Friday, April 25, 2008

What is Enlightenment?

Someone asked, "Is there anyone actually enlightened right now?"

Another asked, "What is enlightenment?"

That's the question.

Enlightenment is an English word used to translate the Sanskrit word bodhi.

Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon:
1 bodhi mf. (with Buddhists or Jainas) perfect knowledge or wisdom (by which a man becomes a Buddha or Jina) , the illuminated or enlightened intellect (of a BñBuddha or JñJina) Katha1s. Ra1jat. S3atr. Lalit. (cf. MWB. 97 , 188 &c.) ; m. the tree of wisdom under which perfect wñwisdom is attained or under which a man becomes a Buddha , the sacred fig-tree , (Ficus Religiosa) Hcat. (MWB. 35 , 181 &c.) ; `" wakener "' , a cock L. ; N. of a man (= Buddha in a former birth) Ja1takam. ; of a mythical elephant Lalit. ; of a place L. ; pl. N. of a people R. ; mfn. learned , wise Un2. iv , 117.

2 bodhi f. (with Buddhists) perfect knowledge or enlightenment MWB. 43 (%{-dhy-aGga} n. an `" integral part of perfect knowledge or enlightenment "' Lalit.)

In English and European history "enlightenment" represents the view advocating reason as the primary basis of authority as the answer to the prior view that Biblical revelation was a sufficient basis of authority.

Likewise, Buddha's teaching also was in a way a reaction to the Brahmanic reliance on the tradition of revelation. Buddha was not satisfied with revelation as an answer to the question of life's suffering, and he sought out direct personal experience for authority Also, because Buddha did not set himself up as a new revelation, his teaching about his own Dharma was not to follow the Dharma based on mere belief or authority but to test it for oneself and to use reason to evaluate it. Thus, the Dharma and Buddha's awakening easily fit into the cultural framework of the Enlightenment.

A Buddha is someone who is awakened to complete perfect wisdom or knowledge(bodhi) and thereby liberated from the fetters of life and existence and who reveals or teaches the method of awakening to knowledge to others.

It is interesting to note that the term bodhi meaning knowledge could just as easily be translated as "science". Note that in the first definition of science, it means "knowledge as distinguished from ignorance" which is a pretty good definition of bodhi.

Main Entry: sci·ence
Pronunciation: \ˈsī-ən(t)s\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin scientia, from scient-, sciens having knowledge, from present participle of scire to know; perhaps akin to Sanskrit chyati he cuts off, Latin scindere to split — more at shed
Date: 14th century
1: the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding

As science depends on its scientific method for practitioners to verify its truths for themselves, Buddhism depends on its method for practioners to verify its truths for themselves. Unfortunately, many people forget the importance of bodhi as the knowledge arising from the experience rather than the words or teachings expressing that knowledge.

In other words, people of today turn Buddha's Dharma into a new form of revelation and worship the words of the Dharma forgetting that the core of the Dharma is the method of practice to awaken bodhi for oneself. Buddha's observations are expressed for the benefit of beings, not for the purpose of becoming a new snare with which to trap beings in the net of dogma. To turn the words into a body of knowledge to be enshrined as if they were more important than the experience of knowledge is a mistake that occurs in both science and Buddhism.

I'm not saying that Buddha's enlightenment or bodhi is the same as Western science. Science is the knowledge of how cause and effect works from the materialist perspective. Bodhi is the knowledge of not only how cause and effect work as a psychologically ethical matter but also how cause and effect may be transcended from the awakened perspective. But essentially both science and bodhi mean a knowing that dispells ignorance.

Is there anyone actually enlightened right now?

Yes of course there are. There are many people who have some knowing of the truth of bodhi. Bodhi is not something that it all or nothing. So though there are many people who have some awakening, they do not necessarily have the complete depth of enlightenment as Shakyamuni had.

But to attempt to count the number of enlightened beings is an endeavor that is bound to ignorance as it is a perspective that becomes more and more entangled with the delusive mindset of subject and object. It is only one's own enlightenment that really matters as the way of dispelling one's own ignorance with bodhi.

