Saturday, 5 April 2014

Jihad in Thailand: Buddhist women mutilated and burned.

Following on from the previous post, here's further evidence of the escalation of the global jihad against Buddhists, as reported by Jihad Watch:

"The recent burning and beheading of female victims in Thailand’s southern Muslim provinces marks a renewed campaign of terror by insurgent groups, according to a Human Rights Watch statement released today.

At least three Thai Buddhist women have been killed and mutilated by insurgents since February, according to HRW.

“Southern insurgents are killing Buddhist women and spreading terror by beheading and burning their bodies,” Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said in the statement."


"Thailand: Jihadists murder one, wound 24 with wave of bombings

"...Suspected Muslim insurgents in southern Thailand launched a wave of attacks Sunday that killed one person and wounded 24 others.

The violence took place in the city of Yala, where at least four explosions were reported, said police Col. Prayong Khotsakha.

The most serious of the assaults was a car bomb that detonated in front [of] a furniture store, triggering a blaze that burned nearby homes and caused numerous casualties, he said.

Other explosions were reported in the city. One bomb was hidden on a motorcycle, and another blew up an ATM.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces since an Islamic insurgency erupted in 2004..."

Similar attacks are also taking place in Burma

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Buddhist monks prepare to defend themselves against jihad

From Jihad Watch:

"One certainty: if these monks ever did have to defend themselves against a jihad attack, the international media would portray their defense as Buddhist violence against Muslims, and the global “human rights community” would issue indignant condemnations of the brutalization of Muslims. The fact that these monks never would have been training in this way were it not for jihad violence will only appear around the 43rd paragraph of the story, if at all.

“Chinese Monks Get Martial to Defend Against Terrorism,” by Dexter Roberts for Bloomberg Businessweek, April 3:

As fears of domestic terrorism grow in China, some monks are getting martial.

At the 1,700-year-old Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, a 45-member team (including 20 monks and all 25 security guards) has been organized to combat possible terror attacks, according to the official China Daily. “The monks prayed to Buddha during the day and trained at night. Only those aged 20 to 40 with an agile body and quick reactions can join the team,” the newspaper reported, noting that some members of the antiterror team are military veterans.

The Lingyin Temple, built in 326 and famous for its beautiful mountain scenery, receives 10,000 visitors a day, so “it was deemed necessary to set up such a team to prepare for possible terrorist attacks,” explained the English-language paper.

The decision to set up the team follows the brutal attack March 1 in the Kunming Train Station, in which 29 people were killed and another 143 injured. “The temple also stockpiled shields and batons at several locations, and its security guards will carry batons and pepper spray at all times,” the paper said."

See Jihadists plotting more attacks on Buddhists 

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Bible belt school persecutes Buddhist child.

Edukayshun in Looziana

From The Daily News 

"For one sixth-grader, it’s no fun being Buddhist in the Bible Belt.

A Louisiana couple is claiming faculty and students at Negreet High School bullied their Buddhist son so badly that he became physically sick every morning before going to class.

Sharon and Scott Lane are suing the Sabine Parish School board for religious harassment and for routinely pushing Christian beliefs onto its students.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Shreveport on Wednesday.

"Public schools should be welcoming places for students of all backgrounds," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "No child should be harassed and made to feel like an outsider in his own classroom, and students should not have to endure school officials constantly imposing their religious beliefs on them while they are trying to learn."

The Lanes’ son, identified as C.C. on court papers, is a lifelong Buddhist of Thai descent. The child’s religion was reportedly ridiculed in class by science teacher Rita Roark.

The teacher added this fill-in-the-blank question to a science test: “ "ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

C.C. didn’t know that the answer Roark wanted was “Lord.” On the next test, C.C. filled in blank with “Lord Buddha” and the teacher marked it wrong.

While the teacher was handing the grades back to the class, one student said out loud that “people are stupid if they think God is not real." Instead of gently finding a middle ground, Roark reportedly said, "Yes! That is right! I had a student miss that on his test."

The teacher also reportedly taught the children that God created the Earth 6,000 years ago and that evolution was an “impossible” and “stupid theory made up by stupid people who don’t want to believe in God.” She told her class that the Bible was "100% true" and that Buddhism is “stupid.”

When the parents complained to Superintendent Sara Ebarb, the school official told them that "this is the Bible Belt" and suggested they change their son's faith..."

