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  • hardie karges 9:33 am on September 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, , , , , , , , 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: anatta, , , , , , , , 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 10:43 am on August 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, 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.

    (More …)
     
  • hardie karges 12:50 pm on May 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , anatta, , , , Echkart Tolle, , , Hawking, , , , , Wittgenstein,   

    Pandemic Sutra on the Concept of Change in Buddhism 

    The Buddha wasn’t perfect, and he knew that, regardless of the speculations of some later Mahayanists and their need for transcendent divinity of which the earthly manifestations are just that—nasty, mean, brutish, and short, like life with the sea serpent Leviathan of Hobbes without Calvin. Why else would he have referred to us as no-soul ‘heaps’ of inconsequential ‘skandhas’ with little to commend us but the causes and conditions to which we are subject and of which we are so much a part?

    Zen troublemakers took the Mahayana transcendental position a step further by claiming perfection for all of us, but I’m not sure how that works out except as a point of convergence with some Christian transcendentalists who also think similarly, and so might actually save the world from its own self-destruction if enough people from enough different places could ever agree on any one thing for long enough for us to stop fighting and allow the world to heal from our destructive abuse of it.

    (More …)
     
  • hardie karges 6:57 am on August 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , anatta, , Be Here Now, , , Eternal Now, , Mahavira, , Paul Tillich, , Vaibhasikas   

    Buddhist Dilemma #2: If Now-ness = Here-ness, Does Mindfulness = No Travel? 

    img_1661Baba Ram Dass’s famous period piece, and start of his career as motivational and spiritual guru, was ‘Be Here Now’, of course, but these days most people concentrate on the Now-ness, and forget about the ‘Here-ness’. That was hardly his Big Idea, anyway, the idea batted around in Buddhism since time immemorial, reiterated by Hinduism, and immortalized by Christian existentialist theologian Paul Tillich as ‘The Eternal Now’ long before Ram Dass’s book hit the shelves (author’s note: back then books sat on shelves)…

    Back in the Abhidharma days of Buddhism, one ‘school’, Sarvastivadins I believe, or maybe ‘Vaibhasikas’, not sure, even came up with an atomistic conception of time, in which time, indeed, was composed of unique units, and supposedly capable of measurement, which gives some historical support to the concept of precise present moment(s). And this concept of ‘thought-moments’ lives on in some traditions of Buddhism… (More …)

     
    • quantumpreceptor 1:53 am on August 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Moments “For once we know it then it is past, ” I think you are missing the point here. Maybe we don’t need to know it but just stay in it without grasping at the last or the next?

      Secondly, no matter where you go, there you are. It’s unavoidable when you think about it like this.

      QP

      • hardie karges 2:27 am on August 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Maybe, indeed. Grasping, no, certainly not. And that is definitely the role and goal of meditation, to suspend all narratives, for me at least, which I heartily encourage, the ‘bedrock’ of my Buddhism. My point is that ‘eternal now’ better describes and defines the present time than ‘present moment’, at least for me, and apparently confirmed by scientific convention. When Einstein formulated ‘space-time’ and postulated time as the fourth dimension, he wasn’t joking, and it’s interesting that it is one dimension, not three, and often portrayed in a linear fashion. So no, it’s not necessary to ‘know’ the past, but it can help to navigate the future, as a reference point, if nothing else. I’m not a big fan of ‘no-thought’ Buddhism, whether Thich Nhat Hanh or Suchart Abijato, i.e. Mahayana or Theravada, and the first time I heard a Thai Forest monk describe thinking as ‘kilesa’, i.e. defilement, I frankly couldn’t believe it, still can’t. I’ll never subscribe to that, and I don’t think the Buddha would, either: right thinking, not no thinking. Secondly, did you ever read the classic 70’s travel guide, “People’s Guide to Mexico”? That was their slogan: “Wherever you go, there you are”! Thanks for your comments…

        • quantumpreceptor 3:10 am on August 27, 2018 Permalink

          No I have never read the people’s guide to Mexico. But now I know where it comes from. I agree on the right vs no thinking. Many Buddhists think they only have attachment to things but actually it’s our thoughts that really counts. To observe thoughts without attachment is a skill worth knowing.

