Sunday, 21 October 2012

Is the Mystery of the Mind beyond the Limits of Science?


'The mind is not the brain'
 - Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Science cannot explain how events in the brain produce mental experiences, or how mental intentions produce effects in the brain, such as those which are transmitted via the nervous system to give rise to the voluntary movement of muscles.  This gap in our understanding of mind/brain interactions is known as The Hard Problem.

Over 140 years ago John Tyndall wrote:
"... the passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that a definite thought, and a definite molecular action in the brain occur simultaneously; we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass, by a process of reasoning, from the one to the other. They appear together, but we do not know why. 


Were our minds and senses so expanded, strengthened, and illuminated, as to enable us to see and feel the very molecules of the brain; were we capable of following all their motions, all their groupings, all their electric discharges, if such there be; and were we intimately acquainted with the corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should be as far as ever from the solution of the problem, "How are these physical processes connected with the facts of consciousness?" The chasm between the two classes of phenomena would still remain intellectually impassable. 

Let the consciousness of love, for example, be associated with a right-handed spiral motion of the molecules of the brain, and the consciousness of hate with a left-handed spiral motion. We should then know, when we love, that the motion is in one direction, and, when we hate, that the motion is in the other; but the "Why?" would remain as unanswerable as before."

And in those intervening 140 years, science has made no progress whatsoever in addressing these questions.

So why is the Hard Problem so hard?

Is it just that we aren't yet smart enough to solve it, or is it that we never will be smart enough to solve it?  Or is the Hard Problem totally different from any other scientific problem because it involves a non-physical system: the Mind?

Read the full article at Rational Buddhism.



Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Buddhism in the British Army



From the Daily Mail

'Buddhism is experiencing an extraordinary upswing in popularity in the armed forces.

Since 2005, the number of servicemen and women practising the religion has risen from 200 to 3,800. Around 2,800 are Gurkhas, whose home nation Nepal has pockets of Buddhism.

But the other 1,000 are British, with many converting since they joined the military.

According to spiritual leaders, the reason behind the phenomenon is that Buddhism allows service personnel to escape the stresses and strains of military life.

Sunil Kariyakarawana, the Buddhist chaplain for the armed forces, said: ‘Buddhism has a different perspective about things.

'The military is a very stressful place. People go to war, that is one factor, and have to fight.

'Personnel see a lot of suffering in theatre. People are finding that Buddhism can help with these mental agonies.

'It is laid back and they can practise their own way.'

Dr Sunil said Buddha, who lived 2,500 years ago, never ruled out force: 'Sometimes you have to choose war as the least bad option.'

Read the full article




Related Articles

Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation Alleviates Depression

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The Future of Buddhism in the West

Secularized Buddhist Practices adopted by Big Business

Rebirth: Joanna Lumley believes she was killed in the First World War


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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Buddhist Halloween



Buddhist Halloween?

Should Buddhists celebrate the ancient Celtic Druid festival of Halloween?

What's the connection between this pre-Christian Druid festival and Buddhism?


Buddhism teaches that the mind is not a physical entity.

Consequently,  physical factors can neither create nor destroy it.



The mind exists before conception, and survives after death to be reborn into another body.

The Druids were ancient Celtic priests who shared the Buddhists' belief in rebirth and the indestructibility of the mind.




They regarded the seasons of the year as being a metaphor for the death and rebirth of the human being.

Halloween represented the death of the old year and was believed to be the time of year when the veil separating the human and ghost realms was at its thinnest.



Yule (the winter solstice) was the time of conception of the coming year and Imbolc (Candlemas) was the actual birth of the New Year, with the appearance of the first lambs and green shoots.

The period between Yule and Candlemas was the gestational period when the new animal and plant life, though growing and stirring, was still hidden in the body of its mother, or in the case of vegetation within the body of mother earth.


The significance of Halloween to Buddhists now becomes clear. In the Druid system the period of seven weeks between Halloween and Yule is the gap between death of the old and conception of the new year. This corresponds to the 49 days of the bardo.


Halloween thus symbolises the entry of the disembodied consciousness into the intermediate state between leaving one body and occupying another.

In traditional Buddhist beliefs the bardo-consciousness will experience hideous apparitions - ghosts, demons etc.


If the mind reacts with panic then a samsaric rebirth, possibly in unpleasant realms, is inevitable.

