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Comments by bob

On “Which middle of which night

Haven't really known how to respond to this - kind of like listening to sombody talk on a cell phone on a bus - simulataneously on the verge of cognitive shock just being on the bus, listening, not listening and trying to pay attention to how close my stop is. Maybe part of it, is for me, a crowd is 2 other people in the room.

On “Finer than frog’s hair

Can't dance - too wet to plough.

On “On “Testing the Weird”: Not that I believe in ’em…

He forgot diet and exercise.

They don't actually profit from them, only from their illusion.

On “Public Lessons: Pedophilia, Bullying, and the Case of Alex Knepper

@ Alex Knepper:

"Boundries" seems the operative word.

When I was a vegetarian but not vegan, meat eaters (which I am now one) would say things like "But a REAL vegatarian wouldn't eat dairy, or wear leather shoes or..."

My reply would be along the lines of askng "Do you eat people? No? Well a real carnivore would eat people too! I mean meat is meat."

I know. Kinda adolescent.

But the point is it's always about where to draw the line. AK does draw some lines regarding pre pubes. Well good for him!

Certainly he does lead an exciting life, what with all these people yelling at him all the time. And, clearly he's a Really Smart Person, so I'm sure he'll find a way for people to yell at him a lot and make money.

I used to be a RSP. Now that I'm not I find boundries a little more useful.

On “Disastrous consequences

@ CK MacLeod:

The Erie Canal was “hard totalitarianism”?

The Boss says not.


@ CK MacLeod:

Of course. My point is right wingnuts are the downside of the strategy. As with any downside (pollution, excessive nerd population) the issue is how to manage it.

The Wiki article on it says:

The Loveland-Ft Collins metropolitan area has received numerous awards as a great place to live, by Money Magazine, USA Today, AARP the Magazine, and others. There is a large population of artists in Loveland, which has drawn three foundries, an art museum, and the annual sculpture shows in August. Loveland has a reputation as being somewhat conservative in its politics, with a large and active population of Evangelical Christians.

So what have here is a city with lots of ECs using the arts as an economic development strategy and then somebody gets upset. Good golly! how did that happen?


From what I gather from Loveland website, the gallery is a function of city govt, and they actively seeking to "promoting and enriching the quality of life by providing diverse cultural experiences through history, all forms of artistic expression and in community celebration."

So the offending exhibit seems to be within that "diverse cultural experience" thing.

My guess is that they see it as an economic development strategy as much as anything else. So, vandalism is a problem, but if noteriety translates to hotel stays and restaurant meals, it's all good.

On “Two Questions regarding Post-Christian Religion

@ CK MacLeod:

Karma is a very difficult subject. Buddha said that you have to be a Buddha to understand it - otherwise trying to would be a cause for "vexation".

That said, the most direct formulation is that is cause and effect. You do something, and at some point when conditions are right, the effect manifests. Like picking up a rock holding it for a while and then letting go. Or more traditionally, planting a seed.

Nobody judges you. Most likely not in this lifetime, but what you do will manifest in some way in your future "mind stream" as an effect. There are no accounts, no St. Peter, no day of judgement. It's always and continuously happening. Just like in the physical world where causes and effects are always and continuously happpening.

Apparently until fairly recently, acedemics in Asian studies kept their Buddhism a secret, for fear of being seen as having gone native. Now it's quite acceptable, and in some quarters even thought to be necessary.

Your observation about reincarnation (rebirth is often the preferred term) is quite apt. Most people go the other way and ask, "If there's no self, what is reborn?".

One of the problems is that diffferent teachings are directed a people with different levels of understand. So teaching can seem to be counterdictory.

In any event, this is getting to the point at which my "poor vessel"ness as a student is having an effect. I'm not sure how much you want to pursure a more systematic approach.

I'm happpy to recommend readings, although, as you would guess, they would be from the inside rather than outside in approach.

In any event, I'm enjoying this conversation very much. So, accepting my limitations, this more random way is fine.


All of this operates on an experiental level. So to give more of a flavor of it an example is worthwhile.


In 40 I was trying to make a point about the religiousness of Buddhism, and probably made a hash of it.

