Monday, November 4, 2013

let's start the discussion (post for comment)

by oneself evil is done; by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone; by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another.

finally we're reading from the dhammapada. there are several things right off the bat:

1- the insistence of the causal connection of evil & life. in the twin verses of 1:1."we become what we think."  then, 1:5: "hatred can never put an end to hatred". this is a novel way of looking at ethics. wrong actions carry moral (causal) consequences = you reap what you sow is not a metaphor, it's cause & effect! of course, 9:119: "the evil doers may be happy as long as he does not reap what he has sown, but when he does sorrow overcomes him." yeah, there's no way out of paticca samuppada.

2- the control of the mind: "hard is to train the mind, which goes where it likes..." 3: 35
the importance of self-governance of the mind. ..."those who can direct thoughts are freed from the bond of mara" (3:37).

and this one: "make your mind a fortress to conquer maya with the weapon of wisdom".

i doubt something this deep has been said with this simplicity.

the beautiful chapter 4, "on flowers". this stands out: "do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do, give it to what you do or fail to do" 4:50.

3- a central lesson in the dhammapada is that good is objective,  it can be perceived: "the fragrance of the good spread everywhere..." 4:54.  good is an essence.

4-  the importance of self-governance. the self is a refuge, not a place to waste. so, we must keep our house in order. these three are key:

"do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do." 4:50
"if you find no one to support you on the spiritual path, walk alone". 5:61
"a solid rock cannot be moved by the wind, the wise are not shaken by praise or blame." 6:81

(that doesn't mean we don't try to build our own sangha):

"make friends with those who are good and true, not with those that are bad ans false." 6:78

5-  we always come back to food (it's my fault). the point i was trying to make is that food is food, it's neutral = maya.

i'm the one liking or disliking. how come? it's the "I" (the ego) that likes or dislikes.

but isn't this still too much of the self as impediment to dharma? according to the dhammapada once the self is erased, what remains is the cosmic principle, i.e, THE ONE.

what is selflessness? nothing out of this world, just the right expansion to include all other living creatures. so yes, when it comes to taste the self can learn from the expansion of the self. that's why i brought the example of the person that cooks a not-so-tasty dish (but with lots of love) vs. the cook that is an ace and just did the food as mere routine.

which brings me to the prodigal son.

last minute addenda after tuesday's reading:

jose's suspicion of the idea of "detachment" (i.e., if one is detached how can one really truly interact with others and one's own projects?).
counter: it reminds us of arjuna's confusion just before fighting the battle in the bhagavad gita. life is filled with contradictions: are they real or apparent? he/she who knows is wise.

irvin's reservation towards buddhism as a form of social engineering.
counter: the buddhist as no problem biting the bullet. do you have anything against good engineering? par example: morals in homo sapiens, or democracy, or school learning.

repetition is part of the enlightenment recipe. moksha means something as simple as living in contentment. "what is enlightenment? asks the disciple. do the dishes, responds the master." or "the problem is not tweeter, the problem is what people do with it" (a 12 year old honor student from cologne, germany in der spiegel).

veronica's point about "fear."
fear is wired, but so is the ego. what to do about it? use it to your advantage (advantage means spiritual growth).


Anonymous said...

Like I said in class on Thursday, Buddhists believe in “The One”. Thinking “I don’t like the taste”, I think, does not follow the ways of Buddhism.
I look at the concept of “the one” as putting myself in the other person’s position and appreciating the time and effort they put into making whatever dish because it is a feeling I would wish for someone to have if the situation was reversed. It’s the intentions of the food that would make it “good” or “bad”. Like in the post, If it wasn’t made with love and careful preparation, but rather done as a routine, it wouldn’t come out as good if only for the fact that there was no thought put into it.

Rosemary Session

Anonymous said...

My favorite verse is in 'Punishment', Chapter 10:

"As irrigators guide water to their fields, as archers aim arrows, as carpenters carve wood, the wise shape their lives"

In order to do these things one must possess the right skill, intention, purpose, tools, and knowledge, among other things.

The ancient wisdom is striking. Their discoveries and ways of life are over 2,500 years old -- and deeper and more wise, than my own and I suppose modern (western?) man in many ways.

*I don't understand the 'prodigal son's' usage in this post*

It is also an ancient rule for Buddhist nuns and monks to eat whatever food they are given as alms, without judging whether it is tasty or not.

There is a 6th-century Chinese text of the Chan (Zen) school that says: "To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind." Very simply, sorting all phenomena into "like" or "dislike" bins gets in the way of enlightenment.

