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  • hardie karges 4:59 pm on February 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Jainism, , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Middle Path between Life and Logic… 

    The Middle Path is not straight and narrow, but rather long and winding. But this is one of the common misconceptions about Buddhism, that the Middle Path is some sort of magic pill, that you can pop at will, and presto change-o, you’re enlightened and enwisened beyond all time and all space and any ill-conceived dualistic perception of the two.

    But it’s not always that simple. Sure, it works well as a quickie compromise. Can’t decide between hot and cold? No problem: choose the lukewarm option, and that will usually suffice, as long as you aren’t too picky about your flavors. But note that this doesn’t always work. For instance, when the Mahayana Buddhists revised the Middle Path as a choice between existence and non-existence, the choices are thrown into starker focus.

    Is there a Middle Path between existence and non-existence? If we adopt the position that Buddhism itself is a Middle Path between the suicidal tendencies of Jainists and the wildest imaginations of Vedantists, then the question is self-fulfilling by simple acceptance of the basic premises of Buddhism.

    But it is certainly not likely that that is the original meaning, so further ruminations on the existence of self are a better bet, in which the original Theravada Buddhists (and the Buddha himself) posited an imaginary self, that exists in a conventional, but not a permanent, way, and which is a cause of much of our suffering, if not all of it, i.e. not necessarily ‘the’ cause, since Sanskrit has no grammatical articles, definite or indefinite.

    ‘Sunyata’, ‘emptiness’, expanded on this concept, such that everything has only an imaginary existence, very quantum-friendly. In all likelihood, though, the dichotomy between existence and non-existence is ‘merely’ an act of logic, tetra-lemma in style, in which anything that can be asserted can also be denied, or both accepted and denied, or neither accepted nor denied. That’s Indian logic, catuskoti. Go figure.

    But the original Middle Path is much easier to digest and much easier to incorporate into one’s normal life of decisions and planning. Thus the Middle Way is a metaphysical position of non-extremism, which goes far beyond the Buddha’s original considerations of luxury versus extreme asceticism. As already indicated, Buddhism itself could be considered a sort of Middle Path, which I think it is.

    And it is not always straight and narrow, but often winding and zig-zag, and can even be seen as the ‘sweet spot’ between extremes. Moreover, it can even be seen as the synthesis resulting between thesis and antithesis in any given dialectic. Thus the Middle Way is more than a path. It is balance.

  • hardie karges 12:08 pm on November 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Chang'an, Eight Noble Truths, Jainism, , Pataliputra, Right Action, samma kamanta, , Vedism   

    Buddhism’s Middle Path Between Refuge and Political Action… 

    Buddhism should be a refuge from politics, economics, and life’s daily struggles (but not a refuge for criminals or haters). And it is just that, I think, for me at least, despite the tendency of many eastern Buddhists to shine the jackboots of dictators, and the efforts of still others, mostly western, to drag the word ‘Buddhism’ emblazoned on flags and pennants through the streets, as if to justify their positions, as if the Buddha really had an opinion on the subject at hand, with 2500 years of foresight.

    And he may very well have, of course, but he never wore it on his sleeve, and neither should we, I don’t think. To drag the Buddha into the protests so common in the Western world would be to destroy it, I think, so of course the Middle Path is almost always the best, the Middle Path between passivity and excessive agitation, in this case.

    One reason I avoided Buddhism for so many years was that I noticed that in Thailand, where I’ve spent many years, that the culture was extremely passive, and that Buddhism was likely a major cause of that. At the same time sons of the rich, famous, and powerful would commit grievous crimes, and then simply disappear into a monastery for an unspecified period of time, after which they would re-emerge somehow purified. Unfortunately this avenue of purification is usually not available to the unwashed masses.

    Of course implicit in the Buddhist Eight Noble Truths is the invocation to ‘Right Action,’ samma kammanta, not ‘no action,’ so the problem is in the delivery, not the intent. And there is little doubt that early Buddhism must have received much official endorsement from rulers who desired a docile and devoted populace over which to rule, with little or no resistance.

