Thursday, 25 May 2017

Understanding the minds and motivations of the Muslim bombers


I wrote this analysis of Islamic terrorism as a meme-induced mental illness  four years ago.   The situation has continued to deteriorate since then, with the attacks becoming ever more frequent, and the latest one specifically targeting children, leaving little girls killed, maimed, mutilated and disfigured for life, with faces ripped apart by shrapnel deliberately added to the bomb for that purpose. 

Saffie Roussos, youngest victim of Islamic human sacrifice

The well-intentioned but dangerous delusion of the 'Religion of Peace'
It is dangerous and deluded wishful thinking, no matter how well-intentioned,  to claim that every major world religion, including Islam,  advocates peace, love and compassion at the heart of its teachings, and that all violent manifestations are a corruption of the original faith. 

- It is wishful thinking, because we are wishing that all the jihadists, and their supporters and enablers, are mistaken about the true nature of their faith. 

- It is deluded, because half-an-hour's investigation of the teachings of Islam, the character of its founder, and the history of its expansion, will demonstrate that the jihadists are correct. The ideology is indeed powered by hatred, intolerance, ignorance and aggression. Islam is an arrogant, expansionist, totalitarian and supremacist faith, commanded to world domination. It always has been and always will be.

- And it is dangerous wishful thinking, similar to the well-intentioned 1930's propaganda that the Nazis wanted 'Peace in our time', which lulled the civilised world into complacency, and allowed the forces of evil to gather strength. Hitler could have been stopped much earlier, and with far less bloodshed, if the appeasers had not deluded themselves, and most of the gullible public, about the true nature of his ideology.  


Malware of the Mind
Perhaps if we were to reclassify militant Islam from being a religion, to being a contagious form of insanity, we might find better ways of dealing with it.  Maybe if we regarded jihadism as a public health problem, we could use some of the epidemiological approaches to eradicating it that have been so successful against other contagious scourges of humanity, such as smallpox and polio. 

Using the public health analogy, we could employ immunization. We could deliberately spread the metameme (a meme about memes) to give immunity to more pernicious Islamic memes by stimulating critical thinking in Muslims, much like the harmless cowpox virus can block out the lethal smallpox virus by stimulating the immune system.

The mental infection of jihadism is transmitted by a collection of memes (mind-viruses), which when they come together in an organized, mutually-reinforcing system such as Islam are known as a memeplex.  A malignant memeplex takes over the normal mental processes of its host, just like a virus takes over the normal biochemical processes of the body to ensure its own reproduction and spread, even if it means destroying its host in the process.

As Nobel-prize winning author V.S. Naipaul pointed out, hatred of non-Muslims is the pivot of Islamic existence, and this is the central meme around which all the other components of the jihadist memeplex revolve.   The hatred is so psychopathically intense that the host will destroy himself in order to further the purposes of the memes. 

This isn't to say that all Muslims (and especially pseudo-Muslims such as Ahmadiyyas and Sufis) automatically hate us. It's just that 'Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them' is the pivotal commandment of the Koran, with the phrase 'wherever you find them' presumably including children's concerts.    

So the devout Muslim will always have this genocidal commandment ticking away at the back of his mind, ready to explode into Sudden Jihad Syndrome as soon as he becomes mentally unstable.   

For mentally unstable people who have been brought up in Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu cultures, the internalized commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' may have a restraining influence.    But for the mentally disturbed Muslim, the commandment 'Thou shalt kill!' has the opposite effect.  

This seething hatred of all infidels, whether men, women or children, provides as much a motivation and justification for the jihadist rape gangs and pedophile networks who infest Europe's cities, as do their depraved and perverted lusts. But that's another story.

From the Buddhist point of view, jihadists such as the Manchester bombers deserve compassion just as much as their victims, for their lives are also being ruined by this contagious viral memeplex of self-reinforcing delusions. A rabid dog suffers from the rabies virus just as much as the people he bites. 

And perhaps Buddhism might offer some hope of treatment for potential jihadists. It may be possible to use Buddhist meditation techniques to cut through delusions and weed out malignant memes even after they have become established ( more here)

And finally, another intellectual weapon against the ideology of jihadism is the theory of evolution itself (from which memetics and the metameme derive).  Islam is incompatible with evolution. If evolution is true then the Koran is false, and consequently all its incitements to violence are revealed as nothing but the rantings and ravings of a psychopath, rather than the commandments of God.   

