Wednesday, June 15, 2011

count to infinity

In Buddhism, there are a variety of topics that Gautama Buddha (he's the one generally credited with being "the Buddha" -- the guy who started Buddhism) suggested were not worth pondering. The topics amount to the foolishness that might be recognized in anyone attempting, in a non-Buddhist context, to count to infinity. Dumb and dumber ... a waste of time ... a waste of breath.

The Buddhist "imponderables" are pretty Buddhist in import and impact so I'm not really interested in playing in that sandbox. But I was reading a Buddhist bulletin board on which someone brought up what is imponderable with a topic entitled, "Why did Buddha call a Creator an imponderable?" I had never read that Gautama did in fact (as quoted by others) do that, but whether he did or didn't doesn't much matter. The question of imponderables remains.

Telling someone that something is imponderable is like telling them not to stick beans up their nose -- the first thing they want to do is to give it a whirl. Good advice is seldom if ever unaccompanied by the unfortunate results it seeks to point out. So, for my money, the first thing anyone might do when hearing "don't waste your time on imponderables" is to waste some time.

And, frankly, I don't think it's a waste of time. Everyone needs experience if their philosophies are to have any meat-on-the-bone meaning. And screwing the pooch is integral to that experience. How could anyone know that wasting their breath was a waste of breath without wasting their breath?

Back to the imponderables, then: The first thing anyone might do is to ponder a bit. Mom may say not to stick beans up your nose, but ... well, you know what happens in reality. And perhaps one of the first bits of thought includes the question, "what is imponderable?" There's the obvious intellectual stuff like trying to count to infinity or define god or something similar, but then I think the ripples start to move outward until, perhaps, the question arises, "what is not imponderable?"

We may call a rock "a rock," but what, precisely, is a rock? Or a daisy? Or a cowlick? Or a kiss? As an intellectual matter, we can parse the scene, come up with flowing definitions and explanations, and bolster one philosophy/religion or another. But intellect and emotion don't seem to get to the essence of anything. They may support and encourage, but they don't really hit the nail on the head. The downside of failing to answer our own questions to our own deepest satisfaction is that we remain mired in the intellectual and emotional realms ... and probably displaying an insufferable virtue as we parse and explain, extol and prate.

What is imponderable? What is not imponderable? Either way, I figure the usefulness of such questions lies in their ability to inspire a strong intention and a right action. And it is in the action that arises that our deepest questions begin to see some common-sensical answers. Intention followed by action puts meat on our formerly flimsy philosophical and religious bones.

The imponderable nature of "enlightenment" or "compassion" or "emptiness" or "daisies" begins to bloom.

And pretty soon we are able to count to infinity without any trouble at all.

1 comment:

  1. One might say that time spent pondering might have been spent living.