The Dhammapada exploration – part 18: Impurities

This chapter mostly stresses the importance of removing impurities. These mostly come in the form of temptation to let yourself go a bit too much. Don’t give in to them! How this is done, that differs between each Buddhist practice, but it’s mostly reflection and observation of mind-phenomena (as usual, if you’ve been reading this series you should begin to see a pattern here).

235. Like a withered leaf are you now; death’s messengers await you. You stand on the eve of your departure, yet you have made no provision for your journey!

236. Make an island for yourself! Strive hard and become wise! Rid of impurities and cleansed of stain, you shall enter the celestial abode of the Noble Ones.

237. Your life has come to an end now; You are setting forth into the presence of Yama, the king of death. No resting place is there for you on the way, yet you have made no provision for the journey!

At the moment of your death, death-god Yama (who looks kick-ass with his swollen face and skull-crown, by the way, grarrrrgh) takes you, and lo, you don’t have anything. You’re not prepared! You didn’t do the right things, you never reflected, you were sloppy, you have no provisions! Feel silly now, eh?

238. Make an island unto yourself! Strive hard and become wise! Rid of impurities and cleansed of stain, you shall not come again to birth and decay.

You can escape the wheel of Samsara, and this tiny concise sentence basically tells you all you need to know about how that’s done. Too bad the real challenge lies in the doing.

239. One by one, little by little, moment by moment, a wise man should remove his own impurities, as a smith removes his dross from silver.

240. Just as rust arising from iron eats away the base from which it arises, even so, their own deeds lead transgressors to states of woe.

The latter at least can be observed first-hand. The impurities are at the heart of what causes this rust, and the rust eats away at you. If you remove the source of it, you will be better off. Remove the source of your anger, your impatience, your greed and your intolerance. That way, their negative effects cannot manifest themselves.

241. Non-repetition is the bane of scriptures; neglect is the bane of a home; slovenliness is the bane of personal appearance, and heedlessness is the bane of a guard.

The guard they mean here is really a guard, a person you hire to guard your house.

242. Unchastity is the taint in a woman; niggardliness is the taint in a giver. Taints, indeed, are all evil things, both in this world and the next.

Hmm, okay, now this one seems a bit mixed up to me. Thanissaro Bhikku, to the rescue! It’s alternative translation time:

In a woman, misconduct is an impurity. In a donor, stinginess. Evil deeds are the real impurities in this world & the next.

Oh. Okay. That’s slightly better.

243. A worse taint than these is ignorance, the worst of all taints. Destroy this one taint and become taintless, O monks!

Not just ignorance in general, but specifically also ignorance about the truth of suffering, the causes of suffering and the path to the cessation of suffering.

244. Easy is life for the shameless one who is impudent as a crow, is backbiting and forward, arrogant and corrupt.

245. Difficult is life for the modest one who always seeks purity, is detached and unassuming, clean in life, and discerning.

Yeah, ever wondered why that is so? The next few verses at least offer some sort of consolation.

246-247. One who destroys life, utters lies, takes what is not given, goes to another man’s wife, and is addicted to intoxicating drinks — such a man digs up his own root even in this world.

248. Know this, O good man: evil things are difficult to control. Let not greed and wickedness drag you to protracted misery.

I like the simile of “digging up one’s own root”.

249. People give according to their faith or regard. If one becomes discontented with the food and drink given by others, one does not attain meditative absorption, either by day or by night.

250. But he in who this (discontent) is fully destroyed, uprooted and extinct, he attains absorption, both by day and by night.

You can take this even further if you like. You can be content no matter what. In pouring rain or when being forced to wait 20 minutes for the next bus or when the cafeteria ran out of nigger heads again and you have to settle for a tartelette aux cerises. And it’s not about controlling all your emotions, crushing them like a tank. It’s about observing them as they arise and not letting them take hold of you.

I know you, Mara!

251. There is no fire like lust; there is no grip like hatred; there is no net like delusion; there is no river like craving.

These awesome similes again. They had a knack for good images back in the day.

252. Easily seen is the fault of others, but one’s own fault is difficult to see. Like chaff one winnows another’s faults, but hides one’s own, even as a crafty fowler hides behind sham branches.

The crafty fowler! I’m in simile heaven!

253. He who seeks another’s faults, who is ever censorious — his cankers grow. He is far from destruction of the cankers.

254. There is no track in the sky, and no recluse outside (the Buddha’s dispensation). Mankind delights in worldliness, but the Buddhas are free from worldliness. [19]

255. There is no track in the sky, and no recluse outside (the Buddha’s dispensation). There are no conditioned things that are eternal, and no instability in the Buddhas.

 

This is a series of articles I’m doing on one of the basic Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada. Read the rest of the articles in this series.

Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): Conclusion

About 9 months ago, I stopped buying games because I had a huge pile of unplayed ones already, like most gamers. I told myself I won’t be buying any more games for a year, to finish what I already have, and to decide what I don’t even want to play. 9 months in I broke my vow when prices for used Playstation 3 stuff hit their lowest point yet and it became clear to me that missing this opportunity wouldn’t be wise, so I stopped my challenge and bought a PS3 with piles of games to last me years. You can read all the details month-by-month here.

In numbers, I’ve played somewhere around 40 games, finishing about a dozen and discarding or shelving the rest. But I also added 43 new games to my wishlist. In the old days, these 42 games would have been immediately purchased and added to my existing queue of 100-something titles. Horrible to think of that now. Instead, I have a physical pile of PS3 games that goes up to my hip to worry about. Much better!

