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  • hardie karges 1:58 pm on November 5, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Eightfold Path, , ,   

    Dharma and the Middle Path as a Law of Nature… 

    There’s always a middle Path, whether or not it’s THE middle Path. This may be a bit of a deviation from the standard central dogma, which likes to break the Middle Path down into the Eightfold Path of Right View, Thought, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Meditation, BUT: who needs dogma, anyway? I don’t. So, I like to think of the Middle Path as a universal principle applicable to a multiplicity of situations, and carrying a message embedded that is worth more than just a little attention.

    Because we are not only just junkies for excess, whether it be luxury or lack, existence or non-existence, or form and emptiness, all aspects of the Buddhist definition, but there seems to be excess embedded into our very value system. For example, when we eat cooked food (yum yum) it’s generally considered best at anything but room temperature, right? We go to great lengths to make our best dishes either steaming hot or icy cold, don’t we? Anything tepid is considered middling, and that’s generally not a good judgment upon a cook’s ability.

    But, why is that? Is there anything intrinsic to taste to be found in that manifestation of attractions to extremes? There’s a possible argument to be made that either extreme is conducive to the preservation of the food, whether at extremely high temperatures or extremely low ones, but that argument quickly falls apart when considering anything besides culinary items. Why do we like bright colors? Why do we like high places? Why do we like deep caves? Perhaps, more to the point: Why do we like getting drunk? Why do we like getting high?

    The most obvious manifestation of these extremes is their danger, but then, on second thought, is it maybe their unnaturalness (is that a word?)? Bingo. Most of us really don’t want to die, now, do we? But we don’t mind pushing the envelope, so to speak, and we certainly don’t mind the thrill aspect. Why? Because it’s not natural, that’s why. And maybe that’s a hidden message of the Buddha: be natural. One definition of dharma, in fact, is just that: the law of Nature. So, does that mean that the Buddha was a Boomer? Cool, that’s okay by me…

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  • hardie karges 1:03 pm on August 28, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Eightfold Path, , , , Three Marks of Existence   

    Buddhism 202: Happiness Sandwiches, with Something in the Middle… 

    If you’re looking for bliss, then you may be disappointed. Happiness for me is the reduction, and hopefully cessation, of suffering. Anything else is icing on the cake. Count your blessings. In other words, bliss is optional and perhaps not even desirable. After all, when your psychological pendulum swings too far in one direction, isn’t it bound to swing back to the other with equal force? It’s very likely. And isn’t bliss an extreme emotion to begin with, tongue flagging and tail wagging, like a dog with a fresh bone, until it’s suddenly all gone?

    And that’s the problem, isn’t it, that extremes usually never cease rebounding in search of their opposites, in ever-widening arcs, never satisfied and never at rest?  It certainly seems that way, the curse of consciousness, chasing its own tail in a race to the finish. When we’re hot, we want cold. When we’re cold we want warmth. At what point do we get to enjoy our happiness? There’s no time like the present of course, and anything else is probably BS.

    And this goes right to the heart of Buddhism, the middle path, but not necessarily The Middle Path, between luxury and lack, or Existence and Non-existence, but any middle path, between any two sets of opposites, for which the middle is almost always the best option, that notion of balance and equilibrium always desirable, even if the word ‘compromise’ doesn’t suit you, with the notion that maybe it’s a cop-out. It’s not.

    It suits me just fine, and I think it should probably be enshrined as an important addendum to the main body of Buddhism, which includes the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold path, and the Three Marks of Existence, especially non-self anatta. Then there’s ahimsa, non-violence, though not necessarily non-action. That sounds like the perfect balance between violence and passivity. So, this notion of balance, little brother to the Middle Path, works almost every time, and should get the attention and credit that it deserves. Try it. You’ll probably like it.