Not a single arhat who lived with Shakyamuni during his lifetime realized bodhi because of some special magic of the Buddha. Each had to do the work him or herself to realize bodhi for him or herself. The Buddha's words were only the map to guide them. So it is today, even if one finds an enlightened being, the mere fact of discriminating the "other" being as enlightened while oneself is seen as ignorant, can become an obstacle for one's own enlightenment.

There is one who is enlightened right now. Do you know that one? Where will you look for that one?

There is a Zen koan about that one. Master Baizhang all the time was working with the assembly of monks. Someone asked him, "Work, work, work, all day long. Why do you work so much?" Baizhang said, "I do it for another." The next question was "Why doesn't he do the work for himself?" Baizhang answered, "Because that one has no hands."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Scoring the Philidephpia ABC Democratic Debate 4/16/08

Q1: GIBSON: Something inane about their campaigns appealing to different constituencies in the party, then a Mario Cuomo statement asking for a pledge to choose the other as a running mate, "So I put the question to both of you, why not?"

Score: D for dumb question.

BHO: Talks about issues that are in the election and why supporters of both candidates will support the eventual nominee. Doesn't respond directly to the stupidity of the question as it relates to presidential primaries and the entire history of selecting vice presidential running mates.

Score: C, an politician's dodge.

GIBSON then turns to HRC changing the question and he recites a section of the Constitution that has already been amended out of the Constitution and also the passage cited doesn't even apply to primaries but to open election. That section was about an open election when the first place was president and the second place was vice president which resulted in a president and vice president of different parties. Gibson seems to misunderstand the Constitution and the entire history of party politics that caused the Constitution to be amended to take out this section. Then he asks "If it was good enough in colonial times why not in these times."

Score: F

HRC: Says she will do every thing to make sure one of them takes office in January. Still contesting who will be nominee. Pledges to be a good Democrat and has seen the damage of the Bush years. Still she doesn't address the actual vice president issue.

Score: C, a politician's dodge.

Q2: GIBSON: Asks Obamba about talking to a closed door fundraiser in San Francisco and saying that small town Pennsylvanians get bitter and cling to their guns or cling to their religion or to antipathy to people who are not like them. Gibson says Obama admitted he misspoke and mangled his words. Asks, "Do you understand that some people in this state find that patronizing and think that you said actually what you meant."

Score: C a fair question poorly stated.

BHO: Admits he "mangled" what he meant to say, and won't be the first or last time. Says he "meant to say" that people are going through difficult times right now and goes into economic hard times. He says when people feel the failed promises of Washington to respond to the hard times, then they politically focus on those things that are constant, like church, This is a place where they can find refuge in voting on things like guns which is something passed from generation to generation and this is important to them. "Wedge issues" take prominence in politics, and when those issues are exploited then important issues like health care, education and jobs are not solved.

Score: B-. good restatement of the issue of how fear affects voters.

HRC: says she is a granddaughter of factory worker in Scranton PA worked in lace mills at 11 years old active in Methodist church raising sons. She doesn't believe that her grandfather or other people she knows and met in PA cling to religion when Washington doesn't understand them. Says it is a fundamental misunderstanding. of the role of religion and faith and she doesn't believe people cling to traditions like guns when people are frustrated with the Government. She doesn't believe that's how people live their lives. Says she sees people are frustrated. And she says she sees how people could be offended by the remark suggesting that Obama is not being .respectful by making them. Talks about all the wonderful people she has met in PA and despite any frustration with government people are resilient and positive.
Score: C-. She picks on the one point of vulnerability on the word "cling" basically saying these people love their churches and guns all the time so clinging in hard times is not a real factor. IMHO: Actually clinging "more" is a factor that Obama is correct about, but Clinton is able to exploit the difficulty of the nuance. But worst is the smarmy pandering in the way she talks about her grandfather and pretends that there are no Republican gun tottin' Bible banging Republicans in Pennsylvania. They are all just wonderful people. By saying she is offended by the remark ahe hops on the right wing band wagon.

Q3: Stephanopolous: asys McCain campaign is calling this a "killer" issue. Question to HRC saying that she told Richardson that Obama can't win against McCain. "Yes or no question, do you think senator Obama can win against McCain or not?"

Score: D this is a gotch-ya question trying to paint Clinton in the corner with contradicting herself or sliming Obama saying he can't win, which then would slime herself. This is not about any issue before the people to decide which candidate to vote for.

