Updates from February, 2017 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • hardie karges 4:48 am on February 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cambodia, , litter, , ,   

    Buddhism 401: How Can we Live Peacefully Together… 

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    Wat Langka in Phnom Penh

    …if we can’t live peacefully alone? Ha! You saw that coming, didn’t you? So did I, once it started gaining speed and shifting direction toward me, grinning like a devil in distress, dressed like an angel in red dress, armed with fleet feet and two gold teeth, androgynous anonymous autonomous and whispering soft incantations, interspersed with the most vile curses, carrying thunderbolts and poisoned letters in mysterious body parts only partially concealed, taking aim carefully counting as if measuring the distance, then…

     

    Wham! The thought struck me like a thunderbolt from the sky, knocking me down with its truth and simplicity, clear as a bell and as certain as death’s knell. Surely it’s been said before, but I don’t know where. I would feel guilty if I were to claim it as my own original idea, when it’s as simple and universal as it is startling and unequivocal. We are the cause of our own collective nightmares, and the solution to the problem is as simple to understand as it is difficult to execute, and almost certain to create self-searching… (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 7:20 am on February 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Four Noble Truths of Buddhism: and Christianity and… 

    img_0545All good Buddhists know the Four Noble Truths: the prevalence of suffering, the cause of suffering—grasping and craving; the way to avoid suffering—quit grasping and craving; and the details of that path—the Middle Way, or eight-fold path, similar to Christianity’s Ten Commandments. But what if the other great religions were to have four truths of their own? What would they be?

    First let’s generalize. To be consistent with the Buddhist example, four such ‘truths’ should: 1) articulate the prevailing reality; 2) articulate the cause of that reality; 3) articulate a path forward, given that reality, and 4) articulate the details of that path. Okay, so for Christianity, I figure the First Noble truth would be: 1) the prevalence of pleasure, i.e. life is for enjoyment, 2) the cause of that pleasure—acquisition of ‘goods’, experiences, or services; 3) the path forward would be to acquire more goods, experiences, and services; and 4)… (More …)

     
    • davekingsbury 10:52 am on February 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Startling insights and a pretty good blueprint for personal development, I’d say. Keats said life was a process of soul-building and the building blocks are here, ready to assemble …

      • hardie karges 6:53 pm on February 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        I love all the Romantic poets, big influence, can’t believe I never made it to the Lake District…

    • davekingsbury 4:47 pm on February 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Reckon you did in spirit. It’s just a bunch of rocks and tearooms, anyway …

  • hardie karges 7:13 am on February 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Mahasi, , , retreat, , Wat Suan Mokh, Yangon   

    Buddhist Boot Camp Comparison, part II: Suan Mokh vs. Mahasi… 

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    Foreign meditators at Mahasi

    Author’s note: For those of you who read my blogs regularly, then you might remember that I did this once before, with Wat Suan Mokh near Surat Thani, Thailand, and Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, here. But those are two different types of Buddhism, so as different as apples and oranges, really. Mahasi Monastery in Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma), is the same Theravada branch of Buddhism as Suan Mokh, so closer in orientation. And for my traveler’s perspective of Mahasi, here

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    Meditation at Mahasi

    Of course, not everything fits conveniently into a quick little list, so I’ll explain, expand and expound. WSM has fixed sessions on the first ten days of every month, so just show up the day before and sign up, no pre-registration. MM is even less formal. Just show up any morning and sign up. I suppose either could be full, so no space available, but not sure of that. Sessions at MM are ongoing, minimum ten days, but many stay MUCH longer, up to six months, with ordination as monk a possibility. Normal Myanmar visa is 28 days BTW, though longer ‘meditation visas’ are available.

    WSM’s program is more elaborately presented and diverse, with certain hours in the daily schedule devoted to exercises, listening to CD, dharma talks, etc., in addition to meditation. MM is mostly DIY, alternating sitting and walking meditation on the hour all day every day. For a novice, this is nearly impossible, of course, so if you want to play hooky, just stay in your room. I was hassled once for reading in the common area, when I was supposed to be in the group meditation hall meditating. Walking meditation is more free-form, so take a break then…

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    Lunch at Mahasi

    WSM is part of the Thai Forest Tradition, which gives it an environmental orientation that is quiet, refreshing and sustainable, while Mahasi is within the boundaries of a large city, so necessarily busier and noisier, with frequent visitors from the city and taxis coming and going, in addition to construction activity for current expansion, so MUCH NOISIER…

    Interaction with others is a mixed bag. On the one hand WSM has monks sitting in on sessions, meditation and otherwise, but mostly meditating, and thus giving valuable inspiration on how it’s done. This blew my mind at the time. Conversely, while MM has hundreds of monks and nuns in residence, they have little or no interaction with foreign yogis. There are weekly dharma talks and twice-weekly interviews with the sayadaw-gyi, but that is hardly equivalent to the hands-on SM experience.

