B is for Buddhism

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(Note: Not written by an actual Buddhist, just by a person who tries and fails to consistently incorporate Buddhist teachings into their life.)

What-is-Buddhism

Buddhism is a complex and diverse religion with many branches. It is hard to make a general statement about Buddhism beyond that it focuses on the teachings of Buddha and is less oriented on the after-life so much as living a decent life. Another interesting component of Buddhism is due to it’s geographic spread, there is a great deal of varience between branches – Hinduism even absorbed Buddha as a god millenia ago, which may be one of the greatest anti-conversion moves in the history of time, one of those bundle package deals…

Terms/Concepts

skanda: “the five aggregates”, this is relatively close to the concept of a soul, but split into five parts – 1. the body, 2. sensations/feelings received from outside, 3. raw perception, 4. “mental formations”, aka, that weird shit constantly going on in your head and how it structures itself, 5. consciousness itself.

anatta: you know how reincarnation is like, you know, one of those major things in Buddhism? Yeah, guess what, you/the concept of a soul or an underlying permanence of “self” does not exist. Everything you think of as “you” is a goddamn illusion.

The best thing I read, filtered through me, unfortunately, was that like how you can never step into the same river twice, you are never the same person from moment to moment. It is not good to get attached to certain attributes of self, positive or negative. Everything is subject to change, constantly, all you can do is try to abide by certain rules/norms of behavior. Which you are going to fail at, from time to time.

(Going to go out on a limb and say Thich Naht Hahn said this. Unsure.)

bodhisattva: If you’re familiar with Catholicism, this is a rough analogue to a living saint. This is a person who has mastered the lessons they had to learn in this world, but have delayed their ascension out of this world in order to help others.

dharma: A bit harder to explain, and can have multiple meanings. The short version  is that it means something between “that which does not change” and “the order of all that is”.

karma: Another rough one, karma is less meant to mean the result of a negative action felt within the lifetime it occured, although this is the popular meaning and also used. It means what actions brought you to your current birth, and how your actions in this lifetime will bring about negative and positive consequences in your next incarnation.

nirvana: A main tenet of Buddhism is that existing itself implies that you will suffer, so this is the state when a person no longer has to exist in the cycle of rebirths. The ultimate goal is nothing, lol.

Another key point is the common Western misunderstandings of Buddhism. Buddhists generally don’t meditate. Buddhists are actually relatively comparable to the concept of a Christian level of adherence to their religion, meaning there is a great level of individual varience in adherence to precepts.

Also most Buddhists are not attempting to reach Nirvana or bodhisattva-hood in this particular lifetime, but are more motivated to be reincarnated into a better life the next time around. So, no, Buddhists are not saints.

The Three Universal Truths

  1. Annica. Everything is impermanent.

Everything you can comprehend is subject to change, at one time did not exist, and in the future, will not exist.

2. Dukkha: Life, because of impermance, inherently involves suffering. It doesn’t mean the point of life is suffering, or the only meaning of life is suffering – just an admission that the pain is there and is always going to be there in some way, no matter the circumstances.

A quick word on suffering: Somewhere along the way, dukkha, the first of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism, got translated as “all life is suffering.” You hear people refer to this all the time. Let us set the record straight: it’s not that all life is suffering, but rather that in life we experience suffering. It happens. Pain—emotional, mental, and physical—is part of the human condition. But here’s the trick: the degree to which we suffer within that reality of pain is a choice. Our relationship to that pain is everything.

“Writing As a Path to Awakening” – Albert Flynn DeSilver

 

3. Annata: Again, no soul, no self. We have the five aggregates, but that’s about it.

The Four Noble Truths

  1. All life involves suffering.
  2. Suffering is caused by desire and attachment.
  3. Desire and attachment can be overcome.
  4. To overcome desire and attachment, follow the eight-fold path, unsure if bricks are yellow or not.

The Five Precepts

These are five rules Buddhists try to follow. If you try to live with them after a lifetime of flagrantly not giving a fuck, you’re gonna have a bad time. What’s interesting to me is how simple this all looks on the surface- I mean, how easy is it to not murder, rape and steal? But then if you get into more every day interpretations – avoiding “soft harm”, consistent vegetarian life, no promiscuity and start looking into grey areas, oh my god  Personally, I’ve found  violating one precept, leads to violating another with time.

