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  • hardie karges 12:17 pm on January 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buddhis, , communist, democratic, , optimistic, pessimistic, shunyata   

    Buddhism and the Sutra of the Half-Empty Cup… 

    We are hooked on abundance. We are addicted to excess. But the purest form of beauty can be found in ‘shunyata,’ vast and eternal–and empty. And this is the curse of Western civilization, that we have been fed this lie of infinity and eternity, of matter, and no limits to it as far as the eye can see, ‘sky is the limit’ and all that rap.

    But this is a deadly miscalculation, and I use the word ‘miscalculation’ instead of ‘lie’ to avoid the sin and fallacy of misplaced intention, when it really makes no difference in the final equation whether it was intended or not, that being only a moral issue between a man and his Maker, or in this case his vessel.

    Because the vessel, any vessel, best represents Emptiness, the Source, that propensity and potentiality, while the contents are the stuff of the world. Thus we have the old Aristotelian dichotomy between form and content, revisited in the Buddhist dichotomy between emptiness and matter.

    But the only infinity, or eternity, is in that Emptiness, and the matter that constitutes the objects of everyday life are by definition of limited duration in time and space, ephemeral. But don’t tell that to a junkie. A junkie knows that just one more dose is all he needs to last a lifetime, and that lifetime is eternity, of course, infinitely extendable, and with no fences in sight.

    So we Westerners love the old conundrum of the half-empty cup, this satisfying our need for closure on issues of good or bad, Communist or Democratic, and most importantly, of course—optimistic or pessimistic. Because we love the optimistic person above all others, the one who is ‘full of life,’ notwithstanding that he, too, will die, unless we get that vaccine, that life dose, perfected in the nick of time, and available at Walgreen’s, under contract with Johnson and Johnson, to provide eternal life at a reasonable price.

    And the current thinking is that that just might happen one day, if only we are patient. Thus Christianity makes a promise that it knows that it can’t keep, because life, by definition, is intimately associated with death. What would eternal life even be like, fer Chrissakes, all puns intended? The small print doesn’t specify life in what form, of course, whether old or young, in sickness or in health, just that in death we will part, and be rendered asunder into component parts.

    Buddhism is more honest, of course, to the extent that it is itself freed from its wildest fantasies and fears. But I can assure you that you don’t really want that life without limits. You just think that you do, because it is so fantastical. Who wouldn’t try it, at least once, just for the sake of the experience? Ask any junkie.

    But those limits, if we choose to accept them, are not only profound, but they are beautiful, sublime, and endearing, works of art blessed by the art of work. But best of all, it’s warm in here, warm and cozy and with no shortage of company. Please come join us. A cup half full is just fine. If it runneth over, then you’ve got a leak somewhere. Provide napkins just in case. Call a plumber if the problem persists…

  • hardie karges 12:50 pm on November 8, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , shunyata,   

    Silence is the Perfect Companion to Budddhist Emptiness.,, 

    Emptiness, shunyata, is one of the prime tenets of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, of course, and arguably the defining one, the one without which it would not exist. But it has always been of slippery definition itself, it born of the zero-principle, shunya, and conceived at that very same epoch of history, such that the two developments are impossible to separate…

    And the brief definition of emptiness is that it is an extension of the Buddhist concept of non-self, anatta, so that now we are postulating that not only is the self empty of substance, but so is everything empty of substance. That is not to say that it is not real, necessarily, but that it is not real in any enduring permanent way. So in that sense, nothing is real…

    And this fits in well with the modern physics conception of reality as composed of sub-microscopic particles that are better defined mathematically than physically, even chemically. So that’s the back-story and the sales pitch, but how does that make anyone’s life any better? But in fact, there is much more to it than the sublime metaphysics or the arcane math and physics…

    In fact, I propose, there are lessons for life in there. For one thing, aren’t our lives too often defined by our possessions? A philosophy of emptiness discourages that. Secondly, referring back to the title, emptiness does encourage silence, and meditation, which I not only encourage everyone to practice, but which has been proven many times over to be a safe and salient benefit to health, especially mental health…

    (And despite the fact that ‘guided meditation’ has many fans, especially in the West, who just can’t stand the silence, I suppose, I still maintain that silent meditation is the best, and in fact the only practice that I would consider true meditation. ‘Guided meditation’ should be called something else)…

