Sunday, July 25, 2021

Beginning of rainy season retreat

The Buddha had the monks not wander during the rainy season. (Link)

Installed at Aurangabad Buddhist Caves, in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. "the statue was placed offset to challenge the Buddhist locals sense of inner piece against their OCD and basic maths"

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Not a panacea

“I began meditating in search for a decrease in stress and anxiety. I got that, and then somehow became swept away in a new-age super religion without even knowing it. There are parts of this essay that embarrass me. But, when you’re vulnerable and looking for answers, you take what is available. For me, that was the enlightenment pill, and I almost choked on it.“

Fascinating article by Dan Lawton about his negative experiences meditating, a few researchers who listen to negative experiences, and how many teachers deny there can be negative experiences in meditation. Courageous article.

I have panic attacks sometimes on retreat, when I feel trapped, can't move, in meditation. But then I cry and it seems to release a lot of things. I wouldn't describe that as a negative experience, but I suppose it's a challenging experience.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Rahula does not mean fetter, that is a later insertion by a self congratulating monk

Someone went onto r/buddhism and asked if they should have children, or that would lead to attachment. I see a little red when "attachment" is used, because it's a useful and powerful concept in modern psychology. 

But they mean clinging to sense pleasure, not the healthy child need. OK. I propose Buddhists stop using the word "attachment" because the other sense of the word is primary, stronger, more important and interesting. (I'm pretty sure I picked that up from the culture of Triratna, but I guess I'm owning it now. I honestly don't think I'm original, but I googled "Rahula doesn't mean fetter" and I just got all the articles that spout that terrible idea, thus I have to add it to the dialectic of the internet.)

Nobody was giving the opposite view, so I stepped in and tried to articulate why having children isn't a death sentence to the move towards enlightenment. 

The spouting of doctrine and cant was pretty difficult to bear. One person actually purported to be the voice of the Buddha. 

First off, a human isn't a fetter. They are a subject with feeling, not an object in your way. Maybe attitudes are fetters, and maybe some people can't see the long term affect certain ideas.

And yes, there is a dance between engagement and retreat, and retreat is vital to the spiritual life. But I also feel it's important to think for yourself and not just spout doctrine without processing it through the human who says it and the humans who hear it.

There's plenty of stuff in the canon that needs to be interpreted, updated, modernized. In a good way.

A human is not a fetter, I think that Rahula should not be seen as a word for fetter. If it really was at that time, and I'm not convinced that is true, then maybe it's a mistake in our times when humans have a certain dignity and everything isn't about finding your hierarchical place in the universe. That was the caste system and the Buddha rejected it.

Spiritual individualism is to be avoided when it harms others. There are so many instances where the Buddha brings in the family to make sure things are right, that he's not out of disharmony with the larger society. He didn't want a family to stop giving money to a rival sect, he thought that would create disharmony. He thought about the welfare of others, not just putting his methods forward. There is a time and a place.

The "great I am" is not the spiritual endpoint, and when you steamroll a human being to get your imagined spiritual ends, that's a sign things have gone off the road, lost their way.

I'm very much into the spirit of the dialectic, every thesis has an antithesis, and the veracity of a statement is about the vector it takes in relation to other ideas, and the opposite idea also has some truth in it, often. Discussion is the life blood of the spiritual life. 

Fusty doctrine defense feels hollow, unliving. Breathe some life into the teachings. Whenever I heard a statement that feels changing, I am more interested to investigate and discuss. I like books that have the title like Why I am Not a Buddhist or What the Buddha Didn't Teach, I'll be interested when I get a chance to read those books. I think there is a place for challenging provocative statements. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

1987 classic I've never gotten around to until I found it today

 "in craving we also have a distorted view of the world, and in having a distorted view of the world we also crave."

from The Buddhist Path To Awakening by Rupert Gethin

A Handful of Leaves has an amazing library available on PDFs. With Sutta Central, there's no real need to buy a book, but I do like something I can put in my hand that doesn't require recharging.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Epistemic priority

"While, generally speaking, all human beings have similar minds and mental states, at the more subtle level we are all quite unique mental configurations. We are the only ones who can truly know our own mind, so we are the only ones who can truly know how to work with it."

Working With The Five Hindrances by Ajahn Thiradhammo

I saw this and liked it:


Thursday, July 08, 2021

SN 24 5

 5. There’s No Meaning in Giving

At Sāvatthī.

“Mendicants, when what exists, because of grasping what and insisting on what, does the view arise: ‘There’s no meaning in giving, sacrifice, or offerings. There’s no fruit or result of good and bad deeds. There’s no afterlife. There are no duties to mother and father. No beings are reborn spontaneously. And there’s no ascetic or brahmin who is well attained and practiced, and who describes the afterlife after realizing it with their own insight. This person is made up of the four primary elements. When they die, the earth in their body merges and coalesces with the main mass of earth. The water in their body merges and coalesces with the main mass of water. The fire in their body merges and coalesces with the main mass of fire. The air in their body merges and coalesces with the main mass of air. The faculties are transferred to space. Four men with a bier carry away the corpse. Their footprints show the way to the cemetery. The bones become bleached. Offerings dedicated to the gods end in ashes. Giving is a doctrine of morons. When anyone affirms a positive teaching it’s just baseless, false nonsense. Both the foolish and the astute are annihilated and destroyed when their body breaks up, and don’t exist after death’?”

