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  • hardie karges 1:03 pm on September 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Middle Path, , , , Virtual Reality   

    Buddhism and the Balancing Act of Excellence… 

    Violence solves nothing. It only creates more violence. We all know it, yet still we do it, reveling in our passions and bathing all awash in our emotions unapologetic, for this is what we are taught from day one, in the wild wild west, to be passionate about what we do, and anything less is ‘middling…’

    Yet middling is part and parcel of Buddhism and its Middle Path, the avoidance of excess and its extremes, in favor of the boredom of ‘middle-ness.’ From this viewpoint happiness is as often as not the avoidance of sadness, and bliss might very well be suspect for its dalliance with extreme emotion…

    Does this attitude build great cities? Does this attitude conquer continents, and send rockets to the moon? No it probably doesn’t, and we are probably better off because of it. Because neither does it commit genocides, enslave peoples, or cause global warming, and it can produce great art…

    Has your life really improved with the invention of Roombas to Hoover your floors? Do you really need four hundred channels of mediocre programming on the idiot box to satisfy your palate? And before you point out to me that I seem to be championing mediocrity as the Middle Way between lack and excess, I wish to point out that excellence is not a threat to anyone’s existence in the same way that luxury and self-starvation are, which is the original inspiration to the Buddha’s awakening…

    The Middle Path itself is nothing if not excellent. Do you think that it is easy finding that meandering sweet spot between extremes? It’s not. It’s an exquisite, but not excruciating, balancing act. And balance is crucial to the equation. Is it even possible for an equation to not be balanced? Of course not…

    Yet our lives in the 21st century are far from being balanced. We worship the gods of technological salvation, but we are never saved. We are only further addicted to our own existential cravings. Now I love science, and technology, i.e. applied science, but I don’t really need a self-driving car. I need a city that doesn’t’ require automobiles…

    Internet is sublime, and Virtual Reality is transcendent, but what else do we need? Interstellar exploration is wonderful, but you don’t need rockets for that, just better telescopes. Our cities are sh*t-stained pits and our lives wallow in the mire, accordingly. Nature, and dharma, can, and should be, a refuge, on a good day. Cities and technology? Meh, not so much…

     
  • hardie karges 1:36 pm on August 30, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , eukaryote, genetic drift, Middle Path, mystic, , prokaryote, shamans   

    Buddhist Oneness in a World of Multiplicity… 

    “WE ARE ALL ONE PEOPLE!” the poets shout, and the racists doubt, for this is foundational to their philosophy, a philosophy of differences, and not in a good way, as if some come from above, trickled down or in torrents for the beneficent blessings on to the huddled masses, while others clandestine creep up only with all due caution from below, dodging headlights and sirens screaming all the way, only to find paths blocked and passages hindered, due to the absence of prior authorizations and neglect of the necessary negotiations, all designed to limit access and forego success. But yes, we are all one people, with common origins. And that is a fact of Science, not an act of Philosophy…

    But it is often promoted that way, as if this were the manifold musings of mystics or the inspired screamings of shamans, when in fact it is inscribed in the most basic texts of the biological sciences, from prokaryotes to eukaryotes, and from there on to the most complex of biological organisms, including us, homo sapiens, wise men waxing philosophical, even though for a billion years we were nothing but the most basic of single-celled organisms, looking to reproduce, asexually, willing to forego all the romance, and most of the drama, just for the privilege of offspring bacteria to have their day in the sun, and various dark moist places, with little thought to an afterlife or the possibilities of reincarnation, just torches handed over in rapid succession, the lifespan of a bacterium, without rank nor rencor, just the certainty that life will go on, with or without consciousness to witness it or self-consciousness to record its random narratives, once upon a time…

    We are the pinnacle of reproductive success, natural selection, the certainty of afterthought, when accurate predictions are limited to Aristotelian syllogisms and binomial equations, and nothing as random as genetic mutation could ever be predicted without divine intervention or the sublime self-musings of subconscious necessity. Thus we proceed, in fits and starts, the evolution of consciousness and culture looking for something so sublime as natural selection and genetic drift to guide us forward from the depths of willful ignorance along a path, any path, toward a paradise of human fruition. But that path will likely be a Middle Path, Buddhist by Nature if not by name, and as conservative and it is liberal, as protective as it is free, conserving traditions while embracing freedom. Life is short. Go forth and add. Don’t do anything bad. Give more than you take. That is all…

     
  • hardie karges 11:02 am on August 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Middle Path,   

