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  • hardie karges 10:06 am on August 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Franz Ferdinand, , Occam's Razor, , , Sanskrit, ,   

    Buddhism for Dummies, Hold the Salsa… 

    My 6th grade teacher was correct: our mouths cause most of our problems. Samma Vaca is Right Speech, part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. Of course, Ms. What’s-her-name knew little or nothing of Buddhism but that makes no difference. Buddhism is at its best as common sense, and that’s what the Eightfold path is all about. Three of the paths that comprise the Eightfold Path you might already know from the Franz Ferdinand song ‘Right Action,’ which also trumpets (and guitars) Right Thoughts and Right Words.

    The other components of the path include Right Intention, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration (meditation), depending on translations and personal proclivities. For example, ‘mindfulness’ is all the rage in online Buddhist circles, but ‘awareness’ or even ‘consciousness’ might be a better translation of the Pali word sati (Sanskrit smrti), since they’re easy to use in any normal conversation, while ‘mindfulness’ is rarely used outside of Buddhist or meditation circles (though ‘mindful’ might be).

    And that’s the way I like my Buddhism, down-to-earth and easy to understand. Zen tries to get all Dadaesque, in its effort to go beyond language, but only confuses many people in the process. And Vajrayana puts the magic in the wand for those who need that, but none of that is really necessary for the Buddhism that the Buddha envisaged. And those early guys admittedly tried to make it more complicated, too, even grouping the Eightfold Path into a three-part collection of ethics, meditation, and wisdom, without really changing anything in the process. Sometimes the simplest way is the best, just like Occcam’s Razor, for a smooth close shave, haha…

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  • hardie karges 7:45 am on January 30, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Sanskrit   

    Buddhism 101: Do the Right Thing, Quietly… 

    To do the right thing isn’t always easy. Do it anyway: samma-ditthi, samma-sankappa, samma-vaca, samma-kammanta, samma-ajiva, samma-vayama, samma-sati, samma-samadhi, often translated as Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration, though I’m not sure what the difference is between Right Understanding and Right Thought. But I do know that Right View is often substituted for one or the other of them, I assume the first, since the modern Nepali translation of ‘view’ is drsya, and probably better for the very reason of its distinction from ‘thought.’

    And then there are those who would object to the translation of ‘samma’ as ‘right,’ though for what reason I can’t remember now, and probably misguided, if we remember that ‘right’ in this case is in the context of ‘appropriate,’ which would agree nicely with that word’s derivation in modern standard Thai, which has probably half of its words derived from Pali and/or Sanskrit.

    Re-translation is the curse of modern-day Buddhism, especially American-based Buddhism, which must reconcile ancient Indian thought derived from deep contemplation with modern critical analysis largely derived from empirical testing on one hand, and the faddish trends of fashion on the other, and the need for brief sound bites with universal happy endings, perfect for mass consumption.

    And that’s fine, since Buddhism is an ongoing dialog, or dialectic, in constant search of a higher truth, those first Four Noble ones and that ensuing Eightfold Path but the starting point for further developments and the groundwork for the Precepts, that were once typically translated as Commandments for simplicity of reason, faith and understanding. All religions seem to need tenets, even when they are almost identical, since most people need constant reminding of even the simplest things in life.

    For example: Samma Vaca, Right Speech, is not just for your friends, but your enemies, too, and strangers unnamed and uncounted. Obvious, right? But until someone articulates that most important point, then it might very well go unnoticed by most typical text-skimmers. Less obvious is that all this verbiage is excessive, and should be unnecessary, except for our habits of point and counterpoint, parry and thrust. Buddhism is a religion and philosophy of silence, at the core of its being and existence. Silence is normal. All noise should be treated as an alien force, approached with caution and handled with great care.

