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I remember one of the higher monks at the school giving a speech in which she described coming back from a near-death experience as comparable to having to "return to a sewer where you do nothing but subsist on human excrement." Life is suffering. Now, there are legitimate philosophical reasons for holding to this view.Viewed from a certain perspective, the destruction of everything you've ever cared about is inevitable, and when it's being experienced, the pain of loss does not seem recompensed by the joy of attachment that preceded it.
Where it gets insidious is in the pall that it casts over our failures in this life.
I remember one student who was having problems memorising material for tests.
And it was a wonderful job working with largely wonderful people.
The administration, monks, and students knew that I was an atheist and had absolutely no problem with it as long as I didn't actively proselytise (try and find a Catholic school that would hire a moderate agnostic, let alone a fully out-of-the-closet atheist).
At first glance, karma is a lovely idea which encourages people to be good even when nobody is watching for the sake of happiness in a future life.
It's a bit carrot-and-stickish, but so are a lot of the ways in which we get people to not routinely beat us up and take our stuff.
Place your hands in the position of meditative equipoise, four finger widths below the navel, with the left hand on the bottom, right hand on top, and your thumbs touching to form a triangle. Most likely you have a sense that it is associated with the eyes since we derive most of our awareness of the world through vision....
This placement of the hands has connection with the place inside the body where inner heat is generated." This is already an unpromising start – if you aren't even allowed variation in the number of sub-navel finger widths for hand placement, how can we hope to be allowed to even slightly differ on the supposed object of inner contemplation? When speaking of meditating on the mind, the Dalai Lama manoeuvres his audience into a position where his conclusion seems inevitable: "Try to leave your mind vividly in a natural state... However, the existence of a separate mental consciousness can be ascertained; for example, when attention is diverted by sound, that which appears to the eye consciousness is not noticed...
But if we start looking a bit closer, at the ramifications of Buddhist belief in practice, there is a lurking darkness there, quietly stated and eloquently crafted, but every bit as profound as the Hellfires of Christianity or the rhetoric of jihad.
For nine years, I worked as a science and maths teacher at a small private Buddhist school in the United States.