          Have a great day

  • hardie karges 6:04 am on July 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, center, , , , , , , sunya, ,   

    Buddhism, shunyata and the cult of zero… 

    IMG_1559The Buddhist doctrine of shunyata is one of its most famous, and the one that put Mahayana Buddhism on the map, a full step beyond what was envisioned with the original teachings of the Buddha, yet well within that purview. It is usually translated as ’emptiness’ or ‘voidness’, though I prefer ‘zero-ness’, in recognition of the fact that the word ‘shunya’ or ‘sunya’ literally means just that, zero, and in the modern standard language of every Theravada Buddhist country today, still means just that, or a derivation thereof…

    And if that sounds a bit spacey and abstract, it’s probably best thought of as an extended version of the Buddha’s doctrine of anatta or ‘no-self’, or no soul or no ego, i.e. no intrinsic reality to the human personality, which, according to this theory, is merely a collection of (s)kandhas, literally ‘heaps’ of transient characteristics with no permanence… (More …)

     
    • quantumpreceptor 6:29 am on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hey great post and expansion of the zero idea. Even for the fact that zero has been named means that it is something.
      Have you heard of sunyata as being explained as empty of? Empty of its own or independent existence?

      QP

      • hardie karges 7:15 am on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks. Yes, I think that your definition is the most commonly accepted one, and if I didn’t say that, then I meant to. Mostly I just wanted to give some context to the development of the doctrine. It seems that ‘shunya’ was discussed even in the Buddha’s time, becoming ‘shunyata’ later on. The invention of the zero was a really big deal, and it just may have much more to do with the development of Buddhism than is commonly acknowledged, a thesis I intend to investigate further. Thanks for your comment…

        • quantumpreceptor 12:23 pm on July 17, 2018 Permalink

          Yes, Hardie, that’s a really interesting idea to develop that further, I can’t wait.

          As for being a discussed​​, I would even say that it was a hot topic. In Tibetan, we have three words rangtong, shentong, and detong. The tong comes from tongpanyi which is Tibetan for shunyata. Rangtong is empty of self-nature​. Many see only rangtong as nihilistic nits nature. Shentong is described as emptiness with something on top. The idea here was that because it could be experienced that the experience was part of reality. This was debated as being materialistic.

          Detong is also very interesting. De comes from Dewa and means great bliss. So detong is seen as the great joy that arises from emptiness. This happens when mind recognizes its own radiant space.

          You may look at these three terms as competing ideas and to some extent be correct. However, you may also see them as a natural progression as one leading to the next as if they were steps along the way. I cannot wait to find out more about your zero theory.

          QP

    • Dave Kingsbury 4:52 pm on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Some great practical suggestions that could give town planners something to think about. If they aren’t an endangered species! Seriously, they worry about what to do with empty shops … community hubs? You bring this abstract subject to life by relating it to modern discoveries and issues eg. “It should be noted that this is not much different from the logical conclusions to be drawn from a thorough consideration of the implications of the reality depicted by quantum mechanics: things are not real, not really”

      • hardie karges 6:13 pm on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        I’ve always loved Mexican cities, with the central park and lots of community space. I always assumed it was a Spanish thing, but it may actually be pre-Columbian. And what with ‘high streets’ now under the assault of online shopping, it’s probably time to reassess the role of cities…

        • Dave Kingsbury 11:50 am on July 17, 2018 Permalink

          I’d love to think we had matured enough to take considered stock of the past and come up with a better future, though I fear we might be too locked in our mad consumer present …

  • hardie karges 7:52 am on November 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, branding, , , , , , , , ,   

    The 49 Flavors of American Buddhism… 

    img_1936In the old days of Nikaya Buddhism, in India, before the Common Era, there were at least seventeen schools of Buddhism, chiefly Sthviravada-derived (including Theravada, Sammatiya, Sautrantika, Savarvastivada, Mulasarvastivada, etc.), and Mahasanghika-derived (Yogacara, Madhyamika, etc.), before finally settling into the three broad Theravada, Mahayana, and Tibetan-Esoteric-Vajrayana-Mantrayana ‘schools’ that we know today. Get the picture? Buddhists are not known for doctrinal agreement…

