In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion... (Agnosticism)

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, December 10, 2022, 18:04 (592 days ago)

https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-sa3cz-13334e1

This is a podcast from a prominent teacher in my lineage of Buddhism. Ajahn Brahmali is a Norwegian who took ordination under Ajahn Brahm in Western Australia who was himself taught by Ajahn Chah, a legendary figure in both Thai Forest Buddhism as well as within the Theravadan tradition as a whole.

This precise podcast does present difficulties that aren't as difficult for me NOW as they were 15 or so years ago when I had joined this site. (Alas, the main reason I've stayed away was that like my friend Kent, the conversations never seemed to really "move," they tended to get rather repetitive, and well, I was absolutely a contributor to that.)

This discussion ranges from the issues Brahmali has with "Secular Buddhism," a branch that at times I have found myself within, but offers some critical discussion that fans out to discuss Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" as well as how western philosophy pendulum swings between Plato's idealism and Aristotle's materialism, and precisely how Buddhism sits within the overall mix. Yes, he even touches on NDEs and in how those topics are actually handled in the Buddhist scriptures dating back to at least 2300yrs ago.

This one was a tough one for me to get through, notably because rebirth and NDEs are two subjects that I have felt are filled with enough claptrap to fill volumes, but I just turned 43 and am approaching all of life differently than I was back when I was 27-28 and full of hubris. (well, you would hope that would be the case!)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by David Turell @, Saturday, December 10, 2022, 19:03 (592 days ago) @ xeno6696

https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-sa3cz-13334e1

This is a podcast from a prominent teacher in my lineage of Buddhism. Ajahn Brahmali is a Norwegian who took ordination under Ajahn Brahm in Western Australia who was himself taught by Ajahn Chah, a legendary figure in both Thai Forest Buddhism as well as within the Theravadan tradition as a whole.

This precise podcast does present difficulties that aren't as difficult for me NOW as they were 15 or so years ago when I had joined this site. (Alas, the main reason I've stayed away was that like my friend Kent, the conversations never seemed to really "move," they tended to get rather repetitive, and well, I was absolutely a contributor to that.)

This discussion ranges from the issues Brahmali has with "Secular Buddhism," a branch that at times I have found myself within, but offers some critical discussion that fans out to discuss Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" as well as how western philosophy pendulum swings between Plato's idealism and Aristotle's materialism, and precisely how Buddhism sits within the overall mix. Yes, he even touches on NDEs and in how those topics are actually handled in the Buddhist scriptures dating back to at least 2300yrs ago.

This one was a tough one for me to get through, notably because rebirth and NDEs are two subjects that I have felt are filled with enough claptrap to fill volumes, but I just turned 43 and am approaching all of life differently than I was back when I was 27-28 and full of hubris. (well, you would hope that would be the case!)

I'll open it up and see if I can follow it with no background. I will turn 94 in April.

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by David Turell @, Saturday, December 10, 2022, 21:17 (592 days ago) @ David Turell

https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-sa3cz-13334e1

This is a podcast from a prominent teacher in my lineage of Buddhism. Ajahn Brahmali is a Norwegian who took ordination under Ajahn Brahm in Western Australia who was himself taught by Ajahn Chah, a legendary figure in both Thai Forest Buddhism as well as within the Theravadan tradition as a whole.

This precise podcast does present difficulties that aren't as difficult for me NOW as they were 15 or so years ago when I had joined this site. (Alas, the main reason I've stayed away was that like my friend Kent, the conversations never seemed to really "move," they tended to get rather repetitive, and well, I was absolutely a contributor to that.)

This discussion ranges from the issues Brahmali has with "Secular Buddhism," a branch that at times I have found myself within, but offers some critical discussion that fans out to discuss Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" as well as how western philosophy pendulum swings between Plato's idealism and Aristotle's materialism, and precisely how Buddhism sits within the overall mix. Yes, he even touches on NDEs and in how those topics are actually handled in the Buddhist scriptures dating back to at least 2300yrs ago.

This one was a tough one for me to get through, notably because rebirth and NDEs are two subjects that I have felt are filled with enough claptrap to fill volumes, but I just turned 43 and am approaching all of life differently than I was back when I was 27-28 and full of hubris. (well, you would hope that would be the case!)


I'll open it up and see if I can follow it with no background. I will turn 94 in April.

Finally, back here. And his discussion presumes I know something about Buddhism. I don't so I am not following him as I listen. I need a basic education.

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, December 10, 2022, 22:02 (592 days ago) @ David Turell

I'll open it up and see if I can follow it with no background. I will turn 94 in April.


Finally, back here. And his discussion presumes I know something about Buddhism. I don't so I am not following him as I listen. I need a basic education.

List out your questions here and I can expound. I found it easy to follow but then I've been doing this for awhile.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by David Turell @, Sunday, December 11, 2022, 02:26 (592 days ago) @ xeno6696

I'll open it up and see if I can follow it with no background. I will turn 94 in April.


Finally, back here. And his discussion presumes I know something about Buddhism. I don't so I am not following him as I listen. I need a basic education.


Matt:List out your questions here and I can expound. I found it easy to follow but then I've been doing this for a while.

I'll find some time tomorrow. Thank you. Perhaps dhw has a better background, so I am interested in his response and look forward to it.

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by dhw, Sunday, December 11, 2022, 14:44 (591 days ago) @ xeno6696

xeno: https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-sa3cz-13334e1

This is a podcast from a prominent teacher in my lineage of Buddhism. Ajahn Brahmali is a Norwegian who took ordination under Ajahn Brahm in Western Australia who was himself taught by Ajahn Chah, a legendary figure in both Thai Forest Buddhism as well as within the Theravadan tradition as a whole.
This precise podcast does present difficulties that aren't as difficult for me NOW as they were 15 or so years ago when I had joined this site. (Alas, the main reason I've stayed away was that like my friend Kent, the conversations never seemed to really "move," they tended to get rather repetitive, and well, I was absolutely a contributor to that.)
This discussion ranges from the issues Brahmali has with "Secular Buddhism," a branch that at times I have found myself within, but offers some critical discussion that fans out to discuss Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" as well as how western philosophy pendulum swings between Plato's idealism and Aristotle's materialism, and precisely how Buddhism sits within the overall mix. Yes, he even touches on NDEs and in how those topics are actually handled in the Buddhist scriptures dating back to at least 2300yrs ago.
This one was a tough one for me to get through, notably because rebirth and NDEs are two subjects that I have felt are filled with enough claptrap to fill volumes, but I just turned 43 and am approaching all of life differently than I was back when I was 27-28 and full of hubris. (well, you would hope that would be the case!)

Delighted to hear from you again! You always managed to find new angles for us to discuss, but I can hardly blame you for staying away because of all the repetitions. If it wasn’t for the interesting articles that David finds and which are a continuous source of education – plus the fact that our discussions gradually still accumulate quite a lot of viewings – I would have closed the site long ago.

I’ll listen to the podcast later today, barring the unforeseen, and will respond tonight or tomorrow. Shortage of time is a major problem for me, and I have to ration the amount that I spend on the forum. Many thanks again for your "comeback"!
--------
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

I love this, although it applies to a far wide range of folk than just ascetics!

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by David Turell @, Sunday, December 11, 2022, 17:55 (591 days ago) @ dhw

xeno: https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-sa3cz-13334e1

This is a podcast from a prominent teacher in my lineage of Buddhism. Ajahn Brahmali is a Norwegian who took ordination under Ajahn Brahm in Western Australia who was himself taught by Ajahn Chah, a legendary figure in both Thai Forest Buddhism as well as within the Theravadan tradition as a whole.
This precise podcast does present difficulties that aren't as difficult for me NOW as they were 15 or so years ago when I had joined this site. (Alas, the main reason I've stayed away was that like my friend Kent, the conversations never seemed to really "move," they tended to get rather repetitive, and well, I was absolutely a contributor to that.)
This discussion ranges from the issues Brahmali has with "Secular Buddhism," a branch that at times I have found myself within, but offers some critical discussion that fans out to discuss Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" as well as how western philosophy pendulum swings between Plato's idealism and Aristotle's materialism, and precisely how Buddhism sits within the overall mix. Yes, he even touches on NDEs and in how those topics are actually handled in the Buddhist scriptures dating back to at least 2300yrs ago.
This one was a tough one for me to get through, notably because rebirth and NDEs are two subjects that I have felt are filled with enough claptrap to fill volumes, but I just turned 43 and am approaching all of life differently than I was back when I was 27-28 and full of hubris. (well, you would hope that would be the case!)

dhw: Delighted to hear from you again! You always managed to find new angles for us to discuss, but I can hardly blame you for staying away because of all the repetitions. If it wasn’t for the interesting articles that David finds and which are a continuous source of education – plus the fact that our discussions gradually still accumulate quite a lot of viewings – I would have closed the site long ago.

I’ll listen to the podcast later today, barring the unforeseen, and will respond tonight or tomorrow. Shortage of time is a major problem for me, and I have to ration the amount that I spend on the forum. Many thanks again for your "comeback"!
--------
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

dhw: I love this, although it applies to a far wide range of folk than just ascetics!

I'm also looking for time.

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by dhw, Sunday, December 11, 2022, 20:47 (591 days ago) @ dhw

Buddhism

I have struggled through this podcast with increasing frustration. Xeno, you will know far, far more than I do about Buddhism, but you kindly offered to answer questions, and this presentation of “true” Buddhism, as opposed to the “baloney” of western and other secular dilutions, is so full of gaps and what seem to me to be misrepresentations that I fear I may well have missed something crucial which you may be able to provide.

Ajahn Brahmali’s complaint seems to be based almost entirely on secular scepticism towards the fundamental doctrine of rebirth. As I understand this doctrine, it has nothing to do with NDEs, in which patients return to being themselves after their “souls” have entered some kind of afterlife. Rebirth means what it says: being reborn. But as what? Perhaps you can tell us. Whoever you may become next time around will depend on the mess you’ve made of your previous life, and this goes on in an endless cycle until whatever identity you have at the time achieves Enlightenment and you enter Nirvana, which as I understand it means a total loss of all “cravings” and of all individuality. With my perhaps all too sceptical mind, I have always considered this to be the perfect state of death, so why bother with the long and apparently always painful sequence of lives spent suffering? (I have always felt very sorry for Buddhists, who must feel horribly guilty if they ever actually enjoy life!)

The original teachings seem to focus on the goal of losing all the “cravings” which make life such a misery but which – apparently missing from the teachings – also make life such a pleasure. Yes, to hell with greed, lust for power, and all the consequences of human selfishness. But how about the joy of giving and receiving love, helping and being helped by others, creating a thing of beauty for one’s own delight and that of others? Not a word about that from Ajahn Brahmali.

In order to achieve the desired state of killing all desires, the Buddha recommended monastic life. I presume this would ideally entail solitary confinement, and I can’t help wondering why Ajahn Brahmali hasn’t shut himself away instead of giving interviews. (I’m sorry if this sounds flippant, but when I hear someone dismiss other people’s beliefs as “baloney”, I tend to feel less tolerant towards them than I should. I had the same feeling when Dawkins called God a “delusion”.)

I didn’t know that secular Buddhism had sided completely with materialism and excluded idealism (in the sense of dualism), but I think I can say with some certainty that there are plenty of idealists (dualists) and waverers still around. The observation that it would be devastating for materialists if their beliefs were proved wrong applies equally to idealists. I don’t see why either view should be called “baloney” when neither has been proved right. And the fact that Ajahn Brahmali considers Gotama to have been the greatest man who ever lived does not mean Gotama knew everything, and it does not mean that those who accept some of his teachings must accept them all, as he (Brahmali) interprets them. But that’s more than enough moaning from me. What I would really like to know, xeno, is if, as a Buddhist yourself, you believe in the all-important rebirth, monastic life and loss of self as the ultimate goal, or if you have reservations about all or any of these, and if you do, whether you regard your views as “baloney”. Thank you for at last diverting us from the battle over David’s evolutionary theory, and please don’t be offended by my combination of ignorance and scepticism! I’ll look forward very much to hearing your own views.

David, I will reply to your latest posts tomorrow.

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by David Turell @, Sunday, December 11, 2022, 22:33 (591 days ago) @ dhw

Well, I've listened to the first half so far, and thank goodness for dhw's entry. I gather He doesn't like secular materialism poking its head into revered teachings. As for reincarnation, it seems to me reincarnating oneself in this life to be at peace with oneself is very reasonable. Trying to propose one becoming someone else but yet the same in continuity requires one's consciousness/self to enter a new brain. This is directly equivalent the concept of NDE's and a form of dualism with a material brain hosting an immaterial consciousness. If I am now the continued result of someone else, who was that? Me in an earlier form? I'm not making fun in any way. I find the whole basis of that tenet as unreasonable. What I hope for is your clear responses. Ill comment further with time for further listening.

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 00:07 (590 days ago) @ David Turell

Well, I've listened to the first half so far, and thank goodness for dhw's entry. I gather He doesn't like secular materialism poking its head into revered teachings. As for reincarnation, it seems to me reincarnating oneself in this life to be at peace with oneself is very reasonable. Trying to propose one becoming someone else but yet the same in continuity requires one's consciousness/self to enter a new brain. This is directly equivalent the concept of NDE's and a form of dualism with a material brain hosting an immaterial consciousness. If I am now the continued result of someone else, who was that? Me in an earlier form? I'm not making fun in any way. I find the whole basis of that tenet as unreasonable. What I hope for is your clear responses. Ill comment further with time for further listening.

I don't have a full explanation for you yet but in my own research I found this: https://suttacentral.net/sn12.61/en/sujato?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=as...

That doesn't quite get to the reincarnation question just yet BUT the observation that when you study your consciousness far enough you realize that the true self is actually "empty" (the mind naturally stills itself after meditation and it's that state of the mystics where the Buddha's path really begins.)

So more or less, what we take as consciousness relies on causes and conditions and should be thought of as no different than the death of our own bodies.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, December 12, 2022, 04:41 (591 days ago) @ dhw

Buddhism

I have struggled through this podcast with increasing frustration.
[snipped for brevity] With my perhaps all too sceptical mind, I have always considered this to be the perfect state of death, so why bother with the long and apparently always painful sequence of lives spent suffering? (I have always felt very sorry for Buddhists, who must feel horribly guilty if they ever actually enjoy life!)

There's a few misconceptions in much of the first part, and my heart goes out to anyone experiencing some of the same consternation. Let me address the misconception part first however. The common thread between Buddhist asceticism and well, all asceticism really is a rejection of the never-ending hamster wheel of wants and desires. Rejection isn't the right word though, because Buddhism's goal is to ideally have us be mentally present and not in the semi-conscious state that we tend to live in for most of our lives. The idea isn't to *reject* pleasures, but not to attach to them. Like, eat one chocolate, but not the entire box in a single sitting.

In my understanding (which comes from Brahmali's own tradition) the four noble truths are an accurate diagnosis of the human condition: we impulsively seek pleasure and avoid pain, and at the root of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance is the ego. So it's important (and also problematic as we'll discuss later) that Buddhism rejects the idea of a permanent immutable soul. At the time of the Buddha you actually had Eternalists and Materialists, schools which should be quite familiar to us here in the west as we're dealing with our own long history between those two poles. As suggested in the podcast, the Buddha proposed a "middle path" which says "It's not either/or, its both." I wish he went into more detail here.

To summarize a bit tersely, the key Buddhist observation (and this is one I have made on my own) is that when you observe your own thoughts, eventually you figure out that you're not in control of the majority of what's going on in that mind of yours. So for the Buddha, it became clear that what we typically refer to as a "self" or in the west as we would call it, "a soul" is actually a confluence of our "observational function" (my term) as well as conditioning received by living life... family, friends, and society. We don't even truly own our bodies... they are subject to aging and decay. Who you are as a person changes over time, so what we typically take of as a "self" is an illusion. We are processes, not things. But we are processes who often incorrectly think about ourselves as things. So the first big thing we do as Buddhists, is to try and get in tune with our minds so that way we are always observing the process. And I mean, if you're worried about what we give up, my percepts are 1) Don't kill 2.) Don't steal 3.) If I'm in a committed relationship don't break the rules 4.) Don't use intoxicants that lead to carelessness 5.) Don't speak unskillfully. (Other religions: 'don't lie' but Buddhists understand that there are moral or ethical times where lying is appropriate.) Core to the practice is Mudita (Other's joys), Metta (Loving kindness for all beings), and of course lots of meditation involving the deconstruction of our perceptions. Buddhist psychology has been making alot of inroads in western medicine, I'll leave it at that.


I think this answer would make my teacher happy and hopefully answers most of your irritation with Brahmali especially about the monastic parts of life. I have arguments with him on that but far afield from this conversation I think. (Buddhist inside football)


So... where I have considered myself a "secular Buddhist" is precisely because there's an aspect of Buddhism that talks about things such as a "Mind-made body," where supposedly if you meditate deep enough you can create a doppelganger of yourself and send it out on missions in the world. I would like to have seen Brahmali respond to THAT one. However the rebirth question is one that up until now I've felt I can do just fine without--I'm still very much the "I'll believe it when I see it" kind of guy and a critical aspect that remains to be explained... actually I'll call my monk tomorrow and ask him--I'm perfectly fine with all my ideas of self being mostly illusory. We should all believe we're part of a bigger picture. But how can we reject the idea of some sort of a permanent "soul" when there's something that somehow enters the mind-universe upon death, punishes itself, and then seeks out a new body... how exactly does that work? Isn't the mind that sheds this body still a discrete being? It certainly sounds like a self.

After having listened to the podcast a couple times, where Brahmali has heartburn is in the (mostly western) authors that are for example excluding the idea of rebirth wholesale and then calling it Buddhism. The more materialist leanings of the secularists decide not to even confront the issue, which is intellectually dishonest, IMHO.

He's not wrong. That's NOT what the Buddha taught. Whether or not Rebirth is a relevant concept for me to consider in THIS life, I don't know, but I DO know that if people like myself took a much longer view of their lives, we might actually live in a kinder, gentler place.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by dhw, Monday, December 12, 2022, 14:08 (591 days ago) @ xeno6696

xeno: […] The common thread between Buddhist asceticism and well, all asceticism really is a rejection of the never-ending hamster wheel of wants and desires. Rejection isn't the right word though, because Buddhism's goal is to ideally have us be mentally present and not in the semi-conscious state that we tend to live in for most of our lives. The idea isn't to *reject* pleasures, but not to attach to them. Like, eat one chocolate, but not the entire box in a single sitting.

I don’t know why eating one chocolate constitutes full consciousness and hogging the whole box = semi-consciousness, or why the desire for one chocolate isn’t a desire, or why having wants and desires = semi-consciousness. You’re proposing that we should indulge our wants and desires in moderation, but that’s not what I understand by Ajahn Brahmali’s Buddhism, and in any case I don’t think it would cause much disagreement in non-Buddhist or secular Buddhist circles!

Next comes the discussion of “eternalists” versus “materialists”:

xeno: As suggested in the podcast, the Buddha proposed a "middle path" which says "It's not either/or, its both." I wish he went into more detail here.

I’m afraid this is a major problem, and Brahmali simply glosses it over. He goes on and on about rebirth being a (the?) central point. David and I are in total agreement on this. What/who are we when we are reborn – and what is reborn if there is no immaterial “soul”?

xeno: the key Buddhist observation […] is that when you observe your own thoughts, eventually you figure out that you're not in control of the majority of what's going on in that mind of yours. […] We don't even truly own our bodies... they are subject to aging and decay. Who you are as a person changes over time, so what we typically take of as a "self" is an illusion. […] So the first big thing we do as Buddhists, is to try and get in tune with our minds so that way we are always observing the process.

I don’t recall this being discussed in the podcast (maybe I nodded off?), but it’s nothing more than the question of whether or not we have free will. Did Gotama really teach you to remember that you act like a zombie though you think you’re an autonomous being? I don’t think my “self” is an illusion. I may not be in control of what makes me “me”, and I have changed and am still changing, but I’m fully aware of my personal characteristics, and I challenge the right of anyone to tell me these are “illusory”. If secular Buddhists dislike all this vagueness, I’m on their side, and Brahmali’s failure to address these problems makes me hostile to his calling their doubts “baloney”!

xeno: And I mean, if you're worried about what we give up, my percepts are 1) Don't kill 2.) Don't steal 3.) If I'm in a committed relationship don't break the rules 4.) Don't use intoxicants that lead to carelessness 5.) Don't speak unskillfully. (Other religions: 'don't lie' but Buddhists understand that there are moral or ethical times where lying is appropriate.) Core to the practice is Mudita (Other's joys), Metta (Loving kindness for all beings), and of course lots of meditation involving the deconstruction of our perceptions.

I think all of us would approve of your precepts and “core”, but I have no idea if these represent the teachings of the Buddha, especially since one of Brahmali’s key issues is monasticism, which “secular” Buddhists seem to have turned their backs on. How do you show your loving kindness and concern for other people’s joys if you shut yourself up in a monastery? And what happens to the human race if sexual desires have to be overcome? And once we have deconstructed our perceptions etc., what are we supposed to do with that knowledge? Be reborn as whatever, keep suffering and deluding ourselves, until eventually one of us realizes it just ain’t worth living life on Earth, so we’re better off lying permanently under it! As I suggested before, Nirvana = permanent death!

The rest of your post asks virtually the same questions as my own, and what I have written is just my response to the statements above. I sense that you reject Ajahn Brahmali’s dismissal of “secular” Buddhism as baloney. He seems to have dodged all the issues that you have difficulty with yourself! I’ll skip to your final remark:

xeno: Whether or not Rebirth is a relevant concept for me to consider in THIS life, I don't know, but I DO know that if people like myself took a much longer view of their lives, we might actually live in a kinder, gentler place.

I think that message would apply to most religions and to humanism as well, but I would put it slightly differently. If people like and unlike myself would take a less egotistical view of themselves and would treat others in the way they themselves would wish to be treated, we might all live in a kinder, gentler place.

Thank you again for giving us a new topic to discuss. I’ll be interested to hear what your monk has to say in response to your own questions, though I wonder if he is a “secular” Buddhist himself!

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by David Turell @, Monday, December 12, 2022, 16:58 (590 days ago) @ dhw

xeno: […] The common thread between Buddhist asceticism and well, all asceticism really is a rejection of the never-ending hamster wheel of wants and desires. Rejection isn't the right word though, because Buddhism's goal is to ideally have us be mentally present and not in the semi-conscious state that we tend to live in for most of our lives. The idea isn't to *reject* pleasures, but not to attach to them. Like, eat one chocolate, but not the entire box in a single sitting.

dhw: I don’t know why eating one chocolate constitutes full consciousness and hogging the whole box = semi-consciousness, or why the desire for one chocolate isn’t a desire, or why having wants and desires = semi-consciousness. You’re proposing that we should indulge our wants and desires in moderation, but that’s not what I understand by Ajahn Brahmali’s Buddhism, and in any case I don’t think it would cause much disagreement in non-Buddhist or secular Buddhist circles!

Next comes the discussion of “eternalists” versus “materialists”:

xeno: As suggested in the podcast, the Buddha proposed a "middle path" which says "It's not either/or, its both." I wish he went into more detail here.

dhw: I’m afraid this is a major problem, and Brahmali simply glosses it over. He goes on and on about rebirth being a (the?) central point. David and I are in total agreement on this. What/who are we when we are reborn – and what is reborn if there is no immaterial “soul”?

xeno: the key Buddhist observation […] is that when you observe your own thoughts, eventually you figure out that you're not in control of the majority of what's going on in that mind of yours. […] We don't even truly own our bodies... they are subject to aging and decay. Who you are as a person changes over time, so what we typically take of as a "self" is an illusion. […] So the first big thing we do as Buddhists, is to try and get in tune with our minds so that way we are always observing the process.

dhw: I don’t recall this being discussed in the podcast (maybe I nodded off?), but it’s nothing more than the question of whether or not we have free will. Did Gotama really teach you to remember that you act like a zombie though you think you’re an autonomous being? I don’t think my “self” is an illusion. I may not be in control of what makes me “me”, and I have changed and am still changing, but I’m fully aware of my personal characteristics, and I challenge the right of anyone to tell me these are “illusory”. If secular Buddhists dislike all this vagueness, I’m on their side, and Brahmali’s failure to address these problems makes me hostile to his calling their doubts “baloney”!

xeno: And I mean, if you're worried about what we give up, my percepts are 1) Don't kill 2.) Don't steal 3.) If I'm in a committed relationship don't break the rules 4.) Don't use intoxicants that lead to carelessness 5.) Don't speak unskillfully. (Other religions: 'don't lie' but Buddhists understand that there are moral or ethical times where lying is appropriate.) Core to the practice is Mudita (Other's joys), Metta (Loving kindness for all beings), and of course lots of meditation involving the deconstruction of our perceptions.

I think all of us would approve of your precepts and “core”, but I have no idea if these represent the teachings of the Buddha, especially since one of Brahmali’s key issues is monasticism, which “secular” Buddhists seem to have turned their backs on. How do you show your loving kindness and concern for other people’s joys if you shut yourself up in a monastery? And what happens to the human race if sexual desires have to be overcome? And once we have deconstructed our perceptions etc., what are we supposed to do with that knowledge? Be reborn as whatever, keep suffering and deluding ourselves, until eventually one of us realizes it just ain’t worth living life on Earth, so we’re better off lying permanently under it! As I suggested before, Nirvana = permanent death!

dhw: The rest of your post asks virtually the same questions as my own, and what I have written is just my response to the statements above. I sense that you reject Ajahn Brahmali’s dismissal of “secular” Buddhism as baloney. He seems to have dodged all the issues that you have difficulty with yourself! I’ll skip to your final remark:

xeno: Whether or not Rebirth is a relevant concept for me to consider in THIS life, I don't know, but I DO know that if people like myself took a much longer view of their lives, we might actually live in a kinder, gentler place.

dhw: I think that message would apply to most religions and to humanism as well, but I would put it slightly differently. If people like and unlike myself would take a less egotistical view of themselves and would treat others in the way they themselves would wish to be treated, we might all live in a kinder, gentler place.

Thank you again for giving us a new topic to discuss. I’ll be interested to hear what your monk has to say in response to your own questions, though I wonder if he is a “secular” Buddhist himself!

I'm happy just to follow along with dhw's insights. The parallel mine.

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, December 12, 2022, 23:56 (590 days ago) @ dhw

I don’t know why eating one chocolate constitutes full consciousness and hogging the whole box = semi-consciousness, or why the desire for one chocolate isn’t a desire, or why having wants and desires = semi-consciousness. You’re proposing that we should indulge our wants and desires in moderation, but that’s not what I understand by Ajahn Brahmali’s Buddhism, and in any case I don’t think it would cause much disagreement in non-Buddhist or secular Buddhist circles!

So, I have 5 precepts. The next step up for a lay person such as myself is 8 precepts, and to be honest I should take that vow because I already keep them. (The additional 3 are: abstain from false speech, abstain from harsh speech, abstain from useless speech.) Monks (such as Brahmali) have 227 precepts. Monks also have a special social role in their countries of origin, and it isn't lost on me the irony that when we praise the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, the chant for the Sangha is the longest. The veneration in Eastern traditions for their teachers is legendary and predates Buddhism. This isn't particularly controversial for me--Monasticism as far as the preservation of the Buddha's teachings *is* part of the package. It hasn't been until the mindfulness teachers here in the States where there has been a challenge of sorts to monastic authority--which is where some of his concern my lie.

I think this is really a sidebar though, so I'll address the meat of your comments in another post.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 00:03 (590 days ago) @ dhw

Next comes the discussion of “eternalists” versus “materialists”:

xeno: As suggested in the podcast, the Buddha proposed a "middle path" which says "It's not either/or, its both." I wish he went into more detail here.

I’m afraid this is a major problem, and Brahmali simply glosses it over. He goes on and on about rebirth being a (the?) central point. David and I are in total agreement on this. What/who are we when we are reborn – and what is reborn if there is no immaterial “soul”?

In trying to track this down for you (and for myself, frankly) I discovered this: https://suttacentral.net/sn12.61/en/sujato?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=as...
Different translation from what I have on my shelf but mostly the same idea. But at any rate, when you examine all of the processes of consciousness and cognition you determine that it is nothing but a cause and effect chain with no end. It’s better to think of your body as your “self” because the nature of human consciousness isn’t stable. Have you ever apologized to someone and said “I’m sorry, I wasn’t myself?” Well the Buddha points out that this is us *all* of the time. It would be better for us, any time we refer to “I” or “me” or “self” to add the modifier “at this moment” to better reflect the idea that the Buddha is getting at. The Buddha is aiming to demonstrate to us that our idea of the self as some unchanging phenomenon is what is false, which ties in with your comments a little further on.

I don’t recall this being discussed in the podcast (maybe I nodded off?), but it’s nothing more than the question of whether or not we have free will. Did Gotama really teach you to remember that you act like a zombie though you think you’re an autonomous being?

More or less yes, and modern pyschology actually agrees with his observation. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-brain-work/201011/new-study-shows-humans-a...

It’s not that we’re non-autonomous zombies, but that we’re essentially dreaming while awake. One goal of Buddhist meditation is to decrease the amount of time we spend in that sleepwalking state. For me—catching myself in thoughts feels 100% like waking up from a dream.

I don’t think my “self” is an illusion.
I may not be in control of what makes me “me”, and I have changed and am still changing, but I’m fully aware of my personal characteristics, and I challenge the right of anyone to tell me these are “illusory”.

I would challenge that you would have to be in a mental state where your mind was stilled to the point where the only thing present would be your ability to observe—in order to understand what the Buddha means by “true self,” as opposed to “illusory self.” I would argue that during the 50% of my own waking hours that are spent not doing anything in particular—I’m not being myself. I would argue (based on my understanding of Buddhist psychology) that we’re only “ourselves” when we’re fully engaged in self-aware, intentional action.

You could charge maybe that I'm playing with definitions here but if its one teaching that I have internalized and appreciated from Buddhism it's that intentional action isn't as bad as our puritan forefathers and their theology of "The path to hell is paved with good intentions" wants us to believe. And yes, there's not necessarily anything special here that I have that a dedicated Humanist couldn't have studying default mode/flow state psychology, however I was never able to connect with humanism in any meaningful way.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by David Turell @, Monday, December 12, 2022, 16:51 (590 days ago) @ xeno6696

Buddhism

dhw: I have struggled through this podcast with increasing frustration.
[snipped for brevity] With my perhaps all too sceptical mind, I have always considered this to be the perfect state of death, so why bother with the long and apparently always painful sequence of lives spent suffering? > >


Matt: There's a few misconceptions in much of the first part, and my heart goes out to anyone experiencing some of the same consternation. Let me address the misconception part first however. The common thread between Buddhist asceticism and well, all asceticism really is a rejection of the never-ending hamster wheel of wants and desires. Rejection isn't the right word though, because Buddhism's goal is to ideally have us be mentally present and not in the semi-conscious state that we tend to live in for most of our lives. The idea isn't to *reject* pleasures, but not to attach to them. Like, eat one chocolate, but not the entire box in a single sitting.

In my understanding (which comes from Brahmali's own tradition) the four noble truths are an accurate diagnosis of the human condition: we impulsively seek pleasure and avoid pain, and at the root of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance is the ego. So it's important (and also problematic as we'll discuss later) that Buddhism rejects the idea of a permanent immutable soul. At the time of the Buddha you actually had Eternalists and Materialists, schools which should be quite familiar to us here in the west as we're dealing with our own long history between those two poles. As suggested in the podcast, the Buddha proposed a "middle path" which says "It's not either/or, its both." I wish he went into more detail here.

To summarize a bit tersely, the key Buddhist observation (and this is one I have made on my own) is that when you observe your own thoughts, eventually you figure out that you're not in control of the majority of what's going on in that mind of yours. So for the Buddha, it became clear that what we typically refer to as a "self" or in the west as we would call it, "a soul" is actually a confluence of our "observational function" (my term) as well as conditioning received by living life... family, friends, and society. We don't even truly own our bodies... they are subject to aging and decay. Who you are as a person changes over time, so what we typically take of as a "self" is an illusion. We are processes, not things. But we are processes who often incorrectly think about ourselves as things. So the first big thing we do as Buddhists, is to try and get in tune with our minds so that way we are always observing the process. And I mean, if you're worried about what we give up, my percepts are 1) Don't kill 2.) Don't steal 3.) If I'm in a committed relationship don't break the rules 4.) Don't use intoxicants that lead to carelessness 5.) Don't speak unskillfully. (Other religions: 'don't lie' but Buddhists understand that there are moral or ethical times where lying is appropriate.) Core to the practice is Mudita (Other's joys), Metta (Loving kindness for all beings), and of course lots of meditation involving the deconstruction of our perceptions. Buddhist psychology has been making alot of inroads in western medicine, I'll leave it at that.


I think this answer would make my teacher happy and hopefully answers most of your irritation with Brahmali especially about the monastic parts of life. I have arguments with him on that but far afield from this conversation I think. (Buddhist inside football)


So... where I have considered myself a "secular Buddhist" is precisely because there's an aspect of Buddhism that talks about things such as a "Mind-made body," where supposedly if you meditate deep enough you can create a doppelganger of yourself and send it out on missions in the world. I would like to have seen Brahmali respond to THAT one. However the rebirth question is one that up until now I've felt I can do just fine without--I'm still very much the "I'll believe it when I see it" kind of guy and a critical aspect that remains to be explained... actually I'll call my monk tomorrow and ask him--I'm perfectly fine with all my ideas of self being mostly illusory. We should all believe we're part of a bigger picture. But how can we reject the idea of some sort of a permanent "soul" when there's something that somehow enters the mind-universe upon death, punishes itself, and then seeks out a new body... how exactly does that work? Isn't the mind that sheds this body still a discrete being? It certainly sounds like a self.

After having listened to the podcast a couple times, where Brahmali has heartburn is in the (mostly western) authors that are for example excluding the idea of rebirth wholesale and then calling it Buddhism. The more materialist leanings of the secularists decide not to even confront the issue, which is intellectually dishonest, IMHO.

He's not wrong. That's NOT what the Buddha taught. Whether or not Rebirth is a relevant concept for me to consider in THIS life, I don't know, but I DO know that if people like myself took a much longer view of their lives, we might actually live in a kinder, gentler place.

Seeing this from your personal level make it more understandable. I have question. Does your teacher act as a psychologist in a sense?

In the interest of (maybe) a new discussion...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 00:09 (590 days ago) @ David Turell

Seeing this from your personal level make it more understandable. I have question. Does your teacher act as a psychologist in a sense?

Yeah, self-help psychologist wouldn't be a terrible way to describe that. By learning more about how we process thoughts etc. we gain a deeper appreciation for how we interact with everyone.

Inflect towards kindness, remove the ego, rinse, repeat.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

The Conversation Continues...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 04:57 (590 days ago) @ xeno6696

Ajahn Brahm, (Brahmali's teacher) goes directly into what he calls "proof" of reincarnation:

https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-qdqh8-1337429

Nothing controversial here--he's not calling anything baloney, but his background makes this interesting. Before he became a monk he completed a degree in Theoretical Physics. So he's rather well-equipped to handle western science.

I have the same uncomfortable feeling I had reading Sabom's book. Many of these stories are personal which make them harder to criticize. However, you guys are about the only people that I'd feel fine talking about these kinds of stories as literally everyone else I know would think I'm looney for even listening to them!

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

The Conversation Continues...

by dhw, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 09:13 (590 days ago) @ xeno6696

Xeno: Ajahn Brahm, (Brahmali's teacher) goes directly into what he calls "proof" of reincarnation:
https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-qdqh8-1337429

Xeno: you guys are about the only people that I'd feel fine talking about these kinds of stories as literally everyone else I know would think I'm looney for even listening to them!

I’m delighted that you want to discuss these things with us, but please, no more podcasts. I can’t speak for David, but although short articles are fine, time is a problem. Your Brahms and Brahmalis may disapprove, but I love my work and many other things in my life (including fascinating discussions like this), but I have to prioritize. If a podcast deals with a particular issue like reincarnation, please summarize its answers to the questions David and I have asked, or give us a relevant quote. If the podcast is about people’s experiences (maybe of déjà vu?) perhaps a single example will do.

Reincarnation

dhw: I’m afraid this is a major problem, and Brahmali simply glosses it over. He goes on and on about rebirth being a (the?) central point. David and I are in total agreement on this. What/who are we when we are reborn – and what is reborn if there is no immaterial “soul”?

Xeno: In trying to track this down for you (and for myself, frankly) I discovered this:
https://suttacentral.net/sn12.61/en/sujato?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=as...

The article does not tell us anything about what is reborn or what/who we become. But the following certainly requires comment:

QUOTES: Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.’
Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.
They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’”

The first premise is that choice causes nothing but suffering. I’m sorry, but this is so vague that I find it absurd. It's the sheer variety of opportunities open to us that can bring us joy. I like a menu in a restaurant, I like to choose the films I watch, the make of car I’m going to buy, the place where I’m going to spend my holidays. I prefer democracy to totalitarian dictatorship. I prefer Beethoven to Bach. Of course suffering ceases when consciousness ceases. So does joy. The message here is simple: life is hell, and you will end your suffering by being dead. My message to the writer is “Get a life!”

Happiness

QUOTES: It turns out that just under half the time, 46.9% to be exact, people are doing what's called 'mind wandering'. They are not focused on the outside world or the task at hand, they are looking into their own thoughts. Unfortunately, the study of 2,250 people proposes, most of this activity doesn't make us feel happy.

The study was designed to find out what kind of activities people did throughout a day, and which made them happiest. Mindwandering was just one of 22 possible activities people could list.

So in the first quote, mindwandering makes most people unhappy, but in the second quote mindwandering is one of 22 activities that make people happy.

QUOTE: Researchers found that people were at their happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer.

Making love won’t work unless you have sexual desire, but according to the first article you quoted, “when desire fades away they’re freed”, and according to Ajahn Brahmali, the original teachings required the elimination of all desires (which taken to its logical conclusion would lead to the end of the human race – a great solution to our problems).

Xeno: I would argue that during the 50% of my own waking hours that are spent not doing anything in particular—I’m not being myself. I would argue (based on my understanding of Buddhist psychology) that we’re only “ourselves” when we’re fully engaged in self-aware, intentional action.

Doing what? Thinking what? Do you believe that whatever thoughts you have when your mind wanders are not YOUR thoughts, characteristic of your individual identity? The above article is devoted to happiness. Are you unhappy when your mind wanders? Maybe you think damaging and confusing thoughts that make you unhappy. Then that’s part of your miserable self. When I’m washing the dishes, I often sing made-up songs. I’m cheerful. Sorry, but I didn’t know I was suffering, and frankly I think it's typical me! But of course, if I wander off because of a problem or I’m worried about a particular matter, my thoughts will not be happy. They are still my problems and my thoughts.

