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  • hardie karges 12:03 pm on August 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Mahayana, , , , , , , Vedas   

    Buddhism in a Hindu World: no Time for Selves and Souls… 

    You should be able to find a comfortable balance between low self-esteem on the one hand, and overt selfish egotism, on the other, in the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, non-self or no-self, same thing. But this is one of the more controversial and misunderstood of the Buddha’s teachings, and subject to much abuse by those who want to go too far in the opposite direction from egotism, by claiming that we are all ‘nobody,’ and should somehow be proud of that. And that’s fine, if that’s what you want, but that’s not what the Buddha said.

    Because in one very real sense, the Buddha’s Middle path is not just the original path between luxury and lack, or even the esoteric existence and non-existence of the later Mahayanists. It is also very much a Middle Path between the competing philosophies of Vedic Brahmanism and the Jainism of his day. Those two, in effect, defined a very real dichotomy between the lush and lavish celebratory rituals of the upper Brahmin class and the self-denial of the renunciant rishis who once made India famous as a religious center, and to some extent still do.

    So, the self vs. no-self controversy for Buddhists was never supposed to be a total refutation of all things selfie, such that we are individually nothing at all and should aspire to nothing more than the average leaf blowing in the wind. The Buddhist doctrine of anatta only means that there is no permanent eternal soul to aspire to union with the cosmic Brahmana principle, as Brahmanic Hinduism invokes, and so nothing to worry about on that count. Peace in this life in this world is to be found by knowing the truths of suffering, craving, and impermanence, and then acting accordingly. Now we can get on with our lives.

     
  • hardie karges 1:42 pm on July 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antithesis, , , , , , , Mahayana, , , , 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.

     
  • hardie karges 4:22 am on November 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Mahayana, , , salvation, skandha,   

    Buddhist Enlightenment on the Installment Plan… 

    Buddhism in Bhutan

    Don’t worry about salvation. That implies a soul to be saved. Enlightenment is plenty. Sabbe dhamma anatta. That means that all dharmas are without self, the word ‘dharma’ usually translated as ‘phenomena’ when plural, an innovation of the Abhidharma era. So this is a bit different from the original singular dharma, often translated as the ‘law’ or simply the eternal teachings, presumably sublime if not subtle, whether those of the Buddha or those from the Vedic Brahmanism which preceded him. What we call ‘Hinduism’ is what they call ‘Sanatan(a) dharma.’ Dhamma is the Pali form of the Sanskrit dharma, the language in which the earliest Buddhist teachings appear.

    But somewhere along the way the concept of salvation appears, and certainly after the time of Christ, they famous for that concept, though that does not necessarily imply causality. Because it also seems to come from a different place, far from the Buddhist birthplace of Buddhism in India, though they, too, with an all-encompassing and soulful atman, which is no doubt the source of the Buddha’s inspiration, in opposition to that concept. I first noticed salvation with my study of Zen, which could give it an origin in China or Japan, China certainly with significant Christian influence early on with the Silk Road Nestorians, though Japan had its own Christian influences later. Japanese Zen even somehow twists the non-self skandha ‘heaps’ of conditions of which we are all composed into an ersatz perfection from which we are all carved, very Christian Scientist.

    Go figure. But somehow, it’s all still Buddhism, even if the Mahayana ‘tradition’ went two vastly different directions from the center, Zen with its Dadaist koans and meditative trances, while Tibetan Vajrayana Mantrayana Tantrayana allows magic, mantras, and even sex, but most of all devotion, and karma, to influence that sacred path to Enlightenment. And enlightenment is the key concept here, for even if it lends itself to some juju and some woo-woo, it’s still likely preferable to the dubious concept of Nirvana, with its close connections to death, no matter how parinirvana your nirvana. Seems Kurt Cobain hit it on the head, after all. The concept of Nirvana seems to contradict the concept of the Middle Path, without much further discussion, as does the concept of bliss, since one extreme almost always leads to the other, while the center is the sweet spot of deliverance. That sweet spot is my Buddhism, all extremes avoided.