However if the bardo-being recognises these apparitions as hallucinations - projections and reflections of its own negative karma resulting from evil actions - then liberation remains possible.



The reasons for the Druidic custom of dressing up as ghosts, demons and so on may be to symbolise that these scary bardo apparitions are in fact nothing other than aspects or appearances of the person's own self.

In tantra, gruesome visualizations are used to purify negativities






Among Western Buddhists, the festival of Samayatara, the female Buddha of the Northern direction associated with midnight and the wisdom of action, is commemorated at Halloween.





"...The point here being, of course, that as Buddhism has moved into new cultural spaces it has adopted the forms of those cultures, using them to express peculiarly Buddhist themes and sometimes supplanting their original meanings entirely [1].  Naturally, as Buddhism becomes rooted in the West we should expect the same treatment to be applied to Western cultural forms, even though by all accounts it appears to be appalling to many culturally conservative Buddhists that Westerners should want to practice and celebrate Buddhadharma in ways that resonate for their own cultures.  But, speaking for myself, I see this as a good thing - I am not Tibetan/Japanese/Chinese/Thai/etc. and I do not wish to be [2].
Which brings me to an upcoming and super-fun holiday: Halloween [3]!  If there is any holiday that I want/is a good candidate for being Buddhized, this is it.  There are several reasons why this is so:
  • Although the broad outlines of the origins and meaning of Halloween are known, they are not believed in.  The holiday is widely celebrated by Western (at least, North American) society, but is largely devoid of meaning.  Indeed, the actual meaning of “trick or treat” never occurred to me until I was an adult – it had always just been a phrase that got you candy (which was good enough).
  • More specifically, Halloween has no Christian content, which makes Buddhization much easier for two reasons.  First and most importantly, to Buddhize Halloween will not cause outrage among/backlash from the Christian community.  Secondly, there’s no metaphysics that will need abandonment or difficult reworking in order to fit with Buddhist thought.
  • The West needs to take the dark side of life more seriously.
  • There are tantalizing hints of existing traditions that could, by mere suggestion, be transformed from simple fun into meaningful ritual.
  • It’s so so so fun.
I can think of a few obvious ways this could be done:
  • Teachings about hungry ghosts/hell realms.
  • Pointing out the emptiness of ‘external’ perceptions (what’s behind the mask?).
  • Transforming emotional reactions, demonstrating purity of the world (the old peeled grapes as eyeballs, spaghetti as brains, etc.).
  • Chod practice!
  • Death and rebirth teachings/meditations."

Dr Yutang Lin blessing a ghost to leave a haunted house and be reborn in the Pure Land

Giving of fearlessness - bringing peace to haunted houses





Festival of the Hungry Ghosts





The Halloween Monk



Halloween Asian Style



Halloween and World Religions






Thai Halloween Party May End


Sunday, 30 September 2012

Buddhist Blasphemy Riots



The epidemic of blasphemy rage sweeping the Muslim world is now claiming Buddhist casualties:

From the BBC
"Muslim protesters have attacked Buddhist villages in Bangladesh, after an image said to show a burnt Koran was posted on social network site Facebook.

Witnesses said angry crowds set fire to homes and temples in the Cox's Bazar district, forcing families to flee.

A curfew has been imposed and security forces are patrolling the streets.

The man accused of posting the image is in protective custody. Police say he was tagged in the photo but did not post it himself.

Buddhists in the area, in south-east Bangladesh, said their possessions were stolen before their homes were destroyed.

"Before they set fire to my home, they looted everything," said resident Sumoto Barua.

"They took our possessions, money, gold and even computers. Then they torched the house. I am now living under open sky."

The violence erupted on Saturday and continued into the early hours of Sunday.

Hundreds of protesters are said to have rampaged through Buddhist neighbourhoods, smashing statues, burning down monasteries and attacking houses.

The violence spread to the outskirts of the port city of Chittagong, where a Hindu temple was also attacked."


This area of Bangladesh is close to the border with Burma, which invasive jihadists have crossed in campaigns of rape and murder against Burmese Buddhists.





Previous victims of the recent wave of  jihadist blasphemy rage have included an eleven year old Christian girl in Pakistan who was framed by burned pages of the koran planted on her, and Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya who was sodomized, tortured and murdered by a howling mob of jihadists in protest at the Mohammed Movie.