Back to the first article: apparently you will only be completely happy when you are dead. Sorry again, but I much prefer the approach to life which entails doing what makes you happy and at the same time doing whatever you can to make other people happy. I know you agree, but do you think Gotama would have disapproved? Do Ajahn Brahmali and your monk disapprove?

The Conversation Continues...

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 16:01 (589 days ago) @ dhw

Xeno: you guys are about the only people that I'd feel fine talking about these kinds of stories as literally everyone else I know would think I'm looney for even listening to them!

dhw: I’m delighted that you want to discuss these things with us, but please, no more podcasts. I can’t speak for David, ... but I have to prioritize. If a podcast deals with a particular issue like reincarnation, please summarize its answers to the questions David and I have asked, or give us a relevant quote. If the podcast is about people’s experiences (maybe of déjà vu?) perhaps a single example will do.

Reincarnation

dhw: I’m afraid this is a major problem, and Brahmali simply glosses it over. He goes on and on about rebirth being a (the?) central point. David and I are in total agreement on this. What/who are we when we are reborn – and what is reborn if there is no immaterial “soul”?

Xeno: In trying to track this down for you (and for myself, frankly) I discovered this:
https://suttacentral.net/sn12.61/en/sujato?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=as...

dhw: The article does not tell us anything about what is reborn or what/who we become. But the following certainly requires comment:

QUOTES: Choices are a condition for consciousness. … That is how this entire mass of suffering originates. When ignorance fades away and ceases with nothing left over, choices cease. When choices cease, consciousness ceases. … That is how this entire mass of suffering ceases.’
Seeing this, a learned noble disciple grows disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. Being disillusioned, desire fades away. When desire fades away they’re freed. When they’re freed, they know they’re freed.
They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’”

dhw: The first premise is that choice causes nothing but suffering. I’m sorry, but this is so vague that I find it absurd. It's the sheer variety of opportunities open to us that can bring us joy. I like a menu in a restaurant, I like to choose the films I watch, the make of car I’m going to buy, the place where I’m going to spend my holidays. I prefer democracy to totalitarian dictatorship. I prefer Beethoven to Bach. Of course suffering ceases when consciousness ceases. So does joy. The message here is simple: life is hell, and you will end your suffering by being dead. My message to the writer is “Get a life!”

Happiness

QUOTES: It turns out that just under half the time, 46.9% to be exact, people are doing what's called 'mind wandering'. They are not focused on the outside world or the task at hand, they are looking into their own thoughts. Unfortunately, the study of 2,250 people proposes, most of this activity doesn't make us feel happy.

The study was designed to find out what kind of activities people did throughout a day, and which made them happiest. Mindwandering was just one of 22 possible activities people could list.

So in the first quote, mindwandering makes most people unhappy, but in the second quote mindwandering is one of 22 activities that make people happy.

QUOTE: Researchers found that people were at their happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer.

Making love won’t work unless you have sexual desire, but according to the first article you quoted, “when desire fades away they’re freed”, and according to Ajahn Brahmali, the original teachings required the elimination of all desires (which taken to its logical conclusion would lead to the end of the human race – a great solution to our problems).

Xeno: I would argue that during the 50% of my own waking hours that are spent not doing anything in particular—I’m not being myself. I would argue (based on my understanding of Buddhist psychology) that we’re only “ourselves” when we’re fully engaged in self-aware, intentional action.

dhw: Doing what? Thinking what? Do you believe that whatever thoughts you have when your mind wanders are not YOUR thoughts, characteristic of your individual identity? The above article is devoted to happiness. Are you unhappy when your mind wanders? Maybe you think damaging and confusing thoughts that make you unhappy. Then that’s part of your miserable self. When I’m washing the dishes, I often sing made-up songs. I’m cheerful. Sorry, but I didn’t know I was suffering, and frankly I think it's typical me! But of course, if I wander off because of a problem or I’m worried about a particular matter, my thoughts will not be happy. They are still my problems and my thoughts.

Back to the first article: apparently you will only be completely happy when you are dead. Sorry again, but I much prefer the approach to life which entails doing what makes you happy and at the same time doing whatever you can to make other people happy. I know you agree, but do you think Gotama would have disapproved? Do Ajahn Brahmali and your monk disapprove?

Thanks for this. I've had a happy life, no suffering. Bad moments, yes. Forward looking even with not much time left.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 16:18 (589 days ago) @ dhw

I think what you have with that single teaching I shared earlier has a similar danger to other religious texts--out of context it's easy to railroad it into any form you want. And we humans tend to be negative. Maybe it would be good in this case to get an idea for a practice I do daily:

"This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world."

Just to level set, this is centered on my personal views here, I'm not meaning to project to anyone else here. This is chanted followed by a meditation where we start with ourselves radiating a warm feeling of loving kindness, and then expand that out in greater circles to beam that feeling out in all directions.

Why engage daily in a practice designed to have us create the feeling of loving kindness--the same sort of love and compassion that a mother has for her child--and deliberately engage with everyone in the world with this feeling of love and compassion sitting in the background? One of the reasons I chose to throw my lot in with the Buddhists, is because after about a year of engaging with this practice daily, my wife even said she noticed major changes. Notably with my mother--that's complicated but the short version is that there was abuse involved and I was 100% fine with writing her out of my life. But it hit me in other places too.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 16:54 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: I think what you have with that single teaching I shared earlier has a similar danger to other religious texts--out of context it's easy to railroad it into any form you want. And we humans tend to be negative. Maybe it would be good in this case to get an idea for a practice I do daily:

"This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world."

Just to level set, this is centered on my personal views here, I'm not meaning to project to anyone else here. This is chanted followed by a meditation where we start with ourselves radiating a warm feeling of loving kindness, and then expand that out in greater circles to beam that feeling out in all directions.

Why engage daily in a practice designed to have us create the feeling of loving kindness--the same sort of love and compassion that a mother has for her child--and deliberately engage with everyone in the world with this feeling of love and compassion sitting in the background? One of the reasons I chose to throw my lot in with the Buddhists, is because after about a year of engaging with this practice daily, my wife even said she noticed major changes. Notably with my mother--that's complicated but the short version is that there was abuse involved and I was 100% fine with writing her out of my life. But it hit me in other places too.

An abusive parent is a terrible load to bear. Has Buddhism returned you to her? I realize this is very personal.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 18:46 (589 days ago) @ David Turell

An abusive parent is a terrible load to bear. Has Buddhism returned you to her? I realize this is very personal.

Complicated but we've shared enough through the years to give you a real answer. =-)

So the practice outlined above coupled with other related meditation practice helped me to unwind mental knots that I didn't know I had. Forgiveness and compassion meditations were particularly powerful. I didn't think that people could *fundamentally* change until my wife pointed out the following behaviors:

1.) I no longer dodge her phone calls
2.) I rarely get into arguments with her anymore
3.) I even went so far at one point last year to intervene in a dispute she was having with a contractor

It's important to note that as far back as 2005 I gave my wife's phone number to my mom as the only point of contact knowing she would never call my wife unless there was an emergency.

Part of the reason is that the practices helped me figure out that abuse whether its physical or mental are the product of cycles. There was a Tonglen meditation I participated in around fall 2020 where I had a shocking discovery that people rarely are sociopaths and don't inflict suffering on other people out of malice... back to my mom while she was adamant that she didn't physically abuse me (as I later found out that she and the rest of her generation were abused by a raging alcoholic father) she did however mentally torment me. To understand that, I knew at the age of three that I was the product of a rape (how many toddlers know what rape is?) and when I was a teenager she would say things like "you're just like your father," which probably isn't the best choice of words for the depressive yet arrogant person I was at the time.

This has all allowed me to approach my mom as someone who is hurting themselves and while I won't lie and say that we're close like we were in 1989 it speaks volumes that I'm at this point.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 02:26 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

An abusive parent is a terrible load to bear. Has Buddhism returned you to her? I realize this is very personal.


Complicated but we've shared enough through the years to give you a real answer. =-)

Matt: So the practice outlined above coupled with other related meditation practice helped me to unwind mental knots that I didn't know I had. Forgiveness and compassion meditations were particularly powerful. I didn't think that people could *fundamentally* change until my wife pointed out the following behaviors:

1.) I no longer dodge her phone calls
2.) I rarely get into arguments with her anymore
3.) I even went so far at one point last year to intervene in a dispute she was having with a contractor

It's important to note that as far back as 2005 I gave my wife's phone number to my mom as the only point of contact knowing she would never call my wife unless there was an emergency.

Part of the reason is that the practices helped me figure out that abuse whether its physical or mental are the product of cycles. There was a Tonglen meditation I participated in around fall 2020 where I had a shocking discovery that people rarely are sociopaths and don't inflict suffering on other people out of malice... back to my mom while she was adamant that she didn't physically abuse me (as I later found out that she and the rest of her generation were abused by a raging alcoholic father) she did however mentally torment me. To understand that, I knew at the age of three that I was the product of a rape (how many toddlers know what rape is?) and when I was a teenager she would say things like "you're just like your father," which probably isn't the best choice of words for the depressive yet arrogant person I was at the time.

This has all allowed me to approach my mom as someone who is hurting themselves and while I won't lie and say that we're close like we were in 1989 it speaks volumes that I'm at this point.

Thank you again for these revelations about yourself. Who told you about the rape? I assume your mother as an early method of reducing your self-worth, as not the result of a loving family arrangement.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 03:42 (589 days ago) @ David Turell

Thank you again for these revelations about yourself. Who told you about the rape? I assume your mother as an early method of reducing your self-worth, as not the result of a loving family arrangement.

My mom did. She was an EMT and so to top all that off she was very much the kind of person where "we shouldn't hide the real world from our children," so when I was 6 I was the only child viewing Trauma slides when my mom went for her yearly continuing education. It was odd now that I think about it that nobody attempted to intervene, but I mean, it was North Dakota ROFL.

I didn't view it as abnormal until I started seeing the reactions (as an adult) of people who I told that to.

My teenage years were the most brutal. When I was 18 one of my best friends committed suicide and (this should tell you how deep my skepticism runs) I ran over to Drew's house because I didn't believe it... but yeah, the look on his dad's face literally said it all. I was numb all the way back home, and when I broke the news to my mom when I walked in the door the first words out of her mouth was "I told you to go over there yesterday!"

The teenage years I still feel eroded any sort of normal "love" reaction that I *should* have--and simply don't. 2-3 years ago as a joke my wife bought me an audio book "How to live with a narcissistic mother," and after I got done with that book, it hit me like a ton of bricks--in a good way. For the first time I had as accurate of a description of my childhood as I'd ever had... My case is weird because there's normally several different roles in a Narcissistic family and because I was the only family member I literally played all roles. The Golden Child who was also the Black Sheep.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 05:01 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

DAVID: Thank you again for these revelations about yourself. Who told you about the rape? I assume your mother as an early method of reducing your self-worth, as not the result of a loving family arrangement.


Matt: My mom did. She was an EMT and so to top all that off she was very much the kind of person where "we shouldn't hide the real world from our children," so when I was 6 I was the only child viewing Trauma slides when my mom went for her yearly continuing education. It was odd now that I think about it that nobody attempted to intervene, but I mean, it was North Dakota ROFL.

Not really a laughing matter. I'm getting the picture of no father or a very ineffective one.


Matt: I didn't view it as abnormal until I started seeing the reactions (as an adult) of people who I told that to.

As a kid you couldn't know what is normal


Matt: My teenage years were the most brutal. When I was 18 one of my best friends committed suicide and (this should tell you how deep my skepticism runs) I ran over to Drew's house because I didn't believe it... but yeah, the look on his dad's face literally said it all. I was numb all the way back home, and when I broke the news to my mom when I walked in the door the first words out of her mouth was "I told you to go over there yesterday!"

Great. You always did it the wrong way.


Matt: The teenage years I still feel eroded any sort of normal "love" reaction that I *should* have--and simply don't. 2-3 years ago as a joke my wife bought me an audio book "How to live with a narcissistic mother," and after I got done with that book, it hit me like a ton of bricks--in a good way. For the first time I had as accurate of a description of my childhood as I'd ever had... My case is weird because there's normally several different roles in a Narcissistic family and because I was the only family member I literally played all roles. The Golden Child who was also the Black Sheep.

I couldn't have analyzed it any better.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, December 15, 2022, 03:39 (588 days ago) @ David Turell

Not really a laughing matter. I'm getting the picture of no father or a very ineffective one.

Gallows humor of a sort. Think of your ER docs. (I worked ER for 4yrs as a pharmacy tech, I fit in well with the old docs.) But yeah, only child, single mom.

Matt: I didn't view it as abnormal until I started seeing the reactions (as an adult) of people who I told that to.


As a kid you couldn't know what is normal


Great. You always did it the wrong way.

But then when I chose to stop doing homework and just fail out, my mom refused to blame me, only the teachers. I mean I get it, public school teachers get a bad rap but in my case it was totally undeserved. Like I said, the dynamic could flip on a dime. The only thing to be certain of and is a key to understanding my mom, is that whatever threatens her ego is the enemy. So if I threatened it, I was the black sheep. If someone threatened me, she took it as a personal offense against her. Trying to analyze those threads just isn't worth it, but it was impossible to navigate at the time. That's why I ultimately started shutting down at school.


Matt: The teenage years I still feel eroded any sort of normal "love" reaction that I *should* have--and simply don't. 2-3 years ago as a joke my wife bought me an audio book "How to live with a narcissistic mother," and after I got done with that book, it hit me like a ton of bricks--in a good way. For the first time I had as accurate of a description of my childhood as I'd ever had... My case is weird because there's normally several different roles in a Narcissistic family and because I was the only family member I literally played all roles. The Golden Child who was also the Black Sheep.


I couldn't have analyzed it any better.

I wanted to add--just to be clear--the "psychologist" approach of my teacher... he actually doesn't know about any of this history. This all came from me using the teachings and actually a mentor I had in a Buddha-based recovery program. (I wasn't going to do AA.)

Actually, on that note, I also didn't know that I did something that old head recovery folks thought was insane. I had actually been studying Buddhism since 2003. I probably mentioned that here a few times. But in 2017 I finally decided to practice the meditation part.

When I finally quit drinking in 2020, keep in mind--I averaged north of 750ml/day with a habit that had grown over 8yrs I did it cold turkey. My hospital experience taught me that if my vitals tanked I could titrate. In the pharmacy we kept liquor for precisely when the doctors would order it for that reason. The Buddha's meditation focuses on learning that all aspects of the mind, good, bad, neutral--has beginning, middle, end. I was afraid of the cravings. Literally it was like a hunger that would radiate numbness and I feared it would get worse. But over that first 24hrs, I slept fine. I was pre stage-IV hypertension (whatever 142/98 would be) a few months before I quit. So I watched it carefully on that first day. The meditation I used was the simple starting breath meditation: You focus on your breathing as the object, and anytime you "wake up" from being distracted, you bring it back to the breath. When negative feelings pop up, focus on them carefully, until they pass.

Nothing happened. They always passed. I was afraid of quitting but it was being afraid of a hallucination, really.

The next day, cravings still came at the usual times, but a little less powerful. That continued over a week.

By the time I hit a week, my BP had fully returned to normal.

But the meditation was my watchman. So at that point I began all the work that lead me to most of the story that I have already recounted here.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by dhw, Thursday, December 15, 2022, 09:06 (588 days ago) @ xeno6696

David’s response to my last post has set an alarm bell tinklimg:

DAVID: I note dhw's personal comments, noting some new facts I hadn't known.

The personal comments were meant to shed light on what I thought were some of Matt’s own preoccupations: the negative or “nihilistic” side of Buddhism, with its emphasis on repeated suffering and the nebulousness both of rebirth and of the final state when Enlightenment has been achieved, the transience of joy, and the true nature of the “self”. This latest post delves deeper into the ramifications of Matt’s sufferings, and how he has dealt with them. Enlightening in itself, but if my personal comments were irrelevant, then I’m sorry and of course they should be ignored.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Thursday, December 15, 2022, 16:13 (587 days ago) @ dhw

David’s response to my last post has set an alarm bell tinklimg:

DAVID: I note dhw's personal comments, noting some new facts I hadn't known.

dhw: The personal comments were meant to shed light on what I thought were some of Matt’s own preoccupations: the negative or “nihilistic” side of Buddhism, with its emphasis on repeated suffering and the nebulousness both of rebirth and of the final state when Enlightenment has been achieved, the transience of joy, and the true nature of the “self”. This latest post delves deeper into the ramifications of Matt’s sufferings, and how he has dealt with them. Enlightening in itself, but if my personal comments were irrelevant, then I’m sorry and of course they should be ignored.

Not ignored, but helpful in relating to each other.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Thursday, December 15, 2022, 16:11 (587 days ago) @ xeno6696

Not really a laughing matter. I'm getting the picture of no father or a very ineffective one.


Gallows humor of a sort. Think of your ER docs. (I worked ER for 4yrs as a pharmacy tech, I fit in well with the old docs.) But yeah, only child, single mom.

Matt: I didn't view it as abnormal until I started seeing the reactions (as an adult) of people who I told that to.


As a kid you couldn't know what is normal


Great. You always did it the wrong way.


M att: But then when I chose to stop doing homework and just fail out, my mom refused to blame me, only the teachers. I mean I get it, public school teachers get a bad rap but in my case it was totally undeserved. Like I said, the dynamic could flip on a dime. The only thing to be certain of and is a key to understanding my mom, is that whatever threatens her ego is the enemy. So if I threatened it, I was the black sheep. If someone threatened me, she took it as a personal offense against her. Trying to analyze those threads just isn't worth it, but it was impossible to navigate at the time. That's why I ultimately started shutting down at school.

Shutting down no surprise, when it is all about her.


Matt: The teenage years I still feel eroded any sort of normal "love" reaction that I *should* have--and simply don't. 2-3 years ago as a joke my wife bought me an audio book "How to live with a narcissistic mother," and after I got done with that book, it hit me like a ton of bricks--in a good way. For the first time I had as accurate of a description of my childhood as I'd ever had... My case is weird because there's normally several different roles in a Narcissistic family and because I was the only family member I literally played all roles. The Golden Child who was also the Black Sheep.


DAvid: I couldn't have analyzed it any better.


Matt: I wanted to add--just to be clear--the "psychologist" approach of my teacher... he actually doesn't know about any of this history. This all came from me using the teachings and actually a mentor I had in a Buddha-based recovery program. (I wasn't going to do AA.)

Actually, on that note, I also didn't know that I did something that old head recovery folks thought was insane. I had actually been studying Buddhism since 2003. I probably mentioned that here a few times. But in 2017 I finally decided to practice the meditation part.

When I finally quit drinking in 2020, keep in mind--I averaged north of 750ml/day with a habit that had grown over 8yrs I did it cold turkey. My hospital experience taught me that if my vitals tanked I could titrate. In the pharmacy we kept liquor for precisely when the doctors would order it for that reason. The Buddha's meditation focuses on learning that all aspects of the mind, good, bad, neutral--has beginning, middle, end. I was afraid of the cravings. Literally it was like a hunger that would radiate numbness and I feared it would get worse. But over that first 24hrs, I slept fine. I was pre stage-IV hypertension (whatever 142/98 would be) a few months before I quit. So I watched it carefully on that first day. The meditation I used was the simple starting breath meditation: You focus on your breathing as the object, and anytime you "wake up" from being distracted, you bring it back to the breath. When negative feelings pop up, focus on them carefully, until they pass.

Nothing happened. They always passed. I was afraid of quitting but it was being afraid of a hallucination, really.

The next day, cravings still came at the usual times, but a little less powerful. That continued over a week.

By the time I hit a week, my BP had fully returned to normal.

But the meditation was my watchman. So at that point I began all the work that lead me to most of the story that I have already recounted here.

I appreciate your confidenced in us.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by dhw, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 13:45 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

Where to begin? Owing to the time gap between our countries, I woke up this morning to find an intensely moving personal story, accompanied by texts full of wisdom and compassion (accompanied by equally wise and compassionate comments from David) which create a totally different perspective from the one that we were discussing only yesterday. So I’ll begin by thanking you for all these insights into your own background and into those aspects of Buddhism that have been so helpful to you and may well help others who read your life story. There is nothing in these latest exchanges that I would dream of opposing. You began with a list of precepts:

"This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited etc.
"

If these were the Buddha’s teachings, there can be no controversy. David has, I think, rightly identified your embrace of Buddhism as a kind of therapy – and the very fact that it’s based on fundamental truths creates a solid base for you and indeed all of us to build on.

I’d like to add a personal note here. In my teens, I went through a religious crisis, and was initially deeply attracted to Buddhism, not least because it by-passed religion and “God”, and focused on the gentler, humanitarian aspects of life. It was only when I read about reincarnation and the prolongation of suffering as punishment for the bad things done in a previous life that I switched off. The crisis did not last long. By the time I reached my 20s, I'd realized that no religion or philosophy could answer my questions, and I settled for agnosticism. This brought what you would call a kind of contentment. I’m still fascinated by it all, and hurl myself into discussions, but they don't affect my attitude towards life, myself or other people, and I'm not suffering! I can’t say your story has brought me joy, but it has enriched me in an entirely positive way. It reaches out to all of us, regardless of temperamanent,situation, problems, solutions, beliefs and philosophies.

This leads me to points raised in your latest posts:

Xeno: I had no idea that the idea of Buddhism being about an uncaring nihilism was so pervasive. If the Buddha could weep at the loss of a mother's only child, and he was the most accomplished teacher of his age, then how can Buddhism be a death cult that suggests that the only escape for suffering is death?

The podcast could hardly have given us a worse start. Ajahn Brahmali focuses almost exclusively on the aspects of Buddhism that turned me away: rebirth, suffering, “freedom” from cravings - the “nihilism” - and neither you nor he can explain what is reborn, or what form of existence is more conducive to freedom from suffering, cravings etc. than permanent death. I love the tale of the grieving mother and the Buddha’s compassion and philosophy, but his consoling words are that everyone in the community has lost someone to death. He didn’t say to her, “Your son will be reborn, and his suffering will continue rebirth after rebirth until all his cravings and selfish actions will have ceased.”

Xeno: [...] Food and many of the things of daily life, provide small sparks of joy, but none of that provides a lasting contentment.

Yes, all things in this world are transient. Hence the cry “carpe diem!” I would rather enjoy each transient moment -and help others to do the same - than be miserable, and you're right, you can only do that if deep down your “self” has achieved an inner peace. This means acceptance of transience. Suffering may come from circumstances outside our control, and we can’t know how we will react to negative experiences. We may then discover aspects of ourselves that we didn’t know about – but they are still our own “selves”. My wife's death was one such event, but I've learned to live with it and still enjoy many transient moments. I was devastated when my elder son was diagnosed with an incurable cancer(though he's responding well to treatment at the moment), and I don’t know how I'll be able to endure the consequences if he dies before me. But we both know that we must accept transience. He makes the most of every moment, and so do I. If Buddhism helps you to accept your past and enjoy your present, then great. But don’t listen to podcasts like Ajahn Brahmali’s!

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.

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”.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 14:53 (588 days ago) @ dhw

Where to begin? Owing to the time gap between our countries, I woke up this morning to find an intensely moving personal story, accompanied by texts full of wisdom and compassion (accompanied by equally wise and compassionate comments from David) which create a totally different perspective from the one that we were discussing only yesterday. So I’ll begin by thanking you for all these insights into your own background and into those aspects of Buddhism that have been so helpful to you and may well help others who read your life story. There is nothing in these latest exchanges that I would dream of opposing. You began with a list of precepts:

"This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited etc.
"

dhw: If these were the Buddha’s teachings, there can be no controversy. David has, I think, rightly identified your embrace of Buddhism as a kind of therapy – and the very fact that it’s based on fundamental truths creates a solid base for you and indeed all of us to build on.

dhw: I’d like to add a personal note here. In my teens, I went through a religious crisis, and was initially deeply attracted to Buddhism, not least because it by-passed religion and “God”, and focused on the gentler, humanitarian aspects of life. It was only when I read about reincarnation and the prolongation of suffering as punishment for the bad things done in a previous life that I switched off. The crisis did not last long. By the time I reached my 20s, I'd realized that no religion or philosophy could answer my questions, and I settled for agnosticism. This brought what you would call a kind of contentment. I’m still fascinated by it all, and hurl myself into discussions, but they don't affect my attitude towards life, myself or other people, and I'm not suffering! I can’t say your story has brought me joy, but it has enriched me in an entirely positive way. It reaches out to all of us, regardless of temperamanent,situation, problems, solutions, beliefs and philosophies.

This leads me to points raised in your latest posts:

Xeno: I had no idea that the idea of Buddhism being about an uncaring nihilism was so pervasive. If the Buddha could weep at the loss of a mother's only child, and he was the most accomplished teacher of his age, then how can Buddhism be a death cult that suggests that the only escape for suffering is death?

dhw: The podcast could hardly have given us a worse start. Ajahn Brahmali focuses almost exclusively on the aspects of Buddhism that turned me away: rebirth, suffering, “freedom” from cravings - the “nihilism” - and neither you nor he can explain what is reborn, or what form of existence is more conducive to freedom from suffering, cravings etc. than permanent death. I love the tale of the grieving mother and the Buddha’s compassion and philosophy, but his consoling words are that everyone in the community has lost someone to death. He didn’t say to her, “Your son will be reborn, and his suffering will continue rebirth after rebirth until all his cravings and selfish actions will have ceased.”

Xeno: [...] Food and many of the things of daily life, provide small sparks of joy, but none of that provides a lasting contentment.

dhw: Yes, all things in this world are transient. Hence the cry “carpe diem!” I would rather enjoy each transient moment -and help others to do the same - than be miserable, and you're right, you can only do that if deep down your “self” has achieved an inner peace. This means acceptance of transience. Suffering may come from circumstances outside our control, and we can’t know how we will react to negative experiences. We may then discover aspects of ourselves that we didn’t know about – but they are still our own “selves”. My wife's death was one such event, but I've learned to live with it and still enjoy many transient moments. I was devastated when my elder son was diagnosed with an incurable cancer(though he's responding well to treatment at the moment), and I don’t know how I'll be able to endure the consequences if he dies before me. But we both know that we must accept transience. He makes the most of every moment, and so do I. If Buddhism helps you to accept your past and enjoy your present, then great. But don’t listen to podcasts like Ajahn Brahmali’s!

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”.

I note dhw's personal comments, noting some new facts I hadn't known

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, December 15, 2022, 14:59 (587 days ago) @ dhw

This is a full plate my friend! 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. 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? I'd developed a sort of "If all you're doing is arguing about existence, aren't you missing out on something immediately around you within your existence?" The ending song of Life of Brian has always held a great deal of significance.

I was devastated when my elder son was diagnosed with an incurable cancer(though he's responding well to treatment at the moment), and I don’t know how I'll be able to endure the consequences if he dies before me. But we both know that we must accept transience. He makes the most of every moment, and so do I. If Buddhism helps you to accept your past and enjoy your present, then great. But don’t listen to podcasts like Ajahn Brahmali’s!

This is a full plate, friend, and I send you virtual hugs from Tucson. 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 was in an attic with a sort of golden glow. I was flipping through one of my old CD books, and 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.

There's a stoic practice that I believe in but haven't practiced lately, 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... the stoics didn't want us doing that, so you try to imagine their loss to create these kinds of feelings. This enables a fresh kindness. I *do* kind of understand what you're going through. I send you hugs from tucson, dhw!


It's funny that you say that last bit about Brahmali, that one is the only teaching that comes off as brash, I'm currently going through a workshop where he brings you to the life and times of the Buddha in the hope to gain what kind of truly different system he discovered compared to his contemporaries, the Jains, the Ajivakas, and then the orthodox Hinduism at the time. (Hinduism hadn't developed as a system yet, the caste system was evolving but hadn't been codified yet.) The idea here is to place the Buddha's words in the time and places where they brought rupture to traditional Indian life. I'm still offput by that interview I shared, but he's a great source of knowledge about this time period.

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.

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”.

I appreciate your conception of the self, I just don't share it! I've meditated enough at this point to have a strong grasp on my mind and I think I share the ancient Hindu desire to find the stable piece of footing: 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. Or to put another way, I don't experience my thoughts as part of my identity as a person. IF I defined myself by my thoughts, then I'd be a very crazy person indeed. 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! =-)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Thursday, December 15, 2022, 16:27 (587 days ago) @ xeno6696

M att: This is a full plate my friend! 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. 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? I'd developed a sort of "If all you're doing is arguing about existence, aren't you missing out on something immediately around you within your existence?" The ending song of Life of Brian has always held a great deal of significance. >

dhw: I was devastated when my elder son was diagnosed with an incurable cancer(though he's responding well to treatment at the moment), and I don’t know how I'll be able to endure the consequences if he dies before me. But we both know that we must accept transience. He makes the most of every moment, and so do I. If Buddhism helps you to accept your past and enjoy your present, then great. But don’t listen to podcasts like Ajahn Brahmali’s!

I should bring up the loss of my son in 2006, at age 45. Still miss him and our shared love of baseball. Stopped following the Astros for eleven years but could finally return.> >


Matt: This is a full plate, friend, and I send you virtual hugs from Tucson. 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 was in an attic with a sort of golden glow. I was flipping through one of my old CD books, and 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.

There's a stoic practice that I believe in but haven't practiced lately, 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... the stoics didn't want us doing that, so you try to imagine their loss to create these kinds of feelings. This enables a fresh kindness. I *do* kind of understand what you're going through. I send you hugs from tucson, dhw! >

It's funny that you say that last bit about Brahmali, that one is the only teaching that comes off as brash, I'm currently going through a workshop where he brings you to the life and times of the Buddha in the hope to gain what kind of truly different system he discovered compared to his contemporaries, the Jains, the Ajivakas, and then the orthodox Hinduism at the time. (Hinduism hadn't developed as a system yet, the caste system was evolving but hadn't been codified yet.) The idea here is to place the Buddha's words in the time and places where they brought rupture to traditional Indian life. I'm still offput by that interview I shared, but he's a great source of knowledge about this time period.

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.

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”.


I appreciate your conception of the self, I just don't share it! I've meditated enough at this point to have a strong grasp on my mind and I think I share the ancient Hindu desire to find the stable piece of footing: 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. Or to put another way, I don't experience my thoughts as part of my identity as a person. IF I defined myself by my thoughts, then I'd be a very crazy person indeed. 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! =-)

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'.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by dhw, Friday, December 16, 2022, 08:24 (587 days ago) @ xeno6696

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.

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? […]

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.

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...

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'.

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.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Friday, December 16, 2022, 15:57 (586 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.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Friday, December 16, 2022, 16:26 (586 days ago) @ David Turell

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.

One of the things in this process that softened the hard stances I had taken vs religion in the past was recognizing the importance about connecting with an ancient tradition. There *is* something moving about being a part of an institution with 2500yrs of consecutive history.

And yeah David, you hit it on the head--if the exterior matched the interior I would certainly look worse for wear ROFL. Anger generally leads towards destruction if you don't channel it.

dhw: Yes its true that people can put on a mask, but you can't do THAT and live authentically. To the extent that internal peace is possible, thinking one way and constantly doing another is oppression. While I'm painting with broad strokes here, the closer one can get to having their internal state match their external state, the extent to which thought and deed are synonymous is an ideal that one should strive for. (I hesitate to push too broadly here because what does the "Golden Rule mean to a Masochist?)

Later today or tomorrow I'll start sketching what I think the Buddhists mean in regards to rebirth. My monk is attending to two funerals so he's apologized but he'll get back to me. I do think I've unlocked the logic at least, we'll see what he thinks later.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Friday, December 16, 2022, 20:03 (586 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: 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.


One of the things in this process that softened the hard stances I had taken vs religion in the past was recognizing the importance about connecting with an ancient tradition. There *is* something moving about being a part of an institution with 2500yrs of consecutive history.

And yeah David, you hit it on the head--if the exterior matched the interior I would certainly look worse for wear ROFL. Anger generally leads towards destruction if you don't channel it.

Thank you for keeping us old guys up on the internet slang.


dhw: Yes its true that people can put on a mask, but you can't do THAT and live authentically. To the extent that internal peace is possible, thinking one way and constantly doing another is oppression. While I'm painting with broad strokes here, the closer one can get to having their internal state match their external state, the extent to which thought and deed are synonymous is an ideal that one should strive for. (I hesitate to push too broadly here because what does the "Golden Rule mean to a Masochist?)

Mattt: Later today or tomorrow I'll start sketching what I think the Buddhists mean in regards to rebirth. My monk is attending to two funerals so he's apologized but he'll get back to me. I do think I've unlocked the logic at least, we'll see what he thinks later.

Looking forward to it.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by dhw, Saturday, December 17, 2022, 10:08 (586 days ago) @ xeno6696

DAVID: 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.

Xeno: And yeah David, you hit it on the head--if the exterior matched the interior I would certainly look worse for wear ROFL. Anger generally leads towards destruction if you don't channel it.

This is what I meant by your choices defining who you are in your own eyes as well as in those of others.

dhw: (clarification: this is xeno responding to dhw:) Yes its true that people can put on a mask, but you can't do THAT and live authentically.

It would help if you could briefly quote what you are referring to. In reply to David’s comment that the person he projects to others is himself, I pointed out that very often the person projected to others is NOT necessarily the true self (e.g. a conman). I’m not sure what you mean by “authentically”. The conman’s concealment of his authentic self is his means of being his authentic self: i.e. a selfish bastard who couldn’t care less about the feelings of others. (The “Golden Rule”- see below - has no place in his authentic “self”!)

Xeno: To the extent that internal peace is possible, thinking one way and constantly doing another is oppression. While I'm painting with broad strokes here, the closer one can get to having their internal state match their external state, the extent to which thought and deed are synonymous is an ideal that one should strive for. (I hesitate to push too broadly here because what does the "Golden Rule mean to a Masochist?)

The strokes are TOO broad for me. Yes, we should strive for the “golden rule” (do as you would be done by), but that involves contact with other people. Maybe the Buddhist support for monastic life recognizes this, and recommends shutting yourself off from other people so that you have no occasion to think internal thoughts ( “cravings”) which must be suppressed by external actions. If you yourself had lived your life in solitary confinement, I should imagine 99% of the subjects you were angry about would never have had to enter your mind. (The 1% would have been: “Dammit, why am I cooped up in here?”) Social intercourse requires constantly monitoring and controlling one’s thoughts. You see a beautiful girl, just your type, and you’d like to kiss her. Not an unnatural “bad” thought, is it? But you choose not to kiss her, because that would be immoral and could quite rightly land you in big trouble. What’s the ideal you’re striving for in trying to match internal thought with external deed? To eliminate such thoughts? Then off you must go to solitary confinement. There are thousands of situations in which we have thoughts which must be rejected if we are to do as we would be done by. For me, the ideal is to implement the rule by making the appropriate choice, not by shutting yourself off from choice.

Xeno: Just wanted to bring in a quick note, I did indeed promptly go hug my wife, who typically has more in common with the great Saguaro, so it would have been comical for outsiders to see her surprise! =-)

Delighted to hear it. I had to look up “Saguaro”: a tree-like cactus. Hmmm...not sure she’d like that – and not sure you should hug her after all. Could be painful!

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Saturday, December 17, 2022, 17:00 (585 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: 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.

Xeno: And yeah David, you hit it on the head--if the exterior matched the interior I would certainly look worse for wear ROFL. Anger generally leads towards destruction if you don't channel it.

dhw: This is what I meant by your choices defining who you are in your own eyes as well as in those of others.

dhw: (clarification: this is xeno responding to dhw:) Yes its true that people can put on a mask, but you can't do THAT and live authentically.

dhw: It would help if you could briefly quote what you are referring to. In reply to David’s comment that the person he projects to others is himself, I pointed out that very often the person projected to others is NOT necessarily the true self (e.g. a conman). I’m not sure what you mean by “authentically”. The conman’s concealment of his authentic self is his means of being his authentic self: i.e. a selfish bastard who couldn’t care less about the feelings of others. (The “Golden Rule”- see below - has no place in his authentic “self”!)

Xeno: To the extent that internal peace is possible, thinking one way and constantly doing another is oppression. While I'm painting with broad strokes here, the closer one can get to having their internal state match their external state, the extent to which thought and deed are synonymous is an ideal that one should strive for. (I hesitate to push too broadly here because what does the "Golden Rule mean to a Masochist?)

dhw: The strokes are TOO broad for me. Yes, we should strive for the “golden rule” (do as you would be done by), but that involves contact with other people. Maybe the Buddhist support for monastic life recognizes this, and recommends shutting yourself off from other people so that you have no occasion to think internal thoughts ( “cravings”) which must be suppressed by external actions. If you yourself had lived your life in solitary confinement, I should imagine 99% of the subjects you were angry about would never have had to enter your mind. (The 1% would have been: “Dammit, why am I cooped up in here?”) Social intercourse requires constantly monitoring and controlling one’s thoughts. You see a beautiful girl, just your type, and you’d like to kiss her. Not an unnatural “bad” thought, is it? But you choose not to kiss her, because that would be immoral and could quite rightly land you in big trouble. What’s the ideal you’re striving for in trying to match internal thought with external deed? To eliminate such thoughts? Then off you must go to solitary confinement. There are thousands of situations in which we have thoughts which must be rejected if we are to do as we would be done by. For me, the ideal is to implement the rule by making the appropriate choice, not by shutting yourself off from choice.

Xeno: Just wanted to bring in a quick note, I did indeed promptly go hug my wife, who typically has more in common with the great Saguaro, so it would have been comical for outsiders to see her surprise! =-)

dhw: Delighted to hear it. I had to look up “Saguaro”: a tree-like cactus. Hmmm...not sure she’d like that – and not sure you should hug her after all. Could be painful!

I wish you could come and tour our country. The Saguaro National Park is in Arizona

Saguaro National Monumenthttps://duckduckgo.com/?q=Saguaro+National+Monument&t=crhs&ia=web

See the photos.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, December 17, 2022, 20:23 (585 days ago) @ dhw

I’m not sure what you mean by “authentically”. The conman’s concealment of his authentic self is his means of being his authentic self: i.e. a selfish bastard who couldn’t care less about the feelings of others. (The “Golden Rule”- see below - has no place in his authentic “self”!)

So barring some sort of severe pathology (psychotics or sociopaths) the great tendency for most human beings is that the act of keeping secrets an/or continuously lying to people exacts cognitive costs that aren't necessarily recognized by the people doing it. There's quite a good book I read last year called "how emotions are made," and while there are debatable aspects of every psychological model, it absolutely makes sense. The primary function of our brain in this model is to conserve energy. To the extent that we engage in actions that cause us to spend energy, it leaves us in a more depleted state. In a less clinical form, someone who is trying to keep a big secret from someone else has to expend more cognitive energy keeping their stories straight, especially if we include the body's stress response which has a feedback effect of sapping more energy. This is why in professional spywork, the basic idea is to keep your lies close to the truth. This is why sociopaths make excellent spies and conmen, actually.

