Jan 03, 2012
Metaphors can be traps. We can end up taking them too literally. The point of a metaphor is to help us see things more clearly (“time slips through our hands like sand” helps us connect something intangible and abstract, like time, to a physical experience, like sand trickling through our fingers). But sometimes metaphors mislead, and make it harder to see things clearly. The image of the path is one of those metaphors that can potentially trap and mislead us.
The Buddha himself used the image of his teaching being a path. One of his key teachings is the Eightfold Path (aṭṭhaṅgika magga), and in a famous teaching he explained that he …
Nov 17, 2011
As I wrote in my most recent book, Living as a River:
Relating to someone as a “self”—on the basis of how we see them right now—is like seeing a video reduced to a single frame, or seeing a ball hurtling through the air in a freeze-frame photograph. It’s life-denying. It’s a static way of seeing things. In taking a snapshot of a thing we lose its sense of trajectory, the sense that it’s headed somewhere. We’re disconnected from the reality of change and process. But imagine if we could consistently see a person not as a thing but as a process—if we could, at least in our imagination—see that person
Wildmind Meditation News
Aug 28, 2011
Joshua Rothman (Boston Globe): Buddhism is in vogue in the West, partly because Buddhist practices, especially meditation, are popularly associated with contentment and well-being. As religions go, Buddhism strikes many people as a sensible and practical lifestyle choice.
Owen Flanagan, a distinguished philosopher at Duke, thinks this purely practical approach to Buddhism misses the point. In a new book, “The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized,’’ Flanagan argues Buddhism matters not just for practical reasons, but for philosophical ones. Subtract the “hocus-pocus” about reincarnation and karma, he argues, and you’ll find a rigorous, clear-eyed account of the universe and our place in it – one that would satisfy even the most ardent modern-day materialist. Buddhism matters, in other words, because it’s actually right.
Jun 15, 2011
Joshua Knobe has a thought-provoking article in the New York Times on the topic of what we believe to be our “true self.” Knobe is an associate professor at Yale, where he is appointed both in Cognitive Science and in Philosophy. He is one of a new breed of philosopher — the kind that not only takes account of science, but actively participates in scientific exploration.
In the article, In Search of the True Self, he explores the thorny problem, just what is the “True Self” anyway? Take the example of a Christian who believes that homosexuality is a sin, but comes to realize that he is homosexual. As the …
Wildmind Meditation News
Mar 19, 2011
Over the last few decades many Buddhists and quite a few neuroscientists have examined Buddhism and neuroscience, with both groups reporting overlap. I’m sorry to say I have been privately dismissive. One hears this sort of thing all the time, from any religion, and I was sure in this case it would break down upon closer scrutiny. When a scientific discovery seems to support any religious teaching, you can expect members of that religion to become strict empiricists, telling themselves and the world that their belief is grounded in reality. They are always less happy to accept scientific data they feel contradicts their preconceived beliefs. No surprise here; no human likes to be wrong.
But science isn’t supposed to care about …
Nov 11, 2010
Paul Klee, the famous Swiss/German expressionist painter, may seem to be making an almost mystical claim here — that creativity comes from beyond the conscious mind. I think you’d be right in assuming that creative impulses come from unconscious parts of the mind, but not that this is an exclusively mystical state. In fact, all action ultimately has this quality of coming from “beyond,” but we simply fail to notice this most of the time, because we’re in the grip of the illusion that the conscious mind is “us,” that it owns our actions, and that it’s in control.
When I speak, I’m often aware that my words come …
Oct 20, 2010
In this extract from his new book, Living as a River, Bodhipaksa discusses how we have mistaken views that limit our sense of who we are.
In 1911, a 32-year-old sportsman and daredevil called Calbraith Perry Rodgers, with a scant 60 hours of airtime in his logbook, set off to cross the United States from coast to coast in his specially modified Wright airplane—the first in private ownership. His dream was to win the $50,000 that tycoon publisher William Randolph Hearst was offering to the first person to fly across the continent within 30 days, but Rodgers, as much a canny businessman as an adventurous pioneer, had a financial …
Sep 29, 2010
In this excerpt from the chapter on the Water Element, I discuss how water is the archetype of all change. All things flow, and we ourselves are not static and separate entities, but eddies in the stream of life.
The most striking thing about the Water Element is its quality of flowing. It’s because of this characteristic that I too think of water as being the archetype of all the other elements. The Earth Element does flow, to be sure. It flows in a literal sense, as with landslides or the movement of tectonic plates—but these movements are either rare enough that they spring to mind …
Feb 23, 2010
We spend much of our time and energy trying to pretend impermanence isn’t real, but the strange thing is that when we embrace impermanence we become happier, Bodhipaksa argues.
Here’s a very “queer thing” about life: sometimes the things that we think will make us miserable actually make us happier. When Professor Eric D. Miller of Kent State University’s Department of Psychology asked people to imagine the death of their partner they reported that they felt more positive about their relationships and less troubled by their significant others’ annoying quirks.
We live in a world marked by constant change and impermanence. The things we love decay and perish. The people we love will pass …
Nov 30, 2009
We all want to be happy, but often we’re not. Bodhipaksa argues that this is because of the way we treat ourselves as a thing that lacks happiness, and happiness as a thing to be grasped.
In a parable in the Buddhist teachings, a king hears the sound of a lute for the first time and asks to see what produced such sweet music. A lute is produced, but the king is not satisfied. He wants to see the music. His ministers say,
“This lute, sire, is made of numerous components, a great many components. It’s through the activity of numerous components that it sounds: that is, in dependence on the body, the skin, the