My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Friday, December 16, 2022, 15:57 (545 days ago) @ dhw

Xeno: […] I think I've lived such an otherwise normal life I still feel a bit awkward that anything about it would be terribly inspiring, lol. I've long sensed camaraderie with your take on things.

dhw: Thank you. I sense the same “camaraderie”! I don’t know what you regard as “normal”, but I also sense you’ve had more than your fair share of suffering. What on Earth (literally) did you do during your past lives? Seriously, I admire anyone who battles to overcome their demons, and I wonder if sometimes you’re too hard on yourself, since it must be your real “self” that’s trying to find balance. You said your wife has noticed the change in you, and if I try to imagine her feelings, I get a very moving picture of her love being rewarded. I’d like to put my arms round you both and pronounce an agnostic’s blessing on your marriage! (See your “vision” below.)

xeno: The other reason I quit orbiting this site is because I realized after a bit "why am I defending being sceptical?" Human nature seems to send folks down to fill in all gaps with explanations. Maybe some things just don't have explanations? […]

dhw: That’s the essence of agnosticism, but it spurs me on to make the most of the only life we know. The mysteries are part of the fascination – hence this website – but if I was struggling to stay alive, or to fight demons, then of course my priorities would be different.

(Thank you for your virtual hug and sympathy with regards to my elder son’s illness. I appreciate that.)

Xeno: I recently had what I could best describe as a "vision" or "waking dream." I met my wife at a Deftones concert just 25yrs and a few days ago. In the vision I […] found the CD released a couple weeks before that concert. I felt a pang, because she was no longer in my life in this vision. I put the CD on, and as the first song spun up, I began to weep. Then the CD started skipping, because of course CDs don't last forever either. When I came to I was crying in real life.

dhw: This is very moving. I wonder if your subconscious was telling you to go and give your wife a hug. I hope you did!

Xeno: There's a stoic practice […] where you imagine losing your loved ones. The reason they did this was to account for the fact that we take those around us for granted...

dhw: It’s not just our loved ones. Everything we’ve got used to is taken for granted, and so we “miss out” on the joy of it – until we lose it! Your stoics should tell you to imagine winter without heating, daily life without water/food/transport, sickness without medicine etc. Millions are in that situation, and we should take heed of that perspective in any struggle to achieve balance.

Xeno: I don't understand myself to be anything more than the confluence of consciousness and conditioning that was born 40 odd years ago, and if things go the way I figure they will, will eventually support daisies. I won't get to take any of those thoughts with me. So they're not *me*, in an ultimate sense.

dhw: They were you. But the current confluence of consciousness and conditioning may change, and so your “self” may change, but it will still be your "self". Gotama may also have changed before he became his wise and compassionate “self”.

Xeno: I appreciate your conception of the self, I just don't share it! […] my thoughts are in *my* head but I don't identify with them as my "self." If you've ever had a vision of causing someone harm and you're like "no I'm not like that" that's how I am with everything now. My thoughts don't define me, my actions do that. […] My thoughts are typically a raging flood and I can go from exquisite kindness one moment to terrible cruelty in the blink of an eye. I can choose not to be defined by that great mass of contradictions, and that's just what I'll do!

DAVID: A great educational thought. I am the person I project to others and that is myself. But the raging stream of thought goes on in all of us. That is an internal 'self.'

dhw: I agree about the internal “self”, but not the external one, although I’m sure it’s true of David and I’d like to think it’s true of me. But the world is full of people who project a false self to others: the good neighbour who beats his wife, the charming conman, the paedophile priest, the corrupt politician…I think Matt has gone to deeper levels than I did, and I agree that although the contradictory thoughts are part of us, they do not define us. His last sentence is perhaps the key: what defines us is the choices we make from the contradictions. I presume, Matt, that you choose to implement the exquisitely kind thoughts and repress the cruel ones. WHY you make those choices is open to question, but whatever the influences, the choices define who you are in your own eyes as well as in those of others. Sounds good to me.

The childhood Matt describes evokes a lasting anger in an adult, who must learn to control it by recognizing its source and reasons to change from the biting anger in order to move forward. Matt did that in his own way, beautifully.

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