    But that was then, and this is now. The world which once needed lots of action with which to ‘go forth and multiply,’ and then develop itself accordingly, now needs nothing so much as to chill, literally, cool off, and that is the only way to defeat global warming, and incessant warfare, and the runaway capitalism that reduces have-nots to the state of endemic poverty.

    So Buddhism may very well have been the best Middle Path between the Vedism and Jainism that were the contemporary options in 500 BCE India, but the time wasn’t right for the West, i.e. Europe, which was hardly even developed at the time, certainly not in comparison to India and China. For even in the Buddha’s day, India and China collectively had a larger percentage of the world’s population than now.

    So what was right for Rome was not necessarily right for Pataliputra and Chang’an. We live in a world that came to fruition at different rates at different times and different places, and now we have to make sense of it all. Buddhism is not a battle cry. It is a way of life: peace not violence, conciliation not dispute, silence not noise, less not more…

  • hardie karges 11:21 am on May 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Jainism, ,   

    Buddhism, Nature, and the Middle Path between Religions… 

    Nature is not something to be conquered. It is something to be revered. This is the basis for most feminine religions, without sword and without a book, just the smooth rounded edges of nature’s leaves and branches, hardened by brute experience with that same Nature’s lightning and thunder.

    Eventually that religion typically may evolve into a form of devotion, ‘bhakti’ for Hinduism, or one of the later sects for Buddhism, because few of us are really made for the rigors of metaphysics, when it’s easier just to bow the head and utter some formulas, or simply swear allegiance to mother Maria.

    And many Buddhists would gladly turn Descartes on his head and proclaim ‘non cogito ergo sum’, ‘I don’t think, therefore I am’, as many a devoted Theravadin truly believes, but which I take exception to. I’m just not that kind of Buddhist, I guess, for better or worse, confused or whatever, and I don’t for one minute think that Buddhism is better than all the others, simply that Buddhism is what is right for these times.

    That’s because I don’t see Buddhism as something established by some transcendental Buddha to which the earthly blokes are mere manifestations, any more than I see Jesus as a Christian version of the same thing, the Platonic ideal of love and forgiveness, Buddha that of compassion and forbearance. Because they were both just blokes, however enlightened, but with differences that have defined East and West at least since Homer’s recall, and likely before.

    So I see Christianity as the active aggressive alternative, dominated mostly by men of Aryan provenance, and despite their brutality, to see what could be accomplished in the state of Nature was a Noble (hint hint) quest, free enterprise, laissez-faire and all that rap, late nights with bright lights a reasonable relax.

    The Jains were, and are, just the opposite, of course, in which the less you do the better, to the point that death by self-starvation (ever heard of inanition?) seems only logical in the quest to do no harm. Just do nothing at all. The Buddhists have tried to walk the middle path to relative success, but still there are those who lapse into the do-it-all or do-nothing extremes.

    Bottom line: the Christian Capitalists have definitively gone too far, to the extent that we are killing ourselves knowing and willingly, grinning like Cheshire cats while going over the cliff, just like the Jains in spirit, if not letter, blindly proceeding with disaster. I revert to the demands of Nature. There is always a path to (re)conciliation, and that is THE path, I would say…

  • hardie karges 2:44 pm on August 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: binary, , digital, , Jainism, , , ,   

    The Golden Mean is an Irrational Number–and so are our lives… 

    Growth is easy–more more bigger bigger. Loss is even easier–zip zero nada. Holding steady is the hard part, avoiding all extremes. And this applies at all levels, from the steady state of the universe to the steady state of our psyches, most of which is a fleeting illusion, but still applicable nevertheless, for this is more than a simple survival strategy, but a metaphysical principle, that there is a somewhat meandering middle path that is always capable of yielding more benefits than the extremist positions that promise deliverance or salvation of some kind or other, whether political, social or religious. Buddhism is famous for this, of course, without which its major tenets can sometimes resemble those of the Jains if not Hindus themselves, ‘real’ Indians, born of high caste, Sanskrit, and spicy food. But the principle applies in almost all cases, notwithstanding the modern digital paradigm of zeros and ones that underlie computing in which a binary number system’s on-off capability approximates that of electric switching, resulting in a new electronic digital dimension that powers our modern daily lives. That only accentuates the point I want to make, because there’s more to life than math, and a digital dimension is artificial. Because between every two polar extremes there is a whole rainbow of possibilities, one of which will offer the optimal solution in any given set of circumstances. So there is a myriad of possible realities, but one is usually best, neither poverty nor luxury, neither the non-existence of nihilism nor the infinite existence of a permanent enduring soul traveling in both time and space. But these are points that can be parsed to the limits of our patience and imaginations. Belief is not required. That is one of the benefits of philosophy over religion. You can pick and choose, to see what works best. The difference between religion and philosophy is that religions have members…

