Tag Archives: Buddhism

New-Age BS

In a comment to my Metaphysical Bloviation (II) article I found the following, an extract from Meditation is a Revolution in Religion:

Intuitive Intelligence

In the East for thousands of years,
disciples have been sitting by the side of the master,
just doing nothing.
It looks strange to the Western mind: what is the point of sitting there?
If you go to a Sufi gathering, the master is sitting in the middle,
and all around his disciples are sitting silently,
nothing is happening, the master is not even saying anything.
hours pass…

It took me a while to establish whether this was a robo-blog and I am still not absolutely sure. In case it is isn’t I am sorry, but this does rather strike me as a lot of New Age tosh. I have spent a fair amount of time around people from the ‘east’ and do spend much time around westerners that have adopted systems of eastern derivation, and believe me, I see none of the described differences but the usual mix of the confused and those addicted to BS.

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Metaphysical Bloviation (II)

The Ducks have challenged me on my pleas for metaphysical tolerance and Hey Skipper has posted some reflections on an Economist article, When Religions Talk, asserting “By definition, religions assert mutually exclusive metaphysical claims”.

Robert Duquette strikes close to the heart of the issue in his comment on my article:

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On a Wing and Prayer

Andrew Sullivan on the news of Tim Russert’s death last week asked his readers:

Say a prayer for his family, if prayer is your thing. Especially his dad, for whom this coming Sunday may be extremely painful.

As prayer was my thing I indeed took up his suggestion, but only afterwards realized of the possible incongruity of a Buddhist responding to a Christian’s exhortation to pray.  Some of you may be wondering whether it makes any sense for Buddhists to pray, as prayer is asking God to fix something and Buddhists don’t believe in God, right.

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The Love Buzz

I am aware that my article on Ahmadinejad will probably be comprehensible and attract much ridicule in some quarters (as may my earlier articles, On Zionism, though in different quarters). That is not a problem but it would be a shame. The whole issue is actually intimately related to my recent essay On Love and many other articles on the need to keep head and hart unified, to avoid allowing our ethical judgments be dominated by sentiment (the modern mistake and the central theme of Sense and Sensibility and all of Jane Austen’s novels in my view). Here I will try to draw these themes together and fulfill a promise to reply to a fellow blogger.

Robert Duquette, commenting on my essay, On Love, questioned this effort do all this loving through the intellect, and encapsulated Taleb’s idea (explained in his book, The Black Swan) that our memory, and indeed our whole way of understanding reality, is narrative driven, leading us to simply ignoring or immediately forgetting information that fails to fit the narratives that makes up our understanding of reality. Taleb’s idea makes perfect sense to me and is compatible with what my Buddhist teachers have taught me (as I have understood them).

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On Love

In our Thursday evening meditation group at The Bodhi Garden we looked at the chapter on Meditation on Love from Kathleen McDonald’s How to Meditate. Each chapter in this book has been a revelation to us: McDonald’s simple and clear prose has a depth that can be easily missed. Here is the first paragraph that we looked at in the Thursday group.

Love, also called “loving-kindness,” is wanting others to be happy. It is a natural quality of mind, but until we develop it through meditation and other practices it remains limited, reserved for a few select individuals—usually those we are attached to. Genuine love is universal in scope, extending to everyone, without exception.

Buddhists have for the most part have given up on the word ‘love’ and an inspection of the entry on love Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy shows us why. Even sticking to the philosophical definitions of love we can see extreme confusion, without going anywhere near the ideas of love held by the benighted and unphilosophical.

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More Earthquake Follies

Will Buckingham at thinkBuddha.org has an article on Sharon Stone’s clumsy comments on Karma, linking to BBC reports covering the remarks (1 and 2) and notes that people who really know what they are talking about (such as Lati Rinpoche), reaffirm my own understanding, that metaphysically speaking, according to at least some schools of Buddhism, it is quite possible that there may be a causal link between the actions of the Chinese government and some of the citizens of the PRC enduring an earthquake.

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In Defence of Motherhood

Jean Kazez has an interesting article at Talking Philosophy, Are Kids Green?, where she discusses the ethical dilemma of having children (for an atheist). As Kazez makes clear, and this is an argument that the Chinese government has made, children are not environmentally friendly, so how do you ethically justify having children. The article is brutally honest, and Kazez rightly argues for the common sense position.

But that’s not how I read it. I think in discussions of morality there’s usually an unstated assumption that moral imperatives take priority. Either you do what you should, morally, or you hang your head in shame…you lose your right to self-respect. In the lingo of metaethics, this is the view that moral considerations are overriding.

But I think not. Morality is a very important part of what we aim for, but not all of what we aim for, and not first priority all of the time, over absolutely anything else. What can compete with morality? A variety of things, but one is the sense of having one life to live. I will do what’s critically important to me before I die, and I won’t hang my head for that.

On another meta-point, I agree with Kazez allowing common sense to take precedence here. If your philosophy is contradicting reality then this is interesting, but you must give the benefit of the doubt reality and assume the philosophy has gone wrong somewhere (at least until the reason for the paradox has become clear). I think there is a paradox here as ethics is a guide to actions and why shouldn’t ethics guide the decisions over how many children to have. The environmental logic is difficult to escape yet it is plainly barmy to conclude that it is ethically dubious for a couple to have a child. Kazez is clearly interested in grown-up real-world honest philosophy, which can’t but command respect.

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