Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


Forest of Light

Sofan Chan paints lovely images of the Buddha in bright primary colors.  For some reason I find them very much in the spirit of the Buddhism that I practice — focused on obtaining peace, often happiness, and occasional joy by looking at the world as clearly as I am able at a given time.  (I’m not saying I’m good at it, I’m saying that my efforts bring me peace and joy — what’s not to like?)  Anyway, if you’d like to see more of Chan’s work, even purchase some, click the image.

Disclaimer: I have no connection with the artist whatever; I just like the work.

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Buddhism off the beaten path: An introduction to Bodh Gaya, India

Buddhism off the beaten path: An introduction to Bodh Gaya, India

A pleasant three-hour train ride from the popular tourist destination of Varanasi transports you worlds away to the bustling town of Gaya in the less-traveled state of Bihar, widely known as one of the poorest and most lawless in India….

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Happy Buddha Day, World!

Comments about the day to my brother and a dear friend:

To paraphrase Thoreau, if a church cannot keep step with the progress of sin, perhaps it is because the people are seeing different sins. To put it another way, when an ethos can no longer encompass the circumstances it is supposed to guide, perhaps it is time to consider a different ethos.

The Judeo-Christian-Muslim ethos has always been faulty, based as it is on absolutes — thou shalt nots — instead of core values — a good person “does not” — and empty threats. The most any group has to offer in the way of threats is shunning or death. The church has not lately been successful in using those pressures — at least not in the “first world.” There are too many other places to gain the fellowship without the strictures, and without direct and obvious consequences for breaking them, rules are useless. Anyone who has successfully raised a child knows that.

Witness the ease with which the three of us have left the faith we were raised in: the two of you to whatever drives your personal ethics, me to Buddhism (as close to an Atheistic religion as exists). Today, for example, is Buddha Day, when Buddhists celebrate the birth of Gautama Buddha — fully cognizant of the legendary quality of the birth story (involving impregnation in dreams by white elephants) but giving great attention to its application to the principle of interconnectedness of all things. That is the principle, exemplified in this particular birth, that myriad specific things must happen in order for an individual to be born (buddha or no), or for anything else to happen, and that everything would be different if only a few of them had happened differently. Ergo, universal connectedness.

This is the sort of principle that leads to a flexible, but useful ethos. Everything is interconnected, therefore I really am my brother’s keeper! (More here) Westerners, however, are not taught that critical — and obviously true — concept to any discernible degree.

Simply promising vague punishment and reward in an afterlife that no one really believes in (in their heart of hearts, else why grieve the dead?) is not sufficient to modify present behavior to the degree necessary. Only when people understand the concept of ethics*, and when governments are designed around the concept as well, will we have a chance. Those are the values that we sorely lack.

*In the sense of relating to treatment of others according to the Golden Rule, not adherence or non-adherence to written rules.

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Let’s set the record straight on this Buddha and Jesus thing…

Several times over the past week, friends and acquaintances have wished or started to wish me a happy Easter, then felt it necessary to qualify it somehow: “if you celebrate it,” “I don’t know how you feel about it, but…” and so forth.

I find this touching, but at the same time a bit appalling. Touching because my friends want to share the good wishes of their holiday with me, and appalling, not because it calls my beliefs into question (although that was implicit in a couple of cases) but because it demonstrates how little people actually know about one of history’s great thinkers and his teachings. It also demonstrates the unfortunate lack of information about other beliefs in general for which Americans, in particular, are well-known. That, however, is probably best left for another time. For the moment, let’s stick to the Buddha, his teachings, and Jesus. Continue reading