    Most importantly, though, emptiness facilitates a view of self and the universe that is non-dualistic (while I readily acknowledge that any dichotomy of self and universe is itself dualistic). And this may very well be the origin of modern consciousness, i.e. linguistic consciousness. Before that there was only a non-linguistic kind, which, for all the benefits of language, may have been better in many ways…

    At the very least, it is worth returning to, on a regular basis, and hence the value of meditation. Philosophy leads everywhere at one and the same time. Do you prefer the conundrum of the One versus the Many? Or do you prefer the vastness of Infinity? Duality is an illusion. The One is Many. But only Emptiness is Infinite…

  • hardie karges 12:24 pm on June 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , shunyata,   

    Zero: the Middle Path between Buddhism and Mathematics… 

    Zero (shunya) is not just emptiness but boundlessness, capable of multiplying one (or any number) exponentially. Shunyata is the Buddhist concept of emptiness, of course, usually seen as an extension of the non-self anatta concept, which serves as one of the founding pillars of Buddhism, but which to this day is also one of the most-debated, if not quite so much as karma and reincarnation. But if shunya was there at the beginning, it only picked up steam later, finally finding a home in the emerging Mahayana school of Buddhism, the ‘large vehicle’ which incorporates such disparate philosophies as the Dadaist notions of Japanese Zen and the Kabbalistic leanings of Tibetan Vajrayana.

    But Mahayana also incorporates much of Chinese Taoism by most accounts, and possibly even Greek platonic idealism, if my hunches are correct. That the word shunya means ‘zero’ is undeniable. Many Asian languages can attest to that simple fact. Its translation into English as ‘emptiness’ can be debated, though, as well as the historical fact as to which came first: the graphic symbol 0 or the philosophical concept variously described as ‘emptiness’, ‘voidness’, or probably best—simply ‘zero-ness’, with all that term implies and denies. Most recently it implies ‘boundlessness’, by Japanese translator Tazuaki Tanahashi. This is a great improvement over previous connotations of nihilism and desolation.

    After all, in Western psychology ‘emptiness’ is generally considered a feeling to be avoided at all costs, and best treated with pharmaceuticals, if all else fails. American-style Buddhism has many divergences from the original, of course, and might even be considered ‘Buddha-flavored Christianity’, but that is another issue. The issue at hand is whether ‘boundlessness’ is indeed an accurate translation of shunyata or whether that is just wishful thinking, and careful marketing for the particular predilections of the Western lands. I think it is not only accurate, but enlightened, as long as it is used in conjunction with the concept of ‘emptiness’ or ‘voidness’. We are talking about ‘zero’, after all, and while that can mean ‘nothing’, it can also mean ‘infinity’, in that the simple addition of zeroes, in place notation, by definition implies an infinity in the act of multiplication, i.e. powers of ten.

    While I personally wouldn’t define shunyata by that one exclusive synonym, I am happy to use it in conjunction with the more traditional translation of emptiness. The truth might lie somewhere in between, at least in passing. So this is more like the Mahayanist ‘middle path’ than the Theravada, the middle path between existence and non-existence, not simple luxury and lack. And this was India’s supreme initial contribution to mathematics, back when simple addition and subtraction were the order of the day, and division and multiplication must have been a complicated affair. It would have been with no zero, yes? The interesting fact is that we still had decimal systems even without the zero. Why? Good question.

    • Five 10:41 am on July 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, definitely “boundlessness”! Lama Shenpen Hookham of ahs.org.uk calls it “Openness” too.
      But find it through practice, meditation – actually experience it – rather than trying to think your way to it. It is beyond thought. Great to clear up some wrong views, good discussion! There is good reason to use the term “emptiness” as well though. Search “emptiness” on piecesoffive.uk

      • hardie karges 11:14 am on July 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Yes I think it is time to reconcile 0 and 1, emptiness and singularity, a good task for modern Buddhists. Thanks for your comments…

  • hardie karges 1:10 pm on January 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , contentchaos, , form, , Maslow, shunyata, void,   

    Buddhist Shunyata: Emptiness and Chaos, Form and Content, Zeroes and Ones, ad Infinitum… 

