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  • hardie karges 6:07 am on December 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , , , , spiritual bypassing, Three Poisons   

    Buddhism Unmoved: in Support of ‘Spiritual Bypassing’ 

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

    Anger is an object lesson, not just about hatred, which seems obvious, but lust, craving, passion, and all the rest. It feeds on itself until it destroys something, if not everything. This is one of the Three Poisons of Buddhism, along with greed and ignorance, and it would be hard to decide which is worse. Because they all destroy whatever is in their path, like fires burning endlessly and mindlessly, when the obvious solution would be to simply let them go, to burn themselves out. If any three words could sum up the message of Buddhism, it would likely be, ‘let it go.’

    But it’s not always so easy, of course, given the nature of the beast, its very nature being its difficulty to let go. So, in a sense, they are all one, that fire burning, which we Westerners like to immortalize as something romantic called ‘passion,’ while conveniently forgetting that word’s roots in suffering, as in the ‘passion of Christ,’ nothing romantic about that. But so we fantasize, that our greed is our glory and our lust is our love, when nothing could be further from the truth, from any metaphysical viewpoint—at least, not in Buddhism.

    Because Buddhism is a religion and philosophy of dispassion, in both the traditional meaning of ending suffering and the modern meaning of avoiding strong emotion. This drives many Western psychologists crazy, of course, because they sense any emptiness as a cause of alarm. The first thing they teach in photography class is to ‘go for peak emotion.’ And the psychologists want all potential conflicts to be met head-on. To not do so is something they call ‘spiritual bypassing,’ with obvious derision. Well, if avoiding anger is ‘bypassing,’ then I heartily recommend it. For nothing good can come from anger. One man’s religion is another man’s aversion, I suppose.

  • hardie karges 7:10 am on December 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism,   

    Buddhism: Salvation Nirvana Love Magic… 

    Revenge is never sweet. Find a way to accept your enemy as your brother, and the world will be a better place. This is the social and societal side of Buddhism, which is seldom talked about, but which is fundamental to its value, with accent on the fun. Because, while much of Buddhism has to do with personal satisfaction and peace of mind, there is a tendency to overlook the underlying social function which makes it indispensable to cultures and countries the world over. This is its ‘First do no harm’ function of ahimsa, non-violence, that makes it so attractive across the broad board, beyond the mostly petty distinctions that divide Buddhism, and all religions, for that matter.

    So, when the Buddha on his death bed told his disciple to ‘be a light unto yourself,’ and Saint Paul said to be a light unto the world, the essential message is the same: do the right thing. But Buddha was playing a clever little word game in his message, since the Pali word dipa can mean both ‘light’ and ‘island,’ as in Dipavali, the festival of lights, and Lankadeepa, the island of Sri Lanka. And the light that the Buddha wants is one that is self-contained, like an island, while the light that Saint Paul wants to be shined upon the world is the word of God, received and transmitted.

    But this distinction, which is really and truly only a small distinction, also defines the difference between Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, with its Buddha-nature, Bodhisattvas, and shunyata, or Emptiness. This is the message to forego Nirvana until all of us are ready, and so project that Buddha-nature on to the world. Is that nature not a light to be shined? And that zero that defines emptiness also defines a center. Is that not the same distinction between us and the world, and so really a non-distinction? Of course it is, and it isn’t, so the only thing left to do is save yourself, and then save the world, simple if not easy.

  • hardie karges 6:59 am on December 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Buddhism, , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    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 4:22 am on November 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , , , , , , , 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 4:11 am on November 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , ,   

    Buddhism at the Crossroads: First Do no Harm… 

    ‘First do no harm’ is part of the Hippocratic Oath. It should also be part of the Buddhist Oath, or fundamental precepts. ‘Primum non nocere’ as later formulated, this is more than just a cute little saying. This is fundamental to Buddhist principles. Because there really is no call to action. If anything, the reality is almost the exact opposite. The cute aphorisms are numerous: ‘A wise man once said nothing.’ ‘Don’t just do something! Sit there!’ You get the idea. Buddhism is first and foremost a religion of renunciation, and that is a fact of history. Nothing can change that. Meditation is the practice of Buddhism, no matter your sect or sex.