“Our teachings are rooted in the Buddha. …”

“When form exists, because of grasping form and insisting on form, the view arises: ‘There’s no meaning in giving, sacrifice, or offerings. … Both the foolish and the astute are annihilated and destroyed when their body breaks up, and don’t exist after death.’ When feeling … perception … choices … consciousness exists, because of grasping consciousness and insisting on consciousness, the view arises: ‘There’s no meaning in giving, sacrifice, or offerings. … Both the foolish and the astute are annihilated and destroyed when their body breaks up, and don’t exist after death.’

What do you think, mendicants? Is form permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.” …

“Is feeling … perception … choices … consciousness permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.” …

“That which is seen, heard, thought, known, sought, and explored by the mind: is that permanent or impermanent?”

“Impermanent, sir.” …

“But by not grasping what’s impermanent, suffering, and perishable, would such a view arise?”

“No, sir.”

“When a noble disciple has given up doubt in these six cases, and has given up doubt in suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the practice that leads to its cessation, they’re called a noble disciple who is a stream-enterer, not liable to be reborn in the underworld, bound for awakening.”


Friday, July 02, 2021

Beware of Darkness

Beware of darkness by George Harrison has always held me since I heard a Concrete Blond version of it, and I traced it back to it's source. My stepfather might have had the George Harrison album but I didn't hear the original first. I'm open to different versions. I saw a Sheryl Crow and Brandi Carlile version this morning and the song continues to hold insights for me.

Maya in Buddhism is "pretense" or "deceit" that is identified as one of the twenty subsidiary unwholesome mental factors within the Mahayana Abhidharma teachings. Harrison was influenced by Hindu gurus but Buddhism is the universal religion that springs off of the ethnic religion of Hinduism. 

An ethnic religion is something you're born into: Hinduism and Judaism. A universal religion is something you can convert to: Buddhism and Christianity. Now the distinction isn't always clear cut. There's a Korean Christian church, and many vedanta teachers see it as universal. There are Jews for Jesus, combine Judaism and Christianity. Joyce can reject Christianity as an atheist, and write a book they teach in Catholic schools, because his whole mind couldn't just reject it. Religion is confusing and sneaky. The Abrahamic religions make you think god is at the center, but there are not theistic religions such as Buddhism and Taoism. There are even christian non-theistic versions. 

"Beware of greedy leaders. They take you where you should not go." I also think Trump is a "soft shoe shuffler" of sorts.

But my revelation today made me think about why I love this song. Fans of Ted Lasso will say a kind of relentless self help and optimism is essential to success, but I would argue that a dialectical approach is what is needed. Too much optimism misses out, is wasteful, but gets more done. Pessimism isn't sustainable either, doesn't get much done. What needs to get done?

We are facing a time when optimism and being positive can't erase insurrections and cult like behaviors. The Marjorie Taylor Greens continue even after suggesting Jews shoot lasers from outer space, and harass AOC. Maybe partisanship is over for the near future, and the ruthless victories of what used to be an essential conservatism, have become toxic. 

News viewership has gone down, Biden hasn't attracted our attention with lurid actions designed to distract. He is just quietly leading as best he can. Seventy three million people voted for Donald Trump, after all we know or should know if we have good epistemic character. Eighty million people didn't vote, essentially letting other's voices count more.

It's becoming more popular to be aware of the effects of robber barons manipulation of the system.

When do you stop dialectical thinking and when do you double down on one side?

I think conservatism is essential to America, even though I am progressive. I bet if the progressives took over for a while, like Reagan and his minions have since 1980, I might be conservative. There are a lot of conservatives that were born of the progressivism from Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson, they felt things had swung too far left. Conservatism is too successful, they are grasping for too much, and the leaning on populism is the lasp gasp. Things are shifting. Younger people see the dark side of capitalism.

Capitalism and communism are two poles. In America the roads are owned by everyone. Garbage is taken away for the collective good. Police and fire services are seen as essential services. That is as communist as it gets. 

In China and Russia they realized they needed the dynamism of capitalism, even if a few people got disgustingly rich. 

The growth of the federal government is huge. My grandparents saw the creation of a federal income tax that they promised to do away with, but didn't after WW2.

It's obvious now that universal health care would save lives. Utilitarianism is the idea that you preserve the most good for the most people. 

There are often unintended consequences to government control, like the criminality of prohibition. Infact, we are moving away from criminalizing drugs, and that is decreasing crime and the costs of crime. I saw an article today about a for profit prison complaining about not having enough prisoners. Certain institutions should just not be for profit: schools, infrastructure, prisons. The Margaret Thatcher experiment failed. Injecting business into institutions of the public trust just doesn't work. Look at what's going on in Texas with power. It's just wrong.

The 5 precepts guide us to avoid easy extremes of negative unhelpful harmful behaviors. It's pretty broad actually. 

Dialectics are the idea Hegel has developed. It's why one teaching for one person can be right for them and another teaching for another can seem contradictory.


Watch out now

Take care, beware of falling swingers

Dropping all around you

The pain that often mingles

In your fingertips

Beware of darkness

Watch out now

Take care, beware the thoughts that linger

Winding up inside your head

The hopelessness around you

In the dead of night

Beware of sadness

It can hit you

It can hurt you

Make you sore and what is more

That is not what you are here for

Watch out now

Take care, beware of soft shoe shufflers

Dancing down the sidewalks

As each unconscious sufferer

Wanders aimlessly

Beware of Maya

Watch out now

Take care, beware of greedy leaders

They'll take you where you should not go

While weeping Atlas Cedars

They just want to grow, grow and grow

Beware of darkness (beware of darkness)