So to correct a bit what I was referring to, I would walk back the idea that it's the persona that we project: we shouldn't be *projecting* anything. We should just *be.* The people spending all this energy to "project" are in a sense, cons themselves even if their aims and intention are banal or benevolent. A Buddhist comparison I would make is that the monks in my school are required to keep 227 precepts to my 5. However keeping those 227 precepts is actually quite easy if you *always* incline to kindness and peace. (You'll keep the precepts without having to think about them.)

The strokes are TOO broad for me. Yes, we should strive for the “golden rule” (do as you would be done by), but that involves contact with other people. Maybe the Buddhist support for monastic life recognizes this, and recommends shutting yourself off from other people so that you have no occasion to think internal thoughts ( “cravings”) which must be suppressed by external actions. If you yourself had lived your life in solitary confinement, I should imagine 99% of the subjects you were angry about would never have had to enter your mind. (The 1% would have been: “Dammit, why am I cooped up in here?”) Social intercourse requires constantly monitoring and controlling one’s thoughts. You see a beautiful girl, just your type, and you’d like to kiss her. Not an unnatural “bad” thought, is it? But you choose not to kiss her, because that would be immoral and could quite rightly land you in big trouble. What’s the ideal you’re striving for in trying to match internal thought with external deed? To eliminate such thoughts? Then off you must go to solitary confinement. There are thousands of situations in which we have thoughts which must be rejected if we are to do as we would be done by. For me, the ideal is to implement the rule by making the appropriate choice, not by shutting yourself off from choice.

So you raise an excellent observation, and you hit the nail on the head with the purpose of the monastic life: By removing yourself from the world you necessarily isolate yourself from contact with things that would otherwise challenge you. If your meals are donated by the public, and you have a tent and robe given to you by the community, you never need to touch money, for example. (Theravadan monks are expressly forbidden to touch money, and this is what caused the initial major split within Buddhism roughly 100yrs after his death.)

I would say that myself I have long recognized that more choice is rarely superior to limited choice. In my music, I rekindled my studio after mothballing it for 17yrs, and I can flat out say that having more choices of synthesizers and effects is vastly harmful to my output. I used to be able to punch out a song, beginning to end, in a day. Now--I've been working on the same song since early October. And the primary culprit is that I have too many damn choices of things to use. Part of me wants to sell everything down to maybe 3 synths tops and then write from there.

Here's an article from your neck of the woods: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/21/choice-stressing-us-out-dating-par...

Choice being negative--this is uncontroversial for me.

Xeno: Just wanted to bring in a quick note, I did indeed promptly go hug my wife, who typically has more in common with the great Saguaro, so it would have been comical for outsiders to see her surprise! =-)

Delighted to hear it. I had to look up “Saguaro”: a tree-like cactus. Hmmm...not sure she’d like that – and not sure you should hug her after all. Could be painful!

I married into a Scottish family where those tempers... I thought they were just stories! =-) My wife's nickname within the family growing up was "bear."

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Sunday, December 18, 2022, 00:07 (585 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: I’m not sure what you mean by “authentically”. The conman’s concealment of his authentic self is his means of being his authentic self: i.e. a selfish bastard who couldn’t care less about the feelings of others. (The “Golden Rule”- see below - has no place in his authentic “self”!)


dhw: So barring some sort of severe pathology (psychotics or sociopaths) the great tendency for most human beings is that the act of keeping secrets an/or continuously lying to people exacts cognitive costs that aren't necessarily recognized by the people doing it. There's quite a good book I read last year called "how emotions are made," and while there are debatable aspects of every psychological model, it absolutely makes sense. The primary function of our brain in this model is to conserve energy. To the extent that we engage in actions that cause us to spend energy, it leaves us in a more depleted state. In a less clinical form, someone who is trying to keep a big secret from someone else has to expend more cognitive energy keeping their stories straight, especially if we include the body's stress response which has a feedback effect of sapping more energy. This is why in professional spywork, the basic idea is to keep your lies close to the truth. This is why sociopaths make excellent spies and conmen, actually.

Matt: So to correct a bit what I was referring to, I would walk back the idea that it's the persona that we project: we shouldn't be *projecting* anything. We should just *be.* The people spending all this energy to "project" are in a sense, cons themselves even if their aims and intention are banal or benevolent. A Buddhist comparison I would make is that the monks in my school are required to keep 227 precepts to my 5. However keeping those 227 precepts is actually quite easy if you *always* incline to kindness and peace. (You'll keep the precepts without having to think about them.) >

dhw: The strokes are TOO broad for me. Yes, we should strive for the “golden rule” (do as you would be done by), but that involves contact with other people. Maybe the Buddhist support for monastic life recognizes this, and recommends shutting yourself off from other people so that you have no occasion to think internal thoughts ( “cravings”) which must be suppressed by external actions. If you yourself had lived your life in solitary confinement, I should imagine 99% of the subjects you were angry about would never have had to enter your mind. (The 1% would have been: “Dammit, why am I cooped up in here?”) ... What’s the ideal you’re striving for in trying to match internal thought with external deed? To eliminate such thoughts? Then off you must go to solitary confinement. There are thousands of situations in which we have thoughts which must be rejected if we are to do as we would be done by. For me, the ideal is to implement the rule by making the appropriate choice, not by shutting yourself off from choice.


Matt:So you raise an excellent observation, and you hit the nail on the head with the purpose of the monastic life: By removing yourself from the world you necessarily isolate yourself from contact with things that would otherwise challenge you. If your meals are donated by the public, and you have a tent and robe given to you by the community, you never need to touch money, for example. (Theravadan monks are expressly forbidden to touch money, and this is what caused the initial major split within Buddhism roughly 100yrs after his death.)

I would say that myself I have long recognized that more choice is rarely superior to limited choice. In my music, I rekindled my studio after mothballing it for 17yrs, and I can flat out say that having more choices of synthesizers and effects is vastly harmful to my output. I used to be able to punch out a song, beginning to end, in a day. Now--I've been working on the same song since early October. And the primary culprit is that I have too many damn choices of things to use. Part of me wants to sell everything down to maybe 3 synths tops and then write from there.

Here's an article from your neck of the woods: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/21/choice-stressing-us-out-dating-par...

Choice being negative--this is uncontroversial for me.

I must admit being amazed at the point of the discussion in the article. Don't people have brains to study and make reasonable choices among younger generations? Reasonable analysis and chose. The pension plan discussion fell into part of what I did early on with our clinic.
Great plan developed from good advice, so good I even flew to the pan handle to help a friend with his clinic's plan going with my advisor. Too much choice shows individual weakness in one's boundaries of desire.

Xeno: Just wanted to bring in a quick note, I did indeed promptly go hug my wife, who typically has more in common with the great Saguaro, so it would have been comical for outsiders to see her surprise! =-)

dhw: Delighted to hear it. I had to look up “Saguaro”: a tree-like cactus. Hmmm...not sure she’d like that – and not sure you should hug her after all. Could be painful!


Matt: I married into a Scottish family where those tempers... I thought they were just stories! =-) My wife's nickname within the family growing up was "bear."

At least not porcupine!!

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by dhw, Sunday, December 18, 2022, 13:48 (585 days ago) @ xeno6696

I am editing xeno’s comments in order to clarify arguments.

Xeno: So to correct a bit what I was referring to, I would walk back the idea that it's the persona that we project: we shouldn't be *projecting* anything. We should just *be.* […] A Buddhist comparison I would make is that the monks in my school are required to keep 227 precepts to my 5. However keeping those 227 precepts is actually quite easy if you *always* incline to kindness and peace. (You'll keep the precepts without having to think about them.)

This is a misunderstanding. David wrote: “I am the person I project to others and that is myself.” I pointed out that many people project persons who are NOT themselves. It makes no difference whether the person you project is fake or real (“real” means the person you really are), what you project is what other people see. And of course the ideal is that the real inner person should be perfect, and will therefore project a real and perfect outer person!

dhw: For me, the ideal is to implement the rule by making the appropriate choice, not by shutting yourself off from choice.

Xeno: So you raise an excellent observation, and you hit the nail on the head with the purpose of the monastic life: By removing yourself from the world you necessarily isolate yourself from contact with things that would otherwise challenge you. I would say that myself I have long recognized that more choice is rarely superior to limited choice. In my music, I rekindled my studio after mothballing it for 17yrs, and I can flat out say that having more choices of synthesizers and effects is vastly harmful to my output. […] Here's an article from your neck of the woods:
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/21/choice-stressing-us-out-dating-par...

Choice being negative--this is uncontroversial for me.

The “rule” I was referring to above (now bolded) is the “Golden Rule” you mentioned as the ideal (do as you would be done by). This concerns one’s behaviour towards others, and has nothing to do with choice of consumer goods or the number of synthesizers you should own. I really don’t think you will be “punished” in your next life for choosing the wrong pension plan or buying the wrong tomato ketchup.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Sunday, December 18, 2022, 16:12 (584 days ago) @ dhw

I am editing xeno’s comments in order to clarify arguments.

Xeno: So to correct a bit what I was referring to, I would walk back the idea that it's the persona that we project: we shouldn't be *projecting* anything. We should just *be.* […] A Buddhist comparison I would make is that the monks in my school are required to keep 227 precepts to my 5. However keeping those 227 precepts is actually quite easy if you *always* incline to kindness and peace. (You'll keep the precepts without having to think about them.)

dhw: This is a misunderstanding. David wrote: “I am the person I project to others and that is myself.” I pointed out that many people project persons who are NOT themselves. It makes no difference whether the person you project is fake or real (“real” means the person you really are), what you project is what other people see. And of course the ideal is that the real inner person should be perfect, and will therefore project a real and perfect outer person!

dhw: For me, the ideal is to implement the rule by making the appropriate choice, not by shutting yourself off from choice.

Xeno: So you raise an excellent observation, and you hit the nail on the head with the purpose of the monastic life: By removing yourself from the world you necessarily isolate yourself from contact with things that would otherwise challenge you. I would say that myself I have long recognized that more choice is rarely superior to limited choice. In my music, I rekindled my studio after mothballing it for 17yrs, and I can flat out say that having more choices of synthesizers and effects is vastly harmful to my output. […] Here's an article from your neck of the woods:
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/21/choice-stressing-us-out-dating-par...

Choice being negative--this is uncontroversial for me.

dhw: The “rule” I was referring to above (now bolded) is the “Golden Rule” you mentioned as the ideal (do as you would be done by). This concerns one’s behaviour towards others, and has nothing to do with choice of consumer goods or the number of synthesizers you should own. I really don’t think you will be “punished” in your next life for choosing the wrong pension plan or buying the wrong tomato ketchup.

I've made my point previously

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, December 17, 2022, 05:27 (586 days ago) @ dhw

Just wanted to bring in a quick note, I did indeed promptly go hug my wife, who typically has more in common with the great Saguaro, so it would have been comical for outsiders to see her surprise! =-)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 1

by David Turell @, Saturday, December 17, 2022, 15:50 (585 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: Just wanted to bring in a quick note, I did indeed promptly go hug my wife, who typically has more in common with the great Saguaro, so it would have been comical for outsiders to see her surprise! =-)

Prickly?

My Experience with Buddhism Pt. 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 16:19 (589 days ago) @ dhw

So the teaching you're taking issue with earlier *must* be taken alongside this (and other) daily practice(s). In my view, there is absolutely no way that the teaching you worried about can lead to the sort of nihilism that you're reading into it when several of the bedrock teachings stem from this metta sutta. Whatever we incline our minds towards--is where our minds go. We can't *control* our mind, but we can dig ruts into the road to help guide us where we want to go. I read that teaching in this way: an untrained person will always be at the whims of wherever their mind is blowing. Like a monkey travelling from vine to vine, their mind flies and they damage themselves and others. Anger is the best study for this: it takes alot of training and effort to handle anger in ways that won't cause us to lash out at other people. Because we wish to inflect ourselves on a path towards a kinder place, having that thought in the back of our minds we will more skillfully keep anger at bay, and transform its energies into constructive rather than destructive change. I think it's important to refer back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who believed emotions were thrown upon us by the Gods themselves. We realize that emotions are internal to us now, but we shouldn't throw away their insight that emotions don't typically come on command: That's why their explanations moved to external causes: Why do I experience Anger even when I don't want to be angry? The Stoics--a group I have a feeling you'll view as dour as well--developed many techniques to handle anger.

Buddhism altered how I view happiness: Happiness is contentment. And let me add to that: What if we could learn to be content with less? Consumerism is the obvious choice here to make a point. No matter how many things I buy, happiness isn't in accumulation despite what our marketing agents want us to believe. This I didn't need to be taught, but the Buddha's teaching on craving for sense desires perfectly aligns with a disenchantment I learned ages ago towards fashion trends. To this day I have a wardrobe that doesn't extend beyond about 20 shirts and maybe half that of pants and I replace things only when they wear out. I have two pairs of shoes and one pair of hiking boots. One pair of sandals. I have a tendency to buy too many books and have plenty that I will probably never read before I die. (Here I've done better--I've taken to using the library and am trying to pare down that collection to something much more manageable. I've bought two in the last year.)

Books and music provide temporary bursts of joy but the teachings help me to realize that joy like all things has a beginning, middle, and end. Okay, this is all stuff I've talked about with other Buddhists and my monk friend, and nobody once has said that any of this is contrary to the path. Food and many of the things of daily life, provide small sparks of joy, but none of that provides a lasting contentment. Due to these practices, what I would describe as large swaths of just neutral feeling that was punctuated by small sparks of joy through food, music, conversation etc. has been replaced with a sort of warm glow of contentment--I've learned how to be happy when not doing anything in particular. I've even used the meditation techniques to stop an 8yr long 750ml+/day drinking habit. Addiction is in my view, just the same pattern of pleasure seeking we all share--only turned towards substances that have harmful effects. At any rate, me building a book collection I'll never read is little different than a drinking habit. They're both attempting to satisfy cravings, and both lead to bad consequences--buying books I'll never read when I know full well I already have books I haven't read is more mundane but illustrative: I'm out of control. (My mom is a hoarder, and I try to keep that in mind.)

Now your monastics will practice to become disenchanted with everything but that feeling of pervasive contentment. That's really the only difference between the monks and us "normies." None of this quite gets at the point that started this thread, but you seemed to have such a negative and dour view on Buddhism that I felt it necessary to give you a little flavor as to what it means for me. To answer your question, yeah these thoughts pop in "my" head, but I don't understand myself to be anything more than the confluence of consciousness and conditioning that was born 40odd 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. The hardcore Buddhists--they clearly think I'll carry on somehow, and I'm still researching and waiting on my monk to call me back to try and give us both better answers.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt. 3

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 16:24 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

As a third leg here, the Stoics would say that bad emotions are caused by not getting what you want and not accepting the fact that you can't get everything that you want: Very probably, you have unrealistic goals.

Instead of trying to win a tennis match--something you simply DO NOT have full control over, modify your goal to play your best. That way, your expectations more closely match reality.


Buddhism for me is THAT ethic on steroids.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt. 3

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 17:02 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: As a third leg here, the Stoics would say that bad emotions are caused by not getting what you want and not accepting the fact that you can't get everything that you want: Very probably, you have unrealistic goals.

Instead of trying to win a tennis match--something you simply DO NOT have full control over, modify your goal to play your best. That way, your expectations more closely match reality.


Buddhism for me is THAT ethic on steroids.

That is a greatt approach to life.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt. 2

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 17:00 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

So the teaching you're taking issue with earlier *must* be taken alongside this (and other) daily practice(s). In my view, there is absolutely no way that the teaching you worried about can lead to the sort of nihilism that you're reading into it when several of the bedrock teachings stem from this metta sutta. Whatever we incline our minds towards--is where our minds go. We can't *control* our mind, but we can dig ruts into the road to help guide us where we want to go. I read that teaching in this way: an untrained person will always be at the whims of wherever their mind is blowing. Like a monkey travelling from vine to vine, their mind flies and they damage themselves and others. Anger is the best study for this: it takes alot of training and effort to handle anger in ways that won't cause us to lash out at other people. Because we wish to inflect ourselves on a path towards a kinder place, having that thought in the back of our minds we will more skillfully keep anger at bay, and transform its energies into constructive rather than destructive change. I think it's important to refer back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who believed emotions were thrown upon us by the Gods themselves. We realize that emotions are internal to us now, but we shouldn't throw away their insight that emotions don't typically come on command: That's why their explanations moved to external causes: Why do I experience Anger even when I don't want to be angry? The Stoics--a group I have a feeling you'll view as dour as well--developed many techniques to handle anger.

Buddhism altered how I view happiness: Happiness is contentment. And let me add to that: What if we could learn to be content with less? Consumerism is the obvious choice here to make a point. No matter how many things I buy, happiness isn't in accumulation despite what our marketing agents want us to believe. This I didn't need to be taught, but the Buddha's teaching on craving for sense desires perfectly aligns with a disenchantment I learned ages ago towards fashion trends. To this day I have a wardrobe that doesn't extend beyond about 20 shirts and maybe half that of pants and I replace things only when they wear out. I have two pairs of shoes and one pair of hiking boots. One pair of sandals. I have a tendency to buy too many books and have plenty that I will probably never read before I die. (Here I've done better--I've taken to using the library and am trying to pare down that collection to something much more manageable. I've bought two in the last year.)

Books and music provide temporary bursts of joy but the teachings help me to realize that joy like all things has a beginning, middle, and end. Okay, this is all stuff I've talked about with other Buddhists and my monk friend, and nobody once has said that any of this is contrary to the path. Food and many of the things of daily life, provide small sparks of joy, but none of that provides a lasting contentment. Due to these practices, what I would describe as large swaths of just neutral feeling that was punctuated by small sparks of joy through food, music, conversation etc. has been replaced with a sort of warm glow of contentment--I've learned how to be happy when not doing anything in particular. I've even used the meditation techniques to stop an 8yr long 750ml+/day drinking habit. Addiction is in my view, just the same pattern of pleasure seeking we all share--only turned towards substances that have harmful effects. At any rate, me building a book collection I'll never read is little different than a drinking habit. They're both attempting to satisfy cravings, and both lead to bad consequences--buying books I'll never read when I know full well I already have books I haven't read is more mundane but illustrative: I'm out of control. (My mom is a hoarder, and I try to keep that in mind.)

Now your monastics will practice to become disenchanted with everything but that feeling of pervasive contentment. That's really the only difference between the monks and us "normies." None of this quite gets at the point that started this thread, but you seemed to have such a negative and dour view on Buddhism that I felt it necessary to give you a little flavor as to what it means for me. To answer your question, yeah these thoughts pop in "my" head, but I don't understand myself to be anything more than the confluence of consciousness and conditioning that was born 40odd 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. The hardcore Buddhists--they clearly think I'll carry on somehow, and I'm still researching and waiting on my monk to call me back to try and give us both better answers.

It seems you are using this as catharsis and Mom, the hoarder, is always sitting there in the background with her severe psychological illness.

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 4

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 21:25 (589 days ago) @ dhw

One last bit, as the characterization of Buddhism as a sort of misanthropic death cult is stronger than I realized.

There's a very famous Sutta, the "Kisa Gotami" Sutta where a woman comes to the Buddha with the body of her only son. She was so distraught that the villagers believed her to be fully mad.

She lays the body of her young son at the Buddha's feet and asks the Buddha to bring him back to life. The Buddha tells her, "We can do this, but only if you find a white mustard seed from a home that has never lost someone.

She then goes through the entire village on her hunt. By the time she has investigated the last house in the village, she realizes that death touches everyone.

She comes back to the Buddha, still saddened, and when the Buddha asks her how her search went, she kneels and weeps: "I understand now that death comeas for everyone." The Buddha gives her some small teaching, and then hugs her, both weeping.

I had no idea that the idea of Buddhism being about an uncaring nihilism was so pervasive. If the Buddha could weep at the loss of a mother's only child, and he was the most accomplished teacher of his age, then how can Buddhism be a death cult that suggests that the only escape for suffering is death?

I'm still waiting for my monk friend to call me back, but I believe I have a tentative answer to the reincarnation question. I will wait until the dust settles on these small points however. My apologies for taking up this much of your time!

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

My Experience with Buddhism Pt 4

by David Turell @, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 02:36 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: One last bit, as the characterization of Buddhism as a sort of misanthropic death cult is stronger than I realized.

There's a very famous Sutta, the "Kisa Gotami" Sutta where a woman comes to the Buddha with the body of her only son. She was so distraught that the villagers believed her to be fully mad.

She lays the body of her young son at the Buddha's feet and asks the Buddha to bring him back to life. The Buddha tells her, "We can do this, but only if you find a white mustard seed from a home that has never lost someone.

She then goes through the entire village on her hunt. By the time she has investigated the last house in the village, she realizes that death touches everyone.

She comes back to the Buddha, still saddened, and when the Buddha asks her how her search went, she kneels and weeps: "I understand now that death comeas for everyone." The Buddha gives her some small teaching, and then hugs her, both weeping.

I had no idea that the idea of Buddhism being about an uncaring nihilism was so pervasive. If the Buddha could weep at the loss of a mother's only child, and he was the most accomplished teacher of his age, then how can Buddhism be a death cult that suggests that the only escape for suffering is death?

I'm still waiting for my monk friend to call me back, but I believe I have a tentative answer to the reincarnation question. I will wait until the dust settles on these small points however. My apologies for taking up this much of your time!

I'm thrilled you have confided in us, allowing us such trust. Please continue with your teaching and comments about your self struggles.

The Conversation Continues...

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 15:46 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

Ajahn Brahm, (Brahmali's teacher) goes directly into what he calls "proof" of reincarnation:

https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-qdqh8-1337429

Matt:Nothing controversial here--he's not calling anything baloney, but his background makes this interesting. Before he became a monk he completed a degree in Theoretical Physics. So he's rather well-equipped to handle western science.

I have the same uncomfortable feeling I had reading Sabom's book. Many of these stories are personal which make them harder to criticize. However, you guys are about the only people that I'd feel fine talking about these kinds of stories as literally everyone else I know would think I'm looney for even listening to them!

I didn't feel strange with Sabom. I found it fascinating.

The Conversation Continues...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 18:55 (589 days ago) @ David Turell

Ajahn Brahm, (Brahmali's teacher) goes directly into what he calls "proof" of reincarnation:

https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-qdqh8-1337429

Matt:Nothing controversial here--he's not calling anything baloney, but his background makes this interesting. Before he became a monk he completed a degree in Theoretical Physics. So he's rather well-equipped to handle western science.

I have the same uncomfortable feeling I had reading Sabom's book. Many of these stories are personal which make them harder to criticize. However, you guys are about the only people that I'd feel fine talking about these kinds of stories as literally everyone else I know would think I'm looney for even listening to them!


I didn't feel strange with Sabom. I found it fascinating.

Well, you weren't a materialist. (Or at least you weren't as of the time where you suggested I read his book!)

Where Buddhism offers some answers down this path, supposedly there are meditations we can do that allow us to have these experiences (even veridical OBE) that at least on paper, offer a 2500yr old answer to these questions. I'm almost done with Brahm's podcast but his argument is fairly squishy. However he's right to point out that rebirth was a Greek answer and I know from my own research that rebirth was even a belief within early Christianity as well as Kabbalah.

Actually I plan on writing a book titled "Where did our Mind go?" which is an exploration attempting to locate precisely when "The West" stopped treating the mind as one of the senses I mean short answer is probably the Scottish Enlightenment and David Hume, but it was taken for granted by the Greeks.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

The Conversation Continues...

by David Turell @, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 02:31 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

Ajahn Brahm, (Brahmali's teacher) goes directly into what he calls "proof" of reincarnation:

https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-qdqh8-1337429

Matt: Nothing controversial here--he's not calling anything baloney, but his background makes this interesting. Before he became a monk he completed a degree in Theoretical Physics. So he's rather well-equipped to handle western science.

I have the same uncomfortable feeling I had reading Sabom's book. Many of these stories are personal which make them harder to criticize. However, you guys are about the only people that I'd feel fine talking about these kinds of stories as literally everyone else I know would think I'm looney for even listening to them!


DAVID: I didn't feel strange with Sabom. I found it fascinating.


Well, you weren't a materialist. (Or at least you weren't as of the time where you suggested I read his book!)

I'm far from a materialist.


Where Buddhism offers some answers down this path, supposedly there are meditations we can do that allow us to have these experiences (even veridical OBE) that at least on paper, offer a 2500yr old answer to these questions. I'm almost done with Brahm's podcast but his argument is fairly squishy. However he's right to point out that rebirth was a Greek answer and I know from my own research that rebirth was even a belief within early Christianity as well as Kabbalah.

Actually I plan on writing a book titled "Where did our Mind go?" which is an exploration attempting to locate precisely when "The West" stopped treating the mind as one of the senses I mean short answer is probably the Scottish Enlightenment and David Hume, but it was taken for granted by the Greeks.

That is a great point. The mind is one of our senses.

The Conversation Continues...

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 04:01 (589 days ago) @ David Turell

Actually I plan on writing a book titled "Where did our Mind go?" which is an exploration attempting to locate precisely when "The West" stopped treating the mind as one of the senses I mean short answer is probably the Scottish Enlightenment and David Hume, but it was taken for granted by the Greeks.


That is a great point. The mind is one of our senses.

The inspiration from that book came directly from Ajahn Brahm. About a year ago I listened to a seminar where he pointed that fact out: The Greeks and the Buddha both had access to some very similar ideas about the world, and Aristotle explicitly talked about the mind as a sense object. There's a really good tiny lecture book called "Aristotle's Divine Intellect" that goes into a bit more detail on this topic. At any rate, we lose something important in the west by not treating the mind as a sense. How else can you try and think about the process of imagination or worldbuilding without exploring the fact that we can use our mind to feed inputs to the five senses? Reading a novel is mind-to-mind communication, sensory experience from person to person. If an author can make you smell and taste the air of a place then we have to consider the mind as a sense object that can feed all the others.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

The Conversation Continues...

by David Turell @, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 05:12 (589 days ago) @ xeno6696

M att: Actually I plan on writing a book titled "Where did our Mind go?" which is an exploration attempting to locate precisely when "The West" stopped treating the mind as one of the senses I mean short answer is probably the Scottish Enlightenment and David Hume, but it was taken for granted by the Greeks.


That is a great point. The mind is one of our senses.


The inspiration from that book came directly from Ajahn Brahm. About a year ago I listened to a seminar where he pointed that fact out: The Greeks and the Buddha both had access to some very similar ideas about the world, and Aristotle explicitly talked about the mind as a sense object. There's a really good tiny lecture book called "Aristotle's Divine Intellect" that goes into a bit more detail on this topic. At any rate, we lose something important in the west by not treating the mind as a sense. How else can you try and think about the process of imagination or worldbuilding without exploring the fact that we can use our mind to feed inputs to the five senses? Reading a novel is mind-to-mind communication, sensory experience from person to person. If an author can make you smell and taste the air of a place then we have to consider the mind as a sense object that can feed all the others.

From what you have told us, the teachings you have studied have finally given you a path to sorting out the reasons for your personal reactions and ego defense mechanisms. Your teacher is your therapist, an anser for a question I raised earlier. I appreciate having you point out to me the use of the mind as a sense organ. Without question.

Rebirth Attempt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, December 17, 2022, 22:16 (585 days ago) @ xeno6696

In the interest of at least offering the Buddhist take on rebirth, what follows is what I've been able to piece together.

Before I get terribly far, I think its best to begin with the two modes of thought in ancient India that predominated at the time of the Buddha.

Before I do this however, I'm waiting for the last book in my Nikaya collection to arrive. The very first Sutta in the entire Pali canon is a teaching the Buddha gave that was refuting Eternalism and Nihilist Materialism.

My 2c before I dig into the primary sutta designed to tackle these subjects is that the Buddha will contradict the eternalist view (the self or soul is eternal) by demonstrating that there is no aspect of our identity that isn't transient. Rebirth was already an automatic given in Indian discourse--Hence why in the Gotami Sutta the Buddha didn't offer the teaching on rebirth because part of the scope of THAT story was that she came to the Buddha distraught and mad. She came from a rich family and there's no way Brahmins didn't already know about rebirth.

If you were a deer in a prior life, and then a rich lady, and then a poor male beggar as a part of your story, there is nothing eternal about your "self" or your identity, because every incarnation is different. I think that to refute the nihilist materialists he would point to some of the same evidences of Rebirth that Ajahn Brahm gave in that other podcast I shared. (his teachings don't elevate to 'proof' in my view, but I think that's between him and I.) At any rate, Veridical NDEs certainly existed and would have been taken for granted as evidence of rebirth or at least a "detachable mind."

There is something I would call a "store" consciousness that sometimes gets interpreted as "stream" consciousness, but it is not a *mind*. For a mind to exist, there has to be a body, and its important to note that Hinduism didn't develop an idea of a God without a body. (They could project their minds places, sure, but all Hindu Gods had bodies.) So the Judeo-Christian idea of the ineffable or inscrutable doesn't make much sense to Hindu/Buddhist peoples. And in fact, all of the Hindu people I've met are inquisitive about how a "nothing" could be a "something." The Buddha would point out that Gods had lifetimes and could die. Therefore, they were not eternal either.

So upon death, the unenlightened seed consciousness is driven forward to a new body either on this plane of existence, or in one of the hell or heavenly realms based on the levels of purification conducted in that life. Standard Hindu Cosmology would posit that the whole mind transfers, Buddhism says "nope," just the 'store consciousness.' The desire to be reborn is enough to cause the store consciousness to enter a new being. The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

That's my attempt, pre-teacher evaluation.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth Attempt 1

by David Turell @, Sunday, December 18, 2022, 00:13 (585 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: In the interest of at least offering the Buddhist take on rebirth, what follows is what I've been able to piece together.

Before I get terribly far, I think its best to begin with the two modes of thought in ancient India that predominated at the time of the Buddha.

Before I do this however, I'm waiting for the last book in my Nikaya collection to arrive. The very first Sutta in the entire Pali canon is a teaching the Buddha gave that was refuting Eternalism and Nihilist Materialism.

My 2c before I dig into the primary sutta designed to tackle these subjects is that the Buddha will contradict the eternalist view (the self or soul is eternal) by demonstrating that there is no aspect of our identity that isn't transient. Rebirth was already an automatic given in Indian discourse--Hence why in the Gotami Sutta the Buddha didn't offer the teaching on rebirth because part of the scope of THAT story was that she came to the Buddha distraught and mad. She came from a rich family and there's no way Brahmins didn't already know about rebirth.

If you were a deer in a prior life, and then a rich lady, and then a poor male beggar as a part of your story, there is nothing eternal about your "self" or your identity, because every incarnation is different. I think that to refute the nihilist materialists he would point to some of the same evidences of Rebirth that Ajahn Brahm gave in that other podcast I shared. (his teachings don't elevate to 'proof' in my view, but I think that's between him and I.) At any rate, Veridical NDEs certainly existed and would have been taken for granted as evidence of rebirth or at least a "detachable mind."

There is something I would call a "store" consciousness that sometimes gets interpreted as "stream" consciousness, but it is not a *mind*. For a mind to exist, there has to be a body, and its important to note that Hinduism didn't develop an idea of a God without a body. (They could project their minds places, sure, but all Hindu Gods had bodies.) So the Judeo-Christian idea of the ineffable or inscrutable doesn't make much sense to Hindu/Buddhist peoples. And in fact, all of the Hindu people I've met are inquisitive about how a "nothing" could be a "something." The Buddha would point out that Gods had lifetimes and could die. Therefore, they were not eternal either.

So upon death, the unenlightened seed consciousness is driven forward to a new body either on this plane of existence, or in one of the hell or heavenly realms based on the levels of purification conducted in that life. Standard Hindu Cosmology would posit that the whole mind transfers, Buddhism says "nope," just the 'store consciousness.' The desire to be reborn is enough to cause the store consciousness to enter a new being. The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

That's my attempt, pre-teacher evaluation.

Thank you for the lesson.

Rebirth Attempt 1

by dhw, Sunday, December 18, 2022, 14:06 (585 days ago) @ xeno6696

Again I am editing for the sake of clarity.

Xeno: the Buddha will contradict the eternalist view (the self or soul is eternal) by demonstrating that there is no aspect of our identity that isn't transient. […] If you were a deer in a prior life, and then a rich lady, and then a poor male beggar as a part of your story, there is nothing eternal about your "self" or your identity, because every incarnation is different.

If our current identity is transient, and our former identities were transient, what exactly is the point of having had former identities? The one I am lumbered with now is the one that has to get rid of its “cravings”, and if in my next life I can’t even remember the mess I made of my previous life, I might just as well not have led it. But see later for the astonishing and seemingly pointless revelation I shall one day be granted. Meanwhile, a personal question: have you yourself ever been aware of any of your past lives?

Xeno: There is something I would call a "store" consciousness that sometimes gets interpreted as "stream" consciousness, but it is not a *mind*. […] So upon death, the unenlightened seed consciousness is driven forward to a new body either on this plane of existence, or in one of the hell or heavenly realms based on the levels of purification conducted in that life.

It’s not a mind or a soul, it’s immaterial, and in most cases it does NOT store memories of past lives. You might as well call it a something. Now we have hell or heavenly realms, which I can only assume means that you have entered your new life with different degrees of misery which you can’t remember, so you haven’t a clue why you’re suffering, except when you know the causes that have occurred in this life. I’ll change the pronoun: I am now a miserable selfish bastard. What makes me want to be a happy, philanthropic angel? Here is the rather strange answer:

Xeno: The desire to be reborn is enough to cause the store consciousness to enter a new being. The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

What desires to be reborn if the body is dead, and “I” haven’t got a mind or a soul. What has this immaterial store of past memories which I shan’t be able to remember got to do with anything? Is it my previous life’s dying wish to be reborn? What will happen to me if I don’t believe in rebirth and therefore don’t desire to be reborn? (Answer coming up in a moment.) What is the point of recalling past lives once I’ve purified myself of all the cravings I can’t remember I had in my previous lives? Just to tell myself what a fine fellow I’ve become? Ugh, that doesn’t sound like the enlightened selfless fellow I’m supposed to be now. And finally, now that I’ve achieved Enlightenment, but I am only transient and there is no such thing as eternal life, what possible future can I have other than eternal death – the same as the me who never asked to be reborn in the first place?

I hope these questions won’t make you angry, and they are not meant to deter you from the highly beneficial path you are on. It’s perfectly clear that there are certain aspects of Buddhism that would do all of us good to embrace, as is also the case with other religions (though I’m not sure that Buddhism should be classified as a religion). I just kick against certain forms of dogma which for me distract from the essence of the “Golden Rule”. And I strongly suspect that you do too. I don’t think you started this fascinating discussion with a view to proselytising. But I have very limited knowledge of the subject (indeed, of most subjects), and perhaps you or your teacher will enlighten me. Meanwhile, I’d like to join David in thanking you for bringing us into your personal life and also opening new doors for us. This in itself is a heartwarming experience.

Rebirth Attempt 1

by David Turell @, Sunday, December 18, 2022, 16:18 (584 days ago) @ dhw

Again I am editing for the sake of clarity.

Xeno: the Buddha will contradict the eternalist view (the self or soul is eternal) by demonstrating that there is no aspect of our identity that isn't transient. […] If you were a deer in a prior life, and then a rich lady, and then a poor male beggar as a part of your story, there is nothing eternal about your "self" or your identity, because every incarnation is different.

dhw: If our current identity is transient, and our former identities were transient, what exactly is the point of having had former identities? The one I am lumbered with now is the one that has to get rid of its “cravings”, and if in my next life I can’t even remember the mess I made of my previous life, I might just as well not have led it. But see later for the astonishing and seemingly pointless revelation I shall one day be granted. Meanwhile, a personal question: have you yourself ever been aware of any of your past lives?

Xeno: There is something I would call a "store" consciousness that sometimes gets interpreted as "stream" consciousness, but it is not a *mind*. […] So upon death, the unenlightened seed consciousness is driven forward to a new body either on this plane of existence, or in one of the hell or heavenly realms based on the levels of purification conducted in that life.

dhw: It’s not a mind or a soul, it’s immaterial, and in most cases it does NOT store memories of past lives. You might as well call it a something. Now we have hell or heavenly realms, which I can only assume means that you have entered your new life with different degrees of misery which you can’t remember, so you haven’t a clue why you’re suffering, except when you know the causes that have occurred in this life. I’ll change the pronoun: I am now a miserable selfish bastard. What makes me want to be a happy, philanthropic angel? Here is the rather strange answer:

Xeno: The desire to be reborn is enough to cause the store consciousness to enter a new being. The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

dhw: What desires to be reborn if the body is dead, and “I” haven’t got a mind or a soul. What has this immaterial store of past memories which I shan’t be able to remember got to do with anything? Is it my previous life’s dying wish to be reborn? What will happen to me if I don’t believe in rebirth and therefore don’t desire to be reborn? (Answer coming up in a moment.) What is the point of recalling past lives once I’ve purified myself of all the cravings I can’t remember I had in my previous lives? Just to tell myself what a fine fellow I’ve become? Ugh, that doesn’t sound like the enlightened selfless fellow I’m supposed to be now. And finally, now that I’ve achieved Enlightenment, but I am only transient and there is no such thing as eternal life, what possible future can I have other than eternal death – the same as the me who never asked to be reborn in the first place?

I hope these questions won’t make you angry, and they are not meant to deter you from the highly beneficial path you are on. It’s perfectly clear that there are certain aspects of Buddhism that would do all of us good to embrace, as is also the case with other religions (though I’m not sure that Buddhism should be classified as a religion). I just kick against certain forms of dogma which for me distract from the essence of the “Golden Rule”. And I strongly suspect that you do too. I don’t think you started this fascinating discussion with a view to proselytising. But I have very limited knowledge of the subject (indeed, of most subjects), and perhaps you or your teacher will enlighten me. Meanwhile, I’d like to join David in thanking you for bringing us into your personal life and also opening new doors for us. This in itself is a heartwarming experience.

Agreed. I'm following and trying/hoping to learn

Rebirth Attempt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, December 19, 2022, 20:09 (583 days ago) @ dhw

Again I am editing for the sake of clarity.

If our current identity is transient, and our former identities were transient, what exactly is the point of having had former identities? The one I am lumbered with now is the one that has to get rid of its “cravings”, and if in my next life I can’t even remember the mess I made of my previous life, I might just as well not have led it. But see later for the astonishing and seemingly pointless revelation I shall one day be granted. Meanwhile, a personal question: have you yourself ever been aware of any of your past lives?

