Saturday, January 28, 2023

Syncretism and traditionalism

Came across photos of Hercules protecting the Buddha. This is syncretism, the combining of traditions as the Silk Road connects early Buddhist culture with Greece. When you open up to the mythology of the whole world it's quite an exciting world. 

The opposite of syncretism is fundamentalism. In fundamentalism you ward off combing ideas. Buddhism shouldn't combine with modern psychology. Buddhism shouldn't combine with secular ideas. We shouldn't care about the parallels with modern physics and Buddhism. Even Buddhism and Taoism or Confucianism shouldn't combine in early china. New age hippy ideas shouldn't be combined with Buddhism. 

Closer to home, I think reliance on the guru in Vajrayana is Hinduism influence, perhaps. Buddha nature is Hinduism inspired, we are all god in some sects of Hinduism, OK we're all really Buddhas. Shake out what kind of interesting insights that might shake out. Pudgalavadins believe in a soul. Buddhism tries out other ideas in the history of Buddhism. Pure Land is an exploration of a kind of thinking, more reliance on other power. 

We need self power, community power, and other power in the spiritual life because it is so demanding. There are some who believe the burning of oneself in protest isn't part of Buddhism. In a way the battle about what is and what isn't Buddhism is a constant battle. In Cambodia monks are brought up on heresy charges. In Europe there are blasphemy laws designed to protect Christianity being utilized for Buddhism.

I mean you can try to keep things pure and uninfluenced, and it's good to be clear what is what. To pretend like we're not influenced by everyone around us is silly. Materialism brought about by more fair economics is also a change in culture. The world is changing rapidly and yet humans need things to be the same, we are all profoundly psychologically conservative. Boredom is the emotion that drives us to challenge ourselves and try new things.

I can't help but think the spiritual life isn't where wars should be fought. The spiritual life can be focused on comfort, but it must also include an element of confrontation and discomfort. Not knowing and the negative capability can be used in the spiritual life. 

People from traditional Theravadan countries sometimes see American adaptations of Buddhism as something they don't recognise, and can be offended by how it's being adapted. Some people want to have conflict over sects. There is a kind of branding war that smacks of materialism to me.

If there's no permanent self, can there be a permanent Buddhism? I think you can make mistakes, claim something is Buddhism and it's not, so I think there is a temporary essence, even if that is philosophically is problematic, it works psychologically.  I keep coming back to the practices of community, devotion, study, ethics and meditation. Maybe it's my overly secularized influence, but I think Buddhism is more about what you do than what you claim to believe. Humans are complex and don't always act on their belief, we are hypocritical and unintegrated, confused, bewildered. Enacting ideals isn't easy. I also believe in authenticity over pretending you're more advanced than you really are. 

Even if I am not a heritage Buddhist from a Buddhist country, and find secularizing interesting, doesn't mean that I can't be offended by McMindfulness and capitalism coopting the language of mindfulness to exploit workers better. I can even see traditionalist behavior as against Buddhist's quest for harmony. An over reliance on "right view" can seem like Christians hunting for blasphemy and dogma. Right view is the first step on the path, but like the first step in AA, is has to be constantly refreshed.

On page 80 of the Long Discourses the Buddha says to beware of eel wrigglers, people who can't be pinned down and won't express an honest commitment. Vagueness and superficiality are a problem.

My life experience matters, and the forced Christianity in America means I have little tolerance for what is Christian evangelical moves. Buddhism is supposed to change as it moves through new languages, new cultures, and new geography. But it still needs to be identifiable as Buddhism.

There is a point where Buddhism isn't just an individual sacred cherished aspect to a person and must enter out into the larger world. How involved in politics will it get? America is going through hype partisan times, as people don't understand that psychology pushes one to see the world in different ways, to see others hypocrisy, and not your own as much. It's the same old struggle in battling with yourself versus battling with the world. At the end of a soccer game, they play the song about how "everyone wants to rule the world."

Yes, maybe my white middle class male Buddhism is tinged with all those descriptors, but I still hope it reaches for something more universal, transcendent, and rooted. I like to think Buddhism isn't obsessed with gonads, flesh color and class, without deny those things are in play in the world, and not trying to silence anyone is expressing their experience about those things. I want to throw open my arms to everyone, metaphorically, but realize you can only see the people you see, in front of you, face to face. There are book Buddhists who just write on social media, but don't connect with sangha face to face. Everyone engages with Buddhism with their personality, history and culture.

Syncretism is unavoidable and therefore not unwelcome because resisting reality is a recipe for exhaustion, and errors. We both want to shoot for what we are not already and we must start where you are. It's about becoming, the glorious process of seeking.

Buddha, Lao Tzu and Confucius.

They think this is Taoism on Reddit.

I was reading a book about Ancient Greece to my daughter and she said that Athena was a Buddha.

Further side note: Did Sangharakshita get neither monk nor lay from Shinran?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Abhassara Brahma

On page 75 of the Long Discourses (DN), my version translated by Maurice Walshe, there's a casual references to when the world contracts, everyone goes to Abhassara Brahma.

