The Urban Dharma Newsletter - May 2, 2006


In This Issue: The Cause of Suffering

1.The Cause of Suffering--samudaya

2. Tanha – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

3. The fruits of craving - by Ananda Pereira

4. The Second Noble Truth: the Cause of Suffering - by Lama Surya Das

5. Craving and Clinging - "HANDICAPPED" BUDDHISM - by Richard Louis Bruno

6. Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion, the Edited Transcripts (Alan Watts Love of Wisdom Library) (Paperback)


1.The Cause of Suffering--samudaya


The principle cause of suffering is the attachment to "desire" or "craving", tanha. Both desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have (aversion).

1. desire for sense-pleasures--kama-tanha,

2. desire to become--bhava-tanha,

3. desire to get rid of--vibhava-tanha.

The desire for sense pleasures manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant experiences: the taste of good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful music.

The desire to become is the ambition that comes with wanting attainments or recognition or fame. It is the craving to "be a somebody".

The desire to get rid of the unpleasant experiences in life: unpleasant sensations, anger, fear, jealousy.

The clinging to desire comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction comes from following desire. We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires doesn't bring an end to them.

2. Tanha – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Ta hā (Pāli) or T ā (Sanskrit) means "thirst, desire, craving, want, longing, yearning". The most basic of these meanings (in non-technical language) is "thirst", however, in Buddhism it has a technical meaning that is much broader. In part due to the variety of possible translations, ta hā is sometimes used as an untranslated technical term by authors writing about Buddhism.

Ta hā is the eighth link in the Twelve Nidanas of Dependent Origination (Pratītyasamutpāda/Pa iccasamuppāda). Ta hā is also a constituent part of Samudaya the second of the Four Noble Truths. Buddhist teachings, describe the craving for sense objects which provide pleasant feeling, or craving for sensory pleasures. Ta hā is a term for wanting to have or wanting to obtain. It also encompasses the negative as in wanting not to have. We can crave for pleasant feelings to be present, and for unpleasant feelings not to be present (ie get rid of unpleasant feelings).

According to Buddhist teachings, craving, or desire, springs from the notion that if one's desires are fulfilled it will, of itself, lead to one's lasting happiness or well-being. Such beliefs normally result in further craving/desire and the repeated enactment of activities to bring about the desired results. This is graphically depicted in the Wheel of Life. The repeated cycling through states driven by craving and its concomitant clinging Upadana.

The meaning of Ta hā (craving, desire, want, thirst), extends beyond the desire for material objects or sense pleasures. It also includes the desire for life (or death, in the case of someone wishing to commit suicide), desire for fame (or infamy, its opposite), desire for sleep, desire for mental or emotional states (happiness, joy, rapture, love) if they are not present and would like them to be. If we experience, say depression or sorrow, we can desire its opposite. The meaning of Ta hā is far-reaching and covers all desire, all wanting, all craving, irrespective of its intensity, but this isn't how it is normally used in Buddhist understanding.

Ta hā is sometimes taken as interchangeable with the term addiction, except that would be too narrow a view. Ta hā tends to include a far broader range of human experience and feeling than medical discussions of addiction tend to include.

Further analysis of Ta hā, reveals that worldly desires cannot be fully satiated or satisfied, due to their impermanent nature. This is expounded in the Buddhist teaching of Anitya impermanence, change (Pal: Anicca).

The Buddhist solution to the problem of Tanha (craving, wanting) is the next of the four noble truths, Nirodha, the cessation of suffering which is Noble Eightfold Path and the Six Paramita. The cessastion of suffering comes from aknowledging the impermanence of existence, i.e that everything is constantly changing Anicca and Anatta, which is that because of Anicca there is no permanent self. The third of the Three marks of existence as they are known, is Dukkha, that being that the world is therefore unsatisfactory and suffering will occur if you place your trust in the impermanent things.

3. The fruits of craving - by Ananda Pereira




Gentleness, serenity compassion, through liberation from selfish craving-these are the fundamental teachings of the Buddha.

"Thus it is, Ananda, that because of sensation (vedana) comes craving (tanha); because of craving, pursuit (parlyesana); because of pursuit, gain (labha); because of gain, decision (vinicchaya); because of decision, excitement (chandaraga); because of excitement, clinging (ajihosana); because of clinging, enclosing (pariggaha); because of enclosing, avarice (macchariya); because of avarice, guarding (arakkha); and because of guarding there come to be the seizing of stick and weapon, disunion, strife and quarrelling slander, lying and many other unskillful things", (Maha Nidana Sutta, Digha Nikaya).

