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  • hardie karges 11:32 am on April 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , emptiness, , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Limits of Freedom… 

    Self-control is a valuable tool, a wonderful trait, and a noble quality. But control of others? Not so much. And this is a sticking point for many Western Buddhists, who cringe at the thought of any sort of control, it being anathema to the Western traditions of freedom and democracy, however ill-conceived and ill-defined. This obsession with freedom arose in response to the tyranny of rulers, so that is the sordid background upon which our story must unfold. It is also the justification for many a disproportionate response which must then invite further repercussions, in an almost endless back-and-forth see-saw of emotions and cataclysms which define the modern history of humankind.

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  • hardie karges 12:00 pm on April 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , emptiness, ,   

    Bi-polar No-lock Pandemic Sutra… 

    Once upon a time there were only two continents in the World, East and West. They were similar in many ways, but the way in which they were most different were their ways of thinking, especially abstract thinking. For instance, the West saw the world and life as something that should be full to overflowing, with everything, of course, apparently related to their belief in limitlessness, infinity, eternity, depending on the context, and most eloquently: Abundance, as the norm. The East, on the other hand, saw Emptiness as the norm, with profound acceptance of limitations, that were at one and the same time as beautiful as they were comforting, as reassuring as they were defining.

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  • hardie karges 11:48 am on February 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , emptiness, , , , ,   

    Buddhism and Self in an (Almost) post-Apocalyptic World… 

    Self-control requires no self, and not much control, either, really, just wise decisions. Which is convenient, since the last thing a Westerner—European or American—wants to hear about is control, something of a dirty word for the Aryan-descended high-steppes drifters.

    My compatriots tend to love their freedoms, even when they are deleterious to health, to an extent that others might, and do, find laughable, witness the current kerfuffles over life-saving masks in the middle of a pandemic. But limits are crucial to Buddhism, in sharp antithesis to the Christianity of eternal life and eternal resources. Oops! That’s another bad word–limit.

    Bottom line: It isn’t what you do that matters so much; it’s what you don’t do. And if that kept me away from Buddhism for many years, perceived as a passive response to active situations, now it attracts me to it. Because now it really is better to do nothing than run around like decapitated barn-fowl in search of answers to questions we never should have asked in the first place.

    So what do we do about global warming? Do nothing, i.e. instead of driving that car: do nothing. Instead of stoking that chimney of steel: do nothing. Instead of shooting that rocket to Mars: do nothing. Get it? So what if our lives revert to the same economic status of one hundred years ago, was that so bad? All we’ve gained since then is technology-based capitalism, not knowledge.

    One hundred years ago, Einstein’s general theory of relativity was proven and quantum mechanics was in progress. The only thing good that’s happened after all that is Internet, so we can keep that and get rid of all the self-driving cars and self-driven egos. Internet is almost the only worthwhile technology of the last century, that and health care, something still out of reach for many world citizens.

    Yet we are obsessed with economic growth as though that were the English term for God, and freedom as if that were our contribution to the Emptiness that underlies all stuff (which it may very well be). The problem is that quest for infinity when we have no true connection to it, except for our worship of it. So worship we can do, as long as we don’t fancy ourselves the master of it. We’re not.

    We are subject to freedom and must obey its dictates. Oops! There’s another dirty word, no, not dictate, but ‘obey.’ This is anathema to the West almost more than control or limits, but crucial to our place in the universe. It may very well be inhuman to dictate, but very human to obey, like the good children we should all strive to be. And it may be very inhuman to try to control others, but the essence of humanity to try to control ourselves.

    For then harsh words will not be spoken, and harsh actions will not be taken. Sound too simple? Yes, it is, and the most difficult thing for us to accomplish, we raised on the sound and fury of argument and debate. But accomplish it we must, if we are to survive another century. Purify your heart. Purify your mind. Prepare for the coming storm.

     
  • hardie karges 12:17 pm on January 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhis, , communist, democratic, emptiness, 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 10:03 am on January 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , emptiness, eternity, , MAGA, , , present moment, , Shaivite,   

    Buddhism and the Limits of Control… 

    Self-control isn’t really about controlling anything. It’s about right actions. And this is an important distinction for Western audiences, who simply abhor any limit to their supposed freedoms, whether real or imagined, whether they be MAGA-hat-wearing Trumpists or Buddhists who refuse to give up the Christian core which promises them eternal life.

