the former is perhaps more spiritual and the latter more materialistic. But they share much common ground for thought, and this is probably no accident, considering that they both shared the northern steppes for a few thousand years and probably shared a few long discussions and debates before blazing campfires, in a proto-Indo-European language, before going their separate ways some 6-8000 years ago.

    (More …)
     
  • hardie karges 10:05 am on December 31, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , America, , , , , , Joe Biden, ,   

    New Year 2021: Thank You, Covid-19 (but we really need a Gandhi)… 

    Years come and go. The dharma stays the same…

    Assuming that Joe Biden will eventually win this monster of a 2020 US election, we can only thank one thing: the novel Coronavirus, aka Covid-19. That much is clear. Without it, and DJ Trump’s miserable performance in combatting it, he likely would have won, assuming that everything else remained the same, which is not necessarily the case (but it would have been even closer, if that’s possible)…

    Specifically I’m referring to the massive protests and riots that have accompanied the Black Lives Matter movement, which I fully support, despite the massive looting and violence, which I fully detest, to the point of disgust. I reiterate: that might not have happened, were it not for Covid-19 (lockdown stress disorder?), butterfly effects of Covid-19 yet to be documented… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 11:33 am on May 17, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ahmaud Arbery, America, , , , Homer, Iliad, ,   

    Karma, Buddhism, Newton, Homer, and Ahmaud… 

    Law of Karma (action) = Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Every action is followed by an equal but opposite reaction, which is pretty easy to understand, and even if it can’t foresee the further ramifications of quantum theory, it still applies in most cases.

    But the religionists couldn’t leave well enough alone, so rather than being content to foresee what Newton would take credit for some 2500 years in the future, they had to go and ‘religio-fy’ it with fear and loathing and generation-jumping superpowers such that a theory of mind that foresaw a theory of physics ends up not even with some valid psychology, but instead a religion of vengeance.

    For many people in this round-ish world of almost 8B truly believe that if they do something wrong, as defined by tradition, then they will be hunted down and threatened with retribution like Ahmaud Arbery in Redneck County, Georgia, and forced to either submit to summary non-justice on suburban streets or fight for their lives like a fox in the hunt.

    But Karma doesn’t usually take such an active role, truth be told, and generally comes only into play as retrofit logic, i.e. if your life has difficulties, then it must be from something you did several generations back, passive voice past subjunctive, and then you just keep filling holes trying to back-fill the logic, rather than take a more active role in trying to subdue your oppressors and thereby prevent further abuses to improve your life.

    Because if a young girl is raped, then she is certainly not the cause, in this life or previous, but the victim, though I have heard a Buddhist monk accuse her exactly of that. But this is a perversion of Buddhism, a dive into superstitions and perverted logic, all for the sake of laziness and fear, to deal with a situation almost too difficult to bear. But bear it we must, if our lives are to have meaning, and the world is to serve our purposes rather than we serve its.

    As always I choose the middle path. My potential Asian Buddhist PhD professor insists that I use passive voice almost exclusively while my potential American literary agent insists that I never do that. But is it not the same language and is it not the same life in the same world? It is, and the call to action—or not—resides within the halls of this hollowed if not hallowed brain, defined equally by emptiness and thing-ness.

    Because Homer proved this point also 2500 years ago with his Iliad in which the protagonists and the antagonists resided only a short 300km/200mi apart, but divided by the Aegean Sea and 1000 years, since they both left the Aryan steppes in search of greener pastures and more fertile valleys, but by different routes, such that this minor sea defines the major gulf that separates Indo from Euro in each of our bicameral minds.

    So House fights Senate and Dems fight Repugs, but really we are all fighting ourselves inside, if not outside, as our random tendencies fight for supremacy, and good struggles against evil. But this is no time for fighting, as worlds lie dying and hospitals are full to overflowing. Now would be a good time to practice some kindness and compassion, and that is the true meaning of Buddhism…

     
  • hardie karges 7:22 am on December 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: America, , , , , , Saturnalia, sila   

    Putting the Buddha back in Christmas, and the Rebirth back in New Year… 

     

    img_1469

    Kwan Yin Fest near Chiang Dao, Thailand

    So I’ve made a big deal, for myself at least, over the fact that, at least in my mind, we as humans, and as Buddhists, or whatever, don’t really have to do anything to be upright moral citizens of this world and this civilization. As long as we don’t do any bad things, then all should be well, for each of us, morally and ethically and spiritually. It is no one’s place and position to prescribe the behavior of others, so long as they are doing nothing wrong and causing no one any harm…

