Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2 (Agnosticism)

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 26, 2024, 16:41 (60 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: In the spirit of trying to keep things focused, I'll shelve the other ideas for now (or at least do my best...)

DAVID (to Matt) I feel no need for what you do.

MATT: To be clear, I never felt the need for it myself. I was perfectly happy being a fairly rote materialist. What happened was in 2017 my job took a turn for the worst and I was suffering from panic attacks just walking in the building.

dhw: Perhaps if David and I had had a similar experience, we too would have needed therapy. My earlier point was that the self is not continuous, but the fact that it can change does not mean it is not real. The panicking you was real, and the newly tranquillized you is real. You are totally aware of this. Your “self” has changed; but it has not disappeared. It is not an “illusion”.


Matt: So I think I can finally respond and settle this. In the same talk I was listening to by Ajahn Brahm (not my friend but I wouldn't mind meeting him) he was clear that what he was talking about was shifting consciousness, in other words, you (and Turell) were describing it correctly.

The point was being made against two common assertions in ancient Vedic thought, firstly that there was an unconditioned self, secondly, that the self was synonymous with consciousness or 'this mind.' The Buddha's response more or less, is that having literally touched the bottom of consciousness, there is no eternal self. The sense of self is discontinuous, QED.

The conflict we're having is in a difference in interpretation. It's clear to me that both you and Dr. Turell are in a camp that at least leans heavily in the substantialism camp as discussed in that article I shared from Nature. And (quite by chance) it happens that the Buddhist experience and doctrine independently came to most if not all the same conclusions as exist in the other "constructivism" camp.

I don't think this is a bridge that will be built today. You in particular define a 'self' that is sometimes conscious of itself, and sometimes isn't, my interpretation is that the only time that you ARE "yourself" is precisely when you're conscious of it. The rest of the time, you're mentally some amorphous thing. I am puzzled by the insistence.

dhw: The only disagreement I have with Matt is over the general Buddhist “doctrine” that to achieve the vital balance, “all concept of self must disappear” and with it, all desires.


Matt: You misrepresent me. (again, actually!) So let me be clear:


The sense of self must only disappear if you're aiming for Nibbana!

Never once in this exchange have I ever asserted otherwise, and in fact, this might be the fifth time I've had to repeat these words!

Desires, variably, imbibe in moderation, but with consciousness. However, again, if you make Nibbana your goal, you will naturally replace worldly desires with meditative desires until eventually you break through. Why? Because it strengthens your meditations. So naturally, you'll live a more ascetic life.

I thought I was clear that my goal wasn't nibbana, apparently I need to say that again as well. To achieve 'balance' as you say, doesn't require Nibbana. THAT work is for monks. I am not a monk. Monks can do monk things, I'll be living my life as before, but with hopefully some more grace.

Matt, you seem to live at a high intensity level, that would make me uncomfortable. At the same time, I admire your degree of erudition. Are you an autodidact? On the subject in hand, we have different views of self, perhaps in my part with a theistic concept of my soul.


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