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  • hardie karges 12:04 am on May 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , , no self, ,   

    Buddhist No-self (Anatta) and Non-Dualism  

    The Buddhist concept of “No self”, Anatta, doesn’t mean to imply passivity and no confidence. But it does imply non-aggression and no selfishness. Remember the middle path. But this is one of the oldest and thorniest problems that Buddhism has had to deal with, and the modern repercussions are almost as absurd. Back in the old days, 2500 years ago, or so, Brahmanism was consolidating its doctrines of a cosmic Brahman and a cosmic Atman, reality and self, whose highest goal was to unite in some sort of cosmic union… 

    But the Buddha came along and said something like, “Meh,” declaring that the idea of a cosmic self, whether individual or universal, was not only not likely, but wrong. And thus began the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, which was never intended to argue that you and I don’t even exist, but just not in any permanent way. Well, now the ‘Non-dualists” come along and say no, you don’t exist at all, just something like a collective figment of imagination that asserts itself through the power of repetition, so something like a cloud Matrix. 

    But reality is reality, and science doesn’t support the non-dualist conclusion, any more than it supports the original Hindu idea of Brahman and Atman in cosmic union. But science can support the Buddhist attitude, as long as it avoids superstitions (not always easy) and sticks to asking the right questions in order to avoid contentious answers. Ego is a term I usually avoid, though, given the historical circumstance that Freud has forever made in changing our use of that term.

    And that is something which the ‘ancients’ could’ve had no knowledge of, and which is about as familiar to the modern American as quantum mechanics. Passivity has been something of a problem for Buddhism, though, and that is not a desirable conclusion except for monks, possibly. But most of us live and navigate the real world, and it’s nice if we can make that a bit better, without being obsessive about it. As always, the best path is the middle one… 

  • hardie karges 4:44 am on May 20, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, Buddhist poisons, , , , ,   

    Fear, Poisons, and Spiritual Bypassing in Buddhism  

    Fear should not be mistaken for hatred or anger. Fear is easily cured by friendship, metta. Fear, as bad as it is, at the least, is not a sin of aggression, and so is much more easily cured, as long as it is caught in time, before it morphs into fear and/or anger, and thousands of kindergarteners lying dying in pools of blood on sacred school grounds. The only Buddhist form of love is really metta, friendship, Platonic love, without craving nor attachment, always forgiving and conciliatory.  

    So, there is a reason why fear is not one of the prime Buddhist ‘poisons’ in the same way as greed, hatred, and delusion. And that is because it is essentially harmful only to the actor who is victim to the farce, and so, not any crime of aggression is actually committed. The others all hurt somebody—someone else—where fear does not, not necessarily, if dealt with in time. If this is a sin, then it is a sin of the heart, of feeling, of emotions, which are largely kept hidden and therefore not subject to further scrutiny. 

    This might be an example of ‘spiritual bypassing,’ though, a trendy claim favored by psychologists when dealing with personal problems by plaintiffs who favor silence over the confrontation, with emotions, that many psychologists prefer. So, that’s why I hold back my full blessings, though they may certainly have a point. But the counterpoint is that that same accusation could be leveled at meditation, also, which is arguably Buddhism’s greatest contribution to world culture and history. As always, the true path lies in the middle… 

  • hardie karges 2:12 pm on May 13, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , , , , , ,   

    Vive la Difference! Between Christianity and Buddhism…  

    Christianity seeks joy out there somewhere, while Buddhism seeks to limit suffering right here inside. And that’s the big difference between the two, the outward search versus the inward search, and the destination for ultimate satisfaction. The idea, in fact, that there may really be no substantial difference between the two is something that only arose later, after the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, and the idea that there may be some transcendent reality to it all, even including the Buddha himself, so maybe just a ‘manifestation.’ 

    But I prefer to leave metaphysical speculations to the late nights and wee hours on Sundays and holidays, when time is free and the atmosphere is conducive to dreaming and the playful dance of fairies in our wildest imaginations. Because meditation is probably the greatest gift of Buddhism to the world, and that requires absolutely no belief in anything transcendent, only the effort to concentrate and ‘let it go’ in accord with Buddhist understanding, which is simple to understand and totally based in the here and the now. 