More here

Related articles

Creationism: Crisis for Christianity = Opportunity for Buddhism

Evangelical Christianity versus Buddhism in Thailand

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH! For the good of your religion, think less

Friday, 10 January 2014

Imbolc (Candlemas) and the Pagan Path to Buddhism

February 2nd is Imbolc, Christianized as Candlemas

Here's an updated version of a post from a couple of years ago on the upcoming Pagan festival of Imbolc (Candlemas), dedicated to the feminine spirituality of Brigid, with a discussion of its transcultural convergence with Buddhism:

The Growth of Paganism

In the past, most new Buddhists in the West have come to the Dharma from a Judeo-Christian, or secularized Judeo-Christian background.   But there now seems to be an increasing number of younger people coming into Buddhism via Paganism, often melding pagan festivals, rituals and art-forms with Buddhist philosophy.   The Buddhist celebration of the enlightened feminine (especially Tara) is particularly popular.

The rapid modern growth of paganism is part of the 'Spiritual but not Religious' movement, where young people are trying to escape the bleak mechanistic materialist worldview of scientism, but can find no spirituality in the samsaric religions, which are increasingly dominated by hatred, bigotry, extremism and idiocy.   

This process of disintegration is a vicious downward spiral. As the formerly mainstream religions decline, so they become vulnerable to being taken over by cliques of extremists, which makes them even less appealing to liberal-minded youth. Paganism, with its ancient numinous festivals and evocative symbolism, offers an escape from the soulless, stressed-out, dehumanised, over-regulated and proceduralised existence which is modern urban life.

Paganism particularly venerates the feminine aspects of spirituality. In contrast, there is little or no place for the divine feminine in standard Abrahamic monotheism.  

However, paganism lacks the philosophical background needed to challenge materialism, and this may be why many pagans are eventually drawn to Buddhist teachings.

Candlemas Pagan Origins


When Christianity came to the Celtic lands, it took over many of the Pagan festivals and Christianized them. This was far more acceptable to the people than banning them, as the Puritans were to do to all pagan-origin festivals many centuries later.

Its always easier for new religions to work with the existing culture than against it, a policy also pursued by Buddhism in its spread throughout Asia.

Festival of Lights

Buddhist interpretations
Now that Buddhism is establishing itself in Western Europe, there is a movement to reinterpret some of these numinous Pagan festivals from a Buddhist perspective.

The FWBO has a program of honoring the Five female Buddhas, on the day and time of the year associated with each of them. The cycle begins with the Summer Solstice and female Buddha Mamaki.

The Turning of the Year

The Autumn Equinox, is a ceremony dedicated to Pandaravasini, the female Buddha of the Western direction associated with dusk and the wisdom of uniqueness.

Light of Wisdom in the Dusk

Later in the year it is the turn of Samayatara, the female Buddha of the Northern direction associated with midnight and the wisdom of action (Halloween/Samhain); and Akasadhatesvari, the female Buddha at the centre of the Mandala beyond time and space. She is associated with the ineffable wisdom of the Transcendental. Her ceremony takes place at the time of the Winter Solstice.


Candlemas - Festival of Offering Lights to the Goddess
The next festival is Candlemas, also known as Imbolc, which in pagan times was an offering of Lights to the Goddess in the aspect of Brigit or Bride. This ancient festival takes place on February 2nd and marks the mid point of winter, half way between the winter solstice (shortest day) and the spring equinox.

Brigid as Christian Saint and Pagan Goddess


Of course the idea of a Goddess was anathema to the patriarchal, misogynistic ancient church, and Brigid, who was too popular to get rid of, was demoted from Goddess to Saint. The idea of honoring the feminine was turned on its head, and the festival became the Purification of the Virgin, to remind women of their ritual uncleanness.

Brigit as Celtic Trinity


However, if we return to the original pagan intention, we can see that Candlemas, although now almost abandoned by the Christian churches, has potential for adaptation by Buddhists.

Buddhists honor many female Buddhas, for example Tara and Guan Yin, and the lighting of a candle or an oil lamp represents the light of wisdom illuminating the darkness of ignorance.

Light offerings to Tara

With lights brightly shining
Abolishing this gloom
I adore the Enlightened One,
The Light of the three worlds.

- Wiki


Offerings of lights are said to have many beneficial effects.

And so Candlemas, already resonant with ancient evocative associations with divine light, is easily adaptable to Buddhist practice.