Of course evolution is no threat to Buddhism, though Darwinism does raise some interesting questions about what experiences our body censors from our mind. 

See also Malignant memes, memeplexes and the metameme.
and   ISLAM AND BUDDHISM 

 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Rational Basis of Buddhist Philosophy




"It is natural that doubt should arise in your minds.

I tell you not to believe merely because it has been handed down by tradition, or because it had been said by some great personage in the past, or because it is commonly believed, or because others have told it to you, or even because I myself have said it.
  
But whatever you are asked to believe, ask yourself whether it is true in the light of your experience, whether it is in conformity with reason and good principles and whether it is conducive to the highest good and welfare of all beings, and only if it passes this test, should you accept it and act in accordance with it."

- The Buddha



Fundamentals

Buddhism is founded on two fundamental observations, from which the rest of the philosophy is derived. These two basic premises are:

(i) The underlying nature of reality is process and change, rather than stable entities.

(ii) Processes can be divided into two categories -  mental processes and physical/mechanistic processes (nama and rupa) .

Although mental processes and physical processes interact, mental processes are not reducible to physical processes.

According to Buddhism, the basis of reality consists of ever-changing processes rather than static ‘things’.  If any ‘thing’ is analysed in enough depth, and observed over a long enough timescale, it can be seen to be a stage of a dynamic process, rather than a static, stable thing-in-itself. 

This becomes obvious when we remember that the universe is itself a process (a continuing  expansion from the Big Bang), and so all that it contains are subprocesses of the whole.


The Rationality of Buddhism
Of course most religions don't like having their basic tenets subjected to searching analysis, and Jihadism has abandoned reason altogether, to the extent that you're likely to get your head chopped off for being too rational.
But Buddhism is different. In the Kalama Sutra, Buddha said that all religious teachings, including his own should...

(1) Not be believed on the basis of religious authority, or 'holy' books, or family/tribal tradition, or even coercion and intimidation by the mob.

BUT INSTEAD ONE SHOULD

(2) Test the methodology by personal experience. Does it do what it says on the box?

(3) Is the philosophy rational? Or does it require you to believe six impossible things before breakfast?

(4) Judge the tree by its fruits. Is it beneficial, or does it tell you to act against your conscience and 'The Golden Rule'.

 

Reason versus revelation
One advantage of establishing a rational basis for Buddhism is that it gives Buddhism an 'intellectual respectability' at a time when the intellectual prestige of other religions is in steep decline, due to increasing obscurantism, which takes variety of forms varying from creationist anti-science to outright terrorism.

This 'intellectual respectability' also may help to prevent Buddhism being hit by collateral damage from increasing prejudice against all religions resulting from jihadist aggression.

Most religions contain some 'revealed doctrines' or 'dogmas', which were revealed long ago to one person or a few people, and then not to any others.

In all religions other than Buddhism, these ancient, unprovable, unrepeatable revelations are fundamental articles of faith on which the rest of the belief-system is constructed.

In contrast, Buddhism's fundamental doctrines are accessible to reason and investigation in terms of shared, repeatable, reproducible experience... full article



 

Friday, 10 March 2017

Sentience, suffering, and the futile quest for homeostasis


The first priority of all living organisms is to maintain a steady state, known as homeostasis - the regulated stability of structures, organs and internal systems that allows life to continue.

All living things need to protect and maintain a minimum functioning structure to survive.    An animal deprived of functioning limbs, or a plant deprived of leaves, will soon die. 




Metabolic homeostasis

In addition, all organisms need to regulate a complex set of interacting metabolic chemical reactions. 

From the simplest unicellular organisms to the most complex plants and animals, internal processes operate to keep conditions within tight limits to allow these reactions to proceed. Homeostatic processes act at the level of the cell, the tissue, and the organ, as well as for the organism as a whole.  
 
Maintenance of homeostasis requires a continuing input of energy in the form of food for animals, and sunlight for plants.   If the energy needed to maintain homeostasis exceeds the energy input, the organism will die once its reserves are exhausted.  In terms of energy expenditure, you’ve got to keep running just to stay still.




In addition to maintaining structural integrity and metabolic stability, a juvenile organism will have a secondary priority to grow, and an adult organism a secondary priority to reproduce.  But without homeostasis, these secondary aims cannot be achieved.