    And Theravada sacrifices nothing to the larger and later Mahayana school on this count, either, not to mention the modern-day secular practitioners, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, that make Buddhism and its foundational principles such an important tool in the stressed-out modern-day world. Whither Christian mindfulness? Yes, I’ve heard that term, so it’s in the works. The pharmaceutical industry might not like the idea, nor the CBD gummies futures market, but the physical and psychological gain will be palpable.  

    Some things just work better ‘in here’ than ‘out there.’ And if that means that Buddhism is guilty of passivity towards changing the world ‘out there’ to make it a better place, then that criticism is valid. But so is the criticism that Amerika is a contentious hateful society that rejects any efforts at compromise and instead prefers to fight to the death, rather than enjoy life to the fullest, albeit with a few guiding principles to be followed. As always, the middle path lies somewhere in between, details to be worked out in peaceful settings among willing participants. Enjoy.  

  • hardie karges 3:01 pm on May 6, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , feedback, , ,   

    Buddhism, Karma, and the Vicissitudes of Fate…  

    Karma is not fate. Karma is action. But the term is often used similarly, even by those who should know better, and so we are left to deal with it as such. So, when someone says, “that’s your karma,” then what they really mean is that you must have done some really bad things, in this life or a previous one, and now the law of karmic justice is giving you a taste of your own medicine. So, you must suffer some consequences, for your current circumstances otherwise would be unexplainable. And to a limited extent I agree with that assessment, but only to that limited extent.  

    But that’s not fate, which is blind, by definition, and which is variously described as ‘beyond control, ‘governed by supernatural powers’, and/or ‘destiny’ depending on whether the word is used a verb or a noun. But karma implies feedback, to something which occurred previously, and to which many would ascribe ‘multiple feedback loops,’ including, but not limited to, previous lives, the contents of which can only be imagined, or at best surmised by reference to what is now occurring, the two often assumed to have similar, if not the exact same, causal connections. 

    And this is where it often leaves me standing there scratching my head, still wondering how any or all of this could ever be proven. Hint: it can’t, none of it. It’s an attempt to ascribe justice to that which would otherwise have no recourse to justice, the courts too busy with their own peccadilloes and busy work schedules to worry about previous lives, which are at best wild speculation, and at worst total BS. So, I limit my karma to this life and this world, since I surely know that, if I know anything. Another take on the subject would be to assume that it’s all an elaborate hoax to assure that the highest castes and classes of society continue in their dominance of the lower ones, but I’ll leave that speculation to another write…  

  • hardie karges 8:14 am on April 30, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , Huineng, , , ,   

    Buddhist Imperfection and the Crazy Wisdom of Zen  

    The Buddha never said we’re all perfect, quite the opposite. He said that we are nothing but ‘heaps’ of causes and conditions that he called skandhas. He never even said that he’s perfect. And those imperfections can be the basis for positive change. He DID list change as one of the causes of our suffering, but significantly less than that of the First Noble Truth—craving. Maybe that’s not surprising, from someone who was born into the lap of luxury, since change for someone of destitute poverty might only be for the better.  

    But that’s arguable, also, so let’s just split the difference and apply the Buddha’s own Middle Path to conclude that change can go either way, good or bad, which is convenient, since it’s inevitable. The point is that, in its origins, imperfection is at the heart of the Buddha’s vision, though the Zen sect of the Mahayana school would, like some Christian sects (such as Christian Science), reverse that position and argue that manifesting our innate perfection is only right and proper. 

    They also said that if you meet the Buddha on the road, then you should kill him. Hmmm. Obviously, there’s a logical explanation to that apparent exhortation to violence, but I won’t go into it. I’ll only say that I prefer a simpler approach to enlightenment. The Zen thing is to show the limits and traps of language, and I agree whole-heartedly with that, but I don’t necessarily agree to a Dadaist approach to it. One of the Christian sideline precepts is to say what you mean and mean what you say, (“Let your yes be yes and your no be no”), and they just might have that right. 

