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  • hardie karges 10:24 am on February 5, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , , , Graeber, , John Locke, Kadiaronk, , , , , Wengrow   

    Buddhism, Craving, and the Path to Enlightenment… 

    When you realize that you and your cravings are the cause of most of your problems, then you are on the path to enlightenment. And that’s the Second Noble Truth, more or less, so fundamental to the practice of Buddhism. After all, most Buddhists worldwide don’t meditate, and many physically can’t, but anyone can train their mind. That’s the heart of the Buddha’s original message, not rebirth, past lives, or even emptiness. Control yourself, and not only will the world be a better place, but you will be a better person.

    But there’s that ugly word ‘control’ again, the same word and concept which cause so much consternation among us Westerners for whom freedom is sacrosanct, and for whom control is the enemy. And that may be fine for the wide-open skies of Montana, but that might not work in all situations. Because, like it or not (I don’t especially like it), the world is becoming a crowded place, and the paradigms of a previous era may not all be appropriate now.

    Whether we take our cues from John Locke or the now-famous Native American scholar Kadiaronk, immortalized in The Dawn of Everything, by Wengrow and Graeber, the result is the same: a freedom is best understood by its limits—by definition. Most importantly, though, is the difference between self-control and control of others. This is where politics meets philosophy, and we find our place in the universe. Then there’s also that word ‘enlightenment’ again, which implies a duality between darkness and light despite any objective standard of reference.

    And that’s the word often revered to the same extent that control is reviled, but not always. Because words themselves can be as dangerous as their deliverance, and seldom do they live up to our expectations. But once they became our operating system, then so it will be until we find something better. Because, ultimately, language is just the interface, and there are more important things to be accomplished. When you realize that your worst curse just might be your greatest blessing, then you are on the path to enlightenment…

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  • hardie karges 10:36 am on January 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, Eskimo, , Greenland, , , , , Scandinaian   

    Buddhism 202: Defeating Ignorance, Fear, Hatred, and Anger… 

    Hatred and fear chase each other around the room like cats and dogs that never slept together as newborns on cold nights. Because fear is the primal emotion, even if anger usually takes the rap. You can have a commandment, “Don’t get angry!” But you can’t have a commandment, “Don’t be scared!” Or it wouldn’t make any sense if you did, simply because life doesn’t work that way. Fear is a primal reality, just like suffering. You can’t just command it to go away. And hatred usually expresses itself as anger. It’s almost like Dependent Origination.

    Because the reality that’s immediately prior to fear in ordinary consciousness is probably ignorance, since most fear is based on ignorance, just like cats and dogs that see a difference between them and assume that there’s danger, or because they were taught that way, when in fact there is only fear and ignorance. But the newborn puppy and kitty have no such luxury. They only know that it is cold, and an extra body will deliver warmth, right when and where it is needed. I learned this from direct experience in my own house in a country with no heaters and two pets that hadn’t yet learned to fear each other.

    So, there is primal knowledge, also, and that knowledge will tell you that in a desperate situation, you cling to each other, not stubborn ignorant outdated concepts. The Scandinavians in Greenland learned that lesson the hard way, dying out on the island they ‘discovered,’ rather than ask help from the Eskimos a couple hundred kilometers to the north, who were masters of that environment. You can call it racism, or you can call it fear or ignorance, but the result is the same—defeat.  But society can’t legislate primal fears.

    Society can only legislate actions, and behavior. So, if anger and hatred are among the ‘poisons’ of Buddhism, then the best cure is not only self-control, but release from the ignorance that is primal cause. If I hate someone because they are a different ‘race,’ then I should certainly exercise self-control, so as not to exhibit anger, but even better, much better, is to work on the root cause of both that hatred and anger, the fear and ignorance that is underlying. The best way to do that is to become friends. Try it. It’s called kindness. It’s contagious…

     
  • hardie karges 9:41 am on January 22, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , grasping, , , ,   

    Buddhism in the Bardo: Don’t Forget to Laugh… 

    Sometimes the best antidote to fear is humor, even laughter, the more the better. The proof is in the performance. And it’s contagious. That’s about as Zen-like koanic or as Vajrayana-like superstitious as I can get, not that I feel any need to give equal time to those later schools of Buddhism, but because it works, and whether the Buddha ever said something similar or not, I’m not certain, but I’m sure that he’d agree.

    Because the Buddha was a rational man, and that was a radical thing at the time, though many would prefer the latent ‘non-dualism’ inherent in Buddhism, even though that was hardly the Buddha’s central message. The central message was to reduce suffering, not by going on a shopping spree, but by removing the causes of suffering: grasping and craving, mostly. He also had impermanence on that list, as if all change is bad, but I’d probably prefer a more modern approach to that. Some change is good.

