Saturday, January 16, 2021

Fasting is a Piece of Cake

Words are goopy.  

Take the word “toast.”  When you read that, what did you think of?  A noun, i.e., a piece of bread that has been browned by exposure to a heat source?  The call to honor someone by raising glasses and drinking together?  Some person held in high regard?


Or when you read (heard in your head) “toast,” did you think of a verb form; the browning of the bread, the raising of the glass?  Or possibly warming your toes in front of a fire?  


And then there’s the use of toast to mean someone is done for, finished; “Man, now he’s toast.”  I’m not sure of the part of speech that would be.  Haven’t studied grammar in maybe 50 years.  I do know this:


Words are goopy.


Take the word “white.”


What does “white” mean?


            - to an artist? 


            - to a house painter?


            - to a physicist?


            - to a racist?


            - to an anti-racist?


Do you have the same visceral/cognitive response to: 


            - white people


            - white power 


            - white superiority


            - white supremacy


            - white privilege 


Does “white” have the same meaning in each of these phrases?  If you are “White?”  If you are a “Person of Color?”


Words are goopy. 


Words serve a couple of functions.  Words can function as “signs.”  Words can function as “symbols.”  


“Signs” indicated the probable presence or occurrence of something.  Footprints are a sign that someone passed there.  Signs deliver information and instructions.  “Falling rock.”  “Caution.  Wet floor.”  The word “Men” posted on a bathroom door.  Something that is a “sign of the times.”


“Symbols” represent something.  Symbols “stand for” something.  Symbols point to something.  Most often symbols are concrete and represent something abstract.  A finger pointing at the moon.  As symbols, words represent, or stand for, or point to concepts.  The word/symbol “dog” points to a concept of a four-legged animal.  And “dog,” for mature users of language, is differentiated from “horse” which is also a four-legged animal.  


Words are goopy.  


Many, if not most, words can function as both a sign and a symbol.  The word, “Women” on a placard on a bathroom door is a sign giving information/instructions, while the word “Women” in the sentence, “Women rule the world!” is a symbol pointing to a concept something like “all adult female humans.”  


This goopiness of words can be humorous.  For a Buddhist monk fasting is a piece of cake.  Words can be confusing.  The little boy with the broken arm’s mother said she ran into the back of a truck which was parked at approximately forty-five miles an hour.  Words can be misleading, as when political types “spin” a response.  


Words are goopy.


Some more than others.  Some folks have emotional attachments to words, and/or to the concepts they point to/represent.  Attachments that other folks lack.  Think “cat” people and “dog” people. We don’t all share the same conceptual matrix, so some words have strikingly different meanings to different folks.  Negro.  Black.  African.  Caucasian.  White. American.  Conservative.  Liberal.  Victim.  Rebel.  Criminal. 


Words are goopy.


“Well,” you say, “yes, but so what?”  Well, words matter.  That’s the so what.  Not just the words we utter aloud, or write on social media, or commit to paper, but also the words in our heads.  The words we use in our inner dialogue.  For example, “can’t,” as in “I can’t take this pandemic any more!”  The Reality is that you can, but you don’t want to.  “I can’t stand all this politics!”  The Reality is, you are “standing” the politics, but you don’t like it.  And the stronger your emotional attachment to your words, the stronger your urge for Reality to conform to your conceptual framework of how Reality should be, the stronger your drive for self-gratification, the greater your experience of dukkhā.  


The Dhamma teaches us to practice “Right Speech.”  We do this by being mindful of the words we choose, and mindful of the impact of our words on our thoughts, and deeds, and mindful of the influence our words have on others.  


Words are goopy.


And some of you will be offended by some of the thoughts expressed here.  Some of you will take exception to ideas herein expressed.  For some, these comments will be little more than interesting.  And for some, totally uninteresting.  The hope is that some of you dear readers will have a small epiphany, a little “aha” moment, a flash of insight.  Post a comment, if you like.


Words are goopy.


Words matter.


Something to think about.  

Sunday, September 20, 2020


Hey, Everybody!