    So all of a sudden rebirth doesn’t sound so bad, notwithstanding the fact that for most traditional Buddhists that is a curse, not a gift. Nevertheless, we must plead ‘skillful means,’ in order to save the seeker from the grips of false doctrine, whether Muslim or Shaivite, and so admit them into the fold, then work out the details later.

    And in fact a world with no limits is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on unsuspecting adherents to Christianity, Capitalism, and Democracy, but that is our fate, and now we must deal with it. It was instrumental in getting men to the moon, and now we must figure out how to save the earth that they left behind. It created the fires of industry, and now we must figure out how to put the fires out.

    Still the eternalists never give up, assuring us that there are more of us out there somewhere in the Universe, with not one shred of evidence to support it. Like Trumpsters counting votes in absentia, the statisticians count humans by virtue of logic, not math. But the only thing infinite is Emptiness, and that is not the World. That is the possibility that there might be a world.

    Once there actually is a world of perception and cognition and stuff, then it is immediately limited by its very existence and its imminent death. So it is simply better to accept the profound limits of human existence, rather than talk about them, since that might make some people sad, that they may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and so forth, and so on.

    And so it is with control. That implies a limit on freedom, so people don’t want to hear about it. They want to hear that they are the center of the universe, and can do whatever they damn well please, torpedoes be damned at the same time. There’s only one problem: it’s a lie. Limits define us, by definition, and so are profound, and to be embraced, for that is the predestination that is so often secretly desired, almost as much as infinity, the two concepts of which are mutually exclusive, infinity and predestination.

    It’s almost like the Buddhists who believe in reincarnation at the same time that they believe in the present moment. You can’t do that, not without egregious assaults to fundamental logic and basic agreement of terms. And so avoidance of wrong actions is every bit as important as the execution of right actions. And if that is control, then so be it. Truth is more than a balanced equation. It is a balanced life…

     
  • hardie karges 12:50 pm on November 8, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , emptiness, , , , ,   

    Silence is the Perfect Companion to Budddhist Emptiness.,, 

    Emptiness, shunyata, is one of the prime tenets of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, of course, and arguably the defining one, the one without which it would not exist. But it has always been of slippery definition itself, it born of the zero-principle, shunya, and conceived at that very same epoch of history, such that the two developments are impossible to separate…

    And the brief definition of emptiness is that it is an extension of the Buddhist concept of non-self, anatta, so that now we are postulating that not only is the self empty of substance, but so is everything empty of substance. That is not to say that it is not real, necessarily, but that it is not real in any enduring permanent way. So in that sense, nothing is real…

    And this fits in well with the modern physics conception of reality as composed of sub-microscopic particles that are better defined mathematically than physically, even chemically. So that’s the back-story and the sales pitch, but how does that make anyone’s life any better? But in fact, there is much more to it than the sublime metaphysics or the arcane math and physics…

    In fact, I propose, there are lessons for life in there. For one thing, aren’t our lives too often defined by our possessions? A philosophy of emptiness discourages that. Secondly, referring back to the title, emptiness does encourage silence, and meditation, which I not only encourage everyone to practice, but which has been proven many times over to be a safe and salient benefit to health, especially mental health…

    (And despite the fact that ‘guided meditation’ has many fans, especially in the West, who just can’t stand the silence, I suppose, I still maintain that silent meditation is the best, and in fact the only practice that I would consider true meditation. ‘Guided meditation’ should be called something else)…

    Most importantly, though, emptiness facilitates a view of self and the universe that is non-dualistic (while I readily acknowledge that any dichotomy of self and universe is itself dualistic). And this may very well be the origin of modern consciousness, i.e. linguistic consciousness. Before that there was only a non-linguistic kind, which, for all the benefits of language, may have been better in many ways…

    At the very least, it is worth returning to, on a regular basis, and hence the value of meditation. Philosophy leads everywhere at one and the same time. Do you prefer the conundrum of the One versus the Many? Or do you prefer the vastness of Infinity? Duality is an illusion. The One is Many. But only Emptiness is Infinite…

