Sunday, May 07, 2017

Buddhist Ghetto

Meditation Room

I consider myself lucky, fortunate, to live in what some call a "Buddhist ghetto". I learned that moniker from an Episcopalian at St. David of Wales. The phrase was not used with any malice or disrespect.  The parishioner (congregant?) was more demonstrating a kind of knowing awareness of neighborhood demographics.

My contact at Maitripa College was leading a guided meditation this morning and invited me to attend. I was happy to do so, not having set foot in this institution before.  We talked a little about Buddhism afterwards.  Serious scholars don't buy that "Hinayana" as opposed to "Mahayana" is a useful term.  I think the word "Protestant" sounds similarly condescending, as if "in order to protest" were this movement's defining feature (at one time maybe, but to be branded that way seems diminishing).

In any case Maitripa inherits mostly from Tantric sources, which goes by Vajrayana as well.  Having lived in Bhutan for some months over multiple intervals, I know more than average about the history. Bhutan is more "red hat" territory whereas the Gelug branch is more informally known as "yellow hat".  The Bhutanese Drukpa sect is considered a subset of Kagyu.

After my visit to the college, I stopped by the nearby Burgerville (Asylum District) for a seasonal strawberry milkshake (I don't drink milk often), then headed back to Harrison Street on my bicycle. Most of the rest of the day was spent studying programming, which is what I do for a living as well as for a hobby, a lot of the time.  I teach programming, even as I learn it.  In this case, I watched another David Beazley Youtube, from way back in 2013, when Python 3.3 was still the newest.

Mahayana Buddhism, if we wanna call it that, came up with the Bodhisattva concept, or so I was told. A Bodhisattva is a compassionate being committed to being more a part of the solution than a part of the problem.  The translation to "saint" and/or "savior" is somewhat inexact, given all the spins involved.  There's no guarantee any specific translation will work.  If we know how to get the eigenvectors and/or singular value matrix for some great translation, that'd be welcome, but in the meantime it's up to each scholar to evolve a private understanding, with public auditing.

Quakers tried to dispense with titles for the most part, opting for "roles" in relation to given projects or meetings, but occupied in rotation, not for life.  We each get a persona, a character to work on, an individual soul, as distinct from the body.  The idea that a soul is singular, or even exists in the first place, might be questioned, however in common language, we acknowledge "individuals".  Through individuality shines a guiding light, or inner light, according to Quakerism, which might translate as Void or Buddha depending on one's brand of Buddhism.

I like to use "void" in the sense of C or None in Python, given my programming habits.  Existence has no final "return value" in this picture, which I'd contrast with a more judgemental one, wherein someone's opinion ultimately decides on some Judgement Day, what the return value is.

For sure the Buddhist deities, such as we see them depicted, may come with an attitude.  They're not necessarily neutral in the face of suffering or evil.  Perhaps they're causes of same?  From a human perspective, we might think so I'd suppose.  Some forces seem unfriendly.

Deities in the Joseph Campbell and psychoanalytic traditions get to be eternal embodiments of various qualities, inheriting from the Greek and Roman pantheon.  Monotheism eventually eclipsed these polytheistic religions with the rise of the Jewish and Christian faiths, while preserving a sense of hierarchy and of lesser beings (angels, demons, human mortals and so on).