    The dharma being espoused is a bit different, too, though both are of the Theravada Buddhist tradition. This I know only because I made the effort to read materials available in MM common areas, which SM has none of, but compensate with CD listening sessions. But MM seems very stuck in the old fundamentalist Buddhism of past lives and karma, which was a big disappointment to me. SM, on the other hand, is more modern, and founder Buddhadhasa is a leader in steering modern Buddhism away from those old fundamentalist modes…

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    Wat Suan Mokh

    But where WSM falls severely short is in the facilities themselves, with rooms resembling prison cells in not even the best of prisons, while MM has much more modern facilities. The splash-pools that pass for common baths at SM look like something from science fiction, so interesting, but not up to the modern standards of private showers. This ain’t Boy Scout camp. SM may be fine for ten days, but any longer than that might not be so good…

    So here’s the skinny. Here’s the fat. I’ll compare the two briefly on a number of topics, basic stats mostly. One caveat: I personally attended the Thai-language session at Suan Mokh, but I’ve tried to corroborate information from the foreigners’ English-language session, hopefully correct. Okay? Here goes:

    1. Food: SM is vegetarian with brown rice; MM has a vegetarian option by request
    2. Gadgets: SM holds phones and laptops (and passports); MM holds only passports
    3. Ambience: SM is in the countryside; MM is in the city
    4. Duration: SM is a fixed 11 days, 10 nights; MM is minimum 10 days, 9 nights
    5. In/Out privileges: SM not sure;, assume no; MM only by special request
    6. Hands-on Instruction: SM yes; MM no, not really
    7. Cost: SM 2000 THB ($60+/-); MM donations accepted
    8. Daily Schedule: SM 4a-9p; MM 4a-9p
    9. Rooms: SM basic room, communal bath; MM nicer room, bath down the hall
    10. Meals: SM breakfast and lunch, liquids in afternoon; MM two meals
    11. Sex: SM has M/F sep. facilities, mixed classes; MM: M/F separate all

    So there is no clear winner. In general, I’d say that WSM is better for novice and/or short-term stays, MM better for long-term DIY and/or experienced meditators. I particularly like WSM’s prayer chanting sessions, which for me is as much or more the heart of Buddhism as meditation. And the hot springs are nice, too (after I finished cleaning them). But the rooms suck. I’ve got a better idea: try both. Both Thailand and Burma have many other meditation centers as well. I hope this helps. Enjoy.

     
  • hardie karges 6:55 am on February 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Religion and Apocalypse: You don’t have to be Christian… 

    img_1773…to see the ‘End of Days’ looming large like a ‘Construction Zone’ sign at the end of a long shady lane, subtitled ‘Bridge Under Construction: NO Entry’, and a bridge to the future is indeed what we need, because as it is, we’re about to drive off the edge of that bridge long before it’s finished and ready…

    This has all happened many times before and will likely happen again as the humans species and its duct-tape civilizations stumble forward on all fours, not in some cycle of re-births or rapture, but more like boredom, psychosis or rupture, human beings selling themselves into service as so many beasts of burden, bred for breeding and so much suffering…

    But what does it really mean? Jesus was not the only Doomsday Prophet approximately 2000 years ago. He was just the most successful one, and his small cult following eventually became religion—confession, redemption and fun fun fun. That can happen if you get enough ‘likes’, ‘follows’ and ‘shares’. But it’s a stretch of the imagination to assume that they were talking about the end of the species, or even worse—the planet…

    No, they were talking about cataclysmic changes to life as they knew it—the end of Jerusalem with the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and the impending collapse of the Roman Empire, which it did, eventually, bit by bit. And now we’re at the end of another empire, the Euro-American one that has dominated the globe for the last 500 years. Before that time, c. 1492, I figure the world’s top cultures were more or less equal…