Western holidays from a Buddhist perspective.
On this blog I have also suggested how Halloween, Christmas, Summer Solstice and New Year can be given Buddhist interpretations.

No danger of 'mixing'
Such adoptions of pagan festivals do not involve 'mixing' of the dharma with other doctrines, because there is no impact on the philosophical foundations of Buddhism such as the Four Seals. Nor is there any impact on the form of practice. The celebration of these occasions is simply performing Buddhist rituals in the context of Celtic cultural traditions.

Buddhism is not itself a culture. It is transcultural - valid for all sentient beings, in all places, at all times. 

Spiritual But Not Religious
If Buddhism wishes to attract young people, it needs to engage more with the 'Spiritual but not Religious' zeitgeist, of which paganism, the New Age movement and the various feminine spiritualities are manifestations.

Light of the World



Why Beauty Matters

Honoring the Feminine in Buddhism

Cauldron, Chalice and Grail Symbolism in Buddhism and Celtic Wicca

Numinous Symbolism - Pagan, Buddhist and Christian

Celtic Buddhism - Buddhism in pre-Christian Britain

Celtic and Buddhist symbolism - triskelions, triskeles

Buddhist Halloween

Can Buddhists Celebrate Christmas?


Monday, 30 December 2013

Purifying the Past with Vajrasattva, the New Year Buddha

The night before

followed by...

...the morning after

That's what many of us say on the first of January - and it isn't just about the after effects of New Year's Eve.

Never, ever, again!

New Year is the traditional time for kicking old harmful habits, and resolving to stop causing further hurt to ourselves and others.

A fresh start


The Vajrasattva visualisation and meditation gives us a fresh start by purifying harmful, negative tendencies and states of mind.

The practice consists of visualising Buddha Vajrasattva (small - about 6 inches tall - not full-sized like a human) above the crown of our heads. He doesn't come from anywhere in particular, he just appears. We believe he is there but don't need detailed visualisations.

Vajrasattva purification relies upon the four opponent powers, which are...

1) Reliance
2) Regret
3) Opponent force
4) Promise

Vajrasattva is the Buddha of Purification.

Reliance helps pacify and weaken negative karma, it involves going for refuge and developing a mind of boddhichitta .

Any negative actions we have committed in the past were either towards objects of refuge, or towards sentient beings.

Negative actions against objects of refuge are purified by going for refuge. We go for refuge to Vajrasattva, regarding him as the synthesis of all objects of refuge.

Negative actions against sentient beings are purified by developing bodhicitta. We think of all living beings as precious and dedicate ourselves to their welfare, and to abandoning causing them suffering. We may wish to visualise that we are surrounded by all living beings and they are also purifying by relying on Vajrasattva.

Caring for all living beings

We develop a sincere regret for all the harmful actions that we have performed against sentient beings. Regret is not the same as guilt. Guilt is a negative state of mind that increases confusion and self-hatred. It leads nowhere and functions only to weaken our will.

Regret, on the other hand, is an admission of our mistakes coupled with a positive intention to learn from them by not repeating them. In other words, we are performing a tantric transmutation by transforming our negative history into our future spiritual path.

Opponent force
The mantra is the opponent force that purifies the actual negativities. We can mentally or audibly recite the long or short mantras. When we are reciting we are requesting Vajrasattva to purify us.

We visualise a moon cushion at Vajrasattva's heart on which is the white letter HUM. Standing around this are the letters of the mantra. From the mantra white light rays and white nectar pour down and purify us from top to bottom, pushing out negativities. All dirty substances leave by lower orifices.

Negative karma leaves as dirty liquid. Mental and physical sicknesses leave as pus, blood, worms and other creepy-crawlies.

Then we feel completely clean, our body is just pure white light.

If we have a particular problem, we visualise that problem being expelled.

The fourth opponent power is the power of promise to gradually abandon harmful actions. We can't purify without making a promise to refrain. Promise purifies the tendency to repeat bad habits which harm ourselves and others. Promise plants the seeds of new tendencies which destroy old tendencies.

At this point we make a realistic promise to avoid negative actions. We don't make promises we can't keep, but make a determination to overcome all negative actions eventually.

Finally, Vajrasattva dissolves into us, and our body, speech and mind become inseparable from Vajrasattva.

We then dedicate the merit we have accumulated by practising the Vajrasattva purification to the happiness of all sentient beings.

