In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion... (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Sunday, December 11, 2022, 20:47 (591 days ago) @ dhw

Buddhism

I have struggled through this podcast with increasing frustration. Xeno, you will know far, far more than I do about Buddhism, but you kindly offered to answer questions, and this presentation of “true” Buddhism, as opposed to the “baloney” of western and other secular dilutions, is so full of gaps and what seem to me to be misrepresentations that I fear I may well have missed something crucial which you may be able to provide.

Ajahn Brahmali’s complaint seems to be based almost entirely on secular scepticism towards the fundamental doctrine of rebirth. As I understand this doctrine, it has nothing to do with NDEs, in which patients return to being themselves after their “souls” have entered some kind of afterlife. Rebirth means what it says: being reborn. But as what? Perhaps you can tell us. Whoever you may become next time around will depend on the mess you’ve made of your previous life, and this goes on in an endless cycle until whatever identity you have at the time achieves Enlightenment and you enter Nirvana, which as I understand it means a total loss of all “cravings” and of all individuality. With my perhaps all too sceptical mind, I have always considered this to be the perfect state of death, so why bother with the long and apparently always painful sequence of lives spent suffering? (I have always felt very sorry for Buddhists, who must feel horribly guilty if they ever actually enjoy life!)

The original teachings seem to focus on the goal of losing all the “cravings” which make life such a misery but which – apparently missing from the teachings – also make life such a pleasure. Yes, to hell with greed, lust for power, and all the consequences of human selfishness. But how about the joy of giving and receiving love, helping and being helped by others, creating a thing of beauty for one’s own delight and that of others? Not a word about that from Ajahn Brahmali.

In order to achieve the desired state of killing all desires, the Buddha recommended monastic life. I presume this would ideally entail solitary confinement, and I can’t help wondering why Ajahn Brahmali hasn’t shut himself away instead of giving interviews. (I’m sorry if this sounds flippant, but when I hear someone dismiss other people’s beliefs as “baloney”, I tend to feel less tolerant towards them than I should. I had the same feeling when Dawkins called God a “delusion”.)

I didn’t know that secular Buddhism had sided completely with materialism and excluded idealism (in the sense of dualism), but I think I can say with some certainty that there are plenty of idealists (dualists) and waverers still around. The observation that it would be devastating for materialists if their beliefs were proved wrong applies equally to idealists. I don’t see why either view should be called “baloney” when neither has been proved right. And the fact that Ajahn Brahmali considers Gotama to have been the greatest man who ever lived does not mean Gotama knew everything, and it does not mean that those who accept some of his teachings must accept them all, as he (Brahmali) interprets them. But that’s more than enough moaning from me. What I would really like to know, xeno, is if, as a Buddhist yourself, you believe in the all-important rebirth, monastic life and loss of self as the ultimate goal, or if you have reservations about all or any of these, and if you do, whether you regard your views as “baloney”. Thank you for at last diverting us from the battle over David’s evolutionary theory, and please don’t be offended by my combination of ignorance and scepticism! I’ll look forward very much to hearing your own views.

David, I will reply to your latest posts tomorrow.


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