     
  • hardie karges 11:02 am on August 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , emptiness, , ,   

    Buddhism and the Art of the Path… 

    When the world outside imposes limits, then you explore inside, Inner Space, where there are few if any limits. This is the hardest thing for many of us to accept, especially us freedom-junkie Westerners, descendant of Europe and the Indo-European cowboy steppes, some of whom went east and got all meditative, the rest of us long having dallied with the West, and got bored with life on the installment plan, limited to incremental growth and low interest on investment, so we invented capitalism for life in the fast lane, and a convenient alternative to outright combat, while accomplishing largely the same thing, stratification of the races into winners and losers, so as to facilitate social immobility and survival of the fattest…

    So here we are now, some five thousand years later, addicted to our sensations and victims of our adrenaline, having largely conquered the world of Nature and with nowhere else to go but an Outer Space from which there is no return, or an Ocean Deep, where there is no sleep, and the cost of living is high…

    So we return to the predilections of our eastern Indo-Euro cousins, the same ones that we once accused of being the lazy soma-bibbing bumpkins of the clan, but now maybe not so slow or dim-witted after all, they having followed a different path, but of consciousness, not high-rise sky-scraping construction, but a less Nature-defiling path of Inner Space, which, when compared to the alternative of Outer Space, is somehow infinite, if not eternal, so unlimited in Space, if not Time, but on an inner path, not outer, and so protected by the sheaths and membranes of consciousness, not the temporary bulwarks of concrete and steel against bacteria and other forms of DNA that know how to survive against all odds…

    Because Nature will always find a way to survive, if not thrive, because that is what DNA does, once it has been coded, and sent to the factory for reproduction. Thus the path of Nature is a struggle between the twin forces of reproduction and consciousness, existence and non-existence, and the result can only be fruitful, if followed to the letter, and the number, because numbers are crucial to any plan for life, too much and it’s fire, too little and it’s ice, so that path in the middle not only looks nice, but actually is crucial to survival, with only the minimum amount of suffering necessary…

    And that is especially true in Inner Space, the path of least resistance and greatest fruition, whether simple meditative presence or a vast creative innovative Virtual Reality future. The past is certain and unreturnable. The future is a sea of possibilities. The present is a refuge, and a comfortable path between extremes. Suffering is a feeling. Limits are the reality. The only thing without limits is Emptiness…

     
  • hardie karges 1:10 pm on January 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , contentchaos, emptiness, form, , Maslow, , ,   

    Buddhist Shunyata: Emptiness and Chaos, Form and Content, Zeroes and Ones, ad Infinitum… 

    Every act of cruelty is a good chance to prove the power of kindness, in some sort of reverse logic, which largely defines our lives on this planet. Because nothing is what it seems, and everything is a cause of concern. But it needn’t be, because everything that can happen will happen, by certain laws of physics, but only if given enough time, of course. And that is our job, to control the time line in our dimension, which is largely defined by space. We travel in space, not time, not yet, anyway. Time is mostly an act of mind coordinating events which have already happened in apparent space, so three dimensions, while time is only one–the past. That is all we know about time, because that is the only aspect of time that we can measure. Everything else is pure mathematical probability, in the case of the future, or a fleeting moment of presence, and best held in abeyance, in the case of that legendary present moment. But that ‘present moment’ doesn’t exist, as such, anyway, because it is a contradiction in terms, as defines our lives in language. Because if we speak of a moment, as a point in time, then there are many, in rapid succession, one after the other, as they stack up for counting in that warehouse we call the past. But if it is truly the present, then if must be an ongoing continuum, uncountable in its immediacy, and so hardly recognizable as a moment, but more like an eternity, an infinity, one and not many, but really more like zero than one, form without content. Thus all the numbers of our counting system fit neatly and best between the conscious and mental paradigms of zero and one, neither of which can ever be truly present and physical, but both of which can be reasonably intuited. And this is much of the background noise and radiation of the Buddhist concept of ‘shunyata’, variously defined as void, emptiness, nothing, or ‘zero-ness’, bingo! Because that is what the word ‘shunya’ means, in multiple Asian languages, and its invention in pre-literate India was more or less simultaneous, conceptually and arithmetically. I don’t think that this was coincidental. So instead of positive numbers or negative numbers, maybe all we really have are fractions of a single number One as defined by its erstwhile twin Zero. These might also be seen as Chaos and Void, content and form, or even male and female, depending on circumstances. Thus everything is the opposite of what it seems, from certain angles, and at certain times of the day. My hunger defines my terms of fulfillment, and levels of dissatisfaction define my feeling of happiness–or not. So in some Maslovian hierarchy of needs, there is a sweet spot of contentment and a vast suburb of uncertainty. Every frown hides a smile, and every tear hides laughter–somewhere, somehow…

