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  • hardie karges 7:13 am on April 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , suffering   

    Buddhism: Enlightenment on the Installment Plan 

    Someone who is truly enlightened would never make that claim for himself. But that is the situation in which we find ourselves, spreading the gospel of gentleness and kindness in a world that seems to reward only aggression and ego. So ‘spiritual bad-asses’ glory in their revelations and revel in their false righteousness, while the truly righteous among us go about their tasks mostly in silence, taking pleasure in their modest accomplishments and finding satisfaction in their commitment.

    And those tasks consist largely in service to mankind, in one way or another, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, materially if not spiritually, at least for a moment, if not for a lifetime. Because truly there is no real difference between the two, such that it is hard to be truly enlightened if you’re truly hungry and it’s hard to be enlightened if you’re much too full. That sweet spot of enlightenment lies somewhere in between, as the Buddha himself brilliantly realized.

    And these realizations are at the heart of enlightenment, it not much more than that, really, in greater or lesser degree, so nothing necessarily metaphysical nor transcendent, not really, just the realization that we are here at a moment in history where consciousness is king, and the mechanics of enlightenment are insignificant. The only important thing is the realization: that we are all connected, however distant; that suffering is ever-present, but can be avoided and mitigated; that change is something to be welcomed, not feared; and that right living is always the best revenge, against the forces that would consume you. There are no enemies, not really…

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

    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 7:45 am on February 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhism: A Noble Truth or Two (and a few lesser ones)… 

    The one who can control himself, can control the world—his world…

    Buddha in his Four Noble Truths didn’t say that craving is THE (one and only) cause of dukkha, i.e. suffering. Pali and Sanskrit have no definite articles. But it is certainly one of them, and by the fact that the Buddha mentioned no others right then and there, it certainly seems logical to assume that it is perhaps the greatest of them. He did mention others elsewhere, though, and impermanence comes quickly to mind as one of those that he specifically wrote about in that context.

    Perhaps impermanence was Buddha’s first encounter with dukkha? I know that it was mine, at the ripe old age of eight years old, in Jackson, MS, USA, as my parents prepared to migrate from the Big City out to the nearby countryside, and all that I knew and loved would change overnight, perhaps more than can be easily imagined here and now almost sixty years later. Because not only was that my first encounter with suffering of the existential sort, but it was also my first encounter with culture shock. I cried for days, and not only survived but thrived.

    I even started to like that culture shock around the time I visited my twelfth or thirteenth country a few years later. Similarly, the Buddha did not say anything to the effect that ‘all life is suffering.’ But as he listed the various manifestations of suffering, e.g., birth, old age, disease, and death, then that might certainly be implied. That’s what he was obsessed with, most likely, because that’s what he was shielded from for most of his life—until he went outside. And so we must all go outside to find what is inside each of us.

    And what we find inside is another world, a different world, almost another dimension, as different as Virtual Reality from our modern materialistic world of Science. And it is a world of feeling and perception, the only world that a sentient being can truly know. Everything else is only a likely story, and a likeable story at that. You shouldn’t have to choose between Buddhism and Science. You don’t. And sometimes short-term suffering brings the greatest long-term benefits. Don’t panic. Be patient. Be kind and adapt to changing circumstances. Impermanence shouldn’t be a cause of suffering.

  • hardie karges 10:52 am on November 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    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 11:18 am on June 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Indus Valley, Kama Sutra, , Malcolm Gladwell, , , , , , suffering, Vedantic,   

    Buddhist Sutra on Passion and Dispassion… 

    The one who can control himself, can control the world—his world…

    Now I make no secret of the fact that I don’t think that Buddhism is necessarily any better than any other religion, philosophy, or way of life. But it is the right one for the right time. And it is no accident that it took me more than half my life (and counting) to finally make the switch from an eclectic form of ersatz Christianity to an equally eclectic form of Buddhism, however much more authentic, I reckon. After all I never got my MA in Christian Studies, though I guess all my liberal arts courses and BA in philosophy is probably as much as that, if not more.

    But neither Buddhism nor Christianity exists in a vacuum, so what we get is a mix of the original intent in its original environment, full of causes and conditions, situations and circumstances, inspirations and misgivings, as combined with the mandates of the mandarins, the rulings of the rulers, the laws of the legislators and the cravings of the consumer. Caveat emptor. But the salient point is that both are but the metaphysical underpinnings and psychological overtones of something much larger, equally symbolic and patently manifest.