I learned a lot, and I believe I can condense it into a few paragraphs of hints for those addicted to game purchases. And I’m saying game purchases, not necessarily playing. Some of these games sat for ages in my library until I finally stopped buying new ones and actually played them. Is it the same for you? Then read on.

Continue reading Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): Conclusion

Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): September 2016

Last month I told you about my magical rediscovery of console gaming. I had been so focused on PC that I had completly ignored entire generations of console games. I got cut off at the early days of the Wii. Now what I discovered was:

  1. I really enjoy the Wii titles that have a childlike appearance but some tough core gameplay. All those colors! Super Mario Galaxy! It’s not just grey and brown and somber like the PC titles are sometimes.
  2. I don’t know even half the good titles that came out for the Game Cube, and there are some unique ones there.
  3. I’ve missed most of the good PS2 stuff, and all of the good PS3 stuff.
  4. Guitar Hero was real fun. Why did I stop playing Guitar Hero? Why did I never pick up Rock Band and the drum set?

All of these needed to be remedied. So in a very desperate move, I dug into the PS3 scene just as the PS3 is dying. Dying or dead consoles are the best for collecting, and I’d put this under the heading “collecting”. Once they’re no longer popular, you can get used games for single-digit prices. Some of them are even collections. I bought God of War 1 – 5 in a big set for USD 12, for example, and that’s the remastered HD edition for PS3.

Continue reading Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): September 2016

The Dhammapada exploration – part 16: Affection/dear ones

Coming to this chapter of the Dhammapada, I have to reiterate that it’s always good to look at multiple translations of Buddhist texts. In this series I usually use the Buddharakkhita one, but Access to Insight also hosts the one by Thanissaro Bhikku. The differences in translation can be pretty profound sometimes.

One example that fucked stuff up a little for Buddhism in the west is the difference between non-aggression and love. The Pali term metta is used for an active kind of well-feeling, loving-kindness towards others, and it’s often translated as love. Christian commentators of the new times also make use of the word “love”, but in my mind they pervert what is meant.

Continue reading The Dhammapada exploration – part 16: Affection/dear ones

Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): August 2016

It was a month with one or two strange revelations, but it started pretty mundanely.

Life is Strange’s first episode became available for free. I downloaded it but I don’t dare to play until next March, because if I like the first episode, I might want to buy the rest.

Other than that, my mind was reasonably calm, the game-buying urges seemed manageable as long as I didn’t look at online stores for games. I started to enjoy my home-built virtual pinball  machine without feeling anxious about getting good at each table in order to have “finished” it. I simply played and had fun.

All was serene. All was calm.

Until my phone beeped and told me there was a new Humble Indie Bundle. A new Humble Indie Bundle! I am a cunt for forgetting to turn off those notifications.

Continue reading Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): August 2016

How the Netflix model rescued creativity, and why it needs to drop DRM

If you’re an 80s kid and haven’t heard of Stranger Things, you owe it to yourself to have a look. Now in a recent interview on NPR, Stranger Things creators the Duffer brothers said a few interesting things:

  • They approached Winona Ryder without expecting anything, they weren’t sure she would accept the role. She did, and they adapted the character to her. Complete creative license from Netflix.
  • Netflix didn’t expect any specific success. They appear to be funding several shows, and it’s enough if one or two of them is successful. Stranger Things is wildly successful, and this was unexpected even to the Duffer brothers themselves.
  • Netflix doesn’t need to create any hype. They release the shows whenever they’re released, usually without fanfare. Subscribers need to be subscribers to watch anyway, so Netflix doesn’t care if 100 people watch on the first night of a new show or 1 million.

This is interesting for several reasons:

  • Netflix doesn’t need to suck the cocks and lick the clits of advertisers. Doesn’t need to censor shows when those pesky writers wrote something an advertiser might not agree with.
  • Netflix can give full creative reign to its creators, and whether things flop or become a great success isn’t so important. This probably creates a wonderful atmosphere for  labors of love.

I think this is all no small part of the reason why they manage to hammer out several very highly acclaimed shows every year. Whether it’s completely new stuff like Bo-Jack Horseman or Stranger Things, whether it runs under license like Daredevil or whether it’s a spin-off from a series that came from traditional TV like Better Call Saul doesn’t seem to matter. Success has been had in several categories.

This must be wonderful for creators, and I believe it shows in their work. Meanwhile over at Amazon Video, Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle finally gets a series treatment, and it’s quite a good one as well. Amazon might have a strategy similar to Netflix’.

But! There are a few nasty, nasty buts about these services:

  • They promote the use of DRM on the web and the DRMification of content.
    • This fucks customers in the ass and other orifices.
    • It also gives them muscle to cut exclusive deals with the likes of Microsoft that unfairly put other operating systems at a disadvantage without any technical reason.
  • The streaming video you get is just streaming video. You don’t get to keep anything. No backups. No discs. If the service provider drops your favorite show, you won’t be able to watch any old episodes anymore even if you’re a subscriber.

For the moment, I think the benefits outweigh the cost, but only slightly. I hope the industry will one day realize that DRM is a crutch and that the only thing it reliably does is annoy people and put them at a disadvantage. It doesn’t prevent piracy, it never has.

I’m paying my Netflix tax, I’m very happy with the kind of series this produces, but I also reserve the right to download backups of whatever I want. This is still legal in Switzerland, and I hope it stays that way until the streaming services offer some form of downloadable copies. They could come a year after a show has aired, for example. They could charge a small fee for each download. That way, subscribers can have everything first, and when the show becomes old and perhaps a burden for Netflix to host, customers can take storage and backup into their own hands. And they’d even pay Netflix for the privilege. Both sides would win.

Here’s hoping.