    Buddhism and the Art of the Path… 

    When the world outside imposes limits, then you explore inside, Inner Space, where there are few if any limits. This is the hardest thing for many of us to accept, especially us freedom-junkie Westerners, descendant of Europe and the Indo-European cowboy steppes, some of whom went east and got all meditative, the rest of us long having dallied with the West, and got bored with life on the installment plan, limited to incremental growth and low interest on investment, so we invented capitalism for life in the fast lane, and a convenient alternative to outright combat, while accomplishing largely the same thing, stratification of the races into winners and losers, so as to facilitate social immobility and survival of the fattest…

    So here we are now, some five thousand years later, addicted to our sensations and victims of our adrenaline, having largely conquered the world of Nature and with nowhere else to go but an Outer Space from which there is no return, or an Ocean Deep, where there is no sleep, and the cost of living is high…

    So we return to the predilections of our eastern Indo-Euro cousins, the same ones that we once accused of being the lazy soma-bibbing bumpkins of the clan, but now maybe not so slow or dim-witted after all, they having followed a different path, but of consciousness, not high-rise sky-scraping construction, but a less Nature-defiling path of Inner Space, which, when compared to the alternative of Outer Space, is somehow infinite, if not eternal, so unlimited in Space, if not Time, but on an inner path, not outer, and so protected by the sheaths and membranes of consciousness, not the temporary bulwarks of concrete and steel against bacteria and other forms of DNA that know how to survive against all odds…

    Because Nature will always find a way to survive, if not thrive, because that is what DNA does, once it has been coded, and sent to the factory for reproduction. Thus the path of Nature is a struggle between the twin forces of reproduction and consciousness, existence and non-existence, and the result can only be fruitful, if followed to the letter, and the number, because numbers are crucial to any plan for life, too much and it’s fire, too little and it’s ice, so that path in the middle not only looks nice, but actually is crucial to survival, with only the minimum amount of suffering necessary…

    And that is especially true in Inner Space, the path of least resistance and greatest fruition, whether simple meditative presence or a vast creative innovative Virtual Reality future. The past is certain and unreturnable. The future is a sea of possibilities. The present is a refuge, and a comfortable path between extremes. Suffering is a feeling. Limits are the reality. The only thing without limits is Emptiness…

     
  • hardie karges 11:46 am on February 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Middle Path, ,   

    Mixing Buddhism and Christianity to find a Middle Path that is free and equal… 

    To see the goodness in everyone sometimes requires special eyeglasses and extra effort, but that is the task to which we must put ourselves, because it is central to our thesis that life is worth living and no one is cast off, no matter how deep the suffering or how egregious the past, that one can be reformed, and forgiven, and can start all over with a clean slate, and no misgivings, and a future fresh and untrammeled, without the dirty footprints of yesterday defining a crooked mile, that goes nowhere, and is only fated to return. And in this sense Christianity may have a vast advantage over some sects of Buddhism that insist that we must relive our lives over and over with only small hope of actually making the quantum leap to a higher ‘type of person’, hopefully human (and male), lighter skin the better, in this last-ditch lottery of human salvation, when theoretically there is nothing really there to be saved anyway, in Buddhism, so why bother? Because people want magic and fantasy and the supernatural presence of divine intervention in their little lives, rather than slug it out in the coal mines and canary cages of the material world, with little hope of improvement, that’s why. Supposedly. Because we all know that many of the most knowledgeable people really believe none of that reincarnation nonsense, anyway, but know that it’ll put the fear of Mara and Mount Meru in the average village person, such that he’ll be much more obedient, and ultimately better off in this life of few rewards, and even fewer gains, in the quantum leap upward to a better ‘type of person’. Because this is central to the Hindu Brahmanic thesis, that there are different ‘types of persons’, most specifically those genetically shuffled Brahmins on top of a rapidly descending ladder to the bottom level, of those who must toil and trouble in the bubbling vats of sacred colors, ready to adorn the fashioned features of the fated few, while the vast unwashed steady the ladder that suppresses them. But for many the need for absolute certainty is preferable to the remote possibilities for hypothetical advancement, so acceptable in a belated sort of way. And that’s okay, if that’s what you want, but it doesn’t have to be that way, whether you’re Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or Jew, because you can mix and match philosophies however you want, regardless of what anyone says, as long as you’re honest about it, and true to your own heart and mind, however changing and impermanent. Because ‘skillful means’ can select its topics, and its targets, but not its truths, so I may preach limits to Americans and freedom to Asians, with no contradiction in the least, because there is a sweet spot in the middle that is not only logically inferred, but existentially real. Everyone has equal value. All sentient beings have equal worth. This is no accident of fate or karma, color or birth…