    But I see a subtle message about fear in the Buddha’s teachings, and I think that it’s important to make the implicit more explicit. Because fear is one of the horrors of modern life, since we have been so distant from it for a generation or two, and because it looms so largely on the horizon. Because we’ve become very attached, even addicted, to our lives, which more than a few Buddhist monks have pointed out, and to which I’ve often taken some offense to, but which may just be correct, after all.

    Because, even if the goal is to reduce suffering, the next question is always: at what cost? We certainly don’t expect a woman to submit to a rapist, just to avoid a bruise or two. Most suffering is mental, after all, and submission to fear is certainly not always the answer to it. Fortunately, there is usually a sweet spot between two equally unacceptable alternatives, and that is the goal of Buddhism, to find that middle path. It’s a process, after all, not dogma. Don’t forget to smile. Don’t forget to laugh. Sometimes the best antidote is an anecdote…

     
  • hardie karges 10:48 am on January 15, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brahmin caste, Buddhism, , , , , , Hittite, , , Mittani, , , ,   

    Buddhism 101: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions 

    Think good thoughts, speak good words, perform good acts. It’s contagious. It’s catching. It can make the difference between life and death. And that’s the bedrock of Buddhism, regardless of what the ‘rebirther’ Buddhists or the meditator Buddhists think, they tending to Vajrayana and Mahayanist persuasions, respectively, whether they know it or not, haha. Because the Buddha didn’t call his initial sermon the Four Noble Truths for nothing, and that’s Number One: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions…

    And if that sounds a lot like a song by Franz Ferdinand, then so be it. And if that sounds a lot like the Ten Commandments, then so be it. It’s simple. It’s basic. It’s universal, as it should be. Now I won’t go into the fact that Four Noble Truths can also be translated Four Aryan Truths, but there may be a clue to its universality there. Hittites of Mideast fame were also Indo-Europeans and may have accomplished much more than merely be a thorn in the side of the Semites. The nearby Mittani culture also had close connections with Sanskrit speakers…

    But that’s neither here nor there, and only serves to agitate modern India’s Brahmin caste. What’s important is not nationalism, but rationalism, the kind that thinks before it speaks and looks before it leaps. That was implicit in the earliest Buddhism, also, with its insistence upon the acknowledgement of causes and conditions for all the phenomena of the world, not superstition or divine intervention. And that’s Dependent Origination in a nutshell, a theory that not only defines us, but combines us. We’re all in this together, literally. Be kind.

     
  • hardie karges 10:58 am on January 7, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhist Emptiness and the Path to Infinity… 

    Christians cling to abundance the way that Mahayana Buddhists cling to Emptiness. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. So, the appearance of exact conceptual opposition may be more apparent than real. Or maybe I’m obsessed with the reconciliation of these two opposites. The short story on Buddhist shunyata, i.e. ‘Emptiness’ (maybe not the best translation), is that it’s a logical conclusion to the previous early Buddhist insistence on anatta, i.e. ‘non-self’, in which not only is a permanent non-changing self not real, but in fact nothing is now real, not in the sense of something permanent.

    The problem is that the next logical conclusion to the previous logical conclusion is the very illogical conclusion that nothing is real in any sense, which is likely far from what the Buddha intended, thus leading to Zen, non-dualism, and other ersatz religions perfect for artists, intellectuals, and other spiritual seekers for whom simple silent meditation will never be enough. And I mean no insult to them, for whom I hold much sympathy and synchronicity, only that such lofty metaphysics are best for debates and dialectics, not for universal belief systems that might change the course of civilization.

    And to do that we’ll need to somehow reconcile the apparent opposites of West and East, Christianity and Buddhism. Emptiness might help here. For Christians are as obsessed with Infinity and Eternity (read ‘no limits’) as they are with abundance, an obvious similarity. You want infinity? Want eternity? Want a world without limits? No problem, it’s all around you. There’s only one problem: it’s empty. If you want stuff, then restrictions apply. Now if we can only sell Christians on the concept of conceptual abundance, not physical stuff, then we might have something. Stay tuned…

     
  • hardie karges 10:41 am on January 1, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, by-passing, , , hungry ghost, , observer effect, , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Observer Effect… 

    The one who can control himself, can control the world—his world…

    The more you look for the beauty in this world, the more that you will find. Which, if that sounds self-intuitive, is certainly worth a reiteration, and possibly, a fresh new look. Because, the danger is to take this intuitive truth to its illogical conclusion, and thereby decide that nothing truly exists. This is what the ‘non-dualists’ and even some Buddhists do, and in making a conundrum of existence, essentially make it non-workable, in that nothing gets done, simply because there is no longer any reason to do it…

    The subjective nature of perception is obvious and its contribution to our further conceptions of reality well-documented in the ‘observer effect,’ which makes a mockery of measurement, and, in return, our reliance on science. But does that mean that all Science is unreliable? No, of course not. Does that mean that there is no objective truth? Not necessarily. Does that mean that ‘Buddhism is True?’ Haha, silly book title…

    The cognitive bias of our own subjectivity is itself measurable and can usually be factored into any equation that lends itself to a margin for error. And, considering that the effect shows up in physics, psychology, and even sociology, its impact is notable. That is, like gravity, it can not only bring us down, haha, but it can bend and distort the very nature of our existence. But, what does this have to do with Buddhism?

