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  • hardie karges 4:22 am on November 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , religion, salvation, skandha,   

    Buddhist Enlightenment on the Installment Plan… 

    Buddhism in Bhutan

    Don’t worry about salvation. That implies a soul to be saved. Enlightenment is plenty. Sabbe dhamma anatta. That means that all dharmas are without self, the word ‘dharma’ usually translated as ‘phenomena’ when plural, an innovation of the Abhidharma era. So this is a bit different from the original singular dharma, often translated as the ‘law’ or simply the eternal teachings, presumably sublime if not subtle, whether those of the Buddha or those from the Vedic Brahmanism which preceded him. What we call ‘Hinduism’ is what they call ‘Sanatan(a) dharma.’ Dhamma is the Pali form of the Sanskrit dharma, the language in which the earliest Buddhist teachings appear.

    But somewhere along the way the concept of salvation appears, and certainly after the time of Christ, they famous for that concept, though that does not necessarily imply causality. Because it also seems to come from a different place, far from the Buddhist birthplace of Buddhism in India, though they, too, with an all-encompassing and soulful atman, which is no doubt the source of the Buddha’s inspiration, in opposition to that concept. I first noticed salvation with my study of Zen, which could give it an origin in China or Japan, China certainly with significant Christian influence early on with the Silk Road Nestorians, though Japan had its own Christian influences later. Japanese Zen even somehow twists the non-self skandha ‘heaps’ of conditions of which we are all composed into an ersatz perfection from which we are all carved, very Christian Scientist.

    Go figure. But somehow, it’s all still Buddhism, even if the Mahayana ‘tradition’ went two vastly different directions from the center, Zen with its Dadaist koans and meditative trances, while Tibetan Vajrayana Mantrayana Tantrayana allows magic, mantras, and even sex, but most of all devotion, and karma, to influence that sacred path to Enlightenment. And enlightenment is the key concept here, for even if it lends itself to some juju and some woo-woo, it’s still likely preferable to the dubious concept of Nirvana, with its close connections to death, no matter how parinirvana your nirvana. Seems Kurt Cobain hit it on the head, after all. The concept of Nirvana seems to contradict the concept of the Middle Path, without much further discussion, as does the concept of bliss, since one extreme almost always leads to the other, while the center is the sweet spot of deliverance. That sweet spot is my Buddhism, all extremes avoided.

     
  • hardie karges 10:21 am on October 31, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , religion, ,   

    Buddhist Dana is like Karma, and Anatta: just get over yourself… 

    It’s not generosity, dana, if you expect something in return. That’s business, an investment, a transaction. Dana is selfless, and so closely related to the Buddhist principle of anatta, non-self. This is crucial to a proper understanding of Buddhism, and love, too. For in early Buddhism the only kind of love is metta, friendship, brotherly love, and sisterly, too, or lovingkindness, if you insist on that repurposed Christian term from the Hebrew chesed. That’s too emotional for me. Buddhism is passionless, by design. American photography classes will teach you to point and click at the peak emotion. Buddhism doesn’t do that. Buddhism teaches a different way, the Middle Path, between luxury and lack, to be sure, but also passion and dispassion.

    And there is no call to action, not really, hence all the rishis whiling away their hours in caves and under trees, for the last three thousand some-odd (some very odd!) years. But if you want to do something, then do something good. And giving is one of the best things that you can do, pretty much encompassing almost all the folds of the Noble (Aryan) Eightfold Path. Dana is no more about huge outlays of cash, though, than it is about getting something in return. It is about Right Intention. Because none of us can predict how the future will unfold. All we know is the past, and what we live is the present, the most important of all.

