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  • hardie karges 9:13 am on September 18, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhism and the Nature of Self/Not-Self… 

    The notion of self is a linguistic convenience. But language is not reality. And this is one of the debates in Buddhism, of course, not so much the exact nature of ‘self,’ which is proscribed in Buddhism (with an ‘o,’ not ‘e’), but more the exact nature of ‘not-self,’ or ‘no-self,’ that distinction itself often at the crux of the debate, as if there were any real difference, as if it really mattered. Because what matters is that this is not the Hindu cosmic self nor the Christian eternal self, both of which are not what the Buddha envisioned for his group of followers and his emerging view of the world.

    But what exactly did he envision for the self? Not much, apparently. Best guesses are the (s)khandhas, or ‘heaps’ of causes and conditions that he enumerated to constitute the typical person sans persona that is typically referred to, though many modern Buddhists like to wax long and hard on the ego and ensuing egolessness that would obviously result from that starting point. But our concept of ‘ego’ is so tied to Freud’s concept of id, ego, and superego that it may be misleading. Because I’m sure that the Buddha had no such wild notions.

    The Freudian ego also makes the same mistake that the Buddha was trying to solve, positing self as a thing, or something, anyway, which is an independent actor on an ever-shifting stage, when the actions themselves were much more important, as modern psychology now acknowledges the behavior, rather than some elaborate tripartite self, so like verbs not nouns. The Buddha might even go a step farther and see the composite self as a collection of adjectives, thus tendencies to act, not even dignified by the actions themselves.

    I’m sure that he had our modern notion of selfishness in mind, though, so we have that much in common, what with his obsessions with craving and desire. And that’s where Buddhism has much to say about our modern consumeristic economies and lifestyles to the point that ‘stuff’ becomes the meaning of our lives. This is a trap, of course, and a never-ending cycle of unfulfillment. After all, how can things satisfy us if we ourselves are essentially non-things? Sometimes the world is too much with us. Even the Buddha and Wordsworth could agree on that. The Buddha called it samsara….

     
  • hardie karges 11:02 am on September 4, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhism 499: Self-control and the Benefits of Meditation 

    Self-control should not be an affront to your Western freedoms. It should be the foundation of your Eastern practices. But this is a tough pill for many Westerners to swallow, because it invokes the dreaded ‘C’ word, control, mattering not to many that self-control is a totally different activity than controlling others, which for me is a hideous affair, usually. Self-control, on the other hand, is the cause and effect of some of my life’s finest moments, not the least of which are simple meditative moments, the practical foundation of Buddhism.

    And all Asian monks know this, and can attest to it fully, while Westerners resist and desist, and their meditative practices often show it, twitching and flinching while struggling to finish a half-hour of meditation, while I’ve seen even Asian laypeople sit motionless for hours. But was it sarmatha or was it vipassana or was it mindfulness meditation or was it that new style that somebody was doing on TV? And there’s TM, the one that the Beatles made famous, with their Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and which has gone on to be bliss of choice for Hindu-style practice, complete with secret password.

    But all Buddhist practices derive from some version of anapanasati, awareness of breath, and to there they all return—eventually. And to be aware is very much within the practice of control. Because you don’t really have to do much of anything to meditate properly. But there are some things that you should definitely NOT do, and distractions are at the top of that list. Life itself can be extrapolated from this practice, also, giving meditation a central place and practice in your life. It’s simply a good approach to life, calm and collected, and likely to produce a ripple effect that radiates outward. Don’t you wish everybody would participate?

    So, if you’re looking for something like ayahuasca, then Buddhism is the wrong place to look. Because there is nothing here, really, to get excited about, and just the opposite, in fact. There is much here to get calm about—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but without all the weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth. We Westerners are emotion junkies, though that doesn’t mean that we are ‘evil,’ as certain pro-Putin pushers suggest outright. What the West loves was perfect for a world growing up and reproducing itself. What Buddhism offers is perfect for a world finding itself. The future is at stake.

     
  • hardie karges 12:03 pm on August 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    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, , , religion   

    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 10:25 am on July 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aristotle, Brahmanists, , , , , , religion, ,   

    Buddhism is a World of Feeling, Thoughts Optional 

    Be kind to humans and other sentient beings, even when they are obnoxious, egotistic, pompous, and overbearing. And this is a tough row to hoe in the age of social media, I know, but that makes it even more important, doesn’t it? I think so. Because the pressure in this social media age for anyone who wants to be an ‘influencer,’ is to crack wise first, and smooth hard feelings later, if ever. But that’s not the correct order of things, I don’t think, not these days or ever.

    Because we are all ‘influencers,’ to some extent or other, but if we’re all sticking our egos in everyone’s faces all the time, then who is left to bear witness? So, we all have a stake in this game, regardless of whether we’re professional or not, because those lines are becoming blurred—at best. This is nothing if not a world of feeling, and I think that’s how Buddhism best makes sense. Because there was no world of reason back then, much less science, even if the Buddha was aware of the power of reason and tried to incorporate it into his practice.

    But reason at its best requires inscrutable logic, and the Indian tetralemma, in Greek, or catuhskoti, in Sanskrit, was far from perfect, and violated the Law of the Excluded Middle of Aristotelian logic, more familiar to our Western thought. But the Indian choices of ‘This,’ ‘That,’ ‘All of the above’ or ‘None of the above’ might ironically have led to the Buddha’s famous Middle Path, which Greek logic only approached with a roundabout dialectical synthesis that came much later.

