Andrew Furst

Memories of Past Lives? – Dialectic Two-Step

Posted by in Dialectic Two-Step, Writings

Question: Where are the memories of past lives stored between death and rebirth? Response: I’ll start with an easier question. Where are memories stored in this life? The best answer humans have now is the brain. This belief is backed up by well documented, peer reviewed, and reproducible experiments. Where are they stored after death? I don’t know, and I don’t think the question is a productive one. I venture to say that no one has conducted well documented, peer reviewed, and reproducible experiments that would indicate that: Memories are…read more

What’s the Big Deal With the Buddha? – Modern Koans

Posted by in Modern Koans, Writings

Question: How do we know that the Buddha was the enlightened one? Did someone give him a certificate? What’s the big deal with the Buddha? Response: Enlightenment, such a nasty word, misunderstood, and maligned. If there was an aversion to have, this word might be the perfect candidate. I’ll latch onto something I was reading recently (Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa). He said it nicely. I’ll have to paraphrase. Enlightenment is not something we get or achieve, it’s something we uncover or discover. So really, we come with the certificate and…read more

On Being Right – Dialectic Two Step

Posted by in Buddha, Dialectic Two-Step

A stranger who is an evangelical Christian has been sending a series of emails to me. According to his address, his name is Jeff. Jeff has offered some lengthy expositions touting evidence that Christianity is “right”. The latest edition offers an earnest four part treatment on the trustworthiness of the New Testament, the historicity of Jesus, and the virtue of miracle-claims and predictive prophecies. He or someone that he has quoted put a lot of effort into this essay.  I usually ignore emails like this.  In fact my response to the…read more


Learning Buddhism Systematically? – Modern Koans

Posted by in Modern Koans, Writings

Question: I have great interests in Buddhism, and I read a few books by my own which are too hard to understand. Do you have any tips on learning Buddhism systematically? Response: I applaud your efforts and encourage you find a meditation group or a Buddhist temple. Working with others with similar goals is wonderful. I will caution you on your approach. If there is a goal in Buddhism, it would be to reduce the suffering that greed, delusion, and hatred bring to bear on our lives. Rather than adopting…read more

What if God exists outside of scientific detection? – Modern Koans

Posted by in Modern Koans, Writings

Estimated reading time: 2 minute(s) Question: What if God exists outside of scientific detection? It’s not a matter of “what if”. That is a fact. the “radar” of scientific detection is our senses and any extensions that we create for them (for example a microscope or a telescope). As science and philosophy have methodically debunked the various anthropomorphic characterizations of God, the only remaining possible “definitions” of God are those that assert that “God” is not observable. This is the space in which the mystery lies. If you enjoyed this post,…read more

Where’s Does Hatred Come From? – Dialectic Two-Step

Posted by in Dialectic Two-Step, Writings

Question: Is hatred purely emotional/psychological, or is it also ‘spiritual’? Response: If hatred came from Lithuania, would it make a difference? How is spiritual different from the emotional or the psychological? You put the word spiritual in quotes. I think this accentuates the ambiguity of the term and muddles the question. Hatred is something that comes and goes, in and out of our consciousness. It can arise from many different causes and conditions. It would be ludicrous to try and inventory all the possible sources of hatred as if we…read more

Religious Tolerance? – Dialectic Two-Step

Posted by in Dialectic Two-Step, Writings

Question: Is the idea of difference with mutual respect better than the idea of religious tolerance? Response: I think both ideas, in different contexts, offer something beneficial. Religious tolerance is a bare minimum societal norm that could inform public policy. It is feasible to legislate using this as a standard. For example, companies can be required to avoid hiring practices that discriminate against minority religions. The idea of mutual respect in the face of differences feels morally superior. But as a platform for enforcing a social contract it is a…read more

Will Buddhism Become Outdated? – Modern Koans

Posted by in Modern Koans, Writings

Question: Will Buddhism become outdated? Response: Of course, many will point out, the truth of impermanence tells us Buddhism will not last. But I think the question is asking for a different response that looks to the truth of suffering. What is Buddhism? It’s an identity. What is a Buddhist? Someone who clings to that identity. When an identity is clung to, there is suffering. In this regard Buddhism (the institution) and adherence to it is in direct conflict with the notion of being awake (Bodhi). It is the raft….read more

Can I Learn Buddhist Super Powers? – Dialectic Two-Step

Posted by in Dialectic Two-Step, Writings

Question: Is there someplace in the world where they teach Buddhist super powers? Response: What exactly do you mean by super powers? What super powers are you interested in? Would you take anything anyone had to offer? To what end would you want to use this super power? The King Midas story offers a good view onto the drawbacks of super powers. Everything he touched turned to gold. He found that he couldn’t eat or drink as all his food and wine turned to gold when he touched it! Besides,…read more

Did Religion Create Evil? – Modern Koans

Posted by in Modern Koans, Writings

Question: Did religion cause evil? Did evil cause religion, or is evil just evil period? Response: Mind created evil. There is no other source. Only within mind and in language is there evidence of something being bad or good. Further, these concepts are known differently from mind to mind and can change from situation to situation. Religion and other social contracts are an invention of mind to contend with morality. A moral system is a great tool for finding common moral ground and establishing a system to monitor and regulate…read more