    Buddhism, especially in its earliest days, long before Emptiness and Zen and Hungry Ghosts, was known mostly for its training of the mind, for the simple purpose of taking a sad situation and making it better, simply by readjusting the usual reactions. And, while this can subject Buddhism to charges of ‘bypassing’ and passivity, it can also have good results to great effect. Regardless, the important point is to balance this with empirical objective information for best results. The world tends to look best at sunrise and sunset, as every photographer knows, wink wink, something about the nature of light and our need for it. Happy New Year!

     
  • hardie karges 1:34 pm on December 23, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , , , , , samathi,   

    Buddhism and the Bearable Lightness of Being 

    Be more like the water, more like the air, and less like the humans, obsessed with their opinions. And by this, I don’t mean to imply that we should all be ‘air-heads’ or anything else that might seem less than human or beneath our dignity. I only mean to imply that flexibility is good, and that lightness is good, i.e. the lightness of being, being without baggage, the baggage of language, which, if used properly and creatively, is one of the most beautiful things in the world.

    BUT… When used for maleficent purposes, language can be truly evil, SO… sometimes it’s better just to do without, don’t you think? Which moves us back to the subject of meditation: what it is, what it does, and how to benefit from it. Everything in Buddhism eventually comes back to meditation, if it’s done right, because that was always its chief selling point, despite all the sharper points of karma and dogma.

    People wonder why Buddhism was so well and easily accepted in China in the first millennium of the Common Era, when Taoism was already there, and when Taoism is so similar. Well, it’s often assumed that Taoism influenced Buddhism, so as to create a Buddhism “with Chinese characteristics,” haha, but it’s just as likely—or more so—that Buddhism influenced a nascent Taoism to make it what it is today.

    Either way, the critical difference would be the meditation technique which defined Buddhism long before the Brahmins started promoting karma as the definition of Buddhism, in order to enhance their own superior position. Remember that the Japanese word ‘Zen’ comes from the Chinese word ‘Chan’ which comes from the Sanskrit word ‘dhyana’ which means something like ‘meditative absorption’ or ‘deep meditation’ in Sanskrit, to distinguish it from the ordinary ‘concentration’ which is also a definition of the Sanskrit/Pali word ‘samathi.’ That’s my take on the subject, anyway. Merry Christmas.

     
    • Tiramit 10:14 pm on December 23, 2022 Permalink | Reply

      Thus, it is what it is. I like your take on the subject anyway and Merry Christmas to you too!

  • hardie karges 12:34 pm on December 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Buddhism, ,   

    Anapanasati Meditation: Awareness of Breath 

    By focusing on the breath, you will also likely decrease the speed of breathing. But why does that matter? And is that a good thing? But first we need to ask why we focus on the breath in the first place. And the funny thing is: that answer is not easily found. Because on the one hand: we need a something steady to concentrate on, which the breath certainly is. But it is not so fixed and clocklike as we often imagine. So, perhaps this is its unique situation, that it is both voluntary and involuntary. What other bodily function can claim that?

    And the benefits of a bodily function are obvious: it’s there with you all the time. Big Ben is not, unless you live in Westminster. The other obvious bodily function to reference for meditation is the heartbeat, and I do just that sometimes, BUT: it’s much more subtle, AND: it’s totally involuntary, i.e. you can’t ‘hold’ your heartbeat in the same way that you can ‘hold’ your breath. So, maybe that simultaneous voluntary/involuntary nature of breathing is important, after all, simply because it can be manipulated if you want. But I don’t advise it.

    Because, in the sense that anapanasati is the goal here, awareness of breath, that would seem to discourage manipulation. Still, that decrease in the breath rate is a fairly reliable result, and I think that it’s to be encouraged, since calmness is also a secondary, if not the primary goal, of meditation. And that rate of heartbeat will likely decrease, also, though you’re not as likely to notice it. And that’s the main advantage of breath over heartbeat: it’s easily noticed. Still, it’s worth noting the heartbeat, especially if you’re having trouble concentrating.

    And here’s a little tip that I stumbled upon in my pursuit of meditative bliss, only to find out later that it’s often recommended: count your breaths. If that sounds a little too similar to counting sheep in order to sleep, then so be it, whatever works works. Those recommendations usually advise to re-start the count after every ten, but I’m not sure why. I don’t, and it’s probably for the same reason that they do. I want to know how long I’ve been meditating, without recourse to a smartphone or Big Ben. And that’s how you’ll know that your breaths are slowing down: the count never matches the clock. You heard it here first.

