Friday, March 27, 2020

Suddina

Suddina of Kalanda's parents didn't want him to renounce the worldly life, and go forth, go for refuge from the Buddha. He went on a hunger strike, and thus his family relented.

His wife didn't have a child and the family wanted an heir. So Suddina had intercourse three times with his wife, and she got pregnant.

When this got back to the Buddha he had some harsh words (p. 159 The Life of the Buddha):

"Misguided man, it were better for you (as one going forth) that your member should enter the mouth of a hideous venomous viper or cobra than to enter a woman. It were better for you that your member should enter a pit of coals burning, blazing and glowing, than to enter a woman."

He claimed Suddina was pursuing the opposite of the Dharma--surprised there isn't word for that. I know Mara personifies the opposite, or Samsara is where you live. Ignorance is what causes us to live in samsara and listen to Mara. UnDharma, I guess.

And thus the rules is created: "Any monk who indulges in sexual intercourse is defeated: he is no more in communion."

To be expelled from the Sangha is quite an offense even if it is temporary suspension. There was almost a schism in the sangha when a monk felt that he was being unfairly persecuted for leaving some washing water by the bathroom (post).

I'm inclined to see his act as one of compassion, and am surprised at the vigor of the rebuke. That people don't take the straight path to goal is fairly common. But whenever I see the Buddha as being harsh or something, that always puts me in check. Am I resisting the teachings of the Buddha by dismissing this as a later insertion by some vinaya crazed monk? Also the Buddha's teachings were specific to each monk, to each sangha, to each situation, so perhaps this monk was a lusty fellow who needed an extra push. Maybe it wasn't the kindness it was put out to be my imagination.

And three times, everyone knows the intercourse motion is about flushing out another man's sperm, the first time give her the best shot at getting pregnant, he was flushing his own sperm out by continuing. Wait three days and try again if you're unsure. Although she is more likely to get pregnant if she comes, so maybe it took three times to get her there, and that was the deciding factor in her pregnancy.

With stillness, simplicity and contentment is the opposite of the sexual misconduct 3rd precept of 5. I prefer the positive reaching to the hand slap of the negative precepts.


Redemption


The same Brit Hume that says it's entirely reasonable to sacrifice the elderly for the economy (I always thought Logan's Run was far fetched...) once suggested that Tiger Woods does not have the concept of redemption because he is a Buddhist. He doesn't have the Christian concept of redemption, but luckily Christianity doesn't own all the spirituality words.

Finger Necklace, or Angulimala, was a brutal murderer, who found the BuddhaDharma through the Buddha, and became a monk. There were times when people who had family murdered by him would throw things at him. But he persisted in the BuddhaDharma path, and became an arahant. If that's not redemption, then I don't know what is.

All he has to do is look at the Wikipedia article (linked previously) to see how each religion determines the concept for them. I saw someone on Reddit ask why everyone assumed everyone was a Christian. It's Christianity presumption. As if that's the only religion that exists, similar to hetrosexual presumption, assuming that is the only kind of sexuality that exists.

I'd also say Milarepa is an excellent example of redemption in the Buddhist religion.

For those who say Buddhism is not a religion, I'd say that they were going along with the Christian presumption that religion is about god. I disagree. But I'm quite happy to see Buddhism as a spirituality instead of a religion. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Chapter 9 The Life of the Buddha



This chapter is a grab bag of stories left over from the first 20 years. The wonderful story of Meghiya is one. It is filled with what you can do that is not meditation, to work towards the goal.

The thing I found most interesting was the Buddha's going through the 5 elements and pointing out how they are indifferent. The 6th element practice is something I've done a bit on retreat. I did it off retreat, and I felt like I was breaking apart, and realized that I can only do that meditation in a really supportive environment like a retreat. Then after that, the Buddha lists meditations for various problems:

"Practice loving-kindness to get rid of ill-will. Practice compassion to get rid of cruelty. Practice sympathy to get rid of apathy. Practice equanimity to get rid of resentment. Practice contemplation of loathsomeness in the body to get rid of lust. Practice contemplation of impermanence to get rid of conceit 'I am'. Practice mindfulness of breathing; for when that is maintained in being and well developed, it brings great fruit and many blessings" (p. 123)

I find it interesting that sympathetic joy helps one with apathy. I find it interesting for the AA people that equanimity gets rid of resentments. I find it interesting that contemplation is part of the path, makes me think of Ratnaguna's book On Reflection. And it makes me think that MOB, mindfulness of breathing is the paramount meditation.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Conflict in the early sangha



Further thoughts on The Life of the Buddha, a collection and translation by Nanamoli (Chapter 8):

This happened in Kosambi. Don't let the story mark the town as one thing, because it is many.