     
  • hardie karges 10:06 am on August 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Eightfold Path, Franz Ferdinand, , Occam's Razor, , , , ,   

    Buddhism for Dummies, Hold the Salsa… 

    My 6th grade teacher was correct: our mouths cause most of our problems. Samma Vaca is Right Speech, part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. Of course, Ms. What’s-her-name knew little or nothing of Buddhism but that makes no difference. Buddhism is at its best as common sense, and that’s what the Eightfold path is all about. Three of the paths that comprise the Eightfold Path you might already know from the Franz Ferdinand song ‘Right Action,’ which also trumpets (and guitars) Right Thoughts and Right Words.

    The other components of the path include Right Intention, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration (meditation), depending on translations and personal proclivities. For example, ‘mindfulness’ is all the rage in online Buddhist circles, but ‘awareness’ or even ‘consciousness’ might be a better translation of the Pali word sati (Sanskrit smrti), since they’re easy to use in any normal conversation, while ‘mindfulness’ is rarely used outside of Buddhist or meditation circles (though ‘mindful’ might be).

    And that’s the way I like my Buddhism, down-to-earth and easy to understand. Zen tries to get all Dadaesque, in its effort to go beyond language, but only confuses many people in the process. And Vajrayana puts the magic in the wand for those who need that, but none of that is really necessary for the Buddhism that the Buddha envisaged. And those early guys admittedly tried to make it more complicated, too, even grouping the Eightfold Path into a three-part collection of ethics, meditation, and wisdom, without really changing anything in the process. Sometimes the simplest way is the best, just like Occcam’s Razor, for a smooth close shave, haha…

     
  • hardie karges 10:58 am on May 29, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Covid, , , Eightfold Path, , , , human sacrifice, , murder,   

    Buddhism 499: the Worst Experiences Sometimes Teach the Best Lessons… 

    And while this may not be one of the Four Noble Truths or one of the folds of the Eightfold Path, it is one of the mystic truths of Buddhism, often cited by the Dalai Lama and very easy to digest in its simplicity. It is easy because it is intuitive, even if it somehow defies common sense. How could the Covid pandemic teach a valuable lesson, after all? Well, if it teaches us how to deal with Global Warming, then that would be valuable, wouldn’t it? And just that it may very well do.

    Think of it as the veritable kick upside the noggin that I could never explain with so much bloggin,’ haha. Didn’t Hitler teach us something? Didn’t slavery? No religion ever prohibited slavery, or even spoke disapprovingly of it, until very recently. It’s even doubtful that murder was considered a sin, until around the time that the Buddha, and then later Jesus, thought to specifically mention it. Why? Wasn’t that obvious? Probably not, sad to say. Because while we stand aghast now while contemplating human sacrifice, they didn’t. They lined up for the privilege.

    So, score one for cultural relativism, and let’s stand reproached for our modern arrogance. Is human sacrifice okay, then? Of course not. We know that now, that every life has value, and it’s only a question of when it begins, right? But isn’t there also a question of when it should end? This is part of the ongoing dialectic towards a higher—and more convenient—truth. What about Global Warming, then? How does that fit? We must live in harmony with Nature, somehow, some way. We don’t need to live with Dodge Charger V-8’s with four-on-the-floor and dual Holley four-barrel carbs, though. We already proved that. Now we need to relearn some of our other previous lessons.

     
  • hardie karges 10:47 am on May 22, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brahmanist, , Eightfold Path, George Harrison, , , , , , ,   

    Self, Ego, Identity, or the Lack Thereof in Buddhism… 

    Permanent self and immortal soul are a convenient fiction, but a fiction, nevertheless. And this is what the whole ‘no-self’ on ‘non-self’ debate is all about, or at least WAS. And if it’s disturbing enough that that principle is often misrepresented, it’s downright ridiculous that there is often even a debate over the preference or appropriateness of ‘non-self’ vis a vis ‘no-self.’ But the issue is very clear within the historical context of the competition and ongoing debate between the Brahmanists, Buddhists, and Jains way back some 2500 years ago.