    There’s more to life than logic, though, of course, and a close examination shows a classical Indian world-view heavily based on feeling and introspection, the deeper the better for the really big questions. That’s the world that the Buddha was raised in, and that was his method by trade, as prophet to the ages. When in doubt, think it out. Though many modern non-dualists may deny that the Buddha ever really intended anything, much less own his thoughts, I think it’s safe to say that he certainly did.

    If the Buddha’s thoughts had had no thinker, then I doubt we’d have Four Noble Truths and twice that number of folds and twists to our middle path of salvation, as defined by the cessation of suffering, at least partially, if never quite total. In every case, too, it’s a world of feeling and perception that is described, defined by name and form, and articulated by consciousness. The Brahmins and Brahmanists saw a world of Cosmic self in union with Brahma. The Buddha begged to differ. That’s the world he lived in, and that’s the world that he bequeathed to us.

     
  • hardie karges 11:44 am on July 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhism 101: Anger is a Warning Sign of Impending Danger… 

    Anger is like a lying dog, that, when provoked, rises up in consciousness, and strikes the nearest hand that most recently fed it. Because it’s blind, and usually vicious, hatefulness optional, and it infects everything it touches, anger does. But it’s not always so easy to recognize, because it comes in many forms, most often in concert with hatred, true, but equally conversant with deception and denigration and the other delusions of sense perception, always a prime source of suffering, no matter the particular place and time in question…

    And then there is the other ‘poison’ of Buddhism, besides hatred and delusion, which is greed, or sensual desire, with which anger is also often associated. But sometimes the symptom is worse than the disease, and this could often be one of those cases, in which the anger is worse than the moha, raga, or dvesha itself. These are also variously known as the Three Unwholesome Roots and the Three Kileshas, which are also available in a convenient Five-Pack for serious abusers, but who’s counting?

    Still, it all counts as demerit in a lifestyle that prides itself on making merit, and doing good, and so worth making a sea change in order to avoid the choppy waves, right? But that gets into issues of global warming and rising sea levels, when simply wearing a life jacket and learning how to swim might accomplish much the same thing in a much shorter amount of time. Why get a brain operation if a pill can cure the headache? That’s what I want to know.

    Hatred, delusion, and greedy attachments can take a lifetime to cease, overcome, or even diminish, much less cure, though, so in the meantime please do us all a favor and control your anger, okay? It becomes you. And there are many American Buddhist ‘teachers’ who might disagree with that, but they may not be so smart, after all, since they often look to Freud and Jung, rather than Buddha, for inspiration, as if the notion of superego were somehow scientific and Freud’s ego were what the Buddha was really talking about in denouncing the Brahmanistic cosmic atta/atman. It wasn’t. So, let go of all anger, the sooner the better. It sucks.

     
  • hardie karges 1:42 pm on July 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antithesis, , , , , , , , , , religion, 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: , , , religion, 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 7:05 am on April 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhist Metta in the Age of Social Media… 

    Metta is simple and one of the cornerstones of Buddhism: friendship, simple friendship. Or call it ‘loving-kindness’ if that reconciles you with the Hebrew chesed of your Judeo-Christian tradition. Just note that it is not the passion that is usually associated with Christian ‘loving-kindness,’ not even the passionate embrace of a mother and her child. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it’s not necessary. What’s necessary is that the child not experience fear and anger and other defilements and afflictions.

    But we Westerners, particularly Americans, are raised on a diet of emotional cocktails, roller-coasters and built-in toasters, speeding up and then putting on brakes, heating up and then cooling our feet, such that life is nothing but one vast mood swing, which we must then ‘shrink’ by repeated visits to the therapist of our choice. To be a ‘bad-ass’ is a compliment in the US of A, and it shows in our interactions with the world. We fight our enemies to the death on battlefields, while never questioning the enemy within.

    This is one reason why it’s so difficult for Americans to be good Buddhists. Because we look for enlightenment in dialogue and debate, rather than the silence that brilliantly illustrates Emptiness, if not strictly define it. Because we look for our meditation in the words of some endless rap from some best-selling app from the online app-store of one of the world’s richest men, rather than that same silence which the Buddha himself used, as do thousands of monks to this day.

    And whether those monks win or lose the debates that some “spiritual bad-asses” (actual quote) find so rewarding and illuminating is not important. What’s important is quieting the mind (i.e. consciousness) by the necessary hours of silent and still sitting that make life itself the only reward necessary for a rewarding existence. All the cars and bars and Hollywood stars on assorted sh*t-stained sidewalks are but illustrations in a magazine that most people can’t sit still long enough to actually read.

    Compared to these challenges, metta is a literal piece of cake, to be shared with friends on any given day, and maybe even twice on Sunday, or Christmas, or Easter. The world is our sangha, our community, and strangers are as much a part of that as family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. In fact, that can be its greatest reward, communion with strangers as if they were lifelong friends. You can’t know that pleasure until you test those waters. The first rule of friendship is to be friendly, simple. Smile. Happy Easter. Happy Buddhist New Year.

     
  • hardie karges 4:50 am on March 27, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    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…

     
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