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  • hardie karges 6:30 am on May 15, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , meditation, , , , autoplay, neuroscience   

    Buddhism, Meditation, and the Sounds of Silence 

    Words can do damage. We all know that instinctively. And silence never hurt anyone. We know that, too. So,  I would almost like to make this the Fifth Noble Truth, but I guess it’s too late for that, haha. It’s true, though, and I think the practice of meditation intuited this from the get-go, whether it was ever fully articulated or not, until recently. Because we now know about the language overload and barrage that we are subjected to every day, when such a thing might not have been so obvious two thousand years ago.

    But that’s the first thing that the neuroscience researchers asked me, when they interviewed me as a possible test subject for their research on meditation. “Can you stop the internal dialogue?” Hehe, that’s the whole point, IMHO. “Do you know what I’m talking about?” They asked again to make certain I understood. Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about. And that’s really the only thing that stands out from the entire series of ‘Don Juan’ books written by Carlos Castaneda, in which the shaman Don Juan constantly implores the student to stop that same dialogue, among other things.

    But some people are sensitive to that, at least in sudden form, so it should not be forced. And that’s because we think in a language, or two. There is some debate about whether we thought before we had language, and I believe we did, but once we got it, there’s no turning it off, except deliberately. Otherwise it just goes on and on, seemingly endlessly, until death do us part. And yes, this is likely the origin and mainstay of the ‘duality’ that is such a popular topic in New-Agey forums, whether anyone knows what it means or not. That voice in the background must be the Self or Other, one or the other.

    But there is a social context, also, in which the air waves we all share are simply bombarding us with sound constantly. And if Autoplay on Internet is the worst offender, well, the bar down the street is not much better, nor are the loud-mouthed Americans down the hall at my bare-budget residencia  in Coimbra. Silence is no longer normal. And it should be. How can I quiet the voices in my head, when I can’t quiet the voices all around me? That’s what meditation is for, silent meditation, no app necessary…

     
  • hardie karges 9:41 am on May 8, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: guided meditation, , meditation, midfulness, monkey mind, ,   

    Sati and Samadhi: Meditation and Mindfulness… 

    I’m not sure what mindfulness means. I only know that it is the opposite of mindlessness. But mindfulness is Buddhism’s stock in trade now, what with the advent of secular Buddhism and the rising popularity of meditation. In fact, the two words ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ are sometimes considered synonyms, or, at the very least, ‘mindfulness’ is considered to be a form of meditation. But ‘mindfulness’ is first and foremost a translation of the Pali/Sanskrit word sati, and that word simply meant ‘awareness’ or ‘consciousness,’ both with small letters ‘a’ and ‘c.’

    But if it’s the magic that sells the meditation, with promises of bliss and enlightenment, then you better slather your slab with some of that special sauce that makes all the difference between silent aware no-thought breathing and the ‘guided meditation’ of socialites and celebs with scripted narratives and six-pack abs. And if that sounds like Mc Mindfulness, then so be it, whatever gets your butt on the cushion and out of the bars and pubs, because that is the most important thing, to help quiet your mind from all the distractions and internal chatter that constitute ‘monkey mind,’ haha, the dreaded curse of modern man.

    Now, I personally prefer silent meditation, but that doesn’t mean that I think that guided meditation has no value, I just think that true meditation is silent. After all, isn’t the cessation of thought one of the goals of meditation, at least temporary, in some sort of mental ‘re-boot?’ Yes, that is the most important goal, but some people have problems with that, so the incremental approach might be better. Because language is possibly the most important invention ever created, but it doesn’t come without a cost. Can you imagine going back to computers with no language? You get the idea. Now get the cure.

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

    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 7:46 am on February 27, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , meditation, ,   

    Advanced Buddhism: Silence is not Violence 

    Buddhism in Bhutan

    Words once spoken cannot be taken back. Actions once committed cannot be retracted. Silence is better than violence. But this contradicts one of the slogans of the Black Lives Matter movement, of course, that ‘Silence is Violence,’ which, no matter how much I sympathize with that movement, is simply mistaken, as a matter of fact, and definition, not opinion nor political orientation. Of course the BLM people were not thinking of meditative silence, so we’re discussing apples and oranges, really, no matter that silence is strictly still silence, no matter the circumstance. Emptiness is another matter. When the Russian figure skater said she felt ‘empty,’ she wasn’t talking about shunyata, I don’t think.

    It’s almost hard to believe now, but not so long ago, to ‘break the silence’ was a symbol of progress, the buzz of saws and the whir of wheels almost synonymous with the concept of progress, in fact. This was largely due to the influence of the Industrial Revolution, of course, the effects of which are still being calculated each and every day, though now perhaps in a more negative sense, given its almost single-handed cause of what we call Global Warming. Global Warmongering began long before and was probably far more brutal than anything that we can even imagine today, whole villages and towns raided and leveled for the lack of ability to hold ground against the superior technology—horses.     

