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Showing posts from May, 2011

Dependent Origination and the Teaching of No Self (Part 2 of 5)

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My previous post closed with a story that I hope conveys reasonably well a couple of things: that truth is accessible to all of us every moment of every day, and that we often need to step out of our respective comfort zones and habitual ways of seeing in order to recognize it. I suspect that each of you can relate similar circumstances under which you found yourself spontaneously experiencing a state of wonder, transcendence, and unity – where you felt most deeply your connection with the earth, your sense of kinship with all life, and your absolute certainty of being an integral part of a vast and mysterious universe. Such experiences – ineffable as, in large part, they are – often leave us grasping for words borrowed from whatever religious tradition that we are most familiar with. Thus, an experience that one person might consider marked by the unmistakable presence of God, another might describe as an instance of finally seeing the world through the eyes of their true self. Whil…

Dependent Origination - An Introduction (Part 1 of 5)

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With so much being written about Buddhism these days, it would seem difficult to find someone who doesn’t have at least a passing familiarity with such concepts as impermanence and emptiness. The teaching that undergirds these two, however – namely, dependent origination – is far less well known and almost certainly less well understood. In the most general sense, dependent origination conveys the reality that absolutely every “thing” that comes into being owes its existence to myriad causes and conditions, constantly in flux, that form the ground from which and the environment into which that “thing” arises. A number of Buddhist teachings expound upon this reality within the context of helping us understand the process by which suffering arises – thereby helping us understand its cessation. The so-called twelve-fold chain of dependent origination is a detailed description of this process. I’ll be exploring this chain in greater detail in a future post. For now, though, I’m merely ai…

On Not Knowing, Part 3 of 3

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Coincidentally, or perhaps not, a friend sent me a link the other day to Kathryn Schulz’s TED Conference monologue, On Being Wrong. I think it complements well what I’ve been writing about in this latest series – in addition to being quite entertaining – so I’ve posted a link to it in the links section here. Please check it out… after reading this post, of course.
If you’ve read Part 1 of this series you know that all this past winter I’ve wondered about the fate of my little toad friend – the one who has dwelt (or whose remains have rested, as the case may be) beneath a carefully constructed shrine to not knowing. Was he down there in the darkness patiently waiting, calmly abiding, or was he gradually turning into a leathery sack full of the remains of a being that once hopped across the lawn or sat quietly in the shade of a giant hosta forest waiting for a cricket the size of a Welsh Corgi (relatively speaking) to happen by? Yes, and all this past winter I imagined myself one day d…

On Not Knowing, Part 2 of 3

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Part 1 closed with the suggestion that our becoming familiar with this state of not knowing is an important aspect of being human. Perhaps I should go a step further, however, and suggest that our not knowing actually defines what it means to be human. Now, that might have some of you wondering about my choice of focus. Why choose to focus on the negative when we humans are the most technologically advanced animal on the planet – the one that knows more than any other animal? Why not characterize our human existence in terms of our knowing instead of our not knowing?
Actually, I would say that the difference between our level of knowledge and that of any other animal is merely a quantitative one. We just know more stuff. Mice know how to forage for seeds and crumbs; cats know how to catch mice; homo sapiens know how to protect themselves from man-eating cats; and homo sapiens sapiens know how to put cats in sealed boxes equipped with cyanide capsules that break open when and if some …