     
  • hardie karges 10:52 am on November 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Sanskrit,   

    Buddhism and the Cessation of Suffering… 

    Sometimes the symptoms are the disease. Suffering is like that, and Buddhism knows that. Whether nirvana is the cure or not is unimportant to me, since nirvana’s association with death is not conducive to a casual discussion of it, like discussing suicide with someone who’s going through tough times. And the clarification that the Buddha’s ‘parinirvana’ was something different is not especially helpful, not when the modern Sanskrit translation apparently is indeed ‘death.’ What IS important is that all suffering be mitigated and ameliorated, however incrementally, whatever the time frame. To reduce suffering by half, and half again, ad infinitum, is indeed the ‘cessation of suffering’ that I envision when I read the Buddhist texts. A cure implies a magic pill. Buddhism is not like that.

    The modern curse of Buddhism is to re-translate everything, apparently to make it sound more Western, so more optimistic, and less pessimistic. But Buddhism is really neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but realistic. Death happens. Get used to it. What happens after that is fertile ground for speculation, but I’m not especially concerned about it. The afterlife, whatever it is, is probably not painful, whether Heaven or Hell or, more likely, none of the above. But the word dukkha, i.e. ‘suffering,’ is one of the words that gets re-translated the most. So now it’s ‘dissatisfaction,’ ‘inconvenience,’ or even ‘stress,’ notwithstanding the fact that modern stress is something most likely unknowable to ancient India. Maybe the word we want is ‘bummer,’ haha, but now I’m admitting to being a ‘boomer,’ aren’t I?

    Fortunately, Buddhism does not have to dovetail perfectly with modern Western psychology, especially of the popular sort, since that just might be wrong, at least from a Buddhist perspective. Most obvious would be the emphasis on ‘emptiness,’ which for a Western psychologist is the source of much distress. But for a Buddhist it’s sublime deliverance, an affirmation of all that is real and holy, and the source of the world itself, in addition to being a scientifically accurate extension of the anatta ‘non-self’ principle, one of Buddhism’s core beliefs. Buddhism is better than Western pop psychology, which too easily descends into faddish commercialism. This is where the traditional sangha community plays an important role. Because without the monkhood Buddhism is just another New Age fad in America. That’s the problem with secular Buddhism. But there is a Middle Way between all the options and variations, and the synthesis is sublime.

     
  • hardie karges 10:49 am on October 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Sanskrit,   

    Buddhist Non-attachment and Free Will 

    You can be connected to everything and attached to nothing. That is the Holy Grail, for me, at least, of life in general, and Buddhism in particular. Because, despite the apparent similarities, the difference between the two activities is craving, upadana in Pali/Sanskrit, and that is the deal-killer, as articulated in the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, number two, to be exact. Visually, imagine making contact, but without a hook that attaches you to that other surface.

    Now isn’t that preferable? Because without that hook, then you are free. And with freedom comes responsibilities. But with that hook, then you are enslaved. And when you are enslaved, not only have you lost your precious freedom, but you have lost your moral responsibility. Because if there is no free will, then there is no morality.

    So, the metaphysicians can argue all they want about the existence, or not, of free will, using arguments based on reason and logic, but the proof depends on the necessity—or not—of morality. Because free will can never be proven empirically, since it’s an abstract concept, and thus not subject to the demands of reason nor logic. But it is subject to the demands of morality. Ontologically, there is no absolute free will, though a limited one, subject to circumstances. This world is our circumstance. It demands morality.

     
  • hardie karges 10:44 am on August 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alexander the Great, , , , , , Hindi, , , , , , , , , Sanskrit, shaman, , , , , Yaqui   

    Buddhist Metta-tation, Friendship Beyond Thought, Language Optional… 

    The truest love is metta, friendship, without all the burdens of possession. That’s Buddhist love, of course, without all the weeping, wailing, and the gnashing of teeth. The Pali word metta often gets written up as ‘lovingkindness’ by latter-day Buddhists, mostly American, who want the passion that term implies, but the Buddha likely intended nothing of the sort. That’s a Christian term, too, from the Hebrew chesed, with a heavy dose of devotion implied, but the Buddha seemed to intend none of that, and the word’s presence in many other Asian languages of the time reflects none of it, either.

