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  • hardie karges 1:58 pm on November 5, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Middle Path,   

    Dharma and the Middle Path as a Law of Nature… 

    There’s always a middle Path, whether or not it’s THE middle Path. This may be a bit of a deviation from the standard central dogma, which likes to break the Middle Path down into the Eightfold Path of Right View, Thought, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Meditation, BUT: who needs dogma, anyway? I don’t. So, I like to think of the Middle Path as a universal principle applicable to a multiplicity of situations, and carrying a message embedded that is worth more than just a little attention.

    Because we are not only just junkies for excess, whether it be luxury or lack, existence or non-existence, or form and emptiness, all aspects of the Buddhist definition, but there seems to be excess embedded into our very value system. For example, when we eat cooked food (yum yum) it’s generally considered best at anything but room temperature, right? We go to great lengths to make our best dishes either steaming hot or icy cold, don’t we? Anything tepid is considered middling, and that’s generally not a good judgment upon a cook’s ability.

    But, why is that? Is there anything intrinsic to taste to be found in that manifestation of attractions to extremes? There’s a possible argument to be made that either extreme is conducive to the preservation of the food, whether at extremely high temperatures or extremely low ones, but that argument quickly falls apart when considering anything besides culinary items. Why do we like bright colors? Why do we like high places? Why do we like deep caves? Perhaps, more to the point: Why do we like getting drunk? Why do we like getting high?

    The most obvious manifestation of these extremes is their danger, but then, on second thought, is it maybe their unnaturalness (is that a word?)? Bingo. Most of us really don’t want to die, now, do we? But we don’t mind pushing the envelope, so to speak, and we certainly don’t mind the thrill aspect. Why? Because it’s not natural, that’s why. And maybe that’s a hidden message of the Buddha: be natural. One definition of dharma, in fact, is just that: the law of Nature. So, does that mean that the Buddha was a Boomer? Cool, that’s okay by me…

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  • hardie karges 12:03 pm on August 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Middle Path, , , , , , 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 10:31 am on June 5, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Middle Path, 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 6:54 am on April 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Dawn of Everything, , , judgment, , Middle Path, , ,   

    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 6:42 am on April 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ignorance, Middle Path, , , , ,   

    Buddhism of the Present Moment: Averaging Past and Future, Science and Superstition… 

    The one who can control himself, can control the world—his world…

    Sometimes the only way to remove hatred and ignorance from our lives is to remove the haters and ignorant people from our lives. And fortunately, that’s still possible, as our increasingly crowded world still has some empty places yet to be traversed and social ambitions yet to be fulfilled. But what happens when there is no place to hide, when social mobility comes to a standstill? Where do we go then to find peace and quiet, to find love, knowledge, and acceptance, where before there was only ignorance and hate?

    The obvious place to go is inside of course, deep inside, within our own minds and consciousness, both terms that I use with some trepidation, science-lover that I am, when what I really mean is memory. Because other than the constant (live) stream of sense perceptions that occur in real time, then all we really have is memory, which is anathema to the present-moment Buddhist or Eckhart Tolle disciple, but which is nonetheless a major part of our conscious waking moments.

    Besides those two there are only dreams, which occur in present time but in an undefined space, and conscious thinking, which some ‘non-dualists’ and latter-day Buddhists (‘thoughts without thinkers’) insist is not really real, but which nevertheless occupy reams and tomes of studied critiques and analyzed comparisons for the only purpose of knowledge itself, any benefits to be derived in subsequent interactions with the same world of biology, chemistry, and physics, or language, history, and psychology, from which it ultimately came in the process of experiment.

    And none of that can reasonably be denied, though it could certainly be claimed that we have spiritual lives that are bigger and better than all that. And I would tend to agree. So, the challenge is to make sense of it all, science and meditation, or action and renunciation, so that we can combine lives of action with our spiritual lives, which should also include science, and not just deep introspection, which was all that Buddha—and Plato—had. The answer is implicit, of course, in the Middle Path.

    Because that concept of the Middle Path works not only between Buddha’s luxury and lack, or the Mahayanist dichotomy of existence and non-existence, but still works for a modern secular dichotomy between introspection and science. And that is the supreme beauty of Buddhism, of course, that it is an ongoing dialectic, in which wrong choices are corrected. The Buddha himself wasn’t perfect, and even accepted a lesser status for women, which often figures prominently in misguided Buddhist theses for past lives and reincarnation, hint hint. But we can correct the mistakes of the past with the revelations of the present. And so we must.