Conscious and unconscious homeostasis.
Non-sentient organisms, such as plants and bacteria, maintain homeostasis by purely mechanistic processes, using automatic feedback in the same way that a centrifugal governor mechanism maintains a steady speed for a steam engine.    Even in sentient animals, many homeostatic processes are unconscious, and we have no awareness of their operations.



Automatic feedback mechanism

But the game completely changes when sentience comes into the picture.  Two non-mechanistic factors come into play - qualia and intentionality - which allow far more adaptive homeostatic control strategies than purely automatic feedback loops.

Qualia (singular quale) are qualitative experiences including experiences of suffering such as  thirst, hunger, fear, pain and so on.

Intentionality is the property of being ‘about’ something, of having 'an intentional object'.

So the quale of thirst forces the mind to become obsessively intentional about water, the quale of hunger forces the mind to become similarly intentional about food, and the qualia of  pain and fear force the mind to become intentional about avoiding the causes of these unpleasant sensations (objects of aversion).


Did sentience evolve, or was it co-opted?
Now the interesting thing is that neither qualia nor intentionality are physical phenomena (as was first pointed out by the Victorian physicist John Tyndall 140 years ago).  Neither are they in any sense mechanistic phenomena.

 
Consequently, there is no known process by which sentience could have arisen by Darwinian evolution.  Evolution can account for the physical structure of the bodies of sentient beings and their automatic homeostatic control mechanisms, but it cannot bridge the explanatory gap between the physical and the mental.


As Thomas Nagel argues, the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is incomplete, because it cannot adequately explain the appearance of consciousness.

So if sentient minds haven’t evolved, have they nevertheless been co-opted by evolutionary processes to improve the homeostatic behavior of animals?
Suffering, unpleasant though it may be for the individual, has survival and evolutionary advantages for the species. 

To quote Richard Dawkins:

"The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored."


Mental states such as suffering, unsatisfactoriness and pleasure are qualitative subjective experiences, which carry strong immediate meanings, and do not exist in automata - mechanistic systems such as relay networks or computers.

It is for this reason that complex animals have evolved neural structures which attract and capture minds. Fundamentally, it is the suffering and grasping of their minds - the need to avoid pain and seek pleasure - that provides the driving force for survival and reproduction of complex animals. The physical body enters into a symbiotic relationship with a non-physical mind.


In Buddhist philosophy, the mind of a sentient being is not a product of biological processes, but something primordial which has existed since beginningless time, and which will be drawn into another body once the present one has died. But reflecting on Richard Dawkins' description of the horrors of Samsara, it's surprising that sentient minds allow themselves to be co-opted by biological systems again and again. Maybe they've got no choice, maybe they're deluded, or maybe they just don't know how to get out.

The brain is a device which has evolved to delude the mind.
It could also be argued that in addition to biochemical and physiological mechanisms for maintaining homeostasis, evolution has also given sentient beings a psychological homeostatic mechanism by constructing the illusion of a stable self, which can and must be maintained.

This false sense of a stable self is, of course, a delusion, though from the evolutionary point of view, a very useful one.


Survival advantages of sentience
In evolutionary terms, any adaptation or feature must have some selective benefit for the organism that possesses it. Obviously, a physical body equipped with sentience will have an improved chance of surviving to propagate its genes over any mindless competitor which is not deterred by pain or motivated by pleasure.

But what does the mind gain from this symbiotic association?   Usually little or nothing. 

When the life of the biological partner comes to an end, the mind has to endure the sufferings of death and then leave its home, being unable to take anything with it. It must then enter the unstable hallucinatory state of the bardo,  and perhaps soon after find a new body


Or even worse, if it doesn't find a new body quickly, it may stay in a nightmarish state of karmically induced hallucinations - a perpetual bad trip that lasts indefinitely: 'for in that sleep of death what dreams may come...'.

Parasitic body, parasitized mind?

In Buddhist terminology these minds are wanderers or migrators in samsara (the realms of suffering and delusions). The mind is non-evolved and non-evolving, at least not by the normal processes of natural selection. The body uses the mind for its own purposes, not vice versa as we may like to imagine.
 

So, perhaps the relationship between mind and body is more one of parasitism than symbiosis. The biological body gets a better chance to propagate itself.  But the mind has to endure dukkha -  the ever-changing experiences of craving, suffering and attachment, that the body imposes upon it in order to force it to do what is necessary for survival, competition and reproduction.



Homeostasis is a mug's game
Since maintaining homeostasis is like running to keep still, sooner or later the body's systems will wear out, with the inevitable results that the Buddha observed on his ride outside the palace...