HRC: We have to beat McCain and either Obama or her will make it happen. She says McCain "has a great American story to tell" and "served our Country with distinction" but he has the wrong ideas about America. Says her 16 years on the receiving end of what Republican party dishes out how important it is that we try to go after every single vote.

Score: C politician's dodge. Good statement about McCain having wrong ideas about America but avoided question.

Q3 follow-up STEPH: But can he win?

Score: A given a bad question to start with he gets an A for at least keeping with it to the yes or no answer.

HRC: "Yes, yes, yes" followed by "now I think I can do a better job, obviously. I am better able and better prepared"

Score: B

STEPH: To Obama, can Sen. Clinton win?

Score D. a dumb question repeated doesn't get any better.

BHO: Says absolutely, but he also thinks he's the better candidate. Obama then goes on to say Clinton has criticized him for being elitist and condescending to people of faith since he is a person of faith and has reached out to people of faith about how Democrats make an error with Democrats don't show up to speak to people of faith. And that gun owners support him. Says Clinton has taken one statement if not properly phrased and beaten it to death over the last few days and that's politics. Important to recognize it's not helping the person sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out how to pay the bills at the end of the month. He brings up the 1992 comment about baking cookies and people attacked her for being elitist. then says Clinton learned the wrong lesson form it by adopting the same tactics..

Score: B tries to get focus on bad questions about irrelevant issues. Could have been more direct with Steph and Gibson for asking about this.

HRC; Says her comments were about his remarks. (continued on next segment)

HRC: Continues saying that the people who heard the comments were offended. then goes on about her 35 years of proven record of results. Impowering people. etc.

Score: D. Says that people at the fundraiser were offended and implies again that she was too. She still either doesn't get it or she just wants to pander to these voters.

Q4. GIBSON: To Senator Obama about speech on race and Rev. Wright. Gibson refers to Obama's comment that he had not heard these kind of words from Wright before. Then says when Obama took back he invitation to Wright to come to come to campaign announcement that Wright said Obama acknowledged Wright could get rough. "What did you know about his statements that caused you to rescind that invitation and if you knew he got rough in sermons why did it take more than a year to publicly disassociate yourself from his remarks?"

Score: F. this is not anything more than a gotcha question trying to say Obama lied when he said he didn't know how his Pastor spoke. He's not even asking bout the content of Wright's words, but only about Obama's timing in disassociating from Wright.

BHO: Says he hadn't seen specific remarks that showed up on YouTube, only the remarks in Rolling Stone were the one's in mind when he asked Wright not to come to the announcement. He then comments that he has discussed this already. He again says he knew that Wright made controversial statements but not the kind that offended so many Americans. He said Wrights comments were objectionable. Goes on to say the reason of his success is because he is trying to bridge the divides and move beyond.

Score: D. He should have never given in to calling Wright's remarks objectionable. That's my bias and maybe Obama is right to take this strategy but I don't think so. Also Obama failed to challenge the question directly and acted like it was a valid question.

GIBSON: To Clinton about her saying she would not have stayed in Wright's church He says we have heard the inflammatory remarks and also hear testimony of the great things Wright has done, "Do you honestly believe that 8,000 people should have walked out on that church?"

Score: F. Again another terrible question. Sure Clinton was trying to pander with her comment about leaving the church but this is not a political question. It is a question not about the issues but about a comment she made about a non-issue. This is a debate with severely limited time constraints.

To be continued......

The Bitter Truth: Can Obama Tell It and Still Win?

I'm of a mixed mind about whether Obama is electable. Why? Because the more I like him, the more I realize it is because he is giving the voters the bitter truth that they don't want to know. If he becomes the messenger of truth, as he seems to want to be, then the myopic, parochial, and ostrich-like "in denial" American public, who are largely brainwashed by the Main Stream Media-government collaboration, will turn on and attack the messenger and continue to close their eyes to the truth.

Rev. Wright.
Not wearing a flag lapel pin.
Comments about bitter people in Pennsylvania.

All good messages of bitter truth that make me like Obama, but they are messages that Obama is being attacked for and feels he must apologize for.