    And then another lesser eschatological event occurred in England with the conquest of Great Britain by William the Conqueror in 1076, destroying what Alfred the Great built, substitute Frenchified ‘north men’ for the Vandals in Rome who once took handles and ran, and once again we barbaric Germanics sank our own Titanic, especially notable because it includes the survey of holdings known as the ‘Domesday’ (Doomsday) Book, in reference to the Last Judgment…

    And now here we are again, another millennium later, staring into the abyss of our own self-destructive tendencies, after a solid 250-year-run, 1976-2016, of Anglo-American dominance. None dare call it bi-polar syndrome: schizophrenia, the white man’s disease! Homicidal tendencies from the world’s conquerors and rulers, and a death wish to boot! Good riddance…

    …because it’s based on consumption and greed, not happiness, or even love, or justice, or democracy, our overriding myth, and certainly not sustainability. That sounds like socialism, because it is, and much better than driving off the cliff in the name of capitalism. The economy has crashed before and will crash again, likely taking governments along with them, and lives, and the innocent smiles of children…

    The difference this time, is that, whereas Rome was one of many great powers, albeit the strongest, the others could take up the slack when it fell. This time we’re all connected, and any precipitous fall could take us all down together, and all that we’ve accomplished in the last 500 to 5000 years…

    If the fruit of the flower of our civilizations’ finest hour is to continue through the darkness to follow, it will likely be due to the efforts of hackers and slackers from the previous society’s fringes, connected by Internet and fueled from the sun, like raisins fallen from trees pre-ripened and pre-sweetened, recycling today’s excess detritus for many hundreds of years to come, before the production of new materials will be necessary…

    Last time the ‘darkness’ that ensued was mostly in the field of publishing—and the pursuit of knowledge. There were other more important things to do, like survive. They were mass migrations, as there likely will be again, and already are. But life went on, as it will again. Centralized subsidized power from a distance collapsed before, as it will likely do again, and power will revert to localized Big Shots, mafia men, as it already has in many villages in Mexico and elsewhere, where cartels have more resources than the central government…

    Will we ever learn our lesson? I don’t know. It seems like in the 70’s we had a clue as to where this was heading, and were dealing with it, by ‘slow-growth’ and ‘no-growth’ and back-to-nature movements, then we suddenly changed our minds when the Digital Revolution came along, that and Ronald Reagan and the excesses of Wall Street. Now all we have are DJT, conspiracy theories, crocodile tears and a pocket full of tissues…

    Maybe it’s not the time to rag on Western culture—Christianity, Capitalism, and Democracy—for causing the current problems, but I doubt that those paradigms are equipped to deal with the coming Dark Times, suffice to say. My own preference would be a Buddhist socialism, non-aggressive and self-sufficient, democracy optional. Until then we persevere. Note to Christians: I don’t think you’re supposed to actually wish for the rapture. I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun…

     

     

     
    • davekingsbury 3:59 pm on February 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Yeah and what about all the leisure these robots were going to bring us? Nice end-of-days piece, Hardie, cheered me up hardly at all! 😉

    • hardie karges 8:44 pm on February 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Oh, I forgot to add: robots optional. Riffing on Stephen Hawking: Dark Ages don’t have to be so dark. They’re only dark because we don’t know much about them. Print those blogs and put them in a safe place, Dave! Digital information will likely be lost, and history will only record that which can be accessed. Yeah, I thought the future would be cooler, too… (my favorite line from pop music last year)

  • hardie karges 7:03 am on February 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , eggs, , Inuits, , Vikings   

    Buddhism, Global Warming and the Guy Who Loved Fried Eggs… 

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    Buddhist Temple in Myanmar

    I know what you’re thinking: that this is a story about someone who loved fried eggs so much that he wanted to see if Global Warming would fry one for him, maybe on the sidewalk, as the old saying goes, only to find that he died before he could even finish eating it…

    No, not bad, but no Havana for you. No, this a true story—two true stories, actually—the first about a tourist in my hotel in Yangon, Myanmar last month, who I had the pleasure of watching over the course of a half hour in the breakfast buffet line. Now most hotels there give Western tourists a standard breakfast of toast and eggs, usually made to order. But this was Chinese businessman style, hence the buffet–nice… (More …)

     
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