Beginning November 1, 2020, we will be having a Sunday evening meditation at Wat Phothisomphan, 2560 SE 14th Street, Des Moines.  The hall is quite large, more than 4,000 square feet, so we’ll have plenty of room to distance socially.  We’ll also be wearing masks to protect each other.


Here are some thoughts on group meditation.  


In a broad, general sense, most people meditate for the “benefits” outside of meditation, not just for the meditation experience itself.  Some folks meditate to gain enlightenment, some for esoteric knowledge, some for “union” with God or Brahman or Ultimate Reality, some because it is part of a “program.”  Meditation in a group seems to “deepen” or “enhance” progress towards whatever goal they have.  I think a lot of this has to do with the environment group meditation creates, but some would talk about shared energies, good vibes, and so forth.  Whatever explanation one chooses, group meditation is, at times, very profound.   People who meditate together commonly report a buoyancy that the group provides, carrying them further into meditation than they could travel alone.  


For most people, meditation is part of a lifestyle.  Meditating in a group can help to reinforce that lifestyle.  It is comforting, exciting, and sustaining to be a part of a shared activity.  Or, in the case of meditation, perhaps a shared non-activity?  <GRIN>   Shared activities, in this case group meditation, can also build a sense of fellowship; of belonging to a community.  We experience the company of “like-minded” others.  In the midst of “doing nothing” together, there is often a shared experience of “meaningful togetherness.”  Bonds form and relationships deepen.  


With time, the group builds an environment of trust and confidentiality, and the members will talk about their inner and outer experiences (and their interpretations of those experiences), what difficulties they might have encountered in their practice and ways they have surmounted them.  When we discover that other people have encountered many of the same difficulties, and have discovered ways to overcome them, we are less likely to feel discouraged during the “dry spells” which we all endure, or to get overly inflated when we experience those elevating “highs” meditation produces.  Solitary meditators – those who never practice with a group – are more likely to misunderstand their experience, and to get frustrated by the bogs and marshes they stumble into. 


One of the most frequently encountered difficulties is incorporating practice into one’s daily life.  Group practice offers opportunities to explore with others how they have managed to do this, and also helps motivate us to continue to practice.  Meditating with a group can provide the motivation we need to find time to practice.  


Group meditation can also further our knowledge and understanding of meditation itself.  We can listen and ask of others about their experiences.  If there is a Teacher, Master, Guru, Guide, etc., we can check our practice, gain understanding of the nuances of practice, and perhaps learn new techniques.  We may also be able to roughly judge where we are on our path to our goals.  We can learn from the other members’ feedback.  If we talk about our experiences and problems and success, other group members’ feedback can help us to understand what is occurring.  We discover that the other people are having many of the same experiences.  


It has been pointed out to me than many people who practice meditation are individualistic and/or non-conformist, and “groups” don’t fit their lifestyle.  This is true.  To be part of a group means we must conform in some ways.  For example, there are “time” issues.  The day or time of day may not be to our liking.  The length of time the group meditates may differ from the time we meditate.  Some people meditate for 15 or 20 minutes, and some mediate fro one or two hours or longer.  While some groups will allow meditators to come and go during group sessions, others are quite strict about conforming.  If one’s ideas about how a group is to function are in conflict with the way the group functions, stress (dukkha?) ensues.  These are issues for discussion.  Some folks may choose to not be part of a group.  


It has been pointed out to me that it is common for a number of different “ideologies” to be found among meditators, and that explanations of experiences and techniques usually reflect those ideologies.  Do I expect everyone who is a member of the a group to subscribe to my ideology?  Honestly, no.  We of differing ideologies and diverse personalities find “common ground” in the silence of group meditation.  Since there's nothing to argue about in silence, meditators from different traditions and ideologies can practice together and support each other.  Furthermore, membership in a group where there is respect and trust can provide opportunities for investigating the “Truth” statements put forth by myself and others.  And I encourage everyone to investigate!  