12 steps
Although we may joke about the after-effects of New Year's Parties, for some people alcohol is a year-long nightmare. The Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program requires alcoholics to acknowledge they are helpless against their addiction until they go for refuge to a Higher Power.

For Buddhists, Vajrasattva is such a Higher Power who can help to break addicitions to alcohol, drugs, food etc

Wishing all sentient beings


Vajrasattva Mantra Song and Video

Buddhist Christmas

Buddhist Candlemas

Buddhist Halloween

Seasonal Festivals



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Can Buddhists Celebrate Christmas?

Buddhist Christmas

Bah Humbug!

Other non-Christian religions can get a bit uptight about Christmas, but Buddhism is fairly laid back.

A few years ago the city of Birmingham renamed Christmas to 'Winterval' as a result of protests by non-Christian faith communities, but as far as I'm aware it wasn't the Buddhists who were complaining. 

Of course, there are aspects of Christmas which a Buddhist might have reservations about - rampant consumerism and so on, but these are the same excesses that are often denounced by Christians who complain that in recent years the spiritual aspects of Christmas have been replaced by a credit card orgy.

But in general Buddhists are quite happy with Christmas and have no hangups about hanging up Christmas decorations and enlightening Christmas trees.

Presents under the Bodhi Tree

In the Simpsons episode She of Little Faith , where Lisa converts to Buddhism, Reverend Lovejoy tries to dissuade her by saying that she can't celebrate Christmas because "Santa doesn't leave presents under the Bodhi tree". Richard Gere puts things right by explaining that Buddhists believe that those religions that are founded on Love and Compassion are valid spiritual paths.

So you can eat your Christmas cake and still be a Buddhist, though of course you can never finally have the cake whether you eat it or not (all cakes are compound phenomena and thus subject to impermanence).

Excessive consumption of Christmas cake may also promote the realisation that there is no inherent difference between an object of attachment and an object of aversion. ("Can't you manage just one more slice? Look here's a nice piece with extra thick icing... What's the matter, aren't you feeling well?")

Was Jesus a Buddhist?
Many Buddhists believe that Jesus was a High Bodhisatva or manifestation of Enlightened Mind. There is also some evidence that in the 'lost years' Jesus travelled to the East and studied Buddhism - certainly you can't get any more Buddhist than the traditional Christmas message of 'Peace on Earth - Goodwill to All'. And who exactly were the Wise Men and where did they originate? Were they Buddhists?

A Buddhist Christmas Carol

Dickens' well-loved story A Christmas Carol sometimes upsets the more fundamentalist Christian evangelicals with its 'ghosts' (to an evangelical all such spirits are apparitions of Satan). But from a Buddhist perspective the story makes perfect sense:

Chains of attachment to money-boxes

Marley's miserliness has resulted in him becoming a Preta (ghost) after death. His attachment in life was to money, and in the Preta realm his attachment manifests as fetters to chains of money-boxes, keys, ledgers and heavy purses. 

In order to help purify his karma, Marley sets out to warn Scrooge that the same destiny awaits him. Marley is assisted in his task by two peaceful Buddhas (Christmas Past and Christmas Present - Buddhas can manifest in any form that is beneficial to sentient beings), and one wrathful Buddha ('Ghost of the Future!' I fear you more than any spectre I have seen'). 

Buddhas can appear in any beneficial form

The Buddhas take Scrooge through a sort of mini-Bardo experience, where he reviews his life from the perspective of what he has done to others, or not done for others, rather than what he has done for himself. He awakens into a state of mind transformed by compassion and generosity.

Ho Ho Ho ... Hotei! The Buddhist Santa Claus

I'm a mince pie junkie, so when it comes to the the annual Christmas Battle of the Bulge, I've long ago taken Langri Tangpa's advice and adopted the practice of 'accepting defeat and offering the victory'.

Unfortunately, this does have a slight problem with the self-generation visualisations. Most of the Buddhas are portrayed as young, slender and sitting upright, which means that those of us with a more Homeric appearance (in the Simpsonian sense) need rather vivid imaginations to 'bring the result into the path'.

So I was quite pleased when I discovered a Buddha with whom I could easily identify - Buddha Hotei - a manifestation of Buddha Maitreya with an amply proportioned physique (The Wikipedia article rather unkindly calls him 'fat').