    (More …)
  • hardie karges 11:18 am on August 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhism and Nature: the Law of Birth… 

    Nature is ธรรมชาติ, ‘dhammachaht,’ dharma jati, the dharma of birth, not the law of rebirth, in at least a few Asian languages, and likely a few more. And that is probably as good a definition of it as I could come up with, notwithstanding the fact that such a ‘birth’ does indeed become for many a ’round’ of which there are many, and which can neither be proven or disproven, ultimately, but for which there is no intrinsic logic, nor empirical evidence…

    But when we Westerners think of Nature, what do we think of, if not something wild and free, and so a tight fit into our narrative of liberty, and the delightful disobedience which that implies, for we love nothing so much as breaking the rules, ALL the rules, if not all the time, then at least as often as we can get away with it…

    But does Nature do that? Not hardly, I don’t think, and the typical Asian view, by invoking ‘dharma,’ is certainly likening it to a law, and therefore something which we disobey only at great risk to ourselves. But that doesn’t mean that Nature is something written in stone, or on crinkled crackling paper, and the ink stains that have dried upon some lines…

    No, nature is something changing, even if the laws invoked may indeed be unchanging—or not. Thus the first rule of DNA—sh*t happens, i.e. mutations occur, and that becomes the raw material for evolution. Now the central dogma of the science of genetics is that these mutations are random, which may or may not be true, but there is much anecdotal evidence that there may indeed be more to it than that, but for which firm and verifiable evidence is heretofore lacking…

    And that doesn’t even consider the fact of so-called ‘genetic drift,’ which no one can or will deny, but only damn by the faint praise of its ‘driftiness,’ thus removing it from any consideration as something maybe far more serious in terms of cause and/or effect…

    All of which is to say that the role of consciousness in evolution cannot be ruled out, even if some commentaries may have jumped the gun in ascribing to it more than its genuine worth, i.e. “consciousness affects evolution; evolution affects consciousness…”

    But this does nothing to minimize the miracle of birth, regardless, which is certainly not random, even if the product of the most random and brutal orgy, which is fortunately not usually the case, even if the Latin-inspired ‘romance’ may indeed often be lacking on cold dark nights in tight cramped corners….

    But Buddhism is more concerned with the suffering implicit, and it is certainly a fact that death is implied in the ‘law of birth’ and that is the proof of the prevalence of suffering, if only by a 51-49% advantage in the scores and statistics. For the world may be defined by its limits and its suffering, but there is much beauty, also, in Nature and Art, and the consciousness of it…

  • hardie karges 12:03 pm on April 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Christ, cross, crucifixion, , , suffering   

    The Passion of Buddha, without Cross or Crucifixion… 

    The word ‘passion’ originally meant ‘suffering’, as all Christians know from the ‘passion of Christ’ as he carried his crushing cross, through city streets, over hill and dale, only to be prodded with prejudice if he ever stumbled or faltered in the march to his death, so hardly a date of determination, but more like a date with destiny. So this is a far cry, literally, from the connotations of the word today, which reek of romance and resonate of reconciliation, between the lover and his beloved, if not necessarily the artist and his creation. And this is the connection between the modern and ancient meanings, for we all know of the artist ‘who suffers for his art’ if we know any artists at all, for in this sublime effort the love and the suffering truly become one with each other, regardless of the outcome, regardless of the tape’s tale, or the yardstick’s measure, or the ruler’s final judgment. And these subtle changes in definition, the limitations and exaltations which words place upon words, speak volumes for the masses gathered for Sunday proclamations, Luthers and Lotharios both left in the lurch at the church, and uninspired by last confessions. Because those subtle but persistent shifts in verbal definition send shock waves and random repercussions through the centuries of silence between outbreaks of truth and necessity, such that sometimes only chaos and confusion result from original best intentions, regardless of the incremental diminution of disbelief. But the real reconciliation between passionate love and suffering comes in the fruit of their union, i.e. compassion, suffering together, for the benefit of all, and the mitigation of excess, in hopes of a better day, a better way, a better outlook for our grief, and a better outlet for our creativity. And this is what concerns us as Buddhists. For words once spoken cannot be taken back. And hearts twice broken will never again be taken aback. We can only mitigate the effects, and bandage the wounds with kindness…

  • hardie karges 11:56 am on March 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
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    Buddhism and the Certainty of Uncertainty… 