  1. Do not cause harm to other living beings.
  2. Do not take what is not freely given.
  3.  No sensual/sexual misconduct.
  4. Abstain from false speech/lying.
  5. No intoxicants.

 

The Eightfold Path

How to reach nirvana, eventually, or become less of an asshole, depending on your wants and needs:

  1. Right seeing and understanding.
  2.  Right thought or intention.
  3. Right speech.
  4. Right action
  5. Right work/livelihood
  6. Right effort.
  7. Right mindfulness.
  8. Right concentration.

Main Branches

Theravada: You are responsible for your own salvation here, every thought and action is your responsibility. It is up to you to follow the teachings of Buddha.

Mahayana: This is the more popular branch of Buddhism, called the greater vehicle. While Theravada is a lonely venture, here the focus is on the interconnectedness of beings. Tibetan Buddhism belongs to this branch. They also believe in salvation more, in the sense that they are awaiting another reincarnation of Buddha.

Secular: There is a wonderful course on Coursera taught by Robin Wright called “Buddhism and Modern Psychology” that is astonishing. Essentially this is a Westernized version that combines scientific studies with Buddhist concepts.

-side note: There is a book called “Refuge Recovery” by Noah Levine, which combines 12 step recovery with Buddhist teachings, there are also groups based off of this book, you can find them in large cities or online.

Recommended books/quotes

The Dhammapada

 Let a wise man blow off the impurities of his self, as a smith blows off the impurities of silver one by one, little by little, and from time to time.

 

Health is the greatest of gifts, contentedness the best riches; trust is the best of relationships, Nirvana the highest happiness.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.

 

The “How to…” series by Thich Naht Hahn.

A series on how to walk, eat, love, sit, etc. Wonderful.

From “How to Love” – Thich Nhat Hahn

As long as we’re rejecting ourselves and causing harm to our bodies and minds, there’s no point in talking about loving and accepting others.

“No Mud, No Lotus” – Thich Nhat Hahn

“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”

The way to understanding is first to listen to yourself, because the roots of our suffering are deep and connected with the roots of the suffering of others. Usually we think that other people, such as our parents, our partner, or people at work, are to blame for our hurt. But looking more deeply, we can see the true sources of our own suffering, and we also can see that the person who we think is out to get us is a victim of his or her own suffering. Understanding our own hurt allows us to see and understand the suffering of others. Looking without judgment, we can understand, and compassion is born. Transformation is possible.

“The Heart & Diamond Sutra” trans. by  Diasetz Suzuki and Friedrich Max Mueller

“Therefore, Subhuti, you should, detaching yourself from all ideas, rouse the desire for the supreme enlightenment. You should cherish thoughts without dwelling on form, you should cherish thoughts without dwelling on sound, odour, taste, touch, or quality. Whatever thoughts you may have, they are not to dwell on anything. If a thought dwells on anything, this is said to be no-dwelling. Therefore, the Buddha teaches that a Bodhisattva is not to practise charity by dwelling on form. Subhuti, the reason he practises charity is to benefit all beings.

 

 

 

“How to Communicate like a Buddhist” – Cynthia Kane

What to Remember The three Cs of communicating: Speak consciously, concisely, and clearly. To speak consciously: slow the conversation down (beat, breathe, question) and know what you are and aren’t responsible for in the conversation. (You’re responsible for your words, actions, and reactions. You are not responsible for the other person’s words, reactions, and actions.) To speak concisely: cut the fat by eliminating anything that doesn’t qualify as right speech and enhance the conversation. Express yourself with the purpose and point in mind. To speak clearly: say what you mean, incorporate the ask into your conversations, and be specific.

For one day, try not to respond to someone using “I,” “me,” or “my” in a conversation. For those of you who haven’t done this you may be surprised how difficult it is. In general, refraining from using I, me, and my and being mindful of when you do will help you shift away from a “me only” perspective and move into an awareness of others.

(conversational hell, how can I speak from a point from anything but my own limited perspective on shit?)

 

“Refuge Recovery” – Noah Levine

Even when we refrain from the primary drug or behavior, addiction at times manifests in other behaviors. We are not holding perfection as the standard, but as the goal. We believe in the human ability and potential for complete renunciation of behaviors that cause harm. We understand that for many this is an ongoing process of establishing and/or reestablishing renunciation.