Buddha Hotei is very popular in China and Japan. He's often portrayed sitting in a semi-reclining posture and laughing uproariously, while distributing presents to children out of an inexhaustible sack. The similarities with Santa are quite intriguing, see Hotei_1, Hotei_2,
Hotei 3

The winter solstice

Of course the origins of Christmas long pre-date Christianity. The majority of the world's religions originated in relatively low latitudes (around 30°N) where the difference in day length between Summer and Winter is not particularly noticeable. However, for us folks who live further from the equator, the long dark nights and short dull days of midwinter are definitely a big psychological issue. That is why the Winter solstice has always been of such importance to Northern Europeans. It symbolises, if not the rebirth, at least the conception of the new year. In the Celtic calendar Imbolc (Candlemas) was the actual birth of the New Year, with the appearance of the first lambs and green shoots.

The early church failed to suppress the solstice celebrations and instead adopted them (much as they planted churches on pagan sacred sites), overlaying the scarcely concealed Druidic symbolism with Christian attributes. There is actually no historical evidence that Jesus was born on the 25th December.

The Celtic annual cycle of Imbolc, Halloween and Winter Solstice offers a rich source of symbolism and analogy for the process of rebirth, life, death, bardo and conception that would not be as apparent in traditional Buddhist countries, which are mostly at lower latitudes. So it is likely that as Buddhism continues to spread in the Anglo-Celtic cultural areas, it will adopt some of the Winter Solstice customs. There is no reason for in not to do so, for it is often remarked that unlike most other religions, Buddhism is not tied to a particular culture. It is effective for any sentient being, anywhere, any time.

Christmas Eve at Vajralama Center Seattle

- Sean Robsville

Related articles:

Buddhist New Year

Buddhist Halloween

Buddhist Candlemas

Celtic Buddhism - Buddhism in pre-Christian Britain

Why Beauty Matters - Spiritual Art versus the Cult of Ugliness

Cauldron, Chalice and Grail Symbolism in Buddhism and Celtic Wicca

Buddhist origins of Christianity

Numinous Symbolism - Pagan, Buddhist and Christian

Evolution is no Threat to Buddhism

C J Jung, Buddhism, Tantra and Alchemy



Saturday, 23 November 2013

'Autoerotic Spirituality' - The Roman Catholic Understanding of Buddhism and Masturbation

'Autoerotic spirituality' is how Pope Benedict described Buddhism, according to a recent article by Catholic writer George Neumayr.

'Autoerotic' is Vatican terminology for masturbation, consequently the Pope is accusing Buddhists of self-grasping.  Autoeroticism (otherwise known as 'Onanism' or 'self-abuse') is one of the most heinous sins in Catholicism, which is why Catholic priests have traditionally employed altar boys to give them hand and mouth jobs so they don't have to touch themselves sexually and risk an eternity in hell.

(Contrast this Papal confrontationalism with the ecumenical attitude of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that it would be OK for Prince George, the future leader of the Church of England, to become a Buddhist.)

Getting a Grip on Buddhism
The Catholic church seems to be giving Buddhism a hard time (if you'll pardon the expression), with two anti-Buddhist critiques being published by prominent Catholic intellectuals in recent weeks.

As well as the Pope's description of Buddhists as compulsive masturbators, George Neumayr's article describes Buddhism as 'one of the world’s largest half-baked religions', 'absurd and dangerous', 'a more cushy false religion than Islam', and 'tends to make people indifferent, not holy'.   None of these allegations are supported by any factual evidence or reasoned arguments, and there is little logical progression in his narrative beyond the Pope's jacking-off jibe.

Neumayr then goes on to link Buddhism with terrorism, in the person of Aaron Alexis, a paranoid schizophrenic who attempted to control his mental illness by Buddhist meditation, but eventually went postal in the Washington Navy Yard   

In terms of a more detailed critique of Buddhist philosophy, Mr Neumayr contends that  'As a non-judgmental, navel-gazing religion, it asks little of its adherents and accommodates all sorts of wild contradictions, producing not a holy fear of God but sometimes just emboldened self-indulgence and a frantic search for fulfillment through willy-nilly negation'.

Dr Regis Martin's critical analysis of Buddhism.
The second and more academic article is by a leading Catholic theologian, Dr Regis Martin, professor of theology at the prestigious Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Professor Martin uses a similar line of argument to George Neumayr, consisting of unsupported allegations and attempts to link Buddhism to terrorism.