The Four Sights



See also Buddhist Philosophy

and Can you debiologize yourself?
 


Thursday, 23 February 2017

How things exist - according to Buddhism and Science


Impermanence

At a time when the old feud between science and religion is flaring up again, and common ground between fact and faith seem to be diminishing, one particular branch of Buddhist philosophy may offer some basis for dialog. That branch of philosophy is ontology - or how things exist. Buddhist ontology clearly defines the similarities and differences between the spiritual and scientific worldviews.


Impermanence and Process Philosophy
Buddhism is a process philosophy; it regards change and flux as more fundamental than ‘things’, or ‘things-in-themselves’

According to Buddhism, every functioning object is impermanent and constantly changing. In order to produce a change, all things must themselves undergo change.   This has of course been familiar to science from Newton’s times, with every action producing an equal and opposite reaction.
 

Subsequent investigations have revealed that impermanence is pervasive, right down to the interactions of subatomic particles, which can only interact by giving and taking something of themselves, usually photons and gluons.

And as well as going all the way down, impermanence goes all the way up, so things that previous generations regarded as permanent fixtures are now known to be dynamic.  Continents move, collide and break up.  Stars, like our sun, are formed out of debris of previous stars. They burn themselves out then either explode or collapse

So with regard to impermanence,  Buddhism and science are in increasing agreement


The Three Modes of Existential Dependence




‘One single rose arises from its causes, exists in dependence upon its parts, and exists as a mere imputation by conceptual thought.
There are not three different roses but one rose existing in three different ways.’ 

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso  in Joyful Path of Good Fortune  p349



This is where the difference between the Scientific Materialist (Physicalist) and Buddhist interpretations of reality become apparent.  

Buddhists claim that three modes of ‘existential dependence’ are necessary to explain the world - dynamics, structure and mind. 

Physicalists say that only two modes - dynamics and structure - are needed, with the mind being reducible to the first two.

In this context, near synonyms for ‘dynamics’ are ‘causality’,  ‘function’ and ‘process’.

Near synonyms for ‘structure’ are ‘mereology’, ‘composition’ and  ‘arrangement’

Physicalism is a reductionist interpretation of science, which claims to explain all mental factors in physical terms.  (There are also more participatory interpretations of science in which the observer is part of the system - e g Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics -  but these, whether they acknowledge it or not, are closer to Buddhism than to reductionist physicalism.)


Physicalism and the Church-Turing Thesis
Fortunately, for the sake of discussion, there is a clear-cut definition of physicalism based on the Church-Turing thesis.   To be a purely physical system, a phenomenon must be capable of being completely simulated by algorithms acting on datastructures (without any unexplained remainder).

Buddhists would claim that there is always going to be an unexplained remainder, because algorithms and datastructures are not self-interpreting. Instead, any assignment of ‘meaning’ has to come from outside the system.




So how does this apply to Roses?

The complete quote from Geshe Kelsang is


‘There are three levels of dependent relationship: gross, subtle, and very subtle. Every functioning thing that we perceive directly is gross dependent-related. For example, a rose arising from its causes is gross dependent-related. However, the rose existing in dependence upon its parts is subtle dependent-related, and the rose existing as a mere imputation by thought is very subtle dependent-related. One single rose arises from its causes, exists in dependence upon its parts, and exists as a mere imputation by conceptual thought’


Causality
We can easily see how a rose can arise from its causes - rose bush, water, nutrients, sunlight etc without paying too much attention to the rose itself.

Structure
The dependence on parts is a bit more subtle. We need to look more closely at the rose to appreciate the complete anatomy of what it is in terms of its parts, which may not be grossly obvious. We may need a microscope to see the pollen and cells of the petals. And the cells have components and subcomponents.

Dependence on mental designation
The third mode of dependent existence, dependence on the mind of the observer, is even more subtle, and is best demonstrated by examining the arbitrary way that a rose comes into and goes out of existence.


Not quite a rose


Is a green shoot a rose?
Is a green bud a rose?
Is a bud showing some petal color a rose?
Has it become a rose when you can see all the petals?



Falling petals


Has it ceased to be a rose when the first petal has fallen?

…or a majority of petals, or all the petals?


No longer a rose


Or do you have to wait till it becomes a rosehip until it ceases to be a rose?

There is no rule which tells us at exactly what stage it becomes a rose and at what stage it ceases to be one. 