I was recently asked the question: “What qualifies you to lead a mediation group?”  The short – and smart-alecky – answer was “Well, I can read a clock, I have the hand-eye coordination to ring a bell, and I can count to three.”  But I knew the person was really questioning my “authority.”  So I explained that the regular practice of meditation is sort of like an extended visit to a strange city.  One wants to find someone familiar with the layout of the city, but also someone knowledgeable about the good restaurants, the bad neighborhoods, and where to get the best price on good incense.  I’m that someone.  I’ve practiced regularly for more than 40 years, and I’ve studied for that long, or maybe even a little longer.  I know the “territory,” and have functioned as a guide for more than 30 years.  And nobody’s gotten lost.


So, if anyone wants to join us, every Sunday we have scheduled the start time as 6:30 p.m. for now.  We can adjust that earlier or later as the group needs.


Hope to see you November 1st!



Bhante Dhammapala

Life is a struggle.  Suffering is optional.  

Thursday, July 16, 2020

On Hate


It is a strange time to be a Buddhist in the United States.  So much hate.


Buddhist training/practice leads to the development of an accurate perception, an accurate assessment of “self.”  Buddhist training/practice leads to the development of perceptual acuity, objectivity and critical thinking.  At the same time, Buddhist training/practice leads to the development of compassion and lovingkindness.  Buddhist training/practice leads to the development of a moral sense.  For many, Buddhist training/practice leads to the active engagement with the world while renouncing hate.  


So much hate.


There’s a lot of hate being spewed out there.  Hate towards the police.  Hate towards the government.  Hate towards people of color; Blacks and Browns.  Hate towards Whites.  Hate towards Asians.  Hate towards LGBQT. 


There’s hate aimed towards Conservatives, Liberals, Reactionaries, Progressives.  I see/read/hear hate towards Joe Biden; towards Donald Trump.  Hate is being aimed at senators, representatives, state and local legislators, governors, mayors, council-people, and the like.  


Hate is aimed at Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and a myriad of less-well known religious groups.  


Hate is aimed at the poor, and at the rich.  At the homeless and at the mentally ill.  Hate is aimed at the well-educated, and the poorly educated, and at the uneducated.  


So much hate.  Reminds me of some of the lyrics from a 1970-something song by Kris Kristofferson:  


“Eggheads cussing rednecks cussing 

Hippies for their hair

Others laugh at straights who laugh at

Freaks who laugh at squares


Some folks hate the Whites

Who hate the Blacks who hate the Klan

Most of us hate anything that 

We don’t understand.


Cause everybody’s got to have somebody to look down on.  

Who they can feel better than at any time they please.  

Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on.

If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me.”


-0- Jesus Was A Capricorn by Kris Kristofferson -0- 


Hate is, as we know, the expression of a strong emotional attachment to a desire for things be a way other than the way they are.  Hate is attachment to wanting things to be “my way,” and not the way we perceive them to be.  Hate is a pattern of thoughts, words, and deeds.  Hate is often a self-justifying mechanism for those thoughts, words and deeds.  And when we dig into hate – the thoughts, words, and deeds – we find hate to be a lot more complex that what I’ve just described.  Hate has sociological, anthropological, biological, psychological and historical aspects to it.  But simplistically, we aren’t getting what we want, and we blame the object of our hate as the cause.  We want things to change and they don’t.  We want things to remain as they are, and they change.  We blame the object/person/people for the reason(s) things aren’t the way we want them to be.  We have some picture of a “better” world, or a “better” society, or a “better” life, and the object of our hate is keeping us from realizing that picture.  We believe things would be “right” if the object of our hate didn’t exist.


As we know, most of the time our beliefs regarding the object(s) of our hate, our situation, our displeasure, are delusional.  Our beliefs don’t accord with objective reality.  But we cling to them anyway.  We cling to our ignorance.  


Hate and fear are often emotional siblings.  We fear something, and we learn to hate it.  Fear operates pretty much the same way as hate.  We want, or expect, reality to be a certain way, and when it’s not we experience that emotionally as a “loss’ or a “threat” of loss.  The hormones kick in, and we feel a strong need to act to rid our reality of the source of that threat or loss.  Of the source of that discomfort. 


