Thursday, December 30, 2021

Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path (7) - Right Mindfullness

Thre Trillion Dollar Question - Will Humanity Be Wise Enough To Save Itself?

It was 1970, my year of graduation. I recall one of the year's big events in Rockford Illinois was a twenty-five mile Walk For Hunger. A walk to raise money to help feed folks who were suffering from poverty and malnutrition. That year the world population was 3.862 billion. Today it stands at 7.795 billion, an increse of 201.838% in a relative very short 50 year period.

One must ask themselves, is the human race racing to extinction. The result of mass famine and the bloody wars and destruction that will inevitably follow? All driven by ignorance, greed, and a massive lack opf compassion for otyher sentient beings on the planet.

I recall 1969 and 1970. The youthful idealism of the Woodstock generation  and the anti-war protests against the United States illlegitimate presence in a country we had absolutely no business being in in the first place. Looking at the 53 years since those heady days of  youthful idealism it is clear that this nation and its governments haven't learned a damned thing apparently. Generally, neither have many of the other governments of the world. Apparently.

The planet and its human inhabitants face many potentially life threatening circumstances. Certainly this is so when they are considered with a broader all encompaaaing view. Let's list them, over population, desertification of agricultural lands, climate change, devestatiing wildfires, melting ice caps, increasing extinction of wildlife, regional wars, famine, the growing imbalance in the Marine ecosystem, and more. Perhaps you can name a few?

The truth of the matter is this, all of these potentially life threatening situations are intimately interconnected. Each affecting the other. IOW unless the PEOPLE of the world  DEMAND positive actiona to mitigate these growing dangers from their respective governments and religious traditions this planet may very well become unihabital in a few short generations.

If the peoples of the planet fail to rise to the challenges of saving humanity on thisbeautiful planet of ours the reasons will be these, ignorance, greed, and a complete lack of compassion.

Food For Thought:

“I discovered that it is necessary, absolutely necessary, to believe in nothing. That is, we have to believe in something which has no form and no color--something which exists before all forms and colors appear... No matter what god or doctrine you believe in, if you become attached to it, your belief will be based more or less on a self-centered idea.”

― Shunryu Suzuki


Judge Not...

Friday, December 24, 2021

Happy Holidays...


May the Spirit of This Holiday Season Continue On Into 2022 amd the Coming Years. 

Also, May This Nation Overcome Greed and Ignorance and Find True Compassion and Goodness Towatds All.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Buddhism For Beginners...

Learn Religions : Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in the fifth century B.C. in what is now Nepal and northern India. He came to be called "the Buddha," which means "awakened one," after he experienced a profound realization of the nature of life, death, and existence. In English, the Buddha was said to be enlightened, although in Sanskrit it is "bodhi," or "awakened."

For the rest of his life, the Buddha traveled and taught. However, he didn't teach people what he had realized when he became enlightened. Instead, he taught people how to realize enlightenment for themselves. He taught that awakening comes through your own direct experience, not through beliefs and dogmas.

At the time of his death, Buddhism was a relatively minor sect with little impact in India. But by the third century B.C., the emperor of India made Buddhism the state religion of the country.

Buddhism then spread throughout Asia to become one of the dominant religions of the continent. Estimates of the number of Buddhists in the world today vary widely, in part because many Asians observe more than one religion and in part because it is hard to know how many people are practicing Buddhism in Communist nations like China. The most common estimate is 350 million, which makes Buddhism the fourth largest of the world's religions.

Buddhism Is Distinctly Different From Other Religions

Buddhism is so different from other religions that some people question whether it is a religion at all. For example, the central focus of most religions is one or many. But Buddhism is non-theistic. The Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment.

Most religions are defined by their beliefs. But in Buddhism, merely believing in doctrines is beside the point. The Buddha said that doctrines should not be accepted just because they are in scripture or taught by priests.

Instead of teaching doctrines to be memorized and believed, the Buddha taught how to realize truth for yourself. The focus of Buddhism is on practice rather than belief. The major outline of Buddhist practice is the Eightfold Path.

Basic Teachings

In spite of its emphasis on free inquiry, Buddhism might best be understood as a discipline and an exacting discipline at that. And although Buddhist teachings should not be accepted on blind faith, understanding what the Buddha taught is an important part of that discipline.

The foundation of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths:

  1. The truth of suffering ( "dukkha")
  2. The truth of the cause of suffering ( "samudaya")
  3. The truth of the end of suffering ( "nirhodha")
  4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering ( "magga")

By themselves, the truths don't seem like much. But beneath the truths are countless layers of teachings on the nature of existence, the self, life, and death, not to mention suffering. The point is not to just "believe in" the teachings, but to explore them, understand them, and test them against your own experience. It is the process of exploring, understanding, testing, and realizing that defines Buddhism.