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

    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 10:42 am on May 31, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Diamond Sutra, Dunhuang, Kumarajiva, Mahayana, matrices, Mogao Caves, , Takla Makan Desert, , Xinjiang,   

    New Diamond Sutra: Utility is the Measure of Beauty 

    Diamond Sutra: So I tell you – Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world: A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; A flash of lightning in a summer cloud, A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream. When the Buddha finished this Discourse the venerable Subhuti, together with the bhikshus, bhikshunis, lay-brothers and sisters, and the whole realms of Gods, Men and Titans, were filled with joy by His teaching, and, taking it sincerely to heart, they went their ways…

    The Diamond Sutra (Sanskrit: वज्रच्छेदिकाप्रज्ञापारमितासूत्र, Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) is the oldest printed and dated book in the world, all of which occurred on the 11th day of May in 868 CE, notwithstanding the fact that the book is certainly older than that. But this is from the first Chinese translation, which occurred c.401CE by the venerable Kumarajiva from Kashmir, one of my Buddhist heroes, while in prison in Xinjiang (sound familiar?), and before he found his place in the capital at Chang’an (now Xi’an). The signed dated copy–for free distribution only–was found in the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang a lttle more than a century ago. Nothing rots in the desert.

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  • hardie karges 12:50 pm on May 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Echkart Tolle, , , Hawking, , Mahayana, , , Wittgenstein,   

    Pandemic Sutra on the Concept of Change in Buddhism 

    The Buddha wasn’t perfect, and he knew that, regardless of the speculations of some later Mahayanists and their need for transcendent divinity of which the earthly manifestations are just that—nasty, mean, brutish, and short, like life with the sea serpent Leviathan of Hobbes without Calvin. Why else would he have referred to us as no-soul ‘heaps’ of inconsequential ‘skandhas’ with little to commend us but the causes and conditions to which we are subject and of which we are so much a part?

    Zen troublemakers took the Mahayana transcendental position a step further by claiming perfection for all of us, but I’m not sure how that works out except as a point of convergence with some Christian transcendentalists who also think similarly, and so might actually save the world from its own self-destruction if enough people from enough different places could ever agree on any one thing for long enough for us to stop fighting and allow the world to heal from our destructive abuse of it.

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  • hardie karges 12:24 pm on April 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Mahayana,   

    Buddhism on the Half Shell, Pick and Choose 

    Buddhism in the North Country is different from the South

    Make the world a better place for humans and other sentient beings. That is the battle charge of the Bodhisattva, the ‘awakened being’ who sacrifices the present moment of his own bliss for the future happiness of the many in waiting. And this is the difference, of course, between the Buddhism of the Elders, Theravada, and the larger vehicle, Mahayana, which supposedly looks beyond the narrow conflicted self and delays enlightenment so that we all can enter the realm of Buddhahood together.

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

    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 12:29 pm on March 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: adjectives, adverbs, , , , Mahayana, 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 7:06 am on December 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Mahayana,   

    The Bodhisattva and the Butterfly: Living in the Material World… 

    The frst rule of life in the material world is that you have to actually be somewhere, in a place, almost all the time, which seems self-evident, I suppose, but sometimes problematic, all the same. I mean: you can’t just scan your own personal barcode on to some digital format and send yourself off to the cloud somewhere. In fact, I suppose this defines the conundrum of existence, where to be and what to do, and how to do it, and with whom. For this is, on the micro individual level, what has been described on a macro social level, as the ‘tyranny of democracy’, so on the individual level something like the ‘horror of free will’, i.e. decisions decisions. So the most obvious thing to do is find your true love, get hitched, and then start making babies, simple–or not so simple. Because what happens when your true love goes south, or those beautiful babies start foaming at the mouth, or the planet gets so full of little poopers that the poop piles up, and the rivers won’t flow no mo’ and the sun won’t shine, and even if it did, it would no longer find any field of flowers to illuminate? So we are the first species to ask these questions, few of which have concrete answers, so we try to console ourselves that the fact of asking will somehow be some compensation, despite all evidence to the contrary, filed in reams of papers and stacks of floppy disks which no longer work and only take up space, while we wait for the next newest technology to come and save us in the nick of time before the door shuts in our faces and the bells no longer chime. But it seems the kid was just having some late teen depression, so normal enough considering the urge to merge and the need to breed. Will there still be meaning to life when population pressures dictate that we need to find other hobbies besides reproduction? These are the challenges we face for the future, if there is to be a future, full of furniture and breakfast nooks and a 2-car garage, regardless of whether anything is parked there or not. So we have to invent reasons for the season, and myths for our bliss, and content ourselves with intransitive verbs, even when we all crave something to truly transit, preferably glory, in mind if not body. I will be at peace when this world is at peace, and if that’s not so much of a concern of Theravada Buddhism, then I’ll forgive them for that, because it’s right in line with Mahayana, the big machine, so that seems right for this era of history, Theravada at home and Mahayana out in the world, C U there…

     
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