    So ‘lovingkindness’ would seem to come from a totally different line of descent by genome. Culture is not genome, though, of course, though they often parallel one another, and the ‘Judeo-Christian’ tradition seems to reflect that. So, we Westerners tend to be emotion junkies, even when that emotion is not necessarily a pleasant one. We are implored to embrace suffering, by that logic, even though suffering implies pain, and the heavy dose of sadness that often brings. The fact that the Pali word dukkha means ‘suffering’ and the related word dukhee means ‘sadness’ in modern Hindi would seem to reflect that range of intent.

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  • hardie karges 10:42 am on May 31, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Diamond Sutra, Dunhuang, Kumarajiva, , matrices, Mogao Caves, Sanskrit, Takla Makan Desert, , Xinjiang,   

    New Diamond Sutra: Utility is the Measure of Beauty 

    Diamond Sutra: So I tell you – Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world: A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; A flash of lightning in a summer cloud, A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream. When the Buddha finished this Discourse the venerable Subhuti, together with the bhikshus, bhikshunis, lay-brothers and sisters, and the whole realms of Gods, Men and Titans, were filled with joy by His teaching, and, taking it sincerely to heart, they went their ways…

    The Diamond Sutra (Sanskrit: वज्रच्छेदिकाप्रज्ञापारमितासूत्र, Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra) is the oldest printed and dated book in the world, all of which occurred on the 11th day of May in 868 CE, notwithstanding the fact that the book is certainly older than that. But this is from the first Chinese translation, which occurred c.401CE by the venerable Kumarajiva from Kashmir, one of my Buddhist heroes, while in prison in Xinjiang (sound familiar?), and before he found his place in the capital at Chang’an (now Xi’an). The signed dated copy–for free distribution only–was found in the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang a lttle more than a century ago. Nothing rots in the desert.

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  • hardie karges 12:37 pm on November 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Sanskrit,   

    Buddhist Mindfulness and the Myth of Multi-Tasking… 

    Multi-tasking is a myth, aka ‘monkey mind’. Mindfulness is not a myth. Think one thought at the time. ‘Mindfulness’ is a difficult word to translate, and may or may not be the best translation of the Pali/Sanskrit word ‘sati,’ but that is the historical path of Buddhism, so that is the word with which we are left, and that is the task before us.

    I think that the Christians have even borrowed the term now, and so it has taken on a life of its own. But what does it really mean? The term ‘sati’ originally meant something like simple ‘awareness’ or ‘consciousness,’ small ‘c’, almost certainly, (as it still means in modern standard Thai).

    But even more certain would be to simply posit it as the inverse of its negation, and so ‘mindfulness’ is simply the opposite of ‘mindlessness’ and put the onus of exposition upon its protagonists, since the word ‘sati’ worked just fine for millennia, and its simple translations are more than sufficient.

    But the quest for religion is the quest for transcendence, if not magic, and if that means creating holy words with extraordinary definitions, then ‘mindfulness’ is one of those, in the modern post-New-Age reinvention of our spiritual necessities.

    And if that seems tired and trite, then rest assured that the most traditional Buddhists are in on the game, too, they also anxious to liberate terminology from the ordinary humdrum of daily existence, add some hype, aka ‘wu-wu.’

    And one of the easiest ways to do that is simply to redefine terms and double them up. So Sanskrit ‘mudita’ becomes not just ‘joy’ but ‘sympathetic joy.’ And ‘metta’ becomes not just ‘kindness’ but ‘loving-kindness.’ And the Asians do this, too, Thais long combining ‘metta’ and ‘karuna’ (compassion) into one comprehensive ‘mettakaruna.’ Likewise ‘sati’ and ‘panya’ (knowledge) can become ‘satipanya’ for extra emphasis and expansion.

