Nibbana tangent part 1 (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Sunday, June 09, 2024, 12:18 (46 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: the sense of future and past isn't there. Which is part of the reason Buddhism places emphasis that where the 'self' lives--is right now in the present moment.

dhw: Which is exactly what I keep saying: the self is the total of our attributes at any given moment, which = right now. There is nothing in your post that I disagree with, and so far I can’t see what there is in my posts that you disagree with.

MATT: Apologies for the unexpected layover. Bank account got hacked around the time of my last post and then in the last week I had an unexpected atopic dermatitis that turned my entire body into essentially a mosquito bite. Sleep was terrible. Also work chose to ramp up, as they say, "when it rains, it pours!"

You have all my sympathy!

MATT: At any rate, as per this conversation, I had a suspicion for over a week that we were dancing around the same ideas with different window dressing. […] I was honestly just trying to get you to say something to confirm it without me really prompting you.

This is very reassuring, and you’re right. It’s largely a problem of language, because it’s often difficult to agree on definitions. I’ll now comment on selected points from your reply – but once more, it’s a matter of clarification rather than disagreement.

MATT: I think what was getting me was the repeated reference to Nibbana as death, and me not interpreting your statement as a 'well, from my perspective that sounds like death!' It's supposed to be a sense of peace so profound that it eclipses everything else. That doesn't sound like a bad thing (and to me yes, death, despite being natural isn't a good thing to me ROFL).

All clear. My focus was on the prescribed elimination of the self and of all desires, whereas yours is on a kind of purification and pacification of the self, with which of course I agree. My own attitude towards death, as with many other problems of life, is mixed. I’m still very emotional over the loss of my wife ten years ago and of my elder son last year (and I'm immeasurably grateful for the happiness and love we shared). And like all of us I’m fearful of the possible suffering that may precede my own death (as it did theirs). But intellectually, I see nothing to fear in death as the end of my story. This is partly because I simply cannot imagine any sort of joy that would last for ever and ever. But for me – picking up on your own word – although death would be peace, what I want and get from life is the far more positive, active feeling of joy.

MATT: […] in my own case it has been an exercise in learning more about my nuances. […] “if it's not so important that I think about it so rarely, how important is it?" Right, so that's detachment from my identity, and I don't see that as a bad thing either.

I don’t see “learning more about my nuances” as detachment but simply as a greater awareness of who you are (and possibly of who you do or don’t wish to be). And the fact that “it’s not so important” is, in my view, because – as with our bodies – our identity is something we generally take for granted until something goes wrong. That’s why it’s an immense relief if we can be rid of the pain or the selfishness that creates suffering.

MATT: So it teaches how to have a different relationship with the self, and per the points I was trying to make with Gage and the foot, one that is filled with more gratitude.


MATT: Which might be the only puzzle left--you've repeatedly asked about why the ascetic life has some aspect of turning away even from good experiences, and the only answer I've offered is that people who go that far are clearly getting more pleasure from that than you think, or they wouldn't do it. At least in my school of Buddhism, never trust a monastery where a Buddha statue isn't smiling.

DAVID: Your last paragraph is the key, Buddhists wouldn't do it unless they liked what it did.

Agreed. But there is no contradiction here. I think the three of us derive our joy from being “selves” that relish the fulfilment of our desires. And from all our conversations, I am sure those desires are not harmful to others, but if anything are beneficial both to us and them. I don’t wish to sound boastful, but I am very much “at peace” with myself and with all the people I know. If others feel the same through the “pleasure” of monastic life, that’s fine. And if the Buddha’s teachings lead to a healthier attitude towards oneself and others (offering a kind of therapy for when things have gone wrong), I’m all for it. What I’m against is “dogma”. But we’ve been over all that.

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