     
    • Dave Kingsbury 5:15 pm on January 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Not sure how but this post reminded me of Blake’s phrase – without contraries, no progress. Emptiness, by that token, is a creative opportunity. And as you say, ‘every act of cruelty is a good chance to prove the power of kindness’ – have a good 2020, Hardie!

      • hardie karges 7:50 pm on January 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Dave, happy 2020 to you, too!

  • hardie karges 2:01 am on October 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Dada, emptiness, , ,   

    Emptiness and Form, and the Power of Zero… 

    I need to see the emptiness, so that I can hear the silence. That’s the latter-day Buddhist approach to life, as exemplified by the Mahayanist doctrine of ‘shunyata’, emptiness, zero-ness, more concerned with the bowl’s field of probabilities than the stuff that you might want to cram in it, the world as potential more than present, form over content, and quite content with that, foregone the shopping trips to outlet stores and brand-name malls, fulfilled by conscious lack and voluntary homelessness, just add a dose of Zen-like Dadaesque do-si-do and lose the logic, and now you’ve got something unique and special, a glimpse of eternity in a spoonful of sugar, infinity in a grain of sand. But this is the advanced course for meditation masters and others of like bent, experts at the short-circuit of logic and aficionados of thoughtless realms, archeologists of the paleo-consciousness, prime and pristine, pure as driven snow and just as hard to find, in the vast clutter of derived drivel in the garbage heaps of mind. But basic Buddhism is much easier, the ABC’s of rightness and righteousness, and the mitigation of suffering. You can forego the quantum leaps in favor of baby steps, and maintain a wry little grin all the while, keeping eyes on the forward path, and never get lost in a crooked smile. The path is the path, and there is no better way. Do the right thing, even if it hurts, even if there is no immediate benefit. Do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. End all craving and suffering will be mitigated. That is the Buddha’s message…

     
    • Dave Kingsbury 3:24 pm on October 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Great phrase which conveys the continuing relevance of the message – ‘foregone the shopping trips to outlet stores and brand-name malls’, One thinks of the hungry ghost …

  • hardie karges 9:48 am on June 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: agriculture, , , emptiness, nomadism, , ,   

    Politics, Politeness, and the Art of Emptiness… 

    People who love their guns more than their kids are the ones who need prayers, for they have lost their way. But this is the great conundrum of civilization, i.e. city-fication, that once we have hoards of wealth, then we have to protect it. Some people prefer guns over fences. Not that there was no violence before the age of cities, but cities took things to a new level. Nomadism was very egalitarian, and very underrated. Settlement may be a false ideal, rewarding ourselves on the fact that our butts are now fat, and we can pet the family cat, at our every whim and desire. This is the outcome of the agricultural revolution, unrequited desires, rotten teeth and obesity, just the opposite of what was intended. Now it has become the mark of our indebtedness, our slavery, our decency in the eyes of capitalism. And this is the real tragedy, the confusion and congestion of our lives and mentality. War is more the consequence than the cause. We are slaves of our growth mentality, and victims of our own voracious desires. Technology is a possible solution, civilization without the cities. But at some point, we still have to find inner peace, or some reasonable facsimile. Stressed lives crave entertainment, and confusion, more louder bigger. Peace loves emptiness…

     
    • Dave Kingsbury 2:17 pm on July 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Apparently we have experts working on the problem as we speak … the bad news is, their funding has just been cut. Seriously though, I do like your long perspective on this. Spot on!

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