These are great questions. I'll start with where I'm at: I'm trying to understand these bits of Eastern philosophy. I would still categorize myself as a materialist who acknowledges that there are gaps. I'm no closer to believing in Rebirth at the moment than I am in Christ's resurrection. I certainly think that if I'm contrasting the Buddhist approach against other explanations, it has fewer gaps, but it still has a problem relating to epistemology. As a western materialist trying to tackle this issue, my Buddhist friends haven't provided much evidence outside of hearsay. Ajahn Brahm's argument rests on three assertions, disappointing since he used to be a physicist. They are:

1.) There's lots of evidence for rebirth, people just don't like it.
2.) Anecdote. (He shares a story that leaves me dubious but its so personal to the particular family involved that trying to doubt it makes me look and feel like a monster.
3.) Wouldn't it be a beautiful idea if it were true.

I think it's important to note that even in the podcast I shared, towards the end even Brahmali shifts into an "if it were true" mode of speaking, which suggests that at least in Brahmali's case, he might not fully believe in it himself. (FWIW The Dali Llama has said there's good reasons to doubt it, and he's supposed to be the 14th reincarnation of a Buddhist teacher!) If I could talk to Brahm, I'd ask if the standard of evidence he's using to accept rebirth would fly in a physics department!

So with that bit of background, my answer to your first question is that the Buddha is dealing with his own empirical observations based upon the collected evidence of Indian society. "What's the point" of all those lives was the central question for the ancient Hindus, and much of their religion was trying to deal with that question. The radical departure for the Buddha is that "What's the point" is a flawed question, because it is unknowable. According to the explorations relevant to that time period, his teaching about rebirth here is only in explaining that the cycle of rebirth *was not* eternal, and neither were the Gods as they were stuck in the same web as the rest of us. It is notable in Buddhist teachings that Gods came to the Buddha for answers, never the other way around.

This leads me to your more personal question: Nope. Nothing in my experience that would lead me to believe in rebirth. And if I ever break into those higher meditations, I'd still suffer the doubt that I made it up somehow, like how my imagination does all sorts of fun things.

It’s not a mind or a soul, it’s immaterial, and in most cases it does NOT store memories of past lives. You might as well call it a something. Now we have hell or heavenly realms, which I can only assume means that you have entered your new life with different degrees of misery which you can’t remember, so you haven’t a clue why you’re suffering, except when you know the causes that have occurred in this life. I’ll change the pronoun: I am now a miserable selfish bastard. What makes me want to be a happy, philanthropic angel? Here is the rather strange answer:

So the way I'm understanding it, it does indeed store memories of past lives. It just isn't a fully functioning *mind*.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth Attempt 1

by David Turell @, Monday, December 19, 2022, 22:43 (583 days ago) @ xeno6696

Again I am editing for the sake of clarity.

dhw: If our current identity is transient, and our former identities were transient, what exactly is the point of having had former identities? The one I am lumbered with now is the one that has to get rid of its “cravings”, and if in my next life I can’t even remember the mess I made of my previous life, I might just as well not have led it. But see later for the astonishing and seemingly pointless revelation I shall one day be granted. Meanwhile, a personal question: have you yourself ever been aware of any of your past lives?

Matt: > These are great questions. I'll start with where I'm at: I'm trying to understand these bits of Eastern philosophy. I would still categorize myself as a materialist who acknowledges that there are gaps. I'm no closer to believing in Rebirth at the moment than I am in Christ's resurrection. I certainly think that if I'm contrasting the Buddhist approach against other explanations, it has fewer gaps, but it still has a problem relating to epistemology. As a western materialist trying to tackle this issue, my Buddhist friends haven't provided much evidence outside of hearsay. Ajahn Brahm's argument rests on three assertions, disappointing since he used to be a physicist. They are:

1.) There's lots of evidence for rebirth, people just don't like it.
2.) Anecdote. (He shares a story that leaves me dubious but its so personal to the particular family involved that trying to doubt it makes me look and feel like a monster.
3.) Wouldn't it be a beautiful idea if it were true.

I think it's important to note that even in the podcast I shared, towards the end even Brahmali shifts into an "if it were true" mode of speaking, which suggests that at least in Brahmali's case, he might not fully believe in it himself. (FWIW The Dali Llama has said there's good reasons to doubt it, and he's supposed to be the 14th reincarnation of a Buddhist teacher!) If I could talk to Brahm, I'd ask if the standard of evidence he's using to accept rebirth would fly in a physics department!

So with that bit of background, my answer to your first question is that the Buddha is dealing with his own empirical observations based upon the collected evidence of Indian society. "What's the point" of all those lives was the central question for the ancient Hindus, and much of their religion was trying to deal with that question. The radical departure for the Buddha is that "What's the point" is a flawed question, because it is unknowable. According to the explorations relevant to that time period, his teaching about rebirth here is only in explaining that the cycle of rebirth *was not* eternal, and neither were the Gods as they were stuck in the same web as the rest of us. It is notable in Buddhist teachings that Gods came to the Buddha for answers, never the other way around.

This leads me to your more personal question: Nope. Nothing in my experience that would lead me to believe in rebirth. And if I ever break into those higher meditations, I'd still suffer the doubt that I made it up somehow, like how my imagination does all sorts of fun things.

It’s not a mind or a soul, it’s immaterial, and in most cases it does NOT store memories of past lives. You might as well call it a something. Now we have hell or heavenly realms, which I can only assume means that you have entered your new life with different degrees of misery which you can’t remember, so you haven’t a clue why you’re suffering, except when you know the causes that have occurred in this life. I’ll change the pronoun: I am now a miserable selfish bastard. What makes me want to be a happy, philanthropic angel? Here is the rather strange answer:


So the way I'm understanding it, it does indeed store memories of past lives. It just isn't a fully functioning *mind*.

I'm following along.

Errata to Attempt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, December 19, 2022, 23:57 (583 days ago) @ xeno6696

A major correction. From the introduction of the Majjhima Nikaya:

"According to the Buddha's teaching, all beings except Arahants are subject to "renewal of being in the future" that is, to rebirth. Rebirth in the Buddhist conception, is not the transmigration of a self or soul but the continuation of a process, a flux of becoming in which successive lives are linked together by causal transmission of influence rather than by substantial identity."

I'll return to this later tonight or tomorrow.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Errata to Attempt 1

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 02:36 (583 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: A major correction. From the introduction of the Majjhima Nikaya:

"According to the Buddha's teaching, all beings except Arahants are subject to "renewal of being in the future" that is, to rebirth. Rebirth in the Buddhist conception, is not the transmigration of a self or soul but the continuation of a process, a flux of becoming in which successive lives are linked together by causal transmission of influence rather than by substantial identity."

I'll return to this later tonight or tomorrow.

That implies there is no mental continuity, and one would not be conscious of the past life.

Rebirth Attempt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, December 19, 2022, 20:10 (583 days ago) @ dhw
edited by xeno6696, Monday, December 19, 2022, 20:16

Xeno: The desire to be reborn is enough to cause the store consciousness to enter a new being. The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

What desires to be reborn if the body is dead, and “I” haven’t got a mind or a soul. What has this immaterial store of past memories which I shan’t be able to remember got to do with anything? Is it my previous life’s dying wish to be reborn? What will happen to me if I don’t believe in rebirth and therefore don’t desire to be reborn? (Answer coming up in a moment.) What is the point of recalling past lives once I’ve purified myself of all the cravings I can’t remember I had in my previous lives? Just to tell myself what a fine fellow I’ve become? Ugh, that doesn’t sound like the enlightened selfless fellow I’m supposed to be now. And finally, now that I’ve achieved Enlightenment, but I am only transient and there is no such thing as eternal life, what possible future can I have other than eternal death – the same as the me who never asked to be reborn in the first place?

So it's the combination of intent and action (remember, "karma" literally translates as "action") that determines your next life. Your "desire" for future lives is created by your actions right now. I read something just last night that might help, I'll follow up with a quote later. I would characterize it this way. Anne Rice wrote a series of Vampire novels where she explores the theme of what it would really be like to be an ancient being. More or less, the vampires who reach the age of the methuselahs become so utterly bored of life that death becomes something desirable. You can only go to so many fancy soirees and watch so many loved ones die before everything in the world becomes devoid of life, and meaning itself becomes meaningless.

While the Buddha expressly argues against this kind of nihilism, it is similar to how I imagine him talking about the dispassion that gets created after having accrued many many lifetimes. This is in fact why the Buddha left the "Brahmavihara" practices--loving kindness, appreciative joy, etc. After all the core problem that Buddhism sets out to solve is "Why is there suffering?" And the sort of asceticism that leads you to hate existence is also NOT what he was aiming for. (Remember, 'middle path.') Your "final death" (parinibbana) will come whether you want it to or not--the Buddha on this particular path just teaches what you need to do in order to bring it about. Students who accomplish "Stream Entry" will reach Nibbana within 7 lifetimes.

As for the rest, you could only ask the question "I can’t remember I had in my previous lives? Just to tell myself what a fine fellow I’ve become?" until you've done the work of purifying your mind to the point where you could easily recall your past lives. This was something that other Hindu teachers taught, they just had different doctrines surrounding the eternal nature of that reality. But the sort of selfless nature you would have to have in order to get there means you wouldn't be asking that sort of question to begin with. (Not by any means a slight, its just very clear what sort of person you have to be to get here--by this point your doubts would supposedly vanish.)

I hope these questions won’t make you angry, and they are not meant to deter you from the highly beneficial path you are on. It’s perfectly clear that there are certain aspects of Buddhism that would do all of us good to embrace, as is also the case with other religions (though I’m not sure that Buddhism should be classified as a religion). I just kick against certain forms of dogma which for me distract from the essence of the “Golden Rule”. And I strongly suspect that you do too. I don’t think you started this fascinating discussion with a view to proselytising. But I have very limited knowledge of the subject (indeed, of most subjects), and perhaps you or your teacher will enlighten me. Meanwhile, I’d like to join David in thanking you for bringing us into your personal life and also opening new doors for us. This in itself is a heartwarming experience.


Not at all angry. You have many of the same questions I do, because we're both westerners who grew up under a much different paradigm. I'm not on any path towards Nibbana in this life, rest assured of that. Good food, family, and solid friends keep me plenty warm and occupied! Present company especially!

"Secular Buddhism" seems for me to be a more likely path I'd settle in. When religion starts getting too "religiony" or in dealing with things I can't epistemologically agree with, I'm just going to leave those parts be.

That said, the Buddha himself said "Use the teachings that work and discard those that don't." Well, while I'm not seeing the utility of Rebirth, and I'm fine at this point in my life to leave it there. That said, it never hurts to be challenged. Rebirth used to even be in Christianity, so its not like it's a totally alien idea in the West.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth Attempt 1

by David Turell @, Monday, December 19, 2022, 22:52 (583 days ago) @ xeno6696

Xeno: The desire to be reborn is enough to cause the store consciousness to enter a new being. The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

What desires to be reborn if the body is dead, and “I” haven’t got a mind or a soul. What has this immaterial store of past memories which I shan’t be able to remember got to do with anything? Is it my previous life’s dying wish to be reborn? What will happen to me if I don’t believe in rebirth and therefore don’t desire to be reborn? (Answer coming up in a moment.) What is the point of recalling past lives once I’ve purified myself of all the cravings I can’t remember I had in my previous lives? Just to tell myself what a fine fellow I’ve become? Ugh, that doesn’t sound like the enlightened selfless fellow I’m supposed to be now. And finally, now that I’ve achieved Enlightenment, but I am only transient and there is no such thing as eternal life, what possible future can I have other than eternal death – the same as the me who never asked to be reborn in the first place?


So it's the combination of intent and action (remember, "karma" literally translates as "action") that determines your next life. Your "desire" for future lives is created by your actions right now. I read something just last night that might help, I'll follow up with a quote later. I would characterize it this way. Anne Rice wrote a series of Vampire novels where she explores the theme of what it would really be like to be an ancient being. More or less, the vampires who reach the age of the methuselahs become so utterly bored of life that death becomes something desirable. You can only go to so many fancy soirees and watch so many loved ones die before everything in the world becomes devoid of life, and meaning itself becomes meaningless.

While the Buddha expressly argues against this kind of nihilism, it is similar to how I imagine him talking about the dispassion that gets created after having accrued many many lifetimes. This is in fact why the Buddha left the "Brahmavihara" practices--loving kindness, appreciative joy, etc. After all the core problem that Buddhism sets out to solve is "Why is there suffering?" And the sort of asceticism that leads you to hate existence is also NOT what he was aiming for. (Remember, 'middle path.') Your "final death" (parinibbana) will come whether you want it to or not--the Buddha on this particular path just teaches what you need to do in order to bring it about. Students who accomplish "Stream Entry" will reach Nibbana within 7 lifetimes.

As for the rest, you could only ask the question "I can’t remember I had in my previous lives? Just to tell myself what a fine fellow I’ve become?" until you've done the work of purifying your mind to the point where you could easily recall your past lives. This was something that other Hindu teachers taught, they just had different doctrines surrounding the eternal nature of that reality. But the sort of selfless nature you would have to have in order to get there means you wouldn't be asking that sort of question to begin with. (Not by any means a slight, its just very clear what sort of person you have to be to get here--by this point your doubts would supposedly vanish.)

I hope these questions won’t make you angry, and they are not meant to deter you from the highly beneficial path you are on. It’s perfectly clear that there are certain aspects of Buddhism that would do all of us good to embrace, as is also the case with other religions (though I’m not sure that Buddhism should be classified as a religion). I just kick against certain forms of dogma which for me distract from the essence of the “Golden Rule”. And I strongly suspect that you do too. I don’t think you started this fascinating discussion with a view to proselytising. But I have very limited knowledge of the subject (indeed, of most subjects), and perhaps you or your teacher will enlighten me. Meanwhile, I’d like to join David in thanking you for bringing us into your personal life and also opening new doors for us. This in itself is a heartwarming experience.

Not at all angry. You have many of the same questions I do, because we're both westerners who grew up under a much different paradigm. I'm not on any path towards Nibbana in this life, rest assured of that. Good food, family, and solid friends keep me plenty warm and occupied! Present company especially!

"Secular Buddhism" seems for me to be a more likely path I'd settle in. When religion starts getting too "religiony" or in dealing with things I can't epistemologically agree with, I'm just going to leave those parts be.

That said, the Buddha himself said "Use the teachings that work and discard those that don't." Well, while I'm not seeing the utility of Rebirth, and I'm fine at this point in my life to leave it there. That said, it never hurts to be challenged. Rebirth used to even be in Christianity, so its not like it's a totally alien idea in the West.

My wife is a born-again Christian. But I don't think that is what you refer to, based on its definition.

Rebirth Attempt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, December 19, 2022, 23:54 (583 days ago) @ David Turell

My wife is a born-again Christian. But I don't think that is what you refer to, based on its definition.

No not at all ROFL.

During the 2nd council of Nicaea, any and all mention of the concept of "rebirth" or "reincarnation" were ordered out of all texts--keep in mind it was the first council that codified the Bible in the form we (mostly) have it today.

It was around this time that the early church expunged the Gnostics as well, who ran a version of the religion that directly countered Papal authority. (It was more akin to Lutheranism in that regard.)

There are texts in the dead sea scrolls that suggest that reincarnation was a more prevalent view in the early church. Supposedly. (I haven't read dead sea scrolls though I own a translation.)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth Attempt 1

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 02:33 (583 days ago) @ xeno6696

David: My wife is a born-again Christian. But I don't think that is what you refer to, based on its definition.


Matt: No not at all ROFL.

During the 2nd council of Nicaea, any and all mention of the concept of "rebirth" or "reincarnation" were ordered out of all texts--keep in mind it was the first council that codified the Bible in the form we (mostly) have it today.

It was around this time that the early church expunged the Gnostics as well, who ran a version of the religion that directly countered Papal authority. (It was more akin to Lutheranism in that regard.)

There are texts in the dead sea scrolls that suggest that reincarnation was a more prevalent view in the early church. Supposedly. (I haven't read dead sea scrolls though I own a translation.)

Thanks for the interesting Catholic history. Your scholarship constantly amazes me.

Rebirth Attempt 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 15:40 (582 days ago) @ David Turell

David: My wife is a born-again Christian. But I don't think that is what you refer to, based on its definition.


Matt: No not at all ROFL.

During the 2nd council of Nicaea, any and all mention of the concept of "rebirth" or "reincarnation" were ordered out of all texts--keep in mind it was the first council that codified the Bible in the form we (mostly) have it today.

It was around this time that the early church expunged the Gnostics as well, who ran a version of the religion that directly countered Papal authority. (It was more akin to Lutheranism in that regard.)

There are texts in the dead sea scrolls that suggest that reincarnation was a more prevalent view in the early church. Supposedly. (I haven't read dead sea scrolls though I own a translation.)


Thanks for the interesting Catholic history. Your scholarship constantly amazes me.

Well, you'll need to amend your thinking. It was the Second council of Constantinople and not the second council of Nicaea! This also has the complication in that this was the Ecumenical council where Emperor Justinian played a heavy hand in shaping. I was correct however in that it was the same council that denounced the teachings of the Valentinians who were a gnostic sect that believed in rebirth, as well as a couple of other names I don't recall who were neoplatonists. (Plato believing that we sinned in some heavenly realm and then are forced to live many lives here on earth to gain the knowledge to return.)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth Attempt 1

by David Turell @, Wednesday, December 21, 2022, 00:22 (582 days ago) @ xeno6696

David: My wife is a born-again Christian. But I don't think that is what you refer to, based on its definition.


Matt: No not at all ROFL.

During the 2nd council of Nicaea, any and all mention of the concept of "rebirth" or "reincarnation" were ordered out of all texts--keep in mind it was the first council that codified the Bible in the form we (mostly) have it today.

It was around this time that the early church expunged the Gnostics as well, who ran a version of the religion that directly countered Papal authority. (It was more akin to Lutheranism in that regard.)

There are texts in the dead sea scrolls that suggest that reincarnation was a more prevalent view in the early church. Supposedly. (I haven't read dead sea scrolls though I own a translation.)


DAVID: Thanks for the interesting Catholic history. Your scholarship constantly amazes me.


Matt: Well, you'll need to amend your thinking. It was the Second council of Constantinople and not the second council of Nicaea! This also has the complication in that this was the Ecumenical council where Emperor Justinian played a heavy hand in shaping. I was correct however in that it was the same council that denounced the teachings of the Valentinians who were a gnostic sect that believed in rebirth, as well as a couple of other names I don't recall who were neoplatonists. (Plato believing that we sinned in some heavenly realm and then are forced to live many lives here on earth to gain the knowledge to return.)

Still brilliant

Rebirth PART ONE

by dhw, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 09:04 (583 days ago) @ xeno6696

PART ONE

dhw: If our current identity is transient, and our former identities were transient, what exactly is the point of having had former identities? The one I am lumbered with now is the one that has to get rid of its “cravings”, and if in my next life I can’t even remember the mess I made of my previous life, I might just as well not have led it.

It’s quite difficult now to develop the discussion, because it’s clear that you and I have exactly the same doubts! (You wrote: I'm no closer to believing in Rebirth at the moment than I am in Christ's resurrection.) I can only pick on certain points, so forgive me if I again edit the entries accordingly.


You quote the Buddha’s answer to the question what is the point of the past lives:
Xeno: "What's the point" of all those lives was the central question for the ancient Hindus, and much of their religion was trying to deal with that question. The radical departure for the Buddha is that "What's the point" is a flawed question, because it is unknowable.

I would say it’s not the question that’s flawed but the theory that gives rises to the question. You summed it all up earlier when you said it boiled down to epistemology. Beliefs are not knowledge, and if a combination of theories seems senseless to us, why should we believe it?

xeno: Ajahn Brahm's argument rests on three assertions, disappointing since he used to be a physicist. They are:
1.) There's lots of evidence for rebirth, people just don't like it.
2.) Anecdote. (He shares a story that leaves me dubious but its so personal to the particular family involved that trying to doubt it makes me look and feel like a monster.
3.) Wouldn't it be a beautiful idea if it were true.

3) is a big laugh. 1) and 2)remind me of NDEs, and if any of them provide evidence of some confirmable truth (like information the patient could not possibly have known during their temporary “death”), I will keep an open mind. There are many psychic experiences which we cannot explain.

XENO: (The Dali Llama has said there's good reasons to doubt it, and he's supposed to be the 14th reincarnation of a Buddhist teacher!)

This encourages me still more to drop the subject altogether, since there can be no answers to other questions relating to rebirth (the answers are "unknowable"). However, there are other points in your posts to comment on.

dhw: It’s not a mind or a soul, it’s immaterial, and in most cases it does NOT store memories of past lives.

Xeno: So the way I'm understanding it, it does indeed store memories of past lives. It just isn't a fully functioning *mind*.
And
Xeno: The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

Dhw: But until you’ve reached a very high meditative state, you can’t remember a thing. So where does this mysterious “store consciousness” hang out during all the lives when we don’t even know we’ve got it? Another “unknowable”?

Xeno: "According to the Buddha's teaching, all beings except Arahants are subject to "renewal of being in the future" that is, to rebirth. Rebirth in the Buddhist conception, is not the transmigration of a self or soul but the continuation of a process, a flux of becoming in which successive lives are linked together by causal transmission of influence rather than by substantial identity."

DAVID: That implies there is no mental continuity, and one would not be conscious of the past life.

A crucial point! And unconsciousness of past life is confirmed above: you only remember past lives when you’ve reached a “very high meditative state”. (In passing, Matt,I'd like to echo David's admiration for your scholarship.)

DAVID: My wife is a born-again Christian. But I don't think that is what you refer to, based on its definition.

I’ve been chuckling ever since I read this, as I thought it was a great joke. (Your wife’s punishment for her past sins is to be born again as a Christian!) I think a sense of humour is one of the most crucial attributes for the attainment of balance in anyone’s character. I hope there’s evidence of the Buddha having a good laugh in between his thoughts on “suffering”.

Rebirth PART TWO

by dhw, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 09:10 (583 days ago) @ dhw

PART TWO

Xeno: What desires to be reborn if the body is dead, and “I” haven’t got a mind or a soul. [...] it's the combination of intent and action (remember, "karma" literally translates as "action") that determines your next life. Your "desire" for future lives is created by your actions right now.

My desire has to come from my mind. When? Do I say to myself on my deathbed: “I wanner come again”? And WHO OR WHAT determines my next life? Is someone sitting up in Never-Never-Land watching my every move and then plonking my non-soul into some poor woman’s womb (or some poor animal’s)?

dhw: And finally, now that I’ve achieved Enlightenment, but I am only transient and there is no such thing as eternal life, what possible future can I have other than eternal death – the same as the me who never asked to be reborn in the first place?

Xeno: I read something just last night that might help […] More or less, the vampires who reach the age of the methuselahs become so utterly bored of life that death becomes something desirable. You can only go to so many fancy soirees and watch so many loved ones die before everything in the world becomes devoid of life, and meaning itself becomes meaningless.

You are confirming what I have just written. The ideal end seems to be eternal death, as apparently confirmed by this remark:

Xeno: Your "final death" (parinibbana) will come whether you want it to or not--the Buddha on this particular path just teaches what you need to do in order to bring it about.

Wonderful! How about suicide, leaving a note to say: “Do not resuscitate”? Sorry if this sounds flippant, but I think you find it all as bewildering as I do. I will add, though, that transience seems to be essential to all our earthly joys, and is also a consolation for all our earthly sufferings. Moral: carpe diem, so long as you don’t harm others but, preferably, help them to enjoy life as well.

Xeno: After all the core problem that Buddhism sets out to solve is "Why is there suffering?"

I wouldn’t have thought it was too difficult to compile a list of causes: disease and death, the cruelties of nature, the cruelties of our fellow humans, the inadequacy of our social systems...Monotheistic religions grapple with the same problem (theodicy – why did God create evil, which is pretty close to “suffering”)? I would like to think the “core problem” is “How can I lead a happy life?” And I’d suggest that one factor might be to forget about the miseries of an unknown past, and the dread of more miseries in an unknown future, and another is to heed all the negative precepts (don’t do this or that) but to focus as well on the positives (starting with the Golden Rule). You seem to have reached the same conclusion, as follows:

xeno: You have many of the same questions I do, because we're both westerners who grew up under a much different paradigm. I'm not on any path towards Nibbana in this life, rest assured of that. Good food, family, and solid friends keep me plenty warm and occupied! Present company especially!

Let’s shake hands!

Xeno: When religion starts getting too "religiony" or in dealing with things I can't epistemologically agree with, I'm just going to leave those parts be.

Another handshake!

Xeno: That said, the Buddha himself said "Use the teachings that work and discard those that don't."

Very wise of him.

Rebirth PART TWO

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 16:17 (582 days ago) @ dhw

PART TWO

Xeno: What desires to be reborn if the body is dead, and “I” haven’t got a mind or a soul. [...] it's the combination of intent and action (remember, "karma" literally translates as "action") that determines your next life. Your "desire" for future lives is created by your actions right now.

dhw: My desire has to come from my mind. When? Do I say to myself on my deathbed: “I wanner come again”? And WHO OR WHAT determines my next life? Is someone sitting up in Never-Never-Land watching my every move and then plonking my non-soul into some poor woman’s womb (or some poor animal’s)?

dhw: And finally, now that I’ve achieved Enlightenment, but I am only transient and there is no such thing as eternal life, what possible future can I have other than eternal death – the same as the me who never asked to be reborn in the first place?

Xeno: I read something just last night that might help […] More or less, the vampires who reach the age of the methuselahs become so utterly bored of life that death becomes something desirable. You can only go to so many fancy soirees and watch so many loved ones die before everything in the world becomes devoid of life, and meaning itself becomes meaningless.

dhw: You are confirming what I have just written. The ideal end seems to be eternal death, as apparently confirmed by this remark:

Xeno: Your "final death" (parinibbana) will come whether you want it to or not--the Buddha on this particular path just teaches what you need to do in order to bring it about.

dhw: Wonderful! How about suicide, leaving a note to say: “Do not resuscitate”? Sorry if this sounds flippant, but I think you find it all as bewildering as I do. I will add, though, that transience seems to be essential to all our earthly joys, and is also a consolation for all our earthly sufferings. Moral: carpe diem, so long as you don’t harm others but, preferably, help them to enjoy life as well.

Xeno: After all the core problem that Buddhism sets out to solve is "Why is there suffering?"

dhw: I wouldn’t have thought it was too difficult to compile a list of causes: disease and death, the cruelties of nature, the cruelties of our fellow humans, the inadequacy of our social systems...Monotheistic religions grapple with the same problem (theodicy – why did God create evil, which is pretty close to “suffering”)? I would like to think the “core problem” is “How can I lead a happy life?” And I’d suggest that one factor might be to forget about the miseries of an unknown past, and the dread of more miseries in an unknown future, and another is to heed all the negative precepts (don’t do this or that) but to focus as well on the positives (starting with the Golden Rule). You seem to have reached the same conclusion, as follows:

xeno: You have many of the same questions I do, because we're both westerners who grew up under a much different paradigm. I'm not on any path towards Nibbana in this life, rest assured of that. Good food, family, and solid friends keep me plenty warm and occupied! Present company especially!

dhw: Let’s shake hands!

Xeno: When religion starts getting too "religiony" or in dealing with things I can't epistemologically agree with, I'm just going to leave those parts be.

Another handshake!

Xeno: That said, the Buddha himself said "Use the teachings that work and discard those that don't."

dhw: Very wise of him.

Rebirth PART ONE

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 16:14 (582 days ago) @ dhw

PART ONE

dhw: If our current identity is transient, and our former identities were transient, what exactly is the point of having had former identities? The one I am lumbered with now is the one that has to get rid of its “cravings”, and if in my next life I can’t even remember the mess I made of my previous life, I might just as well not have led it.

It’s quite difficult now to develop the discussion, because it’s clear that you and I have exactly the same doubts! (You wrote: I'm no closer to believing in Rebirth at the moment than I am in Christ's resurrection.) I can only pick on certain points, so forgive me if I again edit the entries accordingly.


You quote the Buddha’s answer to the question what is the point of the past lives:
Xeno: "What's the point" of all those lives was the central question for the ancient Hindus, and much of their religion was trying to deal with that question. The radical departure for the Buddha is that "What's the point" is a flawed question, because it is unknowable.

I would say it’s not the question that’s flawed but the theory that gives rises to the question. You summed it all up earlier when you said it boiled down to epistemology. Beliefs are not knowledge, and if a combination of theories seems senseless to us, why should we believe it?

xeno: Ajahn Brahm's argument rests on three assertions, disappointing since he used to be a physicist. They are:
1.) There's lots of evidence for rebirth, people just don't like it.
2.) Anecdote. (He shares a story that leaves me dubious but its so personal to the particular family involved that trying to doubt it makes me look and feel like a monster.
3.) Wouldn't it be a beautiful idea if it were true.

dnw: 3) is a big laugh. 1) and 2)remind me of NDEs, and if any of them provide evidence of some confirmable truth (like information the patient could not possibly have known during their temporary “death”), I will keep an open mind. There are many psychic experiences which we cannot explain.

XENO: (The Dali Llama has said there's good reasons to doubt it, and he's supposed to be the 14th reincarnation of a Buddhist teacher!)

dhw: This encourages me still more to drop the subject altogether, since there can be no answers to other questions relating to rebirth (the answers are "unknowable"). However, there are other points in your posts to comment on.

dhw: It’s not a mind or a soul, it’s immaterial, and in most cases it does NOT store memories of past lives.

Xeno: So the way I'm understanding it, it does indeed store memories of past lives. It just isn't a fully functioning *mind*.
And
Xeno: The store consciousness holds only the memories of past lives. This allows the Buddha to explain how those who reach very high meditative states can "recall past lives."

Dhw: But until you’ve reached a very high meditative state, you can’t remember a thing. So where does this mysterious “store consciousness” hang out during all the lives when we don’t even know we’ve got it? Another “unknowable”?

Xeno: "According to the Buddha's teaching, all beings except Arahants are subject to "renewal of being in the future" that is, to rebirth. Rebirth in the Buddhist conception, is not the transmigration of a self or soul but the continuation of a process, a flux of becoming in which successive lives are linked together by causal transmission of influence rather than by substantial identity."

DAVID: That implies there is no mental continuity, and one would not be conscious of the past life.

dhw: A crucial point! And unconsciousness of past life is confirmed above: you only remember past lives when you’ve reached a “very high meditative state”. (In passing, Matt,I'd like to echo David's admiration for your scholarship.)

DAVID: My wife is a born-again Christian. But I don't think that is what you refer to, based on its definition.

dhw:v I’ve been chuckling ever since I read this, as I thought it was a great joke. (Your wife’s punishment for her past sins is to be born again as a Christian!) I think a sense of humour is one of the most crucial attributes for the attainment of balance in anyone’s character. I hope there’s evidence of the Buddha having a good laugh in between his thoughts on “suffering”.

Born again in Christ, no religious organization necessary in going forward

Rebirth PART ONE

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, December 22, 2022, 03:59 (581 days ago) @ dhw

I intend on giving a more in-depth response here--family coming into town though and I was busy getting the bedroom prepared.

Parinibbana/parinirvana isn't death. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what Nibbana was other than a fully unconditioned state. My Monk got stuck between Phoenix and Tucson with a flat tire and has promised to get back to me--I just linked him to the discussion here.

One of the books he's had us work through had this to say:

"He or she has completed the development of the noble path, has fully understood the true nature of existence, and has eradicated all the mind's bonds and fetters For the duration of life the arahant abides in unruffled peace, in the experiential realization of Nibbana, with a mind stainless and secure. Then, with the breakup of the body at the end of the life span, he or she reaches the end of the entire process of re-becoming. For the arant death is not the passageway to a new rebirth, as it is for all others, but the doorway to the unconditioned state itself, the Nibbana-element without residue of conditioned existence. This is the true cessation of sufferings to which the Buddha's Teaching points, the final termination of the beginningless round of birth and death."

So it's not an escape to a final death, but something incomprehensible.

Well there ya go, at least in my book this DOES make Buddhism more of a religion than a philosophy, though I suppose it's up to the individual precisely where to take it.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth PART ONE

by dhw, Thursday, December 22, 2022, 09:35 (581 days ago) @ xeno6696

Xeno: I intend on giving a more in-depth response here--family coming into town though and I was busy getting the bedroom prepared.

Parinibbana/parinirvana isn't death. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what Nibbana was other than a fully unconditioned state. My Monk got stuck between Phoenix and Tucson with a flat tire and has promised to get back to me--I just linked him to the discussion here.
One of the books he's had us work through had this to say:

"He or she has completed the development of the noble path, has fully understood the true nature of existence, and has eradicated all the mind's bonds and fetters For the duration of life the arahant abides in unruffled peace, in the experiential realization of Nibbana, with a mind stainless and secure. Then, with the breakup of the body at the end of the life span, he or she reaches the end of the entire process of re-becoming. For the arant death is not the passageway to a new rebirth, as it is for all others, but the doorway to the unconditioned state itself, the Nibbana-element without residue of conditioned existence. This is the true cessation of sufferings to which the Buddha's Teaching points, the final termination of the beginningless round of birth and death."

So it's not an escape to a final death, but something incomprehensible.

Well there ya go, at least in my book this DOES make Buddhism more of a religion than a philosophy, though I suppose it's up to the individual precisely where to take it.

Thanks for this. 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.

Rebirth PART ONE

by David Turell @, Thursday, December 22, 2022, 19:26 (580 days ago) @ dhw

Xeno: I intend on giving a more in-depth response here--family coming into town though and I was busy getting the bedroom prepared.

Parinibbana/parinirvana isn't death. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what Nibbana was other than a fully unconditioned state. My Monk got stuck between Phoenix and Tucson with a flat tire and has promised to get back to me--I just linked him to the discussion here.
One of the books he's had us work through had this to say:

"He or she has completed the development of the noble path, has fully understood the true nature of existence, and has eradicated all the mind's bonds and fetters For the duration of life the arahant abides in unruffled peace, in the experiential realization of Nibbana, with a mind stainless and secure. Then, with the breakup of the body at the end of the life span, he or she reaches the end of the entire process of re-becoming. For the arant death is not the passageway to a new rebirth, as it is for all others, but the doorway to the unconditioned state itself, the Nibbana-element without residue of conditioned existence. This is the true cessation of sufferings to which the Buddha's Teaching points, the final termination of the beginningless round of birth and death."

So it's not an escape to a final death, but something incomprehensible.

Well there ya go, at least in my book this DOES make Buddhism more of a religion than a philosophy, though I suppose it's up to the individual precisely where to take it.

dhw: Thanks for this. 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.

Nor am I.

Rebirth PART ONE

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, December 22, 2022, 23:26 (580 days ago) @ dhw

Well there ya go, at least in my book this DOES make Buddhism more of a religion than a philosophy, though I suppose it's up to the individual precisely where to take it.[/i]

Thanks for this. 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.

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 was to penetrate the events... to "roll with them" as it were. To understand them as transient phenomena; that they were "not self" and that they were a mental response. That they had a beginning, middle, and an end. To be "oblivious" would be more like "willful ignorance" and that's not something I think the Buddha taught at all. The fact is that most people "get caught up" in events and lack a layer of detachment or observation in what's going on. It's possible you've never had an unhealthy attachment to something and I'm talking Greek to you. But if you've ever had a moment where you've asked yourself "why am I doing this" and its a behavior you repeat frequently, the goal in Buddhism is to maintain that question for all things you do.

Probably, the best analogy for what it is--instead of "being oblivious" to cravings, is that you become a film critic for what's going on in your head. And some people *hate* film critics or engaging in that kind of thing--you might be one of them--but for me it actually enhances what's going on because I'm fully awake and aware of what's happening as its happening. A film critic that silences the critical commentary: Picture muting a Tennis match and just watching the match.

Now, the part of Buddhism that goes beyond being an internal film critic is the meditation. 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.

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. 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.

Honestly, it's the closest thing I've seen Buddhism have that orbits the same mystical cloud that St. John of the Cross or Theresa of Avila wrote about.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth PART ONE

by dhw, Friday, December 23, 2022, 12:47 (580 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.

Rebirth PART ONE

by David Turell @, Friday, December 23, 2022, 16:51 (579 days ago) @ dhw

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."

dhw: 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. […]

dhw: 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.

Very moving for me, also.

dhw: 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.

dhw: 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.

dhw: 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.

Rebirth PART ONE

by David Turell @, Friday, December 23, 2022, 15:58 (579 days ago) @ xeno6696

Well there ya go, at least in my book this DOES make Buddhism more of a religion than a philosophy, though I suppose it's up to the individual precisely where to take it.[/i]

Thanks for this. 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.


Matt: 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 was to penetrate the events... to "roll with them" as it were. To understand them as transient phenomena; that they were "not self" and that they were a mental response. That they had a beginning, middle, and an end. To be "oblivious" would be more like "willful ignorance" and that's not something I think the Buddha taught at all. The fact is that most people "get caught up" in events and lack a layer of detachment or observation in what's going on. It's possible you've never had an unhealthy attachment to something and I'm talking Greek to you. But if you've ever had a moment where you've asked yourself "why am I doing this" and its a behavior you repeat frequently, the goal in Buddhism is to maintain that question for all things you do.

Probably, the best analogy for what it is--instead of "being oblivious" to cravings, is that you become a film critic for what's going on in your head. And some people *hate* film critics or engaging in that kind of thing--you might be one of them--but for me it actually enhances what's going on because I'm fully awake and aware of what's happening as its happening. A film critic that silences the critical commentary: Picture muting a Tennis match and just watching the match.

Now, the part of Buddhism that goes beyond being an internal film critic is the meditation. 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.

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. 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.

Honestly, it's the closest thing I've seen Buddhism have that orbits the same mystical cloud that St. John of the Cross or Theresa of Avila wrote about.

Recognizing your mom as a victim is a major step. The Buddhist approach to self-control is what I think happened to me from my parent's teachings.

Rebirth PART ONE

by David Turell @, Thursday, December 22, 2022, 18:57 (580 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: I intend on giving a more in-depth response here--family coming into town though and I was busy getting the bedroom prepared.

Parinibbana/parinirvana isn't death. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what Nibbana was other than a fully unconditioned state. My Monk got stuck between Phoenix and Tucson with a flat tire and has promised to get back to me--I just linked him to the discussion here.

One of the books he's had us work through had this to say:

"He or she has completed the development of the noble path, has fully understood the true nature of existence, and has eradicated all the mind's bonds and fetters For the duration of life the arahant abides in unruffled peace, in the experiential realization of Nibbana, with a mind stainless and secure. Then, with the breakup of the body at the end of the life span, he or she reaches the end of the entire process of re-becoming. For the arant death is not the passageway to a new rebirth, as it is for all others, but the doorway to the unconditioned state itself, the Nibbana-element without residue of conditioned existence. This is the true cessation of sufferings to which the Buddha's Teaching points, the final termination of the beginningless round of birth and death."

So it's not an escape to a final death, but something incomprehensible.

Well there ya go, at least in my book this DOES make Buddhism more of a religion than a philosophy, though I suppose it's up to the individual precisely where to take it.