Diverse Schools of Buddhism

About 2,000 years ago Buddhism divided into two major schools: Theravada and Mahayana. For centuries, Theravada has been the dominant form of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, (Myanmar) and Laos. Mahayana is dominant in China, Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam. In recent years, Mahayana also has gained many followers in India. Mahayana is further divided into many sub-schools, such as Pure Land and Theravada Buddhism.

Vajrayana Buddhism, which is chiefly associated with Tibetan Buddhism, is sometimes described as a third major school. However, all schools of Vajrayana are also part of Mahayana. 

The two schools differ primarily in their understanding of a doctrine called "anatman" or "anatta." According to this doctrine, there is no "self" in the sense of a permanent, integral, autonomous being within an individual existence. Anatman is a difficult teaching to understand, but understanding it is essential to making sense of Buddhism.

Basically, Theravada considers anatman to mean that an individual's ego or personality is a delusion. Once freed of this delusion, the individual can enjoy the bliss of Nirvana. Mahayana pushes anatman further. In Mahayana, all phenomena are void of intrinsic identity and take identity only in relation to other phenomena. There is neither reality nor unreality, only relativity. The Mahayana teaching is called "shunyata" or "emptiness."

More BELOW the FOLD.

Meditation for Beginners...Sadhguru


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Buddhist Cosmology 7


Evolution of Consciousness...

A New Theory Explains How Consciousness Evolved

A neuroscientist on how we came to be aware of ourselves

Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has been the grand unifying theory of biology. Yet one of our most important biological traits, consciousness, is rarely studied in the context of evolution. Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology. Maybe that’s why so few theories have been able to tackle basic questions such as: What is the adaptive value of consciousness? When did it evolve and what animals have it?

The Attention Schema Theory (AST), developed over the past five years, may be able to answer those questions. The theory suggests that consciousness arises as a solution to one of the most fundamental problems facing any nervous system: Too much information constantly flows in to be fully processed. The brain evolved increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deeply processing a few select signals at the expense of others, and in the AST, consciousness is the ultimate result of that evolutionary sequence. If the theory is right—and that has yet to be determined—then consciousness evolved gradually over the past half billion years and is present in a range of vertebrate species.

Neurons act like candidates in an election, each one shouting and trying to suppress its fellows.

Even before the evolution of a central brain, nervous systems took advantage of a simple computing trick: competition. Neurons act like candidates in an election, each one shouting and trying to suppress its fellows. At any moment only a few neurons win that intense competition, their signals rising up above the noise and impacting the animal’s behavior. This process is called selective signal enhancement, and without it, a nervous system can do almost nothing.

We can take a good guess when selective signal enhancement first evolved by comparing different species of animal, a common method in evolutionary biology. The hydra, a small relative of jellyfish, arguably has the simplest nervous system known—a nerve net. If you poke the hydra anywhere, it gives a generalized response. It shows no evidence of selectively processing some pokes while strategically ignoring others. The split between the ancestors of hydras and other animals, according to genetic analysis, may have been as early as 700 million years ago. Selective signal enhancement probably evolved after that.

The arthropod eye, on the other hand, has one of the best-studied examples of selective signal enhancement. It sharpens the signals related to visual edges and suppresses other visual signals, generating an outline sketch of the world. Selective enhancement therefore probably evolved sometime between hydras and arthropods—between about 700 and 600 million years ago, close to the beginning of complex, multicellular life. Selective signal enhancement is so primitive that it doesn’t even require a central brain. The eye, the network of touch sensors on the body, and the auditory system can each have their own local versions of attention focusing on a few select signals.

The next evolutionary advance was a centralized controller for attention that could coordinate among all senses. In many animals, that central controller is a brain area called the tectum. (Tectum means roof in Latin, and it often covers the top of the brain.) It coordinates something called overt attention—aiming the satellite dishes of the eyes, ears, and nose toward anything important.

All vertebrates—fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals—have a tectum. Even lampreys have one, and they appeared so early in evolution that they don’t even have a lower jaw. But as far as anyone knows, the tectum is absent from all invertebrates. The fact that vertebrates have it and invertebrates don’t allows us to bracket its evolution. According to fossil and genetic evidence, vertebrates evolved around 520 million years ago. The tectum and the central control of attention probably evolved around then, during the so-called Cambrian Explosion when vertebrates were tiny wriggling creatures competing with a vast range of invertebrates in the sea.

Even if you’ve turned your back on an object, your cortex can still focus its processing resources on it.

