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

    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 10:02 am on October 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CHRISTIANITY, , , , , , Taoism   

    The Meeting of West and East, Christianity and Buddhism, Passion and Passivity… 

    If you can’t change the world, then change your thoughts toward it. But try to change the world first. And this simple dichotomy describes the philosophical difference between East and West in a nutshell, in the traditional sense, in which Asia is more passive and the West is more aggressive. Much of that has changed as the two worlds have collided and combined over the last centuries, but much of it hasn’t, either. And that is probably best represented by the West’s predominant Christian religion and the East’s predominant Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoist philosophy. Because if Christianity doesn’t explicitly promote aggressiveness, it certainly allows it, especially with the transition from its original Rome-centered Catholicism to its later Westward-bound Protestantism.

    So, it’s no accident that this occurred exactly at the same time as the rise of Science, Capitalism, and the Industrial Revolution. Meanwhile the East mixed its Buddhism and Taoism with heavy doses of Socialism and Communism, until it realized that it was losing a lot of wars that way (and Japan proved that a country didn’t have to be Western to be Capitalist). Note also that Eastern Orthodox Christianity largely avoided the sectarian splintering that plagued the far West (except for some largely geographical distinctions). But there was another aspect to this dichotomy that doesn’t get much mention and that is the emulation also of the traditional roles of men and women.

    Thus, Western churches are defined by long sharp-pointed steeples, while Buddhism is traditionally symbolized by round bulbous stupas. I don’t think that anyone could miss the stupa’s resemblance to female breasts rising in supine submission. Contrast that with the more macho Hinduism’s steeple-like symbolism. And the virgin Mary’s preeminence in early Christianity is long gone in Protestantism. But Buddhism encapsulates the ethos of submission and adaptation perfectly. And while I don’t necessarily think that this is prima facie evidence of Buddhism’s superiority to Christianity, I do think that Buddhism is more appropriate for these times of crowds, confusion, and chaos. Buddhism is all about teaching men to be more like women: kinder and gentler, less violent…

     
  • hardie karges 11:44 am on September 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CHRISTIANITY, , , , , , , retributi8on, samma kammanta   

    The Buddhist Eightfold Path Does Not Bite 

    Revenge is not sweet. Retribution is not necessary. Equanimity is a path for all situations and all times: cool, calm, and collected. Isn’t it? And, if that is a lesson for the real world of sinners, not saints, then I think that it should go doubly for that saintly world that professes to know better. But religion is the worst offender at much of this, accomplishing with fear what it fails to accomplish with righteousness and inspiration. And so we do good, because we are scared of what might happen if we do bad. Saint Peter at the pearly gates of Heaven just might decide to revoke our visa and send us packing, back down to the Underworld south of Australia.

    But shouldn’t we do good simply for the act of doing good? Of course, we should. Isn’t that reward enough in itself? Can’t we win without someone else losing? Then, there are always the smiles on the young kids’ faces, if we need to quantify our gains by counting more tangible rewards. But isn’t that the problem more than the solution? Are we defined by the transient rewards of shallow victory? Not in the best of worlds. In the best of worlds there is always a sweet spot for conciliation, and reconciliation, that allows everyone to emerge from challenges and struggles with dignity and privilege intact.

    And that is the challenge, to not only do good, but to feel good about it. Anybody can do the right thing under pressure. But how many can do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts? So, the appropriate measures of fear are applied, and then we hope for the best. If the right and correct thing is not done, then there will be Hell to pay, literally, at some point in the future. Christianity and Islam, the Abrahamic religions, specialize in this. But Buddhism does it, too, with application of the principle of Karma above and far beyond its original intent.

    So what was originally intended as something simple and akin to the Golden Rule, and based on Right Actions, samma kammanta, in the original early Buddhist conception, becomes a generation-jumping act of retribution in Tibet 1000 years later. Sometimes some people need to be whupped upside the head, I suppose, when simple logic and simple pleasures don’t suffice, but that is not preferable, and useful only as a last resort. The bottom line is simple and resolves into a matter of belief: If you believe in karmic retribution, then you will be subject to karmic retribution. Do the right thing—simple.