The first few paragraphs of the article are a discussion of how the Buddha never opened his eyes (however there's no historical evidence for this assertion). This is followed by a lament about the lack of Catholic intellectual rigor in the current generation of students.  

Professor Martin then goes on to construct his logical case against Buddhism by using ad hominem reasoning, starting with calling the Buddha 'a plump fatuous looking fellow, sitting cross-legged on the floor with eyes closed upon the world', and Buddhists as '...what’s wrong with these people?  How does one set about disabusing such folk of nothingness, nada?  Not only has their pilot light gone out, which would be deplorable enough, but they actually seem to prefer wandering about in the darkness.  Indeed, the darkness is the light.  Such sublime imbecility is no easy matter to overcome.'

Like George Neumayr, Regis Martin also tries to link Buddhist meditation with terrorism, in this case meditation on emptiness: 'In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, when the need to know why was on everyone’s mind, I remember reading about one of the teachers who had tried to tutor the young man, the student-turned-killer, but gave up because, as she put it, there was such an emptiness she felt whenever he came into the room.'

Dr Martin's understanding of Buddhist philosophy is summed up by his conclusion: 'And what does the Buddha give?  Nothingness.' 

Why Christians misunderstand Buddhism.
The critiques of Buddhism by these two leading Catholic scholars are unfortunately typical of many Christian attempts to understand Buddhist philosophy. They seem to have particular problems with the concept of emptiness, equating it with nothingness, as we have seen with Regis Martin's concluding statement.

It's not that there's anything difficult about Buddhist philosophy, it's just that it's very different from traditional Western philosophy.  But once the basis of the difference is understood, everything should become clearer.

Process versus Substantialist Philosophy
One of the main difficulties many Christians have with understanding Buddhist philosophy is that they don't realise that Buddhism is a 'process philosophy', which is radically unlike most Western philosophical systems. The mainstream Western philosophical tradition has been overwhelmingly 'substantialist' until the 20th century, and in most academic philosophy departments substantialist thinking (the opposite of process thinking) still dominates.

Buddhism is a process philosophy, in that it holds that the ultimate nature of reality is change and flux, with all functioning things being impermanent, and having no static intrinsic nature.  Everything interacts with something else, and whenever it causes a change it is itself changed.  All functioning entities are composite, and nothing at all exists independently in splendid isolation.

In contrast, from the time of the ancient Greeks until very recently, Western philosophy has been dominated by unexamined 'substantialist' presuppositions, which assume that there is some permanent stable basis for reality, including fundamental self-established entities, and unchanging 'essences' from which things (such as chariots and roses) take their form.

Buddhism states that no such self-established entities are to be found, and modern science tends to confirm this, in that there are no permanent unchanging substances or particles at the foundations of reality.   

Whether we look at the largest scales or the smallest, everything seems part of a process, and everything is impermanent.  Existence is impermanence in slow motion, and all composite things eventually disintegrate.  Modern science also casts doubt on the existence of essential natures, such as those that specify the characteristics of species.

The Scientific case for Process Philosophy
Process philosophy is counterintuitive, because the human perceptual system has evolved to present substantialist delusions to the mind.  However, a careful examination of modern physics will show that the universe and everything in it are indeed processes. 

At the topmost level, the universe as a whole is a process of expansion and cooling, with matter being constantly recombined, transmuted and recycled by stellar subprocesses.

At the bottommost level, fundamental particles
, which in classical physics were once thought of as little pieces of matter, are now regarded as processes consisting of continuously evolving and changing wavefunctions.  These processes give the appearance of discrete and localized particles only at the moment they are observed. 

So particles are forever changing, and lack any inherent existence independent of the act of observation.    Consequently, everything composed of particles is also impermanent and continually changing, and no static, stable basis for its existence can be found.

Therefore, at a very generalized level, the scientific view of the world has converged with the Buddhist view.  The underlying basis of reality is change, process and impermanence.
  In the transition from classical to modern physics, atomic theory has changed from traditional substantialism, to being in agreement with the Buddhist 'process' view of reality.

The logical fallacy of regarding things and substances as the building blocks of reality is known as 'substance metaphysics' or reification.

Mind and Soul in Buddhism - Extinction or Purification?
The aspect of Buddhist philosophy and psychology that most perplexes Catholics is the status of the mind and soul in Buddhism.