The decision is a subjective one,  made by how closely the botanical specimen in our hand matches a ‘generic image’ or picture of a basic rose in our mind.   And the judgement will differ from person to person.  


A generic image of a rose in our mind


There is no fixed specification for a rose ‘out there’ that tells us when an opening bud becomes a flower, or when a fading flower becomes a hip, any more than there is for when a high-sided tray becomes a box,  or at what stage of disassembly Milinda’s chariot becomes a heap of firewood.


Neither is there any permanently existing 'specification' , 'divine blueprint' or 'ideal form' of the various rose species that differentiates them one from another, or from other members of the rose family. 

Looking back along the evolutionary timeline, the judgement as to when and at what point the ancestral rosoid became a rose, is quite arbitrary.


The Rose Family (Rosaceae)


The involvement of the observer’s mind in creating reality is very subtle for everyday objects, but becomes more obvious at the quantum scale of reality.




Read more at Buddhist Philosophy

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Why are our minds repeatedly trapped in the bodies of animals and humans?




Sow a thought, reap an action
Sow an action, reap a habit
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny


 
Why are the minds of samsaric beings repeatedly drawn into the bodies of animals and humans?  If the mind is capable of existing independently of the body, then why doesn't it do so?   What drives it to biological rebirth? 

Why can't we debiologize ourselves once and for all?
 
If there is a path to enlightenment which leads out of this continual cycle of birth, aging, sickness and death, why doesn't everybody take it?   If we all have Buddha nature, why do we always end up in such a mess? Why do we seem to take a perverse delight in spiritual self-harm?

The reason for this endless cycle of suffering is that we always have 'something on our mind'; and that something is karma.  The true nature of our mind is clarity, but that clarity is obscured, distorted and weighed down by the imprints of millions of nasty, brutish and usually violently short lifetimes. 


Our minds are deluded into thinking that happiness can be found in samsara, and though it has never worked in the past, this time we'll finally get it right. So after death we are drawn into another rebirth in the biological realms.

Fortunately, we can accomplish a karmic detox of all this accumulated delusional crap, and bring about long-term mental peace and clarity, leading to release from samsaric rebirth for ourselves and others.


More at Buddhist Philosophy

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Meditation, Downward Causation, Neuroplasticity and the Quantum Zeno Effect.



Recent research has shown that Buddhist meditation can not only affect long-term behavior, but can actually alter the structure of the brain (1, 2, 34).

So how does something as non-physical as the attention developed during meditation affect physical structures of the brain?  According to the mechanistic materialist worldview, this sort of 'downward-causation' (mind over matter) shouldn't happen.  To a materialist, mental activities result from physical processes, not vice versa.

One possible mechanism for downward causation has been suggested by physicist Henry Stapp, who proposed that the Quantum Zeno Effect  allows the observer to hold patterns of energy states in a stable condition where they would normally, if left unobserved, decay randomly .  

The Quantum Zeno effect (also known as the Turing paradox) is a situation in which an unstable quantum system, if observed continuously, will never decay. One can "freeze" the evolution of the system by measuring it frequently enough in its known initial state. 



A watched quantum state never changes

The prolonged processes of attention in Buddhist meditation are good candidates for the kind of mental activities that could affect the physical state of microscopic brain structures.


Related Articles

Buddhism, Quantum Physics and Mind

Quantum Buddhism







Monday, 12 December 2016

The Mind-Bending History Of Buddhism And Psychedelics



Opening the doors of perception?  Go ask Alice

by Carolyn Gregoire

In the Huffington Post

"The history of Buddhism and of psychedelics in American culture follow a surprisingly similar trajectory from the 1950s through the present-day.

But perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise, given that they share a common aim: the liberation of the mind.

Many of the thinkers who turned to Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies in the 1960s -- including Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg and Ram Dass -- were influenced in some way by their experiences with LSD and other psychedelic drugs.

American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield said that LSD, "prepares the mind for Buddhism," while Allan Watts described both practices as being part of a comprehensive philosophical quest.

Now, more than 60 years later, we're seeing a resurgence of popular interest in Buddhism -- with mindfulness meditation now firmly entrenched in the cultural mainstream -- and also in psychedelics, which are being investigated as therapeutic agents for mental health issues including depression, anxiety and addiction.

