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  • hardie karges 4:09 pm on September 25, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , Japan, , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Dialectic of Deliverance… 

    Buddhism needs no fancy metaphysics nor linguistics, multiple hells nor forty-two flavors of emptiness. Kindness and compassion are enough, metta and karuna and all that jazz. Which is one of the singular beauties of the faith, of course, that almost nothing is required up front, but some goodwill and a policy of non-aggression, ahimsa, such that oftentimes simply doing nothing, absolutely nothing, is the preferred path to advancement, simply because all other options are of lesser benefit.

    Some sects of Buddhism prefer a more elaborate presentation of gods and goddesses, but this is entirely optional and the historical Buddha himself had none of it. In fact, I’m not sure that the historical Buddha would even recognize Tibetan Vajrayana, or Japanese Zen, as something of his own inspiration. But such is the evolution of culture and language, so that a random mutation can be almost guaranteed to occur every eighty years or so, just like the DNA from which we all descend.

    But that doesn’t mean that Tibetan and Japanese Buddhists have nothing in common. They do. It’s just that these two almost-opposite branches of Buddhism are poised like the horns of a dilemma to offer themselves up as starting points for the next phase of dialectical Buddhism. So, given the superstitious and elaborate nature of Vajrayana and the sparse linguistic and meditation-oriented nature of Zen, what would be the next logical step for Buddhism to advance, at least in the West, that great field of dreams left to conquer?

    It just might be the original Theravadin style, with or without the religious trappings, so a more secular but traditional Buddhism, for lack of better terminology. And this is the current situation in the West, where those two extremes have found highest favor with the freedom-loving West, while the more disciplined original approach has found little favor—until now. Because the current acceptance of secular Buddhism goes back to the Early Buddhist roots in many important ways, but without karma, rebirth and past lives. The only question is how all of this will play out I the long run. My fingers are crossed. We are in need of some new synthesis to advance forward…

  • hardie karges 9:13 am on September 18, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Nature of Self/Not-Self… 

    The notion of self is a linguistic convenience. But language is not reality. And this is one of the debates in Buddhism, of course, not so much the exact nature of ‘self,’ which is proscribed in Buddhism (with an ‘o,’ not ‘e’), but more the exact nature of ‘not-self,’ or ‘no-self,’ that distinction itself often at the crux of the debate, as if there were any real difference, as if it really mattered. Because what matters is that this is not the Hindu cosmic self nor the Christian eternal self, both of which are not what the Buddha envisioned for his group of followers and his emerging view of the world.

    But what exactly did he envision for the self? Not much, apparently. Best guesses are the (s)khandhas, or ‘heaps’ of causes and conditions that he enumerated to constitute the typical person sans persona that is typically referred to, though many modern Buddhists like to wax long and hard on the ego and ensuing egolessness that would obviously result from that starting point. But our concept of ‘ego’ is so tied to Freud’s concept of id, ego, and superego that it may be misleading. Because I’m sure that the Buddha had no such wild notions.

    The Freudian ego also makes the same mistake that the Buddha was trying to solve, positing self as a thing, or something, anyway, which is an independent actor on an ever-shifting stage, when the actions themselves were much more important, as modern psychology now acknowledges the behavior, rather than some elaborate tripartite self, so like verbs not nouns. The Buddha might even go a step farther and see the composite self as a collection of adjectives, thus tendencies to act, not even dignified by the actions themselves.

    I’m sure that he had our modern notion of selfishness in mind, though, so we have that much in common, what with his obsessions with craving and desire. And that’s where Buddhism has much to say about our modern consumeristic economies and lifestyles to the point that ‘stuff’ becomes the meaning of our lives. This is a trap, of course, and a never-ending cycle of unfulfillment. After all, how can things satisfy us if we ourselves are essentially non-things? Sometimes the world is too much with us. Even the Buddha and Wordsworth could agree on that. The Buddha called it samsara….

  • hardie karges 11:02 am on September 4, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Buddhism, , , , , , 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 1:03 pm on August 28, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Buddhism, , , , , 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: , , Buddhism, , , , , , , , 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 8:33 am on July 31, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , , , , , Magi, magic, , ,   

    Buddhism 498: Emptiness is the Path to Infinity 

    If you’re doing it right, then one day a sense of calmness will come over you, as the zeroes take over, and the fractions become less, a mind divided unable to reproduce itself properly, and the ensuing life even less. Because language knows no natural limit, and so will run on until stopped, vowels and consonants forming verbs and nouns like chickens and eggs, and no one knows which came first, since no one was taking notes in a class too crowded for convenience and too full for breath…

    But people wonder why meditate, since there’s so little time and so little space, that to waste any extra must certainly be counter-intuitive, but, in reality, the exact opposite is the case. Because meditation creates more time and more space in the process of killing it, such that if you really want to experience infinity, then the only way to do that is with emptiness.