    No, I don’t think that anyone has all the answers, and it is to Buddhism’s credit that so much dialogue is allowed, and even encouraged, which promotes a larger dialectic. In fact, this is how the Zen master Hui-Neng upstaged the heir apparent to replace the current master, to whom he was only a rank (in)subordinate. Thus began the line of thought that we are not here to train our minds but to acknowledge the illusion of reality, so something like an alternative Mayanist (haha) school, which thrives to this day as subplot to many more orthodox traditions. We are not perfect, but this is why we practice… 

  • hardie karges 10:42 am on April 22, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , Mark Epstein, , Roman numerals, , ,   

    Samma Vaca: Right Speech on the Buddhist Middle Path  

    This is something so difficult for so many people that often no speech is better. Because Buddhism didn’t start the old ‘Silence is Golden’ saying, but it probably could have. Because it’s such a valuable tool in the workshop of life that its effect is invaluable. I think that it can easily be seen as the sonic equivalent of Emptiness for Buddhist purposes, that same shunyata Emptiness derived from the Pali/Sanskrit shunya zero (yes, THAT zero), which is not really a number, but a concept, and which largely expanded the original anatman no-self doctrine to everything. 

    But, if easy convenient symbols for that powerful metaphor are hard to find, then silence is one of the easiest, maybe even easier than the eponymous shunya itself, i.e. zero. Because number systems did just fine for many years without the place holder and multiplier that we call ‘zero’ in the English language. And, despite some interpretations that it’s necessary for a decimal system, well, in fact, it is not, and our own (!?) Roman numerals are the proof of that, easily countable up to about 5000, and not so hard to write as V. But you wouldn’t want to see 4999. 

    And, so it is with speech. Sometimes less is more, not just figuratively, but literally, and numerically. Because, if the zero allows easy multiplication, with possibilities of infinity, then silence can do the same. Until I say something, then anything is possible, and the future is wide open. But once I commit to speech, and language, then its reach is definite, certain, limited—and past tense. But what is ‘right speech’? After all, we can’t be silent ALL the time. What everybody wants in life, whether they know it or not, is to feel good.  

    So, in brief, right speech is speech that makes you feel good, though not just you, but all the other people within hearing range, or in the case of written speech, then all potential readers. But that’s easier said than done. Because ours is a world of fierce differences and often acrimonious debate, even when the potential results are more futile than feudal. Still, we persist in advancing our agendas. Silence allows time and space to see the other side. But, if you must speak, then say nice things, constructive and conciliatory. And think good thoughts. That’s two steps of the Buddhist Middle Path right there. You’re halfway home. 

    Author’s note: just after writing this, I discovered a passage in Mark Epstein’s ‘Thoughts Without a Thinker’ that resonates in total agreement, in the section called ‘Holding Emotions’: “The Buddha taught a method of holding thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the balance of meditative equipoise so that they can be seen in a clear light.” Nice, couldn’t have said it better myself. Enjoy. 

  • hardie karges 8:16 am on March 11, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , , , , , , Kramer, , , Passion of Christ, , , ,   

    The Passion and Dispassion of Buddhism…  

    Buddhism in Sri Lanka

    There is no worse slavery than the slavery to your passion(s). And that’s a tough pill to swallow, because we tend to think of our passions as our pleasures, as though it’s only natural to be obsessed and conflicted. It’s not. But that shows the path that western culture has taken, in which our passions, which once meant ‘suffering,’ now are the focal point of our lives, and full of positive connotations—even if it kills us. So, with the ‘passion of Christ’ fully articulated as his suffering, in defeat, with no victory implied or intended, then Buddhism and Christianity are not so far apart, at least not superficially, at least not originally.  

    For both see suffering as seminal. The differences only become apparent when we realize that Christianity and the West make of suffering (i.e. passion) something to be encouraged, and sought, not something to be avoided and mitigated, as in Buddhism. The examples are many: samsara, for instance. This is a word that in the time of Buddha meant, and still means (in modern Nepali), ‘the world.’ And the Buddhists made something distinctly negative of that term, it now symbolizing the drudgery and misery of incessant rebirths. But most westerners, and especially Christians, are famous for their (our) ‘love of life’ and the world, too, of course.

    So, is the Christian belief in (and desire for) some sort of ‘eternal life’ really any different from the Buddhist rebirth? Only in that one is desired and the other abhorred, it would seem. So, if it’s not surprising that Buddhism and Christianity spring from similar roots, given their shared Indo-European proto-language and homeland, it IS a bit surprising that they’ve diverged so far from that initial starting point, and in apparently opposite directions. What would cause that? Good question. There would seem to be nothing in the physical landscape to explain the divergence, though the cultures encountered, and conquered (Indo-Europeans didn’t lose too many wars, except among themselves), differ quite radically.