The intersection of these practices raises a number of questions: Are psychedelics an obstruction to a Dharma practice, or a helpful accompaniment? Are mind-altering substances a legitimate means of personal transformation..."    Read it all here  

 

See also Can you trust your brain?

and  Buddhism, Shamanism and the use of Hallucinogens   


Thursday, 1 December 2016

THE STRUCTURE OF BUDDHISM




Aspects, components and interfaces


Buddhism - a religion, a philosophy or a psychology? Or all three?

Most religions have no foundation apart from the ‘truths’ revealed long ago by the voices of the gods to a collection of prophets. 

When different voices of different gods say different things to different prophets, then the only way to determine which version is correct is by war,  persecution and terrorism, as the Islamic State so effectively demonstrates.

Thankfully, Buddhism is different.   The Buddhist religion is based on two rational and verifiable foundations - a philosophy and a psychology.    And the psychology is itself founded upon philosophy, as shown in the diagram. 

So whereas other religions can only support their tenets by reference to ‘truths’ revealed to an exclusive group of long dead people who heard voices in their heads, Buddhism can appeal to rationality and shareable, reproducible experience.


Components and interfaces

The diagram illustrates how these three major domains of Buddhism - Philosophy (blue), Psychology (green) and Religion (orange) - fit together, with their components and interfaces.

LOGIC
The foundation of Buddhist philosophy is a logical analysis of phenomena, which radically deconstructs how things exist, and also how we think things exist. 

Deconstructing how things exist reveals that all phenomena are ultimately processes, and no thing or substance is capable of permanent existence, or existence 'from its own side'. This is the basis of Buddhist METAPHYSICS.

This conclusion immediately raises psychological implications. If everything is impermanent, then why are our minds so biased in favor of viewing the world as things and substances, rather than processes?    This is the main topic of Buddhist EPISTEMOLOGY, which interfaces philosophy with psychology.  An important concept in this epistemological analysis is the theory of the two truths - the contrast between the ‘working approximations’ we use to find our way around the everyday world, and how phenomena truly exist when we analyze them in depth.

The conclusion reached from the study of epistemology is that our distorted view of the world gives rise to DELUSIONS, especially the three mental poisons of aversion, attachment and ignorance.   Eradication of these three biologically based poisons, and prevention of their resultant actions, is one of the principle aspects of Buddhist ETHICS.   One of the main ways of reducing and eventually eradicating delusions is by the practice of MEDITATION, especially meditation on emptiness.

ETHICS and DELUSIONS are thus at a triple interface between philosophy, psychology and those aspects of Buddhism that people from Judeo-Christian cultural traditions would more readily recognise as religious.

Interfaces between psychology and religious practises are provided by RITUALS (such as sadhanas, pujas, mantras, mudras etc), ART (including numinous symbolism) and TANTRA.  


Unlike other religions, rather than aiming to placate or appease jealous gods, ritual practices are intended to produce changes in the minds of the practitioners, resulting in the ability to step outside the system of the Samsaric world (TRANSCENDENCE).  

Thus Buddhist art and ritual practices are intended to facilitate mental realisations, mystical experiences and ultimately the recognition of ones own Buddha-nature. Hence they are each shown as interfaces, with one end in religion, and the other in psychology.

Components which are primarily religious are the SANGHA, which is the community of Buddhist practitioners in its widest sense, including both ordained and lay persons organised as traditional congregations in dharma centers, or increasingly nowadays as online communities of people who may not have easy access to a center.  These geographically scattered Sangha often meet up for FESTIVALS.

 
Another major component of Buddhism is the large collection of NARRATIVES, ranging from historical accounts of the lives of major Buddhist teachers, including the Buddha himself, to the various parables such as the Jataka tales and Zen stories.

For a detailed discussion of the rational foundations of Buddhism see Buddhist Philosophy.



- Sean Robsville


 

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Dharma Deplorables? - Buddhists for Trump!


If you thought that the deplorables consist just of uneducated hicks from the sticks, obsolete rust-belters and bigoted born-again Christians, take a look at this:

From Nikaya Dhamma

"The Nikaya Dhamma Society was founded to preserve and expound historical and orthodox Buddhism. While we do not normally endorse presidential candidates or involve ourselves in the political process, in this case we are compelled to make an exception. Donald Trump stands out alone among all the candidates for president of the United States as the one man speaking up against illegal immigration and the threat of radical Islam. He is the only candidate not afraid to take on political correctness and to offer the American people straight talk, repudiating dishonest political correctness. With great pleasure, we endorse Donald Trump for President of the United States.

