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  • hardie karges 1:42 pm on July 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antithesis, , , , , Hardie Karges, , , , , , synthesis, , thesis,   

    Buddhism in the Bardo: the Language of Dialectic and the Silence of Meditation… 

    Language cannot solve the problems that language creates. Only silence can do that. This is one of those inherent little foundations of Buddhism, also, like non-aggression and the limits to fulfillment, that often get lost in the shuffle of rebirth, karma, and the endless choices of past lives. But that is the essence of philosophy, and religion, to find some reason to live, without expending too much time and energy in the process, and so often that involves divine intervention—or magic…

    And that’s where Buddhism tried to be different, at least in the beginning, though the pressure to spice things up is almost irresistible, and so Buddhism was not so much different. Like Christianity a few hundred years later, it started with basic precepts, or commandments, and proceeded from that humble starting point. And to be honest, the starting points of Buddhism and Christianity were not so much different in their original conceptions.

    Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat: the basic precepts were very similar in the Abrahamic religions of the Mideast and the Dharmic religions of India. They weren’t that far apart, really, geographically or conceptually, so that may be more than a coincidence. Considering the Aryan migration eastward, also, now proven genetically, the ‘meeting of East and West’ may not have been much more than a meeting at the most convenient location, rather than some journey that required Marco Polos, Fa Hians, and Ibn Battutahs to accomplish, though they did that, too…  

    But Buddhism went through much more of a dialectical process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, over the course of its 2500 years, something implied if not intended, in its mantra of the Middle Path between extremes, so that the three major schools of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana can be seen in precisely that light, something like discipline and devotion having babies, and calling it Dharma. But at the core of them all was always meditation, and that was silent. Christianity still hasn’t learned that trick. Maybe one day they will.

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  • hardie karges 11:36 am on June 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Hardie Karges, non-aggression   

    Buddhism and Peak Emotion: Chill, dude… 

    If suffering is the reality that Buddhism acknowledges, then non-aggression is the response to that reality, and most difficult. But that is what we must do. And that is the essence of Buddhism, non-aggression by design and intent. The irony, of course, is that that doesn’t require one to DO much of anything at all. Of much greater importance is what you NOT do…

    Do NOT take the bait when somebody on Facebook forces you into denying something that you never really asserted—or at least never intended to assert—in the first place. Do NOT respond for the fifth time to some debatable thesis to which you’ve already responded—identically—four times previously (actual numbers may vary). Do NOT get angry about something that makes no difference to anyone in the first place.

    Given that anger, or maybe at least a certain form of it, may indeed be necessary when someone’s life or livelihood is in actual danger, ferchissakes don’t waste the precious emotion over the price of rice in China, or the price of gas in Flagstaff. Yes, emotion should be a precious commodity, to be doled out judiciously and with mindfulness aforethought, not something to be tossed around willy-nilly like so many wedding invitations from a bride or groom who really only want the registry gifts.

    But this is the hardest thing for a Western Buddhist to learn, that emotion is something to be avoided, and not encouraged. Defendants in western courts, after all, are expected to ‘show remorse’ and not just prove intent. So, it’s not a bad little trick to learn, TBH, because it might save you some time or some bucks, should you ever need to make amends for your wrongdoings.

    But it will score you few or no points in Buddhism, where actions (karma) speak louder than words—or tears. So, the Japanese PM gets little recognition for multiple apologies for Japanese behavior in WWII, while the German PM wins the prize for Best Actor for dropping on to his knees at Auschwitz and crying profusely. It’s the dangedest thang. But that’s what we’re taught in photography class: go for the peak emotion! And so that’s what we do. And history bears witness to it all…

     
  • hardie karges 9:11 am on June 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Hardie Karges, , , Siddhartha Gautama,   

    Buddhism in a World of Pain and Suffering… 

    To love the one that loves you is easy. To love the one that hates you is the challenge of enlightenment. Because we don’t really need religion or philosophy when times are good and grocery store shelves are full. We need religion and philosophy when ‘Times are hard…and the jobs are few’ (Townes Van Zandt). And that’s the foundation stone upon which Buddhism was built, as intuited by Siddhartha Gautama even as he sat upon his throne, while being entertained by dancing girls and God-knows-what-else. A quick trip outside the palace walls proved the Buddha’s worst suspicions.