    Because infinity cannot exist full of stuff, and that is fundamental to the concept, and who would want it anyway, except a kid at Christmas before the sun’s even up, learning the false lesson of abundance under the magic of the Magi, who got lost on the way to Bethlehem, but couldn’t see any reason to let a good story go to waste? So, a kid in a manger becomes the unlikely savior of humanity, when all we really wanted was a full belly and an empty mind, empty of hate and anger, with Big Ideas optional.

    But we can do that on command with a little silence and a lot of discipline, let the confusion die down and out, and be reborn in spirit every hour of every day with a little self-control and a lot of kindness, creating a world of forgiveness and reconciliation, instead of aggression and competition, for access to scarce resources, to create even more, when the obvious answer is to first consume even less. And that is the difference between Buddhism and Christianity, to consume less or produce more, when the truth lies somewhere in between.

  • hardie karges 10:25 am on July 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aristotle, Brahmanists, , Buddhism, , , , , ,   

    Buddhism is a World of Feeling, Thoughts Optional 

    Be kind to humans and other sentient beings, even when they are obnoxious, egotistic, pompous, and overbearing. And this is a tough row to hoe in the age of social media, I know, but that makes it even more important, doesn’t it? I think so. Because the pressure in this social media age for anyone who wants to be an ‘influencer,’ is to crack wise first, and smooth hard feelings later, if ever. But that’s not the correct order of things, I don’t think, not these days or ever.

    Because we are all ‘influencers,’ to some extent or other, but if we’re all sticking our egos in everyone’s faces all the time, then who is left to bear witness? So, we all have a stake in this game, regardless of whether we’re professional or not, because those lines are becoming blurred—at best. This is nothing if not a world of feeling, and I think that’s how Buddhism best makes sense. Because there was no world of reason back then, much less science, even if the Buddha was aware of the power of reason and tried to incorporate it into his practice.

    But reason at its best requires inscrutable logic, and the Indian tetralemma, in Greek, or catuhskoti, in Sanskrit, was far from perfect, and violated the Law of the Excluded Middle of Aristotelian logic, more familiar to our Western thought. But the Indian choices of ‘This,’ ‘That,’ ‘All of the above’ or ‘None of the above’ might ironically have led to the Buddha’s famous Middle Path, which Greek logic only approached with a roundabout dialectical synthesis that came much later.

    There’s more to life than logic, though, of course, and a close examination shows a classical Indian world-view heavily based on feeling and introspection, the deeper the better for the really big questions. That’s the world that the Buddha was raised in, and that was his method by trade, as prophet to the ages. When in doubt, think it out. Though many modern non-dualists may deny that the Buddha ever really intended anything, much less own his thoughts, I think it’s safe to say that he certainly did.

    If the Buddha’s thoughts had had no thinker, then I doubt we’d have Four Noble Truths and twice that number of folds and twists to our middle path of salvation, as defined by the cessation of suffering, at least partially, if never quite total. In every case, too, it’s a world of feeling and perception that is described, defined by name and form, and articulated by consciousness. The Brahmins and Brahmanists saw a world of Cosmic self in union with Brahma. The Buddha begged to differ. That’s the world he lived in, and that’s the world that he bequeathed to us.

  • hardie karges 11:44 am on July 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , , , , , , id, , , , , ,   

    Buddhism 101: Anger is a Warning Sign of Impending Danger… 

    Anger is like a lying dog, that, when provoked, rises up in consciousness, and strikes the nearest hand that most recently fed it. Because it’s blind, and usually vicious, hatefulness optional, and it infects everything it touches, anger does. But it’s not always so easy to recognize, because it comes in many forms, most often in concert with hatred, true, but equally conversant with deception and denigration and the other delusions of sense perception, always a prime source of suffering, no matter the particular place and time in question…

    And then there is the other ‘poison’ of Buddhism, besides hatred and delusion, which is greed, or sensual desire, with which anger is also often associated. But sometimes the symptom is worse than the disease, and this could often be one of those cases, in which the anger is worse than the moha, raga, or dvesha itself. These are also variously known as the Three Unwholesome Roots and the Three Kileshas, which are also available in a convenient Five-Pack for serious abusers, but who’s counting?