If apologizing works then I'm wrong again and that's fine with me. But personally, I'd prefer to have him be the unashamed bearer of truth and go down in flames rather than being the apologizer who loses anyway.

To me, Obama is only making himself appear weak by apologizing for Rev Wright's words and apologizing for his own words on bitterness. I understand he is trying to dodge the bullets, so I can't fault him for attempting this tactic, but I fear that he will lose both ways: it won't work and in the process he will have sold his soul of truth.

Rev. Wright?

He was telling the truth to America just like Micah and the prophets of the Old Testament. What's wrong with that? It was nothing different than Martin Luther King Jr. preached. But who wants to listen to that truth. It's much easier to misrepresent the message and attack the misrepresentation than deal with the truth.

Micah 3
1And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?

2Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;

3Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.

4Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.

5Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.

6Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.

7Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.

8But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.

9Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.

10They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.

11The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.

12Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.

How like Rev. Wright's words! Isn't America built on blood and iniquity? From the first wars by the pilgrims against the Native Americans, to slavery, to the present day with the illegal invasion of Iraq and the horrors of torture under Guantanamo and the Presidential policy of rendition, and to the next foul thing America does, who can deny we are not built on blood, iniquity, and injustice just as Rev. Wright preached?

If you don't like Rev. Wright's words, then you don't like the Old Testament, and you don't like to hear the bitter truth, and that's fine. But if you don't like Rev. Wright's words and you call yourself a Christian, then you are just a hypocrite.

No lapel flag pin??

Great! Why shouldn't he be proud that he is not a false patriot. I don't wear a flag lapel pin either. If everyone who doesn't wear a flag lapel pin voted for Obama it would be a landslide. I wear a blood donor lapel pin. I'd like to see Obama wear one of those, but I wouldn't vote for or against him on the basis that he does or doesn't wear one.

In his CD album "Eat The Rich", Peter Tracy sings in the song "I Want a President":

"I want a president who is patriotic
Who would never sacrifice out children needlessly
I want a president who is not psychotic"

I'd like to see Obama get down with that as a response to the flag pin questions.

Here's what Obama needs to stand up and say loud and proud:

Look, anyone who says not wearing a flag pin is unpatriotic is a false patriot, a phony patriot, a fake patriot. A true patriot knows that the love of country is found in the heart and demonstrated by actions, not shown by wearing it on the lapel or the sleeve.

"Bitter" words?

As someone who lives 45 miles from San Francisco, I didn't find any problem at all with Obama's comments there about the bitterness of people in Pennsylvania and how that feeds their gun-tottin’ mania and affects their church-goin' attitudes. He accurately stated how it looks from the West Coast.

No one likes criticism, but if the people of Pennsylvania don't like to see their reflection in the eyes of West Coasters or others, then maybe they are not dealing with a reality that they should be paying attention to. I'll criticise you and you criticise me and maybe we can learn from each other. The attitude in America that people can't criticise each other for real issues is killing our morality and ethics more than any thing else. Instead of talking about bitterness, we get the distraction of the mainstream media pundits criticizing Obama for daring to raise the question of bitterness in the first place, what may be causing or exacerbating it, and what to do about it.

People may deny that their conservatism is based largely in bitterness, but it is a fact. People don't deceive themselves with the falsehoods of a faith based evangelism like George W. Bush does unless there is a deep bitterness in their soul and their world view.

The joke "a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged" has a seed of truth in it, because conservatives are people who gennerally grew up being told by their parents and church that life is mugging them. The flip side that "a liberal is a conservative who has been caught doing wrong" also has a seed of truth in that none of us claims his or her civil rights more strenuously than the conservative who has gotten caught doing something illegal. (A variation on the theme is the conservative whose family member gets a disease and then overnight becomes converted to providing liberal funding for research to cure that disease.)

The only mistake that Obama made in his remarks was in tying the bitterness of gun-tottin' Bible bangers too closely to recent economic events and not to a world view that depends on holding onto personal bitterness and encouraging wide spread bitterness in how people approach the world, blaming everyone but themselves for their bitterness.

Can he win?

As I see it the political predicament that Obama has is that he wants to tell the bitter truth but he also wants to win. This is a pretty hopeless situation for a person whose campaign is based on hope.