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  • hardie karges 11:24 am on July 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , inanition, , language, , , , secular Buddhism, , ,   

    The Rocky Middle Path of Buddhism in America… 

    “Give me liberty or give me death” is America’s battle cry for independence, of course, as so brilliantly elucidated by Patrick Henry, and seconded by many others, notably the license plate slogan ‘Live Free or Die,’ among many others of similar emotion. And by ‘America’ I mean the USA, not the lower 40, though they are largely complicit, as is Europe the mother country, in the case of North America, which lacks the large indigenous base of many of the other more southern countries. Even Mexico is around 65% indigenous the last time I checked.

    And freedom is all well and good, as long as we know the details of the liberties and freedoms referred to, but which can be detrimental, and even deadly, if left for imaginations to run wild and machinations to double down in derailing the original intent of a simple life without a lord and master to serve at every beck and call. So now we consider mask-lessness as an inalienable right, even during a pandemic, ditto vaccines, and any restriction on movement during the same world emergency to be a violation. So the Western insistence on freedom to the maximum extent comes very close to an implicit death wish.

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  • hardie karges 8:36 am on July 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , language, , , , , , ,   

    Musings on the Buddhist Concept of Shunyata: Emptiness Ain’t So Empty… 

    Stephen Hawking was famous for saying that ‘Black holes ain’t so black,’ and so the title here is more than a little bit coincidental, and in fact quite intentional, because the meanings of the two concepts—black holes and ‘shunyata’—are quite similar. Because if the Buddhist concept of ‘shunyata’ is usually translated as ‘emptiness,’ then that is by an English layman’s choice, and is not necessarily the best choice. And if that choice supposes that Buddhism is nihilistic, and that life is meaningless, then nothing could be further from the truth.

    For Buddhism, and Indian philosophy in general, in fact has a long rich and varied history, and every bit the equal of its Greek counterpart on the other side of the great divide between East and West, even if the former is perhaps more spiritual and the latter more materialistic. But they share much common ground for thought, and this is probably no accident, considering that they both shared the northern steppes for a few thousand years and probably shared a few long discussions and debates before blazing campfires, in a proto-Indo-European language, before going their separate ways some 6-8000 years ago.

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  • hardie karges 12:26 pm on April 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brahmanism, , Carvakas, cosmological constant, , Gosala, , , language, Nepali, Predeterminism, , ,   

    Karma, Rebirth, and the Middle Path of Buddhism 

    Karma is not a bank account. Karma is a way to live with right actions. That’s what the word means, in fact, simply ‘actions.’ But somewhere along the way the word got mixed up in the fashions of the day, in 6th to 8th century India, Before the Common Era, and the materialistic demands of the Carvakas in contrast to the predeterminism of Gosala, tutor to both the Buddha and Mahavira, 23rd Tirthankara of the Jains. They were of the extreme ascetic bent, of course, in which Emptiness literally means empty bellies, by willful design, to the point of inanition and even death, for lack of other inspiration.

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  • hardie karges 9:29 am on January 31, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , language   

    Buddhism and the Industrial Revolution: Aftermath… 

    Don’t begrudge anyone their success. Their success is your success. We are all one people. We all know that, of course. But saying it and practicing it are two different things. And competition is fierce, especially when you’ve been raised that way from birth, as most of us Westerners, European-descended, have been raised.

    I don’t know why that is the case, probably some combination of capitalism, Christianity, and democracy, but the reality may be a little bit more nuanced than that. In fact it may even be such a recent event that the results of it are not even fully known yet, a phenomenon associated with the Industrial Revolution, the effects of which are still upon us. Don’t believe the textbook narrative that the Industrial Revolution occurred in the mid-1700’s in England. The Industrial Revolution is now—right now.

    And the results are as devastating as they are inspiring. Sure we’ve got multiple methods of travel to multiple places in the universe, but we’ve also got Global Warming, Dickensian poverty, the Enclosure Acts which dispossessed peasants of their ancestral rights to land, and now a devastating narcotics problem, largely born of the necessity of dealing with the dispossession and loss of our connection to Nature.

    Thus we stand at the crossroads, of history and consciousness. History will certainly go in a direction heretofore yet unimagined, and consciousness will certainly go with it hand-in-hand, no certain clue as to which is cause and which is effect. And if that much is certain, little else is. We are such a young species that anything can happen, and likely will.

    And this has happened over and over in the course of history and evolution, but I seriously doubt that any one species has ever been so responsible—or not—for its own destiny. Usually these things, i.e. evolution, happen in what seems to be a random impersonal manner, in which the best that can usually be said is something like, “Evolution favors smaller adaptable units,” we being the units, of course, usually devoid of consciousness.

