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  • hardie karges 10:31 am on June 5, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , MS_DOS, , shunyata, Visual Basic   

    Meditation and Mediation, the Twin Foundations of Buddhism 

    Buddhism in Bhutan

    If you need a reason to meditate, then maybe that’s not really meditation. Meditation neither gives nor responds to demands. It simply IS. To be honest I probably think of it as a system re-boot more than anything else, that row of zeroes at the end of a really big number, that means that a dot will soon come, and then things will begin all over again on the other side of some line. Meditation is the dot between the two zeroes. The zeroes represent emptiness, of course, aka shunyata…

    There are all different flavors of meditation, supposedly, according to all the books and the writers, but they all tend to get back to basics, concentration on something, or everything, or nothing. But for me they all represent that same re-boot, a return to primordial pre-linguistic thought, if only for a few moments. Because once we think in a language, we never really go back. It’s simply not possible. But a new language could substitute for the old, just like Visual Basic took over where MS-DOS left off.

    Could humans ever function with a non-linguistic operating system? Of course, because we once did. And then the invention of language (or the manifestation of that instinct, for you Chomskyites) was probably the biggest revolution in the history of mankind. Just ask the Neanderthals, if you’re lucky enough to have some of their DNA. They disappeared as a species shortly after the appearance of language in Homo sapiens, hint hint.

    Ironically, they had all the same hardware and software for language themselves. Apparently, they “just didn’t have much to say.” (Spencer Wells). But that’s not our problem. Our problem is that we have too much to say, and not enough time to say it. So, we race to the finish line, shooting our mouths off and writing the Great American novel ad infinitum, whether anyone wants to read it or not. Meditation can help with that. The only app you need is silence. Mediation? That’s the Middle Path between extremes…

     
  • hardie karges 6:41 am on March 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , shunyata,   

    Hawking’s Paradox and Buddhism: Emptiness Ain’t so Empty… 

    Continued from July 4, 2021…

    Buddhism is not a religion of passion. So, there’s no reason to get excited. Unless you’re talking about ‘passion’ in the classic Biblical sense of ‘suffering,’ in which case Buddhism certainly recognizes that sort of passion. But that’s not what Westerners, usually Christian born-and-bred, usually mean. And so, as language mutates over time, so does culture. Christianity’s foundation as a religion built on suffering gradually becomes a religion based on “living life to the fullest,” which is all well and good, if you are prepared to accept the consequences. But Buddhism is all about living life to the Emptiest, and that doesn’t mean Nothingness. It means no craving or grasping.

    On the contrary Emptiness is the only glimpse of Infinity and Eternity that we can have in this life, in this world. Because a world of stuff is by definition limited, to this and that and the other, things countable and categorizable. Emptiness, on the other hand, has no limits. There’s only one problem, if you’re into stuff: it’s empty. But can it be perceived? Yes, I think it can. But it can’t be consumed, not in the way that we consume sights and sounds and love on the rebound. That is the world of stuff. But that world is secondary. Without the Emptiness that contains it, that world is not even possible. Emptiness is a vessel, and thus more important and primal than the stuff that it contains—including your illusory self…

     
  • hardie karges 7:46 am on February 27, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , shunyata,   

    Advanced Buddhism: Silence is not Violence 

    Buddhism in Bhutan

    Words once spoken cannot be taken back. Actions once committed cannot be retracted. Silence is better than violence. But this contradicts one of the slogans of the Black Lives Matter movement, of course, that ‘Silence is Violence,’ which, no matter how much I sympathize with that movement, is simply mistaken, as a matter of fact, and definition, not opinion nor political orientation. Of course the BLM people were not thinking of meditative silence, so we’re discussing apples and oranges, really, no matter that silence is strictly still silence, no matter the circumstance. Emptiness is another matter. When the Russian figure skater said she felt ‘empty,’ she wasn’t talking about shunyata, I don’t think.

    It’s almost hard to believe now, but not so long ago, to ‘break the silence’ was a symbol of progress, the buzz of saws and the whir of wheels almost synonymous with the concept of progress, in fact. This was largely due to the influence of the Industrial Revolution, of course, the effects of which are still being calculated each and every day, though now perhaps in a more negative sense, given its almost single-handed cause of what we call Global Warming. Global Warmongering began long before and was probably far more brutal than anything that we can even imagine today, whole villages and towns raided and leveled for the lack of ability to hold ground against the superior technology—horses.     

    So, silence is the way of Buddhism, in more ways than one. Not only is it the foundation of meditation, bit it is the right hand to shunyata, the Emptiness that underlies all existence, the vessel that contains the stuff that we associate with reality, but which isn’t, not really. The vessel is more real than all the stuff inside, whether we call it that or call it light and gravity, or another quark for Mister Mark. The point is that there are things more fundamental to reality than all the stuff we see every day. And silence is more fundamental than all the noise we create. On a more personal level, you don’t need to be aggressive to show displeasure. I recommend the silent treatment. It’s better than the violent treatment.

     
  • hardie karges 10:43 am on August 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , atman, atta, , , , , , , shunyata   

    Buddhism and the Limits of Suffering… 

    Suffering doesn’t have to be painful. It is only painful if you refuse to accept it. Buddhism is famous for its acknowledgement of suffering, of course, to the point that it must deal with charges of pessimism, when nothing could be further from the truth, to be honest. It is simply realistic: you are not immortal, you are not eternal, and you are not the center of the universe. We shouldn’t need to appeal to Science to prove something so obvious and fundamental. You will die. Get over it.

    But these are the kinds of feel-good epithets that get tossed to the hungry lions we are, anxious for abundance and thirsty for fulfillment, of the fluid levels in our bodies and the ego levels in our mind, such that we will entertain fantastic notions in order to satisfy those notions of grandeur and grandiosity. If that is the shorthand definition of optimism—egotism—then maybe pessimism is better. But I won’t cop to that, and don’t think that is necessary.

    (More …)
     
  • hardie karges 10:44 am on August 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alexander the Great, , , , , , Hindi, , , , , , , , , , shaman, , shunyata, , , 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.

    (More …)
     
  • hardie karges 8:36 am on July 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , shunyata,   

    Musings on the Buddhist Concept of Shunyata: Emptiness Ain’t So Empty… 

    Stephen Hawking was famous for saying that ‘Black holes ain’t so black,’ and so the title here is more than a little bit coincidental, and in fact quite intentional, because the meanings of the two concepts—black holes and ‘shunyata’—are quite similar. Because if the Buddhist concept of ‘shunyata’ is usually translated as ‘emptiness,’ then that is by an English layman’s choice, and is not necessarily the best choice. And if that choice supposes that Buddhism is nihilistic, and that life is meaningless, then nothing could be further from the truth.

    For Buddhism, and Indian philosophy in general, in fact has a long rich and varied history, and every bit the equal of its Greek counterpart on the other side of the great divide between East and West, even if the former is perhaps more spiritual and the latter more materialistic. But they share much common ground for thought, and this is probably no accident, considering that they both shared the northern steppes for a few thousand years and probably shared a few long discussions and debates before blazing campfires, in a proto-Indo-European language, before going their separate ways some 6-8000 years ago.

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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
      Five

      • 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, ,   

    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!

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