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  • hardie karges 4:09 pm on September 25, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Japan, , , , , Theravada, , ,   

    Buddhism and the Dialectic of Deliverance… 

    Buddhism needs no fancy metaphysics nor linguistics, multiple hells nor forty-two flavors of emptiness. Kindness and compassion are enough, metta and karuna and all that jazz. Which is one of the singular beauties of the faith, of course, that almost nothing is required up front, but some goodwill and a policy of non-aggression, ahimsa, such that oftentimes simply doing nothing, absolutely nothing, is the preferred path to advancement, simply because all other options are of lesser benefit.

    Some sects of Buddhism prefer a more elaborate presentation of gods and goddesses, but this is entirely optional and the historical Buddha himself had none of it. In fact, I’m not sure that the historical Buddha would even recognize Tibetan Vajrayana, or Japanese Zen, as something of his own inspiration. But such is the evolution of culture and language, so that a random mutation can be almost guaranteed to occur every eighty years or so, just like the DNA from which we all descend.

    But that doesn’t mean that Tibetan and Japanese Buddhists have nothing in common. They do. It’s just that these two almost-opposite branches of Buddhism are poised like the horns of a dilemma to offer themselves up as starting points for the next phase of dialectical Buddhism. So, given the superstitious and elaborate nature of Vajrayana and the sparse linguistic and meditation-oriented nature of Zen, what would be the next logical step for Buddhism to advance, at least in the West, that great field of dreams left to conquer?

    It just might be the original Theravadin style, with or without the religious trappings, so a more secular but traditional Buddhism, for lack of better terminology. And this is the current situation in the West, where those two extremes have found highest favor with the freedom-loving West, while the more disciplined original approach has found little favor—until now. Because the current acceptance of secular Buddhism goes back to the Early Buddhist roots in many important ways, but without karma, rebirth and past lives. The only question is how all of this will play out I the long run. My fingers are crossed. We are in need of some new synthesis to advance forward…

     
  • hardie karges 1:42 pm on July 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antithesis, , , , , , , , , , , synthesis, Theravada, 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 6:59 am on December 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Theravada   

    The Ways and (Skillful) Means of Buddhism… 

    ‘Skillful means’ is not about telling people what they want to hear. It’s telling them what they need to hear, in a way that’s acceptable to them. And if this sounds obvious, it can be more complicated than it seems. It can even contradict one of the main precepts in the Eightfold Path, in fact, if it fails to acknowledge the importance of Right Speech. One of the Buddha’s later commentators, in fact, even bragged about how the Buddha could preach about cosmic Self to the Brahmanists, while preaching non-self to the already-committed Buddhists. Fast-forward to the future and a prominent senior Buddhist monk today claims that Buddha, in fact, was never committed to a doctrine of non-self, but was undecided about it (so that we can now accept rebirth with no issue of what it is that gets reborn). But this is not ‘skillful means.’ And this is not Right Speech.

    As the New Testament of the Christian Bible is often paraphrased: “Let your yes be yes; and let your no be no.” Bingo. That Buddhism is an open doctrine is fine, and to be commended. That it sometimes gets twisted almost beyond recognition is not always so good. But that’s exactly what happened when Mahayana went in two almost opposite directions from its shunyata (emptiness) starting point, one leading to the Vajrayana of Tibet, the other leading to the Zen of Japan. And for a long time, that’s where Buddhism stood, and stalled, and those are the two extremes that made the biggest impact in the New World—until now. Because now there is a new dialectic to that interplay of magic and trance, and it should be no surprise that the only realistic synthesis would be a return to the primal roots of early Buddhism. So, Theravada now finds its best messaging in its simplest Forest Temples, and the debates in the background resume.

    Only this time it is not the background of Brahmanism and Jainism, but dozens of so-called ‘New Age’ ideas and the general air of conspiracy. But for me Secular Buddhism is the rightful heir to the debate with religiosity, something which original Buddhism had not the luxury, because Science as we know it did not exist. But Reason and rationality did, embedded in the nature of cause and effect, the words for which define ‘reason’ in more than one Asian language. And that’s how Buddhism won the original debate, for me, at least, because it was the rational option. And it still can be, if it can find its peace with Science, because that is the air we breathe in this day and age, logic and testing. We only need a belief system to make sense of it all. If not, then ‘belief’ becomes a bad word, synonymous with ‘faith,’ and we are left to our own devices to find succor and solace. I find no contradiction between my Buddhism and the best science we know. If forced to choose, then I will refuse, and let the chips fall where they may.

     
  • hardie karges 10:44 am on August 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alexander the Great, , , , , , Hindi, , , , , , , , , , shaman, , , Theravada, , 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 11:24 am on July 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , inanition, , , , , , , , Theravada,   

    The Rocky Middle Path of Buddhism in America… 

    “Give me liberty or give me death” is America’s battle cry for independence, of course, as so brilliantly elucidated by Patrick Henry, and seconded by many others, notably the license plate slogan ‘Live Free or Die,’ among many others of similar emotion. And by ‘America’ I mean the USA, not the lower 40, though they are largely complicit, as is Europe the mother country, in the case of North America, which lacks the large indigenous base of many of the other more southern countries. Even Mexico is around 65% indigenous the last time I checked.