    Every act of cruelty is a good chance to prove the power of kindness, in some sort of reverse logic, which largely defines our lives on this planet. Because nothing is what it seems, and everything is a cause of concern. But it needn’t be, because everything that can happen will happen, by certain laws of physics, but only if given enough time, of course. And that is our job, to control the time line in our dimension, which is largely defined by space. We travel in space, not time, not yet, anyway. Time is mostly an act of mind coordinating events which have already happened in apparent space, so three dimensions, while time is only one–the past. That is all we know about time, because that is the only aspect of time that we can measure. Everything else is pure mathematical probability, in the case of the future, or a fleeting moment of presence, and best held in abeyance, in the case of that legendary present moment. But that ‘present moment’ doesn’t exist, as such, anyway, because it is a contradiction in terms, as defines our lives in language. Because if we speak of a moment, as a point in time, then there are many, in rapid succession, one after the other, as they stack up for counting in that warehouse we call the past. But if it is truly the present, then if must be an ongoing continuum, uncountable in its immediacy, and so hardly recognizable as a moment, but more like an eternity, an infinity, one and not many, but really more like zero than one, form without content. Thus all the numbers of our counting system fit neatly and best between the conscious and mental paradigms of zero and one, neither of which can ever be truly present and physical, but both of which can be reasonably intuited. And this is much of the background noise and radiation of the Buddhist concept of ‘shunyata’, variously defined as void, emptiness, nothing, or ‘zero-ness’, bingo! Because that is what the word ‘shunya’ means, in multiple Asian languages, and its invention in pre-literate India was more or less simultaneous, conceptually and arithmetically. I don’t think that this was coincidental. So instead of positive numbers or negative numbers, maybe all we really have are fractions of a single number One as defined by its erstwhile twin Zero. These might also be seen as Chaos and Void, content and form, or even male and female, depending on circumstances. Thus everything is the opposite of what it seems, from certain angles, and at certain times of the day. My hunger defines my terms of fulfillment, and levels of dissatisfaction define my feeling of happiness–or not. So in some Maslovian hierarchy of needs, there is a sweet spot of contentment and a vast suburb of uncertainty. Every frown hides a smile, and every tear hides laughter–somewhere, somehow…

    • Dave Kingsbury 5:15 pm on January 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Not sure how but this post reminded me of Blake’s phrase – without contraries, no progress. Emptiness, by that token, is a creative opportunity. And as you say, ‘every act of cruelty is a good chance to prove the power of kindness’ – have a good 2020, Hardie!

      • hardie karges 7:50 pm on January 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Dave, happy 2020 to you, too!

  • hardie karges 2:01 am on October 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Dada, , shunyata, ,   

    Emptiness and Form, and the Power of Zero… 

    I need to see the emptiness, so that I can hear the silence. That’s the latter-day Buddhist approach to life, as exemplified by the Mahayanist doctrine of ‘shunyata’, emptiness, zero-ness, more concerned with the bowl’s field of probabilities than the stuff that you might want to cram in it, the world as potential more than present, form over content, and quite content with that, foregone the shopping trips to outlet stores and brand-name malls, fulfilled by conscious lack and voluntary homelessness, just add a dose of Zen-like Dadaesque do-si-do and lose the logic, and now you’ve got something unique and special, a glimpse of eternity in a spoonful of sugar, infinity in a grain of sand. But this is the advanced course for meditation masters and others of like bent, experts at the short-circuit of logic and aficionados of thoughtless realms, archeologists of the paleo-consciousness, prime and pristine, pure as driven snow and just as hard to find, in the vast clutter of derived drivel in the garbage heaps of mind. But basic Buddhism is much easier, the ABC’s of rightness and righteousness, and the mitigation of suffering. You can forego the quantum leaps in favor of baby steps, and maintain a wry little grin all the while, keeping eyes on the forward path, and never get lost in a crooked smile. The path is the path, and there is no better way. Do the right thing, even if it hurts, even if there is no immediate benefit. Do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. End all craving and suffering will be mitigated. That is the Buddha’s message…

    • Dave Kingsbury 3:24 pm on October 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Great phrase which conveys the continuing relevance of the message – ‘foregone the shopping trips to outlet stores and brand-name malls’, One thinks of the hungry ghost …

  • hardie karges 5:24 am on October 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Euclid, Fibonacci, , golden mean, golden ratio, , , , shunyata,   

    Zero, Emptiness and the Golden Mean of Buddhism… 

    img_1935The concept of the Golden Mean always crossed my mind when studying Buddhism, but I never heard anyone reference it re: the Middle Path, i.e. madhyamagga, until recently, and while I’m not sure the reference is entirely correct, I do think the possibilities are exciting. In fact the Golden Ratio (a probably more accurate term) is 1.618, “a special number found by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part”—Wikipedia