Buddhists,even more than Christians and Jews, have always been favorite targets for jihadists, and we can no doubt expect further attacks as the global jihad on Buddhism intensifies. On the same day that the rage riots took place in Bangladesh, another anti-Buddhist attack occured in Thailand.



In the latest development, the powerful petrodollar-funded Organization of Islamic Cooperation is demanding that the United Nations enforce a global ban on criticism of Mohammed and Islam to help reduce the rioting.


RELATED ARTICLES:

The long Jihad against Buddhism and Buddhists











Muslims to Behead Boy for Being Buddhist

Can the Metameme Immunize against Islam?


Buddhist Defense League 

 

Friday, 21 September 2012

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



Does the brain have its own selfish agenda?

If the mind is nothing more than the brain, and the brain has evolved solely to ensure the survival of our stone-age ancestors, then how do we know that it can reliably do anything beyond the range of competence for which 'survival of the fittest' selected it?  

Natural selection cannot select directly for true beliefs, but only for advantageous behaviors.

So is the brain giving us a picture of the world that is being dictated by selfish genes, rather than one that represents some true underlying reality? 

Is the brain just a propaganda machine for our genes, telling us to preserve and propagate them?

And, observing it all, is there a non-physical mind that is being deluded by the physical brain?


Researching the Doors of Perception


Darwin had his doubts

Charles Darwin himself doubted whether the brain can give us an unbiased representation of reality:

"But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"    
- Letter to William Graham, 1881 




A Biological Scam

So who or what is being deluded by this biological scam?   

Free agent?


If we aren't just the products of our genes, then what are we?  How is it possible for us to think of ourselves as potentially non-deluded, non-mechanistic, non-biological free agents, who can see beyond the tricks the brain plays on us?    Is there indeed an immaterial mind that can be trained to penetrate the delusions and discover ultimate truth?  

Is this ability to see beyond the brain's self-serving propaganda the change in awareness that Buddhist meditations aim to bring about?


Read the full article at Evolution, Emptiness and Delusions of the Darwinian Mind



Saturday, 15 September 2012

Forty-two



I've brain-dumped some ramblings on Buddhism, mathematics and the mind over at Rational Buddhism...


What goes around comes around:

- The structures and operations of mathematics are reducible to the structures and operations of the mind.

- The structures and  operations of the mind are reducible to the structures and operations of biological macromolecules.
 

- The structures and operations of biological macromolecules are reducible to the structures and operations of organic chemicals.

- The structures and operations of organic chemicals are reducible to the structures and operations of atoms.

- The structures and operations of atoms are reducible to the structures and operations of mathematics.

- The structures and operations of mathematics are reducible to the structures and operations of the mind...

-  which is where we came in!








This allows us to draw the following equally valid conclusions:

(i)  Matter is fundamental
(ii)  Mind is fundamental
(iii)  Both mind and matter are fundamental
(iv) Neither mind nor matter are fundamental
(v) Nothing is fundamental
(vi)  Forty two



So if you can help sort this out, please add a comment to the main article.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Muslims to Behead Boy for Being Buddhist


Buddhism is Banned under Islamic Law


When you are uncertain of the validity of your faith, especially if you have a deep-down lurking suspicion that it's all a confidence trick, unbelief anywhere is a form of aggression. The mere fact that people exist who don't believe in your dogmas further undermines your belief-system, and so is an intolerable affront. 

The only defense against such growing doubts in your own mind, is to eliminate infidels in the external world.














From Jihadwatch 

"A Sri Lankan youth employed as a domestic aid has been arrested in Saudi Arabia for praying to a statue of Lord Buddha, which is considered an offence according to Islamic Sharia law. According to the Bodu Bala Sena, the youth bearing passport no. 2353715 identified as Premanath Pereralage Thungasiri has been arrested by Umulmahami Police, which is a grave situation. While the youth is a Buddhist, the charge levelled against him is that he paid obeisance to the Buddha at the house where he was employed.

The Bodu Bala Sena organisation further said those employed in Muslim-majority countries are prevented from practicing their religious faiths, and if found to do so are punished severely. Recently a Sri Lankan woman was arrested for gazing at a child at a shopping complex, where she was accused of witchcraft, on the grounds that she had a black cord around her wrist.