Radical Islam continues to menace Buddhist Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand as well as Europe. Radical Islam does not seek understanding, dialogue or tolerance with other religions or cultures, it seeks only conquest. We can ignore this truth at our peril, or we can acknowledge it and respond accordingly. In the past Islam conquered several formerly Buddhist nations. Islam conquered Buddhist Indonesia, and Buddhist women and children were enslaved and raped by terrorist Muslim savages. Real Buddhists have never forgotten that fact, nor can we forgive these atrocious crimes.

Those in the conquered lands who were not murdered outright by Muslims were given the choice of conversion or death. Many Buddhist martyrs died rather than renounce Buddhism, while others hoped to preserve their lives by taking leave of their conscience and personal honor to join those who murdered their families and came to enslave their land. Radical Islam is not a religion, but a dangerous political ideology that seeks conquest, material gain, and the enslavement of others. It is at its core a hedonist ideology motivated by a lust for power, wealth, material goods, and sexual immorality.

Like Communism, radical Islam divides the world into two territories, those under its rule, and those lands which are not yet conquered. The end goal is the total enslavement of the world. For this reason, we must be ever vigilant against the threat that it represents to our freedom. We cannot compromise with it, and we cannot afford to ignore it. We must respond to this threat with absolute force, strength of will, and stalwart determination. If we fail to do so, we will be destroyed, our children will be taken from us, to be raped and enslaved, and human civilization on this planet will be destroyed forever. If our enemy wins, a fate far worse than death awaits us. Radical Islam must be destroyed from this planet. It is a cancer that must be cut off from humanity with a scalpel..."


"...Real American Buddhists who love their country endorse Donald Trump! Counterfeit fake “Buddhists” hate Trump because they are a bunch of entitled, whiney, hippy pansies who want other people’s money, who hate the successful, who delight in victim politics and who are blind to the real threats this nation faces. They are adult children who never grew up and who refuse to take responsibility for their lives and formulate a serious worldview based on reality. They will vote for liberal Democrats like a dog returning to his own vomit. Liberal fake “Buddhists” are contemptible vermin! Real Buddhists delight in Donald Trump’s candidacy. Let us pray for Donald Trump daily and for his continued success. May our country prove worthy of such a fine man and leader! Let’s make America great again!..."

Read it all

Update  Trump spells out the reasons for his ban on jihadists in his speech in Poland 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Mindful Eating for Weight Loss and Other Health Benefits




From Global Times 

"Li Shanshan, a 29-year-old girl in Beijing, sat quietly on the ground in a dimly lit room with light music floating through the air. Holding the plate in front of her, she opened her eyes. With a deep breath of the aromatic air, she grasped some food from it and took her first bite.

While she ate, she did not think about anything else. She put all of her attention toward the food. She takes her time to chew slowly, sense the vegetable's flavors and textures and observe how her body reacts to the food.

"It feels really different when I eat my food this way. I feel so relaxed and pleased. I can actually feel which food my body wants, if the food can give me more strength and if I want to eat more," Li said.

Li experienced this on Tuesday at the Beijing Mindfulness Center (BMC) in Dongcheng district, which provides classes and workshops on meditation to seek awareness of one's body and mind. Li first started to practice the method in September, and lost five kilograms after the first week.

"It's not just about losing weight. I am also healthier and in a better mood since I feel more in control of myself," Li said.

The practice of mindful eating has existed for over 3,000 years within Buddhism. Recently, it became more popular as a secular practice as the latest research has shown that practicing mindful eating has been directly related to the regulation of weight and fighting obesity, according to Dalida Turkovic from Serbia, the executive coach and founder of the BMC... "


Read it all

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Unconditioned



From Beliefnet 

   "...Buddhists believe that Siddhartha attained a state that was free of conditions—things like upbringing, psychology, perceptions, opinions, presuppositions, and so on. To be Enlightened is to be Unconditioned, and a Buddha is free from conditioned responses such as prejudice, hatred, and greed. Rather, a Buddha is characterized by wisdom, compassion, and freedom. To be a Buddha is to see reality as it truly is. The word Buddha, in fact, is a title which means “one who is awake”—in essence, one who has completely awoken to reality..."


See also  Can you debiologize your mind? And if you do will anything remain?


Friday, 9 September 2016

Buddhist meditation helps kids unplug from their online world





From the Telegraph

"Children should be taught Buddhist meditation techniques and yoga in schools to help them "unplug from their online world", a minister has said.