    And the reverb echoes even today when George Harrison opines during his last days that these souls go on forever, so death is essentially meaningless. And whatever qualms you might have about such a statement from a scientific viewpoint would hopefully be secondary to the hope and optimism that it might do for you in the short-term of this life span. But it’s very popular now amongst ‘non-dualists’ as much or more than Buddhists to claim that thoughts have no thinker and actions have no doer. They even claim that the Buddha said that, but if so, then I can’t name the sutra, and even if he did it was likely in a metaphorical usage.

    Because Buddhism in general is nothing if not mental training, and so to conclude that there is nothing there, nothing at all, would seem counterintuitive. But that is the modern ‘non-dualist’ assertion, that any and all self-identity is detrimental to one’s spiritual well-being. And that may or may not be true, but I don’t think the Buddha said that, because it would render the Eightfold Path pointless. When you believe in yourself, don’t believe too much, just enough to accomplish what you need, not enough to inflate your ego. That’s the Middle Path between excess and lack…

     
  • hardie karges 7:45 am on January 30, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Eightfold Path, , , , ,   

    Buddhism 101: Do the Right Thing, Quietly… 

    To do the right thing isn’t always easy. Do it anyway: samma-ditthi, samma-sankappa, samma-vaca, samma-kammanta, samma-ajiva, samma-vayama, samma-sati, samma-samadhi, often translated as Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration, though I’m not sure what the difference is between Right Understanding and Right Thought. But I do know that Right View is often substituted for one or the other of them, I assume the first, since the modern Nepali translation of ‘view’ is drsya, and probably better for the very reason of its distinction from ‘thought.’

    And then there are those who would object to the translation of ‘samma’ as ‘right,’ though for what reason I can’t remember now, and probably misguided, if we remember that ‘right’ in this case is in the context of ‘appropriate,’ which would agree nicely with that word’s derivation in modern standard Thai, which has probably half of its words derived from Pali and/or Sanskrit.

    Re-translation is the curse of modern-day Buddhism, especially American-based Buddhism, which must reconcile ancient Indian thought derived from deep contemplation with modern critical analysis largely derived from empirical testing on one hand, and the faddish trends of fashion on the other, and the need for brief sound bites with universal happy endings, perfect for mass consumption.

    And that’s fine, since Buddhism is an ongoing dialog, or dialectic, in constant search of a higher truth, those first Four Noble ones and that ensuing Eightfold Path but the starting point for further developments and the groundwork for the Precepts, that were once typically translated as Commandments for simplicity of reason, faith and understanding. All religions seem to need tenets, even when they are almost identical, since most people need constant reminding of even the simplest things in life.

    For example: Samma Vaca, Right Speech, is not just for your friends, but your enemies, too, and strangers unnamed and uncounted. Obvious, right? But until someone articulates that most important point, then it might very well go unnoticed by most typical text-skimmers. Less obvious is that all this verbiage is excessive, and should be unnecessary, except for our habits of point and counterpoint, parry and thrust. Buddhism is a religion and philosophy of silence, at the core of its being and existence. Silence is normal. All noise should be treated as an alien force, approached with caution and handled with great care.

     
  • hardie karges 11:44 am on September 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Eightfold Path, , , , , , 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 9:31 am on April 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Eightfold Path, First Noble Truth,   

    Buddhism During a Crisis, Coronavirus Redux… 

    Nothing better illustrates the Buddhist First Truth of suffering than the Coronavirus, proclaimed as novel, but I’m not so sure. Because nothing is truly novel in the realm of suffering, especially when delivered by the sneaky intercessions of a virus. Somebody once said that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, though it wasn’t Buddha who said that, however congruent with his teachings it may or may not be. No, the Buddha was pretty clear about the inevitability of suffering, and the Eight-Step program to its mitigation, and hopefully cure. Now if there’s a difference in meaning between pain and suffering, then it’s the difference between looking and seeing, listening and hearing, touching and feeling, in that one verb is transitive, affecting objects, while the other is intransitive, something felt, so more than simple observation of another.

