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  • hardie karges 12:03 pm on August 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , philosophy, , , , 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 8:33 am on July 31, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Magi, magic, , philosophy,   

    Buddhism 498: Emptiness is the Path to Infinity 

    If you’re doing it right, then one day a sense of calmness will come over you, as the zeroes take over, and the fractions become less, a mind divided unable to reproduce itself properly, and the ensuing life even less. Because language knows no natural limit, and so will run on until stopped, vowels and consonants forming verbs and nouns like chickens and eggs, and no one knows which came first, since no one was taking notes in a class too crowded for convenience and too full for breath…

    But people wonder why meditate, since there’s so little time and so little space, that to waste any extra must certainly be counter-intuitive, but, in reality, the exact opposite is the case. Because meditation creates more time and more space in the process of killing it, such that if you really want to experience infinity, then the only way to do that is with emptiness.

    Because infinity cannot exist full of stuff, and that is fundamental to the concept, and who would want it anyway, except a kid at Christmas before the sun’s even up, learning the false lesson of abundance under the magic of the Magi, who got lost on the way to Bethlehem, but couldn’t see any reason to let a good story go to waste? So, a kid in a manger becomes the unlikely savior of humanity, when all we really wanted was a full belly and an empty mind, empty of hate and anger, with Big Ideas optional.

    But we can do that on command with a little silence and a lot of discipline, let the confusion die down and out, and be reborn in spirit every hour of every day with a little self-control and a lot of kindness, creating a world of forgiveness and reconciliation, instead of aggression and competition, for access to scarce resources, to create even more, when the obvious answer is to first consume even less. And that is the difference between Buddhism and Christianity, to consume less or produce more, when the truth lies somewhere in between.

     
  • hardie karges 1:42 pm on July 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antithesis, , , , , , , , , philosophy, , synthesis, , thesis,   

    Buddhism in the Bardo: the Language of Dialectic and the Silence of Meditation… 

    Language cannot solve the problems that language creates. Only silence can do that. This is one of those inherent little foundations of Buddhism, also, like non-aggression and the limits to fulfillment, that often get lost in the shuffle of rebirth, karma, and the endless choices of past lives. But that is the essence of philosophy, and religion, to find some reason to live, without expending too much time and energy in the process, and so often that involves divine intervention—or magic…

    And that’s where Buddhism tried to be different, at least in the beginning, though the pressure to spice things up is almost irresistible, and so Buddhism was not so much different. Like Christianity a few hundred years later, it started with basic precepts, or commandments, and proceeded from that humble starting point. And to be honest, the starting points of Buddhism and Christianity were not so much different in their original conceptions.

    Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat: the basic precepts were very similar in the Abrahamic religions of the Mideast and the Dharmic religions of India. They weren’t that far apart, really, geographically or conceptually, so that may be more than a coincidence. Considering the Aryan migration eastward, also, now proven genetically, the ‘meeting of East and West’ may not have been much more than a meeting at the most convenient location, rather than some journey that required Marco Polos, Fa Hians, and Ibn Battutahs to accomplish, though they did that, too…  

    But Buddhism went through much more of a dialectical process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, over the course of its 2500 years, something implied if not intended, in its mantra of the Middle Path between extremes, so that the three major schools of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana can be seen in precisely that light, something like discipline and devotion having babies, and calling it Dharma. But at the core of them all was always meditation, and that was silent. Christianity still hasn’t learned that trick. Maybe one day they will.

     
  • hardie karges 9:11 am on June 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , philosophy, , Siddhartha Gautama,   

    Buddhism in a World of Pain and Suffering… 

    To love the one that loves you is easy. To love the one that hates you is the challenge of enlightenment. Because we don’t really need religion or philosophy when times are good and grocery store shelves are full. We need religion and philosophy when ‘Times are hard…and the jobs are few’ (Townes Van Zandt). And that’s the foundation stone upon which Buddhism was built, as intuited by Siddhartha Gautama even as he sat upon his throne, while being entertained by dancing girls and God-knows-what-else. A quick trip outside the palace walls proved the Buddha’s worst suspicions.