     
  • hardie karges 12:00 pm on December 2, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Buddhism, , , , , non-violence, , ,   

    Buddhism 499: Pacifism is not passivism… 

    This is one of the hardest lessons of Buddhism, balancing the dual extremes of not only luxury and lack, the Middle Path of Theravada Buddhism, but action and inaction, and ultimately existence and non-existence, the Middle Path of Mahayana. Given the truth that the source of much of our discontent is not to be found in the ‘outside’ world, but right in our own minds, the obvious temptation is to ignore that ‘outer’ world and simply adopt a passive approach towards it.

    But I don’t think that’s what the Buddha meant to imply. Sure, the non-violence of ahimsa is to be applied to every possible situation up to, but not including, our own self-destruction, but that does not mean that the larger world surrounding us, and which is the source of us, is to be ignored. It means not to get lost in that world exclusively, or, God forbid, attached to it, complete with cravings and unhealthy desires. And if this sounds like an abstract consideration, with scarce application to the ‘real’ world, then I can assure you that it is not.

    In fact, I avoided Buddhism for years in Thailand, judging that it was the cause of what I perceived to be the passivity of the culture, and concluding that that would not be a suitable choice for me, since I saw myself as too slow to act already, and that any further encouragement in that direction would not be suitable to my personal development. But sometimes conditions dictate causes, and other times I’m simply wrong.

    Because, compared to the dog-eat-dog USA, almost any place could be considered passive, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the age of Global Warming and never-ending warfare. The important conditions in this day and age are perfectly suited to Buddhism, even if a more aggressive Christianity was maybe more suited to a younger less-populated Earth—maybe. In any case, that was then. This is now. This is not a good time for fighting, and it may not even be a good time for celebrating, but it is definitely a good time for getting ourselves in sync with a better and more sustainable world. We’re playing for keeps here…

     
    • jonolan 7:49 am on December 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply

      Consider that, in the long run, a more aggressive, combative philosophy might be better for Man as a whole and the planet in general. You say that this isn’t the time for fighting. I posit that it just might be since it’s an moderately efficient way to lower the population while, at the same time, mingling gene pools.

      • hardie karges 1:40 pm on December 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply

        We can agree to disagree. I’m a pacifist. There are better ways to mix gene pools

        • jonolan 4:13 am on December 12, 2022 Permalink

          Certainly, to both agreeing to disagree and to the idea that there are better ways than variations of war to mix gene pools. But, not to thin them, which I find a potential real benefit at this point. 😉

          Well, I’m a big fan of smaller populations, but that involves birth control, not thinning, for me at least.

  • hardie karges 9:29 am on November 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , ,   

    Good Karma: the Gift that Keeps on Giving… 

    Good karma occurs every day that you make a donation and someone benefits from it besides yourself. If you benefit from a gift, then there is another word for that: business, transaction, you name it. But the word ‘karma’ itself means ‘action,’ and so we Westerners have our own version of this admonition: ‘Actions speak louder than words,’ and so they do. But the word generally has a negative connotation, i.e. ‘bad karma,’ or something like cruel fate. So, what we want, then, is good karma, which necessitates good actions, and which has a connotation similar to ‘good luck.’

    For me, I’ve detected at least two different extant forms of karma as practiced in Buddhism, probably best exemplified by the Tibetan and Theravada forms, but which I tend to think of as ‘heavy’ and ‘lite,’ in order to avoid strict definitions and casual dismissals. Because I respect all forms of Buddhism, even if I personally prefer a mix of the original Theravada and the most recent secular, so something like the original ascetic discipline combined with the latest scientific knowledge, anything but silly superstition.

    The heavy karma version, best exemplified by Tibetan Buddhism, follows you around like some entity counting your transgressions, ready to give your performance a score which will determine whether you escape the wheels of samsara and rebirth to find a place in some better world, or whether you will ultimately be reborn to go another round in this hellscape. Now I won’t go into the ironies of the differing Eastern and Western approaches to Heaven and Hell. Suffice it to say that for me, this is beyond the bounds of science, so holds little sway in my life choices.   

    For me the important thing is to give, of your (non) self, your time, and of course: your money, because this is nothing if not a green imperfect world, far in concept from the perfect world of pure white light, as we imagine it. And if that seems like making a deal with the devil, then so be it. At least it’s a devil we know. But time is of the essence. To wait until the ‘time is right’ is often to miss the point entirely: time is an imperfect dimension, as are they all, and the human dimension especially so. We’re afflicted with disease, old age, poverty, and death, but these are conditions which can be mitigated. Give. It’s good karma.

     
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