    The invention, or evolution, if you prefer, of language, 50k years ago, seems to have changed all that. I can’t imagine what other invention would have had such an effect. So here we are, featherless bipeds possessed of language, and fully conscious of what the worst can be. But can we control our own worst impulses?

    Can we make decisions that will give sustainability to our species? These questions remain to be answered. But it will not occur with backbiting and unnecessary wars. Buddhism is all about teaching men to be more like women: more caring and less violent, and that is what I’m here to promote. Walk softly through this life and this world Make no enemies. Leave no trash.

     
  • hardie karges 12:12 pm on October 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aramaic, , Brahmi, , Devanagari, Dorian, Kharosthi, language, , rishis, Spartan, sramanas   

    Buddhism, Racism, and the Middle Path of History… 

    The purpose of knowledge is to ease suffering, not to lord it over others. When knowledge becomes a tool, then we have a problem that we need to deal with. And we do—have a problem that we need to deal with. You can call it racism, or nationalism, or simply false pride, but there it is, the fact that some people think that they are better than others, and intend to enforce that distinction, while providing sometimes elaborate proofs for its justification.

    More often than not, though, the self-described cognoscenti think they can simply look at someone and deep secrets are somehow revealed, as a flight hostess once explained to me that they are taught to simply look at someone and know what language they speak. Must be nice. But it’s not. It’s cheating, cheating life, and cheating oneself.

    I wondered for a long time, still do, why the Brahmin class of India refused to use written language, long long long, 1000 years, after their counterparts elsewhere were scribbling, scribing, and describing events in the Semitic alphabets that would become the world standard everywhere, except China, Korea, and related countries.

    Meanwhile those Aryans-become-Brahmins only reluctantly acquiesced to allow their divine sacred Sanskrit to be submitted to the little graphs and symbols that constitute written language. They gave many rishis and sramanas their lay-off notices, too, since their services would no longer be required to painstakingly memorize the sacred Vedas, arguably one of the finest pieces of literature ever composed—composed, mind you, but not written.

    That only occurred with the invention of the Devanagari alphabet in the first half of the first millennium CE, and in full use by the 7th century. Until then they had to make do with the rustic Brahmi alphabet, which only came into existence in the last half of the first millennium BCE. By then the Buddhist monkhood was well established, and not subject to the vicissitudes of language.

    King Ashoka at around year 250 BCE used not only Brahmi and Kharosthi, modeled on Aramaic, but Greek and Aramaic itself to inscribe his famous inscriptions—in rock. Still the question remains: why the 1000-year wait? The clue finally came with the example of their long-lost cousins and like-minded Dorians of ancient Greece.

    In the process of becoming the legendary hard-ass Spartans of history, they enslaved many a Minoan along the way, and—drum roll here, please—deliberately denied them education, much like the even-more-distant Mississippi rednecks did to their slaves (author’s note: I’m from Mississippi, but hopefully not redneck). Bingo! It all makes sense now.

    The Brahmin-dominated caste system of Indian depends on holding their ‘lessers’ down (notably darker-skinned and of other origins, well-documented by y-DNA), by denying them the education which preserves Brahmin power. Buddhism rejected all that, though they were still long subject to its ramifications. Despite the current political turmoil, still life is better than it once was, and the message is clear. You can learn from the Buddha or you can learn from a virus. The message is largely the same: Do no harm…

     
    • Dave Kingsbury 12:09 pm on October 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting history here! Knowledge is power, they say, which must be why the priest-caste lay claim to exclusive possession of it. Any good teacher knows, however, that guiding learners to seeing something for (and within) themselves is the correct way.

    • hardie karges 1:13 pm on October 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, well put. Thanks for your comments…

  • hardie karges 11:34 am on September 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gandhi, homo sapiens, language, Mahatma, , Protestant,   

    Buddhism is Found in the Beauty of Silence… 

    Sometimes silence can accomplish more than violence, and that’s something that Mahatma Gandhi knew, but which most modern protesters seem to have forgotten, when they parade that smug self-assertion that assumes that more chaos is better than less, while innocent victims die unattended and children see their lives suspended.

    This is the problem, not the solution, that we all need to take the bait, and excite the crowds, when just the opposite is truest: when silence prevails, the world is a better place, and we are all more equal. And this is not limited to manipulation of the Anglo-Saxon guilt complex, which Gandhi did so expertly, though that might be where it works best, there and in the surrounding Indo-European community, which has long been indoctrinated with Christianity and the doctrine of forgiveness.

    But it should work elsewhere, too, though perhaps with lesser results, especially where materialist doctrines have gained supremacy, arguably the difference between socialism and communism, that rejection of all ethics and most morality, in total deference to the party and the race.