"Bodhisattvas and gods is too imprecise. "Bodhisattva" can have different meaning in different contexts. "Gods" is usually rendered as "deities" short for "meditational deities".

This from Alexander Berzin in an essay on Visualization.

Let’s start on a general level. In tantra, we use our imaginations to imagine various Buddha-figures, yidam (yi-dam) in Tibetan. These Buddha-figures are sometimes referred to as “deities,” although the Tibetan term being translated here, lhag-pay lha (lhag-pa’i lha), actually means “higher deities.” They are higher in the sense that they are not samsaric gods in a samsaric god-realm, but are beyond the uncontrollably recurring rebirth of limited beings. So, they’re not creator gods and they’re not like ancient Greek gods or anything of the sort. Rather, all these figures represent the full enlightenment of a Buddha and each of them also represents prominently a particular aspect of Buddhahood, like Chenrezig or Avalokiteshvara embodying compassion and Manjushri embodying discriminating awareness or wisdom.


@ CK MacLeod:

Yeah, I knew I was opening a can of worms...

This is going to take a while to either figure out how to talk about this without creating more confusion or find a link I'm comfortalbe with. The pantheism you describe is going in the wrong direction though.

Skipping to the question about being Buddhist and x....

Since we're talking about ordinary beings, it is inevitable that part of our confusion will be to identify with some idea, ism, as a way of maintaining the illusion of a inherently existing self.

If we bring this "to the path" and work with it then it helps us progress. Or it can just get in the way.


@ CK MacLeod:

Buddhism in situ in Asia is a religion in every sense of the word execpt theistic. In some countries it is the cultural identity of the nation as much as anything else. In others in may be one of several religions. But it functions as, and is a religion, but without any God.

There are gods and bodhisattvas people pray to for worldly asistance. But these beings cannot do something that is not in one's karma.

In the convert west, many rebel against the religious trappings. I enjoyed your "saffron-flavored phenomenology of mind". Some "mine" Buddhism and other eastern relgions for ideas for their psychological theories and modalities. Nothing wrong with that up to a point - but misrepresentation sometimes becomes a problem.

I thnk Hegel (as I understand him from our conversations) and Buddhism stand in opposition each seeing the other as having had some real insight, but drawing conclusions directly opposite of the right ones.



Reread this post, and "anthropology overcoming theology" makes enough sense to me now that I could imagine saying to my daughter in one of our discussions.

A slight detour...yesterday she stopped in after her Faustian themes in Lit and Cinema class and confessed that she was finding our years of what up until now had seemed pointless discussions (to her)with me, valuable. Not only in her classes where she dazzles the profs, but in her battle of wits (really no contest) with the libertarian frat boys she's been hanging out with (this is a complete mystery to me).

Anyway...Buddhism is anthropology with no theology.

There is no reference to God to overcome. The issue as Robert Thurman puts it is "the only means for beings to gain freedom was their individual understanding of their unique situation".

To place it in the rubic of Christianity ie an overcoming, is to miss one of its, possiblibly its most imprortant feature - there is nothing to overcome.

One could see Buddhism as the anthropology that has overcome the theology of Hinduism. In other words it has the relationship to Hinduism that Hegel sees his system having to Chrsitianity.

But there is no end of history here. Ordinary beings are always dissatisfied and that is the engine of history and suffering.


@ Scott Miller:

I think "grace" is a negation of the Vajrayana approach. I suppose the "kindness of one's guru" could be construed as grace, but to what end?

"Grace" is something outside of oneself. Mahamudra and related practices are thought of as an uncovering of what's already there.


@ CK MacLeod:

That's a pretty fair encapsulation. (As a Buddhist I quibble with the word "divine".)

Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism can be considered messianic as well. The traditional belief is that Buddha taught these "second and third turnigs of the wheel" during his life, but committed the initiates to secrecy until the time they could be taught without degenerating into a drive for power.

The usual historical belief is that they were part of the evolution of Buddhism, developed by "ordinary beings".

At any rate, I think your aside points to the possiblity of religion being part of our neurological, evolutionarily adaptive make up.


