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Enough is Enough- The cause of Suffering is not a Mystery

4 Dec

Even though recent events in the world of beheadings, mass murder, slavery, forced starvation, kidnappings, assault, domination, war and poverty are not a new phenomenon of the human race, with the newer mass communications these horrific acts created by human beings against each other are now exposed in all of its evil so vividly and graphically for all to see that this is yet another compelling reason for this suffering to end. Of course, this refrain against war and the ‘inhumanity’ of human beings to one another is an old often unheeded refrain, however, now the root causes of this abhorrent behavior is clear to be seen and, therefore, changed and, therefore, extinguished through the knowledge and application of the Buddha’s teachings. For it is now possible and, in an explanatory way, to confirm the truth of the Buddha’s teachings and this support and explanatory teachings  of the Buddha is now available through science. With the application of the Buddha’s teachings as a framework or schema for the science of psychology, personality and the consequent perspective from this, allows the possibility of the ending of man’s inhumanity to each other in a scientific and rational way. Even though the Buddha’s teachings are over 2500 years old, with the new support from the findings of science, these teachings of the Buddha will now provide the framework for the new rational consciousness that will end the suffering which human beings create and have created for each other and other living creatures since civilization began. The quote attributed to Albert Einstein is supportive of this point of view: ‘The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description.’  It is with great anticipation and excitement that we can look forward to our future as a species in which we will be able to create a civilization based on a harmonious relationship between the human race and the other creatures that share this earth with us, as well as our relationship with the earth itself. Even though this vision of harmonious relationship has been promised in the past by religions and other philosophical groups with their own particular identities, the vision created by the understanding of the Buddha’s teachings supported by modern science is radically different and avoids the great pitfalls of the static identification of one group versus another which is at heart, one of the causes of past/current conflicts. Therefore, the Buddha’s teachings are indeed a peaceful revolutionary and radical approach which can and will be successful in the final reduction and elimination of this great suffering that human beings experience primarily because of their own folly of separation from the truth of existence as we experience it and understand it here on this planet Earth. Therefore, there is no time to lose to begin the explanation and expounding of the Buddha’s teaching to the world so that we do not have to continue to create the immense suffering that is now daily experienced and broadcast around the world. This suffering is not only the direct experience of those who experience the perpetration of these horrific acts of violence- psychologically and physically and emotionally and spiritually – but also by the people who are committing these horrific acts. For let us not forget that from the Buddha’s perspective, a person who commits an act of violence and is angry and actively hostile and actively ignorant and actively greedy and actively selfish and actively feeling superior is suffering from a foolish, ignorant, unwholesome mind-set. It is this ignorance that creates the actions which are at the basis of the suffering we see in the world today and which has occurred in the history of humankind.  Let us be very clear about this – the suffering that we continually learn about,  where another human being creates violence not only against others but also against themselves is created through their mind-set which is based in ignorance and once that ignorance is dispelled, the violence, the depression, the greed, the hostility, the selfishness, the uncompassionate feelings both towards others and towards oneself is ended. When one properly understands the teachings of the Buddha and follows those teachings in one’s life, happiness, compassion and wisdom are the result. So now with the rational support and explanation of how the Buddha’s teaching can be explained so that all human beings can understand the psychological basis for their own happiness and for the world’s happiness and the ending of human caused suffering in this world is available now. There’s no reason to ignore the Buddha’s teachings because many think the teachings are some esoteric training or they are thought to be some mystical explanation of the universe and they have no relevance to the common man and the common human experience and, therefore, the Buddha’s teachings have been relegated by many only to be important to the life of obscure monks living in a forest monastery. Now we can see this is a misconception and a great misunderstanding of the significance and foundation of the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha’s teachings are for everyone and are pragmatic and are rational and are based on empiricism or facts. The Buddha did not indulge in mystical thinking nor did he encourage mysticism or religion as an explanation for human suffering. The Buddha, through years of study of psychological study, understood that the foundation of humanity’s suffering is based on an ignorance, a wrong perspective, a misunderstanding and he taught how to gain a perspective based on a correct understanding and this correct understanding relieves the suffering that is created through anger and greed and hostility and selfishness and other forms of ignorance. The result of Enlightenment is a sense of peace and calm and happiness and compassion both for oneself and for the other living creatures not only  human but all living things on this earth because we are all interconnected and to see us separate is one of the facets of ignorance. So there is an immense and great possibility available to us through the perspective of the teacher Buddha who gave his first teachings over 2500 years ago and it is now possible to show his teachings from a scientific point of view. Therefore, we can see that they are not an obscure esoteric understanding of reality instead they are a pragmatic, fact based understanding of how we as human beings create our suffering not only for ourselves but also for other people when we relate without a correct perspective. So now is a time for the new Renaissance of awareness of our functionality, of our psychology, of our ecology, of our sociology, of our neurology, of our biology, of our physics and astronomy and more supporting the principles of the Four Noble Truths in which the Buddha summarized and made into a framework the essential principles of his insights into humanity. Now is the time for us and opportunity for us to understand the profound and radical Buddha’s teachings from an empirical, pragmatic and scientific point of view which will have radical positive consequences in the future of humanity and now is the time for us to begin that Reformation towards happiness and non-suffering of all beings living on this earth.