  • hardie karges 7:05 am on March 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , caste system, , , , Jainism, molecular biology, , , ,   

    Buddhism, Rebirth and DNA… 

    img_1773The year 1953 should have been a big one for Buddhism. Something to do with Tibet, you’re probably thinking? No, something to do with the discovery of DNA, I’m thinking, because that meant that we Buddhists would no longer have to twist ourselves into human pretzels and insert our heads halfway up our… meditation postures…

    …just to Ptolemy-like add another feedback loop of ellipses and eclipses to somehow justify and make sense of rebirth, reincarnation in sheep’s clothing, rather than just toss the whole thing out as an outdated vestige of a previous era, in which learning was nascent and science non-existent… (More …)

  • hardie karges 7:41 am on February 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Jainism, ,   

    Buddhism: Meeting of East and West, Aryans and Dravidians, Nobles and… 


    Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka

    …us, of R1 genome, y-DNA, that is, not mitochrondial, we the barbarians from the north, land of ice and snow, with broken hearts and bad manners, satisfying ourselves with whomever whenever wherever, animal instincts and animal appetites, with an inclination toward wheels, and gears, and wine, and dark beers, anything to make the boring food go down easier, trail food, and whatever gets you through the night…

    But it must have something incredible to watch, erstwhile Aryans, light-skinned and beefy, from creamy milk, rolling in over the high plains, toward India, literally rolling, in chariots and carts pulled by horses and oxen, herding cows and goats and wayward children, lording it over the local slim swarthy dark-skinned Dravidians, so-called, for lack of a better name, in what must have been the world’s first great culture clash, the likes of which wouldn’t be seen again until the American genocide, this just the preamble to that constitution… (More …)

  • hardie karges 7:48 am on January 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , EckfardtbTolle, , Jainism, , , , , , , , , Tibetan, ,   

    Buddhist Back-Story: Dialectics and Linguistics… 

    img_1935Theravada Buddhism has it easy, when it comes to dhamma (dharma) talks, just pull out the old mind-kilesa-breath-nose-navel-‘Buddho Buddho Buddho’ playbook, rinse and repeat, hard to screw up unless you want to get into the murky afterbirth of past lives and kamma (karma), doing Yogic headstands and plotting Ptolemaic cosmic epicycles, trying to explain how anatta (non-self) somehow gets reborn, when there really is nothing there to begin with. But still they do. It’s embarrassing, especially when some of the same ones…

    …get all goo-goo-eyed at the mention of ‘this present moment’, which I agree with, if not to the extent that some would take it. So how can you have both, not only within the same school of Buddhism, but within the same person, e.g. the Dalai (not Theravada) Lama? I can find you quotes of him advocating ‘nowness’ while Eckhart Tolle was still sleeping on sofas, and at the same time opining that if someone’s life hasn’t quite worked out right, then it’s because of something they did in a past life—ouch! What gives? (More …)

    • Dave Kingsbury 4:00 pm on January 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Like any long-lived belief system, I suppose, as complex as people and societies are themselves. The Science connection seems an interesting extension …

      • hardie karges 10:54 pm on January 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Yes, It’s amazing to me that the original Buddhist debate, basically liberal vs. conservative, is still alive today, after countless twists and turns, and analogous to something similar in politics, which is all well and good, I think, as long as everyone can be polite and civilized about it…

        • Dave Kingsbury 2:34 am on January 30, 2018 Permalink

          Indeed. The questions arising from reincarnation are the ones I struggle with. My best shot is to view it as metaphor and therefore helpful for perspective and even humour.

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