When I read about the cosmology of early Buddhism, I could find this article, which has a whole elaborate cosmology Dr. Ari Ubeysekara, and mentions it in context, complicated, rich setting. I feel overwhelmed and skeptical, like nobody thinks any of this stuff any more. It's just a thought experiment from spiritually evolved beings. For some reason in my mind I keep coming back to Amos Bronson Alcott's weird prophetic writings Tablets, which I haven't actually read, but I wonder about, and get flummoxed quite quickly reading a few pages. And I think about Sangharakshita in the Hindu ashram with the guy who took down dictation from God. Sangharakshita spent a lot of time with him, I was really surprised. I think I'd like to come up with my own cosmological imaginings. But mostly I just want to get on with the practice: Study, community, devotion, ethics and meditation. Included in this is the study of mind stretching books. 

I think the mating brain is a supercomputer that is overclocked, and wants to do something, even if you're not into attracting a mate. I also enjoy a Jungian exploration of mythology. What is important? What are the foundation myths in the machine language of your brain?

Dwelling in Abhassara Brahma, "...there they dwell, mind-made, feeding on delight, self luminous, moving through the air, glorious--and they stay like that for a very long time."

Sounds like a pure land, not like the pure lands where your tongue covers everything, and there are all these jewels, and or the fantastical magic of The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, or the Lotus Sutra. I don't always speak California slang, but these books are far out, man. 

We can choose what sacred writings to perfume our minds with. Is it true crime? Is it romance? Is it operation manuals? Is it investment strategies to grow wealth? Is it nutrition? I think a Buddhist will spend time with the word of the Buddha, the Buddhavacana, that miraculously is handed down to us through centuries. Every day I'm amazed that I get to read this stuff, and come across new concepts that launch my mind that is ready to be launched and reigned in. 

The internet is devoted to manic pixie girls latest outfits, but there's not a lot on this: link: Abhassara. Wisdom Library.

Mind stretching is what spirituality is all about, the freedom of pushing boundaries. I don't like the language of transcendence because I look up instead of to my body. The body will lead you to enlightenment with all it's ramshackled questions. What do you keep coming back to? 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Where the Buddha tred

I'm reading the Long Discourses, and I wanted to see a map of the Buddha's times, where Rajagaha and Nalanda were:

This all reminds me of how I'd like to go on a pilgrimage

Friday, January 20, 2023

Nirvana Beer

Reno Buddhist Matthew Fisher takes exception to Nirvana Beer, he feels like it trivializes the spiritual language (New York Post). He connects with a Hindu leader in an interfaith effort to express themselves, which is pretty cool.

I mean yea, but don't I really expect an intoxicant to be accurate with language. I tend to think you can't blaspheme Buddhism. Buddhism is inside me, to the extent that I try and live up to the ideals, and practice the path. What others do isn't irrelevant, because we're all one, interconnected. It's pretty hard to police the non-enlightened chaos inside us and outside us.

Trying to police myself is a full time job, and there's no reason not to bring that fight out into the world, but it feels like over reach to me. Not everyone has the commitments I do, we live in a multicultural society. Not everyone is Buddhist. Most people are secular hedonist conformists.

For a business to casually stroll into my sacred garden of words and exploit that language... I feel just as violated by the low minimum wage and other aspects of capitalist exploitation. I think if Buddhist ideals were really put into a righteous government, there would be a universal income. We need to do more to curb global warming and honor the sacrifice of Bruce Alan Wynn.

Everyone is free to comment on everything. I take more offense to policies that harm people, that lead to death. It was estimated that 40% of the Covid deaths were attributable to Trump's policy. USA loses so many people to lax gun control I honestly try to blot that from my memory because it's so upsetting.

The battle is everywhere and the misuse of language is a huge aspect in the wrongness going on in America right now. That lying is "legitimate political discourse", and not an antisocial fuck you, well, that's just plain wrong to me, and there needs to be more repercussions. There's almost a game of who can be more deceptive and exploitative. And people celebrate that. I find that pretty disgusting and trivializing.

Culture may trivialize spiritual language, a beer wishes it could lead to a transcendent state, inhabits the word is if to take over and absorb the power of that word. If it truly could, then I'd be set. But that's just not how things are.

There used to be a good blog that chronicled "Dharma Burgers" where businesses used the language of Buddhism and images with their products. I find inspiration in seeing Buddhist images, and I'm not really tempted to use a bank if they use a Buddha image. But I do like when a Asian restaurant uses Buddhas in their decor because that sets a kind of tone, and I just take the positive from the world as much as I can.

As someone who has struggled with addiction and is in recovery, I'm going to stay away from beer anyway. Staying away from intoxicants is an essential part of the path where mindfulness is valued.

I was never going to buy that beer, though I used to like that brewery. They had one of my favorite beers, "3 Philosophers". I wasn't offended as a former philosophy major at them using the word philosophers. It's all pretty superficial. I don't look to beer can labels for accurate representations of reality. I almost expect them to lie like intoxication does.

