Nibbana tangent part 2 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 16, 2024, 20:14 (69 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: Buddhism has definitely taught me to temper my expectations around free will, it does that by meditation and observation of the mind. We don't have an unfettered free will. […] We can set an intention, do a thing, but our minds inevitably intervene. In my case, I've come to accept that except for function of observing thoughts in the mind, I'm fairly helpless most of the time. […] It's pure folly from my experience, to claim I have any real control over more than maybe 25% of the total active brain activity I experience in a day.

This is a subject David and I have discussed at great length. I think there is some confusion here. Free will only comes into play when there are decisions to be made. I would suggest that your remaining 75% has nothing to do with free will. Do we have it? My conclusion is that it depends on what you think it’s free from. If our decisions are made according to influences over which we have no control (e.g. heredity, upbringing, life-changing accidents, illness etc.), we don’t have it. If we accept that all those influences have produced our own individuality, then the decisions are taken by “me” and “me” alone, in which case we do have it. As regards our various thoughts throughout the day, I agree with you – the mind wanders around, and “I” only exercise control when I’m performing a specific task.

MATT: I think though, I've found the spots that seem the most "sticky" to your thinking, "equanimity," and "attachment." I've hopefully filled out the definition for equanimity more fully, as well as filled out a little better the discussion on attachments. Just like with stoicism, the idea isn't to become robots, the idea is to have a better recognition for what's fleeting so you don't overidentify with those things and cause more suffering for yourself than you otherwise would have.

No, these are not the sticky points, but of course I agree that everything is fleeting, and my own philosophy is make the most of what is fleetingly available to you, enjoy it as much as you can, and help others to enjoy it too. What bugs me is still the notion that Nirvana – the Buddhist ideal – is actually death. I regard birth as a privilege, and I reject the religious concept of “original sin”, which seems to me to underlie the whole Buddhist concept of rebirth until you are “pure”, as if living is some kind of punishment as opposed to being a benefit and a privilege. The vague concept of post-death consciousness without individual identity - apart from a box of memories to be stored in the great nothingness - might just as well be post-death unconsciousness lying in a grave. But it’s clear from your posts that there is no fixed form of Buddhism, and I suspect that you share my “philosophy” above, and can find it in the various “scriptures”!

I've read both parts, but wish to add nothing.


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