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  • hardie karges 11:45 am on August 21, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brahmanism, , , , , , , ,   

    Modern Buddhism: Past Lives or Present Moment? You Decide… 

    I accept all forms of Buddhism, as long as they have no quarrel with Science. But, that’s easier said than done, given the spat over rebirth, as to exactly what it means and how it applies. The main conundrum, of course, is that Buddha cut his teeth on his anatta no-self doctrine, and so, if Buddhism accepts rebirth, then what exactly is it that gets reborn? Good question. And many are the answers, ranging from karma to consciousness, anything but the body itself in reincarnation, complete with a permanent self or soul intact.

    Because, that’s the Hindu Vedic Brahmanistic principle that the Buddha was in fierce competition with, and this was the most prominent point of departure between them, so a definite no-no. So, the Buddhists tend to explain the controversy away, while at the same time talking about past and future lives like so many trips to the grocery store. And many Buddhists will explain that not only is this not unscientific, but science is gradually coming around to a similar view. I’ve got a better idea: drop the whole idea, since it’s not really necessary, anyway, so why raise a ruckus over something this has no proven relevance to this life in this world, which is all that we really know?

    The irony is that many of these ‘re-birthers’ are Present Moment Buddhists, also, the same Buddhists who most loudly promote the relatively new idea that this so-called ‘present moment’ is not only all that we can know, but it’s all that there is. But this idea is not only in direct contradiction with Rebirth and Past Lives, but it’s also in contradiction with itself, simply because it defies common sense, in that what we see in life is not a still photo, but a movie, by analogy. Okay, but a movie is a succession of twenty-four frames per second, still the present moment people seem to be insistent upon THIS present moment, and no other.

    This may be only a problem of syntax and semantics though, since Eckhart Tolle has no real problem with his concept of the NOW, which, like particles or waves, may presumably be envisioned as either individual moments or a stream in flow. And, like rebirth, maybe it’s just best not to think about it too much. After all, Eckhart Tolle is not a Buddhist, anyway, and neither is much of what he says, but much also is, and the concept of NOW has much currency in the modern New Age movement. Bottom line: neither can be proven by Science, Past Lives or Present Moments. Still, I’d gladly take NOW, with all its conceptual flaws, if that could put the final nail in the coffin of rebirth. It’s time. We can deal with NOW in the next millennium, if that’s how long it takes…

     
  • hardie karges 12:03 pm on August 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Brahmanism, , , , , , , , , 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 6:59 am on December 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Brahmanism, , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    The Ways and (Skillful) Means of Buddhism… 

    ‘Skillful means’ is not about telling people what they want to hear. It’s telling them what they need to hear, in a way that’s acceptable to them. And if this sounds obvious, it can be more complicated than it seems. It can even contradict one of the main precepts in the Eightfold Path, in fact, if it fails to acknowledge the importance of Right Speech. One of the Buddha’s later commentators, in fact, even bragged about how the Buddha could preach about cosmic Self to the Brahmanists, while preaching non-self to the already-committed Buddhists. Fast-forward to the future and a prominent senior Buddhist monk today claims that Buddha, in fact, was never committed to a doctrine of non-self, but was undecided about it (so that we can now accept rebirth with no issue of what it is that gets reborn). But this is not ‘skillful means.’ And this is not Right Speech.

    As the New Testament of the Christian Bible is often paraphrased: “Let your yes be yes; and let your no be no.” Bingo. That Buddhism is an open doctrine is fine, and to be commended. That it sometimes gets twisted almost beyond recognition is not always so good. But that’s exactly what happened when Mahayana went in two almost opposite directions from its shunyata (emptiness) starting point, one leading to the Vajrayana of Tibet, the other leading to the Zen of Japan. And for a long time, that’s where Buddhism stood, and stalled, and those are the two extremes that made the biggest impact in the New World—until now. Because now there is a new dialectic to that interplay of magic and trance, and it should be no surprise that the only realistic synthesis would be a return to the primal roots of early Buddhism. So, Theravada now finds its best messaging in its simplest Forest Temples, and the debates in the background resume.

    Only this time it is not the background of Brahmanism and Jainism, but dozens of so-called ‘New Age’ ideas and the general air of conspiracy. But for me Secular Buddhism is the rightful heir to the debate with religiosity, something which original Buddhism had not the luxury, because Science as we know it did not exist. But Reason and rationality did, embedded in the nature of cause and effect, the words for which define ‘reason’ in more than one Asian language. And that’s how Buddhism won the original debate, for me, at least, because it was the rational option. And it still can be, if it can find its peace with Science, because that is the air we breathe in this day and age, logic and testing. We only need a belief system to make sense of it all. If not, then ‘belief’ becomes a bad word, synonymous with ‘faith,’ and we are left to our own devices to find succor and solace. I find no contradiction between my Buddhism and the best science we know. If forced to choose, then I will refuse, and let the chips fall where they may.

     
  • hardie karges 12:26 pm on April 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brahmanism, , Carvakas, cosmological constant, , Gosala, , , , Nepali, Predeterminism, , ,   

    Karma, Rebirth, and the Middle Path of Buddhism 

    Karma is not a bank account. Karma is a way to live with right actions. That’s what the word means, in fact, simply ‘actions.’ But somewhere along the way the word got mixed up in the fashions of the day, in 6th to 8th century India, Before the Common Era, and the materialistic demands of the Carvakas in contrast to the predeterminism of Gosala, tutor to both the Buddha and Mahavira, 23rd Tirthankara of the Jains. They were of the extreme ascetic bent, of course, in which Emptiness literally means empty bellies, by willful design, to the point of inanition and even death, for lack of other inspiration.

    (More …)
     
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