    The satisfaction of certainty is a precious commodity, but that’s the price of religion, because it’s all about the bottom line—absolute conviction in an uncertain world, something you can rely upon, something you can build your life on, and build your home, and build your family and build your dreams. And there’s the rub of reality, because you’re going against the empirical facts, from the very get-go, facts which indicate that the truest certainty is uncertainty itself, as evidenced by Heraclitus in Greece way back when, and the Buddha in India at more or less the same time, they separated by a few thousand miles, and even more kilometers, but only a thousand years or so from a common source on the high plains above the Caucasus, just waiting for a shot at the big-time in the big tent, where the people will line up to see and hear the latest news from the mouths of wise men and philosophers, they mental visionaries creating problems that only they can solve, by the machinations of language, in a mental landscape now dependent upon such. Now what a pre-linguistic world was truly like can only be surmised, but it surely did exist, as surely as the computers we all worship once begged for language to give themselves a meaning which now is almost superior to our own, as if by magic in a pre-determined world of prescribed actions. But the difference between the Greeks and the Indians was that even then Heraclitus embraced the change (after much debate by various and sundry philosophers), while the Buddha and his followers saw it as the foundational principle of anicca, impermanence, one of the three intrinsic causes of dukkha, suffering. So certainty itself was and is a conundrum, something once articulated as if to vex us, and now hex us, bedevil us with its dual nature, both terrible and terrific, enough to send us into spasms of indecision and indecisiveness. But the die was cast even then, that east was east and west was west, no matter that we all come from the same place and the same fathers, that that somewhere was all in our minds and that many wars would have to be fought in order to reach a conclusion, or not. Because the resolution was already there in the same place as the conflict—in mind, in thought, in consciousness, now language-based, for better or worse, because there is no returning to the source of mind, proto-consciousness, or paleo-consciousness, except in meditation. Fortunately there ae some things which we can almost all agree on, besides uncertainty and impermanence: kindness, compassion, and the universal brotherhood of human beings. Thus the problem which begins in mind can be solved in mind, and so wars are useless. There are no winners in war, only losers…

    • Dave Kingsbury 4:12 pm on March 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      This struck a chord, particularly – “now language-based, for better or worse, because there is no returning to the source of mind, proto-consciousness, or paleo-consciousness, except in meditation” – suggests a role for literary art in expanding consciousness, if evolution is now cultural …

    • hardie karges 6:51 pm on March 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Yes, I definitely think there is a huge role for language, only fitting since that is much of the problem, that once we create language, that we are now prisoners to it in thought. But if language could achieve artistically what painting has done, for example, then that would be a whole new ballgame…

  • hardie karges 11:42 am on January 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: arrogance, , , , , Paradise, paradox, suffering   

    Paradox in Paradise, the Buddha’s Suffering as Our Own… 

    Life is sometimes too easy. Without struggle there is no need for kindness. Thus we confront a Buddhist paradox, every day, in a world at least partly defined by its suffering, and the need to mitigate that suffering, so that we can survive, without falling into the trap of false flattery and the lure of luxury. Because if the suffering is a matter of opinion and the appropriate means of measure, the imperfection is rife. There may be a perfect world somewhere, of which this is but a poor manifestation, admittedly, but not this reflected world itself, which at times resembles a cheap carnival sideshow. But this is the only world that we truly experience on an ordinary day, so this is the hand we play. And that is okay. If this material world is all we ever know, then so be it. And let the imperfections speak for themselves. Because every imperfection is an opportunity for improvement, in life as in genetics, in which natural mutations provide the raw material for evolution. So if nothing ever changes, then there’s no chance for it to get better, and perfection is just hubris, the arrogance of species, this human species, full of itself and full of its self-importance, which is only partially justified. The human species IS important, but not always for the reasons that we think. It is not important because it is ABOVE the rest of the animal kingdom. It is important, because it is OF the rest of the animal kingdom, in an unbroken chain of Becoming, of which we humans are probably on top, that is true, but which is no reason for celebration, and certainly no reason for arrogance, for we were once only poor struggling mammals, looking for strength and succor. Thus the flip-side of freedom is always responsibility, and that is our lot in life. Always treat people better than they treat you, and the world becomes a nicer place…

  • hardie karges 5:45 am on June 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , suffering,   

    Beyond Buddhism: and the meaning of life is… 

    img_1773The opposite of death, of course, whatever that is, no more no less, the two like dancing partners choreographed to perfection, or life partners resigned to the fact. There is no other option, no matter how much the creators of cryogenics would wish it, or however much the authors of science fiction might fantasize. You can only delay the inevitable; every doctor will admit that, but still we spend every last cent to prolong our lives another minute or two for the sake of science, for the sake of the impenetrable sadness…

    And these same doctors think that the cure for suicide is better anti-depression drugs, as if all happiness is chemical and all meaning is logical, as if we were born with a seventy-year contract to fulfill, and any less would put us in breach. But yes, we are in breach, we are always in breach, that slashed gap between the open sores of our bodies and the unrealized expectations we had in mind, the slashed gap of duality. Maybe we should invent some new drugs to enhance our false expectations? No, we’ve got enough of those already… (More …)

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