A man sees a block of land (vedana), and desires to own it (tanha). He finds out who the owner is and negotiates for a transfer (pariyesana). He buys the Land (labha) and decides exactly what he is going to plant (vinicchaya). Having so decided, he thinks about the money he will make, and the things he will be able to do with the money, and his thoughts excite him (chandaraga).

Thus excited, he clings to these pleasant dreams and to the land that will make them come true (ajihosana). He encloses the land with a wall or fence (pariggaha) and having so enclosed it he becomes selfish, feeling intensely and personally the intrusion of outsiders (macchariya). He employs security guards, buys a gun, and prepares to protect his property from the rest of the World (arakkha). And this, as we know, leads to strife of various kinds, from civil litigation to murder.

It is the same with other possessions. We cannot help perceiving things, but when we desire them the other consequences follow inevitably. There is no point in telling the owner of an estate that he should not protect it with fences or employ watchers to guard it. Having committed himself by acquiring it, he must do these things in order to ensure his profits. It is 'common sense," and the lawrecognizes his rights. This is the man-made Law. Its roots lie deeply bedded in craving. Men accept it as "common sense" because craving is common to all men, and they have no sense.

To the Buddhas and the Arahats, who did have sense, all this is stark lunacy. They say the truth clearly, all the time. Some of us may glimpse it now and then, hazily. The trust is that it is impossible to hold things, and that the effort to do so is both foolish and dangerous. The only thing that a man can be said to own is his character, even this is not an unchanging entity, but at least he has the power to conduct its changing, so that it changes for the better. Here there is no need of fences, watchers and guns: for there is no external force, however powerful, that can affect a man's character against his will. When a man is set on evil, as Devadatta was not even a Buddha can swerve him from his purpose. So also is the character of a man who is set on good. Opposition only strengthens such character.

But, there is always sensation (vedana): and so long as we are not Arahats, there is always craving (tanha). Craving and its inevitable results are man's real enemies, not otherrnen. If there was no craving there would be no pursuit' no gain, no decision, no excitement of desire, no clinging, no enclosing, no selfishness, no guarding, no seizing of weapons, no strife and no bloodshed. Craving is like the root of a long creeper whose fruits are deadly poison.

The Buddha and the Arahats saw this truth dearly, all the time. That is why they urged the utter destruction of craving, as the only means of deliverance. It can be destroyed utterly, never to spring up again. Buddhas and the Arahats were living examples of this supreme achievement, even though to us the task may seem impossible. Enmeshed as we are in craving, its deadly tendrils woven into the very texture of our being, the destruction of craving may seem like the destruction of all that is worthwhile. For, in our insanity, we have created false ideals out of it.

A man is said to tie worthless unless he has ambition. The pursuit of beauty is encouraged as wholesome and right. Poets have even confused beauty with truth. Parents tell their children that they must work hard and "get on inthe world", What is behind it all?

The Buddha's teaching may seem cold and alien, suicidal even, especially when we are in the act of pursuing, holding, enclosing or guarding something that we desire very greatly. It is the coldness of truth. If it seems alien, it is because we are sstill lunatics, and the teaching is same. If it seems suicidal, it is because craving forms the greater part of our being. In our rare and hazy glimpses of the truth we must admit that the teaching is true.

Such a glimpse may come on a Vesak day, because of its associations. On this day, so significant to all followers of the Buddha, there is, for a while, a turning away from false, craving-born ideals, and an attempt to see the true ideal. May that vision be clear, and may the memory of it linger. It is the only thing that counts. Until such time as craving is destroyed, this glimpse of truth may serve as 'guide'. It may help us least to control that which must ultimately be destroyed. Seeing "desirable" things, we may at least curb the tendency to pursue them, knowing where that pursuit will lead.

4. The Second Noble Truth: the Cause of Suffering - by Lama Surya Das


Last week I started talking about the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path (the eight principles of enlightened living), looking into Buddhism in an American way from the ground up. The First Noble Truth or fact of life being dukkha, dissatisfactoriness — that all conditioned things are just a little off the mark, a little bit unreliable and ultimately dissatisfying. Etymologically speaking, dukkha means hard to bear, off the mark, hollow. The outcome of that means that the more we are invested in those created things, the more we suffer. Therefore, the first fact of life is sometimes called suffering, but I find that a slightly pessimistic interpretation. Personally, I think the message of the Dharma is a lot more optimistic than that.