    So, silence is the way of Buddhism, in more ways than one. Not only is it the foundation of meditation, bit it is the right hand to shunyata, the Emptiness that underlies all existence, the vessel that contains the stuff that we associate with reality, but which isn’t, not really. The vessel is more real than all the stuff inside, whether we call it that or call it light and gravity, or another quark for Mister Mark. The point is that there are things more fundamental to reality than all the stuff we see every day. And silence is more fundamental than all the noise we create. On a more personal level, you don’t need to be aggressive to show displeasure. I recommend the silent treatment. It’s better than the violent treatment.

     
  • hardie karges 8:05 am on January 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, , , , meditation, monks, Newton's third law   

    Buddhism in the Modern Era 

    Some people might laugh at a monk in meditation, wasting his life away, but I laugh at the silly fools who cause global warming. Because they are the ones that are not only wasting their lives, and themselves, but they are destroying the world for the rest of us, also, and that is a crime that should be punishable to the maximum extent of the law. Meditation is no crime, regardless of whether you think it does anyone any good or not. It certainly does no one any harm, and that’s the Hippocratic Oath, primum non nocere…

    So why do it? The short answer is for the peace of mind, of course, and that should be plenty. But the industrialists and capitalists are hooked on growth like Skid Row addicts on the junk and other trash that populates so much of our lives. Beauty is so much better, and it is absolutely free, costing nothing in the backyard garden and not much more in Amazon, which in reality is a jungle in the South American heart of darkness, which really isn’t so dark at all, in fact a veritable paradise and biology lab par excellence…

    But the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness implicit in the state of Nature are wasted on people who only judge value by dollar signs and Yelp (!) reviews. Because that is a world that means little in the final analysis of man’s involvement with his planet. Karma may be a sketchy concept, but that sketch packs a powerful punch: we reap what we sow, somehow some way, and that murkiness is important. Because the fact that every action has an equal effect is not karma; that’s Newton’s 3rd Law. That every action has an indirect, perhaps greater, effect is karma, and that’s dharma, law, religion, you name it…

     
  • hardie karges 8:07 am on December 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddha-nature, , , , Lin Chi, meditation   

    First Precept of Buddhism: Thou Shalt not Kill… 

    If you meet the Buddha on the road, feed him. Now isn’t that better than the traditional Zen koan: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”? And I know, I know, there are approximately 1000 explanations and clarifications about what Lin Chi really meant, most of them veering toward the ever-popular non-dualistic trend, in the sense that the Buddha-nature (bodhicitta) is within us all, so that if you meet a Buddha that is separate from yourself, then it is likely an imposter—or not.

    After all, who really knows what Lin Chi meant, more than 1000 years ago, or all the other hundreds of koans that are supposed to lead to enlightenment, simply by twisting the mind, or thought, or language, so that there is no other option? Out of the confusion, enlightenment will come, when the limits of language are laid bare—or not. Because who really knows what any of the hundreds of Buddhist philosophers really meant? And who really understands ‘non-dualism’? And why is it important?

    Because what the Buddha himself taught was really quite simple, and I don’t remember non-dualism being part of it. That was Hinduism. What the Buddha taught was compassion, in response to great suffering, and the same commandments and precepts that they all teach. So, language is part of the deal, but so is silence, meditation. Language can’t always solve the problems that language creates, but silence often can, if you just give it a chance.

     
  • hardie karges 9:56 am on October 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , meditation, ,   

    Buddhism is not a Religion of the Book, and that’s good… 

    Buddhism is not a New Age conspiracy theory. It is a discipline. But this is one of the problems of Buddhism in America in the 21st century: it is just one of several dozens of items on the New Age menu available to mix-and-match according to whim, or taste. Just add salt and pepper. So, it is not unusual to hear someone say that they are a Buddhist Taoist Rosicrucian, or something like that.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that, not really, as long as it’s well-thought and heartfelt, but it does tend to ignore the centuries of development in the Buddhist world, all of which went into the definition of what we now call Buddhism, which is extremely broad and diverse. So, Buddhism is already bulging at the seams with centuries of dialectic, with or without any extra added input from the latest fad religion to hit the New Age newsstands.

    Because that’s what Buddhism has always done, and the Buddha allowed that. But what is missing now is the discipline, and the dedication, not just to research, and reading, but to the world sangha community, and the traditions that have given this religion and philosophy 2500 years of continuous existence in a world we barely know yet, so something like 25% of its settled history, and almost all of its recorded history.

    That’s why I like to have a connection to a temple, or temples, and monks, not just a Facebook page or a discussion group. Because even if the Buddha and his buddies were doing similar activities, discussing and debating, they were also meditating in caves, often and devotedly. If you’ve never been to a week-long silent retreat, then you don’t know much about Buddhism IMHO. I heartily recommend it. And yes, there are still rishis in this world who spend years in caves unwashed and sparsely fed. Guess what? They don’t smell bad, either. You can’t get Buddhism just from a book…

     
  • hardie karges 11:19 am on September 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , meditation, , , , , ,   

    Buddhism: in the Face of Race, and Caste… 

    Buddhism is an implicit, if not explicit, rejection of any and all systems of caste and social class. Because we are only united in our imperfections and suffering. If we were all perfect, then we would have no need of each other. Which is not to say that anyone should feel slight nor slighted by the lack of perfections. And many of the Zen masters in fact claim just that, that we are all perfect, but the Buddha never said that, or anything even close to that. In fact he was quite emphatic that, when it comes to any ego, soul, or permanent and lasting self, that “there is no there there,” to quote Gertrude Stein, in reference to Oakland, CA, USA.