Professor Martin demonstrates this confusion is his comment on nirvana:
'Why would any sane person want nirvana anyway?  I mean, look at the etymology of the word: it means being extinguished, vaporized, the sheer evacuation of existence.  From the Sanskrit verb nirva, which is the act of being blown out like a candle, the word implies a state of complete cessation, of no longer being there, a condition of absence, vacancy.  How can this be bliss? '

And in a later article he totally misunderstands Buddhist psychology:

'And if they still persist in the blindness of their belief that the only way to escape suffering is to extinguish desire, and thereby embrace the nothingness of nirvana, are we not obliged to point out the sheer suicide of the self such madness invites?'  
In fact, nirvana refers to the blowing out of the fires of attachment, hatred and delusion, not the total cessation of consciousness.  The Buddhist doesn't seek to extinguish all desire, but only those desires for ephemeral worldly things which can ultimately never be satisfied, and which are the cause of suffering.  

When a Buddhist takes the Bodhisattva vow, she promises to increase her desire to liberate all sentient beings, both human and animal from suffering. This is the 'Superior Intention' - the desire that is not extinguished by Buddhist practice, but burns all the brighter as the Bodhisattva progresses along her path.     

"Desire is a natural part of life that provides the motivating force for our achievements,” says Dr. Arthur Zajonc, Mind and Life’s president.  “Our highest aspirations are animated by desire. Yet, when desire becomes obsession or craving, we cross over into the territory of suffering. What before was an aid to accomplishment can devolve into a source of personal anguish and social violence."

In Catholic theology the soul is believed to be the seat of consciousness that only humans but no other animals possess.   Animals are automata put on earth by God to be used by humans. They are machine-like entities with no consciousness in the human sense, and their minds cease at death.  The difference between humans and animals is absolute, and there is no continuity.

This discontinuous view of humans and animals has obvious problems in terms of evolution.  When and how did God equip the ape-men (and ape-women) with souls?   Did it happen all at once, so every living ape-person from the youngest to the eldest was equipped with a soul on one particular day in the distant past; or were all ape-infants born after a certain date given souls, so during the transition period  soulful ape-kids would be parented by soulless adults?

Physical and Non-physical processes
Buddhism doesn't have these problems, because it doesn't regard the soul as a 'thing' but as a process. (Buddhist philosophers tend to avoid the word 'soul' because of its reifying connotations, and use the terms 'mindstream' or 'mental continuum'  instead, to denote that the mind is a process, albeit a non-physical one.)

The great Buddhist philosopher Alan Turing established a clear demarcation between physical processes (including chemical and biological processes)  and cognitive processes (including qualia and intentionality).  Those processes that can be modelled, predicted and understood in terms of Turing machines (or algorithms) are physical. Those that cannot in principle be thus modelled are cognitive or 'mental'.   

The interface between these two types of process is very much a mystery, and is known by modern Buddhist philosophers as the Hard Problem, (not to be confused with the hard problem that the Pope had in mind with his comments on Buddhists bashing the bishops, or when Buddhists hold their own in debates with Catholics... anyhow, enough of these standing jokes,  I really must get a grip on myself...

P.S  For any Catholic seeking an introduction to  Buddhism beyond that provided by Joseph Ratzinger, George Neumayr and Regis Martin, this is a good place to start.

For a more detailed discussion of Process Philosophy see here.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Militant Buddhist extremists threaten to destroy the Western way of life

Militant Buddhist Extremist

"WASHINGTON—In a 45-minute video posted on Tibetan websites Thursday, Tsuglag Rinpoche, leader of the Buddhist extremist group Kammaṭṭhāna, threatened to soon inflict a wave of peace and tranquility on the West.

Speaking in front of a nondescript altar surrounded by candles, burning sticks of incense, and a small golden statue of the Buddha, Rinpoche did not specify when or where an assault of profound inner stillness would occur, but stated in no uncertain terms that the fundamentalist Buddhist cell plans to target all Western suffering.

“In the name of the Great Teacher, we will stop at nothing to unleash a firestorm of empathy, compassion, and true selflessness upon the West,” said Rinpoche, adding that all enemies of a freely flowing, unfettered state of mind will be “besieged with pure, everlasting happiness.” “No city will be spared from spiritual harmony. We will bring about the end to all Western pain and anxiety, to all destructive cravings, to all greed, delusion, and misplaced desire. Indeed, we will bring the entire United States to its knees in deep meditation.”...    Read it all

Friday, 4 October 2013

Gruesome Tantric Visualizations Transform and Purify Negativities

Vajrayogini with chopper and blood offering

Have you ever wondered what those skullcups, severed heads and other body parts that you see in tantric art represent? 