These four facts of life are meant to be known, understood, and realized, seen as they are. Knowing the bare fact that things are dissatisfying won’t free us from dissatisfaction. The crucial part is knowing the Second Noble Truth, which is the cause of that dissatisfaction — not the things themselves, since the things themselves don’t suffer; it is we who suffer. The cause of that suffering is clinging, attachment, greed, desire, resistance, fixation — whatever you want to call it. It is often called craving. The word literally is tanha in Pali (samudaya in Sanskrit), which suggests thirst. Because we crave, continually desire and thirst for various experiences and things, and because created things are never ultimately satisfying, we suffer. That’s where the chain of suffering can be addressed: whether or not we cling to things and crave for experience. It’s not that we have to get rid of the things themselves. Things are not the problem. It is the attachment, the identification with things that causes suffering. Tilopa wrote, “It is not outer objects which entangle us. It is inner clinging which entangles us.”

This clinging takes many different forms, as we all know. We might well examine in our own lives what forms this attachment takes, but traditionally it is laid out as taking three different aspects: One is craving for pleasurable experiences, what we want. Second is craving to get rid of what we don’t want. This is also a desire, of course (although in the form of aversion). This is interesting, because here we see how attachment (or desire) and aversion (or anger, aggression) are actually the very same movement, a craving for something other than what is.

The third aspect is also very interesting as we go a little deeper into it: Craving or desire to become something or someone, that is, egotism itself. It fuels the whole process of rebirth, of wanting something and becoming that. So there is a lot of dissatisfaction in that, since whatever we can become, however we can seem, whatever we get or achieve, doesn’t last forever; yet we exhaust ourselves and absorb ourselves in getting it; we are invested in it and identify with it. That’s why clinging or attachment can also be called identification. If we identify with things — if we identify with our body, if we identify with our mind, if we identify with our self-concept — since they are not ultimately permanent or satisfying, it is very trying. We never quite get what we need out of this incessant clinging and demanding. It’s like drinking salt water, which cannot alleviate our thirst, but just makes us even more thirsty.

Tanha is thirst: thirsting for pleasure, thirsting to be rid of pain, and thirsting to be or become something or someone. Like drinking salt water, tanha never alleviates our inner thirst. The more we drink, the thirstier we become, ultimately to die of thirst. So in Buddha’s analysis of suffering, and its cause and its end — the Third Truth — and the path to the end of that suffering — the Fourth Truth — it is very clear that here is where the chain can get cut: by looking into what we cling to, what we crave, what we demand, what we identify with, and what we get out of that attachment. Let’s explore and see for ourselves whether we are really getting what we want out of it, or not. That could be quite revealing.

I think if we ask ourselves honestly, we might be surprised to see how deep this goes. How hard it is to really know how addicted and conditioned we are! Can we acknowledge how ill at ease, how dis-eased we actually are? What is this incessant irritation gnawing at us? That is why we are always gnawing — sort of like Pac Man gobbling — always gnawing at things, always seeking, always shopping and questing and consuming, because this dissatisfaction is in us, gnawing at us like a hungry ghost within our psyche. This incessant gnawing is the truth of dukkha. Maybe that’s a good translation of dukkha: gnawing dissatisfaction. The cause of it is this craving, this thirst for pleasure, this desire to avoid pain, and longing to be or become someone or something.

That blind drive, that conditioning, perpetuates itself and proliferates into all of our activities: always trying to make something happen, become something or someone, get something, get rid of something. It’s endless, isn’t it? The entire treadmill of conditioning under which we are staggering most of the time. Staggering or jogging, whatever we do — like gerbils spinning the wheel in their gerbil-cage. Marathoning, walking slow motion, meditating, whatever — still we are on the treadmill trying to get somewhere, to become and to be something. Even idealizing the Buddha and the way to Buddhahood is another treadmill when looked at that way — a great effort to be or become Buddha. Yet in terms of trying to be or become something, that should probably be one of the last ones to go! We can raise our sights a little bit, but still it is the treadmill of becoming; there is desire or craving there. There is a lot of suffering in that.