The path of liberated judging is found in the practice of "upekkha," a Pali word (it's "upeksa" in Sanskrit) that means "equanimity" or "nonattachment"

The word has a connotation of seeing from a high place to take in the whole view. In practice, it means to walk freely between attraction and aversion, likes and dislikes, praise or blame, without attaching to one side or another, and without being jerked this way or that. However, it does not mean to walk by someone doing harm to others – putting a child in danger, for example – when you can step in and stop it. Sometimes judgments must be made.

Maintaining equanimity can seem like walking a tightrope. Lean one way, and you're a moralising busybody. Lean the other way, and you're an enabler. And above all, you have to keep your ego out of the way. This is not a discipline that can be mastered in three easy steps. It takes practice, insight and a lot of falling down and getting up again. Mentoring by someone further along the path is enormously helpful.

-Geoff Robbins

atRifF said...

great point rosemary.

geoff: your point about the importance of mentoring is so true.

Kate Blazej said...

I enjoyed the discussions and readings in the last few classes. The simplicity and translations of the verses make it easier for us westerners to not only understand, but also to attain the lessons that seem ancient but are put into use by the followers of eastern religions.
The phrase "good is an essence" caught my attention during the reading because I can relate to its translation. Of course, it can be different for every person. For example, the essence of something can mean its entire being. It can be what a person exudes in everyday life. Confidence, greed, love, etc. Searching for your own personal essence of good can take an entire lifetime, but I feel it is a journey every soul on this earth must take. Also, the quote in the picture about focus is very true. It reminds me of a different saying about when finding love in another, it is wise not to make somebody else a better person before making yourself the best person you can be, or something along those lines.
Thanks for reading,
Kate Blazej

Anonymous said...

I want to start my comment by referring to one of my favorite verses (210 and 211). "Not seeing what is pleasant brings pain; seeing what is unpleasant brings pain. Therefore go beyond both pleasure and pain".

"Don't get selfishly attached to anything, for trying to hold on to it will bring you pain. When you have neither likes nor dislikes, you will be free".

The reason why the aforementioned verses caught my attention is because of two separate reasons. #1 on verse 210 I find it personal motto for success. Any business man, any athlete, any human being with this quote in mind while trying to achieve a goal can only better that individual. #2 verse 211 to my point of view it just solely explains on how to fight egocentric ways.

I also want to acknowledge Kate's point when referring to the last discussions and readings for being quite simple and easy to translate. Agree 100% because it gives us a better understanding of this philosophies that are still being lived by many as well as beautiful display of poetry.

Francisco Baumgarten

Anonymous said...

I love how you mentioned chapter 4 the flowers because I remember that chapter really standing out to me, it had so much to say and as in the verse “do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do, give it to what you do or fail to do” it is saying something so simple yet we all fail to follow it. And I just kept thinking that We are so worried about our surroundings that we forget to stop and look with in. yet it is not even US making these judgments, looking around and lost.. it is our ego! yet we are here questioning why we are not like this and that when all we have to do is let go of our ego let go of the judgment and the worry then it will be the true us and it will know what to do and how to be in silence and bliss. Kind of a debate I’ve had with myself, not knowing where to turn next…but being in fear of messing up will lead nowhere. Just go on with simple living because the reality we forget is that life will always have ups and downs it’s not like you will fix one thing and TAH! DAH! bliss for the rest of your life, that would be nice though. so with no ego and fear one can move on with simple living in contentment because it would be the highest of acceptances.

-Jasmin Gonzalez

Anonymous said...

Something that I love about The Dhammapada is how simple the writing is but how deep and complex its ideas are. Some works of writing do have meaningful ideas but are convoluted by unnecessarily complex vocabulary and sentence structure.

The section I found interesting was the one about the self, but, I'm conflicted. I see why you would be your best teacher, I mean, who knows you better, but then why does it state that you must learn first to then teach others? If the self is the only one that can be its master, then what's the point of teaching others? Maybe with wisdom you can guide others to the right knowledge, but is a guide really the same as being a teacher? At the same time, I see why it's saying to learn first and become wise before teaching others because how can you teach if you can't follow your own teachings. Also, does you being your own master and learning from yourself mean learning from mistakes as well. If so, I understand a little more why you need to teach yourself. If you kept learning from others then you won't make any of your own mistakes and then learn nothing.

I honestly don't know why I've become so fixated upon in those couple of stanzas of The Dhammapada. I guess it's the simplicity yet complexity of its writing at hand.

~Katherine Davila

Anonymous said...

While at times the simplicity of Buddhist thought makes it almost impossible to attack or defend (because knowledge rests on basically held axioms), it is the very simplicity of Buddhism (as opposed to Hinduism), for example, which opens up some of the largest wholes in its arguments.

