Category Archives: buddhism

This category is about everything Buddha and Buddhism, which teaches that:
1) everything is marked by impermanence, to believe in any permanence is to suffer, and the the ultimate cause of suffering is the rejection of the non-permanent self.
2) Enlightenment (contentment) can be found through the understanding of the true nature of existence (trilaksana) as stated here, and by living in accordance to such an understanding.

Why does the West fear empiricism and Buddhism?

Sensation and perception is a limited view and also the only point of access to reality we have. This said, then, we should think it is important. No sensation and perception necessarily means no understanding of and no interaction with reality.

This is, of course, if there is another reality that is unknown. But why complicate things when one reality is already complicated enough. Reality has no cause for being more complex than need be.

The onus is on others to explain why the metaphysical is needed.

I am happy with a mechanistic explanation of us. That the illusion of a self or rationality should be no less plausible than phenomena or representation. To react against the physical reality is really an unnecessary fear that brings about more grief than relief.

As a Buddhist correct understand brings about relief. The explanation is not that different to a philosophically material monist one. The self is not what it seems. A soul is as plausible as a non-soul. To discount non-self is not scientific, not open-minded. It is foreign. It is The Other.

Nirvana has no value

Central to the teaching of Buddhism are the three marks of existence (trilaksana).

The three marks of existence are:

  • saṅkhārā aniccā — “all saṅkhāras (conditioned things) are impermanent”
  • sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā — “all saṅkhāras are unsatisfactory”
  • sabbe dhammā anattā — “all dharmas (conditioned or unconditioned things) are not self”

Conditioned things (sankhara), according to Buddhism, do not make up the entirety of things. There are also unconditioned things. Together conditioned and unconditioned things are called the dharma – the entirety of the world.

Nirvana (the realization of the non-self or emptiness of everything, conditioned and unconditioned) is neither impermanent nor permanent, and neither unsatisfactory nor unsatisfactory. To say it is permanent would be to not understand its characteristics. To say it is satisfactory would be to not see the inconsistency of duality. The neutral, zero position of Buddhism is something rather hard to grasp. And by being unenlightened is to be not fully understanding the zero position, but be like somewhere between -1 and +1, other than 0. By having a value – positive or negative – we are not understanding the meaning of 0. The irony is, we cannot know zero without recourse to every other number, that is, zero means nothing without something.

Buddhist suffering is not pain and grief

The first of the Four Noble Truths attributed to Buddha is life is suffering (dukkha).

But what is meant by this? Is every moment in life suffering? Am I in perpetual sadness?

Obviously, no. I am happy, or at least not sad at this moment. For most of my life I have been fairly happy and content. I can see that others also are not suffering or in constant pain.

What Buddha meant by this that at any moment we are susceptible to suffering. This susceptibility is what is meant by dukkha. Actual instances pain and happiness are “clues” to impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and the self as an illusion.

The Ten Bull Pictures – notes

The standard version of the Ten Bull Pictures used today is the version by Kaku-an, a 12th century monk. The oldest version of this is a 16th century copy in Kyoto, Japan.

The earliest series is considered the one by Seikyo, consisting of five pictures. The first picture starts at the fourth Kaku-an picture (and being slightly different) and ends on the eighth. In between are three pictures which are not found in Kaku-an’s version. A later version that Seikyo’s that was popular in China also has ten pictures but it also starts and ends at exactly the same pictures as Seikyo’s five pictures.

The conclusion to be drawn then is

  1. Kaku-an’s pictures are independent in design to both Seikyo and the Chinese versions
  2. Kaku-an’s pictures have a different significance to Seikyo’s

Particularly the second point starting earlier in the timeline means it says more about practitioners at the beginning of their journey. Also, by ending later, it says something about what the purpose (or Zen’s goal) is for enlightenment. These points are worth exploring.

 

Flux/Impermanent/Change

Everything is in flux. (Heraclitus, 6c BCE)

Everything, without exception, is impermanent. (The Buddha, 5c BCE)

Change is the only constant. (signature103, 2018)

5 reasons I choose not to talk about politics

I choose not to talk about politics because

  1. it generally does not change the outcome of elections, especially elsewhere
  2. it fuels so many unnecessary arguments
  3. I do not understand everything in politics (nor do I want to)
  4. I feel politicians never work for the benefit of the people … no matter what they say
  5. this is what The Buddha had meant by Right Speech
  6. [bonus reason] there are other more important things to worry about in this 13-billion-year-old universe with my less-than-hundred-year long lifespan.

Time to shut up. I have said too much about politics already.

