Rebirth PART ONE (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Friday, December 23, 2022, 12:47 (538 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: The flat tire seems to me like a symbol for all of the above, except that once you’ve fully understood the true nature of existence, whatever that may be (a process which seems to entail becoming oblivious to all the ”cravings” that make life such a pain and such a pleasure), you will live happily ever after until your body dies its final death. And then your non-soul – totally independent of the “conditioned existence” (i.e. life on Earth) – will be at “unruffled peace”. I can’t see where the “store consciousness” fits in, since that is full of all the miserable memories of your past lives and presumably all the nasty things you did before your sufferings ceased, and yet that seems to be the only thing that doesn’t die when the body dies. In fact, to be honest, I can’t see what state could be more unruffledly peaceful or more “fully unconditioned” than permanent death. You say the Buddha didn’t specify. I’m not surprised.

XENO: So in practice, what Buddhism is warning us against in regards to "cravings" are the issues involved with getting yourself wrapped up in them. Particularly, when we start to "identify" with them. Or in the case of addiction where the phenomenon is more black and white--where some sort of obsession develops. And I don't know where you get the idea that the goal is to be oblivious of cravings--when I turned towards (and not away from) alcohol cravings I wasn't supposed to "dismiss" them or "ignore them."

I like this reply, and will happily withdraw my reference to being “oblivious”; this was based solely on the apparent advocacy of monastic life, which would shut the potential sinner away from the pains and pleasures of “cravings”. I think we’ve been talking at cross purposes, because we started off with Ajahn Brahm’s attack on secular Buddhism and his almost exclusive focus on the “dogma” – especially rebirth, which is ostensibly the subject of this thread. You have focused on a parenthesis in my post and then ignored the rest until your final comment. However, I think your approach is vastly more relevant to all our lives, and your own story brings out the positive sides of the philosophy, as opposed to what I feel is the negative and sometimes incomprehensible religious side. I’ll edit your comments now, in order to keep the discussion as focused as possible.

XENO: It's possible you've never had an unhealthy attachment to something and I'm talking Greek to you. […]

It’s not Greek to me, but I’ve never been addicted to anything harmful - ugh, except maybe chocolate and other “sweeties”, which I gave up overnight when I was told I was pre-diabetic! Basically, you are focusing on Buddhism as a form of psychotherapy and as a moral code which we should all aspire to. Hence the illuminating and for me very moving account of your own progress. First the therapy:

XENO: Meditation *necessarily* makes you less reactive. I absolutely don't get caught up in events like I used to--gone are violent swings of emotion. And other things slow down too. Acquisitiveness in general (both material and spiritual) decrease. Engaging in Metta meditation regularly built the space I needed to recognize my mom as a victim herself, though heaven help me for her unwavering tendency to try to damage.

And now the moral code:

XENO: So the decrease in cravings comes as a part of a regular and deepening meditation practice. And those practices include things like loving kindness and appreciative joy for others, compassion, and love for all beings great and small.

Summed up by the Golden Rule: do as you would be done by. I doubt if David as a panentheist Jew or his wife as a born again Christian, or a humanist atheist like Dawkins would object to this code. Of course religious fundamentalism can lead to the very opposite of these virtues, but most religious people I know obey the Golden Rule through faith in and prayer to their benevolent God. I’m all in favour of any thought system that produces the “right” result and helps people overcome their addictions and other mental health problems. It’s religious dogma that I find so off-putting. And I think you feel the same, despite your final comment:

XENO: To me, everything about the path is about dissolving the barriers we tend to erect between ourselves and other people. "Nibbana" to me, seems to represent a final dissolution where you more or less join into the greater body the universe. So it seems to me that in the literary sense, we melt the boundaries between ourselves and the rest of the universe and join it in an "ultimate" sense.

Only here do you touch on the mystic side which I find so confusing. Your decomposing body also joins the greater body of the universe. But you and Ajan Brahm keep referring to some kind of non-soul – it’s a “store consciousness” which will remember past lives. Apparently “nirvana” is Sanskrit and means “extinction, literally a blowing out…” You objected when I suggested that the ultimate aim seemed to be permanent and total death (= extinction), but I can still see no alternative if you reject the idea of a conscious soul.

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