On prior occasions too many Sri Lankan female domestic workers were forced to embrace Islam, and wear the traditional attire, while so far four Sri Lankan youths have been beheaded in that country. (Source: Ceylon Today)

Buddhists face ritual Islamic Beheading

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy where the religion of Islam is the official religion. Non-Islamic proselytism and conversions are illegal and conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) carries the death penalty. Under Saudia Arabia Sharia Islamic law, children of Saudi parents are considered Muslim, regardless of the country or the religious tradition in which they may have been raised."


More Islamic Beheading






Islam will dominate!

Makes you wonder. Are Western Buddhists too tolerant? 





 




See   No future for Buddhism in an Islamized World





Sunday, 24 June 2012

Time and Impermanence in Middle Way Buddhism and Modern Physics


Victor Mansfield

Here's an article from the archives, but well worth revisiting. It's by the late Victor Mansfield, Department of Physics and Astronomy Colgate University Hamilton, based on a talk given at the Physics and Tibetan Buddhism Conference,  University of California, Santa Barbara January 30-31, 1998

Excerpts:

'I hope to show that understanding a little about time in modern physics helps us more deeply appreciate some of the most profound ideas in Buddhism. Furthermore, I will also suggest that some appreciation of Middle Way Buddhist ideas could aid in the development of physics. Thus a nontrivial synergy between these two very different disciplines is possible, one that results in deeper understanding and more compassionate action. While time may be a devouring tiger, appreciating these ideas might help us attain equanimity and encourage us to act more compassionately toward each other and the planet...."

"I’ll review the principle of emptiness within the Middle Way Consequence School (Prasangika Madhyamika, which I abbreviate by Middle Way) through a little story. Nearly thirty years ago a very holy man gave me some fresh carrot juice to drink. What a tasty elixir! I returned home determined to grow some fresh carrots of my own on our little farm. (Actually, I was determined to get my wife to grow them.) However, the soil in my part of the world is heavy and stony, and the carrots that first year were stubby and misshapen. I thought, "If only I had a garden tiller, I could whip that heavy soil into the most beautiful carrot bed." I could not afford one of those fancy tillers that a delicate ten-year-old girl can operate with one hand. My rototiller is a test of my manhood, a bucking bronco requiring strength and stamina. Of course, time destroys both people and equipment, and my tiller soon suffered from a long list of woes. It requires the patience of an advanced Bodhisattva to start, it only works at the deepest setting, it no longer has a reverse, and it cannot run in place and so bolts ahead . . . when you can manage to start it. However, I only use it a few hours a year, so I suffer with it and consider it a perverse sort of challenge.

One beautiful spring day a few years ago the rototiller was taking me for my annual ride while it bathed me in the blue smoke of burning oil. I was musing on carrots and rototillers and suddenly had a tiny enlightenment. The second of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths tells us that suffering is caused by desire. My desire for that delicious carrot juice had chained me to this rototiller for a quarter of a century! A desire for fresh, sweet carrot juice initially seemed innocent and "spiritually correct," in that good health is an aid to practicing dharma, but look where it led. Desire does generate suffering. However, those blue clouds bellowing from the burned out muffler along with that shattering noise and vibration urged me to deeper reflection. Upon what is that carrot-desire based?


Objects of Desire


The Middle Way clearly answers that desires and aversions are based upon the false belief in independent existence, the idea that beyond my personal associations, relationship, and names for carrots, there is a real, substantial, inherently existent entity. This substantially existent object, that entity that "exists from its own side," is the basis upon which we project all our desires and aversions, all our craving for and fleeing from objects.

This innate and unreflective belief in inherent existence divides into two pieces. First, that phenomena exist independent of mind or knowing. That "underneath" or "behind" the psychological associations, names, and linguistic conventions we apply to objects like carrot or rototiller, something objective and substantial exists fully and independently from its own side. Such independent objects appear to provide the objective basis for our shared world. Second, we falsely believe these objects to be self-contained and independent of each other.[2] Each object being fundamentally nonrelational, it exists on its own right without essential dependence upon other objects or phenomena. In other words, the essential nature of these objects is their nonrelational unity and completeness in themselves.

