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  • hardie karges 12:00 pm on December 2, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , non-violence, , , Theravada   

    Buddhism 499: Pacifism is not passivism… 

    This is one of the hardest lessons of Buddhism, balancing the dual extremes of not only luxury and lack, the Middle Path of Theravada Buddhism, but action and inaction, and ultimately existence and non-existence, the Middle Path of Mahayana. Given the truth that the source of much of our discontent is not to be found in the ‘outside’ world, but right in our own minds, the obvious temptation is to ignore that ‘outer’ world and simply adopt a passive approach towards it.

    But I don’t think that’s what the Buddha meant to imply. Sure, the non-violence of ahimsa is to be applied to every possible situation up to, but not including, our own self-destruction, but that does not mean that the larger world surrounding us, and which is the source of us, is to be ignored. It means not to get lost in that world exclusively, or, God forbid, attached to it, complete with cravings and unhealthy desires. And if this sounds like an abstract consideration, with scarce application to the ‘real’ world, then I can assure you that it is not.

    In fact, I avoided Buddhism for years in Thailand, judging that it was the cause of what I perceived to be the passivity of the culture, and concluding that that would not be a suitable choice for me, since I saw myself as too slow to act already, and that any further encouragement in that direction would not be suitable to my personal development. But sometimes conditions dictate causes, and other times I’m simply wrong.

    Because, compared to the dog-eat-dog USA, almost any place could be considered passive, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the age of Global Warming and never-ending warfare. The important conditions in this day and age are perfectly suited to Buddhism, even if a more aggressive Christianity was maybe more suited to a younger less-populated Earth—maybe. In any case, that was then. This is now. This is not a good time for fighting, and it may not even be a good time for celebrating, but it is definitely a good time for getting ourselves in sync with a better and more sustainable world. We’re playing for keeps here…

    • jonolan 7:49 am on December 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply

      Consider that, in the long run, a more aggressive, combative philosophy might be better for Man as a whole and the planet in general. You say that this isn’t the time for fighting. I posit that it just might be since it’s an moderately efficient way to lower the population while, at the same time, mingling gene pools.

      • hardie karges 1:40 pm on December 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply

        We can agree to disagree. I’m a pacifist. There are better ways to mix gene pools

        • jonolan 4:13 am on December 12, 2022 Permalink

          Certainly, to both agreeing to disagree and to the idea that there are better ways than variations of war to mix gene pools. But, not to thin them, which I find a potential real benefit at this point. 😉

          Well, I’m a big fan of smaller populations, but that involves birth control, not thinning, for me at least.

  • hardie karges 9:55 am on October 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , pindapatha, , , Sri Lanka, Theravada,   

    Buddhism in the Balance: Why Do Men Dominate the Sangha? 

    The Sangha should be not just a brotherhood of monks, but a brotherhood of man, and a sisterhood of women. This is a bit of a sore subject for Buddhism, too, since the beginning, firstly because in its original inception it WAS a bit explicitly oriented towards saffron-robed renunciants, with distinctly less concern for the surrounding community, even though that surrounding community indeed were the very people charged with feeding those same renunciant monks everyday by means of dana provided during the alms-round pindapatha.

    This indeed was much of the discussion and dispute that resulted in the formation of a bodhisattva-and-community-oriented Mahayana tradition to enhance the original monk-oriented Theravada tradition. So far, so good. The two traditions managed to co-exist, as they still do to this day. Women haven’t fared so well, though. The Buddha finally allowed them to ordain as full renunciant nuns, but only with grudging acceptance and after much exhortation by a female family member. Then, to add insult to injury, the Buddha stated that the dharma would only last for a fraction of the time that it would’ve otherwise lasted, a fact which some monks use to rub salt in the wound to this day.

    Yes, modern monks of the Theravadin and Tibetan Vajrayana traditions proudly elucidate the reasons why nuns can’t be ordained, mostly that because the tradition once died out, then it can’t possibly be revived, can it? So, nuns from Thailand go to Sri Lanka, where the tradition is intact, to ordain, and then go back to Thailand to practice. Ironically the only reason that any Buddhism is intact in Sri Lanka is because Thailand helped them to reboot the system there after it had died out totally, even though Sri Lanka is where Thailand got their Theravada in the first place. Whew! That was close! Yes, it’s complicated.

    But mostly it’s just good old-fashioned patriarchy and misogyny that keeps women begging at the gates. Sayadawgyi Mahasi in Yangon, Myanmar, writes that if women are lucky, then they will be reborn as men, so… with that kind of attitude, then it’s no wonder that there is a problem. So, rebirth is used as a justification for patriarchy and not only the Brahmin caste superiority that I’ve long credited them with. Even in my own forest temple in Thailand, the senior monk made it clear that women need not apply for residence, even though I, a foreigner, Thai-speaking admittedly, was warmly welcomed. Women still have a long way to go. Keep the faith. Hearts are there to be warmed.

  • 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…

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