    But Tibetan monks don’t practice self-immolation to hear the crowds cheering at Wimbledon or the Kentucky Derby. They do it because they want to send a message and because they can, where other avenues of ex-pression are limited, and where memories are long, even if time is short. Buddhists are disciplined if nothing else, witness the current pandemic results.

    And so it can be for all of us. Protestants were once protesters. Passion was once suffering. Our species arose from something that preceded it, and only caught fire with the invention of language. And that is where we stand today, at the crossroads of history, between the forces of good and evil which correspond roughly to the hemispheres of our brains.

    Thus a dialectic and discourse is built right in to our system of consciousness, and language is powerless to prevent it, since language is largely what created it. In the beginning was the Word, and in the end the meek will supposedly inherit the earth, and everything else is for us to figure out, and let the history books sort it out.

    Scientists call us homo sapiens, wise person, but that is probably far too generous, because we are in no position to judge ourselves, not from the long view of history, but only from the short view of a human lifetime. The most we can truly claim for ourselves is language, so homo linguarum, and for better or worse, that is our fate, to yak it up, even when silence is sometimes far better.

    And that is one thing I have learned in Buddhism, if nothing else, in one word: silence. That is the sound of meditation. That is the sound of Emptiness. Language is the best and worst human invention. Use it wisely…

     
  • hardie karges 11:35 am on March 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Corona, , language, , ,   

    Buddhism in Viral Times, Reflections from Coronas… 

    Live every moment as if it might be your last, in quiet peaceful reflection, like water. And if this virus has anything to teach us, which I believe it does, then this is certainly one of them, that panic is counter-productive, just as superficial excitement is ephemeral and fleeting, transient by nature. That concept gets a bum rap from social conventions, of course, in Buddha’s time, as well as our own, that anything temporary is by definition flawed and conducive to suffering. The implication, quite naturally, is that permanence is the desired state and condition of nature, and by extension—matter. Extensions fall flat, though, because that would be something like a false equivalency, when the truth lies in the very nature of our medium of discourse. Communication by language does not create castles in the countryside, but only in the sand. Everything is subject to its limits. Just as the painted picture creates fine lines and eye candy, and song produces sweet sounds and ear candy, language is limited to just that, great thoughts and mind candy, but not reality. We can create our reality to some extent, true, especially if that reality is kindness and compassion, but we can’t create the universal laws of physics, except in that they are a representation of nature, as universally perceived. And it is our task to find our place in that nature, but not to control it, for our own selfish benefits. Because this is false permanence, the permanence of possession and ownership, when that is beyond our capabilities, as transient tenants upon this semi-solid rock in motion around a flaming solar orb, ten thousand light-years from home, and another ten from our destination. In order to get the right answers to the questions of our lives, then we must ask the right questions. Religion should not be a matter of blind faith and fear. It should be a matter of knowledge, freedom and self-control…

     
  • hardie karges 12:29 pm on March 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: adjectives, adverbs, , , language, , nouns, , verbs   

    Buddhism 202: Mahayana or Theravada? Decisions decisions… 

    First I save myself, then I save the world. This is my reconciliation of the old Theravada vs. Mahayana debate, small wheel vs. large, respectively, on the question of whether to devote one’s time and energies to the salvation of oneself or the salvation of the world, notwithstanding the issue of whether the concept of salvation is just an import of Christian values on to a Buddhist nexus, or not, and just what there would be to save anyway, if so, given the fact that Buddhism places no belief in self or souls, per se, in the case of the individual, or what would be there in its stead, in the case of society, or the world, as if that might have an internal essence, or something such, when it almost certainly doesn’t, just more of those non-self selves all collecting and coagulating together, they both but aggregations of views aspects factors and circumstances probably best described by verbs nouns adjectives and adverbs, as if that were capable of somehow describing reality, when it almost certainly isn’t, so we add prepositions conjunctions subjunctive moods and imperfect tenses, when all we really need to do is sit down and shut up, eat the next meal and then enjoy the view, with scarce language needed to describe it but even less to defile it, the vibrations resolved into various frequencies sufficient to excite sensations, with or without the need of mechanical waves capable of transporting objects from place to place, the definition of our existence best left to the prime movers and heavy lifters and various mechanisms for the transformation of noble metals, when all that is really necessary for spiritual existence is the light of intelligence given in a flash from above, still we default to language like an addict to his pipe, for lack of more convenient options and the desire for familiar landscapes, words sentenced to paragraphs like prisoners to cages, so that it’s almost an afterthought that almost anything that can be said can also be negated, and only then can a further synthesis result, hopefully higher…

     
  • hardie karges 12:11 pm on March 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , language, ,   