Hatred is learned.  We cling to our delusions, we cling to our ignorance because our beliefs are so emotionally charged.  We REALLY want Reality to conform to our wishes, our desires.


Hatred can be unlearned.  Buddhist training/practice can help. 


Something to think about.



Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Words Are Goopy!

Words Are Goopy!


These are troubled times, no doubt.  And while there are lots of contributing factors, one of them is the fact that words are goopy.  Any given word, or set of words for that matter, can have more than one meaning.  And correctly so.  


So maybe if we practice good communication, in Buddhist parlance, “Right Speech,” we might start contributing to lessening the troubles.  For example, there’s a phrase floating around, “Black Lives Matter.”  And it is obvious that not everybody gets the same meaning from that phrase.  For some people it is the name of a movement whose aim is to eradicate white supremacy, a campaign against the violence and racism so prevalent in our society, an effort to bring justice, healing and freedom to black people.  For some, “Black Lives Matter” is an anthem, a rousing and uplifting chant, used to rally the troops, to add energy and momentum to marches.  For others, “Black Lives Matter” seems to be something akin to a slogan, a motto, a memorable phase to advertise a cause.  Sometimes it seems to be “code” in one language which isn’t “decoded” very well in an other language.  And for a lot of people it is a phrase which divides people into “us” and “them.”  It pits one group against another.  It is an aggressive, in-your-face challenge.  Using the phrase, “Black Lives Matter” is a threat.


And for everybody, it points to a problem.  


Might I suggest that good communication is important if we are to solve some of the problems we’re facing right now?  So if I ask you, “What do you mean by ‘Black Lives Matter’ please don’t get upset.  I’m aware that the phase can have many meanings, and I’m wanting to understand what you are saying.  If I ask you to define what you mean by “Fake News,” it’s not that I’m disputing what you’re saying, I’m trying to understand what you’re saying.


Bear with me.  Be patient.  Be kind.  


Be clear in your thoughts, words and deeds.  Practice Right Speech.  It will go a long way in solving our problems.  


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Some things to think about . . . 


I was recently chastised for being too “political” in my postings on Facebook.  Well, it seems to me that one function of the saṅghā is to bring the Dhamma to the people.  And if doing so fits in the genre, “political,” so be it.  But before we dismiss it so easily, let’s kick some ideas around a bit.


The Dhamma teaches us that the “Human Condition” is characterized by three distinguishing qualities:  aniccā, anattā and dukkhā.  “Aniccā” is the concept of impermanence and transitoriness.  Nothing lasts forever, and while things exist they are undergoing constant change.  “Anattā” asserts the negation of the Brahminic doctrine of “Atta” (Ātman).  And “dukkhā” is the central problem addressed by the Dhamma.  “Dukkhā” is that state of being in which we find ourselves when our desires and perceptions are not congruent with Reality.  Sort of an academic definition, but what it means is that when we don’t get stuff we want (or get stuff we don’t want), and when our thinking about how Reality is or should be turns out to be inaccurate, we get upset.  The more committed we are to thinking/feeling that we should (always) get what we want, or that Reality should be exactly the way we want it to be, the greater our distress.  That distress is manifest in a whole range of behaviors – thoughts, words and deeds.  


So, how is it we get into this state of dukkhā?  To explain that takes us to a couple of defining characteristics of Human Nature – that is what it means to be human.  


When humans are born, we are totally lacking in knowledge, wisdom, and insightful understanding.  And when we’re born, we are totally consumed with self-gratification.  The Pāḷi word for this first trait is “avijjā,” (ignorance, delusion) and the Pāḷi word for the second is “taņhā,” literally, “thirst,” but desire, clinging, greed, attachment and many other words have been used to translate the concept.  The mechanism works something like this:  the less grasp we have of Reality as it is, as opposed to how we want it to be, or think it should be, coupled with a greater or lesser desire for Reality to conform to how we want it to be, or think it should be, results in an emotional reaction.  When we let our thoughts, words and deeds be controlled by those emotional reactions, we experience dukkhā.  And we create all sorts of difficulties for ourselves and for others. 