Actuality and Reality in the Buddha’s Teachings

16 Aug

Actuality and Reality in the Buddha’s Teachings
I was surfing the net and came across an image of two sign posts, each pointing in an opposite direction; one direction pointed to Reality and the other, Truth. This demarcation was surprising because often Truth, or Actuality, and Reality are understood as synonymous, depending on whether we use small or big dictionaries. The shorter the annotation, the more “actual” means the same as “real”, while in more extensive annotation, Actuality is “what it is”, and it is the addition of subjective and conscious factors that create Reality. Our Reality, or our “world”, is how we understand and cognitively organize the complexities of existence. We make a “model” of life and operate along those guidelines. In addition, this “world” serves as both a means to process incoming information and as a filter. It not only determines what we pay attention to of Actuality, but what it means. In the Buddha’s teachings, Reality and Actuality are described as very different states of mind. Understanding this significant difference between the meanings of Actuality and Reality has enormous consequences in comprehending the profundity of the Buddha’s teachings.
In the Buddha’s teachings Reality and Actuality are very different, and this difference is significant. Let’s further explore this difference – an Actuality is that which involves action or exists in motion and can never be considered static. Reality is that which is perceived with a subjective consciousness and interpretation, meaning, or value. Actuality is universal, while Reality is that which is idiosyncratic. Reality is a person’s cognitively determined interpretations, perceptions, assumptions, cultural indoctrination, motivations, and countless other subjective elements that make up how something is perceived. It is what one thinks occurred. All the representations of our Reality are just representations, not Actuality. While an Actuality that is independent of any human conceptualization/construction exists, pre-enlightened beings normally experience only an interpretation of that as Reality. Pre-enlightened people react to their Reality, not to the actual and therefore, the same event can be viewed in countless different ways. One person’s Reality may be the opposite of another’s, with very different interpretations. However, Truth is beyond representation, is the antecedent behind the referent, it is the Tathatā.
As Paul J. Griffins described in his book, On Being Buddha, “The technical term actuality (Tathatā) used here is key. It is an abstract noun denoting the way things are, the true nature of things, and is often used as a synonym for Buddha, an accurate mirroring or reflecting of things as they are. Buddha understood actuality is naturally pure and radiant, and it is this natural purity that makes possible the perfections of cognitions and actions. Implicit in this is that actuality can be defiled and in need of purification because of affective and cognitive obstructions (affective is hate, passion and delusion) and cognitively by doxastic habits and false beliefs. The removal of obstructions is called ‘the radical reorientation of actuality’.” (1)
The Buddha referred to himself as Tathagata, which when interpreted correctly can be read as “One who has arrived at suchness”. Suchness is also referred to as sunyata,emptiness, or void. Tathatā, as a central concept of Buddhism, expresses appreciation of the void nature of existence in any given moment. Tathatā is the purified mind in its natural, empty state, free of obscuration. Sunyata is seen not as a negation, but rather as the ground out of which all apparent entities, distinctions, and dualities cognitively arise. It denotes the way things are in Truth or Actuality and is therefore beyond the range of
conceptual thought. (2) There is no worldly knowledge, be it science or philosophy, which can lead to the attainment of the state of Tathatā. The experience of Actuality, “as it is”, is one of the goals of bhavana or mental cultivation practice. Meditation as bhavana is prescriptive as a method to transcend the ways in which people normally experience “Reality” in order to attain a higher, pure state of Tathatā mind. For the Buddha, many conventional ways in which Reality is interpreted are seen as pathological; for example, the imposition of constructs and concepts onto Actuality, maintaining the notion of a substantial self, and applying dichotomous constructs to interpret Actuality. The Buddhist path to the state of Tathatā is via the development of supreme wisdom of an equanimous
and discriminating mind through bhavana, or mind cultivation of the Eightfold Path.
Rodger Ricketts, Psy.D.
1. On Being Buddha: The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood Paul J. Griffiths SUNY Press, 1994
2. The Buddha’s Teachings: Seeing without Illusion, Rodger R Ricketts Callistol Green. 2013

