Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This offer has been viewed too many times.

I received an email from Chili's, as I do from time to time (yes, I signed up for it), that consisted of this over and over:

Pretty nice marketing, there. If only that were code for "Free lunch!"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Maybe Buddhism is a religion after all, and that's no compliment.

I never really planned to engage in the "official" Buddhist methods, which would mean seeking out a teacher and spending a lot of time at some location working through these things in a group. The concept is not that appealing to me as something to do on a regular basis. Nonethless, there are a lot of good and useful ideas that come out of Buddhism that could benefit the lives of the average person. As such, I have been reading more about them and trying to put more of them into practice each day. To put it simply, they all go along with the intention of trying to be more mindful through each day and live in the moment as much as possible. Toward that goal, I have several Buddhism related blogs that were added to my RSS reader. This is where some of the trouble begins to show up.

These blogs are obviously written by some people that are on the inside of this. They are fully committed to all of the traditions and rituals that apparently come along with it, many of which don't seem to really have anything to do with the core message (as I understand it) either. These appear to largely be the trappings that come with something that has been around for a very long time. Traditions die hard. Belief systems hold strong. The whole system, much like any other religious setup, is geared primarily around control by the elders. They determine who is allowed to teach. They determine what they are allowed to teach. They determine how it will be taught. You end up with people waxing on about how you are not able to separate the mythological (from ancient India) aspects from it, while others argue that you are supposed to separate those because we know better now. The age old situation where new reformers, wishing to keep it relevant and modern for new cultures, battle with people who wish to maintain the status quo. Still others are resistant to changing aspects of it without someone higher in the structure telling them to do so. They are unable, or unwilling, to think and reason for themselves. They go so far as to say that in Buddhism, it very much matters who challenges ideas and who decides that the challenge is successful. The message being that some new guy cannot just decide for himself that reincarnation isn't real, or that there aren't multiple levels of the spiritual world, or whatever the legend may be for this particular sect.

When it comes down to that, they are acting no differently than anybody on the inside of any other religious structure. People who derive power from their influence and control, as well as people who find comfort in having no control and not having to make their own decisions about it. It isn't really a surprise to me that it might turn out this way. I had pretty much made the decision, early on, that I would look into the philosophies and bring the useful concepts into my life and leave the others by the wayside. I am certain that reincarnation has nothing to do with me being mindful and finding balance within my life. There is no insight to be gained from praying before idols or offering them gifts. I see the full benefits from Buddhism to be found via the approach taken by people like Sam Harris and Stephen Batchelor. I can embrace accepting the message that can bring about a peaceful coexistence filled with compassion and acceptance. None of this requires adherence to strict rituals, per se. I do not need to master certain Tibetan chants to realise these benefits in my daily life.

At the end of it all, I would say that the principle benefits of Buddhism appear likely to come from the core philosophy within it. The religious aspects are all the other trappings that people surround it with. If that is the only way it works for them, then I can only wish the best for them. However, I cannot help but think they are missing the point when they are unable to think outside of that structure. I don't think the Buddha would've wanted all of these people to entrap themselves inside the rituals and scriptures of yet another dogmatic and controlling religious structure. That hardly seems like an efficient way to liberate individuals in a modern world.

The following saying is attributed to Buddha and I feel like it helps drive home my point:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Miami Horror

If you have not heard of Miami Horror, then you need to get better connected. There is some great music coming out of Australia these days from groups like Cut Copy, The Presets, Empire of the Sun, Van She, and Sneaky Sound System. Not to be excluded, and maybe even the best of the pack ultimately, is Miami Horror from Melbourne.

Comprised of Benjamin Plant, Josh Moriarty, Aaron Shanahan, and Daniel Whitechurch.

They have put out some great videos for a few songs from their most recent album, Illumination. Here they are:


I Look To You:

Moon Theory:



There is also an older video, although not nearly as old as the video makes it seem, for their single "Don't Be On With Her." They are obviously making fun of the 80s, at least that is my impression, and they do a fine job of it. The song is great and the video is done exceptionally well. This band does more than just make great music and great videos. They are out there producing works of art and it deserves to be appreciated.

Don't Be On With Her (embedding is disabled for this one):

Stop asking if Obama can compromise.

He has been willing to compromise the entire time, and repeatedly states that he is willing to compromise in the future. It is all of the GOP leadership that keeps telling everyone that they will not compromise. Put the spotlight on the people that it belongs on: Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Jim DeMint, and others in that leadership pool.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

It isn't Sharia Law that needs to be banned in the USA...

You may have heard by now that the voters in Oklahoma actually had a ballot measure yesterday to ban Sharia Law in their state. The likelihood of it ever being a problem seems quite remote. However, we do have a problem in this country with religious law. That is Christian religious law, and that is something I welcome a ban on immediately. That is much more of a clear and present danger to us than Sharia Law is.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Really bored with people who are upset about Stephen Colbert's testimony

People demanding apologies for it? Whatever. Nobody died. I want an apology for sending people off to war in Iraq, over things that did not actually exist. There are people dead that we can never get back as a result. Let's get our priorities in order here, please.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Buddha neither asks for, nor requires, faith.

I will not proclaim myself as some type of guru in regards to Buddha/Buddhism/Dharma practice, etc. However, it does occur to me that whether or not Buddha existed is not truly critical to the philosophy contained within. No one is required to put faith in Buddha, as they would Jesus Christ or God. It is not about accepting Buddha as a guiding force in your everyday life. Whether or not Buddha, or Jesus Christ, or God, exist or not is not crucial to right now.

Ultimately, this is a prescription for dealing with the complexities and difficulties of life (aka the suffering that we all endure to some degree throughout our lives). It is a path that helps you accept the reality you live in, with all of its suffering and its finite length. Past and future are only abstract. We cannot change the past, nor can we take action in the future. The only time we can do anything is right now. To the extent that we need to think about the future, it is only in terms of projects that we are not yet able to complete. We cannot ever do anything in the future, as all of our possible actions can only be implemented right now.