“All very well and good!” you say, “But what has this to do with you being political on Facebook?”  Ah, thank you for asking.


“Politics” points to the many concepts, doctrines, practices, activities, etc., associated with how people live in groups.  How we set about to make a particular community, or society, or polity work. In some sense, “politics” is all about the distribution of power within a group.  Who gets to make the important decisions, and who gets to enforce the rules, and who’s will gets imposed on the rest of the group.  There are many forms of political organization: secular, religious, autocratic, despotic, monarchy, oligarchy, theocracy, etc.  In the U.S. we are set up as a secular, pluralistic, representative democracy.  Being secular means we don’t impose any particular set of religious beliefs on how that power is distributed.  Pluralism recognizes the existence of any number of diverse and competing interests and calls for us to be considerate of the interests of others.  Representative democracy points out that we, the people, are the final authority on the distribution of power, and that we pick folks who share our values, views, and ideals. to make the rules and make the decisions about how power is to be distributed.  Being a “good” citizen of such a form of government requires that we a) be informed [look at other postings on Right Knowledge], and b) we participate.  We make our voices heard.  


So, to tie this all together (or to attempt to), as a member of the saṅghā (one who lives and teaches the Dhamma), living in a secular, pluralistic, representative democracy, it is my responsibility (duty perhaps) to point up instances of avijjā and taņhā when they occur in the process of governing, and to make an effort to enlighten and alleviate these conditions.  When political leadership displays ignorance, and the propensity for self-gratification over lovingkindness (mettā), compassion (karunā), and joy in others well-being (muditā), we are obligated to speak up, and to act.  


So, label it political if you want.  Chastise me if you want.  I’m just trying to be a good Buddhist.  A good teacher.  A good bhikkhu.  A good Buddhist monk.



Years ago, when I was teaching at the University level, I would provide the following paradigm for students to use when studying various different perspectives on things.  I would ask them if they could discern the author’s understanding of each of the following: 

1.         What is the human condition?  I.e., what does it mean to be human?  What makes a being uniquely human?  What is both necessary and sufficient to being human?  

2.         What are the principle/fundamental problems humans have to deal with?  I.e., greed, craving, sin, ego, delusion, ignorance, etc.  

3.         Why do these problems exist?  What are their causes? 

4.         What does this author offer as the ideal solutions to the problems?  Discuss in terms of methods, techniques, resources, etc. 

5.         What, in your opinion, is the ideal solutions to the problems?  Discuss in terms of methods, techniques, resources, etc. 

Reading through a lot of the posts on Facebook, I wonder if analyzing them in terms of this paradigm might be useful in understanding other’s perspectives.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Recently I was asked, “Do you believe in Fate[1] and/or Destiny[2]?”  My answer is “no.”  “Fate” and “Destiny” seem to me to be metaphysical concepts.  More on metaphysics in a moment.  

While I don’t “believe” in the metaphysical; in Fate or Destiny, here’s what I know.  We are where we are in life because of decisions we, and others have made.  Every moment we are making decisions, and often acting (or not acting) accordingly.  I take a job in South Dakota, instead of Alabama, and twenty years later, I’m a bhikkhu in Des Moines, Iowa.  I decide to hit Wal-Mart before Walgreens, and when I get to Walgreens, I find I could have saved a few bucks if I’d gone there first.  I decide to walk on the shady side of the street, and subsequently avoid getting shot by someone robbing a store on the sunny side.  I decide to take University Avenue instead of I-235, and I stop to help someone with a flat tire.  Later that person shows their gratitude by making a large donation to the Buddhist Missionary Society.  I decide to major in Psychology rather than Music Performance, and that points my life in a whole different direction.  The Draft Board decides my number is up, and that points my life in a whole different direction.  Some fellow sees me struggling to cross a parking lot with a basketful of groceries, and asks if he can help, and that points both our lives in a totally different direction.

We are where we are because of the matrix of decisions and actions we have taken, and others have taken.  No Fate.  No Destiny.  We are (to a greater or lesser degree) responsible for who, what, where, when and why we are the way we are. 