The offense was that a leader left grey water at the toilet. At the time when someone caught him, he did not know it was an offense. The other leader said since it wasn't intentional, it was not an offense, but then later said it was an offense and spoke out against the offense.

It hardly seems like much to get worked up about, but sometimes when you are very mindful you can be a bit precious about things. There is also some conflict, a power struggle, which is not acknowledged, between the two leaders.

The leader was suspended. He sent out to his people to come and defend him. Many of his followers were loyal to him even though he was suspended.

When alerted to the situation, the Buddha was concerned about a schism. He talked to the suspending leader. The Buddha said essentially to be more worried about schism than the offense, to not pursue the matter. He went to the offending monk and told him to not challenge the suspension because schism is worse than being suspended wrongly.

So I wonder what happened. I guess the offending monk stayed away until the end of the suspension, though the suspension would have been withdrawn.

That was I did when I was a teacher and two students were in conflict, I would "shoot both ways," so that neither felt like they got their way. You need to stop doing this, and you need to stop doing that.

It is a fundamental problem in the world that there are rules in society and there are some people who do not follow them.

I think this is one of the great problems with the current presidency. The conventions of the presidency are not being followed. It freaks a lot of people out, it's destabilizing to people who do not protect him out of ideological defensiveness. That is also something they take glee in, which is a further offense. Win at any cost not matter that the whole fabric of society is smashed. Out of partisanship they pretend not to see it, then later flip the script. The party that wants to run things so they can prove that running things is wrong, don't expect good government, and wreck up the whole place.

When the sangha insisted on continuing the quarrel, the Buddha finally just left, deciding that he could not say anything to them that would de-escalate the conflict.

I find that a fascinating story. No miracles, no reverence, keeping the Buddha on the right side. He was told they would settle it. I've always found this story really interesting somehow. "There is no fellowship with fools." It's better to be alone than in conflict. Being alone is preferable to disagreeable company.

When the town stopped giving them food, because it was seen as not respecting the Buddha to send him away, they went to the Buddha to resolve their quarrel. The offending monk said it was an offense, and the Buddha told them to reinstate him because he saw the offense.

Then there is the report of harmony with Anuruddha, Nandiya and Kimbila. I've always loved those names because of their harmony. Whoever got home first would set things up. Whoever got home last would clean up. They agreed on the various tasks and asked for help when needed. Nobody shirked any duty and they thought on each other with loving kindness in public and privately.

Chapter 7: The Life of the Buddha



Further thoughts on The Life of the Buddha, a collection and translation by Nanamoli:

This is the chapter on admitting women into the sangha. The Buddha's stepmother, the woman who raised him, nursed him, when his mother died soon after he was born. She wanted to join the sangha. The Buddha initially said no but she came back and he gave 8 conditions, and she accepted them.

Now is this where I think like I do with Shakespeare? With Shakespeare I don't think he's anti-semitic or misogynistic or racist, no more than the average person, he just captured these forces in his plays. Merchant of Venice has a depiction of a jewish man, from the standpoint of a playwright in a country that banned jewish people. And Taming of the Shrew is just how women were handled then, women were married off by their fathers. And Othello was just how Moores were treated in those days. Our interpretations of the plays can be racist as well, supposedly John Adams thought Desdemona deserve being killed for marrying a black man.

Anyway, I'm not sure how women were treated in the Buddha's time, but there is an amazing book that captures women going into the spiritual life, and might be the first feminist spiritual classic: Therīgāthā. I found it a really powerful book when I read it on retreat. It wasn't the theme of the retreat, I just find I can read a lot deeper when I'm on retreat, and I found it very inspiring.

So was the Buddhist sexist by applying 8 rules for women? Was he capturing the sexism in the society to apply skillfully?

Could he have given a simple yes, let them in. I don't know, but that's what I would do from my unenlightened perspective twenty five hundred years into the future, from America, who's only had the Dharma for 200 years, only about a tenth of the Dharma's existence on Earth.

I do know that one of the amazing monasteries in the USA is led by a woman: Sravasti Abbey. I'm not aware of any sex scandals in that sangha--the plague which most large sanghas in America have had to face, why I would recommend smalls sanghas. Everyone owns their own spiritual life and I wouldn't let anyone put some idea on mine that would limit it, or my daughters.