     
    • Dave Kingsbury 5:32 pm on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Some healthy cross-fertilisation, with us as the bee … makes perfect sense to me! A little green awareness thrown into the mix …

      • hardie karges 5:35 pm on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Dave. If a free-associative piece somehow manages to attain perfect sense, then that is words choosing their own proper course instinctively, I suppose…

        • Dave Kingsbury 3:08 am on February 25, 2020 Permalink

          Absolutely agree, Hardie, rather like a stream finding its way – I’ve resolved to explore similar, er, territory in my own writing.

  • hardie karges 5:08 am on October 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , gurus, Middle Path, prophets   

    Beware the False Prophets of Buddhism… 

    Beware false prophets and gurus claiming gifts. For they are legion at the end of days, and that’s how you will know that it is the end of days, that teachers will outnumber students, the good ones so that they can impart their gifts, while the clock is still running, the bad ones so that they can fatten their bellies and egos at our expense, because there really is no end to our days, not in one fell swoop, more like a long gradual decline in the service of our own selfish desires. And this is the mark of the most ghastly guru, that he will speak in terms of absolutes and extremes and exactitudes, when Buddhism knows no such thing, but a myriad of vanishing increments, ever changing, such that you might only know the difference if you were to fall asleep for half your life, and then awake to an entirely new world–of appearance. But appearances can be misleading when one moment succeeds to the next with scarcely a distinction between them, the cumulative effect only noticeable when the final calculation is due, and accounts must be settled. This should not be a concern to the average adept and practitioner, since we are not doing what we do–sitting silently–in order to reap the final fruit at the end of the rainbow, for that would be counter-intuitive to the math of our mission and the path of our dispassion. The end result is not the point of engagement; the middle path is an end in itself. Always give up your dreams. Never give up dreaming…

     
    • Dave Kingsbury 3:20 pm on October 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      I like the way you contrast false certainties with subtler truths, Hardie – that has the ring of experience.

      • hardie karges 4:06 pm on October 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Dave…

  • hardie karges 2:44 pm on August 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: binary, , digital, , , , Middle Path, ,   

    The Golden Mean is an Irrational Number–and so are our lives… 

    Growth is easy–more more bigger bigger. Loss is even easier–zip zero nada. Holding steady is the hard part, avoiding all extremes. And this applies at all levels, from the steady state of the universe to the steady state of our psyches, most of which is a fleeting illusion, but still applicable nevertheless, for this is more than a simple survival strategy, but a metaphysical principle, that there is a somewhat meandering middle path that is always capable of yielding more benefits than the extremist positions that promise deliverance or salvation of some kind or other, whether political, social or religious. Buddhism is famous for this, of course, without which its major tenets can sometimes resemble those of the Jains if not Hindus themselves, ‘real’ Indians, born of high caste, Sanskrit, and spicy food. But the principle applies in almost all cases, notwithstanding the modern digital paradigm of zeros and ones that underlie computing in which a binary number system’s on-off capability approximates that of electric switching, resulting in a new electronic digital dimension that powers our modern daily lives. That only accentuates the point I want to make, because there’s more to life than math, and a digital dimension is artificial. Because between every two polar extremes there is a whole rainbow of possibilities, one of which will offer the optimal solution in any given set of circumstances. So there is a myriad of possible realities, but one is usually best, neither poverty nor luxury, neither the non-existence of nihilism nor the infinite existence of a permanent enduring soul traveling in both time and space. But these are points that can be parsed to the limits of our patience and imaginations. Belief is not required. That is one of the benefits of philosophy over religion. You can pick and choose, to see what works best. The difference between religion and philosophy is that religions have members…

     
  • hardie karges 2:12 pm on August 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Forbearance, meanderthals, Middle Path,   