     
  • hardie karges 9:33 am on September 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CHRISTIANITY, , , , , , Snaskrit   

    Buddhism: Self, Consciousness, DNA and Thought… 

    I am not the same person as yesterday, and I will be a different person tomorrow. I am not DNA code. I am skandhas, anatta, anicca. For those of you unfamiliar with Buddhist terminology in Sanskrit or Pali, then anicca is impermanence, anatta is non-self, and skandhas are the ‘heaps’ of conditions that comprise us. If this all sounds a bit like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, then please see my previous blog. So, in essence, we are phenomena, undefined and of an uncertain nature. Even the best scientists have not yet figured it all out, and that won’t change the Buddhist perspective, anyway, because it would likely only be later disproven.

    Because the Buddhist perspective is to deny any special preeminent position to the self or the soul, or any other permanent fixed immortal and eternal personality, which is the specialty of some religions, notably Christianity, and in a different way, Hinduism. Thus, this is an ontological position, in the hierarchy of Being and beings, but it also serves to deflate the over-puffed egos of Alpha males and others with more stuffing than substance to their personalities. All that is vanity, hubris, and a threat to the natural order, the human race, and psychological health, which the Buddha intuited long ago, without the benefit of science.

    The fact that Buddhism traditionally reserves a place for a poorly defined ‘rebirth’ seems to show that it is still conflicted with its role in the larger Indian tradition, since it’s difficult to say exactly what it is that gets reborn. The fact that it is unconcerned with that inconsistency would seem to indicate that it’s playing the long game and is willing to let that issue work itself out eventually. The Buddha himself said something similar to that effect, that it’s better to live as if rebirth were a proven fact, even though that proof is not yet there. I’m okay with that. Thus, it also indicates that Buddhism is something of an open doctrine. I’m okay with that, too. Sounds like the Middle Path to me.

    Now I love DNA, but that’s not the subject here. The subject here is me—or the lack thereof. DNA can tell the provenance and much of the story that its humble sponsor—me—and my forebears have taken over the last umpteen millennia—and counting, but it still can’t say much about me. And that thread of DNA winds back into time immemorial, not always recombining, and so may be almost eternal, and thus immortal, but that’s not me. What is ‘me’ is a jumble of memories and perceptions, sensations and reflections, that all often go under the general term ‘thought.’ But consciousness and thought are not synonymous. Thought depends on language. Consciousness does not. That is the difference, and in many ways it is superior. Cogito ergo no sum. Scio ergo sum.

     
  • hardie karges 10:57 am on August 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CHRISTIANITY, Dhammapada, , , , ,   

    Present Moment vs Past Lives, Buddhism vs Christianity… 

    “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Fake Buddha Quotes

    “Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment,” is a saying that is often attributed to the Buddha, but in fact is not, and even qualifies as a ‘Fake Buddha Quote,’ though it is not so far off the mark, really. As explained in that FBQ website, the quote itself comes from a 1934 Japanese Buddhist booklet, but ultimately seems to derive from the Dhammapada verse 348 which literally says something like (depending on the translation from Pali):

    Let go of the past, let go of the future.
    Let go of the present. Having gone beyond becoming,
    with mind completely freed,
    you will never again come to birth and aging.

    So that’s ‘Same same but different,’ as we say in Thai pidgin English. The FBQ website’s articulation is well worth reading, but my main take on it is that the present is also rejected, which best makes the point of the Buddhist foundation in renunciation, not ‘present moment,’ which is probably best described as Eckhart Tolle’s philosophy, possibly via that same Japanese thread. Which is all fine and good, as far as it goes. The problem is that it doesn’t really go very far. And neither does the Buddhist renunciation principle, which is very Jain-like in essence.

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  • hardie karges 11:24 am on July 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , CHRISTIANITY, , , , , inanition, , , , , , secular Buddhism, , ,   

    The Rocky Middle Path of Buddhism in America… 

    “Give me liberty or give me death” is America’s battle cry for independence, of course, as so brilliantly elucidated by Patrick Henry, and seconded by many others, notably the license plate slogan ‘Live Free or Die,’ among many others of similar emotion. And by ‘America’ I mean the USA, not the lower 40, though they are largely complicit, as is Europe the mother country, in the case of North America, which lacks the large indigenous base of many of the other more southern countries. Even Mexico is around 65% indigenous the last time I checked.

