Andrew Furst

Eradicating Delusion, Greed, and Anger – Modern Koans

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Question: What are the “Three Obstacles” in Buddhism, and how can they be eradicated? Response: So you want to eradicate delusion, greed, and anger. Seriously? Jeez. I guess you’re one of those go big or go home folks. Damn. Lets just say this; that, is a tall – no, gigantic – order. Do you mean to say that you’re really thinking you could transform the human race, subject to it’s endlessly varying circumstances and a genetic disposition towards greed, delusion, and anger? Wow! No really.  Just wow! That’s ambition. That…read more

Is Religion Necessary for Modern Society? – Modern Koans

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Question: Is religion necessary for modern society? Response: The persistence of an idea or an ideology can be found in the advantage it offers its followers. So when we talk about necessity, I think we should be focused at a higher level than religion. I would suggest what is necessary, is that we have a world view. Some of us hold a world view that is religious. Others – e.g. atheists – have a worldview that is not. There are more religious people than there are non-religious people. So, I…read more

If God Existed, Could He Create a More Powerful God? – Modern Koans

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Question: If god existed, could he create a more powerful god? Response: This is a logic trick designed to target the weakness in a theological definition of God in the tradition of Aquinas. If a God were truly omnipotent, then it would be able to create anything right? This would include something greater than itself. The alternative would be that the God was not omnipotent. Theologians aspire to use logic in the purposes of theology, but strictly speaking it is not useful and not applicable. The value of logic is…read more

Getting Back To Christmas? – Modern Koans

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The weeks leading up to Christmas can be the most difficult of the entire year for many people. For some, this might be a first year without a loved one. Some struggle with past memories. Me I struggle with the rush and rage of the holiday shopping, the aggressive driving, and the perennial “Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays” argument. But in the US, the rollercoaster ride that is December always ends in a nostalgic – if not chilly – day of peace, quiet, and ritual. Christmas morning delivers another day,…read more

How Should a Buddhist Deal with Discarding Erroneous Beliefs? – Modern Koans

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Question: How Should a Buddhist Deal with Discarding Erroneous Beliefs? Response: Humans have developed a couple of pretty neat tools for detecting erroneous beliefs.  Logic and standards for evidence are two great examples.  But your question gets to the heart of the matter – once you discover you’ve been acting based on erroneous beliefs, what do you do? I suspect, as always, the answer is “it depends”. It depends on the role the belief has in your world view. Let me give an example of how I’ve recently responded to…read more

Does Matter Exist? – Modern Koans

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Question: Does matter exist? The only thing I can be sure of is that I am ‘having’ the experience of being aware. The objects that the mind perceives as ‘being over there’ are illusory in nature.  Have we ever found this  substance we call matter? Response: I guess the first thing we should do is check in on what you mean when you say something exists. If you assume that it means a permanent unchanging essence that can be measured, you will never find such a thing. Everything that exists in this world…read more

The Will of God? – Modern Koans

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Question: How can I know the will of God? Response: While I have no knowledge of God, one might expect that asking to know such a thing would only be an obstruction to discovering it. Expressing a desire for something makes the object of desire smaller. Take my wish to have an apple pie. What if I didn’t have the capacity to appreciate the flakiness of its crust? Imagine I was only able to detect the sweetness of the apples, sugar, and cinnamon? My limitations diminish the pie. I would only be experiencing the…read more

Why Was I Born? – Modern Koans

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Question: According to Buddhism, I am not an eternal being or spirit. But, due to my past life karma I am born again. I was wondering what was the cause of my first life. Rebirth takes place due to karma. So if I had no karma before my first life, why was I born? Response: This isn’t an answer, but an opinion and a framework to consider. First, self is impermanent, just like all other observable phenomenon. As you said it arises from causes and conditions. So when you talk…read more

Which God is the Right One? – Modern Koans

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Question: Since there are so many religions, which god is most likely to be the right god? Response: The one that behaves and exists in the same way that the God we observe does. So far no religion has come close to describing that God. Maybe you should look to a religion that doesn’t describe God? If you enjoyed this post,  please like and share. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Modern Koans is an ongoing series that recognizes that good questions are often more important than their answers….read more

At What Point are We No Longer Human? – Modern Koans

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Question: What is the point at which we are no longer human? • Is it when enough of our physical body is removed? • Or when the brain no longer functions, but to what level? • Or if our brains can be kept alive and we can still think and communicate? • Or even when our consciousness can be moved to a computer? • Even if our brain was transplanted into another animal? Response: At no point in any layer of your nicely constructed thought experiment, is there an inherent…read more

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