For example, at first glance, the idea that it is the limitation of the universe into units (individuals) which burden's man with his own fate and thusly with attachment to the consequences of his actions is very ingenious. Surely, if man did not have cognizance of his own existence, and was similar to an atom in that it existed without knowledge of itself, it would not be mortified by the angst that comes along with existence and propriety of one's self.

This, however, presupposes that liberation from the self is the goal and subsequently that a self exists. Where else would the responsibility of attaining nirvana lay? This is contrary to the Buddhist principle that because time is made up of infinitesimal moments, each of them different, the flame of our ego is ever changing and cannot exist. This is troubling because of the implications and presuppositions enumerated above (i.e if we do not have self-hood we are not free to pursue nirvana).

This problem is related to another basic fault within the Buddhist philosophical system. The Buddhist philosophy is about detachment from this world. I feel that it is the precise opposite--attachment--that we need to cure the evils of this world. An entity that isn't attached is indifferent. With indifference comes inaction and as MLK once said, "Silence is betrayal."

My overall impression of Buddhism is that it lacks the solidity of Hinduism. Perhaps it is because at first it was meant to be a prescription for attaining moksha in the Hindu sense?

Jose Giron

Vini Giannattasio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vini Giannattasio said...

So, let's “problematize” this.....

“3- a central lesson in the dhammapada is that good is objective,  it can be perceived: "the fragrance of the good spread everywhere..." 4:54.  good is an essence”.

Is this a statement on ethics or ontology? It seems to me that it is both. As I have made it quite obvious so far, I poise the idea that the central teachings of the studied Eastern religions are a reflected shadow of the pervasive Truth, an expression of Branhman, if you will. So, let's try to ascertain the “theory of everything” and find a nexus. If the quoted text is a moral statement, it seems Kantian. However, Kantian ethics presupposes a mind which is impervious to any chaos in it's choices. All actions are to be judged on their intentions and congruence with the “laws” of the universe (categorical imperative; reciprocal and universal moral concepts). But Brahman seem to be Utilitarian. Is Karma not a result of a balancing equation, just as Utilitarianism would argue?

If the statement is ontological, it fallows that it argues for an ontological and metaphysical effort of entertaining “the One.” The Good here would mean perfection; in Neo-Platonism, God. I believe that my initial objection to Eastern soteriology stands. How can an imperfect man sow perfect actions (denominated as “good” in the quoted text) if perfection is not present in the “imperfect man?”

Maybe, it is both. I am trying to perceive it as both. But I need help on my “theory of everything.” If the One, singularity, Good, God, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, is perfect, it can not be Utilitarian, and can not imply in Karma. I think Good is not a moral concept. I think God transcends good and evil; good is what the One HAS, not what the One IS! This allows for the Utilitarianism of Karma, and conserves the pervasive perfection.

But, I do not buy my own argument. What do you think Triff?

atRifF said...

vinicius, good thinking. but i think i cannot follow everywhere.

1- yes, kantian ethics comes close to buddhism in the idea of dharma. but we'd have keep in mind that the self in kant is a "transcendental ego," (kant's "ego" is not as "heavy" as in the posterior german idealist notion of fichte and schelling, which is good). kant's ego is like an entity "from behind" sort of absorbing & interpreting phenomena.

2- it's here that we can talk about dharma as duty (Sollen). kant's question is "was soll ich tun?" (what ought i to do?). we should do what we do out of Sollen.

3- yes, kant would agree that ultimately ethics is rooted in ontology, if by ontology you mean the structure of the self. but i think kant would disagree with the idea of the ONE.

as per "theory of everything," i prefer to stay local.

fabio.v said...

I do see the relationship between Buddhism and Kantianism, however I cannot say that Kantianism "presupposes a mind which is impervious to any chaos in it's choices." First of all, a statement like that would need to be reinforced in order to prove its point. Second of all, the reason why Kant wrote his Deontological account is specifically because he acknowledges that men can be fickle, capricious and cunning. The purpose of Kant's deontology is to develop a theory by which it can be utilized as a guiding principle or principles, when men are conflicted by choices. In order to have written a theory on duty, one would have to recognize the inherent capacity in one's kin, to cause chaos. Now, to turn to the issue of Buddhism as Kantian or Utilitarian. To categorize Buddhism as either Kantian or Utilitarian, is by nature a fallacy. It is blatantly obvious. In Buddhism, one may find principles resembling those found in Kantian or Utilitarian doctrines, at best. Actually, a utilitarian ideal of balancing equations, is in fact an equation that is unbalanced. Simply apply utilitarian principles to political societies and you begin to see major problems; all of which stem from the maximization of one thing and the mitigation of another. Clearly there lingers imbalance here. Therefore, Brahman cannot be thought to be utilitarian in the sense that Brahman would never adhere to the promotion of one more than an other. Balancing an equation does not necessarily entail utilitarianism, as there is more to just balancing equations in such a line of thought. For example, Buddhism states that one can achieve enlightenment by means of meditation; Samadhi and at last moksha. And by means of meditation, one focuses on the individual within. The end result is in effect, the energy invested by the individual for the individual. The rest, meaning all concomitant knowledge comes by virtue of these cultivations.