Kamma[3] seems to be a much more realistic explanation than Fate or Destiny for why we are where we are.  I act, and that act has consequences, both for myself, and often for others:  both in the here and now, and in the future.  Kamma doesn’t explain everything.  Things happen that are beyond our influence and control.  We need serenity to accept that fact.  Sometimes we are challenged to take control and make the future our own.  That takes courage.  And sometimes we need to take a step back and evaluate the situation; to figure out what we can and can’t control. What we can and cannot be effective in making, or preventing something from happening.  That takes wisdom.  

Practicing the Eightfold Path helps us along towards serenity, courage and wisdom.

A bit more on metaphysics.  It’s always good to define what you mean when you use a word, so let’s look at a dictionary definition of “metaphysics.:  

met·a·phys·ics | ˌmedəˈfiziks |
plural noun [usually treated as singular]
the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.
·      abstract theory with no basis in reality: his concept of society as an organic entity is, for market liberals, simply metaphysics.

Metaphysics has two main strands: that which holds that what exists lies beyond experience (as argued by Plato), and that which holds that objects of experience constitute the only reality (as argued by Kant, the logical positivists, and Hume). Metaphysics has also concerned itself with a discussion of whether what exists is made of one substance or many, and whether what exists is inevitable or driven by chance.  So a discussion of metaphysics will need to include a discussion of epistemology and fate.  

We, along with what seems to be the view of the historical Buddha, tend to agree with Kant, the logical positivists and Hume.  We can’t know what we can’t experience.  

For those of you who find scriptures authoritative, I offer this from ‘What the Buddha Taught’ by Walpola Rahula.

            The Buddha was not interested in discussing unnecessary metaphysical questions which are purely speculative and which create imaginary problems. He considered them as a 'wilderness of opinions'. It seems that there were some among his own disciples who did not appreciate this attitude of his. For, we have the example of one of them, Malunkyaputta by name, who put to the Buddha ten well-known classical questions on meta-physical problems and demanded answers.[4]

            One day Malunkyaputta got up from his afternoon meditation, went to the Buddha, saluted him, sat on one side and said:

            'Sir, when I was all alone meditating, this thought occurred to me: There are these problems unexplained, put aside and rejected by the Blessed One. Namely, (1) is the universe eternal or (2) is it not eternal, (3) is the universe finite or (4) is it infinite, (5) is soul the same as body or (6) is soul one thing and body another thing, (7) does the Tathagata exist after death, or (8) does he not exist after death, or (9) does he both (at the same time) exist and not exist after death, or (10) does he both (at the same time) not exist and not not-exist. These problems the Blessed One does not explain to me. This (attitude) does not please me, I do not appreciate it. I will go to the Blessed One and ask him about this matter. If the Blessed One explains them to me, then I will continue to follow the holy life under him. If he does not explain them, I will leave the Order and go away. If the Blessed One knows that the universe is eternal, let him explain it to me so. If the Blessed One knows that the universe is not eternal, let him say so. If the Blessed One does not know whether the universe is eternal or not, etc., then for a person who does not know, it is straight-forward to say "I do not know, I do not see".'

            The Buddha's reply to Malunkyaputta should do good to many millions in the world today who are wasting valuable time on such metaphysical questions and unnecessarily disturbing their peace of mind:

            'Did I ever tell you, Malunkyaputta, "Come, Malunkyaputta, lead the holy life under me, I will explain these questions to you?" '

            'No,  Sir.'

            'Then, Malunkyaputta, even you, did you tell me: "Sir, I will lead the holy life under the Blessed One, and the Blessed One will explain these questions to me”?'

            'No, Sir.'