First of all, enjoy Christmas with family. We can keep. Us Jewish folk do not have heaven or hell. If there is an afterlife "God will care for us". Same incomprehensible result.

Rebirth PART ONE

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, December 22, 2022, 23:31 (580 days ago) @ David Turell

So it's not an escape to a final death, but something incomprehensible.

Well there ya go, at least in my book this DOES make Buddhism more of a religion than a philosophy, though I suppose it's up to the individual precisely where to take it.


First of all, enjoy Christmas with family. We can keep. Us Jewish folk do not have heaven or hell. If there is an afterlife "God will care for us". Same incomprehensible result.

People still don't believe me when I tell them that Hell was a Christian invention. I mean, there IS a precursor in Zoroastrianism but usually I lose people before we even get that far.

Gehenna and Sheol, places where we go to purify according to some accounts. Hell was the first franchise business in the west. ;-)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth PART ONE

by David Turell @, Friday, December 23, 2022, 16:01 (579 days ago) @ xeno6696

M att: So it's not an escape to a final death, but something incomprehensible.

Well there ya go, at least in my book this DOES make Buddhism more of a religion than a philosophy, though I suppose it's up to the individual precisely where to take it.


First of all, enjoy Christmas with family. We can keep. Us Jewish folk do not have heaven or hell. If there is an afterlife "God will care for us". Same incomprehensible result.


People still don't believe me when I tell them that Hell was a Christian invention. I mean, there IS a precursor in Zoroastrianism but usually I lose people before we even get that far.

Gehenna and Sheol, places where we go to purify according to some accounts. Hell was the first franchise business in the west. ;-)

I always thought the threat of Hell was created to control folks.

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by David Turell @, Friday, May 10, 2024, 18:19 (75 days ago) @ David Turell

They have past life memories, many validated:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-too-much/201412/children-who-seemingly-...

Tucker follows in the footsteps of the late Ian Stevenson, who for decades scrupulously investigated cases in which young children around the world spontaneously volunteered—in great detail—recollections that seemed to be about someone else’s life. Much of the time, the person being spoken of had died violently or unnaturally. (In a prior post, I referenced one such instance, where a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl became distraught over her inability to find "her" children and described "her" having lost her life in a road accident.) Between them, Stevenson and Tucker have compiled more than 2,500 cases, and 70 percent of them fit this pattern.

There follows a true story of one child with total validation of his memories.

There is a second case presented with full validation.

Comment: reading the article takes time. The point to me with thousands of these cases reported that consciousness carrying these memories from one person to the next, indicates it is obviously separate from the brain and enters the new brain for interpretation.

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Friday, May 10, 2024, 20:42 (75 days ago) @ David Turell

It is perhaps fortuitous that this gets posted when it does.

So rebirth is obviously an important teaching in Buddhism, though it's also true that it's not a dogmatic religion and like most things I've deferred judgment as the question certainly appears unknowable. Well, at least til I die, and I'm not so eager for that just YET!

I think it's also interesting that reincarnation existed as a belief in early Christianity, prior to the 2nd century AD. (Speaking of things we'll never truly know!)

But yes, in my own school of Thai Forest Buddhism there are masters who claim that full knowledge of all your past lives is indeed knowable, it's one of the fruits you attain on the way to enlightenment.

As far as religious truths go, it is at least something attainable.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by David Turell @, Friday, May 10, 2024, 22:12 (75 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: It is perhaps fortuitous that this gets posted when it does.

So rebirth is obviously an important teaching in Buddhism, though it's also true that it's not a dogmatic religion and like most things I've deferred judgment as the question certainly appears unknowable. Well, at least til I die, and I'm not so eager for that just YET!

I think it's also interesting that reincarnation existed as a belief in early Christianity, prior to the 2nd century AD. (Speaking of things we'll never truly know!)

But yes, in my own school of Thai Forest Buddhism there are masters who claim that full knowledge of all your past lives is indeed knowable, it's one of the fruits you attain on the way to enlightenment.

As far as religious truths go, it is at least something attainable.

Thanks for your comment. Does Buddhism recognize that consciousness is separate from the brain?

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, May 11, 2024, 05:40 (75 days ago) @ David Turell

Matt: It is perhaps fortuitous that this gets posted when it does.

So rebirth is obviously an important teaching in Buddhism, though it's also true that it's not a dogmatic religion and like most things I've deferred judgment as the question certainly appears unknowable. Well, at least til I die, and I'm not so eager for that just YET!

I think it's also interesting that reincarnation existed as a belief in early Christianity, prior to the 2nd century AD. (Speaking of things we'll never truly know!)

But yes, in my own school of Thai Forest Buddhism there are masters who claim that full knowledge of all your past lives is indeed knowable, it's one of the fruits you attain on the way to enlightenment.

As far as religious truths go, it is at least something attainable.


Thanks for your comment. Does Buddhism recognize that consciousness is separate from the brain?

So, there's alot of variation--Tibetan Buddhism by itself is almost its own syncretic thing, and that happened as well with chan which later influenced all the current Zen schools. [Chan is essentially a syncretism with Dao.]

So you have some teachings that suggest "the mind is all, all things lead with mind" which is in line with your Zen schools.

In the Theravadan traditions which is in my orbit, they would say something different. Mind as we experience it is fully conditioned, in other words, there's not a concrete, permanent entity, mind is unique to that lifetime.

There is a stream of consciousness but it isn't 'you.' You can't think when you're in this realm. And yes, according to the teaching when you reach these meditative states, you're "there."

So if you're meditating in the 2nd Jhana when this body expires, you'll be reborn in that state.

Consciousness is that which is aware of the present moment--which we don't do all the time without training. So the definition is different. SO it would be best perhaps to summarize, that mind can only exist with the condition of the body, but consciousness knows no such bounds. IN the west we conflate mind with consciousness, and at least according to my school, that's a distortion. Our memories are part of an inert "store consciousness" that reignites as it were into a new body. Our minds reconstruct these memories into experiences, but how that works when reborn into higher realms, seems like alot of speculation to me. But there's answers, at least.

Now, there's a continuity of this experience, and the entire Tibetan Book of the Dead is a treatise on the experience of the mind dying and dissolving into consciousness. Out of Body experiences are considered commonplace though I've never had it happen. Monks throughout southeast asia and in Tibet regularly claim the ability to leave their bodies and there's a whole plethora of anecdotes for this including veridical experiences. (This is where your awesome kung fu stories have their root...)

While the body lives, there's enough cause and effect to maintain a mind, thus a sense of self and follow your consciousness out for a jaunt.

Never done that myself, but hey, if it happens I'll report back.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by dhw, Saturday, May 11, 2024, 08:43 (75 days ago) @ xeno6696

Rebirth: evidence in young children

DAVID: The point to me with thousands of these cases reported that consciousness carrying these memories from one person to the next, indicates it is obviously separate from the brain and enters the new brain for interpretation.

I have several times mentioned that my late wife (who was Nigerian) witnessed an instance of this in her own family, when a child died, and a child that was born later was mystified by changes that had taken place in the village since the first child’s death. No one could explain how the second child could have known what had been there in the past.

But perhaps there is a connection here with genetic memory. People who have had transplants have sometimes also received memories from their donors. It is therefore possible that the second child could have received memories from its parents’ genes. However, the two cases in the article really defy all explanation. Why these particular dead people and these particular children? And if the memories fade, and the children get on with their own lives, what on earth would be the point of the “reincarnation”?

Xeno: So rebirth is obviously an important teaching in Buddhism, though it's also true that it's not a dogmatic religion and like most things I've deferred judgment as the question certainly appears unknowable. Well, at least til I die, and I'm not so eager for that just YET!

It’s a delight to hear from you again and to share the agnostic deferral with you! This does not of course dampen your curiosity or mine, and thank you for your detailed and highly informative response to David’s question.

Xeno: […] in my own school of Thai Forest Buddhism there are masters who claim that full knowledge of all your past lives is indeed knowable, it's one of the fruits you attain on the way to enlightenment.

Oh well, if it’s true, I hope it’ll turn out that I was once Shakespeare, Beethoven and W.G.Grace.

Xeno: As far as religious truths go, it is at least something attainable.

Not sure about that, bearing in mind that I can’t even remember things that happened to the current me a couple of months ago. Why would my death bring it all back to me when I enter somebody else’s body? And if I led a lot of miserable lives, I’m not even sure I’d regard total recall as a benefit of enlightenment.

I remember that in our past discussions on this subject, we talked about the nature of “Nirvana”, which has always bugged me. One website defines this as “the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person's individual desires and suffering go away. The origin of the word nirvana relates to religious enlightenment; it comes from the Sanskrit meaning "extinction, disappearance" of the individual to the universal.” It means no more rebirth as well as no more self, and hence no more suffering or pleasure. To me, this means nothing more or less than our eternal death. Can you enlighten us?

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, 16:01 (71 days ago) @ dhw

Always great to hear from you too! =-)

I remember that in our past discussions on this subject, we talked about the nature of “Nirvana”, which has always bugged me. One website defines this as “the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person's individual desires and suffering go away. The origin of the word nirvana relates to religious enlightenment; it comes from the Sanskrit meaning "extinction, disappearance" of the individual to the universal.” It means no more rebirth as well as no more self, and hence no more suffering or pleasure. To me, this means nothing more or less than our eternal death. Can you enlighten us?

Well, not exactly. Enlightenment is a personal practice ;-)

I have learned more since we last talked about this, maybe a contrast with Hindu thought would help.

In meditation, there's a space you can pass through, that begins with what can best be described as light--we call them nimitta's, St. John of the Cross called it "Holy Spirit Descending" and in traditions in Hinduism it's called "Brahma's Gate."

IN the Upanishadic traditions that teach this, it's considered the "highest state," "merging with God," and "becoming your true self, or "atman."" "Atman" is a pretty good word for "soul" in Christianity. In Hindu traditions, they view this with some extra dogma--this atman is "unchanging, unconditioned, indestructible etc."

The insight of the Buddha was strictly that even THAT state, the one that Hindus call the ultimate is ALSO fully conditioned, and that there are several more states a person can attain.

So here's some definitions direct from scripture for the states:

1. "...and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. He makes the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion drench, steep, fill, and pervade this body, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion."

2. "...and abides in the second jhana, which has self-confidence and singleness of mind without applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of concentration." Important note, the word that usually gets translated as "concentration" is better translated as "stillness."

3. "Again with the fading away as well of rapture, a bhikkhu abides in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware, still feeling pleasure with t he body, he enters upon and abides in the third jhana, on account of which noble ones announce: 'He has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.'

4. "Again, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the fourth jhana, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.

5. "It is possible here that with the complete surmounting of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of perceptions of sensory impact, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that 'space is infinite,' some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite space."

6. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of infinite space, aware that 'consciousness is infinite,' some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite consciousness...."

7. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of infinite consciousness, aware that 'there is nothing' some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of nothingness."

8. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception."


The next stage after that last one is "Nibbana," which is "extinction," which in Pali means the same thing as putting out a candle. So this gradual training demonstrates an individual reaching finer and finer stages of consciousness until anything remotely like thinking or concepts totally vanishes. You're still very much alive, but your mind is permanently changed. The reason why this breaks the cycle of rebirth is that a person who achieves nibbana is utterly incapable of engaging in impure acts, and can no longer generate kamma. (kharma) When you die, you will simply not be reborn, but given what I talked about above, it's clear to me that your consciousness doesn't get destroyed, the consciousness being that place where all your memories and seeds were stored, only without a future rebirth, it isn't clear to me what this means other than possibly just returning to the primordial stuff of the universe. It reminds me a bit of the Jewish Sheol, except that you're already purified. And to be frank, there is no actual answer to the question, "what happens after parinibbana?" (final death on this life)

To the extent that there is a final mystery in Buddhism, it's this.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 00:09 (71 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: Always great to hear from you too! =-)

I remember that in our past discussions on this subject, we talked about the nature of “Nirvana”, which has always bugged me. One website defines this as “the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person's individual desires and suffering go away. The origin of the word nirvana relates to religious enlightenment; it comes from the Sanskrit meaning "extinction, disappearance" of the individual to the universal.” It means no more rebirth as well as no more self, and hence no more suffering or pleasure. To me, this means nothing more or less than our eternal death. Can you enlighten us?


Well, not exactly. Enlightenment is a personal practice ;-)

I have learned more since we last talked about this, maybe a contrast with Hindu thought would help.

In meditation, there's a space you can pass through, that begins with what can best be described as light--we call them nimitta's, St. John of the Cross called it "Holy Spirit Descending" and in traditions in Hinduism it's called "Brahma's Gate."

IN the Upanishadic traditions that teach this, it's considered the "highest state," "merging with God," and "becoming your true self, or "atman."" "Atman" is a pretty good word for "soul" in Christianity. In Hindu traditions, they view this with some extra dogma--this atman is "unchanging, unconditioned, indestructible etc."

The insight of the Buddha was strictly that even THAT state, the one that Hindus call the ultimate is ALSO fully conditioned, and that there are several more states a person can attain.

So here's some definitions direct from scripture for the states:

1. "...and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. He makes the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion drench, steep, fill, and pervade this body, so that there is no part of his whole body unpervaded by the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion."

2. "...and abides in the second jhana, which has self-confidence and singleness of mind without applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of concentration." Important note, the word that usually gets translated as "concentration" is better translated as "stillness."

3. "Again with the fading away as well of rapture, a bhikkhu abides in equanimity, and mindful and fully aware, still feeling pleasure with t he body, he enters upon and abides in the third jhana, on account of which noble ones announce: 'He has a pleasant abiding who has equanimity and is mindful.'

4. "Again, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the fourth jhana, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.

5. "It is possible here that with the complete surmounting of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of perceptions of sensory impact, with non-attention to perceptions of diversity, aware that 'space is infinite,' some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite space."

6. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of infinite space, aware that 'consciousness is infinite,' some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of infinite consciousness...."

7. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of infinite consciousness, aware that 'there is nothing' some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of nothingness."

8. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception."


The next stage after that last one is "Nibbana," which is "extinction," which in Pali means the same thing as putting out a candle. So this gradual training demonstrates an individual reaching finer and finer stages of consciousness until anything remotely like thinking or concepts totally vanishes. You're still very much alive, but your mind is permanently changed. The reason why this breaks the cycle of rebirth is that a person who achieves nibbana is utterly incapable of engaging in impure acts, and can no longer generate kamma. (kharma) When you die, you will simply not be reborn, but given what I talked about above, it's clear to me that your consciousness doesn't get destroyed, the consciousness being that place where all your memories and seeds were stored, only without a future rebirth, it isn't clear to me what this means other than possibly just returning to the primordial stuff of the universe. It reminds me a bit of the Jewish Sheol, except that you're already purified. And to be frank, there is no actual answer to the question, "what happens after parinibbana?" (final death on this life)

To the extent that there is a final mystery in Buddhism, it's this.

Confusing in a way but thank you. I did not know of Sheol as a concept after death. As for consciousness invading another person, as in the kids, my wife has dreams of older ancestors she has never met. But then, again, she has some definite psychic abilities.

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 00:48 (71 days ago) @ David Turell

To the extent that there is a final mystery in Buddhism, it's this.


Confusing in a way but thank you. I did not know of Sheol as a concept after death. As for consciousness invading another person, as in the kids, my wife has dreams of older ancestors she has never met. But then, again, she has some definite psychic abilities.

I'm not familiar with the canonical status of it, but the Catholic concept of purgatory is directly descended from the idea of Sheol. I remember distinctly that the word "sheol" appears 66 times in the Hebrew Bible, always in relationship with death, and that the purification concept arose in my research on Hell, it was in midrashic literature.

In my research, its essentially a place your soul migrates to undergo purification before some sort of ascendance. However in Isaiah and Ezekiel it starts to sound more like the Christian idea of Hell, though in the history of Hell, the place of Gehenna (essentially a trash pit for refuse outside of Jerusalem) is where most references were made in the leadup to Christ.

I have to point out that there's reason to believe that reincarnation was a perfectly acceptable Jewish belief at the time of Christ and that the idea of rebirth was actively redacted from early Christian bibles because it contradicted the doctrines of the church fathers.

I'm not a huge expert here, I've done some research on this for my novel--and that was over 10yrs ago. I'll be revisiting it the next couple years however as I get those juices flowing again.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 15:40 (70 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: To the extent that there is a final mystery in Buddhism, it's this.


Confusing in a way but thank you. I did not know of Sheol as a concept after death. As for consciousness invading another person, as in the kids, my wife has dreams of older ancestors she has never met. But then, again, she has some definite psychic abilities.


I'm not familiar with the canonical status of it, but the Catholic concept of purgatory is directly descended from the idea of Sheol. I remember distinctly that the word "sheol" appears 66 times in the Hebrew Bible, always in relationship with death, and that the purification concept arose in my research on Hell, it was in midrashic literature.

In my research, its essentially a place your soul migrates to undergo purification before some sort of ascendance. However in Isaiah and Ezekiel it starts to sound more like the Christian idea of Hell, though in the history of Hell, the place of Gehenna (essentially a trash pit for refuse outside of Jerusalem) is where most references were made in the leadup to Christ.

I have to point out that there's reason to believe that reincarnation was a perfectly acceptable Jewish belief at the time of Christ and that the idea of rebirth was actively redacted from early Christian bibles because it contradicted the doctrines of the church fathers.

I'm not a huge expert here, I've done some research on this for my novel--and that was over 10yrs ago. I'll be revisiting it the next couple years however as I get those juices flowing again.

Thank you for this review. As a modern Reform Jew we were taught there is no Hell or Heaven. So then what? "God will care for us, trust in God". Quite nebulous, but it fits into the Jewish concept of the loving, caring God.

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by dhw, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 09:48 (71 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: I remember that in our past discussions on this subject, we talked about the nature of “Nirvana”, which has always bugged me. One website defines this as “the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person's individual desires and suffering go away. The origin of the word nirvana relates to religious enlightenment; it comes from the Sanskrit meaning "extinction, disappearance" of the individual to the universal.” It means no more rebirth as well as no more self, and hence no more suffering or pleasure. To me, this means nothing more or less than our eternal death. Can you enlighten us?

MATT: Well, not exactly. Enlightenment is a personal practice.

Yeah, but my request only concerned the meaning and implications of “Nirvana”! Huge thanks for your whole post, which as always is immensely impressive and stimulating. I can’t comment on every detail, but will stick to the subject that bugs me, as summarized above. The following statements of yours are extremely relevant to my “bug”:

1. "...and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.

4. "Again, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the fourth jhana, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.

This was a big leap, as pain and grief had not been mentioned before. Equanimity would seem to mean total indifference to everything!

8. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception."

I see that the literal meaning of “bhikkhu” is “beggar”. All part of the journey to total focus on the self, even at the expense of others? And this is the last stage before entering “nothingness”, or as I said in my own brief summary and you now repeat:

MATT: The next stage after that last one is "Nibbana," which is "extinction," which in Pali means the same thing as putting out a candle. […] You're still very much alive, but your mind is permanently changed. The reason why this breaks the cycle of rebirth is that a person who achieves nibbana is utterly incapable of engaging in impure acts, and can no longer generate kamma.

The person is utterly incapable of engaging in any acts at all!

MATT: it's clear to me that your consciousness doesn't get destroyed, the consciousness being that place where all your memories and seeds were stored […] it isn't clear to me what this means other than possibly just returning to the primordial stuff of the universe.

I have no idea what purpose can possibly be served by having all your memories – good and bad – stored in a consciousness which is no longer yours. Returning to the primordial stuff of the universe is precisely what happens when we die, and so the ultimate goal of Buddhism seems to be the total blank we call death. Frankly, this is one of the few subjects on which I actually agree with David: I love life, and I accept the grief and pain as the price that must sometimes be paid for the pleasure, rapture, joy and love. And I do my best to help others cope with their grief and pain, and I think that caring for others is infinitely preferable to “pure” equanimity (= indifference).

MATT: To the extent that there is a final mystery in Buddhism, it's this.

Yep, I agree. It just doesn’t make sense to me!

MATT: I'm not a huge expert here, I've done some research on this for my novel--and that was over 10yrs ago. I'll be revisiting it the next couple years however as I get those juices flowing again.

A novel? Hey, this is great news. A 10-year hiatus is not such good news, but please, please, get those juices flowing!

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 16:02 (70 days ago) @ dhw


1. "...and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.

To be direct, it isn't possible to reach the first jhana if you aren't engaging in empathy and compassion for others. Just, full stop, it's never going to happen. The most rapid way to the first Jhana is a series of meditations referred to as the "Divine Abodes," or "Brahmaviharas."

These are summarized here:

  • Metta: goodwill – desire for the welfare and happiness of all beings (opposite: ill will).
  • Karuna: compassion – empathy with the suffering of others and the desire to remove the suffering (opposite: cruelty).
  • Mudita: appreciative joy – joy produced by others’ success and good fortune (opposite: envy, discontent, aversion).
  • Upekkha: equanimity – impartiality towards living beings (opposite: attachment and resentment).

While I suspect Upekkha might give you heartburn, and answer part of your next question, I feel the issue you might have is less with equanimity and more with attachment. The best way I can explain this, is that attachment implies a notion of control. Approach friendships and your ties with others with the realization that you cannot control their actions and reactions. This is incredibly hard for some personalities. But it should be clear: First Jhana isn't open to you if you're not doing those other practices in that list. This is a non-exhaustive list by the way, several sects take it a step further. Tonglenin particular has been a life-changing practice for me, and it's not technically in my school. IN that practice you willingly imagine the suffering of others and taking it in to breathe back out peace and calmness. Two meditation sessions with that (I don't do it frequently, its exhausting) in particular set me on some radical new paths. I've done less than ten total.

But at any rate, when you see the word "attachment" in Buddhism, you should be thinking more along the lines of a love that does not control or make demands. Think of the Greek terms philia, storge, pragma, and philautia, and add the Roman agape. Stay far away from Mania. Attachment's strongest version is equivalent to this Greek version of love. Any feeling that creates a sense of possession ought to be discarded. "This is ME! That is MINE!" are OK with a healthy detachment. Buddhism has much more in common with Heraclitus than with Plato or Aristotle.

8. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception."

I see that the literal meaning of “bhikkhu” is “beggar”. All part of the journey to total focus on the self, even at the expense of others? And this is the last stage before entering “nothingness”, or as I said in my own brief summary and you now repeat:

Yes, the literal translation is correct, because monks are required to live purely off of the kindness of others. This is something that should be familiar to anyone who's studied Diogenes and the Cynics, but the name has come to represent "monk" in common parlance.

Part of the problem here, if I may make a suggestion, is that I think you find it difficult to see why someone would want to become a monk. There's half a billion Buddhists in the world, less than one-half of one-percent are monks. Buddhism and the monks in particular take a long-term view from the cosmic perspective. Maybe I'm not a monk in this life, no matter, doing the right things now will prepare me for an existence that--if I come back around to those practices--will continue my development. While we should always be wary of hierarchical thinking, this is what sits behind the general principle "if you don't like a teaching, drop it." IN my own experience, not liking a teaching is almost always an example of an unhealthy attachment.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 16:55 (70 days ago) @ xeno6696


1. "...and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

Matt: Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.


To be direct, it isn't possible to reach the first jhana if you aren't engaging in empathy and compassion for others. Just, full stop, it's never going to happen. The most rapid way to the first Jhana is a series of meditations referred to as the "Divine Abodes," or "Brahmaviharas."

These are summarized here:

  • Metta: goodwill – desire for the welfare and happiness of all beings (opposite: ill will).
  • Karuna: compassion – empathy with the suffering of others and the desire to remove the suffering (opposite: cruelty).
  • Mudita: appreciative joy – joy produced by others’ success and good fortune (opposite: envy, discontent, aversion).
  • Upekkha: equanimity – impartiality towards living beings (opposite: attachment and resentment).

While I suspect Upekkha might give you heartburn, and answer part of your next question, I feel the issue you might have is less with equanimity and more with attachment. The best way I can explain this, is that attachment implies a notion of control. Approach friendships and your ties with others with the realization that you cannot control their actions and reactions. This is incredibly hard for some personalities. But it should be clear: First Jhana isn't open to you if you're not doing those other practices in that list. This is a non-exhaustive list by the way, several sects take it a step further. Tonglenin particular has been a life-changing practice for me, and it's not technically in my school. IN that practice you willingly imagine the suffering of others and taking it in to breathe back out peace and calmness. Two meditation sessions with that (I don't do it frequently, its exhausting) in particular set me on some radical new paths. I've done less than ten total.

But at any rate, when you see the word "attachment" in Buddhism, you should be thinking more along the lines of a love that does not control or make demands. Think of the Greek terms philia, storge, pragma, and philautia, and add the Roman agape. Stay far away from Mania. Attachment's strongest version is equivalent to this Greek version of love. Any feeling that creates a sense of possession ought to be discarded. "This is ME! That is MINE!" are OK with a healthy detachment. Buddhism has much more in common with Heraclitus than with Plato or Aristotle.

8. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception."

dhw: I see that the literal meaning of “bhikkhu” is “beggar”. All part of the journey to total focus on the self, even at the expense of others? And this is the last stage before entering “nothingness”, or as I said in my own brief summary and you now repeat:


Matt: Yes, the literal translation is correct, because monks are required to live purely off of the kindness of others. This is something that should be familiar to anyone who's studied Diogenes and the Cynics, but the name has come to represent "monk" in common parlance.

Part of the problem here, if I may make a suggestion, is that I think you find it difficult to see why someone would want to become a monk. There's half a billion Buddhists in the world, less than one-half of one-percent are monks. Buddhism and the monks in particular take a long-term view from the cosmic perspective. Maybe I'm not a monk in this life, no matter, doing the right things now will prepare me for an existence that--if I come back around to those practices--will continue my development. While we should always be wary of hierarchical thinking, this is what sits behind the general principle "if you don't like a teaching, drop it." IN my own experience, not liking a teaching is almost always an example of an unhealthy attachment.

Thanks again for teaching us. The goals ae the same for all of us, I hope.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by dhw, Thursday, May 16, 2024, 11:26 (70 days ago) @ xeno6696

First and foremost, it’s clear that Buddhism has been of enormous help to you, just as religious faith can be of enormous help to believers, and since nobody knows the ultimate truth about any of the matters we discuss, I’ve no desire to cast shadows. In fact most of what you write makes perfect sense to me, but there are some areas which I find confusing and even off-putting. This may well be because of misunderstandings on my part, but as I said before, perhaps you will be able to enlighten me!

MATT: […] the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

dhw: Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.

MATT: To be direct, it isn't possible to reach the first jhana if you aren't engaging in empathy and compassion for others. Just, full stop, it's never going to happen.

Forgive me, but I don’t understand this. You seem to be saying initially that prior to becoming a monk, your Buddhist has experienced the rapture of love and has shown compassion etc., but now leaves all that behind him in order to focus purely on himself. But then you say it’s never going to happen, so are you telling us that only misery-guts who have had lousy lives will enter the monastery? How can the rapture of isolation teach you to love and be kind to others? And how does begging teach you to be compassionate when all it does is make YOU the recipient of compassion?

MATT: Part of the problem here, if I may make a suggestion, is that I think you find it difficult to see why someone would want to become a monk.

No, I can quite understand that someone who is having a rotten life might want to get away from the causes of their rotten life. But I find it difficult to see why a philosophy which apparently supports the concept of love for others tells us to abandon others and focus on ourselves “in seclusion”.

Upekkha: equanimity – impartiality towards living beings (opposite: attachment and resentment).
MATT: […] I suspect Upekkha might give you heartburn…

Yes, it does. Impartiality implies no feelings, and it is not the opposite of resentment. Empathy and compassion towards living beings is what I would expect as the ideal opposite.

MATT: I feel the issue you might have is less with equanimity and more with attachment. The best way I can explain this, is that attachment implies a notion of control. […]when you see the word "attachment" in Buddhism, you should be thinking more along the lines of a love that does not control or make demands. […] Any feeling that creates a sense of possession ought to be discarded. "This is ME! That is MINE!" are OK with a healthy detachment.

I have no idea why you think attachment implies control, especially in the context of love. Of course relationships break down if one partner takes no notice of the other’s needs. If you think that form of attachment implies control, you need a language lesson and a marriage guidance counsellor! And your last comment seems to me to be contradictory. I possess my house and my worldly goods, and my students thanked me for the help I gave them, and the audience cheered my last play production. I get pleasure out of “this is me and mine”. Why should I “discard” that sense? But then you say I needn’t discard it if I have a healthy detachment. Thank you! My view is that there is intrinsically nothing whatsoever wrong with possession or with thinking in terms of this is me/mine. But as in most areas of human life, something perfectly “healthy” can turn into something extremely unhealthy when carried to extremes, e.g. the only thing that matters in life is that I should own as much property as I can get, and to hell with the damage I cause to other people. (See Part Two for my concept of a "healthy" balance.)

Nibbana tangent part 2

by dhw, Thursday, May 16, 2024, 11:42 (70 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”!

Nibbana tangent part 2

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.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, May 16, 2024, 21:34 (69 days ago) @ dhw

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 mean, while all the various sects of Buddhism have different ideas about what Nibbana actually means, in none of them does it imply death. I don't think death is a relevant category in Buddhism at all. Right, if you study the cosmology, there are planes of existence that are entirely mind-made. As I mentioned before, death in one of the jhanic states means rebirth in those planes. The correlation in Buddhism to those states equate to actual pieces of the universe. I.E., if you go to the 1st Jhana, you're actually in "Brahma's world." For obvious reasons, I don't really buy into all that, but in Buddhism it is clear that in its cosmology, it sees no perceivable beginning or end to the universe, Nibbana isn't death, it just stops the cycle of rebirth that suffering causes. You will not take another physical form. You're simply freely liberated until the current universe cycle ends. This is why in some lesser-known sects of Buddhism, Buddha is worshipped like a God. (It's considered blasphemy, but that's never stopped people before.)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, May 16, 2024, 21:16 (69 days ago) @ dhw

I snipped parts that don't require a response to save space.

dhw: Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.

So, think of the phrase, "Before you help/love others, you have to help/love yourself." Now, I've not reached the first Jhana myself, but what I can tell you is that meditation is something that is a secluded practice even when you're doing it in a group. You're turning inwards. And I can tell you that my progression through earlier states of meditation before the first demonstrates a definite progression towards a peaceful and sublime state that sticks with me when its over. That state heightens my ability for love and makes me more easily express compassion and forgiveness. In order to be better for everyone else, I need to be alone and secluded. Right, so these aren't discrete activities, you only do one thing, and then you only do the other, you create a feedback loop (imagine a figure-8 if that helps) between seclusion and your people.

Forgive me, but I don’t understand this. You seem to be saying initially that prior to becoming a monk, your Buddhist has experienced the rapture of love and has shown compassion etc., but now leaves all that behind him in order to focus purely on himself. But then you say it’s never going to happen, so are you telling us that only misery-guts who have had lousy lives will enter the monastery? How can the rapture of isolation teach you to love and be kind to others? And how does begging teach you to be compassionate when all it does is make YOU the recipient of compassion?

So the jhanas that I had shared, those are the end games for the monks. Its possible for lay people to do all of those things, but its incredibly rare simply because you'd pretty much have to be a billionaire to have enough free time to do it. My main goal in sharing that sequence was to demonstrate how each step in the continuum pushes into finer and finer views of consciousness, where you walk right on past all the normal daily states of consciousness to a place where you're still aware but all concept of self disappears, which is a far better idea of what nibbana means than the rest. The Nibbana question is the one I was aiming to answer, these other questions while related, are different.

The "rapture of isolation," I mean, that's the happiness that gets generated by meditation. See my figure-8 comment above on how isolation benefits the practitioner and other people. As for the begging question, there's several things at play, first off, you have to have a subdued sense of self in order to do it. Regardless of spiritual tradition, (Franciscan, Kwan Um Zen...) part of what you're shunning is your own ego. I have a harder time--with as well read as you are--understanding why you think this monastic practice wouldn't teach you to have more love and compassion? We have the saying, walk a mile in a man's shoes before you judge, right? Even if you weren't a monastic, anyone who I've known who has engaged in a fasting practice understands the link between hunger and the poor, which generates compassion. And then there is gratitude in being given a free gift that sustains life. Franciscans call it the Grace of God. And then there's the debt you owe as the receiver of the gift to also impart some spiritual gift to make up the distance... something immaterial for something material. (Though I would argue, wisdom often provides material benefits.) Then there's just general gratitude which is also a part of the Brahmavihara practices.

Upekkha: equanimity – impartiality towards living beings (opposite: attachment and resentment).
MATT: […] I suspect Upekkha might give you heartburn…

Yes, it does. Impartiality implies no feelings, and it is not the opposite of resentment. Empathy and compassion towards living beings is what I would expect as the ideal opposite.

It cannot imply NO feelings. That's not possible. Okay, maybe I have to deepen this one a bit. Equanimity isn't built on feelings towards others, it's built on feelings towards yourself:

Hoping for positive circumstances

1. Hope for pleasure (physical comfort and mental happiness)
2. Hope for gain (material wealth and prosperity)
3. Hope for praise (heard directly)
4. Hope for a good reputation or fame (in one’s society)

Fearing negative circumstances

5. Fear of pain (physical and mental)
6. Fear of loss (material wealth and prosperity)
7. Fear of criticism (heard directly)
8. Fear of having a bad reputation (in one’s society)

Equanimity is in response to the 8 worldly concerns, hopefully this is sufficient to clear that up. The equanimity we want is the equanimity that leads us not to desire for things that feed our ego, and/or are out of our control anyway. I had to look this up to get you a better answer here, so throw out what I was trying to say before about impartiality. (Though it still applies that you can't control what others do, so why worry here?)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by dhw, Friday, May 17, 2024, 13:58 (69 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.

MATT: I can tell you that my progression through earlier states of meditation before the first demonstrates a definite progression towards a peaceful and sublime state that sticks with me when its over. That state heightens my ability for love and makes me more easily express compassion and forgiveness.

Thank you. This makes sense to me. It’s a rather beautiful form of therapy, whereas I had jumped the gun and taken “seclusion” to mean you should go and be a monk, which you will have gathered is not my idea of living a life of love and empathy with others.

MATT: My main goal in sharing that sequence was to demonstrate how each step in the continuum pushes into finer and finer views of consciousness, where you walk right on past all the normal daily states of consciousness to a place where you're still aware but all concept of self disappears, which is a far better idea of what nibbana means than the rest. (dhw’s bold)

Without a concept of self, I am nothing, and Nibbana is also nothing. If I don’t know this is me, how do I feel love or compassion for others, the joy of music “I” like, the excitement of seeing “my” children and grandchildren?

MATT: As for the begging question, there's several things at play, first off, you have to have a subdued sense of self in order to do it.

Yes indeed, and that is a concept of self. Instead of “I’m important,” you have “I’m humble.”

MATT: I have a harder time understanding why you think this monastic practice wouldn't teach you to have more love and compassion?

This is a huge leap from “all concept of self” disappearing. Of course you will understand other people’s suffering if you’ve suffered too. And if your monks go out into the community comforting the poor, offering them food, shelter, understanding, then I’m all for it. But that’s not the same as losing all concept of self. How will you do it if you don’t even know that you WANT to do it? The lesson you’re teaching us is to open your own self up to an understanding of other people’s selves, and not to fret if there are things your self can’t have. You have confirmed this later:

MATT: The equanimity we want is the equanimity that leads us not to desire for things that feed our ego, and/or are out of our control anyway.

Agreed. That is not loss of self but a change in the attitudes of self. Ditto with your definition of “attachment”.

MATT: it directly implies ego in Buddhism. You can love without attachment. To live without attachment in Buddhism, is to live without feelings of possession, to give up feelings of control, to always err against ego.

Of course love should not entail possession or control. Whenever the ego or self leads to imbalance or to negative attitudes, there will be suffering. That doesn’t mean the ego/self must disappear! It must make the adjustments that will achieve a balance between itself and the other person’s ego/self.

dhw: "My view is that there is intrinsically nothing whatsoever wrong with possession or with thinking in terms of this is me/mine."

MATT: Right... but at the same time every civilization that has ever existed has created social institutions to deal with me/mine precisely because if you don't muzzle it, that is what causes terrible problems.

Not to deal with me/mine, but to ensure that me/mine does not cause suffering to other me/mines!

dhw: 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. […]

MATT: While all the various sects of Buddhism have different ideas about what Nibbana actually means, in none of them does it imply death. […]Nibbana isn't death, it just stops the cycle of rebirth that suffering causes. You will not take another physical form. You're simply freely liberated until the current universe cycle ends.

I find the concept of rebirth “that suffering causes” extremely confusing. Are we reborn because of the suffering we’ve caused, or because of the suffering we’ve endured? Why is rebirth automatically regarded as something negative that needs to be stopped? It’s as if Buddhists believe that being alive is some kind of punishment! Secondly, if you have no physical form, no joy, no suffering, no individuality, what DO you have? Some definitions describe Nibbana as a place of perfect peace. What can be more peaceful than the grave? You say “freely liberated”. If you have no body and no self, what are you free to do, and how and where can you do it?

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Friday, May 17, 2024, 15:45 (68 days ago) @ dhw

Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

MATT: it directly implies ego in Buddhism. You can love without attachment. To live without attachment in Buddhism, is to live without feelings of possession, to give up feelings of control, to always err against ego.

Of course love should not entail possession or control. Whenever the ego or self leads to imbalance or to negative attitudes, there will be suffering. That doesn’t mean the ego/self must disappear! It must make the adjustments that will achieve a balance between itself and the other person’s ego/self.

Au contraire! The extent to which any of us is capable of having a wholesome and uplifting love for someone is precisely the same sliding scale that removes "us" from the equation. The more you care for someone or some thing, the less "you" is in that, and the more the object is within it. You admit there's a balance, a sliding scale if you will. I picture at one end, Agape, and at the other end, desiring the object's destruction. (There's an interesting conversation to be had in that perhaps indifference is worse than a spiteful hate, but maybe later.)

dhw: 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. […]

MATT: While all the various sects of Buddhism have different ideas about what Nibbana actually means, in none of them does it imply death. […]Nibbana isn't death, it just stops the cycle of rebirth that suffering causes. You will not take another physical form. You're simply freely liberated until the current universe cycle ends.

I find the concept of rebirth “that suffering causes” extremely confusing. Are we reborn because of the suffering we’ve caused, or because of the suffering we’ve endured? Why is rebirth automatically regarded as something negative that needs to be stopped? It’s as if Buddhists believe that being alive is some kind of punishment! Secondly, if you have no physical form, no joy, no suffering, no individuality, what DO you have? Some definitions describe Nibbana as a place of perfect peace. What can be more peaceful than the grave? You say “freely liberated”. If you have no body and no self, what are you free to do, and how and where can you do it?