Therefore, we find the Dharma teaching is about inner peace, expressing a knowledge that everything is available within the natural being, our spiritual ground, the Buddha-nature — as it says in the Dzogchen teachings. This message, this truth is so liberating. We don’t have to just change our desires over to “now we want to become Buddha” and spend infinite lifetimes craving for something different called “Buddha” and trying to reach the so-called other shore — which seems never here, always somewhere else — that place called Nirvana. That’s just more becoming and craving to become something different. How to become just what we are? That is the conundrum, the koan of spiritual life.

When we look with the Dharma-eye of spiritual practice, we see that if we settle back into the beingness of Buddha, which we participate in even now, we can experience and delight in, celebrate and affirm, this beingness of Buddha. Ultimately, peace is within. We can see through this incessant chain of craving and clinging, of wanting and not wanting, the multifarious afflictions of this thirst that brings so much dissatisfaction and pain and, even worse, creates suffering in the world and in ourselves. We can really ease back and reconnect with the component of being, rather than being lost so much in doing, achieving, and becoming and staying disconnected from being. We can ease back and experience a little more balance with the totally complete and innate being-component, in which there is nothing missing and we can just be as we are. From that everything can spontaneously proceed. Then all the doings, all the achievements, and so on, take on an entirely different meaning. They become the art of living instead of the drudgery of reactivity and conditioning; creative and proactive rather than reactive.

If we can step off the treadmill of conditioning — cease staggering forward under the momentum of our conditioning — with a big outbreath, a Dzogchen sky-breath, we might find that in truth nothing is missing in that exact moment. As all the mystics say — though it still remains for us to confirm — nothing is missing and nothing is in excess. We don’t have to try to become Buddha, desiring something higher, trying to get rid of something lesser, while striving blindly to become. We can afford to actually be as we are, since we already are, anyway. It is not so far. That’s why the Dzogchen teachings talk about the ground or basis, and the fruit or result. It is really a rainbow bridge. The ground and the result are not far at all, so the path joining them isn’t very long. It is much more a matter of recognizing who and what we are than of desiring something else, for that thirst continuously perpetuates our pain.

Therefore, I feel that if we really look into the most basic teaching of the Dharma — suffering or dissatisfaction, and its real cause — we might actually find, even here in our own simple, boring old sitting practice, the panacea, the antidote, the ultimate answer to those questions that all of the 84,000 Dharma teachings are built upon. We don’t even have to study them, thank God! We can actually practice them in essence and realize their essence, even right here, even without using the word Buddhism, without converting to anything, without believing any dogma or received teachings, but directly through our own personal experience. We can cut through the tangled knot of conditioning, of becoming, of craving, of clinging, of aversion, reconnecting deeply and rediscovering our pure beingness in whatever form it takes. If we really look in our daily lives and examine how much this tanha, this thirst, drives us, I think we would be amazed at how little peace we have, how we are always plugged in, driven, compulsive, dependent, and ill at ease in ourselves. We are often plugged in through every sense: ear plugs, nose plugs, something in the mouth, watching something, listening, feeling, the seat vibrating while we’re watching television and talking on the phone with the radio or stereo as background music. Whatever we can get, we try to experience, rubbing our feet on the foot roller while the beer rumbles in our stomachs with the TV on, and so on. We can’t just be, without being a little high, and on and on and on. You know how it is. None of us are an exception.

All this stimulation and incessant searching for sensual gratification is like drinking salt water. The more we drink, the more we seem to need and want. I think this enlightened vision that the Buddha offers us to inquire into is something else entirely. It is very profound: What is bugging us? It seems like everything bugs us. Dukkha. How come nothing doesn’t bug us, really, in the ultimate analysis? Everything is off the mark. What is the cause of that? It’s this clinging to things; craving for something; holding onto that which dissipates, which falls apart, which is impermanent and ungovernable; identifying with things that are not true, illusions like our self-concept, which is also just a fleeting, hollow fabrication. We resist; we are stuck with our self-image, our ego, invested in our time-worn persona and personal act, which severely conditions the limits we place on our own possibilities. You might think your name is Allison and you probably have some other concepts, some delusions — like that you’re a woman, you’re American, and so on — but are you just that? Are you not also Buddha, a goddess, a global citizen, male/female energy? As long as you think you are just Allison, a graduate student who has no power over what you do, you limit your true possibilities.