    Because there he quickly found old age, sickness, disease, and death. Thus was born Buddhism, for which the task was to facilitate the mitigation of those most obvious sufferings. And in his humble estimation the most important things to remember were not about what to do, but what NOT to do, specifically craving. So, if we’re willing to live simple lives, content with simple pleasures, and not possessed by our possessions, and not obsessed with cravings, then life can be good. But if we constantly want more, and more, and more, then our lives will likely go downhill fast, accordingly.

    And I had problems with that concept for a long time, not because I was obsessed with material wealth, but because I saw a passivity in many Buddhist countries that didn’t seem healthy to me, and which I assumed could be easily manipulated by the rich and powerful by their own means and to their own ends. But everything is different now. So, if that is sometimes, or even often, the case, the opposite is the worse risk at this point in time of world history. Because we are killing ourselves with excess, and it is not going softly. Buddhism is better than that. We can learn from nature, but first we unlearn the violence.

     
  • hardie karges 10:31 am on June 5, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Hardie Karges, , , , MS_DOS, , , Visual Basic   

    Meditation and Mediation, the Twin Foundations of Buddhism 

    Buddhism in Bhutan

    If you need a reason to meditate, then maybe that’s not really meditation. Meditation neither gives nor responds to demands. It simply IS. To be honest I probably think of it as a system re-boot more than anything else, that row of zeroes at the end of a really big number, that means that a dot will soon come, and then things will begin all over again on the other side of some line. Meditation is the dot between the two zeroes. The zeroes represent emptiness, of course, aka shunyata…

    There are all different flavors of meditation, supposedly, according to all the books and the writers, but they all tend to get back to basics, concentration on something, or everything, or nothing. But for me they all represent that same re-boot, a return to primordial pre-linguistic thought, if only for a few moments. Because once we think in a language, we never really go back. It’s simply not possible. But a new language could substitute for the old, just like Visual Basic took over where MS-DOS left off.

    Could humans ever function with a non-linguistic operating system? Of course, because we once did. And then the invention of language (or the manifestation of that instinct, for you Chomskyites) was probably the biggest revolution in the history of mankind. Just ask the Neanderthals, if you’re lucky enough to have some of their DNA. They disappeared as a species shortly after the appearance of language in Homo sapiens, hint hint.

    Ironically, they had all the same hardware and software for language themselves. Apparently, they “just didn’t have much to say.” (Spencer Wells). But that’s not our problem. Our problem is that we have too much to say, and not enough time to say it. So, we race to the finish line, shooting our mouths off and writing the Great American novel ad infinitum, whether anyone wants to read it or not. Meditation can help with that. The only app you need is silence. Mediation? That’s the Middle Path between extremes…

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

    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 8:45 am on May 1, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Hardie Karges, , justice, , Mosaic, moses, , , Roman, sanatana   

    Buddhism and the Mosaic of Laws It Competes With… 

    Repay every aggression with kindness, sooner rather than later. Because in this way, not only can society progress and history advance, but wounds can heal, and toxic attitudes can change. This is one of the prime conceptual bases of religion, of course, all the best ones, that you don’t have to respond “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth,” lex talionis, Roman if not Christian. Because that predates Jesus Christ and his subsequent Christians, going way back to the early Jews, Moses, and the Mosaic law that sits there like concrete, composed of gravel and mud, shards and pieces, cobbled together in an elaborate composite of moral, civil, and ceremonial considerations not unlike the various bodies of law(s) and customs that have subsequently been handed down from the example of it.

    There’s only one problem: that ain’t religion, not most of it. That’s law and politics and culture and custom, almost everything BUT religion, except the parts of it that can be considered ‘moral law.’ And those are almost indistinguishable from the Buddhist precepts: Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, etc., and even then, the attitude most truly religious that they can muster is for the Christians to have no other god before God (Allah), and for the Buddhist to not claim any form of enlightenment that they really can’t deliver–boom. It was up to Jesus to bring true religion to the Jews, just like it was up to the Buddha to bring true religion to sanatana dharma (Hinduism).

    The Muslims kept the ‘eye for an eye,’ famously, of course, and in that sense distinguish themselves form Christians. The Jews did likewise for most of history, only shifting to the more liberal Christian orientation recently, c. 1948. The rest is history. But that’s politics. We want religion. And the lex talionis doesn’t preclude that, of course, it only limits its reach, which is not so bad, all things considered. And the main thing to consider is that it is NOT a proclamation of revenge, in fact just the opposite. Because it limits retribution to the original damage, and, in effect, prohibits the punitive damages that could be considered as revenge, i.e. more than simple punishment, and far more than actual damages. But true religion always tries to heal the transgressor with love and kindness, not revenge or even justice. Religion transcends justice. It should be better than that.