Since it is so critical to identify inherent existence carefully, let me say it in other words. Consider the carrot stripped of its sense qualities, history, location, and relation to its surroundings. All but an advanced practitioner of the Middle Way believes that this denuded carrot has some unique essence, some concrete existence that provides the foundation for all its other qualities. This core of its being, this independent or inherent existence, is what the Middle Way denies. The carrot surely has conventional existence; it attracts rodents and makes great juice. It functions as a food. However, it totally lacks independent or inherent existence, what we falsely believe is the core of its being. In other words, the object or subject we falsely believe independently exists is not actually "finable upon analysis." When we search diligently for that entity we believe inherently exists, we cannot actually find it. It’s independent being does not become clearer and more definite upon searching. Instead, phenomena exist in the middle way because they lack inherent existence, but do have conventional existence.


While reifying carrots, I simultaneously reify the one who desires carrots and consider him as inherently existent too. Out of the seamless flux of experience, I falsely impute or attribute inherent existence to both the subject and its object of desire and thereby spin the wheel of samsara. In this way, perception is a double act that simultaneously generates a false belief in inherently existent subjects and objects, gentleman farmers and their carrots. Then our time is occupied with cherishing our personal ego, putting its desires before all else, pushing others aside to satisfy those desires, and running after objects we falsely believe inherently exist. We think those objects will make us happy, but in fact they can never satisfy us. Perhaps time "is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire." Was not this the point of the Buddha’s fire sermon?

According to the Middle Way, we can put out the fire by deeply appreciating the doctrine of emptiness, the lack of inherent existence in all subjects and objects, in all phenomena. This requires not only an intellectual formulation as given here, but a profound transformation of our whole being at many levels—a process that usually takes many life times..."




The description of emptiness given so far is negative, a thoroughgoing denial of what we wrongly believe is the core of existence. Next, let me turn to a more positive description of phenomena, including carrots. If phenomena don’t independently exist than how do they exist? 

The Middle Way tells us that they dependently exist in three fundamental ways. First, phenomena exist dependent upon causes and conditions. For example, carrots depend upon soil, sunlight, moisture, freedom from rodents, and so forth. Second, phenomena depend upon the whole and its parts. Carrots depend upon its greens, stem, root hairs, and so on and the totality of all these parts. Third, and most profoundly, phenomena depend upon mental imputation, attribution, or designation. From the rich panoply of experience, I collect the sense qualities, personal associations, and psychological reactions to carrots together, and name them or designate them as "carrot." The mind’s proper functioning is to construct its world, the only world we can know. The error enters because along with naming comes the false attribution of inherent existence, that foundation for desire and aversion.

For the Middle Way, dependent arising is a complementary way of describing emptiness. We can understand them as two different views of the same truth. Therefore, contrary to our untutored beliefs, the ultimate nature of phenomena is its dependency and relatedness, not isolated existence and independence.

One of the difficulties in understanding emptiness is that we can easily assent to the importance of relatedness, while falling prey to the unconscious assumption that relations are superimposed upon independently existent terms in the relation. In fact, it is the relationships, the interdependencies that are the reality, since objects or subjects are nothing but their connections to other objects and subjects.

We might ask what would phenomena be like if they did in fact inherently or independently exist. The Middle Way explains that inherently existent objects would be immutable, since in their essence they are independent of other phenomena and so uninfluenced by any interactions. Conversely, independently existent objects would also be unable to influence other phenomena, since they are complete and self-contained. In short, independently existent objects would be immutable and impotent. Of course, experience denies this since our world is of continuously interacting phenomena, from the growth of carrots nourished by sun, rain, and soil, to their destruction by rodents. From the subjective side, that we do not independently exist implies that it is possible to transform ourselves into Buddhas, exemplars of infinite wisdom and compassion.

Critics of the Middle Way often say that if objects did not inherently exist, they could not function to produce help and harm. Carrots lacking independent existence could not give sweet juice or make soup. The Middle Way turns this around 180 degrees, and answers that it is precisely because objects and subjects lack independent existence that they are capable of functioning. So the very attribute that we falsely believe is at the core of phenomena would, if present, actually prevent them from functioning.

Now how does all this relate to the Middle Way notion of time? As I mentioned above, if phenomena inherently existed then they would of necessity be immutable and impotent, unable to act on us or we on them. Since, in truth, phenomena are fundamentally a shifting set of dependency relations, impermanence and change are built into them at the most fundamental level. That the carrot exists in dependence upon causes and conditions, its whole and parts, and on our attribution or naming is what makes it edible, allows me to experience it and be nourished by it. 