Take Mother Teresa, for example. She is four and a half feet tall and comes from Albania. She is a female nun in the Roman Catholic order. Where did she get the idea that she could go and save the world, that she could transform Calcutta and take on all of India? She just reinvented herself instead of being a disempowered, neglected nun in Albania. She blossomed. She had a different self-concept, or maybe she had less self-concept; something else flowed through her and she became something completely different, like the Dalai Lama. Nobody found Mother Teresa when she was born and said “you should work to save the world.” She reinvented herself. She took on that mantle, taking on all the poor street people in Calcutta. She didn’t have much of anything to work with. She didn’t have the Rockefeller Foundation behind her. She just went to Calcutta and started doing it. Her heart provided enough to get her going on such a remarkable way.

The point I want to make here is that your image is totally a hoax. Whether Mother Teresa’s is or is not really doesn’t matter, but what about yours, and mine too? Totally a hoax. But, of course, one has to function, so one has some sort of mask to present to the world, but one doesn’t have to be totally invested in it, identified with it, stuck with it, and deceived by the mask one has assumed. That’s the point of freedom. You don’t have to be stuck with it. We all inherited our genetic makeup from our parents, but that doesn’t mean we have to be particularly stuck with that or overly identify with it. Maybe our parents weren’t very healthy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be healthy. When we take responsibility for ourselves — which is an important part of growing up, both physically and spiritually — we can actually develop better character, more integrity, and even total self-mastery.

But right now we are prey to the hoax and the illusion. We are attached to it because it is familiar, and all that we know — our cozy, familiar-smelling ragged nest. Perhaps that is why we think often of Mother Teresa’s myth. Maybe she is actually like Santa Claus and doesn’t really do anything good; I don’t know. (She seems saintly.) But we all, for the most part, need to have somebody like her to hang our hopes on: Santa Claus for the children, others for us, Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, Christ, whoever. As long as we need to have hopes, we need to hang them somewhere. But let us not fall prey to too much idealization and give in to our immature tendency to totalize things as either totally black or white. For we are usually disappointed in the end if we place anyone or anything upon a high pedestal.

Thus, the Second Noble Truth is the cause of dissatisfaction, which is clinging and craving. The Third Truth, which I’ll go into next week, is the dissolution of craving and clinging, the heart’s sure release, the relinquishment of the craving and clinging. The great letting go. Openness and natural purity of heart, which doesn’t need anything any more. “Sems nyi ngalso” in Tibetan, as Longchenpa advises, “Rest your weary mind at home and at ease.” This is the phrase Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche always uses, too.

5. Craving and Clinging - "HANDICAPPED" BUDDHISM - by Richard Louis Bruno


The Second Noble Truth: Suffering is caused by craving and clinging. Craving is when we think the pain in our lives "should" disappear immediately; clinging is when we think that the "good" should last forever. But where did all these "shoulds" come from in the first place?

The "shoulds" come from society, which creates rules to control our behavior so we can potentially live in harmony. Before we are able to speak, think or know our own minds, we have learned the "shoulds" that protect society. We adjust our thinking and actions to become what society considers "normal." However the "shoulds" that are a blessing for society are a curse for its members who become disabled because they are no longer "normal."

"Much of the suffering that comes with disability stems from the constant attempt to measure up to purported social norms," says Winfield Clark, student of Tibetan Buddhism, composer and paraplegic for 40 years. "Disability causes invidious comparisons with 'normal' people and reveals our 'inadequacy' as members of society."

Unfortunately for us as individuals, the small, solid, sensible voice inside of us -- the voice of our own inner wisdom -- has been drowned out by society's "shoulds" and we become robots, living our lives on autopilot. When we become disabled, we can no longer fly the "normal" course that society dictates and we crash.

But you can't blame society for conditioning us, because "society" is just a bunch of individuals. There must be some "should" deep inside every member of society hat has made necessary all of the other "shoulds."

Say goodbye to "I." The deepest "should" in each one of us is that we should never become sick or disabled, age or die. But, alas, this "should of all shoulds" is not reality; it is merely a wish that can never be. We do not want to think of a world in which we don't exist, or accept a life in which we are not always young and as "normal" -- healthy and physically capable -- as we have been or "should" be. The essence of the Buddha's enlightenment was that protecting the illusion of the "normal," immortal "I" makes necessary all of society's other "shoulds" and is the root cause of suffering.