    So, if the Eightfold Path comprises Right Understanding, Thought, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration, then all but those last two steps of sati and samadhi would certainly be included within the purview of dana, or generosity. But there’s no reason to think that those eight steps on the path are all-inclusive anyway. I’m sure we can think of some others equally important. But as every good blogger, Chinese politician, or early Buddhist Abhidharmist knows, lists are supremely convenient, especially when nothing was written to begin with. I see karma similarly, not simple cause and effect. That’s mechanical, like Newtonian physics. Karma is an overarching principle: do good and receive good. But that’s another story. Freely give and freely receive. That’s dana…

     
  • hardie karges 9:39 am on October 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Buddhadasa, , , , , religion   

    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 10:02 am on October 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , religion, , Taoism   

    The Meeting of West and East, Christianity and Buddhism, Passion and Passivity… 

    If you can’t change the world, then change your thoughts toward it. But try to change the world first. And this simple dichotomy describes the philosophical difference between East and West in a nutshell, in the traditional sense, in which Asia is more passive and the West is more aggressive. Much of that has changed as the two worlds have collided and combined over the last centuries, but much of it hasn’t, either. And that is probably best represented by the West’s predominant Christian religion and the East’s predominant Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoist philosophy. Because if Christianity doesn’t explicitly promote aggressiveness, it certainly allows it, especially with the transition from its original Rome-centered Catholicism to its later Westward-bound Protestantism.

    So, it’s no accident that this occurred exactly at the same time as the rise of Science, Capitalism, and the Industrial Revolution. Meanwhile the East mixed its Buddhism and Taoism with heavy doses of Socialism and Communism, until it realized that it was losing a lot of wars that way (and Japan proved that a country didn’t have to be Western to be Capitalist). Note also that Eastern Orthodox Christianity largely avoided the sectarian splintering that plagued the far West (except for some largely geographical distinctions). But there was another aspect to this dichotomy that doesn’t get much mention and that is the emulation also of the traditional roles of men and women.

    Thus, Western churches are defined by long sharp-pointed steeples, while Buddhism is traditionally symbolized by round bulbous stupas. I don’t think that anyone could miss the stupa’s resemblance to female breasts rising in supine submission. Contrast that with the more macho Hinduism’s steeple-like symbolism. And the virgin Mary’s preeminence in early Christianity is long gone in Protestantism. But Buddhism encapsulates the ethos of submission and adaptation perfectly. And while I don’t necessarily think that this is prima facie evidence of Buddhism’s superiority to Christianity, I do think that Buddhism is more appropriate for these times of crowds, confusion, and chaos. Buddhism is all about teaching men to be more like women: kinder and gentler, less violent…

     
  • hardie karges 11:44 am on September 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , religion, 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: , , , , , , , , religion, ,   

    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 8:30 am on August 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , logos, Persia, religion   

    Was Heraclitus the Original Buddhist? 

    Was Heraclitus the Original Buddhist? If not, he certainly missed a good opportunity, because it was he who once said: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.” And a clearer and more succinct articulation of the Buddhist principles of anatta and anicca have never been spoken, the former best defined as ‘non-self’ or ‘no self,’ particularly in the sense of a permanent eternal soul like that of the contemporaneous Brahmanic religion, or Hinduism, as we now know it. But of course Heraclitus was not a Buddhist, per se, but a philosopher of change, and maybe best known for his other famous quote: “The only thing permanent is change.”

    And so he tackles two major Buddhist themes—self and change—with no knowledge of the Buddha himself, apparently, though the possibilities are there. I’ve written often about the genetic and cultural connections between the Greek and Indian philosophers, so I won’t do that now, but it’s interesting that not only do they share significant genetic ancestry, but are contemporaneous in the case of Heraclitus, who lived almost exactly the same time as the Buddha. Add to that the fact that he and the other Ionian philosophers were technically part of the Persian Empire, which spanned the entirety of the 2000mi/3000km between the Greek and Indian mainlands, so it’s tempting to speculate.

    Maybe they had Twitter pigeons? Ha! But the main difference is that the Buddha saw change as a cause of suffering, second only to craving, and Heraclitus did not. For him it was simply a fact of life, like fire, for him the basic ‘stuff’ of existence, as with the Vedic ‘acharyas’ and ‘pandits.’ ‘Basic stuff’ was the obsession of all pre-Socratic philosophers, many of them Ionian, the original word that meant ‘Greek’ in most Asian languages. His logos was also very dharma-like, and Buddhist dharma, in particular, is not fixed, but flexible enough to adapt to a variety of circumstances over time and over space.