So I tried to answer part of that puzzle by pointing out that in Buddhism, there's a level of the universe that lacks physical components--totally mind-made. There's no body like what you have on earth. We get into areas where I've not explored deeply because alot of it appears hogwash to someone who's predilection leans heavily materialist. But it's clear that at least traditionally, the higher levels of meditation unlock deeper knowledge about reality--it starts with understanding your own stream of death and rebirth, but eventually you can do the same thing for other people. The less of "us" there is, the more of the universe we can see. It reads like gaining omniscience. Again, my read is that whatever we are after shedding, when we dissolve into the universe we're joining something far greater than ourselves. We join the great cosmic "we." ;-)

As to "why rebirth at all?" you have to understand that it comes from the continuity of Hinduism and their conceptions of the universe. I'm fine with a Buddhism that lacks rebirth, but I will agree that the longer-term perspective the idea of rebirth offers opens up more avenues to foster long-term decision making. (Or for more terrible hedonisms, though to be honest there's only so much pleasure one can take before you get utterly bored of all of them.)

And that's an interesting materialist interpretation for me--Siddharta Gotama was a prince who grew up with a total lack of want. If you get bored of all pleasures, and then engage in all the most terrible ascetic practices (Gotama at one point was trying to live off of a cup of milk a day or less) you'll reach a point where you've experienced all that life has to offer. So what's left? Mental pleasures, and the jhanas represent both the highest form of pleasure one can have, along with the knowledge that even that is fleeting and prone to disappear, so you follow consciousness until its end, and you realize it doesn't end, there's a universe beyond even your own consciousness. This is a very uncharitable view of Buddhism, but I find value in cynical takes.

From this perspective, I can see a position where it appears death is the final goal, it's just that Nibbana means something different than death. The word for death after achieving nibbana is "parinibbana." Your body dies, but it's clear you're not dead. This is like the Buddhist version of the trinity, where it doesn't make much sense, but we also know that prior to the big bang, nothing makes much sense there either, so at least as far as the limits of human knowledge, it always ends in mystery.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Friday, May 17, 2024, 18:55 (68 days ago) @ xeno6696

Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

MATT: it directly implies ego in Buddhism. You can love without attachment. To live without attachment in Buddhism, is to live without feelings of possession, to give up feelings of control, to always err against ego.

dhw: Of course love should not entail possession or control. Whenever the ego or self leads to imbalance or to negative attitudes, there will be suffering. That doesn’t mean the ego/self must disappear! It must make the adjustments that will achieve a balance between itself and the other person’s ego/self.


Matt: Au contraire! The extent to which any of us is capable of having a wholesome and uplifting love for someone is precisely the same sliding scale that removes "us" from the equation. The more you care for someone or some thing, the less "you" is in that, and the more the object is within it. You admit there's a balance, a sliding scale if you will. I picture at one end, Agape, and at the other end, desiring the object's destruction. (There's an interesting conversation to be had in that perhaps indifference is worse than a spiteful hate, but maybe later.)>

dhw: 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. […]

MATT: While all the various sects of Buddhism have different ideas about what Nibbana actually means, in none of them does it imply death. […]Nibbana isn't death, it just stops the cycle of rebirth that suffering causes. You will not take another physical form. You're simply freely liberated until the current universe cycle ends.

dhw: I find the concept of rebirth “that suffering causes” extremely confusing. Are we reborn because of the suffering we’ve caused, or because of the suffering we’ve endured? Why is rebirth automatically regarded as something negative that needs to be stopped? It’s as if Buddhists believe that being alive is some kind of punishment! Secondly, if you have no physical form, no joy, no suffering, no individuality, what DO you have? Some definitions describe Nibbana as a place of perfect peace. What can be more peaceful than the grave? You say “freely liberated”. If you have no body and no self, what are you free to do, and how and where can you do it?


Matt: So I tried to answer part of that puzzle by pointing out that in Buddhism, there's a level of the universe that lacks physical components--totally mind-made. There's no body like what you have on earth. We get into areas where I've not explored deeply because alot of it appears hogwash to someone who's predilection leans heavily materialist. But it's clear that at least traditionally, the higher levels of meditation unlock deeper knowledge about reality--it starts with understanding your own stream of death and rebirth, but eventually you can do the same thing for other people. The less of "us" there is, the more of the universe we can see. It reads like gaining omniscience. Again, my read is that whatever we are after shedding, when we dissolve into the universe we're joining something far greater than ourselves. We join the great cosmic "we." ;-)

As to "why rebirth at all?" you have to understand that it comes from the continuity of Hinduism and their conceptions of the universe. I'm fine with a Buddhism that lacks rebirth, but I will agree that the longer-term perspective the idea of rebirth offers opens up more avenues to foster long-term decision making. (Or for more terrible hedonisms, though to be honest there's only so much pleasure one can take before you get utterly bored of all of them.)

And that's an interesting materialist interpretation for me--Siddharta Gotama was a prince who grew up with a total lack of want. If you get bored of all pleasures, and then engage in all the most terrible ascetic practices (Gotama at one point was trying to live off of a cup of milk a day or less) you'll reach a point where you've experienced all that life has to offer. So what's left? Mental pleasures, and the jhanas represent both the highest form of pleasure one can have, along with the knowledge that even that is fleeting and prone to disappear, so you follow consciousness until its end, and you realize it doesn't end, there's a universe beyond even your own consciousness. This is a very uncharitable view of Buddhism, but I find value in cynical takes.

From this perspective, I can see a position where it appears death is the final goal, it's just that Nibbana means something different than death. The word for death after achieving nibbana is "parinibbana." Your body dies, but it's clear you're not dead. This is like the Buddhist version of the trinity, where it doesn't make much sense, but we also know that prior to the big bang, nothing makes much sense there either, so at least as far as the limits of human knowledge, it always ends in mystery.

Do we return to a junction of our consciousness with a universal consciousness?

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Friday, May 17, 2024, 21:36 (68 days ago) @ David Turell

From this perspective, I can see a position where it appears death is the final goal, it's just that Nibbana means something different than death. The word for death after achieving nibbana is "parinibbana." Your body dies, but it's clear you're not dead. This is like the Buddhist version of the trinity, where it doesn't make much sense, but we also know that prior to the big bang, nothing makes much sense there either, so at least as far as the limits of human knowledge, it always ends in mystery.


Do we return to a junction of our consciousness with a universal consciousness?


The oldest known answer to the question of parinibbana, the Buddha only leaves us this:

“Monks, an educated disciple of the noble ones understands opinions, understands the origin of opinions, understands the cessation of opinions, and understands the practice which leads to the cessation of opinions. Therefore their opinions cease; they are freed from birth, decay, dying, sorrow, grief, pain, depression, and anguish; they are freed from suffering, I say. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones does not declare ‘A Tathāgata exists after dying’, does not declare ‘A Tathāgata does not exist after dying’, does not declare ‘A Tathāgata both exists and does not exist after dying’, and does not declare ‘A Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after dying’. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones naturally does not make a declaration about the undeclared standpoints. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones does not tremble, quiver, waver, or become anxious regarding the undeclared standpoints.


It's a thing beyond definition. I would answer your question no however, because also by definition, a consciousness has causes and conditions, and it's clear that parinibanna means achieving an unconditioned state, which is precisely why I think the Buddha leaves us with every logical space rejected.

I have to call myself out here, I'm used to throwing around the word "consciousness" pretty liberally. Despite it having only been in our vocabulary since the 1600s, it means something different in English than the various words that get translated to it in Pali. Like how the word "samadhi" often gets translated as "concentration" but is better translated as "stillness," I think something similar is going on with consciousness. The word that gets translated as consciousness is this:

viññāṇa: Consciousness; cognizance; the act of taking note of sense data and ideas as they occur. There is also a type of consciousness that lies outside of the khandhas — called consciousness without feature (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ) — which is not related to the six senses at all.

It's that last line that pulls my attention.

"Even in Theravada textbooks, Viññāṇa is translated as “consciousness” or “awareness.” But it is much more than that. Viññāna represents much more: “our hopes and desires that we want from this world.” That is a critical point — that makes the connection between mind and matter (rūpa)."

Gods are conscious in that they have hopes and desires, as well as a mind-made body if they choose. Parinibbana is some other thing. But it's not death. People still claim that the Buddha appears to them, if you believe that (which I think we must if we accept NDEs and OBEs as real things and not hallucinations--the point of arguing for the veridical is to give evidential weight for the non-veridical as well) then Nibbana and Parinibbana simply can't mean death.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:00 (67 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: From this perspective, I can see a position where it appears death is the final goal, it's just that Nibbana means something different than death. The word for death after achieving nibbana is "parinibbana." Your body dies, but it's clear you're not dead. This is like the Buddhist version of the trinity, where it doesn't make much sense, but we also know that prior to the big bang, nothing makes much sense there either, so at least as far as the limits of human knowledge, it always ends in mystery.


Do we return to a junction of our consciousness with a universal consciousness?

The oldest known answer to the question of parinibbana, the Buddha only leaves us this:

“Monks, an educated disciple of the noble ones understands opinions, understands the origin of opinions, understands the cessation of opinions, and understands the practice which leads to the cessation of opinions. Therefore their opinions cease; they are freed from birth, decay, dying, sorrow, grief, pain, depression, and anguish; they are freed from suffering, I say. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones does not declare ‘A Tathāgata exists after dying’, does not declare ‘A Tathāgata does not exist after dying’, does not declare ‘A Tathāgata both exists and does not exist after dying’, and does not declare ‘A Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after dying’. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones naturally does not make a declaration about the undeclared standpoints. Knowing and seeing in this way, monk, an educated disciple of the noble ones does not tremble, quiver, waver, or become anxious regarding the undeclared standpoints.


It's a thing beyond definition. I would answer your question no however, because also by definition, a consciousness has causes and conditions, and it's clear that parinibanna means achieving an unconditioned state, which is precisely why I think the Buddha leaves us with every logical space rejected.

I have to call myself out here, I'm used to throwing around the word "consciousness" pretty liberally. Despite it having only been in our vocabulary since the 1600s, it means something different in English than the various words that get translated to it in Pali. Like how the word "samadhi" often gets translated as "concentration" but is better translated as "stillness," I think something similar is going on with consciousness. The word that gets translated as consciousness is this:

viññāṇa: Consciousness; cognizance; the act of taking note of sense data and ideas as they occur. There is also a type of consciousness that lies outside of the khandhas — called consciousness without feature (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ) — which is not related to the six senses at all.

It's that last line that pulls my attention.

"Even in Theravada textbooks, Viññāṇa is translated as “consciousness” or “awareness.” But it is much more than that. Viññāna represents much more: “our hopes and desires that we want from this world.” That is a critical point — that makes the connection between mind and matter (rūpa)."

Gods are conscious in that they have hopes and desires, as well as a mind-made body if they choose. Parinibbana is some other thing. But it's not death. People still claim that the Buddha appears to them, if you believe that (which I think we must if we accept NDEs and OBEs as real things and not hallucinations--the point of arguing for the veridical is to give evidential weight for the non-veridical as well) then Nibbana and Parinibbana simply can't mean death.

I know the consciousness I experience. It is observation and analysis from my perspective. Analysis is in my speech, English. I can't imagine it being named only 400 years ago.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:15 (67 days ago) @ David Turell

Gods are conscious in that they have hopes and desires, as well as a mind-made body if they choose. Parinibbana is some other thing. But it's not death. People still claim that the Buddha appears to them, if you believe that (which I think we must if we accept NDEs and OBEs as real things and not hallucinations--the point of arguing for the veridical is to give evidential weight for the non-veridical as well) then Nibbana and Parinibbana simply can't mean death.


I know the consciousness I experience. It is observation and analysis from my perspective. Analysis is in my speech, English. I can't imagine it being named only 400 years ago.

John Locke invented the word. It didn't exist prior to that.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 17:49 (67 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: Gods are conscious in that they have hopes and desires, as well as a mind-made body if they choose. Parinibbana is some other thing. But it's not death. People still claim that the Buddha appears to them, if you believe that (which I think we must if we accept NDEs and OBEs as real things and not hallucinations--the point of arguing for the veridical is to give evidential weight for the non-veridical as well) then Nibbana and Parinibbana simply can't mean death.


DAVID: I know the consciousness I experience. It is observation and analysis from my perspective. Analysis is in my speech, English. I can't imagine it being named only 400 years ago.


Matt: John Locke invented the word. It didn't exist prior to that.

Great history!

Nibbana tangent part 1

by dhw, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 08:53 (68 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

This implies that you have been aware of something in yourself that was out of balance, and so I can only applaud whatever it is that has restored you to what you consider the right balance.

dhw: Of course love should not entail possession or control. Whenever the ego or self leads to imbalance or to negative attitudes, there will be suffering. That doesn’t mean the ego/self must disappear! It must make the adjustments that will achieve a balance between itself and the other person’s ego/self.

MATT: Au contraire! The extent to which any of us is capable of having a wholesome and uplifting love for someone is precisely the same sliding scale that removes "us" from the equation. The more you care for someone or some thing, the less "you" is in that, and the more the object is within it.

Within what, and why something? We seem to be talking about different kinds of love here. If I love my motor car, is it the same as loving my wife, or as loving God? My comment was specifically about the relations between two people, and frankly if the wife totally removed her “self” and existed entirely for the husband, she might just as well be a robot. And ditto the other way round.(Did you ever see the film “Stepford Wives”?)

MATT: You admit there's a balance, a sliding scale if you will. I picture at one end, Agape, and at the other end, desiring the object's destruction. (There's an interesting conversation to be had in that perhaps indifference is worse than a spiteful hate, but maybe later.)

But we’re not talking about the obvious opposites. We’re talking about the Buddhist ideal, in which “all concept of self disappears”, and how this is to be applied in our daily lives. And I am arguing (rather fiercely!) that the total disappearance of self will destroy everything that makes the individual’s life worth living, and what is essential is that we achieve a balance between what is good for our self and also what is good for other selves.

dhw: 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. […]

MATT: While all the various sects of Buddhism have different ideas about what Nibbana actually means, in none of them does it imply death. […]Nibbana isn't death, it just stops the cycle of rebirth that suffering causes. You will not take another physical form. You're simply freely liberated until the current universe cycle ends.

dhw: I find the concept of rebirth “that suffering causes” extremely confusing. Are we reborn because of the suffering we’ve caused, or because of the suffering we’ve endured? Why is rebirth automatically regarded as something negative that needs to be stopped? It’s as if Buddhists believe that being alive is some kind of punishment! Secondly, if you have no physical form, no joy, no suffering, no individuality, what DO you have? Some definitions describe Nibbana as a place of perfect peace. What can be more peaceful than the grave? You say “freely liberated”. If you have no body and no self, what are you free to do, and how and where can you do it?

MATT: So I tried to answer part of that puzzle by pointing out that in Buddhism, there's a level of the universe that lacks physical components--totally mind-made. There's no body like what you have on earth. We get into areas where I've not explored deeply because alot of it appears hogwash to someone who's predilection leans heavily materialist.

Nothing to do with materialism. Lack of physical components is no different from the western concept of an afterlife, in which the individual lives on as a soul or spirit. The huge difference lies in the fact that in the western concept, the individual keeps his or her individual identity, whereas what you are proposing is an immaterial being without an individual identity (the self has disappeared). If the something that lives on is not “you”, then “you” might as well be dead.

MATT: [..] my read is that whatever we are after shedding, when we dissolve into the universe we're joining something far greater than ourselves. We join the great cosmic "we." ;-)

Religious people would say we join God. Both concepts are equally nebulous. WHAT (or WHO) joins, and WHAT (or WHO) are/is the cosmic “we”? And if “I” have lost my individuality, what’s the point?

Nibbana tangent part 2

by dhw, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 10:24 (68 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: As to "why rebirth at all?" you have to understand that it comes from the continuity of Hinduism and their conceptions of the universe. I'm fine with a Buddhism that lacks rebirth, but I will agree that the longer-term perspective the idea of rebirth offers opens up more avenues to foster long-term decision making. (Or for more terrible hedonisms, though to be honest there's only so much pleasure one can take before you get utterly bored of all of them.)

If you’re fine rejecting the whole concept of rebirth, with all the confusion it creates, then we can drop the subject. Perhaps you’re also fine with dropping the goal of complete obliteration of the self?

MATT: And that's an interesting materialist interpretation for me--Siddharta Gotama was a prince who grew up with a total lack of want. If you get bored of all pleasures, and then engage in all the most terrible ascetic practices (Gotama at one point was trying to live off of a cup of milk a day or less) you'll reach a point where you've experienced all that life has to offer.

I’m far from convinced that anyone can possibly experience all that life has to offer during the time that we have at our disposal, but your point about boredom is an absolute winner with me. Can you imagine being conscious for the rest of eternity? No wonder Nibbana has you losing your self. And no wonder your friend dhw says that perfect peace is surely synonymous with death!

MATT: From this perspective, I can see a position where it appears death is the final goal, it's just that Nibbana means something different than death. The word for death after achieving nibbana is "parinibbana." Your body dies, but it's clear you're not dead.

So your selfless self lives on. How fortunate that it is no longer the conscious individual you that you once were. Otherwise, you would certainly be bored….to death!

MATT(answering David): People still claim that the Buddha appears to them, if you believe that (which I think we must if we accept NDEs and OBEs as real things and not hallucinations) […] then Nibbana and Parinibbana simply can't mean death.

So Buddha and the people who see Buddha are westernized believers that there is a recognizable, conscious, individual spirit or soul that survives bodily death, in spite of the fact that they are only in Nibbana because they finally lost their recognizable, conscious, individual self.

Methodology

MATT: I've recalled a tendency not just here but even a couple years back where when I bring up how the practices of Buddhism have affected me personally.
That wasn't an attempt to put up some sort of a defensive wall (like, this is personal to me, don't criticize it).
if a question seems thorny, a monk will either fill in the gaps with their own experience, or give you exercises to help you realize whatever sticking point you have in the text.
Obviously with the really big questions, there's a definite gap--not every monk achieves Nibbana for example, no monk can really train you beyond their own experience.

Yesterday, you wrote: Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

Under no circumstances would I wish to dispute anything that is of therapeutic value to you, and it is precisely the “big” questions that I am focusing on. Nothing personal. I find the concept of rebirth extremely confusing, and it’s clear from your response that you do too. Nibbana is so nebulous that to me it suggests eternal death as the ideal state. You have tried to explain why it isn’t. There is no “methodology” involved other than each of us trying to understand something which basically is a total mystery! The concept of self and above all loss of self is the only one which clearly enters the more personal realm, and I apologize if my arguments offend you. But as in all my discussions with David, I am arguing against theories not against personal faith. A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself. Thumbs up for therapy:-) , thumbs down for dogma:-( .

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:23 (67 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: As to "why rebirth at all?" you have to understand that it comes from the continuity of Hinduism and their conceptions of the universe. I'm fine with a Buddhism that lacks rebirth, but I will agree that the longer-term perspective the idea of rebirth offers opens up more avenues to foster long-term decision making. (Or for more terrible hedonisms, though to be honest there's only so much pleasure one can take before you get utterly bored of all of them.)

If you’re fine rejecting the whole concept of rebirth, with all the confusion it creates, then we can drop the subject. Perhaps you’re also fine with dropping the goal of complete obliteration of the self?

Who said I had that goal? I'm actually quite sure that somewhere up the chain I mentioned this. I've no desire to be a monastic. The Buddhist ideal, the pursuit of Nibbana, that's ultimately a monk's game. The other 499M of us have families to worry about.

I'm snipping alot of the rest of this, because I don't see it as really moving the conversation anywhere.

Yesterday, you wrote: Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

Under no circumstances would I wish to dispute anything that is of therapeutic value to you, and it is precisely the “big” questions that I am focusing on. Nothing personal. I find the concept of rebirth extremely confusing, and it’s clear from your response that you do too. Nibbana is so nebulous that to me it suggests eternal death as the ideal state. You have tried to explain why it isn’t. There is no “methodology” involved other than each of us trying to understand something which basically is a total mystery! The concept of self and above all loss of self is the only one which clearly enters the more personal realm, and I apologize if my arguments offend you. But as in all my discussions with David, I am arguing against theories not against personal faith. A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself. Thumbs up for therapy:-) , thumbs down for dogma:-( .

See my note about methodology, it's meant for this view you have where you're being careful about my experience--I bring up my practice notes on purpose, because it's me actually doing the teachings and reporting back on what it actually looks like. Sometimes we get hung up on words. I appreciate the tender care you're showing me, but every time I reach back to personal experience here, it is to try and demonstrate what the words of that teaching look like, when actually lived.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 17:53 (67 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: As to "why rebirth at all?" you have to understand that it comes from the continuity of Hinduism and their conceptions of the universe. I'm fine with a Buddhism that lacks rebirth, but I will agree that the longer-term perspective the idea of rebirth offers opens up more avenues to foster long-term decision making. (Or for more terrible hedonisms, though to be honest there's only so much pleasure one can take before you get utterly bored of all of them.)

If you’re fine rejecting the whole concept of rebirth, with all the confusion it creates, then we can drop the subject. Perhaps you’re also fine with dropping the goal of complete obliteration of the self?


Who said I had that goal? I'm actually quite sure that somewhere up the chain I mentioned this. I've no desire to be a monastic. The Buddhist ideal, the pursuit of Nibbana, that's ultimately a monk's game. The other 499M of us have families to worry about.

I'm snipping alot of the rest of this, because I don't see it as really moving the conversation anywhere.

Yesterday, you wrote: Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

Under no circumstances would I wish to dispute anything that is of therapeutic value to you, and it is precisely the “big” questions that I am focusing on. Nothing personal. I find the concept of rebirth extremely confusing, and it’s clear from your response that you do too. Nibbana is so nebulous that to me it suggests eternal death as the ideal state. You have tried to explain why it isn’t. There is no “methodology” involved other than each of us trying to understand something which basically is a total mystery! The concept of self and above all loss of self is the only one which clearly enters the more personal realm, and I apologize if my arguments offend you. But as in all my discussions with David, I am arguing against theories not against personal faith. A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself. Thumbs up for therapy:-) , thumbs down for dogma:-( .


See my note about methodology, it's meant for this view you have where you're being careful about my experience--I bring up my practice notes on purpose, because it's me actually doing the teachings and reporting back on what it actually looks like. Sometimes we get hung up on words. I appreciate the tender care you're showing me, but every time I reach back to personal experience here, it is to try and demonstrate what the words of that teaching look like, when actually lived.

What we appreciate is your openness with us about your experience in Buddhism. We are all searching for meanings.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:48 (67 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: As to "why rebirth at all?" you have to understand that it comes from the continuity of Hinduism and their conceptions of the universe. I'm fine with a Buddhism that lacks rebirth, but I will agree that the longer-term perspective the idea of rebirth offers opens up more avenues to foster long-term decision making. (Or for more terrible hedonisms, though to be honest there's only so much pleasure one can take before you get utterly bored of all of them.)

dhw: If you’re fine rejecting the whole concept of rebirth, with all the confusion it creates, then we can drop the subject. Perhaps you’re also fine with dropping the goal of complete obliteration of the self?

MATT: And that's an interesting materialist interpretation for me--Siddharta Gotama was a prince who grew up with a total lack of want. If you get bored of all pleasures, and then engage in all the most terrible ascetic practices (Gotama at one point was trying to live off of a cup of milk a day or less) you'll reach a point where you've experienced all that life has to offer.

dhw: I’m far from convinced that anyone can possibly experience all that life has to offer during the time that we have at our disposal, but your point about boredom is an absolute winner with me. Can you imagine being conscious for the rest of eternity? No wonder Nibbana has you losing your self. And no wonder your friend dhw says that perfect peace is surely synonymous with death!

MATT: From this perspective, I can see a position where it appears death is the final goal, it's just that Nibbana means something different than death. The word for death after achieving nibbana is "parinibbana." Your body dies, but it's clear you're not dead.

dhw: So your selfless self lives on. How fortunate that it is no longer the conscious individual you that you once were. Otherwise, you would certainly be bored….to death!

MATT(answering David): People still claim that the Buddha appears to them, if you believe that (which I think we must if we accept NDEs and OBEs as real things and not hallucinations) […] then Nibbana and Parinibbana simply can't mean death.

dhw: So Buddha and the people who see Buddha are westernized believers that there is a recognizable, conscious, individual spirit or soul that survives bodily death, in spite of the fact that they are only in Nibbana because they finally lost their recognizable, conscious, individual self.

Methodology

MATT: I've recalled a tendency not just here but even a couple years back where when I bring up how the practices of Buddhism have affected me personally.
That wasn't an attempt to put up some sort of a defensive wall (like, this is personal to me, don't criticize it).
if a question seems thorny, a monk will either fill in the gaps with their own experience, or give you exercises to help you realize whatever sticking point you have in the text.
Obviously with the really big questions, there's a definite gap--not every monk achieves Nibbana for example, no monk can really train you beyond their own experience.

dhw: Yesterday, you wrote: Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

dhw: Under no circumstances would I wish to dispute anything that is of therapeutic value to you, and it is precisely the “big” questions that I am focusing on. Nothing personal. I find the concept of rebirth extremely confusing, and it’s clear from your response that you do too. Nibbana is so nebulous that to me it suggests eternal death as the ideal state. You have tried to explain why it isn’t. There is no “methodology” involved other than each of us trying to understand something which basically is a total mystery! The concept of self and above all loss of self is the only one which clearly enters the more personal realm, and I apologize if my arguments offend you. But as in all my discussions with David, I am arguing against theories not against personal faith. A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself. Thumbs up for therapy:-) , thumbs down for dogma:-( .

Your human personality forces itself into all your theories about God. You must learn to separate yourself.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 15:57 (67 days ago) @ dhw
edited by xeno6696, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:04

So I actually think we've closed alot of distance between each other, and the sticky bits we're discussing coincidentally align with different definitions of 'self.'

I say coincidentally because as I was eating breakfast it struck me that this definition might be a problem, and your response here almost perfectly aligns with what seems to be this remaining controversy.

If I may restate your position, I think you're viewing that my 'self' is the sum of individual experiences.

This seems to be in conflict with the Buddhist concept of 'self.' I think again, that the problem is in definitions.

But we’re not talking about the obvious opposites. We’re talking about the Buddhist ideal, in which “all concept of self disappears”, and how this is to be applied in our daily lives. And I am arguing (rather fiercely!) that the total disappearance of self will destroy everything that makes the individual’s life worth living, and what is essential is that we achieve a balance between what is good for our self and also what is good for other selves.

Let me illustrate with a concrete example. When I say "the less 'me' there is in something, the closer I am to reality," take my changing views on talking about NDE/OBE. Until a few years ago, while I would indulge you and Dr. Turell in some of those conversations, by and large I was dismissive. A huge part of that was because I had a strong 'identity view' as they say in Buddhism. This is one example of an attachment. I had the view, "I am a strict empiricist." This is a problem. Because now, I've engaged myself so strongly with a particular view about my self, I've created a distortion that at minimum makes me less compassionate about the lived experiences of others. There's a feeling involved with this, quite subtle, but it's the imposition of the ego between myself and reality. The Buddhist ideal, in this concrete case is to modify "I am a strict empiricist." to "I am a strict empiricist." This takes more work and effort than just changing the bold, but this is a concrete case. At the end of the day, that is what removing an attachment entails. But I could take that a step further, why bother making a statement in words about being an empiricist at all, what if toss that out of the window and just apprehend reality as it is without constructing a filter that mediates between reality and my consciousness? Meditation teaches me precisely how to do that. Cut the subtle threads of ego, remove your 'self' from the equation. "I am a strict empiricist" is a concept. One that might be useful for certain things, but "I am a strict empiricist" gets in the way. The 'self' is also a language-mediated concept. Let's get beyond that.

Back in the beginning, I tried to explain that in Buddhism, what we typically think of as our 'self,' is at best an incomplete approximation of reality. To return to that original conversation, my 'self,' this 'Matt' is a deeply embedded onion in the universe. Now, taking the Buddhist claims to rebirth at face value, which life is "me?" This one, or any of the ones that came before it? All of them? If your sense of I is too strong, your attachment to this self (I instead of I) will miss the possibility of learning your "true" self, which would rightly be not just *you* in the sense of this life, but the totality of *you*. More accurately, my 'self' isn't just Matt in this life, it's Matt and all the previous lives rolled into one continuity. In order to apprehend all of that, I need to peel away those layers of that onion that's deeply embedded in the universe. I need to change all I's to I. (I'm using onion but this is usually described with a blooming lotus, the final state being a fully opened flower.)

Now, Hinduism more or less stops here, it maintains that this perspective is the final perspective. Your "true self" is all of those lives including this one. The Buddha, in what I shared earlier, detailed that no, there's several more layers of the onion to penetrate until you have changed all the I's to I. THAT is where Nibbana happens. Remember where I said that Buddhism centers the self on more or less "bare awareness?" This much I know for fact: The more layers of the self that you transmute, the stronger your awareness becomes and the longer it lasts. That's the compass towards Nibbana. The sense of feeling that I get when I follow that compass, is that my mind is lighter, and my interactions with the world are more peaceful and kind. It isn't derogatory towards the self, this life, or any others, it's a much lighter and cleaner experience overall. What's at the center of the onion? The end.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:52 (67 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: So I actually think we've closed alot of distance between each other, and the sticky bits we're discussing coincidentally align with different definitions of 'self.'

I say coincidentally because as I was eating breakfast it struck me that this definition might be a problem, and your response here almost perfectly aligns with what seems to be this remaining controversy.

If I may restate your position, I think you're viewing that my 'self' is the sum of individual experiences.

This seems to be in conflict with the Buddhist concept of 'self.' I think again, that the problem is in definitions.

But we’re not talking about the obvious opposites. We’re talking about the Buddhist ideal, in which “all concept of self disappears”, and how this is to be applied in our daily lives. And I am arguing (rather fiercely!) that the total disappearance of self will destroy everything that makes the individual’s life worth living, and what is essential is that we achieve a balance between what is good for our self and also what is good for other selves.


Let me illustrate with a concrete example. When I say "the less 'me' there is in something, the closer I am to reality," take my changing views on talking about NDE/OBE. Until a few years ago, while I would indulge you and Dr. Turell in some of those conversations, by and large I was dismissive. A huge part of that was because I had a strong 'identity view' as they say in Buddhism. This is one example of an attachment. I had the view, "I am a strict empiricist." This is a problem. Because now, I've engaged myself so strongly with a particular view about my self, I've created a distortion that at minimum makes me less compassionate about the lived experiences of others. There's a feeling involved with this, quite subtle, but it's the imposition of the ego between myself and reality. The Buddhist ideal, in this concrete case is to modify "I am a strict empiricist." to "I am a strict empiricist." This takes more work and effort than just changing the bold, but this is a concrete case. At the end of the day, that is what removing an attachment entails. But I could take that a step further, why bother making a statement in words about being an empiricist at all, what if toss that out of the window and just apprehend reality as it is without constructing a filter that mediates between reality and my consciousness? Meditation teaches me precisely how to do that. Cut the subtle threads of ego, remove your 'self' from the equation. "I am a strict empiricist" is a concept. One that might be useful for certain things, but "I am a strict empiricist" gets in the way. The 'self' is also a language-mediated concept. Let's get beyond that.

Back in the beginning, I tried to explain that in Buddhism, what we typically think of as our 'self,' is at best an incomplete approximation of reality. To return to that original conversation, my 'self,' this 'Matt' is a deeply embedded onion in the universe. Now, taking the Buddhist claims to rebirth at face value, which life is "me?" This one, or any of the ones that came before it? All of them? If your sense of I is too strong, your attachment to this self (I instead of I) will miss the possibility of learning your "true" self, which would rightly be not just *you* in the sense of this life, but the totality of *you*. More accurately, my 'self' isn't just Matt in this life, it's Matt and all the previous lives rolled into one continuity. In order to apprehend all of that, I need to peel away those layers of that onion that's deeply embedded in the universe. I need to change all I's to I. (I'm using onion but this is usually described with a blooming lotus, the final state being a fully opened flower.)

Now, Hinduism more or less stops here, it maintains that this perspective is the final perspective. Your "true self" is all of those lives including this one. The Buddha, in what I shared earlier, detailed that no, there's several more layers of the onion to penetrate until you have changed all the I's to I. THAT is where Nibbana happens. Remember where I said that Buddhism centers the self on more or less "bare awareness?" This much I know for fact: The more layers of the self that you transmute, the stronger your awareness becomes and the longer it lasts. That's the compass towards Nibbana. The sense of feeling that I get when I follow that compass, is that my mind is lighter, and my interactions with the world are more peaceful and kind. It isn't derogatory towards the self, this life, or any others, it's a much lighter and cleaner experience overall. What's at the center of the onion? The end.

An excellent entry for explanation.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by dhw, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 13:25 (67 days ago) @ xeno6696

I greatly appreciate the manner in which you’re educating us into the many different facets of Buddhism. This is “enlightening” in itself, but I’m not altogether sure what facets you actually believe in, and there are definitely facets that I find both confusing and in some ways disturbing. I’ve summarized these as follows:

1) I find the concept of rebirth extremely confusing, and it’s clear from your response that you do too. Nibbana is so nebulous that to me it suggests eternal death as the ideal state. You have tried to explain why it isn’t.
2) A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself.

It’s the latter that is clearly causing most of the difficulty, and you’ve tried to explain it here:

MATT: […] take my changing views on talking about NDE/OBE. Until a few years ago, while I would indulge you and Dr. Turell in some of those conversations, by and large I was dismissive. A huge part of that was because I had a strong 'identity view' as they say in Buddhism. This is one example of an attachment. I had the view, "I am a strict empiricist." This is a problem. Because now, I've engaged myself so strongly with a particular view about my self, I've created a distortion that at minimum makes me less compassionate about the lived experiences of others. There's a feeling involved with this, quite subtle, but it's the imposition of the ego between myself and reality.
If your sense of I is too strong, your attachment to this self (I instead of I) will miss the possibility of learning your "true" self, which would rightly be not just *you* in the sense of this life, but the totality of *you*. More accurately, my 'self' isn't just Matt in this life, it's Matt and all the previous lives rolled into one continuity.

Although we have consensus on many “realities”, they’re all subjective experiences that run through the filter of bolded I, I or the ego. And as far as these are (or this is) concerned, I see no possibility of the self ever being knowable as a totality. The example you’ve chosen is not even a trait of personality but as you say, a simple change of view: your opinion re NDEs changed because you learned something new. I would distinguish between opinions about particular subjects and the general characteristics which make up the “I” that forms those opinions. However, if you’ve been a bigot and new information or new experiences teach you not to be a bigot, then of course the “I” will change, and this is how I see it – a mixture of the actual and the potential, and the potential can never become totally actual unless you undergo every experience life can offer you. Which is impossible. I thought you remained at best open-minded about rebirth, but that only complicates matters. Have your previous lives created the characteristics you were born with? Your present “you” certainly can’t learn anything from your previous experiences if you don’t even know what they were. Whatever they were, you can still only work on those you have now.

MATT: What's at the center of the onion? The end.

I don’t dislike the onion image, as it corresponds to the above concept: you have endless layers of potential “I”, but only new experiences will peel them. However, for me it fails because we can never know the centre. If you think you’ll go on peeling (= having new experiences) for the rest of eternity, so be it. If you think you WILL reach the centre, then there’s nothing more to experience. And that is supposed to lead to the perfect peace when “all concept of self disappears”. No bolded “I”, “I” or “ego”? Might as well not exist. Hence the end = death.

Perhaps I should add that I do not wish to die! This is because in spite of the horrors all around us, “I” have found life richly rewarding, because “I” have consciously enjoyed fulfilling “my” desires, including the wonderful children that are the direct result of some of those desires! Another inclusion is the desire never to hurt but always to help others. Theoretically I would welcome a rebirth, in the hope that I would continue to do the same. I totally understand and applaud any philosophy that will help others to achieve this balance (which I think is the position you are in). I only object to the negative views of life and the self that make rebirth sound like a punishment for having a self rather than an opportunity to develop and enrich it!

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 16:24 (66 days ago) @ dhw

2) A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself.

I think 2 is the only spot where I can at least offer something. If you don't see the need for any given philosophy/religion/whatever, then I mean, you're done really. For me, it made a whole lot of sense that suffering is ultimately caused by a whole lot of unchecked ego. This is perhaps easier for me to understand growing up as an only child, I was already in a habit of asking myself 'am I being too selfish here?' That's not the only reason I engage with it, but it certainly allows for the Four Noble Truths to ring loudly. There's a lot of things about myself that have had to dissolve as a result of this process. I feel like you're asking me for some sort of reason that would justify you becoming Buddhist, and I really can't do that. Both out of respect of the teachings (Buddhism teaches non-proselytizing, monks are only allowed to teach when asked) and out of respect for your own subjectivity. It doesn't speak to you. I can't change that.

I can offer only this: that what you believe to be integral to your individuality, might not be as integral as you think. I'm fairly certain, the things important to you at 20 were different than now, and 20yrs from now, will still likely be different again. Still there, but lessened, replaced by some other stronger concern. Buddhism at root is a philosophy of change, and how to deal with it. It's not required, but the skills I've learned allow me a vantage point from which I can watch all of that while participating in it. More on that shortly.

It’s the latter that is clearly causing most of the difficulty, and you’ve tried to explain it here:

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 18:50 (66 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: 2) A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself.


I think 2 is the only spot where I can at least offer something. If you don't see the need for any given philosophy/religion/whatever, then I mean, you're done really. For me, it made a whole lot of sense that suffering is ultimately caused by a whole lot of unchecked ego. This is perhaps easier for me to understand growing up as an only child, I was already in a habit of asking myself 'am I being too selfish here?' That's not the only reason I engage with it, but it certainly allows for the Four Noble Truths to ring loudly. There's a lot of things about myself that have had to dissolve as a result of this process. I feel like you're asking me for some sort of reason that would justify you becoming Buddhist, and I really can't do that. Both out of respect of the teachings (Buddhism teaches non-proselytizing, monks are only allowed to teach when asked) and out of respect for your own subjectivity. It doesn't speak to you. I can't change that.

I can offer only this: that what you believe to be integral to your individuality, might not be as integral as you think. I'm fairly certain, the things important to you at 20 were different than now, and 20yrs from now, will still likely be different again. Still there, but lessened, replaced by some other stronger concern. Buddhism at root is a philosophy of change, and how to deal with it. It's not required, but the skills I've learned allow me a vantage point from which I can watch all of that while participating in it. More on that shortly.

It’s the latter that is clearly causing most of the difficulty, and you’ve tried to explain it here:

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 21:24 (66 days ago) @ David Turell

It appears you forgot to type something before hitting send here!

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by dhw, Monday, May 20, 2024, 09:43 (66 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself.

MATT: I think 2 is the only spot where I can at least offer something. If you don't see the need for any given philosophy/religion/whatever, then I mean, you're done really. For me, it made a whole lot of sense that suffering is ultimately caused by a whole lot of unchecked ego.