    Because there he quickly found old age, sickness, disease, and death. Thus was born Buddhism, for which the task was to facilitate the mitigation of those most obvious sufferings. And in his humble estimation the most important things to remember were not about what to do, but what NOT to do, specifically craving. So, if we’re willing to live simple lives, content with simple pleasures, and not possessed by our possessions, and not obsessed with cravings, then life can be good. But if we constantly want more, and more, and more, then our lives will likely go downhill fast, accordingly.

    And I had problems with that concept for a long time, not because I was obsessed with material wealth, but because I saw a passivity in many Buddhist countries that didn’t seem healthy to me, and which I assumed could be easily manipulated by the rich and powerful by their own means and to their own ends. But everything is different now. So, if that is sometimes, or even often, the case, the opposite is the worse risk at this point in time of world history. Because we are killing ourselves with excess, and it is not going softly. Buddhism is better than that. We can learn from nature, but first we unlearn the violence.

     
  • hardie karges 8:45 am on May 1, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , justice, , Mosaic, moses, philosophy, , Roman, sanatana   

    Buddhism and the Mosaic of Laws It Competes With… 

    Repay every aggression with kindness, sooner rather than later. Because in this way, not only can society progress and history advance, but wounds can heal, and toxic attitudes can change. This is one of the prime conceptual bases of religion, of course, all the best ones, that you don’t have to respond “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth,” lex talionis, Roman if not Christian. Because that predates Jesus Christ and his subsequent Christians, going way back to the early Jews, Moses, and the Mosaic law that sits there like concrete, composed of gravel and mud, shards and pieces, cobbled together in an elaborate composite of moral, civil, and ceremonial considerations not unlike the various bodies of law(s) and customs that have subsequently been handed down from the example of it.

    There’s only one problem: that ain’t religion, not most of it. That’s law and politics and culture and custom, almost everything BUT religion, except the parts of it that can be considered ‘moral law.’ And those are almost indistinguishable from the Buddhist precepts: Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, etc., and even then, the attitude most truly religious that they can muster is for the Christians to have no other god before God (Allah), and for the Buddhist to not claim any form of enlightenment that they really can’t deliver–boom. It was up to Jesus to bring true religion to the Jews, just like it was up to the Buddha to bring true religion to sanatana dharma (Hinduism).

    The Muslims kept the ‘eye for an eye,’ famously, of course, and in that sense distinguish themselves form Christians. The Jews did likewise for most of history, only shifting to the more liberal Christian orientation recently, c. 1948. The rest is history. But that’s politics. We want religion. And the lex talionis doesn’t preclude that, of course, it only limits its reach, which is not so bad, all things considered. And the main thing to consider is that it is NOT a proclamation of revenge, in fact just the opposite. Because it limits retribution to the original damage, and, in effect, prohibits the punitive damages that could be considered as revenge, i.e. more than simple punishment, and far more than actual damages. But true religion always tries to heal the transgressor with love and kindness, not revenge or even justice. Religion transcends justice. It should be better than that.

    Note: the word ‘dharma’ has often been translated as ‘law’…

     
  • hardie karges 6:54 am on April 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Dawn of Everything, , , judgment, , , philosophy, ,   

    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 4:50 am on March 27, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , philosophy, ,   

    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 6:59 am on December 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , philosophy, , , , , ,   

    The Ways and (Skillful) Means of Buddhism… 

    ‘Skillful means’ is not about telling people what they want to hear. It’s telling them what they need to hear, in a way that’s acceptable to them. And if this sounds obvious, it can be more complicated than it seems. It can even contradict one of the main precepts in the Eightfold Path, in fact, if it fails to acknowledge the importance of Right Speech. One of the Buddha’s later commentators, in fact, even bragged about how the Buddha could preach about cosmic Self to the Brahmanists, while preaching non-self to the already-committed Buddhists. Fast-forward to the future and a prominent senior Buddhist monk today claims that Buddha, in fact, was never committed to a doctrine of non-self, but was undecided about it (so that we can now accept rebirth with no issue of what it is that gets reborn). But this is not ‘skillful means.’ And this is not Right Speech.

    As the New Testament of the Christian Bible is often paraphrased: “Let your yes be yes; and let your no be no.” Bingo. That Buddhism is an open doctrine is fine, and to be commended. That it sometimes gets twisted almost beyond recognition is not always so good. But that’s exactly what happened when Mahayana went in two almost opposite directions from its shunyata (emptiness) starting point, one leading to the Vajrayana of Tibet, the other leading to the Zen of Japan. And for a long time, that’s where Buddhism stood, and stalled, and those are the two extremes that made the biggest impact in the New World—until now. Because now there is a new dialectic to that interplay of magic and trance, and it should be no surprise that the only realistic synthesis would be a return to the primal roots of early Buddhism. So, Theravada now finds its best messaging in its simplest Forest Temples, and the debates in the background resume.

    Only this time it is not the background of Brahmanism and Jainism, but dozens of so-called ‘New Age’ ideas and the general air of conspiracy. But for me Secular Buddhism is the rightful heir to the debate with religiosity, something which original Buddhism had not the luxury, because Science as we know it did not exist. But Reason and rationality did, embedded in the nature of cause and effect, the words for which define ‘reason’ in more than one Asian language. And that’s how Buddhism won the original debate, for me, at least, because it was the rational option. And it still can be, if it can find its peace with Science, because that is the air we breathe in this day and age, logic and testing. We only need a belief system to make sense of it all. If not, then ‘belief’ becomes a bad word, synonymous with ‘faith,’ and we are left to our own devices to find succor and solace. I find no contradiction between my Buddhism and the best science we know. If forced to choose, then I will refuse, and let the chips fall where they may.

     
  • hardie karges 11:44 am on September 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , philosophy, , retributi8on, samma kammanta   

    The Buddhist Eightfold Path Does Not Bite 

    Revenge is not sweet. Retribution is not necessary. Equanimity is a path for all situations and all times: cool, calm, and collected. Isn’t it? And, if that is a lesson for the real world of sinners, not saints, then I think that it should go doubly for that saintly world that professes to know better. But religion is the worst offender at much of this, accomplishing with fear what it fails to accomplish with righteousness and inspiration. And so we do good, because we are scared of what might happen if we do bad. Saint Peter at the pearly gates of Heaven just might decide to revoke our visa and send us packing, back down to the Underworld south of Australia.

    But shouldn’t we do good simply for the act of doing good? Of course, we should. Isn’t that reward enough in itself? Can’t we win without someone else losing? Then, there are always the smiles on the young kids’ faces, if we need to quantify our gains by counting more tangible rewards. But isn’t that the problem more than the solution? Are we defined by the transient rewards of shallow victory? Not in the best of worlds. In the best of worlds there is always a sweet spot for conciliation, and reconciliation, that allows everyone to emerge from challenges and struggles with dignity and privilege intact.

    And that is the challenge, to not only do good, but to feel good about it. Anybody can do the right thing under pressure. But how many can do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts? So, the appropriate measures of fear are applied, and then we hope for the best. If the right and correct thing is not done, then there will be Hell to pay, literally, at some point in the future. Christianity and Islam, the Abrahamic religions, specialize in this. But Buddhism does it, too, with application of the principle of Karma above and far beyond its original intent.

    So what was originally intended as something simple and akin to the Golden Rule, and based on Right Actions, samma kammanta, in the original early Buddhist conception, becomes a generation-jumping act of retribution in Tibet 1000 years later. Sometimes some people need to be whupped upside the head, I suppose, when simple logic and simple pleasures don’t suffice, but that is not preferable, and useful only as a last resort. The bottom line is simple and resolves into a matter of belief: If you believe in karmic retribution, then you will be subject to karmic retribution. Do the right thing—simple.

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

    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 …)
     
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