    And so we are all little Oaklands of the outfield, near the bleacher seats, roaming our turf with really no overriding rights to any of it. He even went so far as to refer to our skandhas, or ‘heaps,’ ‘aggregates,’ as if we were nothing more than some circumstantial piles of adjectival sand drifted up into corners, awaiting the next puff of wind to blow us a bit farther down the road, or indeed blow us right back to from where we came. In other words, all claims to divinity or even Trump’s ‘good genes’ are but the blatherings and BS of haughtiness and hubris. And so, it’s no wonder that the priestly class of India’s Brahmin caste found more work in the rites and rituals of what later came to be known as ‘Hinduism,’ though their wives were often Buddhists.

    (More …)
     
  • hardie karges 9:09 am on September 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Carlos Castaneda, , , , Gardenm of Eden, , , meditation,   

    Buddhism: The Limits of Language and the Benefits of Meditation 

    The wisest person has the mind of a child, always open, always learning, with no preconceptions, and higher advanced concepts optional. It almost seems like we spend the first half of our lives cluttering up our minds with useless nonsense, and then spend the second half of our lives trying to undo all that. Ha! But language is like that, isn’t it? Once we invented it, then we made it part of our central conscious operating system, as if nothing could be more natural. Could it have been any other way? Was the invention of language merely an accident? It’s debatable. Could we have made a decision to keep it as a plaything but reject its centrality in our conscious interface with reality?

    The experience of our modern computerized world would indicate that once we have a new language, then not only will we certainly use it, but it will spread like a virus within us, restless and hungry, assuming a centralized position with our process of consciousness and expanding as rapidly as it can. It almost sounds like a business, ha! But mostly it sounds like DNA. And that is why anthropolinguistics was once so crucial to the study of prehistory prior to the advent of DNA genomics. Because language also mutates and so leaves ‘markers’ along its historic path, all of which can be coordinated chronologically, just like non-recombinant y-DNA and mt-DNA do…

    But what’s good for business and cultural evolution are not necessarily what’s good for healthy human psychology. And so, we meditate, to reverse that very process that is so profitable for our wallets and dangerous for our enemies. For it is no accident that the remaining hominid species besides our own disappeared soon after our acquisition of language. And so the prime purpose of meditation is to stop the internal dialogue, if only for a second, or a few minutes, or an hour, or a lifetime. When I discussed meditation with some neurological researchers, that’s the first question they asked: “Can you stop the internal dialogue?” That’s the main point that I can remember of Carlos Castañeda’s Don Juan character, also, in his ‘Tales of Yaqui Power,’ etc…

    Is language the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden? Maybe. The analogy would seem to hold, not that good and evil are really on offer, but the fallacious and pretentious knowledge of such is always a temptation, and forever destined to fail. With language we are suddenly faced with a duality of mind and body, one doing all the talking and the other a captive audience. We externalize the dialogue to turn all that brilliance and perspicacity loose on the world, but with mixed results. It seems that language creates more problems than it can solve and resolve. And so we meditate. The mind is a minefield, enmeshed in views. Sometimes it’s simply better to forego thought, or at least language…

     
  • hardie karges 8:28 am on August 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , herd immunity, meditation, , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Herd Immunity against Hatred 

    The best religion gives herd immunity against fear and hatred. The best philosophy explains the reasons why. Of course, that is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot these days, herd immunity, that imprecise ratio between a disease’s capabilities and its limits. Because at some point, if enough people have achieved immunity, whether natural or artificial, then everyone is immune, simply because the virus can’t reproduce itself fast enough, given those odds of success—voila! Herd immunity. It’s easier said than done, though, and some diseases never meet that level of resistance, and so recur endlessly.

    And so it is with fear and hatred, or revenge and anger, and many other sins of the soul, or the mind, or consciousness, anything but flesh, which is relatively easy, by comparison. Because the flesh has medicines and vaccines, but the mind only has willpower and training, compassion and kindness, to defeat those invisible enemies. And if left unchecked, the hate and anger multiply ad infinitum, until we are all infected, and subsequent generations, too. But there is a cure, and it spreads exactly like the disease, and in inverse proportion.

    Because one simple act of kindness can spread from person to person until we are all not only immunized but blessed. And that is the goal, to be blessed, not cursed. For even though Buddhism acknowledges the ubiquity of suffering, that is not a curse, but simply a warning. Right thoughts, right actions, right intent, right livelihood, right awareness, right efforts, right speech, and right meditation are the Middle Path between that morass. The path may be winding but the destination is clear.

     
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