    Other things do change, though, and Buddhism is an ongoing dialog and dialectic, which I think is good, for the most part, though, if it doesn’t Christianize Buddhism totally, haha. It goes both ways. There is Christian mindfulness now, also, just as there is Buddhist ‘lovingkindness.’ The world is getting small as populations grow and grow, and soon there will be no place to hide. Buddhism is made for an over-expansive world. It shows how to find peace within, even when there is little peace without. We are a young species and prone to failures. Time will only tell if we will eventually survive and thrive, now by doing less, rather than doing more. The hard stuff was easy. The easy stuff will be hard.

  • hardie karges 1:52 pm on November 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism,   

    Buddhism 499: Emptiness Ain’t so Empty… 

    Sunyata is more than Emptiness, as Sunya, Zero, is more then the number 0. It is a sea of possibilities. We need only two digits: 0 + 1, just as Reality has two opposing aspects: Emptiness and Fullness. Nature usually lies somewhere in between. This is an important concept in Buddhism, and the source of much confusion. Because Emptiness has a bad connotation in western psychology, suggesting loneliness and depression, but that’s not what the Buddhist concept is all about. First and foremost, the concept is an extension of the original Buddhist concept of anatta, anatman, or non-self, which is something of a middle position between the Cosmic Self of Brahmanism and the total annihilation of Jainism.

    I think of sunyata as a mathematical reality, 0, in opposition to a hypothetical 1, in which the common-sense reality of myriad numbers find their places best described as fractions finding frequencies in which to exist as agents of solidity, or not, in multiple colors and sounds. I assume that this conceptual dichotomy is the foundation of F.S.C. Northrop’s distinction between the undifferentiated and differentiated aesthetic continuums, but I don’t think that this is a genuine dualism but merely a conceptual one, a mathematical one. Because the invention of the mathematical zero took many centuries, and it appears that Buddhist monks were at the heart of it all along, so not merely a concept bought or borrowed.

    But we Westerners are junkies for abundance and fullness, until our cups runneth over, and so skeptical of anything that might place a limit on that, and the absolute freedom implied. But aren’t the lights and sounds of everyday existence nothing but limits on the absolute fullness that would be pure white light on the one hand, or black-hole gravity on the other? Our existence is a phenomenon, and one that is hard to describe in words, and so math is the language of science. But words are the language of philosophy and religion, and so we do the best we can, given the limitations inherent. So, the best part of Emptiness is that it’s indeed boundless in its purity, so that’s a win for our ontological needs. But the beauty comes with its sublime limits, of light and sound, and that’s a big win for us aesthetically. Win-win? Nothing wrong with that.

  • hardie karges 10:52 am on November 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhism, , , , , ,   

    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 10:21 am on October 31, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , , , ,   

    Buddhist Dana is like Karma, and Anatta: just get over yourself… 

    It’s not generosity, dana, if you expect something in return. That’s business, an investment, a transaction. Dana is selfless, and so closely related to the Buddhist principle of anatta, non-self. This is crucial to a proper understanding of Buddhism, and love, too. For in early Buddhism the only kind of love is metta, friendship, brotherly love, and sisterly, too, or lovingkindness, if you insist on that repurposed Christian term from the Hebrew chesed. That’s too emotional for me. Buddhism is passionless, by design. American photography classes will teach you to point and click at the peak emotion. Buddhism doesn’t do that. Buddhism teaches a different way, the Middle Path, between luxury and lack, to be sure, but also passion and dispassion.

    And there is no call to action, not really, hence all the rishis whiling away their hours in caves and under trees, for the last three thousand some-odd (some very odd!) years. But if you want to do something, then do something good. And giving is one of the best things that you can do, pretty much encompassing almost all the folds of the Noble (Aryan) Eightfold Path. Dana is no more about huge outlays of cash, though, than it is about getting something in return. It is about Right Intention. Because none of us can predict how the future will unfold. All we know is the past, and what we live is the present, the most important of all.