    But my point is that Buddhism can help, in times like these, by simply acknowledging the normalcy of suffering, if nothing else. I suspect that many Westerners accustomed to amusement parks and weekend larks will have a much harder time of it than some Orientals accustomed to struggle. After all, you don’t see Asians serenading each other in captivity, now, do you? And if the Western commitment to ‘never change our way of life’ is charming, in a way, then in another way, it’s rather discouraging. This IS a good time for paradigm shifts, I’d say. Because mostly this is a psychological shock, more than medical, economic, or even ecological. Most Westerners are accustomed, even taught, to control Nature, reign her in, to do our bidding, and the idea that She is there as something to be awed and revered, is rather secondary. I mean sure, we go visit national parks and snap our pics, but as often as not we’re snapping pics of each other, and God knows, our selfies.

    Most of all, though, we’ve just never been taught to look inward, and those introverts among us tend to be categorized as ‘losers’ by the type-A bullies who think that aggression comes first, then questions come later, if ever. So I don’t see the Coronavirus as a death sentence, but just the opposite, in fact, an opportunity to make some necessary changes socially and ecologically, perhaps first and most important, but also personally, mostly within the theme of ‘less is more’, simple pleasures, and a shift away from consumption toward contemplation. For now, though, the bottom line is all about control, self-control, preferably. Because I don’t think it’s any accident that the countries hardest hit are those that are the most freedom-obsessive, and the countries doing best are those most controlled. But I prefer the self-control of the Buddhist countries over the government control of the ex-Communist countries of East Europe and elsewhere. So for us it’s a bittersweet victory, but for Nature it’s jubilant. Global Warming lost a battle this year…

     
  • hardie karges 8:21 am on May 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Eightfold Path, , kilesa, , , , samma sankappa, , , transmigration   

    Buddhist Mindfulness as Mindlessness? Wait a minute… 

    IMG_0959Okay, so I admit it: I’m going through a crisis of confidence with my newfound love of Buddhism, and all that entails. The devil is in the details, of course, as even the ever-tricky Buddha himself well knew, just like Jesus after him, that you pick and choose what to tell the initiates and laypeople at any one time, subject to their capacity to comprehend, assimilate, or even fathom, concepts which may just be a bit difficult to swallow at first, or maybe forever…

    Compounded by the fact that the Buddha himself was just a bloke, not a God, nor even his son, and so not omniscient, and subject to the limitations thereof, to most of which he himself spoke, the profound limits which define our existence on this blue-green orb of light color and sound which we call earth, the world, home, samsara, all we’ve got, except what we can make for ourselves, given time, energy, and the raw materials to work with, including consciousness… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 7:38 am on May 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Buddhist Studies, , , Eightfold Path, , , , , , , , , ,   

    Buddhist Studies: lists of lists, definitions defined and translations translated… 

    img_2116If there’s anything more annoying, as a Buddhist Studies MA student, than having to memorize lists of lists after lists full of lists from the annals of the ancients, it’s having to plow through the re-definitions of all those terms from the mouths of the moderns (is ‘anals’ a word?). This is not high scholarship. This is the business of busy-work, the intellectual equivalent of keeping that shovel moving to justify your union job, or to keep your position as the arbiter of privilege in the fan-boy chat-pages of Facebook…

    Yet that’s what they all do, in the Western Lands, at least, and even in the temples, too, as if only one new definition ‘changes everything’, so that the Pali/Sanskrit word ‘dukkha‘ is no longer merely ‘suffering’ but ‘stress’, ‘anguish, ‘dissatisfaction’, or maybe even just ‘a spot of unpleasantness’ so easily resolved by following that Yellow Brick Road known as the 8FP, Eight-fold Path, when the reality is not so easy at all… (More …)

     
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