    Still, it all counts as demerit in a lifestyle that prides itself on making merit, and doing good, and so worth making a sea change in order to avoid the choppy waves, right? But that gets into issues of global warming and rising sea levels, when simply wearing a life jacket and learning how to swim might accomplish much the same thing in a much shorter amount of time. Why get a brain operation if a pill can cure the headache? That’s what I want to know.

    Hatred, delusion, and greedy attachments can take a lifetime to cease, overcome, or even diminish, much less cure, though, so in the meantime please do us all a favor and control your anger, okay? It becomes you. And there are many American Buddhist ‘teachers’ who might disagree with that, but they may not be so smart, after all, since they often look to Freud and Jung, rather than Buddha, for inspiration, as if the notion of superego were somehow scientific and Freud’s ego were what the Buddha was really talking about in denouncing the Brahmanistic cosmic atta/atman. It wasn’t. So, let go of all anger, the sooner the better. It sucks.

  • hardie karges 1:42 pm on July 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antithesis, , Buddhism, , , , , , , , , synthesis, , thesis,   

    Buddhism in the Bardo: the Language of Dialectic and the Silence of Meditation… 

    Language cannot solve the problems that language creates. Only silence can do that. This is one of those inherent little foundations of Buddhism, also, like non-aggression and the limits to fulfillment, that often get lost in the shuffle of rebirth, karma, and the endless choices of past lives. But that is the essence of philosophy, and religion, to find some reason to live, without expending too much time and energy in the process, and so often that involves divine intervention—or magic…

    And that’s where Buddhism tried to be different, at least in the beginning, though the pressure to spice things up is almost irresistible, and so Buddhism was not so much different. Like Christianity a few hundred years later, it started with basic precepts, or commandments, and proceeded from that humble starting point. And to be honest, the starting points of Buddhism and Christianity were not so much different in their original conceptions.

    Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat: the basic precepts were very similar in the Abrahamic religions of the Mideast and the Dharmic religions of India. They weren’t that far apart, really, geographically or conceptually, so that may be more than a coincidence. Considering the Aryan migration eastward, also, now proven genetically, the ‘meeting of East and West’ may not have been much more than a meeting at the most convenient location, rather than some journey that required Marco Polos, Fa Hians, and Ibn Battutahs to accomplish, though they did that, too…  

    But Buddhism went through much more of a dialectical process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, over the course of its 2500 years, something implied if not intended, in its mantra of the Middle Path between extremes, so that the three major schools of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana can be seen in precisely that light, something like discipline and devotion having babies, and calling it Dharma. But at the core of them all was always meditation, and that was silent. Christianity still hasn’t learned that trick. Maybe one day they will.

  • hardie karges 11:36 am on June 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , non-aggression   

    Buddhism and Peak Emotion: Chill, dude… 

    If suffering is the reality that Buddhism acknowledges, then non-aggression is the response to that reality, and most difficult. But that is what we must do. And that is the essence of Buddhism, non-aggression by design and intent. The irony, of course, is that that doesn’t require one to DO much of anything at all. Of much greater importance is what you NOT do…

    Do NOT take the bait when somebody on Facebook forces you into denying something that you never really asserted—or at least never intended to assert—in the first place. Do NOT respond for the fifth time to some debatable thesis to which you’ve already responded—identically—four times previously (actual numbers may vary). Do NOT get angry about something that makes no difference to anyone in the first place.

    Given that anger, or maybe at least a certain form of it, may indeed be necessary when someone’s life or livelihood is in actual danger, ferchissakes don’t waste the precious emotion over the price of rice in China, or the price of gas in Flagstaff. Yes, emotion should be a precious commodity, to be doled out judiciously and with mindfulness aforethought, not something to be tossed around willy-nilly like so many wedding invitations from a bride or groom who really only want the registry gifts.

    But this is the hardest thing for a Western Buddhist to learn, that emotion is something to be avoided, and not encouraged. Defendants in western courts, after all, are expected to ‘show remorse’ and not just prove intent. So, it’s not a bad little trick to learn, TBH, because it might save you some time or some bucks, should you ever need to make amends for your wrongdoings.

    But it will score you few or no points in Buddhism, where actions (karma) speak louder than words—or tears. So, the Japanese PM gets little recognition for multiple apologies for Japanese behavior in WWII, while the German PM wins the prize for Best Actor for dropping on to his knees at Auschwitz and crying profusely. It’s the dangedest thang. But that’s what we’re taught in photography class: go for the peak emotion! And so that’s what we do. And history bears witness to it all…

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