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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.

    (More …)
     
    • 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, samma kamanta, , 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…

     
  • 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…

     
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