    This is also the foundation of the famous Fibonacci sequence, ubiquitous as a design principle in nature, and known to humans as early as Plato and Euclid, who was first to define it, and celebrated initially because for some reason it just looks good, or somehow feels right, notwithstanding the fact that it is by definition always a bit eccentric, i.e. off-center…

    And in fact the concept of center did not fully even exist at the time, before the invention of zero, so only geometrically as the fixed point of a radius, but not mathematically as a divider and multiplier for ever-increasing levels of exponential counting, literally ‘powers of zero’, or ‘powers of ten’, if you prefer, in addition to forming something of a ‘dead center’ or ‘ground zero’ mathematically, which can be repeated infinitely as decimals for each and every member of the count… (More …)

  • hardie karges 6:04 am on July 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , center, , , , , shunyata, , sunya, sunyata,   

    Buddhism, shunyata and the cult of zero… 

    IMG_1559The Buddhist doctrine of shunyata is one of its most famous, and the one that put Mahayana Buddhism on the map, a full step beyond what was envisioned with the original teachings of the Buddha, yet well within that purview. It is usually translated as ’emptiness’ or ‘voidness’, though I prefer ‘zero-ness’, in recognition of the fact that the word ‘shunya’ or ‘sunya’ literally means just that, zero, and in the modern standard language of every Theravada Buddhist country today, still means just that, or a derivation thereof…

    And if that sounds a bit spacey and abstract, it’s probably best thought of as an extended version of the Buddha’s doctrine of anatta or ‘no-self’, or no soul or no ego, i.e. no intrinsic reality to the human personality, which, according to this theory, is merely a collection of (s)kandhas, literally ‘heaps’ of transient characteristics with no permanence… (More …)

    • quantumpreceptor 6:29 am on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hey great post and expansion of the zero idea. Even for the fact that zero has been named means that it is something.
      Have you heard of sunyata as being explained as empty of? Empty of its own or independent existence?


      • hardie karges 7:15 am on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks. Yes, I think that your definition is the most commonly accepted one, and if I didn’t say that, then I meant to. Mostly I just wanted to give some context to the development of the doctrine. It seems that ‘shunya’ was discussed even in the Buddha’s time, becoming ‘shunyata’ later on. The invention of the zero was a really big deal, and it just may have much more to do with the development of Buddhism than is commonly acknowledged, a thesis I intend to investigate further. Thanks for your comment…

        • quantumpreceptor 12:23 pm on July 17, 2018 Permalink

          Yes, Hardie, that’s a really interesting idea to develop that further, I can’t wait.

          As for being a discussed​​, I would even say that it was a hot topic. In Tibetan, we have three words rangtong, shentong, and detong. The tong comes from tongpanyi which is Tibetan for shunyata. Rangtong is empty of self-nature​. Many see only rangtong as nihilistic nits nature. Shentong is described as emptiness with something on top. The idea here was that because it could be experienced that the experience was part of reality. This was debated as being materialistic.

          Detong is also very interesting. De comes from Dewa and means great bliss. So detong is seen as the great joy that arises from emptiness. This happens when mind recognizes its own radiant space.

          You may look at these three terms as competing ideas and to some extent be correct. However, you may also see them as a natural progression as one leading to the next as if they were steps along the way. I cannot wait to find out more about your zero theory.


    • Dave Kingsbury 4:52 pm on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Some great practical suggestions that could give town planners something to think about. If they aren’t an endangered species! Seriously, they worry about what to do with empty shops … community hubs? You bring this abstract subject to life by relating it to modern discoveries and issues eg. “It should be noted that this is not much different from the logical conclusions to be drawn from a thorough consideration of the implications of the reality depicted by quantum mechanics: things are not real, not really”

      • hardie karges 6:13 pm on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        I’ve always loved Mexican cities, with the central park and lots of community space. I always assumed it was a Spanish thing, but it may actually be pre-Columbian. And what with ‘high streets’ now under the assault of online shopping, it’s probably time to reassess the role of cities…

        • Dave Kingsbury 11:50 am on July 17, 2018 Permalink

          I’d love to think we had matured enough to take considered stock of the past and come up with a better future, though I fear we might be too locked in our mad consumer present …

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