There is also a prophecy that because women were let into the sangha that the Dharma would be on earth for less time. I'd say that if anyone trots that out, it's a hook for people who want to blame women and have negativity towards them, so what out for anyone who brings this up.

The Life of the Buddha: Chapter 6



Further thoughts on The Life of the Buddha, a collection and translation by Nanamoli:

There was a poor tailor who saw all these huts put up for the monks and he thought he would like one. He built one, but it was slanted and fell down. He did that three times, and started complaining to the monks. The monks told the Buddha and he told a story about animals helping each other out. I might have told the story where first he directly told some monks to go build that tailor a hut. But it's clear that the Buddha believed in spreading the wealth, resources, charity. He didn't say forget him, just focus on getting enlightened monks.

It seems they build some crude monasteries for the many monks.

I imagine when hordes were converting to the path, there must have been great social disorder. The Buddha made a rule that you have to get your parents permission to go forth. One day everyone was in the village working their usual way, and then another there were a bunch of people with bowls and robes walking along, begging for their food. I wonder if there was anyone left in the kitchen to make food for all the monks. One guy got a ironed robe and a nice bowl and the Buddha didn't like that.

Though eastern and Buddhism seems to be pro-family there is a bit where the Buddha illuminates the suffering within the family, in an effort to pry those from taking refuge in the family. Interesting.

One king got teachings from the Buddha but another didn't, and I wonder if there was jealousy with those whom the word spread slowly. I estimate it took 2378 years for the Buddha's message to make it to America where I live. I'm jealous it took so long to get here.

To further integrate with society he had the monks not wander around during the rains. They were tramping all over the crops and causing problems, so the Buddha asked that the monks stay in one place during the rainy season.

I'm watching Eugene Onegin on the Met Opera free streaming and this is adapted from Pushkin, who created the "superfluous man"--an unmindful dilettante who mucks everything up and misses opportunities and hurts people.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus



Acting as if you have Coronavirus is probably the best course of action.

Since you don't know if you're a carrier who is asymptomatic, if you assume you are, you won't pass anything onto another. Usually I assume we don't know much, and I don't like assuming one side of a binary situation. You either have it or you don't. If you assume you have it, then you will act in such a way as to not spread it. If you assume you don't have it because you are sick you might pass it on. Therefore it is best to assume you have it.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Simone Weil: Philosopher of compassion

"Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating."



I read a novel that mentioned Simone Weil in passing and I didn't know much about her so I got a biography of her to read. I'm writing about her here because she was a Christian Mystic and very interested in suffering, and she had some interesting ethical ideas. I think she was a Bodhisattva.

I think it's cool that the internet has three different examples of how to pronounce her name: One, two, three. This one is different.

She was born in Paris in 1909. Her brother was a math genius, her mother was an frustrated/oppressed female who wasn't allowed to be a doctor, so she channeled her energy into her children. Simone was among the first women to go to college, and because of her confrontational style was sent far away to teach as part of the French system. Her nickname was the Red Virgin and she was sent to Le Puy that had a red virgin statue, a 9 hour train ride from Paris that her devoted mother would travel once a month to care for her.


She taught laborers philosophy and other subjects to help them pass exams to get promotions. She had an ascetic side, and an androgynous style, and always had those glasses and haircut. Her students in Le Puy admired her devotion and her limitations. She was a Marxist for a while and believed in the redemption of work, evolved to revolutionary syndicalism. She worked on a fishing boat and remained connected to the fisherman who gave her a chance to work on his boat during a vacation. She was a kind teacher, but she was cruel to her student peers when she was in school, cutting one friend off for a year when he used a source in a presentation that she did not approve of. Her family still invited him over for dinner and she just ignored him for a year. She dismissed the author of the Second Sex in their one meeting. She was sickly and would push herself to the point of a breakdown, and had an eating disorder. She would go to Berlin and live with a working class family to further political action.

To follow her life, is to go through some interesting European history. It is better to read a full account instead of my outline but I thought it was funny that a right wing newspaper likened her to "...mushrooms that grow on hummus." They didn't like her supporting the unemployed and poor rights, but in the end they didn't force her from the school and the work program got a raise and better conditions! She would go to the nearest industrial city and teach workers on the weekend, and generally seemed to agitate for the the good with a full schedule of activities.

Like Hemingway and Orwell she went off to Spain to fight against Franco. She stepped in a pot of boiling water and was pulled out of the fighting.

She went to the USA because her parents wouldn't go without her, and she wanted to save them. But she went back to London. Like Walt Whitman she wanted to be a nurse on the front lines. She died before she could go. She died at age 34. She had tuberculosis but refused to eat more because others were so hungry. Was it a kind of suicide to not eat enough to recover?