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

    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…

     
  • hardie karges 8:08 am on February 6, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Four Noble Trutrhs, , Middle Path, ,   

    Buddhism and the Path Forward… 

    I’m willing to forego some pleasure, if that means I can forego some pain. And that’s the Buddhist Middle Path in a nutshell, if you like nuts. Because that was the dilemma Siddhartha Gautama was faced with, before he was the Buddha, as a prince of the ksatriya (warrior) caste, most likely, and with all the luxury that life can bring. Until one day, that is, when he ventured outside his harem and realized with a shock that real people, those without harems, also suffer sin, disease and death, not to mention old age, which is possibly the worst of all, or so I hear, haha…

    And from that stark realization, of our impermanence and our imperfection, was born the foundation of Buddhism, the Middle Path to avoid suffering. Some people say that Karma, Rebirth, and the resulting past lives are the bedrock of Buddhism. They’re wrong. The later Mahayanists came up with a slightly different Middle Path, translated from different Sanskrit words, that means the path between existence and non-existence, but that came later, by around five hundred years, give or take a century. Indians hated writing things down, for reasons best left to idle conjecture, since if there was a reason to be known, then it likely would have been written.

    The way to avoid, mitigate, and hopefully even cease suffering, if not actually cure it, is to first cease craving, of course. Because if this is a world of suffering, then it is also a world of desire, and that is no coincidence, they locked in a dance to the death that largely defines our dimension—of suffering. If that sounds pessimistic, then I would urge you to check your American Express gold card at the door and contemplate your own death for only a second. Because that length of time is enough to show you that you are not the master of the Universe, nor even your own fate. At best you are only the master of your emotions, and that is where Buddhism does its best work. Before Enlightenment save the world. After Enlightenment save the world. It beats chopping wood—sometimes…

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

    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.

     
  • hardie karges 10:43 am on August 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , atman, atta, , Middle Path, , , , ,   

    Buddhism and the Limits of Suffering… 

    Suffering doesn’t have to be painful. It is only painful if you refuse to accept it. Buddhism is famous for its acknowledgement of suffering, of course, to the point that it must deal with charges of pessimism, when nothing could be further from the truth, to be honest. It is simply realistic: you are not immortal, you are not eternal, and you are not the center of the universe. We shouldn’t need to appeal to Science to prove something so obvious and fundamental. You will die. Get over it.

    But these are the kinds of feel-good epithets that get tossed to the hungry lions we are, anxious for abundance and thirsty for fulfillment, of the fluid levels in our bodies and the ego levels in our mind, such that we will entertain fantastic notions in order to satisfy those notions of grandeur and grandiosity. If that is the shorthand definition of optimism—egotism—then maybe pessimism is better. But I won’t cop to that, and don’t think that is necessary.

    (More …)
     
  • hardie karges 11:29 am on March 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Middle Path,   

    Big-A$$ Half-Ripe Avocado Sutra 

    Better It’s Cracked than My Head

    The fruit that hangs from a tree has inspired many memes and metaphors, with regard to its beauty and irony, but the main conundrums remain: How do I know that it will taste good, and how do I get it into my mouth? And these questions define much of the nature of human existence, i.e. desire, fulfillment, and the middle path in between. And then sometimes the answers almost smack you in the face, quite literally. Like when I was strolling through a certain Central American outdoor market recently, when suddenly I see and feel a definite WHOOSH, which was then quickly followed by a definitive WHUMP! It was enough to stop me in my tracks, to say the least. It seems that a rather large avocado has just fallen from the branch of a tree overhead, barely missing my head, and crashing onto the rocky path below, no harm no foul…

    But it could have been otherwise. Because it wasn’t a tiny overripe fruit, past its prime and ready to sprout seed for some future ancestral father figure. No, this was young—and hard, and unthinking, just like we all once were, and it could have really hurt. But it didn’t, because it missed me by inches. Or did I miss it? No matter. No one claimed it, so I did, and ate the soft parts with pleasure. But the hard parts refused to yield, not even to heat. And so we parted company, but the lessons remain: the fine line between pleasure and pain defined by mere inches on a scale of miles. The same object falling from the sky can nourish or cause damage. Life is short, and the dangers are real: live it fully but cautiously. And so every object in life can offer a lesson, if only we are open to it. Like the Buddhist middle path, we tiptoe lightly through a mine field of obstacles, mostly within our own minds…

     
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