Anonymous said...

I find myself enjoying the Dhammapada the most so far. The writing is simple, but the way the ideas are presented is abstract.
This one excerpt has left me thinking...
"Don't follow wrong laws, don't be thoughtless, don't believe in false doctrines, don't follow the way of the world."
It seems that its encouraging you to stay on your own path and not to get caught up in the daily distractions. Its easy to get wrapped up in "the way of the world." For example, I was caught up working as a mechanic for a while before I went back to school. Money was good, but money isn't everything. I wasn't mentally challenged, I was tired from long hours, and I wasn't happy with the industry itself. I had to make that change to get back on my own path since I deviated.
Similar to the example used in class about the drug addict coming in and out of rehab. I rather not divulge into that topic though.
Another quote that goes along with that hand and hand is, "No disease is worse than greed."
he Dhammapada seems to put a strong emphasis on the training of the mind. "Hard it is to train the mind. Which goes where it likes and does what it wants."
Great comments up there.^^^
Well said Fabio and great analogy with the tightrope Geoff...
-Manuel Valdes

Martin Gross said...

What I come to feel regarding these beliefs is the balance of the mind and the nature of suffering. I believe that Buddhism’s main aspect lies in the sense of fleeting balance between an unstable mind and the body that holds it. What I mean by an unstable mind does not necessarily mean perverted or deranged, I mean a mind that shits in opinions, perception, and perspective with every new day. Buddhism’s basic aspects boil down to the end of suffering through knowledge and eliminating earthly desires. Which eliminates the aimless wondering that a person’s mind can have when restless, since our minds tend to manufacture anxiety as product of. So to me the real aspect of Buddhism that really describe its particularities is the search to execute proper introspection. Doing the proper introspection not is only limited to the behavior a person may have but his interactions with other people as well as the impact that his life has in the world at large be it positive or negative. Essentially what we seek to do to learning our place in life is to silence the inner voice, the nagging part of our ego that refuses to believe that we are all part of something greater that we come to understand as enlightenment. Finally this concepts do apply towards controlling our egos and managing to reign in the sides of our mind that drives to unnecessary and often harmful action.

Anonymous said...

Like Jose, I've always found the lack of a self in Buddhism and the desire to break out of samsara and attain enlightenment to contradict each other. Where does that draw from? what is an individual? I know that there isn't a self in Buddhism, but how can someone attain enlightenment though one's self, but like the Dhammipada says, and i'm not quoting since I don't have it one me; that one cannot save another, meaning that others can't save you, which means that you, yourself (an individual) can reach enlightenment though one's actions. I know that according to Buddhism, as well as Hinduism, we are all part of the one, and the point of reaching enlightenment is to escape the suffering of continual birth and death and just become one with the large self, the entire universe, and seize to be a semi-one minded pseudo-individual self, and I guess that's where the whole notion of a lack of an self in Buddhism comes from.

-Manny Alonso

Anonymous said...

I loved the reading so much I may actually get this book…

So many excellent ideas were read out of the book I want to point out something that Professor had mentioned about the id, ego and superego. The book refers to the mind as hard to train because it goes where it likes. I’m sure we can all relate to wandering thoughts no? You can read all the spiritual literature you want, but if you do not address your subconscious you are not going to change. It’s amazing how the world changes when I start thinking differently. My experience is that when I meditate and seek guidance from the universe my day is more… aligned than usual.

That being said I constantly catch myself worrying about what is out of my control and judging those who are soooo deserving of my judgment. It all starts with these simple suggestions. Although I’m not sure how much I agree with the second statement, I would replace “walk alone” with “keep searching”? unless you are fine having that connection with the universe all to yourself, more power to you.

You are no greater or better than you are right now. Unless you think so, which I do so often, and it gets me in trouble…
The law of attraction comes to mind when I read the third phrase. There are those people who just have that aura, you know who I’m talking about. The people who don’t get bothered by anything! They are perfectly content with what they have right now, and not because they are minimalist, quite the contrary spiritually speaking. To live a life so rich like they do is a goal of mine, and I’m happy to report that anybody can do it!

"do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do." 4:50
"if you find no one to support you on the spiritual path, walk alone". 5:61
"a solid rock cannot be moved by the wind, the wise are not shaken by praise or blame." 6:81

Lars Nordt