    And freedom is all well and good, as long as we know the details of the liberties and freedoms referred to, but which can be detrimental, and even deadly, if left for imaginations to run wild and machinations to double down in derailing the original intent of a simple life without a lord and master to serve at every beck and call. So now we consider mask-lessness as an inalienable right, even during a pandemic, ditto vaccines, and any restriction on movement during the same world emergency to be a violation. So the Western insistence on freedom to the maximum extent comes very close to an implicit death wish.

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  • hardie karges 12:24 pm on April 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Theravada   

    Buddhism on the Half Shell, Pick and Choose 

    Buddhism in the North Country is different from the South

    Make the world a better place for humans and other sentient beings. That is the battle charge of the Bodhisattva, the ‘awakened being’ who sacrifices the present moment of his own bliss for the future happiness of the many in waiting. And this is the difference, of course, between the Buddhism of the Elders, Theravada, and the larger vehicle, Mahayana, which supposedly looks beyond the narrow conflicted self and delays enlightenment so that we all can enter the realm of Buddhahood together.

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  • hardie karges 4:59 pm on February 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Theravada,   

    Buddhism and the Middle Path between Life and Logic… 

    The Middle Path is not straight and narrow, but rather long and winding. But this is one of the common misconceptions about Buddhism, that the Middle Path is some sort of magic pill, that you can pop at will, and presto change-o, you’re enlightened and enwisened beyond all time and all space and any ill-conceived dualistic perception of the two.

    But it’s not always that simple. Sure, it works well as a quickie compromise. Can’t decide between hot and cold? No problem: choose the lukewarm option, and that will usually suffice, as long as you aren’t too picky about your flavors. But note that this doesn’t always work. For instance, when the Mahayana Buddhists revised the Middle Path as a choice between existence and non-existence, the choices are thrown into starker focus.

    Is there a Middle Path between existence and non-existence? If we adopt the position that Buddhism itself is a Middle Path between the suicidal tendencies of Jainists and the wildest imaginations of Vedantists, then the question is self-fulfilling by simple acceptance of the basic premises of Buddhism.

    But it is certainly not likely that that is the original meaning, so further ruminations on the existence of self are a better bet, in which the original Theravada Buddhists (and the Buddha himself) posited an imaginary self, that exists in a conventional, but not a permanent, way, and which is a cause of much of our suffering, if not all of it, i.e. not necessarily ‘the’ cause, since Sanskrit has no grammatical articles, definite or indefinite.

    ‘Sunyata’, ‘emptiness’, expanded on this concept, such that everything has only an imaginary existence, very quantum-friendly. In all likelihood, though, the dichotomy between existence and non-existence is ‘merely’ an act of logic, tetra-lemma in style, in which anything that can be asserted can also be denied, or both accepted and denied, or neither accepted nor denied. That’s Indian logic, catuskoti. Go figure.

    But the original Middle Path is much easier to digest and much easier to incorporate into one’s normal life of decisions and planning. Thus the Middle Way is a metaphysical position of non-extremism, which goes far beyond the Buddha’s original considerations of luxury versus extreme asceticism. As already indicated, Buddhism itself could be considered a sort of Middle Path, which I think it is.

    And it is not always straight and narrow, but often winding and zig-zag, and can even be seen as the ‘sweet spot’ between extremes. Moreover, it can even be seen as the synthesis resulting between thesis and antithesis in any given dialectic. Thus the Middle Way is more than a path. It is balance.

     
  • hardie karges 11:21 am on May 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Theravada   

    Buddhism, Nature, and the Middle Path between Religions… 

    Nature is not something to be conquered. It is something to be revered. This is the basis for most feminine religions, without sword and without a book, just the smooth rounded edges of nature’s leaves and branches, hardened by brute experience with that same Nature’s lightning and thunder.

    Eventually that religion typically may evolve into a form of devotion, ‘bhakti’ for Hinduism, or one of the later sects for Buddhism, because few of us are really made for the rigors of metaphysics, when it’s easier just to bow the head and utter some formulas, or simply swear allegiance to mother Maria.

    And many Buddhists would gladly turn Descartes on his head and proclaim ‘non cogito ergo sum’, ‘I don’t think, therefore I am’, as many a devoted Theravadin truly believes, but which I take exception to. I’m just not that kind of Buddhist, I guess, for better or worse, confused or whatever, and I don’t for one minute think that Buddhism is better than all the others, simply that Buddhism is what is right for these times.