    Then there’s Christmas, the Big Deal for Christians worldwide, with much spillover into other countries, especially those which have significant consumer cultures. But that’s not really what it’s all about, not for those who really ‘get it’, i.e. get the fact that it’s all really about what you give, not what you get. So what you get, hopefully, is the satisfaction of making other people happy… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 6:20 am on September 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: America, , , , , reductios, , , ,   

    America, Buddhism, Logic and Einstein’s Equivalence Principle… 

    img_0953You know the American dream, the whole world does: two-story house and a two-car garage, two kids in the breakfast nook and the neighbor’s kids coming over later, God’s little acre in a sanctified suburb, full ownership and bulging bank accounts, stay-at-home mom and a rising-star dad, with a bachelor’s degree in business and a lotta’ backyard gossip, Saturday at the zoo and Sunday barbecue, PTA meetings and postman’s daily greetings, fried chicken and crispy French fries, milk shakes and apple pies…

    Also known as the Australian dream or Kiwi if you prefer, but only a quarter-acre there and the fries just might be pies, so be careful what you eat, otherwise just the same, with a down-under accent, big goofy grins on the chinny-chin-chins, a weekend in the outback, a maid in the kitchen, a promise of deliverance, and the assurance of no limits: neither sky nor sand nor seacoast nor sex, all-you-can-eat in a never-ending buffet of consumer goods, entertainment, sensations, but mostly money… (More …)

     
    • quantumpreceptor 12:33 am on October 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Hardie with avoidance you certainly have the Theravadan view well encapsulated. Why else should one take 300 vows and live separately from many others but to avoid all that is potentially disturbing. In Mahayana and Vajrayana these so called disturbing emotions are actually the fuel for the fire that drives practice further and faster. There are several ways to see this is there not?

      QP

      • hardie karges 1:18 am on October 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Hi again QP: Absolutely. Yes, I love the Thai Forest Tradition, but see it best as the first step along the path, gotta’ re-enter the world at some point in order to save it, which is the highest goal IMHO. Mahayana is a bit fractured right now, though, so can’t help but think that there must be a new paradigm evolving, to account for all the world changes of the last 1000 years, which Buddhism mostly hasn’t answered yet. I don’t know that Secular Buddhism is the answer, but I definitely think it’s part of the discussion. Most religions abhor uncertainty, but I think the capacity for a true dialectic is one of Buddhism’s strengths, fingers crossed. Thanks for your comments…

  • hardie karges 7:16 am on April 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , America, , , , , , , , , , , Rinzai, , , , ,   

    Buddhism is all about love—sweet dispassionate love… 

    img_1111It has long been predicted that Buddhism’s future is in the West, and for better or worse, that may very well be true. So the question then becomes: what kind of Buddhism would that be? For purposes of dialog and dialectic, I see the two chief protagonists to be the Thai Forest Tradition and Zen, both of which have numerous and faithful adherents in the West, and both of which can claim some purity of faith and doctrine…

    Tibetan Buddhism I imagine has as many or more adherents as either of the above, but is already mixed-and-mashed to the max, so the purity of doctrine is just not there, for better or worse, not to mention modern sex scandals, a dubious devotion to physical reincarnation, and a generation-jumping karma of retribution that just won’t quit. This was the final chapter to a previous crossroads, in Asia, and what worked there, and then, will not likely work here, and now… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 4:04 pm on March 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: America, , , , , millennials,   

    #Buddhism and #Politics, in Defense of post-Millennials: 

    img_1987Yes, this is a dimension of suffering, more than the sum of your life, more than the breadth of this world, an entire dimension, or two, length width depth time and biology chemistry physics, at the very least, all conspiring to keep you within limits, physical limits, by a margin of maybe 51 to 49, you’re doomed, to a life sentence, paragraph, chapter and verse, complete with death, guaranteed, and there’s not much you can do about that, no matter what some sweet-talking New Age guru with his most articulate drugstore Buddhism tells you…

    And then there are the joys, too, to be fair, to be honest, the joys of family, and communion, and art and culture and sex and first love, but still there will be last rites, and that is the point, and the Buddha knew that, fully and well, he not some party-pooper intent on spoiling the fun, just quite aware that for every count of fun there would be two of misery, in some cause-effect relationship, you can plot it on a graph, and call it the Four Aryan Truths, if you want, to be mitigated by the Eight-Part Path (please do not fold), which will not solve all your problems, but it’s a good place to start… (More …)

     
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