    More on Meditation and Language, and the Prison of our Own Minds… 

    Meditation is the best medicine; twice a day keeps the doctor away. And I think that is accurate, even though the causes and effects may be debated endlessly, at least partly owing to differences in definition to begin with. Is it ‘concentration’, probably the most common translation of the Sanskrit word that is usually transcribed into the Roman alphabet as ‘samadhi’ (give or take a few palatal and labial signs for consonants, and long and short vowels for the adepts)? And then there are other Sanskrit-based words, such as ‘dhyana’, maybe implying something closer to ‘trance’ than ‘concentration’, not to mention ‘bhavana’, referring to something like ‘development’, or ‘patipatti’, the ‘practice’, of whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. And that is the precisely the question, is it not, of just exactly what it is we’re supposed to be doing, as we sit cross-legged on the floor, as so brilliantly evoked in the band Chicago’s classic ’25 or 6 to 4′ (please don’t ask me what that means)? Well, I think the Buddha and others pretty much had it figured out way back when, but when the Americans and New Agers got hold of it, now all of a sudden you need an ‘app’ and you need someone’s soothing words to guide you through the beauty of it all, and pseudo/sorta/secular Buddhists explain that skateboarding is just another form of meditation, when what you really need to do is just sit down and STFU, in my humble opinion. Because language is the problem, not the solution, in this case, that quantum leap of linguistic consciousness 50,000 years ago that doomed the Neanderthals and Denisovans and a couple other smaller homos to oblivion now embedded in our minds as the preferred method of thinking, rational and syllogistic, such that other forms of thinking, visual or intuitive, are relegated to second-class status. And while this may be perfect for the strategic advantage necessary for the conquest and ultimate extinction of those pesky other hominids, it wraps us individually in feedback loops of language, and may ultimately be the inspiration for that kind of karma that we can never really shake. To ‘stop the internal dialogue’ was the lasting gist for me of Castaneda’s tales of Yanqui (:-) power as well as the goal of more than one neurologist measuring the motions of mind on an MRI scan. Because this is what meditation can do for you, if only for a moment, if only for an hour. It can allow the mind, whatever that is, to function without language, i.e. paleo-consciousness, pre-verbal, non-consonantal. It certainly beats argument. And if that makes me a cheater, dodging a fight rather than ‘standing my ground’, then so be it. Most fights have no winners, only losers. Because people say mean nasty ugly words sometimes, and seem to enjoy it, for some reason. I don’t know why, but at least now I know how to shut it off, and shut it out…

     
  • hardie karges 12:59 pm on February 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , language, ,   

    Buddhist Meditation: Feedom from the Fetters of Language, and the Defilements of Money… 

    Money is the square root of all evil; kindness is the reward for all kindness. And this is more than just idle word-play, and linguistic sleight-of-hand, because it goes straight to the heart of the nature of our system of rewards and punishments, whether there truly is something like ‘currency’ that can mediate between the world and our bottomless pit of desires or whether that is something dark and unknown that is forever fated to lurk hidden and unseen, only to rise and strike with the suddenness of synchronous sensation, as if the fate of all time and space lay in the simultaneous conjunction of desire and object, self and the world, subject predicating objects with apparent prepositioning and with only scant adverbial regard for the adjectival implications. So money is a poor substitute for language as the medium of our interplay with nature, and language itself is flawed enough to begin with. But such is the world that we live in, our humanness now defined by language, and our lives now defiled by money. Ironically there seems to be a path forward with money, with the advent of technology, such that instead of physically dealing with money itself, we can simply click ‘Pay Now’ on the digital screen and numbers change locations in a way that either harms us or hurts us, while physical objects may also change locations in a roughly parallel way, unless we’re talking about books, in which case I’ll just read them all right here, thank you, at least fifty in the last two years from the beginnings of written time to the latest screed from self-described scribes, and I’ve not touched paper even once. But I hope that Buddhist monks have not succumbed to the temptation to click ‘Buy Now’, while at the same time they are forbidden to touch physical cash, thus subverting the intent, if not the letter of the dharma. Call me old-fashioned, but the problem goes deeper than all that, in that we feel the necessity to mediate ourselves (non-selves) through symbols and time-stamps, when life is still arguably at its best when not mediated at all. And that means getting rid of language, too, at last for a while, at least a little bit, hopefully every day, if not every hour, on the hour. And that means meditation, at its finest, proto-consciousness, unmediated by language, or God forbid money, when all that is needed is conscious awareness and lack of desire for anything else, for as long as that moment can last. For the best moments are not moments at all, but conscious continuums of unfettered awareness. And that is the challenge in this world of unrighteous debate, we standing our ground, until death do us part, older and hopefully wiser. There’s too much talk, not enough inaction…

     
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