From Francine du Plessix Gray's biography, "Might not her reluctance to join the Church have been equally impelled by her need to renounce all forms of satisfaction--by her spiritual anorexia?"

The biography says she discovered Milarepa at the public library in NYC. Googling Simone Weil and Buddhism I found this bibliography. He notoriously starved himself as well, turning green from nettle soup. I think she liked his asceticism.



Links
What We Owe to Others: Simone Weil’s Radical Reminder (NY Times)

American Weil Society

Enlightened by love 5 part podcast by David Cayley

An Encounter with Simone Weil. A filmmaker Julia Hazlett is inspired by "Attention is the rarest and purest for of compassion." a quote from Weil. She also grooves on, "always do what will cost you the most." Here is a NY Times article about the movie. Turn on the subtitles to get French translations when people speak French. If you don't have Amazon Prime, it's on Vudu with commercials. What I get from this movie is how integrated she was, she really put into practice her beliefs. She quit eating sugar in solidarity with the soldiers during WW1. Hazlett weaves in her own questions about her father and her brother's suicide. Could she have prevented them from committing suicide? What if she had given them more attention and less judgement? I think it's a mark of grief to wonder what more could I have done.

In Our Time BBC

WikiQuotes of Simone Weil



Writings in translation/English by Simone Weil

The Illiad or the poem of Force.

Oppression and Liberty

Attention: Awaiting God

Gravity and Grace

Factory Works

Lectures on Philosophy

An Anthology



Secondary Works

Susan Sontag on Simone Weil

by Robert Chenavier Simone Weil: Attention to the Real chapter one

The ''Seriousness'' of Simone Weil by FREDERICK C. STERN (a book review of George Abbott White, ed., Simone Weil: Interpretations of a Life)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Shakespeare practice



You can read literature with a Dharma eye, to develop insight. And you can work on issues along the way as well. For instance, I noticed my mind wandering when I was reading Richard the 3rd. Just like when my mind wanders when I'm watching my breath. Second, I noticed a need for patience, a very important virtue. I wanted Shakespeare to get to it, I lost the pleasure in the moment and language and drama. So I get to work on concentration and patience. But it's the insight that I like. Here is Queen Margaret (Margaret of Anjou) on impermanence:

I call'd thee then vain flourish of my fortune;
I call'd thee then poor shadow, painted queen;
The presentation of but what I was;
The flattering index of a direful pageant;
One heaved a-high, to be hurl'd down below;
A mother only mock'd with two sweet babes;
A dream of what thou wert, a breath, a bubble,
A sign of dignity, a garish flag,
To be the aim of every dangerous shot,
A queen in jest, only to fill the scene.
Where is thy husband now? where be thy brothers?
Where are thy children? wherein dost thou, joy?
Who sues to thee and cries 'God save the queen'?
Where be the bending peers that flatter'd thee?
Where be the thronging troops that follow'd thee?
Decline all this, and see what now thou art:
For happy wife, a most distressed widow;
For joyful mother, one that wails the name;
For queen, a very caitiff crown'd with care;
For one being sued to, one that humbly sues;
For one that scorn'd at me, now scorn'd of me;
For one being fear'd of all, now fearing one;
For one commanding all, obey'd of none.
Thus hath the course of justice wheel'd about,
And left thee but a very prey to time;
Having no more but thought of what thou wert,
To torture thee the more, being what thou art.
Thou didst usurp my place, and dost thou not
Usurp the just proportion of my sorrow?
Now thy proud neck bears half my burthen'd yoke;
From which even here I slip my weary neck,
And leave the burthen of it all on thee.
Farewell, York's wife, and queen of sad mischance:
These English woes will make me smile in France.

This is from Act 4, Scene 4. Queen Margaret was King Henry VI's wife, and then Edward took over, and then Edward died, and his brothers were erased, so that Richard could step into being king. So what we have in this part of the scene is Queen Margaret (H6) Queen Elizabeth (EIV) and Richard's mother all talking about how horrible he is. Then in parallel to Act 1, scene 2 (where he tried to get the widow of the murdered man to marry him), he works to convince the mother of the princes Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, that he should marry princess Elizabeth to consolidate the regime.  Another harrowing dialogue of the oily Richard trying to persuade of marriage to make a queen.

I probably alternate between this blog and my Shakespeare blog, where I read through Shakespeare chronologically, and now I am on my second reading of Shakespeare with the 2020 Shakespeare Project.