Edward Timpson, an education minister, said that schools across the country should start teaching "mindfulness" as a "normal part of the school day".

The meditative practice, which has its roots in Buddhism, encourages people to focus on the present, rather than on the anxieties of the past or future.

Speaking during a debate in Parliament, Mr Timpson warned that “children cannot unplug from their online world, and that is changing the shape of many of their relationships and the pressures that they come under at a much more tender age”.

He said that mindfulness is “a modern innovation born from the deepest traditions of meditation” and that schools and colleges using the technique will “to enable all children to enjoy good mental health and emotional wellbeing...”.    More



See alsNumber of calls to Childline from children experiencing suicidal thoughts doubles in five years

 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Can mindfulness improve high school students' concentration?






From the BBC Magazine

"...The practice of mindfulness - which draws on Buddhist thinking - has become increasingly popular in recent years. There have been calls for brain-training techniques, using breathing to achieve mental clarity, to be introduced in schools.

In October, the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group said the practice should be made more widely available and recommended the Department for Education designate three schools to "pioneer mindfulness teaching and disseminate best practice".

Political author and former head of Wellington College Anthony Seldon has called for daily "stillness sessions" in schools, saying a decline in traditional religious assemblies has left students with little space for reflection in the school day.

So can mindfulness meditation really help pupils concentrate amid the distractions of 21st Century living? A group of BBC School Reporters from Connaught School for Girls in Leytonstone, east London, decided to investigate... "

"... At the end of the two week experiment, the results were positive. Those who had taken part in mindfulness meditation successfully completed the concentration task an average of 2.15 times more than before, while the results of the control group improved by just 0.69 times..."

Full report here


 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Be mindful when you smoke and booze.




A simple way to break a bad habit - Judson Brewer at
TEDMED 2015


Can we break bad habits by being more curious about them? Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School studies the relationship between mindfulness and addiction - from smoking to overeating to all those other things we do even though we know they're bad for us. Learn more about the mechanism of habit development and discover a simple but profound practice that might help you beat your next urge to smoke, snack or check a text while driving.






Sunday, 15 November 2015

Tonglen Meditation - Mutually Assured Destruction of Bad Karma



Meditation environment

To perform this meditation it helps to be in a suitable environment and maintain a correct posture.

Suitable Environment
Find somewhere crowded, noisy, hot, stressful and generally frustrating.  A packed commuter train or bus is ideal.

Correct Posture
Check whether you're sitting comfortably. If so, you're doing it wrong. Get up off your ass, hang on the strap and let someone who needs it have your seat.



The correct frame of mind
Concentrate on your own frustration, stress, boredom, discomfort and low-level hostility to the passengers around you who are swaying and bumping into you and crowding you in.   Visualize these negative feelings as a cloud of acrid black smoke swirling around your heart.

Next, imagine all your fellow passengers are experiencing the same hassles. 


On an in-breath, breathe in all their irritations as black smoke which mixes with and annihilates your own swirling black smoke in a burst of white light.

The light purifies and calms your body and mind.  Imagine the irritation of yourself and the irritation of others as antimatter meeting matter in a burst of mutually assured destruction, producing vast amounts of pure positive energy. 




As you breathe out, imagine this pure white energy radiating out into the hearts of all those around you, remaining in the form of a globe of white light, an abiding centre of calmness and clarity in their hearts.



Karmic supernova
Now repeat the procedure, but this time the energy release is going to be HUGE, like a karmic supernova.



Imagine all the problems and sufferings of your fellow passengers: sickness, pain, sick relatives, financial worries, work problems, loneliness, insecurity, fear, relationship breakdowns, legal hassles, mental illness, addictions and so on.    Then reflect that you yourself have the negative karma to experience all this, and much worse, for life after life.   This negative karma  swirls around your heart like a thick cloud of hot, acrid, black smoke.   

On the in-breath, breathe in all these present and future sufferings of your fellow passengers in the form of black smoke, which mixes with, and annihilates, the negative karma at your heart in an ENORMOUS release of energy in the form pure white light. This reaction utterly destroys the sufferings of others and your own bad karma like matter meeting antimatter.

On the out breath, imagine that this colossal burst of purifying energy radiates in all directions through everyone around you, cleansing all their negative karma, and their potential for future sufferings, and sweeping it all away, utterly destroying it never to be seen again.

Finally, dedicate any merit you may have created from this meditation to the enlightenment of all sentient beings.

More meditations