DEATH

27 Jul

An age old question for human beings is why do we die – sometimes in a senseless, violent manner?  Why do good people die young? This is what self-conscious beings ask. After reflecting more on this from a perspective of the teaching of the Buddha, I thought to put in words some of thoughts on death.

A year ago, I read a short but interesting blog by Joe Goldfarb on his ethical dilemma of killing plants. He wrote, “For one organism to live another must die. There is no escaping this. Having a tiered value status of life, i.e. a mammal has a higher status than a plant, based on assigned arbitrary values is a false perception of reality. I believe in a reality of equality, not inequality, regardless of the form and capabilities of the organism. A bear does not have more value than a flower, for both their names, and bodies are not real. The only thing that is real is their life, of which they both have of equal value. With that said, it is the gift of life, not consciousness, which I acknowledge and respect… Even killing less life, one is still taking life. This is why Veganism has good intentions, but is inherently flawed. Because of this moral problem, I have been studying Native American belief systems in hopes of finding a resolution.”

Now, I don’t know if he has resolved this moral problem for himself but his thoughts point out an important fact: that to live, there is death. After watching the news on TV, I saw another of endless situations where people being at the wrong place, at the wrong time, are killed. It could be a natural disaster or a bombing or some other manmade disaster but the result is the same: death. Their lives are quickly and ruthlessly ended. If one takes away the usual eulogy of priests, rabbis, ministers, or Imams that God has a purpose that we don’t understand and the person who has died will be in the hands of God (perhaps) – we must admit, we just don’t know. Death happens.

However, to me the “why does it happen” is answered by – the universe doesn’t care. Life and death are two sides of the same coin. They are complementary aspects of life. Therefore, death is as natural as life and there is no plan except that under certain conditions people and sentient beings live and die. There is no “divine plan” which creates life isolated from death. As has already happened many times, the stars and planets of this universe have died and been reborn and our planet and solar system will one day be extinguished. Perhaps also even the universe has gone through endless deaths and rejuvenation. All is impermanent. There is only energy.

Now is this depressing? No. Actually with the acceptance that life is fragile and very limited, one is more sensitive to it, taking it as a precious opportunity. Each moment of life allows one to put into motion waves of action which continue into the future. If one understands there is no permanent ‘I’ or me, than the idea of losing it through death is not a problem for an individual. It is through the alienation from the All by the mistaken psychological separation caused by the ignorance of the belief in a permanent Self that the fear and angst of death appears.