The tectum is a beautiful piece of engineering. To control the head and the eyes efficiently, it constructs something called an internal model, a feature well known to engineers. An internal model is a simulation that keeps track of whatever is being controlled and allows for predictions and planning. The tectum’s internal model is a set of information encoded in the complex pattern of activity of the neurons. That information simulates the current state of the eyes, head, and other major body parts, making predictions about how these body parts will move next and about the consequences of their movement. For example, if you move your eyes to the right, the visual world should shift across your retinas to the left in a predictable way. The tectum compares the predicted visual signals to the actual visual input, to make sure that your movements are going as planned. These computations are extraordinarily complex and yet well worth the extra energy for the benefit to movement control. In fish and amphibians, the tectum is the pinnacle of sophistication and the largest part of the brain. A frog has a pretty good simulation of itself.

With the evolution of reptiles around 350 to 300 million years ago, a new brain structure began to emerge—the wulst. Birds inherited a wulst from their reptile ancestors. Mammals did too, but our version is usually called the cerebral cortex and has expanded enormously. It’s by far the largest structure in the human brain. Sometimes you hear people refer to the reptilian brain as the brute, automatic part that’s left over when you strip away the cortex, but this is not correct. The cortex has its origin in the reptilian wulst, and reptiles are probably smarter than we give them credit for.

The cortex is like an upgraded tectum. We still have a tectum buried under the cortex and it performs the same functions as in fish and amphibians. If you hear a sudden sound or see a movement in the corner of your eye, your tectum directs your gaze toward it quickly and accurately. The cortex also takes in sensory signals and coordinates movement, but it has a more flexible repertoire. Depending on context, you might look toward, look away, make a sound, do a dance, or simply store the sensory event in memory in case the information is useful for the future.

The most important difference between the cortex and the tectum may be the kind of attention they control. The tectum is the master of overt attention—pointing the sensory apparatus toward anything important. The cortex ups the ante with something called covert attention. You don’t need to look directly at something to covertly attend to it. Even if you’ve turned your back on an object, your cortex can still focus its processing resources on it. Scientists sometimes compare covert attention to a spotlight. (The analogy was first suggested by Francis Crick, the geneticist.) Your cortex can shift covert attention from the text in front of you to a nearby person, to the sounds in your backyard, to a thought or a memory. Covert attention is the virtual movement of deep processing from one item to another.

The cortex needs to control that virtual movement, and therefore like any efficient controller it needs an internal model. Unlike the tectum, which models concrete objects like the eyes and the head, the cortex must model something much more abstract. According to the AST, it does so by constructing an attention schema—a constantly updated set of information that describes what covert attention is doing moment-by-moment and what its consequences are.

“I’ve got something intangible inside me. It’s not an eyeball or a head or an arm. It exists without substance …”

Consider an unlikely thought experiment. If you could somehow attach an external speech mechanism to a crocodile, and the speech mechanism had access to the information in that attention schema in the crocodile’s wulst, that technology-assisted crocodile might report, “I’ve got something intangible inside me. It’s not an eyeball or a head or an arm. It exists without substance. It’s my mental possession of things. It moves around from one set of items to another. When that mysterious process in me grasps hold of something, it allows me to understand, to remember, and to respond.”

The crocodile would be wrong, of course. Covert attention isn’t intangible. It has a physical basis, but that physical basis lies in the microscopic details of neurons, synapses, and signals. The brain has no need to know those details. The attention schema is therefore strategically vague. It depicts covert attention in a physically incoherent way, as a nonphysical essence. And this, according to the theory, is the origin of consciousness. We say we have consciousness because deep in the brain, something quite primitive is computing that semi-magical self-description. Alas crocodiles can’t really talk. But in this theory, they’re likely to have at least a simple form of an attention schema.

When I think about evolution, I’m reminded of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote: “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” Evolution is the master of that kind of opportunism. Fins become feet. Gill arches become jaws. And self-models become models of others. In the AST, the attention schema first evolved as a model of one’s own covert attention. But once the basic mechanism was in place, according to the theory, it was further adapted to model the attentional states of others, to allow for social prediction. Not only could the brain attribute consciousness to itself, it began to attribute consciousness to others.

Lots More BELOW the FOLD.

Finding Success...

The Noble Eightfold Path 3 - Right Speech.,..

Friday, December 17, 2021

Vesak Day...

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Buddhist Cosmology 2...


Buddhist Cosmology 1...


Cosmology: The science of the origin and development of the universe. Modern astronomy is dominated by the Big Bang theory, which brings together observational astronomy and particle physics.

    • an account or theory of the origin of the universe.

Buddhist Cosmology : Is the description of the shape and evolution of the Universe according to the Buddhist scriptures and commentaries.

