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  • hardie karges 7:05 am on April 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CHRISTIANITY, , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhist Metta in the Age of Social Media… 

    Metta is simple and one of the cornerstones of Buddhism: friendship, simple friendship. Or call it ‘loving-kindness’ if that reconciles you with the Hebrew chesed of your Judeo-Christian tradition. Just note that it is not the passion that is usually associated with Christian ‘loving-kindness,’ not even the passionate embrace of a mother and her child. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it’s not necessary. What’s necessary is that the child not experience fear and anger and other defilements and afflictions.

    But we Westerners, particularly Americans, are raised on a diet of emotional cocktails, roller-coasters and built-in toasters, speeding up and then putting on brakes, heating up and then cooling our feet, such that life is nothing but one vast mood swing, which we must then ‘shrink’ by repeated visits to the therapist of our choice. To be a ‘bad-ass’ is a compliment in the US of A, and it shows in our interactions with the world. We fight our enemies to the death on battlefields, while never questioning the enemy within.

    This is one reason why it’s so difficult for Americans to be good Buddhists. Because we look for enlightenment in dialogue and debate, rather than the silence that brilliantly illustrates Emptiness, if not strictly define it. Because we look for our meditation in the words of some endless rap from some best-selling app from the online app-store of one of the world’s richest men, rather than that same silence which the Buddha himself used, as do thousands of monks to this day.

    And whether those monks win or lose the debates that some “spiritual bad-asses” (actual quote) find so rewarding and illuminating is not important. What’s important is quieting the mind (i.e. consciousness) by the necessary hours of silent and still sitting that make life itself the only reward necessary for a rewarding existence. All the cars and bars and Hollywood stars on assorted sh*t-stained sidewalks are but illustrations in a magazine that most people can’t sit still long enough to actually read.

    Compared to these challenges, metta is a literal piece of cake, to be shared with friends on any given day, and maybe even twice on Sunday, or Christmas, or Easter. The world is our sangha, our community, and strangers are as much a part of that as family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. In fact, that can be its greatest reward, communion with strangers as if they were lifelong friends. You can’t know that pleasure until you test those waters. The first rule of friendship is to be friendly, simple. Smile. Happy Easter. Happy Buddhist New Year.

     
  • hardie karges 5:39 am on March 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CHRISTIANITY, , demmocracy, , , triple religion   

    Caveat Emptor: Buddhism’s Fine Print… 

    You can spend your life pursuing objects of craving, or you can reduce your need for them. Christianity or Buddhism? Your choice. And yes, it’s really that simple, almost. The Buddhist Precepts and the Christian Ten Commandments are almost exactly the same, after all. And other differences purported if not actually reported are a little bit harder to define, like the bit about passion and dispassion. Now I fully trust my sense of that, but it is a harder point to sharpen, and anyway doesn’t make so much difference for the average individual living his daily life.

    Then there’s the question of a creator God, which is probably as much a thorn in the side of many Christians as the question of rebirth is for many Buddhists, which is the role of belief and superstition in the practice of either. And so, once again, the similarities abound. But the opposites are palpable. To crave or not? That’s a real difference, and lies at the heart of Buddhism, the disavowal of that. And the desire for that lies at the heart of the Triple Religion that we might call Christianity-Democracy-Capitalism, my term, not to be confused with the Triple Religion of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, which is often invoked for China and sometimes Vietnam, at least before Communism.

    But few choices are truly binary in real life, even if the issues involved often are. To desire or not desire? I think that I might be able to divide my time appropriately between the two. After all Buddhism is built on a Middle Path between extremes, the worst of either to be avoided, while the best of both are to be imbibed of judiciously, with neither lack nor excess. And if this ultimately involves the mixing of religions, then so be it, as long as it’s articulated, so that we’re not pretending that grace, forgiveness, and passion are at the heart of Buddhism. They aren’t. That’s Christianity. So mix in equal portions, like salt and pepper. And there might even be a new Triple Religion possible, Buddhism-Democracy-Socialism, sounds good to me.

     
  • hardie karges 6:41 am on March 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CHRISTIANITY, , , , , ,   

    Hawking’s Paradox and Buddhism: Emptiness Ain’t so Empty… 

    Continued from July 4, 2021…

    Buddhism is not a religion of passion. So, there’s no reason to get excited. Unless you’re talking about ‘passion’ in the classic Biblical sense of ‘suffering,’ in which case Buddhism certainly recognizes that sort of passion. But that’s not what Westerners, usually Christian born-and-bred, usually mean. And so, as language mutates over time, so does culture. Christianity’s foundation as a religion built on suffering gradually becomes a religion based on “living life to the fullest,” which is all well and good, if you are prepared to accept the consequences. But Buddhism is all about living life to the Emptiest, and that doesn’t mean Nothingness. It means no craving or grasping.

    On the contrary Emptiness is the only glimpse of Infinity and Eternity that we can have in this life, in this world. Because a world of stuff is by definition limited, to this and that and the other, things countable and categorizable. Emptiness, on the other hand, has no limits. There’s only one problem, if you’re into stuff: it’s empty. But can it be perceived? Yes, I think it can. But it can’t be consumed, not in the way that we consume sights and sounds and love on the rebound. That is the world of stuff. But that world is secondary. Without the Emptiness that contains it, that world is not even possible. Emptiness is a vessel, and thus more important and primal than the stuff that it contains—including your illusory self…

     
  • hardie karges 7:00 am on January 23, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CHRISTIANITY, , , , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the True Meaning of Love 

    ‘Falling in Love’ is all about attachment. True love is all about non-attachment. True love looks for soft spots to protect. Aggression looks for soft spots to attack, and attachment isn’t much better, by weakening that spot, even if not physically attacking. By ‘true love,’ of course, I’m talking about Buddhist metta, typically translated as ‘lovingkindness,’ if you’re Jewish or Christian, but that still preserves some passion, and suffering, so maybe better translated more like the Buddha himself probably intended, so something like ‘brotherly love’ or ‘sisterly love,’ as the case may be. To be clear, I think that being in a relationship is fine, sometimes wonderful, but it shouldn’t necessarily be based on the hysterical (no pun) madness of being ‘in love.’

    Score one for arranged marriages? I wouldn’t go that far. Exercising one’s innate free will, to whatever extent it exists, and despite all the limitations placed upon it, is all about what it is to be human. ‘Give me liberty or give me death’? Haha, once again, I probably wouldn’t go that far. Because true freedom is freedom FROM, not freedom TO, freedom from any and all the defilements that plague us, but not freedom to do anything we want, regardless of whom it hurts. And this is an important distinction. Kileshas are the Buddhist name for those defilements that destroy our humanity and reduce us once again to the animal world from which we’ve evolved.

    It’s funny, though, because often these defilements themselves come paired just like the pair-bonding couples that cause many of the problems in their quest for reproduction rights, in addition to other attachments and liens on property. Because jealousy and revenge are twin kileshas, just like hate and anger, one feeding off the other like two heads of a serpent striking, and best avoided. The great Buddhist dilemma, or tetralemma, is how to deal with aggression. Do you turn the other cheek? But no Christian really did that, did they? To live from sensation to sensation is to live like an animal. To follow dharma is to live like a human.

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

    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: , , CHRISTIANITY, , , , , , , 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: , CHRISTIANITY, , , ,   

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

    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.

     
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