    That’s because I don’t see Buddhism as something established by some transcendental Buddha to which the earthly blokes are mere manifestations, any more than I see Jesus as a Christian version of the same thing, the Platonic ideal of love and forgiveness, Buddha that of compassion and forbearance. Because they were both just blokes, however enlightened, but with differences that have defined East and West at least since Homer’s recall, and likely before.

    So I see Christianity as the active aggressive alternative, dominated mostly by men of Aryan provenance, and despite their brutality, to see what could be accomplished in the state of Nature was a Noble (hint hint) quest, free enterprise, laissez-faire and all that rap, late nights with bright lights a reasonable relax.

    The Jains were, and are, just the opposite, of course, in which the less you do the better, to the point that death by self-starvation (ever heard of inanition?) seems only logical in the quest to do no harm. Just do nothing at all. The Buddhists have tried to walk the middle path to relative success, but still there are those who lapse into the do-it-all or do-nothing extremes.

    Bottom line: the Christian Capitalists have definitively gone too far, to the extent that we are killing ourselves knowing and willingly, grinning like Cheshire cats while going over the cliff, just like the Jains in spirit, if not letter, blindly proceeding with disaster. I revert to the demands of Nature. There is always a path to (re)conciliation, and that is THE path, I would say…

     
  • hardie karges 12:29 pm on March 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: adjectives, adverbs, , , , , nouns, Theravada, verbs   

    Buddhism 202: Mahayana or Theravada? Decisions decisions… 

    First I save myself, then I save the world. This is my reconciliation of the old Theravada vs. Mahayana debate, small wheel vs. large, respectively, on the question of whether to devote one’s time and energies to the salvation of oneself or the salvation of the world, notwithstanding the issue of whether the concept of salvation is just an import of Christian values on to a Buddhist nexus, or not, and just what there would be to save anyway, if so, given the fact that Buddhism places no belief in self or souls, per se, in the case of the individual, or what would be there in its stead, in the case of society, or the world, as if that might have an internal essence, or something such, when it almost certainly doesn’t, just more of those non-self selves all collecting and coagulating together, they both but aggregations of views aspects factors and circumstances probably best described by verbs nouns adjectives and adverbs, as if that were capable of somehow describing reality, when it almost certainly isn’t, so we add prepositions conjunctions subjunctive moods and imperfect tenses, when all we really need to do is sit down and shut up, eat the next meal and then enjoy the view, with scarce language needed to describe it but even less to defile it, the vibrations resolved into various frequencies sufficient to excite sensations, with or without the need of mechanical waves capable of transporting objects from place to place, the definition of our existence best left to the prime movers and heavy lifters and various mechanisms for the transformation of noble metals, when all that is really necessary for spiritual existence is the light of intelligence given in a flash from above, still we default to language like an addict to his pipe, for lack of more convenient options and the desire for familiar landscapes, words sentenced to paragraphs like prisoners to cages, so that it’s almost an afterthought that almost anything that can be said can also be negated, and only then can a further synthesis result, hopefully higher…

     
  • hardie karges 7:06 am on December 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Theravada   

    The Bodhisattva and the Butterfly: Living in the Material World… 

    The frst rule of life in the material world is that you have to actually be somewhere, in a place, almost all the time, which seems self-evident, I suppose, but sometimes problematic, all the same. I mean: you can’t just scan your own personal barcode on to some digital format and send yourself off to the cloud somewhere. In fact, I suppose this defines the conundrum of existence, where to be and what to do, and how to do it, and with whom. For this is, on the micro individual level, what has been described on a macro social level, as the ‘tyranny of democracy’, so on the individual level something like the ‘horror of free will’, i.e. decisions decisions. So the most obvious thing to do is find your true love, get hitched, and then start making babies, simple–or not so simple. Because what happens when your true love goes south, or those beautiful babies start foaming at the mouth, or the planet gets so full of little poopers that the poop piles up, and the rivers won’t flow no mo’ and the sun won’t shine, and even if it did, it would no longer find any field of flowers to illuminate? So we are the first species to ask these questions, few of which have concrete answers, so we try to console ourselves that the fact of asking will somehow be some compensation, despite all evidence to the contrary, filed in reams of papers and stacks of floppy disks which no longer work and only take up space, while we wait for the next newest technology to come and save us in the nick of time before the door shuts in our faces and the bells no longer chime. But it seems the kid was just having some late teen depression, so normal enough considering the urge to merge and the need to breed. Will there still be meaning to life when population pressures dictate that we need to find other hobbies besides reproduction? These are the challenges we face for the future, if there is to be a future, full of furniture and breakfast nooks and a 2-car garage, regardless of whether anything is parked there or not. So we have to invent reasons for the season, and myths for our bliss, and content ourselves with intransitive verbs, even when we all crave something to truly transit, preferably glory, in mind if not body. I will be at peace when this world is at peace, and if that’s not so much of a concern of Theravada Buddhism, then I’ll forgive them for that, because it’s right in line with Mahayana, the big machine, so that seems right for this era of history, Theravada at home and Mahayana out in the world, C U there…

     
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