    And freedom is all well and good, as long as we know the details of the liberties and freedoms referred to, but which can be detrimental, and even deadly, if left for imaginations to run wild and machinations to double down in derailing the original intent of a simple life without a lord and master to serve at every beck and call. So now we consider mask-lessness as an inalienable right, even during a pandemic, ditto vaccines, and any restriction on movement during the same world emergency to be a violation. So the Western insistence on freedom to the maximum extent comes very close to an implicit death wish.

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  • hardie karges 10:32 am on June 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , cargo cult, CHRISTIANITY, , , ,   

    Buddhism is Monotheistic, God Optional… 

    Monotheism means ‘One God,’ right, as if that’s the solution to all our problems? No, well, maybe, but that’s only one of the problems, then. Because certainly just adding another god every time you have another challenge says more about you than the God or the challenge. This reminds me most of the Cargo Cults in Melanesia within the past century or so, in which the indigenous people made sense of their encounter with wealthy westerners—and their religion—by positing a belief in the delivery of merchandise with the aid of certain rituals, i.e. Christianity-Capitalism without all the pesky Commandments.

    But as the cult aged, and the cargo became uncertain, given the prevarications of its masters, the Americans, then the locals had to resort to heightened measures to hopefully achieve the same results. The efforts were many and diverse: longer runways for the planes to land; higher towers to signal them in, American soldiers’ uniforms to get the ritual right, and/or parades and military drills to imitate the patterns of the successful entreaties, etc. You get the idea. The whole effort was designed to imitate the success that they had witnessed on the part of Japanese and American soldiers and the supplies they attracted.

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  • hardie karges 11:18 am on June 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CHRISTIANITY, Indus Valley, Kama Sutra, , Malcolm Gladwell, , , , , , , Vedantic,   

    Buddhist Sutra on Passion and Dispassion… 

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

    Now I make no secret of the fact that I don’t think that Buddhism is necessarily any better than any other religion, philosophy, or way of life. But it is the right one for the right time. And it is no accident that it took me more than half my life (and counting) to finally make the switch from an eclectic form of ersatz Christianity to an equally eclectic form of Buddhism, however much more authentic, I reckon. After all I never got my MA in Christian Studies, though I guess all my liberal arts courses and BA in philosophy is probably as much as that, if not more.

    But neither Buddhism nor Christianity exists in a vacuum, so what we get is a mix of the original intent in its original environment, full of causes and conditions, situations and circumstances, inspirations and misgivings, as combined with the mandates of the mandarins, the rulings of the rulers, the laws of the legislators and the cravings of the consumer. Caveat emptor. But the salient point is that both are but the metaphysical underpinnings and psychological overtones of something much larger, equally symbolic and patently manifest.

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  • hardie karges 12:17 pm on January 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhis, CHRISTIANITY, communist, democratic, , optimistic, pessimistic,   

    Buddhism and the Sutra of the Half-Empty Cup… 

    We are hooked on abundance. We are addicted to excess. But the purest form of beauty can be found in ‘shunyata,’ vast and eternal–and empty. And this is the curse of Western civilization, that we have been fed this lie of infinity and eternity, of matter, and no limits to it as far as the eye can see, ‘sky is the limit’ and all that rap.

    But this is a deadly miscalculation, and I use the word ‘miscalculation’ instead of ‘lie’ to avoid the sin and fallacy of misplaced intention, when it really makes no difference in the final equation whether it was intended or not, that being only a moral issue between a man and his Maker, or in this case his vessel.

    Because the vessel, any vessel, best represents Emptiness, the Source, that propensity and potentiality, while the contents are the stuff of the world. Thus we have the old Aristotelian dichotomy between form and content, revisited in the Buddhist dichotomy between emptiness and matter.

