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Introducing: Heartland Contemplative

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Greetings! On the heels of some life changes, my writing headed off in a slightly different direction – more intimate and expansive all at the same time. I could have continued posting these new offerings here on Crossing Nebraska (which I will continue to maintain and cultivate). However, given the abundance of variously flavored posts contained herein – spanning over five years now – it seemed more appropriate to start a new blog altogether.
Please check out my new Heartland Contemplative website. It will showcase both prose and poetry, as well as photographs mostly taken in the countryside surrounding my home. I’ll likely cross-pollinate the two blogs from time to time, but for now I’ll be concentrating on content for Heartland Contemplative. Also, you’ll be able to find out what I’m up to in a number of interconnected ways. Please check out the Heartland Contemplative presence on WordPressFacebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I appreciate it!
Copyright 2018 by Mark Robert Frank


The Stumbling Block of Enlightenment

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As stated in my previous post on the subject, what Buddhists refer to as enlightenment is nothing other than a profound realization of the most fundamental truth regarding the emptiness of all things (sunyata in Sanskrit). Myriad other Buddhist teachings can be understood as various facets of this diamond-like truth. For example, it is emptiness that has us speaking in terms of dependent origination, interbeing, and the non-dual; and it is emptiness that has us speaking of the three marks of existence: the impermanence of all things, the lack of inherent selfhood of all things, and the unsatisfactory nature of all things. The last of these, by the way, is merely the first noble truth – the truth of suffering – viewed from a slightly different angle.



However, it is the second noble truth that points to the fundamental difficulty of human existence: our almost unrelenting tendency to overlay the infinite potential inherent in the emptiness of all things with our own finite and often do…

A Buddhist Easter

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Good Friday marks the day of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, his death by all appearances at the time. And if that were the end of the story, Christianity likely would not have grown to be the religion it is today; for suffering and death do not convey much in the way of Good News. A resurrected Christ, on the other hand, one who is raised up from the dead – now that is a reason for untold joy! Such is Easter, the holiest of holy days for Christians around the world. Jesus died for our sins, that we may live forever. This is the truth for millions of Christians.



The first noble truth of Buddhism is the truth of suffering. Like the passion of the Christ, however, this truth alone does not convey a very hopeful message either. It is the truth of the path, the fourth noble truth that conveys the good news of the Buddha’s teaching. Thus, the Buddha didn’t die for us. He lived such that through his example of heightened awareness we might liberate ourselves. “Watchfulness is the path of…

Enlightenment

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The most fundamental truth in all of Buddhism is that of the emptiness of all things. Enlightenment is the realization of this truth. Oh, but if only the depths of this reality were as easy to understand as to define!
If the truth of emptiness (sunyata) were as easy to grasp as that of, say, 2+2=4, we wouldn’t need to speak in terms of enlightenment, or awakening (bodhi). It would be obvious to all but the least educated amongst us. But since the deepest understanding of emptiness is more akin to an understanding of Einstein’s theory of general relativity than simple arithmetic, we give it a special name. Just as we have a special name, of a sort, for those who understand relativity. Namely, genius!



Indeed, some can speak intelligently about certain aspects of general relativity. Far fewer, though – even after a century of commentary, experimentation, study, and reflection – have grasped its intricacies. So groundbreakingly monumental was Einstein’s theory that when Sir Arthur Stanle…