I have no disagreement with your last sentence! Apart from sufferings caused by the natural world, most of our pain is certainly caused by what I usually call selfishness – which is the same as the “unchecked ego”. And I certainly see the need for some sort of moral code, though that can be boiled down to the single precept of “do as you would be done by”. As for a “given” philosophy, there are countless philosophies and religions, and if any of them help people to enjoy life while doing as they would be done by, that’s fine with me. But none of this means that we must rid ourselves of all our desires and “all concept of self must disappear”.

MATT: I can offer only this: that what you believe to be integral to your individuality, might not be as integral as you think. I'm fairly certain, the things important to you at 20 were different than now, and 20yrs from now, will still likely be different again.

Again there is no disagreement. You are echoing what I said in my last post, but simply phrased from a different perspective: "However, if you’ve been a bigot and new information or new experiences teach you not to be a bigot, then of course the “I” will change, and this is how I see it – a mixture of the actual and the potential, and the potential can never become totally actual unless you undergo every experience life can offer you".

This means that changes may happen at any time according to each new experience. And that applies not only to priorities but also to opinions, beliefs, attitudes , and even tastes. But the ever changing “me” is still “me”. My aim is not to “make all concept of self disappear”, but to enrich the self (and if the self is sick, then to heal it), always with the proviso that the ego must not be “unchecked”. And so yes, the unchecked ego must be reined in, but that does not mean the ego must be obliterated.

MATT: […] Part of being a scientist is being an empiricist, and it's impossible for those things to not influence your personality, so I reject your rejection here!

What do you think I have rejected? Your personality may influence your beliefs, and your beliefs may influence your personality, but both may well be changed by later experiences, as with my example of the bigot.

MATT: You can measure your extent to your ego's involvement by how you feel when someone challenges you about it.

Of course you can. What is intrinsically wrong with an extensive involvement? Later you give an example about someone’s enthusiasm: “I should take note of that and not let it excite me too much!" For some people, that might "dull" life, but to me that's a healthy enjoyment, that also prevents my ego from harming myself or others.” If I rage against racism, social injustice, the dictator who slaughters his opponents, is this to be regarded as undesirable? A passionate ego is far more likely to do good deeds than an impartial one. But a passionate ego determined to pursue selfish ends at the expense of others is what causes trouble. The solution, as I see it, is not to “make all concept of self disappear”, but – if I may use your adjective – to create a “healthy” balance both within the ego (the balance being between what causes joy and what causes suffering to oneself) and in its relations to other egos.

I’ll leave it there for the time being, as I am becoming more and more convinced that in terms of the development of the self (as opposed to its total disappearance) we are actually in agreement.

DAVID: I must not be as critical. I feel at peace as is.

MATT: You must be dead! ;-)

Yep, that’s what I said about your Nibbana!:-)

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Monday, May 20, 2024, 18:13 (65 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself.

MATT: I think 2 is the only spot where I can at least offer something. If you don't see the need for any given philosophy/religion/whatever, then I mean, you're done really. For me, it made a whole lot of sense that suffering is ultimately caused by a whole lot of unchecked ego.

dhw: I have no disagreement with your last sentence! Apart from sufferings caused by the natural world, most of our pain is certainly caused by what I usually call selfishness – which is the same as the “unchecked ego”. And I certainly see the need for some sort of moral code, though that can be boiled down to the single precept of “do as you would be done by”. As for a “given” philosophy, there are countless philosophies and religions, and if any of them help people to enjoy life while doing as they would be done by, that’s fine with me. But none of this means that we must rid ourselves of all our desires and “all concept of self must disappear”.

MATT: I can offer only this: that what you believe to be integral to your individuality, might not be as integral as you think. I'm fairly certain, the things important to you at 20 were different than now, and 20yrs from now, will still likely be different again.

dhw: Again there is no disagreement. You are echoing what I said in my last post, but simply phrased from a different perspective: "However, if you’ve been a bigot and new information or new experiences teach you not to be a bigot, then of course the “I” will change, and this is how I see it – a mixture of the actual and the potential, and the potential can never become totally actual unless you undergo every experience life can offer you".

This means that changes may happen at any time according to each new experience. And that applies not only to priorities but also to opinions, beliefs, attitudes , and even tastes. But the ever changing “me” is still “me”. My aim is not to “make all concept of self disappear”, but to enrich the self (and if the self is sick, then to heal it), always with the proviso that the ego must not be “unchecked”. And so yes, the unchecked ego must be reined in, but that does not mean the ego must be obliterated.

MATT: […] Part of being a scientist is being an empiricist, and it's impossible for those things to not influence your personality, so I reject your rejection here!

dhw: What do you think I have rejected? Your personality may influence your beliefs, and your beliefs may influence your personality, but both may well be changed by later experiences, as with my example of the bigot.

MATT: You can measure your extent to your ego's involvement by how you feel when someone challenges you about it.

dhw: Of course you can. What is intrinsically wrong with an extensive involvement? Later you give an example about someone’s enthusiasm: “I should take note of that and not let it excite me too much!" For some people, that might "dull" life, but to me that's a healthy enjoyment, that also prevents my ego from harming myself or others.” If I rage against racism, social injustice, the dictator who slaughters his opponents, is this to be regarded as undesirable? A passionate ego is far more likely to do good deeds than an impartial one. But a passionate ego determined to pursue selfish ends at the expense of others is what causes trouble. The solution, as I see it, is not to “make all concept of self disappear”, but – if I may use your adjective – to create a “healthy” balance both within the ego (the balance being between what causes joy and what causes suffering to oneself) and in its relations to other egos.

I’ll leave it there for the time being, as I am becoming more and more convinced that in terms of the development of the self (as opposed to its total disappearance) we are actually in agreement.

DAVID: I must not be as critical. I feel at peace as is.

MATT: You must be dead! ;-)

dhw: Yep, that’s what I said about your Nibbana!:-)

I edited persons for clarity. My fully developed self likes excitement. But I don't benefit myself at the expense of others.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Monday, May 20, 2024, 21:39 (65 days ago) @ dhw

I’ll leave it there for the time being, as I am becoming more and more convinced that in terms of the development of the self (as opposed to its total disappearance) we are actually in agreement.

I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

This article was just published--I haven't read it yet, but after glancing over the subheadings, it explains correlations between western psychology and eastern psychology as it pertains to how we construct our 'self.'

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-024-02746-7

DAVID: I must not be as critical. I feel at peace as is.

MATT: You must be dead! ;-)

Yep, that’s what I said about your Nibbana!:-)

Some jokes are better not reborn! =-D

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Monday, May 20, 2024, 21:47 (65 days ago) @ xeno6696

I’ll leave it there for the time being, as I am becoming more and more convinced that in terms of the development of the self (as opposed to its total disappearance) we are actually in agreement.


I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

This article was just published--I haven't read it yet, but after glancing over the subheadings, it explains correlations between western psychology and eastern psychology as it pertains to how we construct our 'self.'

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-024-02746-7

DAVID: I must not be as critical. I feel at peace as is.

MATT: You must be dead! ;-)

dhw: Yep, that’s what I said about your Nibbana!:-)


Matt: Some jokes are better not reborn! =-D

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Monday, May 20, 2024, 22:05 (65 days ago) @ David Turell

I’ll leave it there for the time being, as I am becoming more and more convinced that in terms of the development of the self (as opposed to its total disappearance) we are actually in agreement.


I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

This article was just published--I haven't read it yet, but after glancing over the subheadings, it explains correlations between western psychology and eastern psychology as it pertains to how we construct our 'self.'

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-024-02746-7

DAVID: I must not be as critical. I feel at peace as is.

MATT: You must be dead! ;-)

dhw: Yep, that’s what I said about your Nibbana!:-)


Matt: Some jokes are better not reborn! =-D

I've skimmed through the long article. Raised on Freudian psychotherapy and modern Westan thinking I can see an interesting advance in Eastern approaches. My own feeling: I am conscious of myself; therefore, I have a self I invent as I live. Being religious, that self is connected to my soul.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by dhw, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 12:15 (65 days ago) @ xeno6696

DAVID: My fully developed self likes excitement. But I don't benefit myself at the expense of others.

I would say that is a well-balanced self.

DAVID: I am conscious of myself; therefore, I have a self I invent as I live. Being religious, that self is connected to my soul.

I’m not sure about invention. I think most of us are conscious of the different facets of our “self” and eventually of changes that may have taken place as life proceeds. But if, for instance, you are kind-hearted and like helping people, I wouldn’t say you have “invented” your kindness.

dhw (to Matt) I’ll leave it there for the time being, as I am becoming more and more convinced that in terms of the development of the self (as opposed to its total disappearance) we are actually in agreement.

MATT: I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

It’s a concept we use to describe something which is very real to us. That’s how language functions, even when it is used to describe something that can’t be pinned down to one specific quality. I don’t think many people would quarrel with me if I said my “self” was the sum total of all my personal attributes, whatever they maybe. (See below for changes.) The “ego” is also a concept or idea, and as you have fastened upon it here, I just wonder if maybe you are thinking in terms of egotism, which puts one’s own self before anyone else’s. That is certainly undesirable! But that was not the word you used when I raised my objections to your picture of the ideal, in which we must rid ourselves of all desires, and “all concept of self must disappear”. If you had said all egotism must disappear, I would have agreed, though I still object to the removal of desires which can bring us joy without inflicting any harm, and of passion which can often lead to good works of benefit to all.

I started to read the article, but stopped very soon when I saw how enormous it was, and when I read this:
QUOTE: “the substance theory and illusion theory are the two most representative views, despite their contradictions. The core claim of the former is that the self is a reality, an independent entity, based on the notion that most of us intuitively perceive the sameness of our personality, memories, and recollections as if the subject “I” is always present, while the latter states that the substantial, continuous self is an illusion because our experience is always fluid.”

I see this as a totally false dichotomy. For me the self is a reality, an independent identity based on personal attributes which although partially continuous may also be partially fluid. The fact that it is an independent entity does not mean that it can’t change, and the fact that it can change does not mean that it is illusory!

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 16:35 (64 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: I am conscious of myself; therefore, I have a self I invent as I live. Being religious, that self is connected to my soul.

I’m not sure about invention. I think most of us are conscious of the different facets of our “self” and eventually of changes that may have taken place as life proceeds. But if, for instance, you are kind-hearted and like helping people, I wouldn’t say you have “invented” your kindness.

But kindness is a skill. So yes, we invent it. I'm with David on this one.

MATT: I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

It’s a concept we use to describe something which is very real to us. That’s how language functions, even when it is used to describe something that can’t be pinned down to one specific quality. I don’t think many people would quarrel with me if I said my “self” was the sum total of all my personal attributes, whatever they maybe. (See below for changes.) The “ego” is also a concept or idea, and as you have fastened upon it here, I just wonder if maybe you are thinking in terms of egotism, which puts one’s own self before anyone else’s. That is certainly undesirable! But that was not the word you used when I raised my objections to your picture of the ideal, in which we must rid ourselves of all desires, and “all concept of self must disappear”. If you had said all egotism must disappear, I would have agreed, though I still object to the removal of desires which can bring us joy without inflicting any harm, and of passion which can often lead to good works of benefit to all.

I made the shift to "ego," as I as attempting to snag words that would make more sense than words in a dead language that none of you here know ROFL. It was the easiest word to me to represent the shift from "I AM" to "i am." The issue in Buddhism is ultimately in how we relate to ourselves, even though its outward focus is on ultimately being kind and compassionate.

Buddhism is up front that words describing experience are at best "signposts." The sense of self is one of those things, but given you didn't read the whole article (I finished it last night and found it fascinating) Buddhism certainly falls in line with the constructivist view which is that while there is no single "place" in the mind where one could locate the self, it is something that our mind produces and we can experience. When I or other buddhists talk about "all concept of self must disappear" (in relation to nibbana), the idea here is to understand that the "sense of self" is an experience like any other emotion--it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the "end" isn't death, it's just like any other emotion where it appears, sticks around for awhile, and then goes back. For example, when I'm focusing on writing code for work, there is no sense of self in my mind. In fact, there isn't much going on in my head except the raw logic needed to write or evaluate computer code.

Part of the Buddha's enlightenment could also be attributed to attempting to find an unconditioned soul as was described by the Brahmins of his time. He delved to the bottom of consciousness and came back with, "there's nothing there." Which makes Dr. Turell's concept of a self separate from a soul rather intriguing, because he gets a free pass as it pertains to the Buddha's own search. Most concepts of the soul equate it with the self.

As you point out, language is important too though--the self is a concept, it is language-mediated which also means that we can easily fall into the trap of identifying with language-constructs. Like, drop the words and just enjoy the rose! But do that with your 'self,' appreciating how fleeting even that sense is.

QUOTE: “the substance theory and illusion theory are the two most representative views, despite their contradictions. The core claim of the former is that the self is a reality, an independent entity, based on the notion that most of us intuitively perceive the sameness of our personality, memories, and recollections as if the subject “I” is always present, while the latter states that the substantial, continuous self is an illusion because our experience is always fluid.”

I see this as a totally false dichotomy. For me the self is a reality, an independent identity based on personal attributes which although partially continuous may also be partially fluid. The fact that it is an independent entity does not mean that it can’t change, and the fact that it can change does not mean that it is illusory!

I mean it might be a false dichotomy, but it's an accurate description of the two main camps in Western psychology. I'm biased, but I'm for the constructivist approach. That article is worth the read, I finished it last night and the way the authors pose the question of western research on the self and hold it up against Buddhist psychology very neatly summarizes everything I've been stumbling to say.

The sense of self as I have experienced it isn't a continuous phenomenon. This body of course, is always here, but I would be lying if I told you I experienced my self as anything but discontinuous, and that's even before I got more involved with Buddhism.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 17:29 (64 days ago) @ xeno6696

DAVID: I am conscious of myself; therefore, I have a self I invent as I live. Being religious, that self is connected to my soul.

dhw: I’m not sure about invention. I think most of us are conscious of the different facets of our “self” and eventually of changes that may have taken place as life proceeds. But if, for instance, you are kind-hearted and like helping people, I wouldn’t say you have “invented” your kindness.> >


But kindness is a skill. So yes, we invent it. I'm with David on this one.

MATT: I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

It’s a concept we use to describe something which is very real to us. That’s how language functions, even when it is used to describe something that can’t be pinned down to one specific quality. I don’t think many people would quarrel with me if I said my “self” was the sum total of all my personal attributes, whatever they maybe. (See below for changes.) The “ego” is also a concept or idea, and as you have fastened upon it here, I just wonder if maybe you are thinking in terms of egotism, which puts one’s own self before anyone else’s. That is certainly undesirable! But that was not the word you used when I raised my objections to your picture of the ideal, in which we must rid ourselves of all desires, and “all concept of self must disappear”. If you had said all egotism must disappear, I would have agreed, though I still object to the removal of desires which can bring us joy without inflicting any harm, and of passion which can often lead to good works of benefit to all.


I made the shift to "ego," as I as attempting to snag words that would make more sense than words in a dead language that none of you here know ROFL. It was the easiest word to me to represent the shift from "I AM" to "i am." The issue in Buddhism is ultimately in how we relate to ourselves, even though its outward focus is on ultimately being kind and compassionate.

Buddhism is up front that words describing experience are at best "signposts." The sense of self is one of those things, but given you didn't read the whole article (I finished it last night and found it fascinating) Buddhism certainly falls in line with the constructivist view which is that while there is no single "place" in the mind where one could locate the self, it is something that our mind produces and we can experience. When I or other buddhists talk about "all concept of self must disappear" (in relation to nibbana), the idea here is to understand that the "sense of self" is an experience like any other emotion--it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the "end" isn't death, it's just like any other emotion where it appears, sticks around for awhile, and then goes back....

Part of the Buddha's enlightenment could also be attributed to attempting to find an unconditioned soul as was described by the Brahmins of his time. He delved to the bottom of consciousness and came back with, "there's nothing there." Which makes Dr. Turell's concept of a self separate from a soul rather intriguing, because he gets a free pass as it pertains to the Buddha's own search. Most concepts of the soul equate it with the self.

As you point out, language is important too though--the self is a concept, it is language-mediated which also means that we can easily fall into the trap of identifying with language-constructs. Like, drop the words and just enjoy the rose! But do that with your 'self,' appreciating how fleeting even that sense is.

QUOTE: “the substance theory and illusion theory are the two most representative views, despite their contradictions. The core claim of the former is that the self is a reality, an independent entity, based on the notion that most of us intuitively perceive the sameness of our personality, memories, and recollections as if the subject “I” is always present, while the latter states that the substantial, continuous self is an illusion because our experience is always fluid.”

dhw: I see this as a totally false dichotomy. For me the self is a reality, an independent identity based on personal attributes which although partially continuous may also be partially fluid. The fact that it is an independent entity does not mean that it can’t change, and the fact that it can change does not mean that it is illusory!


I mean it might be a false dichotomy, but it's an accurate description of the two main camps in Western psychology. I'm biased, but I'm for the constructivist approach. That article is worth the read, I finished it last night and the way the authors pose the question of western research on the self and hold it up against Buddhist psychology very neatly summarizes everything I've been stumbling to say.

The sense of self as I have experienced it isn't a continuous phenomenon. This body of course, is always here, but I would be lying if I told you I experienced my self as anything but discontinuous, and that's even before I got more involved with Buddhism.

And I feel my 'self' has been continuous from early childhood. It has had additions I controlled, good and disappointing. I decided to be a doctor at age three! Straight line development.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 21:22 (64 days ago) @ David Turell

And I feel my 'self' has been continuous from early childhood. It has had additions I controlled, good and disappointing. I decided to be a doctor at age three! Straight line development.

Where I'm coming from here, at least what I was trying to sketch out, is that the sense of self, that "feeling" of self, is an emotion, it's not constantly up in there in your head. It's there when you look at it, it's gone the rest of the time.

Like when I was talking before about maybe only controlling ~25% of my active thoughts in a day, (adding sleep would probably skew that easily to ~10%) I'd probably say my sense of self hits me even less than that. By this--I'm trying to be very specific--I don't mean thoughts about myself or my future or my past, but that actual "felt" sense of self where I'm feeling that sense of "I AM." But to be fair, thoughts about what I plan on doing or have done do fill in a great deal of the wandering, uncontrolled thoughts in the day. I'm distinguishing "I'm going to study some more Haskell today to get better at functional programming" from "I'm hungry." The former contains a stronger sense of self (though I didn't ask for that to surface) than the latter. As an aside: If I only control ~10-25% of my thoughts in a day, how much free will do I really have?

My argument is simply that if I'm not thinking about it or feeling it ALL the time, then it's not continuous.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 23:38 (64 days ago) @ xeno6696

DAVID: And I feel my 'self' has been continuous from early childhood. It has had additions I controlled, good and disappointing. I decided to be a doctor at age three! Straight line development.


Matt: Where I'm coming from here, at least what I was trying to sketch out, is that the sense of self, that "feeling" of self, is an emotion, it's not constantly up in there in your head. It's there when you look at it, it's gone the rest of the time.

Like when I was talking before about maybe only controlling ~25% of my active thoughts in a day, (adding sleep would probably skew that easily to ~10%) I'd probably say my sense of self hits me even less than that. By this--I'm trying to be very specific--I don't mean thoughts about myself or my future or my past, but that actual "felt" sense of self where I'm feeling that sense of "I AM." But to be fair, thoughts about what I plan on doing or have done do fill in a great deal of the wandering, uncontrolled thoughts in the day. I'm distinguishing "I'm going to study some more Haskell today to get better at functional programming" from "I'm hungry." The former contains a stronger sense of self (though I didn't ask for that to surface) than the latter. As an aside: If I only control ~10-25% of my thoughts in a day, how much free will do I really have?

My argument is simply that if I'm not thinking about it or feeling it ALL the time, then it's not continuous.

I would say it is always there, waiting to be approached, so my attention to myself is intermittent, but as it is always available it is continuous. There are no gaps in that it always feels the same.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by dhw, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, 12:41 (64 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt, when you quote us, would you please indicate who said what? Otherwise, it can get confusing. Thank you.

MATT: I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

dhw: […]. I don’t think many people would quarrel with me if I said my “self” was the sum total of all my personal attributes, whatever they maybe. […] The “ego” is also a concept or idea […] But that was not the word you used when I raised my objections to your picture of the ideal, in which we must rid ourselves of all desires, and “all concept of self must disappear”. If you had said all egotism must disappear, I would have agreed […]

MATT: […] [Ego] was the easiest word to me to represent the shift from "I AM" to "i am." The issue in Buddhism is ultimately in how we relate to ourselves, even though its outward focus is on ultimately being kind and compassionate.

I still don’t know what you’re getting at, unless it really is the shift in priorities: away from egotism to awareness of the needs of others. This is one of our major topics: if the issue is how we relate to ourselves, why must we be rid of all desires (which means being rid of some of the things that give us the greatest joy in life) and “all concept of self must disappear”, so we’re not allowed to think how happy we are when we help others instead of just ourselves?

MATT: When I or other buddhists talk about "all concept of self must disappear" (in relation to nibbana), the idea here is to understand that the "sense of self" is an experience like any other emotion--it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the "end" isn't death, it's just like any other emotion where it appears, sticks around for awhile, and then goes back.

You give the following example as a clarification:

MATT: For example, when I'm focusing on writing code for work, there is no sense of self in my mind.
You also responded to David:
MATT: My argument is simply that if I'm not thinking about it or feeling it ALL the time, then it's not continuous.

The fact that you are not thinking about your “self” does not mean your “self” isn’t there, let alone that you must get rid of it! You don’t think all the time about your heart beating, but it is. We have now left the subjects of rebirth and Nibbana (both of which I think you have your own doubts about) and the vexed question of desirable and undesirable desires, and switched to whether there really is such a thing as self. I offered my own view on this:

QUOTE: “the substance theory and illusion theory are the two most representative views, despite their contradictions. The core claim of the former is that the self is a reality, an independent entity, based on the notion that most of us intuitively perceive the sameness of our personality, memories, and recollections as if the subject “I” is always present, while the latter states that the substantial, continuous self is an illusion because our experience is always fluid.

dhw: I see this as a totally false dichotomy. For me the self is a reality, an independent identity based on personal attributes which although partially continuous may also be partially fluid. The fact that it is an independent entity does not mean that it can’t change, and the fact that it can change does not mean that it is illusory!

MATT: I mean it might be a false dichotomy, but it's an accurate description of the two main camps in Western psychology. I'm biased, but I'm for the constructivist approach. […] The sense of self as I have experienced it isn't a continuous phenomenon. This body of course, is always here, but I would be lying if I told you I experienced my self as anything but discontinuous, and that's even before I got more involved with Buddhism.

Your examples only relate to the discontinuity of your consciousness of your self. You have not commented on my description above, and I’d be interested to know if there is anything with which you disagree.

DAVID: Self is not an illusion. It lives in my consciousness.
And:
DAVID: I would say it is always there, waiting to be approached, so my attention to myself is intermittent, but as it is always available it is continuous. There are no gaps in that it always feels the same.

I totally agree that our attention is intermittent, but our self also lives in our unconscious or subconscious mind. I’d also say that although it feels the same because it’s always “you”, changes can be very substantial. I gave the example earlier of the bigot, but of course all forms of psychotherapy are based on efforts to change certain elements of the self. In THAT sense, one can say its nature may be discontinuous, but I agree emphatically with you that it is NOT an illusion.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, 18:03 (63 days ago) @ dhw

Matt, when you quote us, would you please indicate who said what? Otherwise, it can get confusing. Thank you.

MATT: I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

dhw: […]. I don’t think many people would quarrel with me if I said my “self” was the sum total of all my personal attributes, whatever they maybe. […] The “ego” is also a concept or idea […] But that was not the word you used when I raised my objections to your picture of the ideal, in which we must rid ourselves of all desires, and “all concept of self must disappear”. If you had said all egotism must disappear, I would have agreed […]

MATT: […] [Ego] was the easiest word to me to represent the shift from "I AM" to "i am." The issue in Buddhism is ultimately in how we relate to ourselves, even though its outward focus is on ultimately being kind and compassionate.

dhw: still don’t know what you’re getting at, unless it really is the shift in priorities: away from egotism to awareness of the needs of others. This is one of our major topics: if the issue is how we relate to ourselves, why must we be rid of all desires (which means being rid of some of the things that give us the greatest joy in life) and “all concept of self must disappear”, so we’re not allowed to think how happy we are when we help others instead of just ourselves?

I'm just as confused.


MATT: When I or other buddhists talk about "all concept of self must disappear" (in relation to nibbana), the idea here is to understand that the "sense of self" is an experience like any other emotion--it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the "end" isn't death, it's just like any other emotion where it appears, sticks around for awhile, and then goes back.

dhw: You give the following example as a clarification:

MATT: For example, when I'm focusing on writing code for work, there is no sense of self in my mind.
You also responded to David:
MATT: My argument is simply that if I'm not thinking about it or feeling it ALL the time, then it's not continuous.

The fact that you are not thinking about your “self” does not mean your “self” isn’t there, let alone that you must get rid of it! You don’t think all the time about your heart beating, but it is. We have now left the subjects of rebirth and Nibbana (both of which I think you have your own doubts about) and the vexed question of desirable and undesirable desires, and switched to whether there really is such a thing as self. I offered my own view on this:

QUOTE: “the substance theory and illusion theory are the two most representative views, despite their contradictions. The core claim of the former is that the self is a reality, an independent entity, based on the notion that most of us intuitively perceive the sameness of our personality, memories, and recollections as if the subject “I” is always present, while the latter states that the substantial, continuous self is an illusion because our experience is always fluid.

dhw: I see this as a totally false dichotomy. For me the self is a reality, an independent identity based on personal attributes which although partially continuous may also be partially fluid. The fact that it is an independent entity does not mean that it can’t change, and the fact that it can change does not mean that it is illusory!

MATT: I mean it might be a false dichotomy, but it's an accurate description of the two main camps in Western psychology. I'm biased, but I'm for the constructivist approach. […] The sense of self as I have experienced it isn't a continuous phenomenon. This body of course, is always here, but I would be lying if I told you I experienced my self as anything but discontinuous, and that's even before I got more involved with Buddhism.

Your examples only relate to the discontinuity of your consciousness of your self. You have not commented on my description above, and I’d be interested to know if there is anything with which you disagree.

DAVID: Self is not an illusion. It lives in my consciousness.
And:
DAVID: I would say it is always there, waiting to be approached, so my attention to myself is intermittent, but as it is always available it is continuous. There are no gaps in that it always feels the same.

Matt: I totally agree that our attention is intermittent, but our self also lives in our unconscious or subconscious mind. I’d also say that although it feels the same because it’s always “you”, changes can be very substantial. I gave the example earlier of the bigot, but of course all forms of psychotherapy are based on efforts to change certain elements of the self. In THAT sense, one can say its nature may be discontinuous, but I agree emphatically with you that it is NOT an illusion.

Thank you.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, 22:09 (63 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: […] [Ego] was the easiest word to me to represent the shift from "I AM" to "i am." The issue in Buddhism is ultimately in how we relate to ourselves, even though its outward focus is on ultimately being kind and compassionate.

DHW: I still don’t know what you’re getting at, unless it really is the shift in priorities: away from egotism to awareness of the needs of others. This is one of our major topics: if the issue is how we relate to ourselves, why must we be rid of all desires (which means being rid of some of the things that give us the greatest joy in life) and “all concept of self must disappear”, so we’re not allowed to think how happy we are when we help others instead of just ourselves?

It's more than just egotism, it's in relinquishing the sense of self as it arises with your various mental phenomena. Right, so we would agree that if something happens and it causes explosive anger to rise up in you, it would be uncontroversial to check it before you did something to harm yourself or the object of your anger, correct? I've stated a version of this previously, but the degree to which you have reactive personality traits is the degree to which your sense of self sits more firmly embedded within those triggers--you're more attached. The path of becoming less reactive is another example of changing I AM" to "i am."

Pausing briefly, in

all concept of self must disappear

I have to call out two things:
1.) To achieve Nibbana your sense of self must disappear and
2.) By engaging in Buddhist practices, it leads inevitably to this. Anyone who follows the gradual training (outlined when I discussed the stages of meditation) will experience a weaker and weaker sense of self, until it's gone in Nibbana. You can stop this at any point, but you can't undo what's been done. This is a psychological transformation certainly.

I'll attempt to illustrate a couple things, both which I hope, will fill in some gaps. In explaining what the sense of self-dissolution feels like, one of my favorite meditations is in moving from the sense of my whole body, and then "expanding" it to take in the feeling of the sky. (This is poetic language, I don't know another way to phrase it.) When in this state of consciousness, there is no sense of self at all, in fact the very second it returns, the entire thing collapses. But more or less, you dissolve into the sky. At this phase, if unbidden thoughts arise, you can sense them as distant breaths. A willed thought however, collapses the entire space. I'm in my body, but I'm not experiencing the self in the slightest. The five senses are long gone. This is pure mind experience.

Now, the other side of this, is that I can sense my 'self' as other, and when my 'self' reasserts itself, this entire state disappears. It isn't like waking from a dream. In those cases, I'm very firmly in a sense of self. This is being in a state where the self is turned off. but I'm still experiencing mind. This then raises the question, "Who, or what, is the self if it's something you can consciously escape?" It isn't your mind--experiencing a literally self-less mind, it's very clear that there isn't even a sense of 'me' anymore. There's just a serene stillness where all of my normal day to day is missing. My 'true' self as it were, isn't that sense of self, it's that totally naked, bare awareness that is focusing on the mind as an object, but in a state where I can't hear, see, touch, smell, or taste anything, and my thoughts are gone as well.

Putting all that together, when the 'sense of self' (ego) intrudes, if I want to maintain the state, I don't interact with it. The second you do--that's what relinks attachment and causes the meditation to collapse. This is very similar to what happens in the next scenario you bring up.

so we’re not allowed to think how happy we are when we help others instead of just ourselves?

It's not that you're not allowed, but that tranquillity--the more you actively engage and allow yourself to be fully consumed by that content--disappears. And there's a difference between say, feeling joy, and feeling joy. Right, so when anger arises, we meet it immediately, and before dealing with its content, we recognize that there's anger within us, and the practices of compassion and loving kindness allow us to handle the content of that anger. Think of it more as moderately consuming your emotions as opposed to being ruled by them.

One of the key signs of a good teacher in Buddhism is in how gently they interact with even brash people. You have to be quite selfless (in both senses of the word) not to get agitated into unskillful behavior. Remember what I said about how deeper stages of meditation naturally last longer and longer, that's where this test comes from. Alright, gotta handle the rest of your comments...

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by dhw, Thursday, May 23, 2024, 14:11 (63 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: I still don’t know what you’re getting at, unless it really is the shift in priorities: away from egotism to awareness of the needs of others. […] if the issue is how we relate to ourselves, why must we be rid of all desires […] and “all concept of self must disappear”?

MATT: It's more than just egotism, it's in relinquishing the sense of self as it arises with your various mental phenomena. Right, so we would agree that if something happens and it causes explosive anger to rise up in you, it would be uncontroversial to check it before you did something to harm yourself or the object of your anger, correct?

Yes. Anger is a negative, damaging reaction. But why must we check the joy and enthusiasm which makes us happy but can also enable others to share our joy?

all concept of self must disappear

MATT: I have to call out two things:
1.) To achieve Nibbana your sense of self must disappear and
2.) By engaging in Buddhist practices, it leads inevitably to this.

You keep repeating this, but as above, your examples don’t explain why. Your
next one is beautiful:

MATT: One of my favorite meditations is in moving from the sense of my whole body, and then "expanding" it to take in the feeling of the sky. […] there is no sense of self at all, in fact the very second it returns, the entire thing collapses. […] I'm in my body, but I'm not experiencing the self in the slightest. The five senses are long gone. This is
pure mind experience.

You may be surprised to hear that I’ve had similar experiences: a fleeting oneness with everything, totally unconnected with the senses, entirely the product of the mind. But “I” am fully aware of it, and love it, and when I return to “normality”, I hug the experience inwardly. It is joyful and a PART of myself, not extraneous to myself.

MATT: Now, the other side of this, is that I can sense my 'self' as other, and when my 'self' reasserts itself, this entire state disappears. […]

My experience is sensing myself as part of the oneness! But it’s a feeling, much like those moments when you might look at your wife and children and be filled with love. Nothing to do with the senses or with conscious analysis. “Pure mind experience” is part of the self, and although we may then return to the baby crying, or the the lawn that needs mowing, that feeling – now a memory – remains a part of my self. And so back to your Number One: “Your sense of self must disappear”. Then it’s goodbye to the bad/miserable self, but it’s also goodbye to the good/joyful self.

dhw: so we’re not allowed to think how happy we are when we help others instead of just ourselves?

MATT: It's not that you're not allowed, but that tranquillity--the more you actively engage and allow yourself to be fully consumed by that content--disappears. […]Think of it more as moderately consuming your emotions as opposed to being ruled by them.

I accept your conclusion, though I don’t understand “consume”. Of course we should not be ruled by emotions that lead us and others to misery. But “disappearance” means no sense of self at all. The limits to our love, joy, wonderment can only be set by the extent of their positive effects on ourselves and others – but “moderation” is not “disappearance”!

You go on to discuss continuity, consciousness and illusion.

MATT: If your entire personality can be rewritten by a chance blow through your brain, what does that say about your 'self' and your feelings of continuity?

I’ve already agreed that the self is NOT continuous. (My example was the newly enlightened bigot.) But the fact that it can change does not make it an illusion. Nor does the fact that you are not always thinking about your “self”. We are a collection of attributes which may change at any time through new experiences. But possible future changes do not mean that present attributes are not real! You seem to agree, but then you say the self is an illusion.

MATT: The Buddha said this: "It is far better to think of your self as this body than it is to think of the self as this mind." His context was aimed at the Brahmin idea of the mind as an eternal soul, but it's broadly applicable and I think directly relevant to this conversation.

I’m surprised you’ve quoted it. Firstly, if Nibbana is the culmination of the process of rebirth etc. and the self is the body not the mind, then the Buddha’s Nibbana can only have been eternal death. Secondly, for you, “pure mind experience” seems to be a goal, so I don’t know how the Buddha quote is applicable. Thirdly I think it’s reasonable to distinguish between physical and mental, but I see the self as body AND mind, not OR.

I’ll leave it there, as I think it covers most of the rest of your posts.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 23, 2024, 20:40 (62 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I still don’t know what you’re getting at, unless it really is the shift in priorities: away from egotism to awareness of the needs of others. […] if the issue is how we relate to ourselves, why must we be rid of all desires […] and “all concept of self must disappear”?

MATT: It's more than just egotism, it's in relinquishing the sense of self as it arises with your various mental phenomena. Right, so we would agree that if something happens and it causes explosive anger to rise up in you, it would be uncontroversial to check it before you did something to harm yourself or the object of your anger, correct?

dhw: Yes. Anger is a negative, damaging reaction. But why must we check the joy and enthusiasm which makes us happy but can also enable others to share our joy?

all concept of self must disappear

MATT: I have to call out two things:
1.) To achieve Nibbana your sense of self must disappear and
2.) By engaging in Buddhist practices, it leads inevitably to this.

dhw: You keep repeating this, but as above, your examples don’t explain why. Your
next one is beautiful:

MATT: One of my favorite meditations is in moving from the sense of my whole body, and then "expanding" it to take in the feeling of the sky. […] there is no sense of self at all, in fact the very second it returns, the entire thing collapses. […] I'm in my body, but I'm not experiencing the self in the slightest. The five senses are long gone. This is
pure mind experience.

dhw: You may be surprised to hear that I’ve had similar experiences: a fleeting oneness with everything, totally unconnected with the senses, entirely the product of the mind. But “I” am fully aware of it, and love it, and when I return to “normality”, I hug the experience inwardly. It is joyful and a PART of myself, not extraneous to myself.

And you let the characters of your stories control and tell the story, as if your consciousness disappears.


MATT: Now, the other side of this, is that I can sense my 'self' as other, and when my 'self' reasserts itself, this entire state disappears. […]

dhw: My experience is sensing myself as part of the oneness! But it’s a feeling, much like those moments when you might look at your wife and children and be filled with love. Nothing to do with the senses or with conscious analysis. “Pure mind experience” is part of the self, and although we may then return to the baby crying, or the the lawn that needs mowing, that feeling – now a memory – remains a part of my self. And so back to your Number One: “Your sense of self must disappear”. Then it’s goodbye to the bad/miserable self, but it’s also goodbye to the good/joyful self.

dhw: so we’re not allowed to think how happy we are when we help others instead of just ourselves?

Matt: It's not that you're not allowed, but that tranquillity--the more you actively engage and allow yourself to be fully consumed by that content--disappears. […]Think of it more as moderately consuming your emotions as opposed to being ruled by them.

dhw: I accept your conclusion, though I don’t understand “consume”. Of course we should not be ruled by emotions that lead us and others to misery. But “disappearance” means no sense of self at all. The limits to our love, joy, wonderment can only be set by the extent of their positive effects on ourselves and others – but “moderation” is not “disappearance”!

You go on to discuss continuity, consciousness and illusion.

MATT: If your entire personality can be rewritten by a chance blow through your brain, what does that say about your 'self' and your feelings of continuity?

dhw: I’ve already agreed that the self is NOT continuous. (My example was the newly enlightened bigot.) But the fact that it can change does not make it an illusion. Nor does the fact that you are not always thinking about your “self”. We are a collection of attributes which may change at any time through new experiences. But possible future changes do not mean that present attributes are not real! You seem to agree, but then you say the self is an illusion.

MATT: The Buddha said this: "It is far better to think of your self as this body than it is to think of the self as this mind." His context was aimed at the Brahmin idea of the mind as an eternal soul, but it's broadly applicable and I think directly relevant to this conversation.

dhw: I’m surprised you’ve quoted it. Firstly, if Nibbana is the culmination of the process of rebirth etc. and the self is the body not the mind, then the Buddha’s Nibbana can only have been eternal death. Secondly, for you, “pure mind experience” seems to be a goal, so I don’t know how the Buddha quote is applicable. Thirdly I think it’s reasonable to distinguish between physical and mental, but I see the self as body AND mind, not OR.

I’ll leave it there, as I think it covers most of the rest of your posts.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Friday, May 24, 2024, 02:01 (62 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: You may be surprised to hear that I’ve had similar experiences: a fleeting oneness with everything, totally unconnected with the senses, entirely the product of the mind. But “I” am fully aware of it, and love it, and when I return to “normality”, I hug the experience inwardly. It is joyful and a PART of myself, not extraneous to myself.


Turell: And you let the characters of your stories control and tell the story, as if your consciousness disappears.

This is it right here, this example. When experiencing emotions of whatever stripe, avoid falling in to become a character in the story. That's what it means "to be consumed" by an emotion. You're a genius!