It consists of temporal and spatial cosmology: the temporal cosmology being the division of the existence of a 'world' into four discrete moments (the creation, duration, dissolution, and state of being dissolved; this does not seem to be a canonical division, however). The spatial cosmology consists of a vertical cosmology, the various planes of beings, their bodies, characteristics, food, lifespan, beauty and a horizontal cosmology, the distribution of these world-systems into an "apparently" infinite sheet of “worlds”. The existence of world-periods (moments, kalpas), is well attested to by the Buddha.

A Podcast From Lion's Roar...

Lion's Roar - How can Buddhist practice help you find refuge from racism? Especially from the internalized sense of inferiority that lives within the minds and bodies of racialized people? Buddhist teacher Sensei Alex Kakuyo and Lion’s Roar Associate Editor Pamela Ayo Yetunde discuss.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Reasons Why Buddhism and the Dharma Is My Chosen Spiritual Path...


Ran across this on my evening perusal of the web. I thought it reasonably well presented and accurate. Enough so it merited reprinting here.

Wisdom burns its own flame. So does humor. So does this title, which makes fun of the notion of religious one upsmanship. Read beyond the title, if curious:

If you don’t do Buddhism

don’t worry,

you’re not going to hell.

*You’ll just endure countless lifetimes of cyclical suffering.

1. We’re not really a religion. As the Dalai Lama said, if Buddhism and Science disagree, go with science. As the Buddha himself said, don’t believe anything I say unless it matches with your experience.

We are however a path: there are teachings, meditation practices, rituals with meaning…but it’s all centered on one point. Wake up. Be kind. Be present. Be genuine. Be generous to others.

2. We don’t go to war, much. Historically, when we’re attacked, our anemic joke-of-an-army fights heroically while the rest of wherever we’re at flees, gets burned, looted, raped, pillaged. No fun for us, but at least we don’t fight others in order to spread our religion.

3. Buddhism works. If we meditate, and we meditate some more, and we study, and we work with our mixed bag of a (difficult, incompetent, sycophantic, insecure, kind, generous, gentle, eco-minded, tolerant) community, we’ll naturally begin to soften, and straighten, and enjoy life, and help others enjoy life more, too.

4. Buddhism doesn’t believe in anything. Any Buddhist who tells you to believe in reincarnation or anything that can’t be proven is caught up in superstition, and should be forcibly sent to remedial Buddhist meditation camp, which sounds like a fun camp.

5. Buddhist teachers are transparent. The greatest Buddhist teacher I’ve ever known was utterly human: full of “mistakes,” full of wildness and sweetness, open about just about everything. If Buddhist teachers aren’t transparent...on to number six.

6. Buddhism is non-theistic. In Buddhism, we’re taught to bow with mutual respect, and self-respect. You aren’t any better than me except to the extent that you serve me and others better than I do. Serving is leadership.

Our hierarchical triangle is upside down. To lead is to serve. To lead without serving is selfish and useless and silly. If a Buddhist teacher leads out of arrogance or selfish privilege, they will be slapped in the face, with a grin. It’s happened.

7. Buddhism doesn’t say other religions are wrong or anyone’s going to hell and doesn’t advocate judging others “nonbelievers” from afar, let alone sending them to some sort of eternal damnation. In the Buddhist view, we’re all damned already by our happiness-desiring egos, but luckily we’re all fundamentally aok, and we just can relax and (through meditation, study) begin to be ourselves, and serve others in suffering. And then the joke is we’ll start being happy.

8. Buddhism is of the world. It is wildly enthusiastic about money, sex, family, business, sports, books, education, politics…as long as these things are being used to help us and others wake up and be of benefit, it’s all good.

9. Buddhism is not laissez-faire New Ageyness. While Westerners who embrace Buddhism as a lifestyle may be irritating Portlandiaish parodies of a type, like yours truly, Buddhism is all about tradition, about being a good, dues-paying member of society, about decorum and giving back and the arts.

The 10th Reason why Buddhism is Better than your Religion is…


We’re not better than your religion.
 Your religion has lots of goodness and helpful stuff in it, and you should honor and practice that if you like. If you don’t like, you should become agnostic or atheistic and that’s pretty awesome, too. My grandma is a lifelong intellectual agnostic, and she’s the kindest person I know. As an old Christian saying goes, I can see how close you are to God by how kind you are.

Yoga, Christianity, Buddhism, Republicanism, Libertarianism, any ism…none is better than another. That’s not the point. They’re paths of truth, hopefully. Of finding peace, and true happiness. They are not meant to create further war.

Let’s stop the My Way is Better than Yours stuff.

This is all Buddhists wa