Tantric Arrangement of Body Parts

The Dorje Shugden admin team explain:

"...Therefore, corresponding to the amount of obstacles that need to be removed, the actual visualization becomes particularly graphic. However, one should dwell on its true and subtle meaning and not on its apparently aggressive language that appears vicious, until the meanings are revealed. It follows that if the negative karma that blocks one’s practice is forceful, then the puja to counter it has to be equally intense.

The practitioner approaches the recitation of the kawang by visualizing the Three Poisons – Ignorance, Hatred and Desire which altogether encompass a myriad of other poisons such as delusions, negative karma, habituations and so forth. These negative elements are visualized in the form of a very large man or a woman. Then as the visualization continues, a dakini who is an emanation of Vajrayogini appears and she wields a cemetery chopper to slay that being who is the personification of our negativities. Then, she takes her chopper and slices the body in such a way that uncovers the inner organs.

First, she drains the blood into an offering vessel. Then, she cuts out the organs of the five senses – the tongue, nose, ears, eyes and heart and arranges them neatly into a skullcup thus resembling a grisly floral arrangement. Then, she pulls the bones out, arranges them into a vessel and burns the bones like stacks of incense sticks. Next, she extracts the human fat from the corpse and pours it into bowl, inserts a wick made of the human hair and lights it. Then she collects the rest of the bodily fluids like the bile, urine and so forth into an offering vessel. Then, she chops the flesh and mixes it with barley flour and places it into another vessel as food. Finally, she pulls the thighbones, cleans it and fashions it into a trumpet before placing it into a vessel as well.

While appearing grotesque at first, this part of the visualization is indeed a beautiful and meaningful gesture of transforming what is foul and turning them into sublime offerings. The blood represents the Water offering, the arrangement of sense organs represent the Flower offering, the crushed bones represent the Incense offering, the human fat set alight represents the Light offering, the bile and urine are transformed to represent the Perfume offering, the human flesh becomes the Food offering and finally the thigh bone becomes a trumpet to represent the Music offering..."

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Buddhism and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

In Aeon Magazine, Matt Bieber describes how he treated his OCD by using the calming and benevolent rituals of Buddhism to replace the painful compulsive rituals of OCD:

"My OCD had been creating vivid, painful rituals for years. So could Buddhist ritual give me a means to fight back?"

"Our society likes to portray obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as a cute quirk, a goofy, if irritating, eccentricity. It is not. For the person undergoing OCD experience, it is a form of mental terrorism.

This terrorism takes the form of what psychologists call ‘intrusive thoughts’ — unwanted, painful thoughts or images that invade one’s consciousness, triggering profound fear and anxiety...."

"...These rituals can take many forms. For some people, it’s the stuff you see on TV — repeatedly checking to see if the door’s locked, counting the letters in words until a particular total is reached, avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk. I’ve experienced some of this, but for me, invitations to ritualise tend to be more purely mental — to ruminate endlessly, to replay anxiety-producing scenarios until I find a way to view them that will dissipate my anxiety (which, of course, never happens). The common thread are the rituals, the promise that there’s something repetitive and formalised that I can do to make things feel better..."

"...Some rituals are designed to help us ‘keep ourselves together’. Others are designed to help us fall apart. OCD rituals are the former, and so are many religious rituals. But Buddhist meditation offers a radical alternative..."

"...Unlike OCD, or the rituals of my evangelical childhood, Buddhist rituals work not because they teach us how to stay together, but because they show us how to fall apart.

"...Because the solid ego is a fiction, it requires constant maintenance. We are constantly filtering our experience — excluding information, repressing our feelings, and ignoring our deep connections with other people — in order to defend and perpetuate a narrow understanding of ourselves. In other words, we’re constantly deceiving ourselves about who and what we are.

Why, you might ask, would anyone engage in this kind of self-deception? The contemporary Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said that we are afraid of what we know to be true: that when we look to the centre of our own being, we won’t find anything to hold on to. In his words, we’re afraid that we don’t exist..."

Related Article

Can You Trust Your Mind? Does Your Brain Deceive You?