Saturday, November 14, 2015

Just started reading After Buddhism

I'm not sure what I expected from Stephen Batchelor but After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age turns out to be a close reading of the Pali Cannon. It reminds me of Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations. After the introductions, the first chapter is on Mahanama. Ever heard of him? I've always loved Batchelor's writings, and I can tell this is one of his best books. I'm only 10% in, but based on the first 10%, I have that feeling.

My reading of the Dharma can be superficial or profound, depending on my view. I can see why right view is such a crucial step on the path. I hope that I'm less superficial. That I'm not just reinforcing my own ego tendencies, but working to develop as an individual so I can tear the whole edifice down as I mature. Suggesting right view can be a little like proselytizing. I like the way AA does it, they just share their experience, strength and hope, they're not telling anyone else what to do. I call that the soft sell, where you don't feel the ego of the salesman, the message of the sale potential shines through. Here's what I've gotten from putting myself at the feet of the Buddha. And yet, it's not about blind obedience. Mahanama was too zealous, too blind a follower at the beginning.

There's also an interesting discussion of how a tree leans in a direction, that is connected a bit to stream entry. It points to the importance of an orientation. I think of the spiritual friend that just started bowing to the Buddha statue every time he passed it in his house.

In AA they talk about a power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity. I've never understood the concept of God, but conditionality is a power greater than me. I don't have the power to change this basic law. I sew the seed of doubt by imagining an uncaused event. I don't think that would disprove causality, not one anyway. There'd need to be a sort of consistent set of uncaused events, and that itself would probably be figured out as somehow caused. An uncaused event that had uncaused conditions to create it seems unlikely. More likely my doubt is based in pathological attachment issues. Nobody can be trusted, but causality isn't a somebody, it's what seems to be the way the world works. Miracles are just unlikely events that we can't see all the causes and conditions. My doubt can be turned to my understanding of causality, and opening to the wonder. I think in a way spirituality is at the heart of that, no matter how you answer the big questions. Batchelor defines religion as about life and death, and that is OK with me, because I live in this secular world that doubts the thin part of the wedge of hegemony, and the pedagogy of the oppressed. I understand my ability to not swallow the party line. And yet action needs a direction. I don't always face my suffering. I'm tempted to pontificate about others, but the other is me that I'm trying to fend off.

Noble friendship helps us along the way. Noble friendship with my better self as well. To open oneself up to the wonder is perhaps a quixotic task. You don't know if you're listening to the coconut headphones (cargo cults). Be an individual and follow me--that can be a paradox or a Steve Martin joke. Surely there are instincts and desires that are less than noble. Hearing both voice, your inner voice and the voice of the noble community and working to reconcile the two and not lose yourself hasn't always been easy for me.

Strive on my brothers and sisters.

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