    Buddhism and the Winding Path of Forbearance… 

    The world is full of sights and sounds, none of which brings happiness. That is somewhere inside. And this is a central message of Buddhism, of course, and other religions, too, that happiness is not a function of material fulfillment, or even full bellies, so much as it is an internal feeling of psychological contentment, that is not merely quantifiable, but qualifiable, in terms that evoke hard-to-describe pleasures, while invoking few, if any, gods. Because the old war gods have lost their power; and the old goddesses have lost their punch. That was an earlier time when desires were simple and the jobs were few, goddesses there to multiply us, gods there to divide us. As the populations increase, then so do the problems, almost by mathematical certainty. So once our material survival is theoretically guaranteed, then immediately we begin killing each other, even though the other now poses no significant risk, just annoyance, and provokes our lack of forbearance, and our inability to make peace instead of war, to share the wealth instead of fighting over it. And this is the message of much religion, to love each other, but not necessarily THE other, that defining line the rub of religion that sometimes gives it the rep of uniting people in all the wrong ways, against the other, rather than with him, because the mere fact that we see an other is evidence of his or her otherness, is it not? And so continues the march of history, zig zag meanderthals in search of a path, any path, that has an unobstructed field and maybe even a clear exit, just in case we need a rest. Maybe our bellies are TOO full, in fact, that material contentment counter-indicated once it becomes assured, a little uncertainty called for in order to foment change. Monks and rishis fast, after all, not because they want to lose weight, but because they are hungry for another kind of fulfillment, and sometimes it is just that easy to tease out the tiny details of spiritual fulfillment, just enough of a difference to make a difference. We can see in DNA that multiple mutations provide the raw material for evolution, despite the occasional disastrous kerfuffle. So if it’s good enough for nature, then it’s good enough for me. We are arrogant with our predictions, proclamations, and prognostications, but nature is kind in its uncertainty. Civilization has betrayed its promise. It’s time to return to Nature–again…

     
  • hardie karges 3:02 pm on July 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Middle Path, ,   

    World Peace and the Middle Path of Progress 

    World Peace Plan: Guys, trade your guns for guitars, like the Tuaregs do. Work with women. Create sustainable wealth, divide equally, repeat. Simple, right? Ah, but life is not so easy in the realm of the real, is it? Fairy tales always have happy endings, but the real world has road blocks and obstacles and impediments to happiness, no matter how you define it, no matter what you think. And this is the conundrum, in the life of the living, in the world of the worldly, how to find the means of satisfaction, the method of deliverance, from suffering and woe, how to proceed with good feelings, even when there is no clear path, much less a Lonely Planet guide book available in forty-two languages. We come into this world kicking and screaming, and anything we gain after that point is gravy on the potatoes, icing on the cake. They say no one gets out of here alive, and that much is true, the end-game certain and merely a question of time. So the middle seven innings are what is important in this game, or the second and third quarters, prime time to challenge fate, our time to shine. Pain is a powerful impetus to change, and that is our goal, just give us a fair hearing, just give it a name…

     
  • hardie karges 5:16 pm on July 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Middle Path,   

    Buddhism, Possessions and the Middle Path 

    We are possessed by our possessions, slaves to our desires, captives in our own cages, smiling all the while. For this is the fate we choose for ourselves, lest freedom tempt our fates. This is the road well-traveled, secure in its very weight. This weight of possession is what keeps us grounded, and flying is too far to fall. This weight is what keeps us padded, in case the path gets too steep, or too deep, and the only way out is up. Because these ruts can get sticky, and success can breed contempt. Still the only path is forward, and to return is not allowed, unless it’s by a different route, and then all bets are worthless. Survival is the only goal, and bliss just a wayward thought. The Middle Path is always best, no matter what or where the terrain. Inner psyches are rock-strewn and social challenges are cruel. Still we have so much to learn and so little time, and the only school is too brutal to waste time in fear of it. Time is short and the clock is ticking. We are probably the first species to consciously decide its own fate, or not…

     
  • hardie karges 5:34 am on December 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Boy Scouts, , , , , Middle Path, , , , , , , , ,   

    Boy Scouts: be prepared. Buddhists: not so fast… 

    img_1572

    The Golden Spires of Shwedagon Pagoda

    This is one of the problems I have with Buddhism, the whole ‘no-thought’ paradigm, that always seems to find currency, notwithstanding the fact that the Buddha never said anything like that, not to my knowledge, anyway, and the term sati, which has taken on the meaning of ‘mindfulness’, probably had no such lofty connotations at the time, the problem now being one of vagueness, if not deliberate obfuscation, in order to inspire awe and reverence, apparently, as if it is untranslatable to the ordinary mortal…

    But it certainly is a common ordinary word in modern standard Thai, something like simple ‘consciousness’ or ‘mind’, so ‘mindfulness’ is a marketing hook to sell a fad to the West, that special sauce and some righteous hocus pocus, such that the makers of the film ‘Samadhi’ have to explain that the term is untranslatable to English, notwithstanding the fact that it is done all the time outside the rarefied circles of New Age fad religions… (More …)

     
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