    So beyond all the back-stories and linguistic back-formations, what does the word ‘mindfulness’ now really mean in the Buddhist epistemological sense? As stated originally, probably the best interpretation is focused thinking, i.e. one thought at the time, since there truly is not the ability to hold two thoughts equally and simultaneously, but simply to switch between them constantly, so a trick in itself, but perhaps not conducive to a peaceful mind.

    But I think that a better notion is to think in terms of non-linguistic thought altogether, what I call ‘proto-consciousness’ or ‘paleo-consciousness,’ in the sense that this was once normal, no doubt, before the advent of language some 50,000 years ago, almost simultaneous with the demise of our competitors homo Denisova and Floresiensus, and finally Neanderthalensis.

    That is no coincidence, and no cause to celebrate. But that was then, and this is now. God knows that we are nothing if not a young species, and all should be forgiven. Bottom line: Cooperation is better than competition, community better than individualism. And mindfulness is more than a simple agreement of terms.

     
  • hardie karges 11:07 am on August 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Sanskrit   

    Buddhism and Love, True True love… 

    True love doesn’t grasp or cling. True love embraces all and claims nothing. But this is a huge subject, of course, and it’s always good to define your terms, if you expect to have any reasonable discussion, because the word lends itself to many different interpretations, not the least of which is the reproduction of the species, without which we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation…

    Birth, after all, is the origin of each and every individual, if not the species, even if the species is the one most at risk. But many people, especially we westerners, see love as something to be IN, i.e. IN LOVE, so something far above and beyond the simple act of reproduction, more like an entire dimension that swallows us up whole, only to hopefully be released on our word at the middle of our sentence with the ensuing prospects of good behavior. Good luck with that…

    Other languages even describe the same feeling as being lost, i.e. lost in love, so that hits the nail squarely on the head, now, doesn’t it? But that’s so Christian, the passion and the cross, even if the passion was originally suffering, and the cross is really a sword…

    But Buddhism has none of that, AFAIK, but plenty of friendship and brotherly love, and for sisters, too, forever enshrined in the concepts and words of ‘metta’ and ‘maitri’, in Pali and Sanskrit, respectively and respectfully, often translated as ‘lovingkindness’ for people of Euro extraction, even though that’s originally a translation of the Hebrew ‘(c)heced’, aka ‘covenant loyalty’, apparently, so same deal, once the Romans got romance, and put woman on a pedestal from which they could no longer work, only f*ck, then everyone else had to follow those patriarchs of fashion, even if ‘(c)heced’ originally and literally meant to bow oneself, namaste…

    But that’s all water under the bridge, because that was then and this is now, but Buddhism is still a way of life full of dispassion, literally, i.e. relief from suffering, or at least compassion, i.e. misery loves company. But Buddhist suffering, dukkha, does not have to be painful, not at all. It is simply an acknowledgement that you are going to die, and that you are not the center of the universe…

    Now I won’t say that the Hindus-for-hire who tell you that you are the center of the universe are lying, but simply that they are misinformed, as any scientist can attest. For, in the Buddha’s eyes, we are simply a heap of aggregates, so let’s say adjectives, not nouns, and certainly not eternal ones passing from life to life, notwithstanding the paradox of rebirth…

    But at least for this life in this world, we all have each other, and that is not so bad, once you stop and think about it, and once you broaden your circle of friends to include those with whom you may find more degrees of separation than you can account for in the memories of those who conveniently surround you. Racism sucks. Does the Universe care what you do with your life? We are the Universe. We care…

     
    • tiramit 9:06 pm on August 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      “…we are simply a heap of aggregates …adjectives, not nouns,” I like it! It explains something about the Khandas that always puzzled me. Thanks

    • hardie karges 9:12 pm on August 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, it was a revelation to me at the time, also, though I’ve heard someone since describe them as verbs, but no, I still think that they are adjectives. This opens a whole new field of inquiry, though, into the linguistic nature of our self-perception. Thanks for your comments…

  • hardie karges 12:13 pm on July 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Sanskrit, vegetarian,   

    Nature Asserts Herself with a Vengeance, and a Virus… 

    Nature is not ours to conquer. Nature is there for us to respect, honor, and obey. And if this seems like common sense, derived from common knowledge, believe me that it is one of the hardest commandments to obey, maybe because it was never written down, or maybe because it is somehow counter-intuitive, that what looks like ‘Nature’s bounty’ to us is somehow limited and precious and subject to restrictions on access.

