The Conversation Continues... (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 09:13 (499 days ago) @ xeno6696

Xeno: Ajahn Brahm, (Brahmali's teacher) goes directly into what he calls "proof" of reincarnation:
https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-qdqh8-1337429

Xeno: you guys are about the only people that I'd feel fine talking about these kinds of stories as literally everyone else I know would think I'm looney for even listening to them!

I’m delighted that you want to discuss these things with us, but please, no more podcasts. I can’t speak for David, but although short articles are fine, time is a problem. Your Brahms and Brahmalis may disapprove, but I love my work and many other things in my life (including fascinating discussions like this), but I have to prioritize. If a podcast deals with a particular issue like reincarnation, please summarize its answers to the questions David and I have asked, or give us a relevant quote. If the podcast is about people’s experiences (maybe of déjà vu?) perhaps a single example will do.

Reincarnation

dhw: I’m afraid this is a major problem, and Brahmali simply glosses it over. He goes on and on about rebirth being a (the?) central point. David and I are in total agreement on this. What/who are we when we are reborn – and what is reborn if there is no immaterial “soul”?

Xeno: In trying to track this down for you (and for myself, frankly) I discovered this:
https://suttacentral.net/sn12.61/en/sujato?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=as...

The article does not tell us anything about what is reborn or what/who we become. But the following certainly requires comment:

QUOTES: Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.’
Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.
They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’”

The first premise is that choice causes nothing but suffering. I’m sorry, but this is so vague that I find it absurd. It's the sheer variety of opportunities open to us that can bring us joy. I like a menu in a restaurant, I like to choose the films I watch, the make of car I’m going to buy, the place where I’m going to spend my holidays. I prefer democracy to totalitarian dictatorship. I prefer Beethoven to Bach. Of course suffering ceases when consciousness ceases. So does joy. The message here is simple: life is hell, and you will end your suffering by being dead. My message to the writer is “Get a life!”

Happiness

QUOTES: It turns out that just under half the time, 46.9% to be exact, people are doing what's called 'mind wandering'. They are not focused on the outside world or the task at hand, they are looking into their own thoughts. Unfortunately, the study of 2,250 people proposes, most of this activity doesn't make us feel happy.

The study was designed to find out what kind of activities people did throughout a day, and which made them happiest. Mindwandering was just one of 22 possible activities people could list.

So in the first quote, mindwandering makes most people unhappy, but in the second quote mindwandering is one of 22 activities that make people happy.

QUOTE: Researchers found that people were at their happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer.

Making love won’t work unless you have sexual desire, but according to the first article you quoted, “when desire fades away they’re freed”, and according to Ajahn Brahmali, the original teachings required the elimination of all desires (which taken to its logical conclusion would lead to the end of the human race – a great solution to our problems).

Xeno: I would argue that during the 50% of my own waking hours that are spent not doing anything in particular—I’m not being myself. I would argue (based on my understanding of Buddhist psychology) that we’re only “ourselves” when we’re fully engaged in self-aware, intentional action.

Doing what? Thinking what? Do you believe that whatever thoughts you have when your mind wanders are not YOUR thoughts, characteristic of your individual identity? The above article is devoted to happiness. Are you unhappy when your mind wanders? Maybe you think damaging and confusing thoughts that make you unhappy. Then that’s part of your miserable self. When I’m washing the dishes, I often sing made-up songs. I’m cheerful. Sorry, but I didn’t know I was suffering, and frankly I think it's typical me! But of course, if I wander off because of a problem or I’m worried about a particular matter, my thoughts will not be happy. They are still my problems and my thoughts.

Back to the first article: apparently you will only be completely happy when you are dead. Sorry again, but I much prefer the approach to life which entails doing what makes you happy and at the same time doing whatever you can to make other people happy. I know you agree, but do you think Gotama would have disapproved? Do Ajahn Brahmali and your monk disapprove?


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