"Your success in handling disability depends on letting go of the illusion of the "normal," immortal "I," says Barry Corbet (1935-2004), student of Tibetan Buddhism and T10 paraplegic. "If you have no 'I,' you have nothing to lose; if you have nothing to lose, there is no reason for suffering."

Interdependence Day. The second half to the illusion of the"normal," immortal "I" is that our "I" is totally separate and independent from, and can exist alone in the world without, anyone or anything else. This notion of the totally independent "I" is also an illusion. First, humans have never been independent. Back when our ancestors lived in caves and hunted, some were more skilled at tracking animals and others better at throwing the spear. Today, no one hunts their own food, makes their own clothes, or manufactures their own wheelchairs.

Of course folk with physical limitations require more help with hunting, spearing and activities of daily living than do others. But, many of my patients say that unless they are completely independent of help from everyone, they consider themselves totally dependent and therefore totally without value to anyone. Some patients will do anything, including damage their bodies and actually become more disabled, to maintain their illusion of independence. A very powerful and pervasive cause of suffering is clinging to this illusion of "independence." The end to suffering lies in accepting that we are all interdependent, that interdependence is in fact a natural law.

Cause and affect. A second reason we cannot consider ourselves independent is something we learned in high school: For every action there is a reaction. The Buddha proposed this law, applying it not to physical actions but to human actions. He called the law of human actions and reactions Karma, saying that "every object and occurrence in the universe is interconnected," explains composer Clark. "No one can be said to exist independently." Karma means that because no event, no person, no thing is independent, everything we do can affect everything else in the universe. A heady notion indeed! What's more, these effects will someday circle back to affect us!

The Buddha called the circling of karmic actions and reactions "conditioned" or "dependent co-arising," meaning that all of our thoughts, feelings and actions arise from the conditioning we have experienced in our lives, conditioning dependent on all of our experiences with everyone we have ever met, whose actions toward us are dependent eventually on our actions toward them. And it is our decades of conditioned thinking, patterns of behavior and societal "shoulding" that Buddhism would help us erase. When the "conditioning we all had undergone" as children falls away, says Zen teacher Nanrei Kobori, former Head Buddhist Priest, Daitokuji Temple, Kyoto, Japan, something wonderful and free remains: our "vibrant central core . . . our unconditioned self."

The innate concepts as set forth in the following two sections (V and VI) of Nagarjuna's Eight Negations are two of the most important KEYS to the explanation of "dependent origination" and "dependent co-arising," mentioned above that one can grasp:

V. NOT ONE THING Anekaartham:

Dependent origination, properly understood, denies that anything is absolutely singular. A thing is nothing more than the coming together of all its causes, and no thing has a single cause. So even though a thing may be perceived a single thing, reflection will always reveal that it is in fact a multiplicity of factors complexly arranged. What we take to be an individual (literally undivided whole) is never in fact indivisible. For Nagarjuna this means that no physical thing is simple; every thing is composed of parts, and therefore is liable to decompose. But it also means that no concept is primitive and basic. Every concept is built up of related concepts. Every concept has meaning only within a specific context of other concepts. And so the very attempt to arrive at primitive ideas, or axioms, from which other ideas can be derived, is doomed to failure.

VI. NOT MANY THINGS Anaanaartham:

Nagarjuna was very fond at applying recursive logic. Recursion is the name given to using the output of an operation as input to the same operation. Now we saw above that nothing is simple, because everything is made of a multiplicity of factors. So, for example, we could say that an apparent whole W is in fact a set of parts {a,b,c,d....}. But we can now substitute any one of those parts for W, with the result that we realize that none of the apparent parts of the whole is itself a simple thing. Indeed, if we continue the process of analysis to its logical conclusion, the result is that there are no things at all, even to serve as parts of larger wholes. But if there are no parts at all, then it is really NOT true after all to say of a whole that it is in fact made of many parts(nanaartha). (source)

Disability: A karmic punishment? Some Buddhists believe in reincarnation and say that what happens to you in this life results from the circling back of your own actions from previous lives. Does this mean that being born with C.P., spina bifida or getting polio as an infant is punishment for "bad karma" in past lives?

Abbie Freedman, student of Theravada Buddhism, A.D.A. consultant and T5 paraplegic, says, "I believe my accident (and it's consequences) is a result of something I'd done (or didn't do), or because of something I didn't handle properly, in a past life. I now get another chance to 'do it right.' I don't think of it as a punishment."