    Neither is Amerika known for its agreements, especially where Buddhist knowledge and tradition is almost totally lacking, so open to much doctrinal obfuscation and outright perjury, since the Buddha is currently hipper than sh*t, and abuse is rife. So cannabis conventions, openly proffering THC and other cannabinoids as ‘medical marijuana’ can call themselves ‘Buddhafest’ with no repercussions and likely increases in ticket sales as if such is recommended by the Big Guy himself—it isn’t, and strictly prohibited, in fact… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 6:54 am on October 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, , Chogyam Trungpa, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism 301: Do I save myself, or do I save the world? Decisions decisions… 

    img_1893I’m paraphrasing, of course, but this is the question that has plagued—no, let’s say intrigued’—the sangha (Buddhist community) for two and a half millennia, more or less, if not in so many words, then in so many actions, cutting to the chase, and allowing for interpolations and extrapolations, i.e. whether to think big, farming ideas and allowing for fierce and free debate, or to think small, on the achievement of individual ‘liberation’ and the purging of ‘defilements’ from the composite makeshift personalities that we call ‘I’…

    And if that’s an oversimplification, then it’s for a worthy cause, ’cause sharper focus is what’s needed for Buddhism to escape the same fate in the West that it met in India a millennium ago, going down in defeat largely because of its inability to distinguish itself from a resurgent ultra-nationalistic Hinduism and an insurgent Islam, such that Buddhism simply got lost in the shuffle of competing meditative traditions and could no longer count on its fall-back position as the non-Hindu alternative… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 7:11 am on September 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, , , , Noble Truths, , , ,   

    Buddhism’s Noble Truths: La Vie Est Magnifique, Sois Toi-Meme–NOT… 

    img_2116“Life is magnificent; be yourself.” These words are taken straight from a T-shirt, so hardly authoritative, but I don’t think any phrase could better demonstrate the differences between East and West, the West being something of a personality cult of ones own self, while the East—Buddhism, at least—denies the existence of a self entirely…

    That doctrine of ‘no self’, anatta, translates to us most easily as ‘no ego’, something we are very familiar with, but in fact also refers to the idea of a transmigrating soul, or any permanent self, one that in Asian religious traditions is usually envisioned as forever returning, though a similarly permanent soul is envisioned in Western traditions on a one-way trip up there or down there… (More …)

     
    • davekingsbury 2:57 pm on September 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      As always you tread a distinctive personal path through the subject, bringing it sharply to life. A great contribution to the great and, as you say, urgent debate!

      • hardie karges 5:29 pm on September 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Remember the old Chambers Brothers’ song ‘Time Has Come Today’ (don’t know if that one made it to the UK or not)? Tick tock tick tock…

        • davekingsbury 12:25 am on September 12, 2017 Permalink

          Know it well … Now the time has come / There are things to realize … it behoves us all to go on thinking rather than just turning off and going with the flow – which is not to decry the meditative path!

        • hardie karges 6:35 pm on September 12, 2017 Permalink

          🙂 No, thinking is not a ‘defilement’ in my Buddhism…

        • davekingsbury 1:08 am on September 13, 2017 Permalink

          It is very evident through all your writings. 🙂

  • hardie karges 8:01 am on August 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism 101: Going with the flow… 

    img_1935There are two kinds of people in this world. How many times have you heard that? That the world can be divided between optimist or pessimists. LA people or San Fran people. Cubs fan or a White Sox fan, chick-flicks or action movies, Beatles or the Stones (yawn), or maybe even white meat or dark (we’re talking about chicken, unless you’re new to Thailand and the locals are looking for you a GF)…

    But I’m thinking of something more substantial, that goes to the heart of personality, or lack thereof, that determines an individual’s entire approach to the world around him (or her) and underlies all human interaction, it seems to me. And that is whether an individual interacts with the environment, giving and taking, advancing and retreating, responding to changes proportionately, or whether the individual’s approach is to dominate the environment, and Nature, by acts of will and brute force, where necessary…

    I certainly have a distinct preference for the former alternative, and its kinship to Buddhism, while the latter alternative would seem to be more the typical American beat-em-up approach, ‘forcing Nature to reveal her secrets’ and harvesting the bounty therein with little thought to the future… (More …)

     
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