    But the only infinity, or eternity, is in that Emptiness, and the matter that constitutes the objects of everyday life are by definition of limited duration in time and space, ephemeral. But don’t tell that to a junkie. A junkie knows that just one more dose is all he needs to last a lifetime, and that lifetime is eternity, of course, infinitely extendable, and with no fences in sight.

    So we Westerners love the old conundrum of the half-empty cup, this satisfying our need for closure on issues of good or bad, Communist or Democratic, and most importantly, of course—optimistic or pessimistic. Because we love the optimistic person above all others, the one who is ‘full of life,’ notwithstanding that he, too, will die, unless we get that vaccine, that life dose, perfected in the nick of time, and available at Walgreen’s, under contract with Johnson and Johnson, to provide eternal life at a reasonable price.

    And the current thinking is that that just might happen one day, if only we are patient. Thus Christianity makes a promise that it knows that it can’t keep, because life, by definition, is intimately associated with death. What would eternal life even be like, fer Chrissakes, all puns intended? The small print doesn’t specify life in what form, of course, whether old or young, in sickness or in health, just that in death we will part, and be rendered asunder into component parts.

    Buddhism is more honest, of course, to the extent that it is itself freed from its wildest fantasies and fears. But I can assure you that you don’t really want that life without limits. You just think that you do, because it is so fantastical. Who wouldn’t try it, at least once, just for the sake of the experience? Ask any junkie.

    But those limits, if we choose to accept them, are not only profound, but they are beautiful, sublime, and endearing, works of art blessed by the art of work. But best of all, it’s warm in here, warm and cozy and with no shortage of company. Please come join us. A cup half full is just fine. If it runneth over, then you’ve got a leak somewhere. Provide napkins just in case. Call a plumber if the problem persists…

     
  • hardie karges 8:20 am on January 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Abrahamic, , CHRISTIANITY, , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Fear Factor… 

    The Buddhist Eightfold Path does not include fear. There is no such thing as Right Fear. Still that is the default position for much, if not most religion, as enshrined in the phrase ‘God-fearing,’ as it has resonated through American culture, at least, if not all Western culture and its multitude of lingos and dialectics.

    And in that way, it satisfies the civilizing function with which religion has been entrusted by so many and for so long, that mono-myth that serves as a belief system for the security of society. In that way it can even unite diverse and various societies under a common banner of inclusion, so that the internecine struggles that divide us may cease once we realize that we have common purpose, which in this case includes fear.

    The problem, of course, is that common purpose usually only goes part of the way toward inclusion before it bumps up against another belief system doing the same thing but from another source, and often heading in another direction. This is best evidenced in the various manifestations of Abrahamic religions, the three major branches of which have been at each other’s throats almost since the first day, albeit with shifting alliances between them (most people forget that Jews were once solemnly protected against the wrath of Christianity within the citadels of Islam, pre-1948).

    To their credit, the corresponding Vedic-descended religions have never shown such animosity, and often are included under the broad umbrella of Hinduism. But fear is still often a factor, especially to the extent that karma is invoked for that purpose, which is often the case. In that situation, a person is supposedly scared into doing good in this life out of fear of what the next life might bring. And it seems that in fact, that is why the Buddha accepted it, since there was really no proof either one way or the other, so why not err on the side of good results? Makes sense.

    But this is a different time and a different place. What once made good sense against the black background of ignorance, now makes little sense in the light of science. Now we must act in the certainty of our proofs and with the benefit of our education and knowledge. Thus fear is not a suitable motivation, unless accompanied by proofs, most of which are lacking, in the case of religion. There is no proof of God the Father. There is no proof of Heaven or Hell. There is no proof of reincarnation, and there is no proof of past lives (memories are, uh, flexible).

    So religion is better left to ethics and morality and providing inspirations for happiness. Leave Science to the scientists. When they try to solve wars by Science, then call them on their BS. That is the job of priests and philosophers (and the occasional politician). Conciliation is always preferable to confrontation. And peace is almost always better than war. They are the ones to tell you why and how. That is the job of religion and philosophy, not ruling by fear. Once you are vaccinated by Buddhism, then it is up to herd immunity to take over…

     
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