More important for impermanence, these defining relations and co-dependencies and their continuously shifting connections with each other guarantee that all objects and subjects are impermanent, ceaselessly evolving, maturing, and decaying. In short, emptiness and impermanence are two sides of the coin of existence and therefore transformation and change are built into the core of all entities, both subjective and objective. In this way, the doctrine of impermanence is a direct expression of emptiness/dependent arising. 

Because I lack inherent existence and am most fundamentally a kinetic set of shifting experiences, with no eternal soul, as we normally understand it, then "Time is the substance I am made of." Borges’ compact sentence seems like a Middle Way aphorism. Being substantially of time guarantees my continuous transformation and death. Indeed, time "is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire." These philosophic truths of emptiness and impermanence are central to Buddhist practice, and I return to them later. Now let us turn to physics and its view of time.

Time in Modern Physics

As mentioned in the introduction, we all have a natural belief in the absoluteness of time, meaning that, for example, one minute is the same for all observers. Let me again proceed by way of example... "   continued, read the full article at Buddha Net


RELATED POSTS

Evolution, Emptiness and Delusions of the Darwinian Mind

How things exist - according to Buddhism and Science

Rational Buddhism

Inherent Existence in Buddhist Philosophy

Mereology and Buddhism: Mereological Dependence in Buddhist Philosophy

Roger Scruton on Algorithms, Data Structures and Mental Attribution

The Church-Turing-Deutsch Principle and Buddhist Philosophy

Madhyamaka Conceptual Designation: Conceptualism, Universals and Category Recognition


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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

New Book Reveals Buddha’s Advice for a Happy Life



New York, June 19, 2012

The Path to Happiness Begins with Love - New Book Reveals Buddha’s Advice for a Happy Life

'Buddha teaches that a loving heart is a powerful source of happiness. And Eight Steps to Happiness is a practical guide to developing this mind of love. Step one, “Learning to Cherish Others,” teaches how to "develop a realistic view of the world, based on an understanding of the equality and interdependence of all living beings. Once we view each and every living being as important we will naturally develop good intentions toward them,” writes meditation master Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

“Love is the great protector,” Gyatso explains, “protecting us from anger and jealousy.” With a loving heart we will naturally enjoy everyone we meet, and “difficult” people will disappear—no longer having an ability to cause us pain or upset. Instead of limiting our love to a few people and experiencing only limited happiness, we will learn how our kind heart cherishing others becomes the basis for all our happiness and good qualities. “We [will] have discovered an inexhaustible fountain of happiness within our own mind—our love for others.”

The ultimate goal is not just one's own happiness, but this loving heart will naturally help others experience lasting happiness too. And as love and wisdom grow, people will be able to “remove negativity from the world and give back love and kindness,” Gyatso writes. “We will discover through our own experience that this precious mind of love is the real wish-granting jewel, because it fulfills the pure wishes of both ourself and all living beings.”

Eight Steps to Happiness, based on the classic Buddhist text Eight Verses of Training the Mind, contains “a step-by-step path to complete inner peace and happiness.… Although Eight Verses was written over nine hundred years ago, it is as relevant today as it was then. Whether Buddhist or not, anyone with a genuine wish to overcome their inner problems and achieve permanent inner peace and happiness can benefit from [this] advice,” Gyatso writes...     Full Article

- Sean Robsville

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Monday, 18 June 2012

American Buddhism is Booming





World Peace Temple, New York

From the Washington Post

By William Wilson Quinn

"American Buddhism’s numbers are booming. Published just over three years ago, an American Religious Identification Survey survey showed that from the years 1990 to 2000, Buddhism grew 170 percent in North America. By all indications that remarkable rate of growth continues unabated.

Why is a faith founded under a Bodhi tree in India 2,500 years ago enjoying a newfound popularity in America today?

There is no such thing as a historic North American Buddhist tradition, a fact that is crucial to understanding and facilitating Buddhism’s blossoming. This growth is all the more remarkable given that Buddhism was arguably the most recent import of a major religion to North America from the East..."   



BUT...  'Many U.S. Buddhists say that meditation centers aren’t especially welcoming of children, and some worry it will cost them the next generation of adherents'  Full article


Messy Dharma
Family-friendliness may indeed be a feature of Western Buddhism where there is room for improvement. 

Maybe there are some lessons that Buddhists could learn from Christians regarding family-friendliness.  Many churches in Britain, after a period of long decline, are experiencing growth in membership as a result of 'Messy Church' activities, which provide something for all the family.