    Considering that they went both ways from the Yamnaya Horizon’s original Pontic steppes, West and East, to Europe and north India, respectively, they would have encountered light-skinned ‘old Europeans’ on the one hand, and dark-skinned Indus Valley people on the other. That’s the biggest difference between the two groups right there, and may be significant, with respect to the caste system and perhaps more. But my own pet theory is that West and East were mostly playing out a dialectic of ideas, that likely dates back to 4000-3000BCE around lively campfires on high steppes and with spirited discussions.

    In this theory that dialectic is still being played out today, albeit in more ways than could ever have been imagined in the years BCE. The important thing is to not become a slave to your passions, though, even when you enjoy them, or when they cause you suffering. I’m reminded of Kramer’s statement to the ‘Soup Nazi’ in the old Seinfeld TV show: “You suffer for your art.” Touche’. Freedom FROM is the important thing in life after all, even more than freedom TO. Does it really matter whether you get the espresso or tamarind flavored ice cream today? Enjoy… 

  • hardie karges 9:19 am on February 26, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Case for a Monkhood… 

    Some people think that there is something mystical or magical about monks chanting, in this case the Buddhist scriptures. But really it started as a way to memorize sutras that were not written for 500 years. And this is interesting in a few different ways and for a few different reasons. Firstly, it speaks to the issue of whether the Buddha actually said the things that are attributed to him. After all, if it wasn’t initially written, then how can we be sure? To which I would quickly add: even if it were written, how could you be sure that the Buddha actually said it? Ever heard of ‘fake news’? 

    The fact is that, given the times and the circumstances, memorization was a perfectly acceptable way of recording documents, which is the ultimate goal, after all, since nothing was being prepared for print, only some poorly defined remote abstract history, and of which only time itself would later determine the parameters. And if memorization is acceptable, or even superior, to easily stainable documents, then certainly a large group of literate and disciplined monks would be the perfect way to do it, meeting regularly to iron out any differences in the accurate transmission of such important information. 

    Secondly, it shows that not only were monks charged with a task of utmost importance, but that it was rigorous and highly demanding, thus giving the lie to the idea that monks were always intended to be ‘kept’ as pure and pristine specimens, virgins to the world and unashamed of it. No, they had a job. And lastly, it speaks to the notion of whether the Buddha himself even existed in this life in this world. Conspiracy theorists love nothing so much as to recreate history to their predilections and post-election dictates. 

    But, obviously, if monks have been chanting the same words in an unbroken line of descent from the original 2500 years ago, then that is proof, in and of itself. Yes, there were some breaks here and there, but those were rigorously mitigated, such that though Thailand received the original dharma from Sri Lanka, when things went awry there, the renaissance dharma went back to Thailand to make sure that they had it right. This is serious stuff.  

    But I like the sound of monks chanting, also, and even credit the sound of that on my ears in Mongolia in 2013 as an impetus to my impending initiative towards Buddhism. While listening, it felt like something Matrix-like moved, and ultimately that would be me. Still there is a larger issue of why writing was eschewed for so long when it was obviously the wave of the future, but that probably says more about India itself than Buddhism. Conservatism is not always a bad thing in uncertain times. Buddhism was all about discipline and training long before anything else, so more like kung fu than koans… 

    • quantumpreceptor 12:42 pm on February 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply

      Well said Hardy. Being a monk is not easy now was mit easy then and will not be in the future. Memorizing the teachings is a gift that when passed on only expands the blessing. I love your writing keep it up!


    • hardie karges 8:15 pm on February 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you!

    • gederedita 12:08 am on March 2, 2023 Permalink | Reply

      I just know this temple from this blog. Iseen from the film but i dont know di temple located. I am lucky to find your blog, Hardie karges.

      • hardie karges 5:33 am on March 2, 2023 Permalink | Reply

        This temple is in Bhutan, near the town of Paro. It’s usually called the ‘Tiger’s Nest.’ Thanks for your comment.

  • 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…

  • 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…

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