    And isn’t that the way we males perceive our access to the feminine side of life? Because that’s what Nature is, even at its wildest, it is the feminine principle to life, as opposed to the will and violence that haunt the halls of patriarchal civilization. Because even at its most violent, the mighty lion subduing the gentle lamb, I don’t think that there is any enjoyment implied or expressed, simply the fact of life that big fish eat small fish, no offense intended.

    Only we humans have the willpower to construct cities, or the conscious intent to choose vegetarianism, when it is not our historical path that has led us to that conclusion, but pure consciousness. Now I could be wrong, but I don’t think that it is likely that any other species will soon emulate that decision, though they may very well be vegetarian by nature, and who knows the path that Nature has bequeathed upon that other species, whose story we little know, and that has brought them to that conclusion?

    But now we have come full circle, from nature and back again and the only thing that has changed is that we are one step closer to a complete revolution around a celestial body that is in itself in revolution around a celestial body, in some giant circle dance in some giant sky that only makes sense from a distance. So we build cities and take what we want from Nature, gentle bountiful Nature, as if it were a stray lamb on the edge of the flock, and there must surely be more where that came from.

    But there is not, not in any accessible form, that is. Because we are limited by light and gravity, and the restrictions placed by that fourth dimension of Time. Almost anything is possible in Space, but Time in a single dimension is less forgiving than Space in three, and Nature is the perfect example of that. In more than one SE Asian language it is something like the Thai ธรรมชาติ, thammachaht, i.e. dharma jati, the law of birth, straight from the Sanskrit, as filtered through the lens of Buddhism.

    And that’s what Nature is, too, the law of birth, and death, as it pertains to our lives and those that we are privileged to share with. If it took a pandemic virus for us to see that clearly, then so be it, better late than never. Because the new normal will have to be greener and cleaner, or it won’t work. Mother knows best…

     
  • hardie karges 12:18 pm on April 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , maitri, , Mithra, , , Sanskrit   

    Buddhism and the Personal Peace Initiative… 

    Don’t take the bait. Let the other guy have the last word. Someone has to be the adult in the room in this world or there’ll be none, adults that is, since I think that we can assume that there is a room, by prior agreement, and our common consensus that the material world exists to at least an extent that we can talk about it, even if those illusions of solidity quickly vanish with increased scrutiny. Because the infinite divisibility of matter is as inscrutable as the infinite extension of the universe, and as unlikely as true love, in the sense of ultimate compatibility, beyond all causes and conditions, not to be confused with lovingkindness, simple friendship or universal brotherhood, however you want to define the Sanskrit or Pali terms ‘metta’ and ‘maitri’, notwithstanding all the mutations and peregrinations that the Iranian god Mithra made in transforming himself from a god of light into a Roman god of war, thus the very opposite of the Buddhist intent. And such is the world, fidgeting and finagling, hungering and thirsting for something more, if not always something other, the family familiar usually preferred to the altogether other, for reasons of convenience, if not comfort, and seldom better. For the world grows smaller to the same degree that it grows more violent, the need for living room in conflict with the need for living rooms, possession and aggression up against compassion and dispassion, so we gather up our rocks and put them in hard places, all ready for battle, rather than find peace within ourselves, and then extend it to others. There is a way out, and a way forward, but the answer is too simple for many men to accept: lay down your arms and rest your legs. Mind your tongues and mind your manners. For a war with guns is never really won, and a war of words is no better. Choose peace, and quiet, and reconciliation…

     
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