Posts Tagged ‘Dharma’

Dependent Co-arising Project

February 5, 2021

coarisingcovervt6For the last several years, I have been working on a project to better understand and clearly present perhaps the Buddha’s most profound and comprehensive teaching, that of dependent co-arising, identified by the Buddha with the Dhamma itself. Several years ago, I used to post a new essay each week to this blog. Since then I have undertaken a series of bigger projects, producing a few books, which can be found under “books” on this site. I apologize for neglecting my readership.

In any case, I am ready to announce some results of this project:

  • I am distributing a polished draft of the book whose cover appears to the left. Click on the image to download a copy as pdf.
  • I have begin a series of weekly podcasts, starting January 22, based on this text are found HERE.

I invite you make make use of these resources. Any feedback or discussion is welcome.

 

 

New introduction to Buddhism

October 7, 2019

Mindfulness, where Dharma meets Practice

I am releasing in draft form a textbook for a five-week course on Buddhism based on early sources. I am currently using an earlier draft to teach a class in Minnesota and will use it in the next two months to teach in Austin and Houston, Texas. This was originally conceived as a more concise version of my Buddhist Life/Buddhist Path, but, as these things go, it became a distinct work, with mindfulness as the central theme.

This book is about Dharma, practice, and how they intersect in mindfulness. It is a nutshell introduction to Buddhism based almost exclusively on the earliest Buddhist sources, which are the historical basis for all of the diverse later schools of Buddhism, and which represent what the Buddha actually taught, as best as we can determine. It is a textbook that has been used to supplement about ten hours of class time.

In spite of its conciseness, this text provides a comprehensive overview of the range of Buddhist practice and understanding and contains practical advice on how we can integrate Buddhist practice into busy modern lives. It begins from the premise that Dharma serves solely as a support for practice and that the role of mindfulness is to enable Dharma effectively to inform practice.

I will distribute hard copies locally, but a pdf can can be downloaded here:

Refraining from Every Evil (1/5)

July 7, 2015

(commentary on Dhammapāda, 183)

Refraining from every evil,
Accomplishing good,
Purifying the mind,
This is Teaching of the Buddhas.
(Dhammapāda 183)

Sabbapāpassa akaraṇaṃ
kusalassa upasampadā
sacittapariyodapanaṃ
etaṃ Buddhāna’sāsanaṃ.

Striking about the Dhammapāda are the many verses compelling in their simplicity and yet so far-ranging in their implications. We read verse #183 and it speaks to the heart: “Yeah, that’s how my life should be.” But having listened to it and taken it to heart, we find ourselves on what appears under our feet as the entire Buddhist path with all that that entails.

Nugget #183 in fact enumerates the three distinct systems of Buddhist ethics. Interestingly these correspond closely to the three major forms of modern normative ethics in the West: deontology or duty ethics, consequentialism, and virtue ethics. Refraining from every evil involves behaving according to duty, generally with regard to the prohibitive precepts of Buddhism. Accomplishing good is acting to bring beneficial consequences into the world. Purifying the mind, the most representative of the three Buddhist ethical practices, makes of virtue not only something we do in the world, but the way we think and feel, a way that, carried to its logical extreme, leads to awakening as the perfection of virtue.

Although duty ethics, consequentialism and virtue ethics are generally treated as mutually exclusive in Western thought,  in Buddhism they support and constrain one another. In exploring the Buddha’s integration of the three we recognize the fundamentally moral basis of the complete path of Buddhist practice, and that there is nothing in Buddhism that is not at root about ethics.

This verse from the Dhammapāda provides a particularly helpful perspective for us moderns also because we have a tendency to overlook ethics and virtue in our practice in favor of “higher” practices of mindfulness and samādhi, or in some traditions advanced esoteric practices that facilitate higher knowledges and awakening itself. This unfortunate tendency is a bit like building a high-rise starting with the penthouse. The high-rise of Buddhist accomplishment is to be built on a foundation of ethics, practical philosophy and values that ensures it does not start to lean as we advance to higher practices. This is clear in the teachings of the Buddha’s gradual path and even in the ordering of the eightfold noble path. Consider that a hunter, a sniper or a Wall Street stock broker can certainly attain deep levels of sustained concentration, but not Right Samadhi.

Lets turn to each of the three ethical practices of refraining from evil, accomplishing good and purifying the mind in turn, foreseeably one per week.