    So, if the Eightfold Path comprises Right Understanding, Thought, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration, then all but those last two steps of sati and samadhi would certainly be included within the purview of dana, or generosity. But there’s no reason to think that those eight steps on the path are all-inclusive anyway. I’m sure we can think of some others equally important. But as every good blogger, Chinese politician, or early Buddhist Abhidharmist knows, lists are supremely convenient, especially when nothing was written to begin with. I see karma similarly, not simple cause and effect. That’s mechanical, like Newtonian physics. Karma is an overarching principle: do good and receive good. But that’s another story. Freely give and freely receive. That’s dana…

  • hardie karges 9:39 am on October 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Buddhadasa, Buddhism, , , ,   

    Buddhist Rebirth and the Oranges of Geronimo Bosch 

    Yes, we should keep an open mind about rebirth. We should also keep an open mind about no rebirth. Because the diehards are doubling down, in direct proportion to what they fear they have to lose, I suppose: certainty, predetermination, magic, or maybe even their jobs? But mostly, I think, they are worried about losing their religion, because religion is about nothing if not certainty, and without rebirth, Buddhism might be seen as lacking that, and so nothing more than a philosophy. But philosophy doesn’t pay the bills, and religion does, because that’s where you turn when times are hard, to magic and superstition, not existentialism or logical positivism.

    And let’s be clear that we’re not talking about ‘spiritual rebirth’ or being ‘born again’ in the Christian sense. Because, though the definition is deliberately fuzzy (how could it not be?), its resemblance to brother Hinduism’s reincarnation is hard to explain away. And in a sense it can serve as a stand-in for Christianity’s eternal life, even though the one is supposed to be a blessing and the other a curse. Often, I suppose that the curse you know is far preferable to the great unknown that is death.

    The religious quest that is certainty is often preferable to the scientific truth, which is tentative, by definition. And so, a big idea that was popular at the time, reincarnation and/or rebirth, was accepted by the Buddha, sorta kinda almost maybe, because it promised better results than the alternative. But it is now an obstacle for the evolving dharma which is Buddhism, and which is teetering on the side of dogma, if the ‘rebirthers’ get their way. And so far, up until now, they do get their way, as almost every time the Pali/Sanskrit word ‘jati’ is used, the correct translation as ‘birth’ is now retranslated as ‘rebirth.’ But there is a different word for that.

    Entire concepts, indeed, such as Dependent Origination, are remade in the image of rebirth. Ironically the monks who you’d think would be most resistant to this, the Westerners, are often in fact the ones doubling down. I spent a few months in a Thai forest temple, and we never talked about rebirth. Many Western monks talk about nothing else. One prominent Western monk has even declared that non-self ‘anatta’ was always tentative, so that there can be no issue over what gets reborn.

    In the Thai tradition, ‘making merit’ is a big deal and past lives are jokingly referred to, but the karma involved is little more than the Golden Rule, not the generation-jumping karma of retribution that characterizes the rebirth-heavy Tibetan tradition. And the revered Thai monk Buddhadasa specifically denied rebirth, while Ajahn Chah dodged the issue. Of course, my pet theory is that it’s all a ruse designed to ensure the dominance of the Brahmin caste in India over their lessers, but I can’t prove that—yet. Can it be proved that Christian eternal life is a pretext for capitalism? Probably not. This is the garden of earthly delights–enjoy, a little bit…

  • hardie karges 9:56 am on October 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhism, , , ,   

    Buddhism is not a Religion of the Book, and that’s good… 

    Buddhism is not a New Age conspiracy theory. It is a discipline. But this is one of the problems of Buddhism in America in the 21st century: it is just one of several dozens of items on the New Age menu available to mix-and-match according to whim, or taste. Just add salt and pepper. So, it is not unusual to hear someone say that they are a Buddhist Taoist Rosicrucian, or something like that.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that, not really, as long as it’s well-thought and heartfelt, but it does tend to ignore the centuries of development in the Buddhist world, all of which went into the definition of what we now call Buddhism, which is extremely broad and diverse. So, Buddhism is already bulging at the seams with centuries of dialectic, with or without any extra added input from the latest fad religion to hit the New Age newsstands.

    Because that’s what Buddhism has always done, and the Buddha allowed that. But what is missing now is the discipline, and the dedication, not just to research, and reading, but to the world sangha community, and the traditions that have given this religion and philosophy 2500 years of continuous existence in a world we barely know yet, so something like 25% of its settled history, and almost all of its recorded history.

    That’s why I like to have a connection to a temple, or temples, and monks, not just a Facebook page or a discussion group. Because even if the Buddha and his buddies were doing similar activities, discussing and debating, they were also meditating in caves, often and devotedly. If you’ve never been to a week-long silent retreat, then you don’t know much about Buddhism IMHO. I heartily recommend it. And yes, there are still rishis in this world who spend years in caves unwashed and sparsely fed. Guess what? They don’t smell bad, either. You can’t get Buddhism just from a book…

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