    Note: the word ‘dharma’ has often been translated as ‘law’…

     
  • hardie karges 7:13 am on April 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Hardie Karges, ,   

    Buddhism: Enlightenment on the Installment Plan 

    Someone who is truly enlightened would never make that claim for himself. But that is the situation in which we find ourselves, spreading the gospel of gentleness and kindness in a world that seems to reward only aggression and ego. So ‘spiritual bad-asses’ glory in their revelations and revel in their false righteousness, while the truly righteous among us go about their tasks mostly in silence, taking pleasure in their modest accomplishments and finding satisfaction in their commitment.

    And those tasks consist largely in service to mankind, in one way or another, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, materially if not spiritually, at least for a moment, if not for a lifetime. Because truly there is no real difference between the two, such that it is hard to be truly enlightened if you’re truly hungry and it’s hard to be enlightened if you’re much too full. That sweet spot of enlightenment lies somewhere in between, as the Buddha himself brilliantly realized.

    And these realizations are at the heart of enlightenment, it not much more than that, really, in greater or lesser degree, so nothing necessarily metaphysical nor transcendent, not really, just the realization that we are here at a moment in history where consciousness is king, and the mechanics of enlightenment are insignificant. The only important thing is the realization: that we are all connected, however distant; that suffering is ever-present, but can be avoided and mitigated; that change is something to be welcomed, not feared; and that right living is always the best revenge, against the forces that would consume you. There are no enemies, not really…

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

    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 6:54 am on April 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Dawn of Everything, , Hardie Karges, judgment, , , , ,   

    Buddhism 101: The Difference Between Cravings and Needs–and Karma… 

    Be careful with judgments. The craving for food of a wealthy person is different from the craving for food of a poor person. If that means that there are good cravings and bad cravings, then we are simply getting bogged down in words, because the craving to be avoided is for something beyond what is necessary. Thus, the craving for food of a starving person is not a craving in the sense that Buddhism abhors. That is a need, not a craving. The craving that Buddhism abhors is the incessant call for more, more, and more far beyond what is needed to sustain the life of someone and his significant others.

    This is implicit, of course, in the Middle Path between luxury and lack, which is at the heart of original Buddhism, before the re-birthers decided that it was always all about that: rebirth, past lives, and the generation-jumping karma of retribution. And that original impetus is definitely what we need now, in our economic stage of advanced capitalism, to be reminded that craving is at the heart of our problem. There is even some scientific evidence coming out now in the best-selling book ‘The Dawn of Everything’ that gluttony and craving are at the heart of certain violent and slave-trading cultures.

    Suddenly it all starts to make sense, doesn’t it? The lifestyles that reward gluttony and craving demand violence and other defilements to sustain them. The one feeds the other in a never-ending cycle of degradation, and our lives suffer as a result. Life is not so difficult, after all, certainly not as difficult as the ‘multiple feedback loops of karma’ invoked by some high priests of reincarnation might make you think. Just be kind, and gentle, and respectful to the rights and dignity of others. The rites and rituals can come and go, but what you don’t do is sometimes more important than what you do.

     
  • hardie karges 4:50 am on March 27, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Hardie Karges, , , ,   

    Buddhism: Life in the Slow Lane… 

    It’s okay to enjoy life, even love it, and still be a good Buddhist, as long as you don’t pretend to possess or attach, crave or covet. Because, even if Buddhism is a religion of renunciation, at its origins, and at the core of its being, it is still pragmatic and rational in its acknowledgement that the average life, for the average householder, must be properly maintained and nourished if any of us are to even have anything to renounce. Renunciation, after all, is not poverty. It is a conscious rejection of the supercilious aspects of human existence that lend it its falseness, and which tend to reduce us to its servants, not its masters.

    Because the master of human existence is the one who can take it or leave it, in its fullness or its emptiness, each of which is valid and credible, neither of which is complete in and of itself, and both of which can serve as valuable paradigms toward fulfillment in the right place and in the right time, the details of which are to be established later. Because Buddhism is nothing if not a fertile middle ground for resettlement, after all the thrusts and forays of penetration and conquest have run their course. Those are but illusions, after all, while the real stuff of life is to be found not in articles of consumption, but in the abstract concepts that occupy thought, feeling, and action. There is nothing mystical about Buddhism in its essence. The Middle Path is all about rationality, ratios, and rations…

     
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