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  • hardie karges 1:03 pm on August 28, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , anatta, , , , , , , Three Marks of Existence   

    Buddhism 202: Happiness Sandwiches, with Something in the Middle… 

    If you’re looking for bliss, then you may be disappointed. Happiness for me is the reduction, and hopefully cessation, of suffering. Anything else is icing on the cake. Count your blessings. In other words, bliss is optional and perhaps not even desirable. After all, when your psychological pendulum swings too far in one direction, isn’t it bound to swing back to the other with equal force? It’s very likely. And isn’t bliss an extreme emotion to begin with, tongue flagging and tail wagging, like a dog with a fresh bone, until it’s suddenly all gone?

    And that’s the problem, isn’t it, that extremes usually never cease rebounding in search of their opposites, in ever-widening arcs, never satisfied and never at rest?  It certainly seems that way, the curse of consciousness, chasing its own tail in a race to the finish. When we’re hot, we want cold. When we’re cold we want warmth. At what point do we get to enjoy our happiness? There’s no time like the present of course, and anything else is probably BS.

    And this goes right to the heart of Buddhism, the middle path, but not necessarily The Middle Path, between luxury and lack, or Existence and Non-existence, but any middle path, between any two sets of opposites, for which the middle is almost always the best option, that notion of balance and equilibrium always desirable, even if the word ‘compromise’ doesn’t suit you, with the notion that maybe it’s a cop-out. It’s not.

    It suits me just fine, and I think it should probably be enshrined as an important addendum to the main body of Buddhism, which includes the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold path, and the Three Marks of Existence, especially non-self anatta. Then there’s ahimsa, non-violence, though not necessarily non-action. That sounds like the perfect balance between violence and passivity. So, this notion of balance, little brother to the Middle Path, works almost every time, and should get the attention and credit that it deserves. Try it. You’ll probably like it.

  • hardie karges 12:03 pm on August 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, , , , , , , , , , Vedas   

    Buddhism in a Hindu World: no Time for Selves and Souls… 

    You should be able to find a comfortable balance between low self-esteem on the one hand, and overt selfish egotism, on the other, in the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, non-self or no-self, same thing. But this is one of the more controversial and misunderstood of the Buddha’s teachings, and subject to much abuse by those who want to go too far in the opposite direction from egotism, by claiming that we are all ‘nobody,’ and should somehow be proud of that. And that’s fine, if that’s what you want, but that’s not what the Buddha said.

    Because in one very real sense, the Buddha’s Middle path is not just the original path between luxury and lack, or even the esoteric existence and non-existence of the later Mahayanists. It is also very much a Middle Path between the competing philosophies of Vedic Brahmanism and the Jainism of his day. Those two, in effect, defined a very real dichotomy between the lush and lavish celebratory rituals of the upper Brahmin class and the self-denial of the renunciant rishis who once made India famous as a religious center, and to some extent still do.

    So, the self vs. no-self controversy for Buddhists was never supposed to be a total refutation of all things selfie, such that we are individually nothing at all and should aspire to nothing more than the average leaf blowing in the wind. The Buddhist doctrine of anatta only means that there is no permanent eternal soul to aspire to union with the cosmic Brahmana principle, as Brahmanic Hinduism invokes, and so nothing to worry about on that count. Peace in this life in this world is to be found by knowing the truths of suffering, craving, and impermanence, and then acting accordingly. Now we can get on with our lives.

  • hardie karges 4:22 am on November 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, , , , , , , , , 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 10:52 am on November 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anatta, , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Cessation of Suffering… 

    Sometimes the symptoms are the disease. Suffering is like that, and Buddhism knows that. Whether nirvana is the cure or not is unimportant to me, since nirvana’s association with death is not conducive to a casual discussion of it, like discussing suicide with someone who’s going through tough times. And the clarification that the Buddha’s ‘parinirvana’ was something different is not especially helpful, not when the modern Sanskrit translation apparently is indeed ‘death.’ What IS important is that all suffering be mitigated and ameliorated, however incrementally, whatever the time frame. To reduce suffering by half, and half again, ad infinitum, is indeed the ‘cessation of suffering’ that I envision when I read the Buddhist texts. A cure implies a magic pill. Buddhism is not like that.

    The modern curse of Buddhism is to re-translate everything, apparently to make it sound more Western, so more optimistic, and less pessimistic. But Buddhism is really neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but realistic. Death happens. Get used to it. What happens after that is fertile ground for speculation, but I’m not especially concerned about it. The afterlife, whatever it is, is probably not painful, whether Heaven or Hell or, more likely, none of the above. But the word dukkha, i.e. ‘suffering,’ is one of the words that gets re-translated the most. So now it’s ‘dissatisfaction,’ ‘inconvenience,’ or even ‘stress,’ notwithstanding the fact that modern stress is something most likely unknowable to ancient India. Maybe the word we want is ‘bummer,’ haha, but now I’m admitting to being a ‘boomer,’ aren’t I?

    Fortunately, Buddhism does not have to dovetail perfectly with modern Western psychology, especially of the popular sort, since that just might be wrong, at least from a Buddhist perspective. Most obvious would be the emphasis on ‘emptiness,’ which for a Western psychologist is the source of much distress. But for a Buddhist it’s sublime deliverance, an affirmation of all that is real and holy, and the source of the world itself, in addition to being a scientifically accurate extension of the anatta ‘non-self’ principle, one of Buddhism’s core beliefs. Buddhism is better than Western pop psychology, which too easily descends into faddish commercialism. This is where the traditional sangha community plays an important role. Because without the monkhood Buddhism is just another New Age fad in America. That’s the problem with secular Buddhism. But there is a Middle Way between all the options and variations, and the synthesis is sublime.

  • 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, , , , , , ,   

    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.


      • 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?


      • 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.


    • 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 …

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