And neither did the Buddha. But Clark warns, "Buddhist teachers always caution against thinking about other lives." Even on his death bed, the Buddha refused to tell his disciples where he was "going" after this life. As for karma from past lives affecting the present, the Buddha said it "does not lead to profit" to contemplate what we can not know when there is so much we must learn -- and unlearn -- here and now! "It is really unproductive to think about past lives," says Clark. "We have more than enough to handle dealing with this one."

Billie Henry, a practitioner of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, would agree with having "enough to handle" now. She has a long list of illnesses: arthritis, asthma, a slow thyroid and diabetes causing extensive nerve damage in her feet and fingers. Oh, and Billie's had two different types of cancer. She also agrees that contemplating past lives is unproductive: "Some think we have chosen our illnesses before we were born as a means of showing our dedication to Buddhism. If I chose my illnesses before my birth I must have been out of my mind at the time!"

"Already broken." A final, frightening fact is that it is not just our cherished "I" that changes and dies. Everything and everyone on earth, the earth itself and the universe that contains it, will change and pass away. You will lose your mother and father, maybe your spouse, sister and closest friend. You may lose your job, your house, your savings. The Buddha said that clinging to anything causes suffering.

Being aware of and accepting that everything changes -- even the things and people we love most -- can actually be a source of joy, helping us to appreciate in every moment the fragile beauty and value of all things. Buddhist psychotherapist Mark Epstein, author of Thoughts without a Thinker, recalls Thai Buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah (also spelled Achaan Chaa, Achaan Chuan) describing the joys of accepting change:

You see glass? For me, this it is already broken. I enjoy it. I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. But when the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it shatters, I say 'Of course.' When I understand that this glass was already broken, every moment with it is precious.

When we accept that everything animate and inanimate is "already broken," a physical disability -- even a terminal illness -- looses its abnormality. Actually, anything that is not broken, not "disabled," is really abnormal.

6. Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion, the Edited Transcripts (Alan Watts Love of Wisdom Library) (Paperback)


From Publishers Weekly - The taped lectures of Alan Watts have inspired a generation. Now, in handsomely designed little volumes, of which this is the first, they are appearing in print form. Few people in the middle of the century spoke as eloquently as Watts about Zen. Here, five of his justly famous lectures?three of the so-called "Japan Lectures" and two, delivered on his Sausalito house boat, on Tibetan Buddhism?are now transcribed and compiled. Especially welcome is the transcription of the renowned "Religion of No Religion" lecture in which some of the most difficult Buddhist concepts are presented with such lucidity as to make us gasp. Watts, an Episcopal priest who became a Zen scholar, was an accomplished stylist; and although his famous voice and happy laughter are missing now, his penetrating vision of Buddhism remains, and his lectures become brilliant prose in book form. This series, and this volume in particular, will be important to any new student of the East's religions.

Amazon.com Reviewer: (Walnut, Ca USA) - Transcribed from recordings of lectures by Alan Watts, this book contains the most dynamic and comprehensive introduction to Buddhism I have yet to read. I have plenty of books that try too hard to attack the novice readers with multiple Zen riddles and the "complexities that are not complex." By the time the curious readers get to the third chapter of such books, a fascinating subject dwindles away.

Not so with this book. The credit goes to both Alan Watts ---for his smooth and concise lectures--- and the person/people who edited the transcripts. The result is 98 pages of a keen and precise overview of Zen Buddhism, where concepts of "The Religion of No-Religion" and "The Middle Way" are easily accessible to readers who are going into the subject matter knowing nothing.

I especially liked the way Watts explains how the concept "The Cause of Suffering is Desire" is often misunderstood, emphasizing that when translated into English, "desire" might better be represented with words like "craving, clinging, or grasping." He then does an excellent narrative into the paradox of students trying to eliminate "desire" from their existence, only to learn they are still desiring something: not to desire. Watts walks the reader through these way-out riddles in a way few people can.

I would go as far to recommend this work above Alan Watts' better known "The Way of Zen" if this is your first venture into Buddhism. After reading this book, "The Way of Zen" is a great follow-up, and the other complex introductions to Zen Buddhism will begin to make more sense. Nothing esoteric here, just straight talk on Buddhism.


The Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives:



The Los Angeles Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue:



Support www.UrbanDharma.org with a Donation:



The Urban Dharma Podcast and Audio Dharma Talks: