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  • hardie karges 9:55 am on October 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , pindapatha, rebirth, , Sri Lanka, ,   

    Buddhism in the Balance: Why Do Men Dominate the Sangha? 

    The Sangha should be not just a brotherhood of monks, but a brotherhood of man, and a sisterhood of women. This is a bit of a sore subject for Buddhism, too, since the beginning, firstly because in its original inception it WAS a bit explicitly oriented towards saffron-robed renunciants, with distinctly less concern for the surrounding community, even though that surrounding community indeed were the very people charged with feeding those same renunciant monks everyday by means of dana provided during the alms-round pindapatha.

    This indeed was much of the discussion and dispute that resulted in the formation of a bodhisattva-and-community-oriented Mahayana tradition to enhance the original monk-oriented Theravada tradition. So far, so good. The two traditions managed to co-exist, as they still do to this day. Women haven’t fared so well, though. The Buddha finally allowed them to ordain as full renunciant nuns, but only with grudging acceptance and after much exhortation by a female family member. Then, to add insult to injury, the Buddha stated that the dharma would only last for a fraction of the time that it would’ve otherwise lasted, a fact which some monks use to rub salt in the wound to this day.

    Yes, modern monks of the Theravadin and Tibetan Vajrayana traditions proudly elucidate the reasons why nuns can’t be ordained, mostly that because the tradition once died out, then it can’t possibly be revived, can it? So, nuns from Thailand go to Sri Lanka, where the tradition is intact, to ordain, and then go back to Thailand to practice. Ironically the only reason that any Buddhism is intact in Sri Lanka is because Thailand helped them to reboot the system there after it had died out totally, even though Sri Lanka is where Thailand got their Theravada in the first place. Whew! That was close! Yes, it’s complicated.

    But mostly it’s just good old-fashioned patriarchy and misogyny that keeps women begging at the gates. Sayadawgyi Mahasi in Yangon, Myanmar, writes that if women are lucky, then they will be reborn as men, so… with that kind of attitude, then it’s no wonder that there is a problem. So, rebirth is used as a justification for patriarchy and not only the Brahmin caste superiority that I’ve long credited them with. Even in my own forest temple in Thailand, the senior monk made it clear that women need not apply for residence, even though I, a foreigner, Thai-speaking admittedly, was warmly welcomed. Women still have a long way to go. Keep the faith. Hearts are there to be warmed.

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  • hardie karges 11:45 am on August 21, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , rebirth, ,   

    Modern Buddhism: Past Lives or Present Moment? You Decide… 

    I accept all forms of Buddhism, as long as they have no quarrel with Science. But, that’s easier said than done, given the spat over rebirth, as to exactly what it means and how it applies. The main conundrum, of course, is that Buddha cut his teeth on his anatta no-self doctrine, and so, if Buddhism accepts rebirth, then what exactly is it that gets reborn? Good question. And many are the answers, ranging from karma to consciousness, anything but the body itself in reincarnation, complete with a permanent self or soul intact.

    Because, that’s the Hindu Vedic Brahmanistic principle that the Buddha was in fierce competition with, and this was the most prominent point of departure between them, so a definite no-no. So, the Buddhists tend to explain the controversy away, while at the same time talking about past and future lives like so many trips to the grocery store. And many Buddhists will explain that not only is this not unscientific, but science is gradually coming around to a similar view. I’ve got a better idea: drop the whole idea, since it’s not really necessary, anyway, so why raise a ruckus over something this has no proven relevance to this life in this world, which is all that we really know?

    The irony is that many of these ‘re-birthers’ are Present Moment Buddhists, also, the same Buddhists who most loudly promote the relatively new idea that this so-called ‘present moment’ is not only all that we can know, but it’s all that there is. But this idea is not only in direct contradiction with Rebirth and Past Lives, but it’s also in contradiction with itself, simply because it defies common sense, in that what we see in life is not a still photo, but a movie, by analogy. Okay, but a movie is a succession of twenty-four frames per second, still the present moment people seem to be insistent upon THIS present moment, and no other.

    This may be only a problem of syntax and semantics though, since Eckhart Tolle has no real problem with his concept of the NOW, which, like particles or waves, may presumably be envisioned as either individual moments or a stream in flow. And, like rebirth, maybe it’s just best not to think about it too much. After all, Eckhart Tolle is not a Buddhist, anyway, and neither is much of what he says, but much also is, and the concept of NOW has much currency in the modern New Age movement. Bottom line: neither can be proven by Science, Past Lives or Present Moments. Still, I’d gladly take NOW, with all its conceptual flaws, if that could put the final nail in the coffin of rebirth. It’s time. We can deal with NOW in the next millennium, if that’s how long it takes…

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

    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 9:39 am on October 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Buddhadasa, , , , rebirth,   

    Buddhist Rebirth and the Oranges of Geronimo Bosch 

    Yes, we should keep an open mind about rebirth. We should also keep an open mind about no rebirth. Because the diehards are doubling down, in direct proportion to what they fear they have to lose, I suppose: certainty, predetermination, magic, or maybe even their jobs? But mostly, I think, they are worried about losing their religion, because religion is about nothing if not certainty, and without rebirth, Buddhism might be seen as lacking that, and so nothing more than a philosophy. But philosophy doesn’t pay the bills, and religion does, because that’s where you turn when times are hard, to magic and superstition, not existentialism or logical positivism.

    And let’s be clear that we’re not talking about ‘spiritual rebirth’ or being ‘born again’ in the Christian sense. Because, though the definition is deliberately fuzzy (how could it not be?), its resemblance to brother Hinduism’s reincarnation is hard to explain away. And in a sense it can serve as a stand-in for Christianity’s eternal life, even though the one is supposed to be a blessing and the other a curse. Often, I suppose that the curse you know is far preferable to the great unknown that is death.

    The religious quest that is certainty is often preferable to the scientific truth, which is tentative, by definition. And so, a big idea that was popular at the time, reincarnation and/or rebirth, was accepted by the Buddha, sorta kinda almost maybe, because it promised better results than the alternative. But it is now an obstacle for the evolving dharma which is Buddhism, and which is teetering on the side of dogma, if the ‘rebirthers’ get their way. And so far, up until now, they do get their way, as almost every time the Pali/Sanskrit word ‘jati’ is used, the correct translation as ‘birth’ is now retranslated as ‘rebirth.’ But there is a different word for that.

    Entire concepts, indeed, such as Dependent Origination, are remade in the image of rebirth. Ironically the monks who you’d think would be most resistant to this, the Westerners, are often in fact the ones doubling down. I spent a few months in a Thai forest temple, and we never talked about rebirth. Many Western monks talk about nothing else. One prominent Western monk has even declared that non-self ‘anatta’ was always tentative, so that there can be no issue over what gets reborn.

    In the Thai tradition, ‘making merit’ is a big deal and past lives are jokingly referred to, but the karma involved is little more than the Golden Rule, not the generation-jumping karma of retribution that characterizes the rebirth-heavy Tibetan tradition. And the revered Thai monk Buddhadasa specifically denied rebirth, while Ajahn Chah dodged the issue. Of course, my pet theory is that it’s all a ruse designed to ensure the dominance of the Brahmin caste in India over their lessers, but I can’t prove that—yet. Can it be proved that Christian eternal life is a pretext for capitalism? Probably not. This is the garden of earthly delights–enjoy, a little bit…

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

    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.

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  • hardie karges 8:50 am on July 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bodhicitta, , , , , , , , , , rebirth   

    Buddhism Made Easy: Kindness, Compassion, and all that Meditation… 

    Meditation every day keeps the doctor away, and a little kindness helps, too. That pretty much wraps up the gist of Buddhism, without all the doctrines and the calls to action, when inaction is often much preferred. Because Christianity may indeed have been a better paradigm for development of a world raw and wild, but Buddhism is the better paradigm for sustainability. And that is much the reason why I am here. The sentiment is easily extrapolated or interpolated for the life of an ordinary human being, also, such that Christianity might indeed be the better model for growing up and developing, but Buddhism is the better model for settling in and settling down, for the long haul…

    The Four Noble (Aryan) Truths and the primacy of suffering form the cornerstone of Buddhism’s overt doctrine, but meditation is the cornerstone of covert discipline. And so we tame the body and mind as we tame the world, and suddenly things become clearer. The natural animosity of the state of Nature is nothing of the sort when two typically argumentative species—say dogs and cats—are raised together as pups and kittens from the earliest days, keeping each other warm when nights are cold, and heaters are just fantasies from the north country. Is there any better example of Bodhicitta, i.e. Buddha nature?

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  • hardie karges 12:26 pm on April 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Carvakas, cosmological constant, , Gosala, , , , Nepali, Predeterminism, rebirth, ,   

    Karma, Rebirth, and the Middle Path of Buddhism 

    Karma is not a bank account. Karma is a way to live with right actions. That’s what the word means, in fact, simply ‘actions.’ But somewhere along the way the word got mixed up in the fashions of the day, in 6th to 8th century India, Before the Common Era, and the materialistic demands of the Carvakas in contrast to the predeterminism of Gosala, tutor to both the Buddha and Mahavira, 23rd Tirthankara of the Jains. They were of the extreme ascetic bent, of course, in which Emptiness literally means empty bellies, by willful design, to the point of inanition and even death, for lack of other inspiration.

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  • hardie karges 11:32 am on April 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , rebirth,   

    Buddhism and the Limits of Freedom… 

    Self-control is a valuable tool, a wonderful trait, and a noble quality. But control of others? Not so much. And this is a sticking point for many Western Buddhists, who cringe at the thought of any sort of control, it being anathema to the Western traditions of freedom and democracy, however ill-conceived and ill-defined. This obsession with freedom arose in response to the tyranny of rulers, so that is the sordid background upon which our story must unfold. It is also the justification for many a disproportionate response which must then invite further repercussions, in an almost endless back-and-forth see-saw of emotions and cataclysms which define the modern history of humankind.

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  • hardie karges 2:00 pm on February 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , rebirth, ,   

    The Two Major Schools of Buddhism: Past Life or Present Moment… 

    You can’t be a ‘present moment’ Buddhist and a ‘past life’ Buddhist at the same time, since the two concepts are contradictory. And this is probably more important than any modern distinction between Theravada and Mahayana, Tibetan or Zen, simply whether you believe in past lives or not, karma and rebirth supposedly the causes and effects of that process.

    So the present moment is mostly a convenient escape, with ET extending the landing chute, because no present moment really exists, any more than a past life, but the latter is more onerous than the former, which can vanish with the flick of a whisker, while the past lives will never go away, as long as it is believed in.

    Because past lives are all about predestination, and the submission to a supposedly higher will, when one is more than enough. And if this all likely began with the best of intentions, it soon became a stage prop to the caste system, i.e. racism, the idea that some are born with latent superiorities, while others are born with obvious deficiencies.

    Thus your station in life is pre-determined by the events of a previous life, and there is little you can do to change it. None of that has any basis in science, of course, the racism nor the past lives. But still we have to deal with it, day by day, the racism of Aryan superiority not only in India, but in Europe and Amerika and in the latter-day colonies Down Under.

    Predestination is the philosophical side to the same phenomena of past lives, the idea that ‘it is all written,’ notwithstanding the fact that nothing at all was written until a few thousand years ago, still the image is powerful, script on paper, replicating itself into countless lifetimes and universal ages.

    Calvin the Presbyter made great gains with a similar theory in the Western world, details left to the deacons of stupas and steeples, the main takeaway that we are not in control, PERIOD. And that might not be such a bad thing, if the ulterior motives of religion are to be taken at face value.

    After all, aren’t all religions most similar in their insistence that we subject ourselves to a higher will? For all Christianity’s eternity and infinity, the need to obey God is paramount, the only question now or later, prodigal or prescient. And so it is with Islamic submission and Hindu embrace, we Buddhists left to fill in blanks that the others have all left unfilled.

    But the ‘present moment’ is something else entirely, and at its best in countering the pernicious superstitions of karma, especially the kind that jumps generations to bounce back and bite you when you least expect it, in the next life. Belief in the present moment provides a convenient counterpart to challenge all that. I would go not nearly so far as ET in extolling its virtues, since its virtues to me are simply those of meditation, whether with single focus or field focus, the result is the same.

    To shut off the internal dialogue, even for a moment, is to return to proto-consciousness, paleo-consciousness, before language took over and came to own it. Now languages conquer peoples and acquire new lands, our hapless selves but tools of the medium, neither rare nor well done. Samma vaca is right speech. Right speech is good speech. Silence is preferable to bad speech. Words matter…

     
    • Five 7:46 am on February 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply

      What tradition of Buddhism were you trained in, Hardie? And is this “present moment Buddhism” something that people teach?

      You say “You can’t be a ‘present moment’ Buddhist and a ‘past life’ Buddhist at the same time” – but you can, and that is the whole point. Because the present moment never had a beginning (you recall one?) and has no end – it cannot have because it has no duration – that tells us that the “present moment”, i.e. conscious awareness, does not end at death. That’s all you need to know, you don’t need to remember past lives, or believe anything other than your experience (which is only ever of the ‘present moment’, as above, that IS your experience).

    • hardie karges 7:54 am on February 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply

      I have an MA in Buddhist Studies, so I am ‘trained’ in all of them. No, ‘present moment’ Buddhism is not taught, to my knowledge, unless you want to credit Eckhart Tolle with it. I use poetic license to conduct my thought experiments, in hopes of reaching a higher truth, or at least a different one. Interesting that you begin by disagreeing with me, and end by more-or-less agreeing with me. You are obviously a present moment Buddhist, if you are a Buddhist at all, good choice (even if you don’t believe in death, which is a bit of a dicey proposition)…

  • hardie karges 11:51 am on September 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , rebirth   

    The Buddhist doctrine of Dependent Arising reconsidered… 

    Everything is a cause. Everything is an effect. We are in the middle. Find happiness there. And I think that this is very close to the original intention of the Buddhist doctrine of Dependent Arising, that there are strict causal connections between events and their aftermaths, even if the connections are maybe not as precise as some may imagine.

    Formally known in Sanskrit as प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद pratītyasamutpāda or in Pali (the related Theravada canonical language as पटिच्चसमुप्पाद paṭiccasamuppāda, it simply means: “if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist”. Which is all well and good, as far as it goes, whether you take the doctrine as an ontological principle, on the subject of being, or as an epistemological principle, on the subject of knowledge.

    The problem arises (pun intended) when we get down to the twelve links (nidanas), which supposedly articulate this process, basically: 1) ignorance (tabula rasa?), 2) mental formations (first mental activity?), 3) consciousness (of baby-self?), 4) name-and-form (language?), 5) six senses (as distinguished from each other and mind?), 6) contact (look, listen, touch?), 7) sensation (see, hear, feel?), 8) craving, 9) clinging, 10) becoming (ch-ch-changes?), 11) birth (of a higher consciousness?), and 12) aging and death (all question marks indicate my tentative interpretations).

    The problem is that the ‘rebirthers’ (my term and slightly riffing on Trump), have long since appropriated the whole concept as justification for the predetermination and ‘multiple feedback loops’ of karma, that they find necessary to lock one into a system that rewards and punishes with future retribution and prevents the possibility of suicide as a convenient ‘one way out.’

    This notwithstanding the fact that the whole concept apparently predates Buddhism and manifested in various forms before its final version which has become the standard. But ancient terms are always subject to re-interpretation, a current fashion among pseudo-sorta-Buddhas, and of course—shazam and voila! That changes everything. Or does it?

    So I’ve always enthusiastically accepted the general concept, while remaining agnostic on the particulars as if the excessive list-making of wannabe Abhidharmists and johnny-come-lately bloggers, and left it right there unfinished, since modern physics could hardly support a version of empirical reality so obviously simplistic. But a science of mind might. And since psychology is not a science of mind, now, but a science of behavior, then the filed is wide open for speculation.

    The main problem is the first half, the interpretations of which vary widely, as evidenced from the Wikipedia source material. But I see this as a child opening his eyes for the first time and discovering the world, ‘giving names to all the animals,’ (thanks, Bob) etc., and then finally realizing that he is not only an actor on a new stage, but also a toucher, feeler, craver, clinger, thinker, and hopeful bodhisattva—all before he or she has even had his or her first romance (when it really kicks in)!

    Everything else comes after and comprises the final item in the list of mutual dependences. And only in this way do the twelve links make sense to me, though I doubt that the ‘rebirthers’ will buy it. What do you think? Birth is a product of Nature. Rebirth is a product of imagination. I try to do re-invent myself every day…

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratityasamutpada

     
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