When does a soul get created?

As a Buddhist, I do not believe in souls. Talk to most people – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and even Buddhists – and they talk as though something survives after death. Such is the power and attraction of the concept of the soul.

Out of curiosity, I asked an American Muslim when is the soul created. He said, “at the moment of conception”. And thereafter it remains either in Heaven or Hell (and also Purgatory if you are Roman Catholic). So the mystery, it seems to me, is that the eternal soul did not start off as eternal but was created out of the grace of God or gods (of which again in Buddhism are concepts).

The problem here is that we have no evidence for these, only that of the textual sources, and not any independent or direct proof of souls and gods as such. Apart from being told by someone else, namely the sacred texts and by those who believe in word of the sacred texts, there is no other proof. Buddhism’s claim that everything is impermanent can be verified by observation. While we cannot observe everything, the weight of non-contrary evidence is substantial. Inferential logic tells us that the soul is perhaps one of these “things” which stands counter to impermanence even though no one can show us any evidence for its existence.

This alone should sound off alarm bells in your head.

While I do not have a problem with the concept of the soul, I do have problem with the belief in the existence of a soul. But at the same time, it is normal to think and believe that such a thing exists. This is something humans do very well, and perhaps defines us from other animals. But it is also natural that some for the human species (Buddhists) to “see through” it, that is, to understand the nature of it.

So it is baffling that in this day and age, where our understanding of the natural physical world has progressed this far, to be still caught in the grips of such an illusion. Powerful indeed is this illusion, passed on from generation to generation through speech and action.

Souls are not created. The concept of a soul is. The concept is perpetuated by its continued reinforcement. The root is therefore in the nature of words and not in the nature of the thing.

SNS and real life

Most people tend to forget that SNS is a part of (modern) life, and should be dealt with in the same way as life.

What you wouldn’t do in real life you shouldn’t do on SNS either. This should be a general rule of thumb.

Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you is another rule.

Buddhist Texts

Just before the Buddha’s passing, he told his followers that everything he knows has been taught to them. However, he taught them orally, that is, he left no writings behind. While his followers did their best to continue the oral tradition of the teaching (an expression of impermanence) they eventually decided to put what he taught down in writing.

The written teachings became known as the Tripitaka or ‘three baskets’. The baskets consisted of rules of the community (sangha) are called the jataka. The “actual” words of the Buddha were called the sutras. And the commentaries are called the abhidharma. These were confirmed and laid down over several “councils”. The most important writings are the sutras. The Pali Canon consists of five divisions. They are 1) the long discourses (Digha Nikaya), 2) middle length discourses (Majjhima Nikaya), 3) the connected discourses, 4) the numerical discourses, and 5) the miscellaneous collections. In these, we get a sense of the time of the Buddha, the culture and society to which he belonged. Sometimes these are the only written records we have of this place and period.

The Pali Canon, being the oldest collection, is considered the most authentic. But these are not the only writings. From around the 1st Century CE, we see a new set of writings appear, those in Sanskrit – Mahayana sutras. These were developed in the North-West of the Indian sub-continent in present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. Different from the Pali they were less concerned with the Historical Buddha than with the spiritual or Transcendental Buddha. The settings for his discourses in these are generally in celestial realms and concern deeper more abstract aspects of Buddhism. Furthermore, they develop upon the earlier teachings in ways that are beyond the contents in the Pali Canon.

Eventually, this led to the main divergence of Theravada (also derogatorily called “Hinayana”) and Mahayana Buddhism. The Theravada stresses the arhat ideal, which sees striving for one’s own enlightenment is important. Whereas the Mahayana chooses to stress helping others (the Bodhidharma ideal) to reach enlightenment. The Mahayana also uses emptiness over the term non-self where the nature of impermanence is extended to everything (though I do not think the Buddha had meant to limit the non-self to just beings).

Eventually, the various Buddhist schools developed their own texts. For example, the Dhammapada is popular with Theravadins. The Japanese Jodo Shin Buddhism takes the Tannisho by Shiran as an important exposition of their position. And Zen Buddhism has its Mumonkan (koans), art (Sengai and Enku), poetry (Basho, Buson, and Issa) and commentaries (Dogen and Hakuin). The abundance and variety of writing in Buddhism cannot be stressed more.

What the Buddha taught

Upon discovering the way to liberation from suffering the Buddha went to his former companions who had abandoned him. Noticing his changed disposition they listened and realized that he had reached their common goal.

He taught them that everything without exception is impermanent, that to understand otherwise is the cause of suffering, and that the most expedient way to liberation is to accept the impermanence of the self (non-self).