@ CK MacLeod:

Totally innocent ignorant person’s question: If the Noble Eightfold Path can end suffering for the journeyer, why fundamentally/inherently couldn’t there be a Noble X-Fold Path for an entire nation, or world, advanced and adopted as such?

The Human Realm is of of 6 parts of the Desire Realm (Samsara) defined by its inhabitants always being dissatisfied with what they have. So, at the bottom, its easy to see why those in the Hell Realm are unhappy, but those in the God Realm become dissatisfied too.

Ordinarily, enlightened beings reside in Nirvana, but the Mahayana and Tantric traditions say some may choose to take rebirth in the Human Realm to help other beings. But no restructuring of the realm will change what it is.

Now Traditionally there are Universal Monarchs who can rule justly over an entire world system. But that world system reamins in samsara despite his wisdom.

I'm kinda dissatisfied with this answer because I suspect it boils down to "there just can't be". Maybe your reaction will show me a dooor to a better approach.


@ CK MacLeod:

I hope my tone wasn't defensive because that's not where I'm coming from at all. I assume good faith and humor in all our discussions

"Initiate's version"? Absolutely - kinda the point.

To unpack it a lilltle more: "perfect" has the specific meaning of recognizing the 3 emptinesses: of self, of action, of object.

"Nobody" nonself? yes

Specific Content. The Hegalian maw ginds up everything so that eventally it's digestable. I'm saying the Hegalian project of strpiping away what it regards as the non-essential to uncover the essential myth merely uncovers itself.


Just for fun a reformluation:

The central myth of Buddhism, is that of somebody who leaves society, leaves conventional reality itself (performing a perfectly human feat of meditation), attains enlightenment, then nobody brings it back saying nothing is an end in itself.

Not entirely happy with this, but I think it will do.


@ CK MacLeod:

Here's a traditional discussion of Buddhism and politics.


@ CK MacLeod:

Maybe quibble with irresistable.

Anyway...The Tibetan govt in exile sees democracy as the appropriate system if they were ever to rule themselves. The Dalai Lama says that there may not be another DL. He might even put it up for a vote!

In any case, if there is another one (s)he won't be the head of govt.


Colin wrote;

To me, the central myth of Buddhism, from which everything else derives, is that of the individual who leaves society, in a sense leaves common reality itself (performing a superhuman feat of meditation), attains enlightenment, then brings it back... but without offering a full-fledged rationale for the social order (the culture-state) as an end in itself.

Put differently, the religion-philosophy contributes little to history and offers little defense against history because it does not care to be actualized in the world on the level of the state, which is the primary engine of history.


Put in Hegalian/Colin terms, yes.

The Buddhist response is that history is a cycle of suffering that doesn't end as long as we accept the ontological assumptions of these statements. But I struggle to specify what I think they are.

As far as Buddhism becoming in our time...It has adapted to several very different cultures by incorporating elements of those cultures. In Asia, it has consequently generally been quite conservative politically except when the State acts like a wild animal.

In the West, there is a lot of discussion of what adapting means. In Tibet adapting meant incorporating shamanism. In the West I think the issues are neuroscience and psychology.

While I share the concern of many about this, I think it is the situation.

More later...

On “Theo-Anthropology and the Essence of Christianity

@ CK MacLeod:

Don't want to overstep here - what about Anne?


@ Scott Miller:

Not really familar with Wilber. Could be a interesting discussion re Hegel. But why steer the discussion away from Buddhism. I'm OK with the complexity and I'm sure Colin's up to it.


@ Scott Miller:

The comparison between Hegel and Buddhism is something that leads him into confusion.

Ah Scott, I'v been living in confusion for much longer than this latest exchange with Colin.

I'm sorry for the inartful #44.

On the comparison issue, in #36 I had specified that I was following the Gelugpa school's presentatin of these issues. So I wasn't sure what your comment referred to. I should have made that clear.

My "gods and goddeses" point was to amplify your Chenrezig point. From your comment I inferred you did not know it was a more general phenonomen. Perhaps that was incorrect.

On "crazy wisdom"...I don't really get the point you're making in #48.

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