    Whether the Buddha intended it that way or not is debatable, but if he considers change a source of suffering, then it is doubtful. That’s just the way it is, and thus proof of the reality, if not the suffering. The suffering is yours—or not. I remember crying when my family moved from the city to the countryside when I was eight years old. Now I seek out new countries all the time, 155 and counting. So, it is not a source of suffering for me, obviously. Thus, the Buddha may have made the mistake of over-generalizing. He was only human, after all. The transcendent Buddha came later. That’s Mahayana: Zen and all that jazz. Craving is still the main cause of suffering, that and attachment to self, as ego. That’s the other aspect of self to be avoided, however impermanent, always doomed to fail.

     
  • hardie karges 8:28 am on August 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , herd immunity, , , , , religion   

    Buddhism and the Herd Immunity against Hatred 

    The best religion gives herd immunity against fear and hatred. The best philosophy explains the reasons why. Of course, that is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot these days, herd immunity, that imprecise ratio between a disease’s capabilities and its limits. Because at some point, if enough people have achieved immunity, whether natural or artificial, then everyone is immune, simply because the virus can’t reproduce itself fast enough, given those odds of success—voila! Herd immunity. It’s easier said than done, though, and some diseases never meet that level of resistance, and so recur endlessly.

    And so it is with fear and hatred, or revenge and anger, and many other sins of the soul, or the mind, or consciousness, anything but flesh, which is relatively easy, by comparison. Because the flesh has medicines and vaccines, but the mind only has willpower and training, compassion and kindness, to defeat those invisible enemies. And if left unchecked, the hate and anger multiply ad infinitum, until we are all infected, and subsequent generations, too. But there is a cure, and it spreads exactly like the disease, and in inverse proportion.

    Because one simple act of kindness can spread from person to person until we are all not only immunized but blessed. And that is the goal, to be blessed, not cursed. For even though Buddhism acknowledges the ubiquity of suffering, that is not a curse, but simply a warning. Right thoughts, right actions, right intent, right livelihood, right awareness, right efforts, right speech, and right meditation are the Middle Path between that morass. The path may be winding but the destination is clear.

     
  • hardie karges 10:57 am on August 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Dhammapada, , , , religion,   

    Present Moment vs Past Lives, Buddhism vs Christianity… 

    “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Fake Buddha Quotes

    “Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment,” is a saying that is often attributed to the Buddha, but in fact is not, and even qualifies as a ‘Fake Buddha Quote,’ though it is not so far off the mark, really. As explained in that FBQ website, the quote itself comes from a 1934 Japanese Buddhist booklet, but ultimately seems to derive from the Dhammapada verse 348 which literally says something like (depending on the translation from Pali):

    Let go of the past, let go of the future.
    Let go of the present. Having gone beyond becoming,
    with mind completely freed,
    you will never again come to birth and aging.

    So that’s ‘Same same but different,’ as we say in Thai pidgin English. The FBQ website’s articulation is well worth reading, but my main take on it is that the present is also rejected, which best makes the point of the Buddhist foundation in renunciation, not ‘present moment,’ which is probably best described as Eckhart Tolle’s philosophy, possibly via that same Japanese thread. Which is all fine and good, as far as it goes. The problem is that it doesn’t really go very far. And neither does the Buddhist renunciation principle, which is very Jain-like in essence.

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  • hardie karges 9:38 am on July 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ahimsa, , Bedouin, , , , religion, ,   

    Buddhism and the Principle of Ahimsa—Non-Violence… 

    If violence is the answer, then we’re asking the wrong questions. That should be the simplest lesson of all to learn in life, for any human with the capabilities of reason—but it’s not. This is a lesson that we must learn continuously, over and over and over, not to resort to violence when confronted with a confrontational attitude, and not to ‘take the bait’ when offered, because it will surely lead to no good end. ‘Taking the bait,’ of course, is a response to a form of provocation which pretends to be harmless, but which is designed specifically to evoke a response, often negative.

    So violence is more than an act. It’s an attitude, and it often has nothing to do with physical violence, but still it’s violence—mental violence? Spiritual? Psychological? Yes, all that and more. Because once it infects your mental state, then the harm is already done. That’s the trauma. Any physical distress is almost superfluous unless it’s lasting. But physical pain is only real when you are in it, and so is difficult to describe. Death is the ultimate act of violence, of course, and the highest sin in any and all religions—Buddhism included. If you can’t resolve your differences with someone without killing them, then we are indeed a sorry species—at best.

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