That people trivialize language and throw it around in a retail situation doesn't seem unusual. I don't feel the sacred there, but mindfulness about consumerism and capitalism is a worthy thing. Mindfulness about the dangers of intoxicants is important too. I wouldn't cherry pick the name out of all the offensive things going on, personally, but I wish Fisher well, and think it's cool he got into this right wing newspaper for insisting on accuracy in language.

If Ommegang wants to be fun with language they should call a beer Intoxicant, Loosening Inhibitions, or Don't Drink and Drive. Liquid Courage or A Temporary Solution to Social Anxiety.

For me that path of drinking drains my energy, money and clouds my vision, and it's a poor choice for me. I'm fairly selfish and substance use leads to greater selfishness, that's going in the wrong direction. Generosity, empathy, love and kindness is the direction I want to go in.

“Monks, if anyone should speak in disparagement of me, of the Dhamma or of the Sangha, you should not be angry, resentful or upset on that account. If you were to be angry or displeased at such disparagement, that would only be a hindrance to you. For if others disparage me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, and you are angry or displeased, can you recognise whether what they say is right or not?” -DN1

Last edited 1/21/23

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Social media addiction

Addiction can come in many forms. Alcohol, cannabis, eating, throwing up, shopping, gambling, sex, codependency, video games and social media. Some people like to do AA, co-dependency and Al-Anon. Some people do all the different anonymouses. Until we're enlightened we're crazy, and it makes sense that addiction is an aspect of crazy. Communities of sobriety can be supportive. 

Addiction creeps up on you. There's a reason Buddhism isn't called peak experiences, because while those come for some, the dopamine rush can't be all you're chasing. The practice is called the discipline. Putting in the work, doing the hard things. You can kiss the joys as they go by, but ethics and perspective are important.

I've always been afraid of addiction. Every family has it in the extended family (if there are more than just a few people). To whatever extent that people in my family have struggled with addiction, in a way doesn't matter to my journey, but I suppose once you enter recovery, you see it everywhere, in many different shapes and forms.

Developing a recovery plan also involves developing the higher power. There are some who don't like the higher language, so maybe just the things that are important, guiding principles, and being mindful, being present. I sometimes see myself as someone in space, without anything to grasp onto, "Holding to nothing whatever," (source). But there are values, virtues, ways of being that I find useful, beautiful even. Relationships are everything. 

You can cut out substance abuse, get your ethics in line, finances in line, and there's still social media. I'm a bit obsessed with my soccer team, NYCFC. And not having a romantic relationship, I think my soccer team was my girlfriend for a while. Checking online for discussion was like checking in with my girlfriend. It looks like Alexander Callens might be going to Girona now. My local soccer team has had huge roster upheavals, and it's quite challenging to me. 

Anyway, there's always a point when you turn a corner. Not that addiction goes away or there isn't a lot of work, but it's almost the point where you see the issue and can begin to address it. Maybe you'll address it the rest of your life. Maybe it's a false summit. You have to define it as a problem to begin to address it. It's a sad thing when a diversion becomes problematic, and you see through the romanticizing, see more clearly. There's something all purpose about mindfulness, being present, attention, that helps me get there.

last edited 1/19/23

Thursday, January 12, 2023




Made from human remains in Japan


Thai Naga:





Thursday, January 05, 2023

Itivuttaka 38

"Two thoughts often occur to a Perfect One, accomplished and fully enlightened: The thought of harmlessness and the thought of seclusion. A Perfect One takes pleasure and delights in non-affliction, and with that it often occurs to him: By such behaviour I afflict none, timid or bold.' A Perfect One takes pleasure and delight in seclusion, and with that it often occurs to him: 'What is unwholesome has been abandoned.'”

I'm not sure if this is accurate. I remember an incident, where the Buddha told some monks to go meditate on death. He presumably was hoping they would think life is short and be motivated to practice hard, focused. But they took it the wrong way and committed suicide. His advice wasn't taken the right way, but the result was negative. 

At one time the phrase, "Buddhism has an ethics of intention," played about in my mind, but I don't think that statement is true. It's also what happens. I don't think the Buddha knew all the consequences of all lines of action because incidents like this happen, despite claims that he would anticipate all consequences. 

I must admit I can't find the incident after looking for it. Perhaps someone could drop the reference in the comments.

I like to be realistic, and boasting claims don't really work for me, I look for counter examples. Religious rhetoric is often overblown, maybe it's mythological. I've been wondering if literally believing mythology helps in the spiritual life, maybe somehow. I don't feel inclined to believe that, but I like to entertain the opposite proposition sometimes. Truths can be sneaky and hide behind things sometimes. Psychology is different than epistemology. You could use untruths to get into a better mental space? I'm not sure. 

Happy New Year 2566

Bonus quote: Conze confesses to having a messianic delusion in his memoir (1979: I 55): “From early times onwards it has been my conviction that I have come from a higher realm... and that I was sent to the Western barbarians so as to soften their hearts by teaching them the Holy Prajñāpāramitā”.


Cool photos link inside a Los Angeles temple: Tahl Mah Sah Buddhist Monastery