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  • 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, non-dualism, , , ,   

    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, non-self, , , ,   

    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.

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  • 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…

     
  • hardie karges 1:09 pm on March 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Middle Path, ,   

    Goodbye Corona, Hello Global Warming, Dark Age Optional… 

    Proof of Vaccination

    I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine against the Covid-19 virus today, so I guess that now is as good a time as any to put the finishing touches on this pandemic. Yes, I know that it’s not over and could go on at least another year or more, but for me, this is a defining point, and so I think I hear the fat lady singing. And I say that with a twinge of sadness, because for me it’s been a good year, not in material acquisitions, but in spiritual gain. Because the times of greatest stress and suffering often coincide with the greatest spiritual gains. This is as obvious in Jesus’s eschatological emergence as the Roman Empire entered its down days, as it was in the Buddha’s times, with the emergence of India’s and China’s rise as the two dominant centers of world population, a position that they maintain to this day.

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    • Dave Kingsbury 4:17 pm on March 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply

      First, congratulations on receiving the double dose – each successful step something we can all celebrate. Second, can’t fault your analysis of the recent past nor your prognosis for the near future. Third, you outline new ways of thinking and responding which are also – satisfyingly – a return to older wisdoms. Vive l’humanite!

      • hardie karges 5:03 pm on March 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply

        Hear hear! Thanx for your comments, Dave…

  • hardie karges 1:03 pm on December 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bet, , , , , epistemology, gambling, , Middle Path, trifecta,   

    Buddhism 201: There are no Winners and Losers… 

    In the best negotiations and most serious debates, everybody should walk away happy. This is the secret to all good dealings, of course, but all too often forgotten, in the rush to seal deals, and replace stocks, and return to life as normal, on the battlefields of commerce and contentment, where the fruits of life are often commodities, and the rewards are consumption, a vaguely full sensation, quickly desiring something more or better, as if there is no balance.

    But balance there must be if happiness is truly our goal, and that is the open secret of the Middle Path, something so simple, and something so sublime, that it is easily overlooked in the rush to judgment and the customary division of spoils among victors. But did the losers really lose, and if so, then what exactly did they lose? And did the winners really win, and if so, then what exactly did they win?

    The short answer is that no one really knows, and so any bettor worth his chips knows that to cover your assets, you hedge your bets, and hopefully cover the spread in the process. Because not only do we never know whether we truly win or lose, but by even less will we know by how much.

    And that balancing act is more than smart business; it is an epistemological reality, if not necessarily a metaphysical one, which it may indeed very well be. And this is the beauty of agnosticism, which is often reduced in value by vague insinuations that it is avoiding a decision by refusing to take sides. But that is one of the fundamental facts of life and the world: absolute knowledge is simply unknowable.

    This becomes a tautology, of course, in the sense that we are claiming to know that unknowability, but that does not diminish its value, no, or at least not by much. We simply cut the conversation short to avoid endless reductions and descensions into a void. Don’t you wish everybody did?

    So Buddhism as a philosophy is fundamentally an open doctrine, even if Buddhism as a religion is saddled with karma, rebirth, and past lives as customary baggage, just as Christianity comes pre-packaged with democracy and capitalism, the trifecta of hedged bets within the trinity of no limits. And that is as much a myth as reincarnation and past lives, though it doesn’t catch so much flack for it by the simple trick of perception bias: we can’t see the forest we live in for all the trees that stand in the way.

    So we assume by instinct that there is an underlying fundamental reality, even if we are hard pressed to say exactly what it is. Somehow some way it simply is, as Nature is, sublime in its silence, commanding in its occasional outbursts. After all, if the lion and the lamb are raised together in the same crib, then any future violence is unlikely. Thus the dharma is simply an admonition to be like that, like nature. You’ll know it when you see it. Mindful silence is better than mindless chatter almost any day.

     
  • hardie karges 12:08 pm on November 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Chang'an, Eight Noble Truths, , Middle Path, Pataliputra, Right Action, , , 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…

     
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