The Buddha summarised it (The Four Noble Truths) in this way:

      1. life is suffering,
      2. it is cause by our desires (thirst),
      3. to cease suffering one must detach from desires, and
      4. the way to do it (The Eightfold Path) is by having correct
        1. understanding
        2. thought
        3. speech
        4. action
        5. livelihood
        6. effort
        7. mindfulness
        8. concentration

He also taught the nature our personality (skandha) and explained what the chain of rebirth (paticca-samuppada) is in detail so that we can deal with it practically. He taught that we must end rebirth (samsara) and not to perpetuate it by sowing the seeds (karma) that bring about further becoming, and he showed that a careful moderate lifestyle will quell future becoming.

He taught this one teaching (Dharma) for forty-five years until he died from accidental food poisoning.

Today, as a religion, Buddhism is practiced by venerating the Three Jewels of the Buddha (the founder), the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (community).

The Buddha

The historical Buddha was born 2,500 years ago near the border of Nepal and India. He was a prince. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of a small kingdom. His mother, Maya, gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama, his real name, in Lumbini, a forest en route to her family home. Without any more reason to go she turned back and returned to Kapilavastu, the capital.

Soothsayers had predicted that he would become either a great king or a great spiritual leader. King Suddhodana, worried that his son would not ascend the throne, gave Siddhartha every comfort possible to ensure he would be groomed to become the next king.

At the age of 28, having married and awaiting the birth of his child, Siddhartha had decided to venture outside into the world to see his kingdom. There, he saw for the first time sickness, old age, and death. He also saw the serenity of an ascetic among this reality.

Deciding to search for this happiness he left his family and duties. Now known as Shakyamuni, The Sage of the Shakya Clan, he sought the best teachers of the time, mastered their teachings. But he did not find the happiness he had seen in that ascetic he had met on that fateful trip. Deciding that that extreme asceticism is no better than decadence he changed his approach and followed a more moderate practice – The Middle Way. After intense meditation, he became fully enlightened and found the happiness that he had sought.

At age 35 now known as Buddha, The Enlightened One, he spent the next forty-five years teaching the way which brings about liberation from suffering (enlightenment).

E=mc²

think about it –

energy
is matter
is space
is time

while god
maybe 0
the world
is an integer

and nietzsche
may have
proclaimed
“god is dead”

but to me
“god is ‘nothing’
& the world is
everything”

from the world
came god and gods,
not the other way
as we might believe

Consciousness is mundane

There is nothing special about consciousness. It is only the consciousness which wants to think so. In this sense I agree with Object-Oriented Ontologists.

But what I do not agree with OOO is that to think it is necessary (read: special) to be free (like a rock is) from subjectivity and objectivity.

I have found it gratifying to come to terms with my humanness and celebrate existence – without being anthropologically arrogant – as only a human being can.

I know of no other existence

I know of no other existence other than this one. We may speak of souls and spirits but we may only speak of them from this existence, and none other. Whether souls or spirits exist or not is really not the point. What we should be noting is that the possible existence of or as souls and spirits has no direct bearing on this existence other than through that kind of thought and discourse.

The Noise In The Data

What are the limits of my knowledge of the world?

For the last ten years I have “existed” in Japan. Within this time the nature of reality has not changed. This is as expected and is not surprising. I had lived in the three countries previously, and also extensively spent time in another country intermittently most of my life. The nature of reality holds true for all these places. I have also looked through the telescope at the International Space Station, the surface of the moon, Jupiter and Saturn its moons, Mars, and the light from distant stars and galaxies. As far as I can tell the nature of the reality is no different than to the one here on Earth. But that does not mean the nature of reality cannot be different elsewhere in the parts of the universe I have yet to observe.

What I can say is this: the nature of my immediate physical reality is thus, and that is all that matters.

Why should I need to worry about there being a different reality? For me, to function and operate in this world, this is all that I need to know – that within my world, reality is uniformed.

In the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta, The Buddha said this when asked about the “deeper questions” of the nature of the world:

“[Your questions are] just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me… until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short… until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored… until I know his home village, town, or city… until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow… until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated… until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.’ The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him.

The story tells us The Buddha’s attitude toward questions of irrelevance. What we need to know is immediately available to you through your senses and perception. This should be your starting point on the investigation into reality, whether you are Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, atheist, a philosopher or scientist or any other category of being I have not mentioned. For this is truly what is common among us, our senses and perception. Everything else is supplemental and, in my opinion, like noise in the data.