I'm not sure how well 'Messy Meditation' would go down with adults (mine's messy enough at the best of times), but perhaps Buddhist based activities for kids could be carried out in parallel to the parents' having a quiet hour to meditate and unwind.       Crafts, music, drama activities (maybe small-scale productions based on Buddhist parables with occasional performances for parents), cookery etc could keep the kids happy while the parents attended drop-in style meditation classes.



TIP - If some aspects of Buddhist beliefs seem unfamiliar, obscure, or confusing, then bear in mind that Buddhism is a process philosophy.   Difficult aspects of Buddhism often become much clearer when viewed from a process perspective.

 

 


- Sean Robsville


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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Buddhists celebrate the Summer Solstice (Midsummer, Litha)





Ancient numinous pagan festivals, with their evocative names
 and customs, offer an escape from the soulless,
 stressed-out, dehumanised,
  over-regulated and proceduralised existence 
that is modern urban life.


Gimme that Old Time Religion

Among people living in northern latitudes, the summer solstice (Midsummer, Litha) has always had a spiritual significance.



Midsummer Eve in Poland - Henryk Siemiradzki


Although not a traditional Buddhist festival, as Buddhism transculturates itself into the West, many Buddhists have begun celebrating the festival as part of their rituals...

Midsummer Eve - Edward Robert Hughes


'We're coming into a very interesting time.
The summer solstice is approaching, and I'd like to talk to you a little bit about the summer solstice. There are four times of tremendous power that occur every year. There are others that occur at different times, but there are four that you can count on, and those are the solstices and the equinoxes.  




'Midsummer Day, the summer solstice, is celebrated annually at Gampo Abbey and across the Shambhala mandala. The event is one of a number which celebrate the change of the seasons...'  



'Maitrivajri writes with news of a cycle of celebration at the FWBO’s London Buddhist Centre: an honouring of the little-known Five Prajnas, the ‘female’ counterparts of the Five Buddhas in the well-known Five-Buddha Mandala.  She says - “This year we are ritually celebrating the female Buddhas, or Prajnas, on the day and time of the year associated with each of them. We began the cycle with the Summer Solstice and female Buddha Mamaki. We are performing outdoor rituals...  
- Female Buddhas celebrated at London Buddhist Centre  


Mamaki - Midsummer Buddha

'There is still a lot of pagan in me, as I've said before. It is still my basic cultural paradigm for interacting with the world with whatever Buddhist sensibilities I've developed on top of it.

I've always appreciated, if not always dramatically celebrated, the wheel of the year as a sensible series of holidays (or "holy days") during the year. Of these, I've always appreciated the solstices the most. They are the points of the greatest light and darkness in our daily experience of the world...'
- Open Buddha    

- Sean Robsville


Related Posts













Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Cats, Categories and Catalogs: Conceptual Designation in Buddhism

The problem of 'universals

- When you see a small feathered creature perched in a tree, how do you know it's a bird?

- When you see a fluffy long-eared creature vanishing down a hole, how do you know it's a rabbit?

- When you taste a cold, sweet vanilla-flavored food with a smooth texture, how do you know it's an ice-cream?

This is the philosophical problem of 'universals', of how our minds assign individual things to general categories, types or kinds.     


These categories, types and kinds of things are known as 'universals', whereas the individual examples are known as 'instantiations' or 'particulars'.  Thus Mungo Jerrie and Rumpelteazer are both instantiations of the universal form of cats.  




Is the universal of bunny formed by the exclusion of non-bunny?


...There are two possible ways for the mind to assign a newly observed phenomenon to a category:

(i)   Look through a mental catalog of everything that is known, and find the closest match. 


(ii)  Use a taxonomic  or cladistic approach of following a decision tree and rejecting everything that is not relevant to identifying the unknown object. This is exemplified by the game of 'Twenty Questions', where every known object can be identified by a process of exclusion using twenty or so mental operations....


Full article at Rational Buddhism

- Sean Robsville
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How so unlike the choral tradition of our own dear Church of England!






"I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
Romans one and twenty-seven (Rom 1:27)
Ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven."

More at http://www.inquisitr.com/245002/aint-no-homos-gonna-make-it-to-heaven-singing-tot-horrifies-viewers-as-video-goes-viral

- Sean Robsville

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