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

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, December 12, 2022, 04:41 (591 days ago) @ dhw

Buddhism

I have struggled through this podcast with increasing frustration.
[snipped for brevity] 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!)

There's a few misconceptions in much of the first part, and my heart goes out to anyone experiencing some of the same consternation. Let me address the misconception part first however. The common thread between Buddhist asceticism and well, all asceticism really is a rejection of the never-ending hamster wheel of wants and desires. Rejection isn't the right word though, because Buddhism's goal is to ideally have us be mentally present and not in the semi-conscious state that we tend to live in for most of our lives. The idea isn't to *reject* pleasures, but not to attach to them. Like, eat one chocolate, but not the entire box in a single sitting.

In my understanding (which comes from Brahmali's own tradition) the four noble truths are an accurate diagnosis of the human condition: we impulsively seek pleasure and avoid pain, and at the root of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance is the ego. So it's important (and also problematic as we'll discuss later) that Buddhism rejects the idea of a permanent immutable soul. At the time of the Buddha you actually had Eternalists and Materialists, schools which should be quite familiar to us here in the west as we're dealing with our own long history between those two poles. As suggested in the podcast, the Buddha proposed a "middle path" which says "It's not either/or, its both." I wish he went into more detail here.

To summarize a bit tersely, the key Buddhist observation (and this is one I have made on my own) is that when you observe your own thoughts, eventually you figure out that you're not in control of the majority of what's going on in that mind of yours. So for the Buddha, it became clear that what we typically refer to as a "self" or in the west as we would call it, "a soul" is actually a confluence of our "observational function" (my term) as well as conditioning received by living life... family, friends, and society. We don't even truly own our bodies... they are subject to aging and decay. Who you are as a person changes over time, so what we typically take of as a "self" is an illusion. We are processes, not things. But we are processes who often incorrectly think about ourselves as things. So the first big thing we do as Buddhists, is to try and get in tune with our minds so that way we are always observing the process. And I mean, if you're worried about what we give up, my percepts are 1) Don't kill 2.) Don't steal 3.) If I'm in a committed relationship don't break the rules 4.) Don't use intoxicants that lead to carelessness 5.) Don't speak unskillfully. (Other religions: 'don't lie' but Buddhists understand that there are moral or ethical times where lying is appropriate.) Core to the practice is Mudita (Other's joys), Metta (Loving kindness for all beings), and of course lots of meditation involving the deconstruction of our perceptions. Buddhist psychology has been making alot of inroads in western medicine, I'll leave it at that.


I think this answer would make my teacher happy and hopefully answers most of your irritation with Brahmali especially about the monastic parts of life. I have arguments with him on that but far afield from this conversation I think. (Buddhist inside football)


So... where I have considered myself a "secular Buddhist" is precisely because there's an aspect of Buddhism that talks about things such as a "Mind-made body," where supposedly if you meditate deep enough you can create a doppelganger of yourself and send it out on missions in the world. I would like to have seen Brahmali respond to THAT one. However the rebirth question is one that up until now I've felt I can do just fine without--I'm still very much the "I'll believe it when I see it" kind of guy and a critical aspect that remains to be explained... actually I'll call my monk tomorrow and ask him--I'm perfectly fine with all my ideas of self being mostly illusory. We should all believe we're part of a bigger picture. But how can we reject the idea of some sort of a permanent "soul" when there's something that somehow enters the mind-universe upon death, punishes itself, and then seeks out a new body... how exactly does that work? Isn't the mind that sheds this body still a discrete being? It certainly sounds like a self.

After having listened to the podcast a couple times, where Brahmali has heartburn is in the (mostly western) authors that are for example excluding the idea of rebirth wholesale and then calling it Buddhism. The more materialist leanings of the secularists decide not to even confront the issue, which is intellectually dishonest, IMHO.

He's not wrong. That's NOT what the Buddha taught. Whether or not Rebirth is a relevant concept for me to consider in THIS life, I don't know, but I DO know that if people like myself took a much longer view of their lives, we might actually live in a kinder, gentler place.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"


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