            'Even now, Malunkyaputta, I do not tell you: "Come and lead the holy life under me, I will explain these questions to you".  And you do not tell me either: "Sir, I will lead the holy life under the Blessed One, and he will explain these questions to me."  Under these circumstances, you foolish one, who refuses whom?[5]  'Malunkyaputta, if anyone says:  "I will not lead the holy life under the Blessed One until he explains these questions," he may die with these questions unanswered by the Tathagata.  Suppose Malunkyaputta, a man is wounded by a poisoned arrow, and his friends and relatives bring him to a surgeon.  Suppose the  man should then say: "I will not let this arrow be taken out until I know who shot me; whether he is a Ksatriya (of the warrior caste) or a Brahmana (of the priestly caste)  or a Vaisya (of the trading and agricultural caste)  or a  Sudra (of the low caste); what his name and family may be; whether he is tall, short, or of medium stature; whether his complexion is black, brown, or golden; from which village, town or city he comes. I will not let this arrow be taken out until I know the kind of bow with which I was shot;  the kind of bowstring used; the type of arrow; what sort of feather was used on the arrow and with what kind of material the point of the arrow was made." Malunkyaputta, that man would die without knowing any of these things. Even so, Malunkyaputta, if anyone says: "I will not follow the holy life under the Blessed One until he answers these questions such as whether the universe is eternal or not, etc.," he would die with these questions unanswered by the Tathagata.'

Then the Buddha explains to Malunkyaputta that the holy life does not depend on these views. Whatever opinion one may have about these problems, there is birth, old age, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, "the Cessation of which (i.e. Nirvana) I declare in this very life."

            'Therefore, Malunkyaputta, bear in mind what I have explained as explained, and what I have not explained as unexplained. What are the things that I have not explained?  Whether the universe is eternal or not, etc., (those 10 opinions) I have not explained. Why, Malunkyaputta, have I not explained them? Because it is not useful, it is not fundamentally connected with the spiritual holy life, is not conducive to aversion, detachment, cessation, tranquillity, deep penetration, full realization, Nirvana. That is why I have not told you about them.’

            'Then, what, Malunkyaputta, have I explained?  I have explained dukkhā, the arising of dukkhā, the cessation of dukkhā, and the way leading to the cessation of dukkhā.  Why, Malunkyaputta, have I explained them?  Because it is useful, is fundamentally connected with the spiritual holy life, is conducive to aversion, detachment, cessation, tranquillity, deep penetration, full realization, Nirvana.  Therefore, I have explained them.'[6]

Something to think about. 

[1] fate | fāt | nounthe development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power: fate decided his course for him | his injury is a cruel twist of fate• the course of someone's life, or the outcome of a particular situation for someone or something, seen as beyond their control: he suffered the same fate as his companion• [in singular] the inescapable death of a person: the guards led her to her fate.
[2] des·ti·ny | ˈdestinē | noun (plural destiniesthe events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future: she was unable to control her own destiny• the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate: he believes in destinyORIGIN Middle English: from Old French destinee, from Latin destinata, feminine past participle of destinare ‘make firm, establish’.
[3] Karma (Skt. Pāḷi; kamma): the principle of cause and effect; the sum of a person's actions resulting in their present life situation and circumstances.
[4] 1Cula-Mdlurikja-sutta, no. 63 of the Majjhima-nikāya (Pāḷi Text Society edition)..
[5] i.e., both are free and neither is under obligation to the other.
[6] It seems that this advice of the Buddha had the desired effect on Malunkyaputta, because elsewhere he is reported to have approached the Buddha again for instruction, following which he became an Arahant. A (Colombo, 1929), pp. 345-346; S IV (PTS), p. 72 ff.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Last Wednesday’s discussion included ideas on the diversity of Buddhisms and Buddhists, and to what degree there is similarity and difference among and between different schools, lineages, and traditions.  There was some talk of the future of Buddhism in America, and when an “American” Buddhism might emerge, and what it would look like.  To what extent can American culture and values, and Buddhist culture and values accommodate each other?  The question was raised regarding Asian “Ethno-Cultural” Buddhism being more accessible and/or accommodating of American-cultural people who would like to be included, but feel uncomfortable.

We meet again next Wednesday, November 11, from 7:00 p.m. to about 8:45.  Some ideas for discussion might be, “love” in Buddhism, “Engaged Buddhism,” Buddhist views of “good” government, the commoditization of meditation, and so on.  

Bring your ideas and questions and join us, won’t you?