And yes, the "selfless" idea I'm trying to communicate would also be just like removing yourself from the story so that the characters play out under their own logics. Maybe you meant to (and I'm inclined to think so) say it like this, but this is a very good metaphor for what I'm aiming at. When I do meditations like what I was describing here, I'm more 'myself' than ever, and part of that reason is because I've escaped the skin of my day-to-day self and am just experiencing the moment. I'm light, free, without baggage.

The other stuff, the deeper Buddhist stuff, not as important right now, but the "better" or "deeper" concept of myself is as this person in the here and now, capable of treading water on the river of my mind and myself, and when meditating, I dive under the water but instead of swimming against the current in the middle of the stream, I zigzag diagonals while avoiding all of the errant thoughts or pushes of ego to try and break through the experience.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Friday, May 24, 2024, 17:04 (61 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: You may be surprised to hear that I’ve had similar experiences: a fleeting oneness with everything, totally unconnected with the senses, entirely the product of the mind. But “I” am fully aware of it, and love it, and when I return to “normality”, I hug the experience inwardly. It is joyful and a PART of myself, not extraneous to myself.


Turell: And you let the characters of your stories control and tell the story, as if your consciousness disappears.


Mattt: This is it right here, this example. When experiencing emotions of whatever stripe, avoid falling in to become a character in the story. That's what it means "to be consumed" by an emotion. You're a genius!

And yes, the "selfless" idea I'm trying to communicate would also be just like removing yourself from the story so that the characters play out under their own logics. Maybe you meant to (and I'm inclined to think so) say it like this, but this is a very good metaphor for what I'm aiming at. When I do meditations like what I was describing here, I'm more 'myself' than ever, and part of that reason is because I've escaped the skin of my day-to-day self and am just experiencing the moment. I'm light, free, without baggage.

The other stuff, the deeper Buddhist stuff, not as important right now, but the "better" or "deeper" concept of myself is as this person in the here and now, capable of treading water on the river of my mind and myself, and when meditating, I dive under the water but instead of swimming against the current in the middle of the stream, I zigzag diagonals while avoiding all of the errant thoughts or pushes of ego to try and break through the experience.

DHW and I are close friends. He told me all of his plays and children's books were produced by this free-reign system, free from him.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Friday, May 24, 2024, 18:53 (61 days ago) @ David Turell
edited by xeno6696, Friday, May 24, 2024, 18:58

The other stuff, the deeper Buddhist stuff, not as important right now, but the "better" or "deeper" concept of myself is as this person in the here and now, capable of treading water on the river of my mind and myself, and when meditating, I dive under the water but instead of swimming against the current in the middle of the stream, I zigzag diagonals while avoiding all of the errant thoughts or pushes of ego to try and break through the experience.


Turell: DHW and I are close friends. He told me all of his plays and children's books were produced by this free-reign system, free from him.

You seem to be kind of holding your hand up here... not sure why.

Part of DHW's comment before he left was in asking for clarification on what it meant to be "consumed by", in my context emotions, but it works for thoughts too.

It's clear that when you're writing, you have to engage in the content at least enough to be able to write it down, so there's a sense of self here. Nothing wrong with that. Where I would posit the "danger" would lie from the Buddhist perspective is fully immersing or "becoming" the characters, or interfering in some way. Just instead of characters in a story, substitute your own thoughts and emotions.

Especially when first sitting down to meditate, a very common problem everyone faces is that random thoughts hijack your attention. Suddenly, you're daydreaming, and you didn't ask for it, and you didn't realize you were doing it. In Zen they call this "waking up." This is the first skill we work on, and it takes a long time to make progress with it. Since switching to the Theravadan tradition I've found this much simpler. (Loving kindness, compassion, and tonglen meditations teach you to be kind to yourself AND others.) There has to be somewhat of a sense of self in order to do this, the first big lesson for me is that you have to be somewhat active mentally, If you try to just sit there and passively watch, you're gonna get hijacked all the time.

As I think about dhw's commentary, I think alot of this... "debate" isn't quite the right word, but I think it's saying something similar but with totally different terminology. I'm not at all familiar with dhw's usage.

At the same time at least when it comes to my own understanding of things in my own head, it's quite clear what the differences are between my attention (or bare awareness as I like to say) and then the mental processes that either try to force me to focus on the past or the future or what I'd like to have for lunch today. The part of Zen that still influences me and is still where most people get introduce to the ideas, is that whatever you're supposed to be doing right now, do that, allow distractions to fall away. Part of why I brought up Phineas Gage is that I could get damaged so badly, that all my memories about myself disappear. I would still have my attention, or my "bare awareness," but a big part of what I (used to) use to identify myself--would be gone. I hope that helps explain a bit more.

The Buddhist perspective--where it goes supernatural really--is that those memories still exist in my mind. They would be available to me if instead of relying on my brain I tapped into my mind which has a link to "whatever it is" in the universe where my memories are imprinted. This relates back to the Buddha's quote about self, mind, and body--which I will return to once dhw gets back.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 25, 2024, 20:49 (60 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: The other stuff, the deeper Buddhist stuff, not as important right now, but the "better" or "deeper" concept of myself is as this person in the here and now, capable of treading water on the river of my mind and myself, and when meditating, I dive under the water but instead of swimming against the current in the middle of the stream, I zigzag diagonals while avoiding all of the errant thoughts or pushes of ego to try and break through the experience.


Turell: DHW and I are close friends. He told me all of his plays and children's books were produced by this free-reign system, free from him.


Matt: You seem to be kind of holding your hand up here... not sure why.

I was fascinated by his description. The characters take over and write the story.


Part of DHW's comment before he left was in asking for clarification on what it meant to be "consumed by", in my context emotions, but it works for thoughts too.

Matt: It's clear that when you're writing, you have to engage in the content at least enough to be able to write it down, so there's a sense of self here. Nothing wrong with that. Where I would posit the "danger" would lie from the Buddhist perspective is fully immersing or "becoming" the characters, or interfering in some way. Just instead of characters in a story, substitute your own thoughts and emotions.

Especially when first sitting down to meditate, a very common problem everyone faces is that random thoughts hijack your attention. Suddenly, you're daydreaming, and you didn't ask for it, and you didn't realize you were doing it. In Zen they call this "waking up." This is the first skill we work on, and it takes a long time to make progress with it. Since switching to the Theravadan tradition I've found this much simpler. (Loving kindness, compassion, and tonglen meditations teach you to be kind to yourself AND others.) There has to be somewhat of a sense of self in order to do this, the first big lesson for me is that you have to be somewhat active mentally, If you try to just sit there and passively watch, you're gonna get hijacked all the time.

As I think about dhw's commentary, I think alot of this... "debate" isn't quite the right word, but I think it's saying something similar but with totally different terminology. I'm not at all familiar with dhw's usage.

At the same time at least when it comes to my own understanding of things in my own head, it's quite clear what the differences are between my attention (or bare awareness as I like to say) and then the mental processes that either try to force me to focus on the past or the future or what I'd like to have for lunch today. The part of Zen that still influences me and is still where most people get introduce to the ideas, is that whatever you're supposed to be doing right now, do that, allow distractions to fall away. Part of why I brought up Phineas Gage is that I could get damaged so badly, that all my memories about myself disappear. I would still have my attention, or my "bare awareness," but a big part of what I (used to) use to identify myself--would be gone. I hope that helps explain a bit more.

The Buddhist perspective--where it goes supernatural really--is that those memories still exist in my mind. They would be available to me if instead of relying on my brain I tapped into my mind which has a link to "whatever it is" in the universe where my memories are imprinted. This relates back to the Buddha's quote about self, mind, and body--which I will return to once dhw gets back.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by dhw, Saturday, May 25, 2024, 13:33 (61 days ago) @ xeno6696

I’m going to try to summarize our discussion, as it’s now covering so much ground that there is a danger of confusion rather than enlightenment!

We began with examples of rebirth (people remembering events before they were born), and has since branched out in two different directions: Buddhism as therapy, and Buddhist concepts such as rebirth, the route to and nature of “Nibbana”, the nature of the self. With regard to therapy, I believe this is necessary when the balance of the self has been disturbed (i.e. something has gone wrong). After traumatic experiences, Matt has found the answer in learning to control self-centredness and foster a degree of detachment from whatever threatens his tranquillity. David and I have not needed this therapy (see below). 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. I kick hard against this, because the conscious fulfilment of desires can be the source of the most joyful experiences of our lives. (This may include the desire to help others.) My view is that what must disappear are any desires or concepts of the self that might cause harm to oneself or to others. I hope that’s a fair summary of the therapy discussion, and I think it’s supported by this exchange:

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.

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”.

The second area of discussion concerns certain forms of what I’d call “doctrine”: rebirth, the reasons for rebirth (seen basically as virtually a punishment for the sins of the past, which need to be rectified), the course that must be followed in order to end the cycle of rebirth, and the nature of Nirbanna/Nirvana once the cycle of rebirth is ended. All of this overlaps with discussions on the “self”, but takes these into a different – in my view far more controversial - context from that of coping with the here and now.

In reply to points made while I was away yesterday:

DAVID: dhw and I are close friends. He told me all of his plays and children's books were produced by this free-reign system, free from him.

MATT: It's clear that when you're writing, you have to engage in the content at least enough to be able to write it down, so there's a sense of self here. Nothing wrong with that. Where I would posit the "danger" would lie from the Buddhist perspective is fully immersing or "becoming" the characters, or interfering in some way. Just instead of characters in a story, substitute your own thoughts and emotions.

I can only speak for myself, although I know plenty of other writers have the same experience. The process involves different layers of consciousness. The characters and the story emerge (presumably from my subconscious, as in dreams) and I watch/listen to them, and am fully aware that I am writing down what they do and say. Sometimes I’m even puzzled by what they do or say, but I’ve learnt to be faithful, and very often it’s only later that I understand. But sometimes it turns out that my conscious mind was right, and something has to be changed. I don’t know where all this is meant to fit into the question of what is the self, but I see absolutely no “danger” here, other than the possibility that what I’m writing will later bore me or bore other people! Perhaps – as with literature generally – this temporary sharing of lives enables me/all of us to have experiences we would not otherwise have had (whether comic or tragic). It is or should be an enrichment, and for some writers even a therapy. Perhaps a bit of both, depending on WHAT they write!

MATT: (referring to a friend’s beliefs) It appears that Buddhism uses a slightly different definition for materialism than what I'm used to, but for sure, he was clear that any religion that believes in a single creation event is by definition materialist.—

We would need to know his definition of materialism, which conventionally means the belief that matter is the only reality. Believers believe in an immaterial God who created a material universe, i.e. a conscious mind created and used matter. Materialists don't know how the material universe created itself or created life and conscious minds, but they believe it did. And so materialism and its opposite - dualism - are matters of belief. In the context of religion, if your friend really thinks that materialism is by definition belief in an immaterial God, or belief in an immaterial God is by definition materialism, then I suggest he attends a course in semantics as soon as possible.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 25, 2024, 21:44 (60 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I’m going to try to summarize our discussion, as it’s now covering so much ground that there is a danger of confusion rather than enlightenment!

We began with examples of rebirth (people remembering events before they were born), and has since branched out in two different directions: Buddhism as therapy, and Buddhist concepts such as rebirth, the route to and nature of “Nibbana”, the nature of the self. With regard to therapy, I believe this is necessary when the balance of the self has been disturbed (i.e. something has gone wrong). After traumatic experiences, Matt has found the answer in learning to control self-centredness and foster a degree of detachment from whatever threatens his tranquillity. David and I have not needed this therapy (see below). 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. I kick hard against this, because the conscious fulfilment of desires can be the source of the most joyful experiences of our lives. (This may include the desire to help others.) My view is that what must disappear are any desires or concepts of the self that might cause harm to oneself or to others. I hope that’s a fair summary of the therapy discussion, and I think it’s supported by this exchange:

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”.

The second area of discussion concerns certain forms of what I’d call “doctrine”: rebirth, the reasons for rebirth (seen basically as virtually a punishment for the sins of the past, which need to be rectified), the course that must be followed in order to end the cycle of rebirth, and the nature of Nirbanna/Nirvana once the cycle of rebirth is ended. All of this overlaps with discussions on the “self”, but takes these into a different – in my view far more controversial - context from that of coping with the here and now.

In reply to points made while I was away yesterday:

DAVID: dhw and I are close friends. He told me all of his plays and children's books were produced by this free-reign system, free from him.

MATT: It's clear that when you're writing, you have to engage in the content at least enough to be able to write it down, so there's a sense of self here. Nothing wrong with that. Where I would posit the "danger" would lie from the Buddhist perspective is fully immersing or "becoming" the characters, or interfering in some way. Just instead of characters in a story, substitute your own thoughts and emotions.

dhw: I can only speak for myself, although I know plenty of other writers have the same experience. The process involves different layers of consciousness. The characters and the story emerge (presumably from my subconscious, as in dreams) and I watch/listen to them, and am fully aware that I am writing down what they do and say. Sometimes I’m even puzzled by what they do or say, but I’ve learnt to be faithful, and very often it’s only later that I understand. But sometimes it turns out that my conscious mind was right, and something has to be changed. I don’t know where all this is meant to fit into the question of what is the self, but I see absolutely no “danger” here, other than the possibility that what I’m writing will later bore me or bore other people! Perhaps – as with literature generally – this temporary sharing of lives enables me/all of us to have experiences we would not otherwise have had (whether comic or tragic). It is or should be an enrichment, and for some writers even a therapy. Perhaps a bit of both, depending on WHAT they write!

Thank you for clarifying my second hand dsecription.


MATT: (referring to a friend’s beliefs) It appears that Buddhism uses a slightly different definition for materialism than what I'm used to, but for sure, he was clear that any religion that believes in a single creation event is by definition materialist.—

dhw: We would need to know his definition of materialism, which conventionally means the belief that matter is the only reality. Believers believe in an immaterial God who created a material universe, i.e. a conscious mind created and used matter. Materialists don't know how the material universe created itself or created life and conscious minds, but they believe it did. And so materialism and its opposite - dualism - are matters of belief. In the context of religion, if your friend really thinks that materialism is by definition belief in an immaterial God, or belief in an immaterial God is by definition materialism, then I suggest he attends a course in semantics as soon as possible.

A nice summary.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, May 25, 2024, 21:49 (60 days ago) @ dhw
edited by xeno6696, Saturday, May 25, 2024, 21:59

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”.

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.

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.

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.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by dhw, Sunday, May 26, 2024, 08:49 (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.

Thank you.

MATT: 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.

I’m sorry, but I find this confusing, so please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood something. Firstly, I see no way in which the self can be “unconditioned”: it is conditioned by a variety of factors, including heredity, upbringing, society etc. and, very importantly, experience, which is why it is NOT continuous but is a reality subject to changes. Secondly, there is no way it can be synonymous with consciousness, since vast areas of our self – including the organs of the body and the subconscious “mind” – function quite independently of consciousness. I have no idea what is meant by literally touching the bottom of consciousness, but of course if our self dies with our body, it is discontinuous in the sense that it comes to an end.

MATT (to me): 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.

I am equally puzzled by your insistence. At any one moment, we will generally only be “using” part of of our self. If I’m focusing on writing a play, I’m using my imagination and those parts of the body that are needed to record the words of the dialogue I am imagining. That doesn’t mean that my love of cricket no longer exists! The self is the total of all our personal attributes. What you are saying amounts simply to the fact that we are only conscious of them when we are conscious of them! As an analogy, I have flat feet. You seem to be saying that if I’m not thinking about my flat feet, I don’t have flat feet.

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!
[…] 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.

I’ve left out the rest of your statement because the misunderstanding is apparent on both sides. If you read my comment above, you’ll see that our disagreement has nothing to do with your personal circumstances. It is the Buddhist “doctrine” that I oppose: namely, the belief that for someone to achieve the ideal of Nibbana, they must lose all concept of self and all desires. I’m delighted that you have found your own “balance” without what I consider to be a renunciation of all that I consider to be fundamental to the enjoyment and I might even say the value of human life (in the context of those desires that benefit us and others). I think we actually agree - but I'm sure you'll tell me if we don't!

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Sunday, May 26, 2024, 17:07 (59 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I’m sorry, but I find this confusing, so please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood something. Firstly, I see no way in which the self can be “unconditioned”: it is conditioned by a variety of factors, including heredity, upbringing, society etc. and, very importantly, experience, which is why it is NOT continuous but is a reality subject to changes. Secondly, there is no way it can be synonymous with consciousness, since vast areas of our self – including the organs of the body and the subconscious “mind” – function quite independently of consciousness. I have no idea what is meant by literally touching the bottom of consciousness, but of course if our self dies with our body, it is discontinuous in the sense that it comes to an end.

I'm going to be repeating myself here, so I'll be concise, and if you want more detail, I've already posted it. The "bottom of consciousness" is Nibbana. The stages of meditation as described on my 2nd/3rd posting on this thread outlines the snapshots in time that one progresses through on the way towards that final "reaching bottom." Once you reach Nibbana, my interpretation is that conditioned existence stops for that person. All the way through those stages, the self becomes less and less, and in several teachings attributed to the Buddha, the hardest and last thing to go is that final thread connecting the mind to what I've been calling "I AM."

Look, let me be honest, understanding Nibbana is hard even for many Buddhists, the only thing I can tell you is that it is absolutely true that the deeper and more peaceful the meditation, the more my sense of self gets silenced, and the longer it takes for it to return. There's a "there" in that compass point. When I'm in that state, thoughts don't intrude on my attention, and I can call up things at will, and it's even easier to solve logic problems for work. Whatever your understanding of Nibbana is, delete it, and start from what I'm just telling you in this paragraph. I've been very careful to refer to Nibbana as the extinguishing of the sense of self throughout this exchange.

MATT (to me): 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.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 26, 2024, 17:37 (59 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: I’m sorry, but I find this confusing, so please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood something. Firstly, I see no way in which the self can be “unconditioned”: it is conditioned by a variety of factors, including heredity, upbringing, society etc. and, very importantly, experience, which is why it is NOT continuous but is a reality subject to changes. Secondly, there is no way it can be synonymous with consciousness, since vast areas of our self – including the organs of the body and the subconscious “mind” – function quite independently of consciousness. I have no idea what is meant by literally touching the bottom of consciousness, but of course if our self dies with our body, it is discontinuous in the sense that it comes to an end.


Matt: I'm going to be repeating myself here, so I'll be concise, and if you want more detail, I've already posted it. The "bottom of consciousness" is Nibbana. The stages of meditation as described on my 2nd/3rd posting on this thread outlines the snapshots in time that one progresses through on the way towards that final "reaching bottom." Once you reach Nibbana, my interpretation is that conditioned existence stops for that person. All the way through those stages, the self becomes less and less, and in several teachings attributed to the Buddha, the hardest and last thing to go is that final thread connecting the mind to what I've been calling "I AM."

Look, let me be honest, understanding Nibbana is hard even for many Buddhists, the only thing I can tell you is that it is absolutely true that the deeper and more peaceful the meditation, the more my sense of self gets silenced, and the longer it takes for it to return. There's a "there" in that compass point. When I'm in that state, thoughts don't intrude on my attention, and I can call up things at will, and it's even easier to solve logic problems for work. Whatever your understanding of Nibbana is, delete it, and start from what I'm just telling you in this paragraph. I've been very careful to refer to Nibbana as the extinguishing of the sense of self throughout this exchange.

MATT (to me): 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.

The way I view your description, is you lose consciousness of 'self' but always return to it. So even if discontinuous, it is always available to return to it. It is never lost.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 22:14 (57 days ago) @ David Turell

MATT (to me): 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.


The way I view your description, is you lose consciousness of 'self' but always return to it. So even if discontinuous, it is always available to return to it. It is never lost.

If you take your 'self' to be that bare aware "in the now" consciousness, you are correct, but dhw is taking a definition that includes more than just that. See my comment re: Phineas Gage again.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 23:34 (57 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT (to me): 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.


DAVID: vThe way I view your description, is you lose consciousness of 'self' but always return to it. So even if discontinuous, it is always available to return to it. It is never lost.


If you take your 'self' to be that bare aware "in the now" consciousness, you are correct, but dhw is taking a definition that includes more than just that. See my comment re: Phineas Gage again.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Sunday, May 26, 2024, 17:09 (59 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I am equally puzzled by your insistence. At any one moment, we will generally only be “using” part of of our self. If I’m focusing on writing a play, I’m using my imagination and those parts of the body that are needed to record the words of the dialogue I am imagining. That doesn’t mean that my love of cricket no longer exists! The self is the total of all our personal attributes. What you are saying amounts simply to the fact that we are only conscious of them when we are conscious of them! As an analogy, I have flat feet. You seem to be saying that if I’m not thinking about my flat feet, I don’t have flat feet.

I was trying to delete that "insistence" bit on editing, but for whatever reason, it kept coming back. Please don't focus on that part.

To understand me better, go back to where I brought up Phineas Gage. I believe you take for granted the idea that your love for cricket will always be there. If trauma befell you, and wiped out half or more of your memories including your love of cricket, what you just said here is false. Your love of cricket exists only so long as that conditioning remains in your head. By that logic, I say that your love of cricket, only exists when it's the direct focus of your mind, and disappears when you're not looking at it. I've spent time with Alzheimer's patients, and I've read the accounts of how schizophrenics feel as their sense of self dissolves into the cacophony of their voices. This has given me a healthy skepticism in regards to my relationship with those bits that feel like they have alot more permanence than they do.

If we're talking physical body parts, that's (literally) alot more solid. The errant thinking though is that your love of cricket has the same level of permanence and reality as your feet. The Buddhist perspective here would be, "have you loved your feet lately? Might want to show them some appreciation for all they do for you." It's not unlike the stoic practice of pretending that someone or something in your life has died or gone missing. This practice makes you appreciate and show gratitude for what you have, because it might not be there. (More powerful for people or loved ones but you get the idea.)

dhw: I’ve left out the rest of your statement because the misunderstanding is apparent on both sides. If you read my comment above, you’ll see that our disagreement has nothing to do with your personal circumstances. It is the Buddhist “doctrine” that I oppose: namely, the belief that for someone to achieve the ideal of Nibbana, they must lose all concept of self and all desires. I’m delighted that you have found your own “balance” without what I consider to be a renunciation of all that I consider to be fundamental to the enjoyment and I might even say the value of human life (in the context of those desires that benefit us and others). I think we actually agree - but I'm sure you'll tell me if we don't!

The personal circumstances bit is soley to level set, because I feel almost ignored by having to repeat that Nibbana line as many times as I have. Buddhism doesn't say to restore the "vital balance" you do those things. It only says 'if you want to transcend *all* suffering, do these things.' I will restate again, concisely:

I've already answered the doctrine part: If you're on the path to Nibbana, it is impossible to avoid the dissolution of the sense of self, and it is impossible not to become more ascetic, wordly desires get replaced by meditative desires. It happens naturally according to practice. That is why "must" is used. Nibbana literally means you've severed the last little thread of attachment to the ego in this life. And that bit of doctrine, isn't relevant for any of use who are otherwise living normal lives. Every Buddhist is not seeking Nibbana. This is categorically different from Western Christianity which I don't recall if you were forced through (but I certainly was). I only spent two years of my life going to church, but it was literally more hell than I could imagine south of heaven.

It's Buddhist Doctrine because Nibbana was his discovery and the rest of the teaching is in how to replicate it. It's called the "Middle Way" because just prior to his own enlightenment he was engaging in some pretty tortuous ascetic practices and he realized that way was just pain. The search for all of these aspirants was to either become one with Brahma or to find the 'self.'

I guess from my perspective, it seems like you're taking aim at the Buddhist ideal from the perspective where it's ineffable (like God.) I've tried to demonstrate with the compass analogy, that whatever it is that YOU think Nibbana is, I think your conception is mistaken. See my comment above where I talk about how meditation naturally suppresses the sense of self and just do what I do and take that to the logical conclusion where Nibbana is a state of mind where you're not caught in the wind anymore.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 26, 2024, 17:44 (59 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: I am equally puzzled by your insistence. At any one moment, we will generally only be “using” part of of our self. If I’m focusing on writing a play, I’m using my imagination and those parts of the body that are needed to record the words of the dialogue I am imagining. That doesn’t mean that my love of cricket no longer exists! The self is the total of all our personal attributes. What you are saying amounts simply to the fact that we are only conscious of them when we are conscious of them! As an analogy, I have flat feet. You seem to be saying that if I’m not thinking about my flat feet, I don’t have flat feet.


Matt: I was trying to delete that "insistence" bit on editing, but for whatever reason, it kept coming back. Please don't focus on that part.

To understand me better, go back to where I brought up Phineas Gage. I believe you take for granted the idea that your love for cricket will always be there. If trauma befell you, and wiped out half or more of your memories including your love of cricket, what you just said here is false. Your love of cricket exists only so long as that conditioning remains in your head. By that logic, I say that your love of cricket, only exists when it's the direct focus of your mind, and disappears when you're not looking at it. I've spent time with Alzheimer's patients, and I've read the accounts of how schizophrenics feel as their sense of self dissolves into the cacophony of their voices. This has given me a healthy skepticism in regards to my relationship with those bits that feel like they have alot more permanence than they do.

If we're talking physical body parts, that's (literally) alot more solid. The errant thinking though is that your love of cricket has the same level of permanence and reality as your feet. The Buddhist perspective here would be, "have you loved your feet lately? Might want to show them some appreciation for all they do for you." It's not unlike the stoic practice of pretending that someone or something in your life has died or gone missing. This practice makes you appreciate and show gratitude for what you have, because it might not be there. (More powerful for people or loved ones but you get the idea.)

dhw: I’ve left out the rest of your statement because the misunderstanding is apparent on both sides. If you read my comment above, you’ll see that our disagreement has nothing to do with your personal circumstances. It is the Buddhist “doctrine” that I oppose: namely, the belief that for someone to achieve the ideal of Nibbana, they must lose all concept of self and all desires. I’m delighted that you have found your own “balance” without what I consider to be a renunciation of all that I consider to be fundamental to the enjoyment and I might even say the value of human life (in the context of those desires that benefit us and others). I think we actually agree - but I'm sure you'll tell me if we don't!


Matt: The personal circumstances bit is soley to level set, because I feel almost ignored by having to repeat that Nibbana line as many times as I have. Buddhism doesn't say to restore the "vital balance" you do those things. It only says 'if you want to transcend *all* suffering, do these things.' I will restate again, concisely:

I've already answered the doctrine part: If you're on the path to Nibbana, it is impossible to avoid the dissolution of the sense of self, and it is impossible not to become more ascetic, wordly desires get replaced by meditative desires. It happens naturally according to practice. That is why "must" is used. Nibbana literally means you've severed the last little thread of attachment to the ego in this life. And that bit of doctrine, isn't relevant for any of use who are otherwise living normal lives. Every Buddhist is not seeking Nibbana. This is categorically different from Western Christianity which I don't recall if you were forced through (but I certainly was). I only spent two years of my life going to church, but it was literally more hell than I could imagine south of heaven.

It's Buddhist Doctrine because Nibbana was his discovery and the rest of the teaching is in how to replicate it. It's called the "Middle Way" because just prior to his own enlightenment he was engaging in some pretty tortuous ascetic practices and he realized that way was just pain. The search for all of these aspirants was to either become one with Brahma or to find the 'self.'

I guess from my perspective, it seems like you're taking aim at the Buddhist ideal from the perspective where it's ineffable (like God.) I've tried to demonstrate with the compass analogy, that whatever it is that YOU think Nibbana is, I think your conception is mistaken. See my comment above where I talk about how meditation naturally suppresses the sense of self and just do what I do and take that to the logical conclusion where Nibbana is a state of mind where you're not caught in the wind anymore.

As in the other thread, I understand you lose a sense of self in meditation but can always return to it.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 22:18 (57 days ago) @ David Turell

I guess from my perspective, it seems like you're taking aim at the Buddhist ideal from the perspective where it's ineffable (like God.) I've tried to demonstrate with the compass analogy, that whatever it is that YOU think Nibbana is, I think your conception is mistaken. See my comment above where I talk about how meditation naturally suppresses the sense of self and just do what I do and take that to the logical conclusion where Nibbana is a state of mind where you're not caught in the wind anymore.


As in the other thread, I understand you lose a sense of self in meditation but can always return to it.

And if you die in your sleep?

There's a bigger picture that I'm aiming at here. If I take my love of philosophy as a concrete part of my 'self,' and I lose half my memories due to some trauma, then I'm lying. Part of what I'm trying to convey is that what we take as our 'self' is often the result of a story and a timeline that we construct about ourselves, another way to phrase where I'm going is to drop the story and live in the moment.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by dhw, Monday, May 27, 2024, 11:47 (59 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: I’m sorry, but I find this confusing, so please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood something. Firstly, I see no way in which the self can be “unconditioned”: it is conditioned by a variety of factors, including heredity, upbringing, society etc. and, very importantly, experience, which is why it is NOT continuous but is a reality subject to changes. Secondly, there is no way it can be synonymous with consciousness, since vast areas of our self – including the organs of the body and the subconscious “mind” – function quite independently of consciousness. I have no idea what is meant by literally touching the bottom of consciousness, but of course if our self dies with our body, it is discontinuous in the sense that it comes to an end. [See below re the bolded sentence]

MATT: […] The "bottom of consciousness" is Nibbana.

My comment above dealt almost entirely with concepts of the self. My only comment on “Nibbana” was in response to your telling us that according to the Buddha, if you get to Nibbana, there is no eternal self, and so the sense of self is discontinuous.

MATT: Once you reach Nibbana, my interpretation is that conditioned existence stops for that person. […] the hardest and last thing to go is that final thread connecting the mind to what I've been calling "I AM."

“Conditioned existence” presumably means there can be no more experiences. The final thread is clearly consciousness of the self, which ties in with the concept that has caused us so much trouble: “all concept of self must disappear”. My one and only point is that if there is no concept of self, and there is no eternal self, then Nibbana means death.

MATT: Look, let me be honest, understanding Nibbana is hard even for many Buddhists, the only thing I can tell you is that it is absolutely true that the deeper and more peaceful the meditation, the more my sense of self gets silenced...

The discussion about Nibbana is not meant in any way to denigrate the personal, therapeutic effects of meditation. I’m concerned here ONLY with the meaning of Nibbana, which is supposed to be the ultimate goal for those who want to get there.

MATT: I've been very careful to refer to Nibbana as the extinguishing of the sense of self throughout this exchange.

So if Nibbana = no sense of self, and there is no eternal self, and the cycle of rebirth is over, there is no longer a “you”, and that is why I suggest that Nibbana means death.

The self

dhw: At any one moment, we will generally only be “using” part of our self. If I’m focusing on writing a play, I’m using my imagination and those parts of the body that are needed to record the words of the dialogue I am imagining. That doesn’t mean that my love of cricket no longer exists! The self is the total of all our personal attributes. What you are saying amounts simply to the fact that we are only conscious of them when we are conscious of them! As an analogy, I have flat feet. You seem to be saying that if I’m not thinking about my flat feet, I don’t have flat feet.

MATT: To understand me better, go back to where I brought up Phineas Gage. I believe you take for granted the idea that your love for cricket will always be there.

Of course I don’t. I keep agreeing that the self is NOT continuous. Please look at the bold at the start of this post. And last week I wrote: “I have already agreed that the self is NOT continuous. (My example was the newly enlightened bigot.) But the fact that it can change does not make it an illusion.”

MATT: If we're talking physical body parts, that's (literally) alot more solid. The errant thinking though is that your love of cricket has the same level of permanence and reality as your feet.

I never said or thought it did. My point is that we are not conscious all the time of everything that is there, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there! (Contd. in Part Two)

Nibbana tangent part 2

by dhw, Monday, May 27, 2024, 11:53 (59 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I’ve left out the rest of your statement because the misunderstanding is apparent on both sides. If you read my comment above, you’ll see that our disagreement has nothing to do with your personal circumstances. It is the Buddhist “doctrine” that I oppose: namely, the belief that for someone to achieve the ideal of Nibbana, they must lose all concept of self and all desires. I’m delighted that you have found your own “balance” without what I consider to be a renunciation of all that I consider to be fundamental to the enjoyment and I might even say the value of human life (in the context of those desires that benefit us and others). I think we actually agree - but I'm sure you'll tell me if we don't!

MATT: The personal circumstances bit is soley to level set, because I feel almost ignored by having to repeat that Nibbana line as many times as I have. Buddhism doesn't say to restore the "vital balance" you do those things. It only says 'if you want to transcend *all* suffering, do these things.' […] If you're on the path to Nibbana, it is impossible to avoid the dissolution of the sense of self, and it is impossible not to become more ascetic, worldly desires get replaced by meditative desires.

The “vital balance” is the therapeutic side, which I can only applaud. I understand the attraction of the monastic life if your aim is to avoid all suffering. You and I clearly agree that there is more to life than avoiding all suffering, because (I think) you and I also want to enjoy life, which frequently entails the fulfilment of our desires, providing they do not harm others (and preferably that they also help others). I don’t see any disagreement here.

MATT: it seems like you're taking aim at the Buddhist ideal from the perspective where it's ineffable (like God.) I've tried to demonstrate with the compass analogy, that whatever it is that YOU think Nibbana is, I think your conception is mistaken.

If by taking aim you mean criticizing, I do most certainly criticize the “doctrine” that encourages people to “lose all concept of self” and abandon all desires. No need to repeat the arguments. I do not criticize the concept of Nibanna. I’m trying to understand it. But clearly, if we reach the point where something is ineffable, it can’t be discussed with words, and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken! All I have done is examine the words you have used, and extrapolate conclusions: if you tell me that Nibanna means that all concept of self disappears and there is no such thing as an eternal self, my conclusion is that you might as well be dead. (By the way, I don’t have a problem with eternal death. But since I love life, I'd like to delay my death as long as possible!)

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Monday, May 27, 2024, 17:05 (58 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I’ve left out the rest of your statement because the misunderstanding is apparent on both sides. If you read my comment above, you’ll see that our disagreement has nothing to do with your personal circumstances. It is the Buddhist “doctrine” that I oppose: namely, the belief that for someone to achieve the ideal of Nibbana, they must lose all concept of self and all desires. I’m delighted that you have found your own “balance” without what I consider to be a renunciation of all that I consider to be fundamental to the enjoyment and I might even say the value of human life (in the context of those desires that benefit us and others). I think we actually agree - but I'm sure you'll tell me if we don't!

MATT: The personal circumstances bit is soley to level set, because I feel almost ignored by having to repeat that Nibbana line as many times as I have. Buddhism doesn't say to restore the "vital balance" you do those things. It only says 'if you want to transcend *all* suffering, do these things.' […] If you're on the path to Nibbana, it is impossible to avoid the dissolution of the sense of self, and it is impossible not to become more ascetic, worldly desires get replaced by meditative desires.

dhw: The “vital balance” is the therapeutic side, which I can only applaud. I understand the attraction of the monastic life if your aim is to avoid all suffering. You and I clearly agree that there is more to life than avoiding all suffering, because (I think) you and I also want to enjoy life, which frequently entails the fulfilment of our desires, providing they do not harm others (and preferably that they also help others). I don’t see any disagreement here.

MATT: it seems like you're taking aim at the Buddhist ideal from the perspective where it's ineffable (like God.) I've tried to demonstrate with the compass analogy, that whatever it is that YOU think Nibbana is, I think your conception is mistaken.

dhw: If by taking aim you mean criticizing, I do most certainly criticize the “doctrine” that encourages people to “lose all concept of self” and abandon all desires. No need to repeat the arguments. I do not criticize the concept of Nibanna. I’m trying to understand it. But clearly, if we reach the point where something is ineffable, it can’t be discussed with words, and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken! All I have done is examine the words you have used, and extrapolate conclusions: if you tell me that Nibanna means that all concept of self disappears and there is no such thing as an eternal self, my conclusion is that you might as well be dead. (By the way, I don’t have a problem with eternal death. But since I love life, I'd like to delay my death as long as possible!)

This last point is pure Adler. God is ineffable, and 'can't be discussed in words and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken!'. Welcome to one of Adler's guiding points.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 22:27 (57 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: If by taking aim you mean criticizing, I do most certainly criticize the “doctrine” that encourages people to “lose all concept of self” and abandon all desires. No need to repeat the arguments. I do not criticize the concept of Nibanna. I’m trying to understand it. But clearly, if we reach the point where something is ineffable, it can’t be discussed with words, and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken! All I have done is examine the words you have used, and extrapolate conclusions: if you tell me that Nibanna means that all concept of self disappears and there is no such thing as an eternal self, my conclusion is that you might as well be dead. (By the way, I don’t have a problem with eternal death. But since I love life, I'd like to delay my death as long as possible!)


This last point is pure Adler. God is ineffable, and 'can't be discussed in words and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken!'. Welcome to one of Adler's guiding points.

Well, to be fair, I did start in the beginning of this to state that religions have their 'mysteries', in Christianity it's the resurrection, in Buddhism it's Nibbana. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what happens past that point. However, as I've also stated, from what I've experienced it doesn't 'feel' all that ineffable. That compass analogy.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Mat: Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 23:39 (57 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: If by taking aim you mean criticizing, I do most certainly criticize the “doctrine” that encourages people to “lose all concept of self” and abandon all desires. No need to repeat the arguments. I do not criticize the concept of Nibanna. I’m trying to understand it. But clearly, if we reach the point where something is ineffable, it can’t be discussed with words, and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken! All I have done is examine the words you have used, and extrapolate conclusions: if you tell me that Nibanna means that all concept of self disappears and there is no such thing as an eternal self, my conclusion is that you might as well be dead. (By the way, I don’t have a problem with eternal death. But since I love life, I'd like to delay my death as long as possible!)


DAVID: This last point is pure Adler. God is ineffable, and 'can't be discussed in words and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken!'. Welcome to one of Adler's guiding points.


Matt: Well, to be fair, I did start in the beginning of this to state that religions have their 'mysteries', in Christianity it's the resurrection, in Buddhism it's Nibbana. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what happens past that point. However, as I've also stated, from what I've experienced it doesn't 'feel' all that ineffable. That compass analogy.

I understand that feeling of yours, but the mystery I'm addressing is how our words directly react to God at His level of exitance.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 22:24 (57 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: it seems like you're taking aim at the Buddhist ideal from the perspective where it's ineffable (like God.) I've tried to demonstrate with the compass analogy, that whatever it is that YOU think Nibbana is, I think your conception is mistaken.

If by taking aim you mean criticizing, I do most certainly criticize the “doctrine” that encourages people to “lose all concept of self” and abandon all desires. No need to repeat the arguments. I do not criticize the concept of Nibanna. I’m trying to understand it. But clearly, if we reach the point where something is ineffable, it can’t be discussed with words, and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken! All I have done is examine the words you have used, and extrapolate conclusions: if you tell me that Nibanna means that all concept of self disappears and there is no such thing as an eternal self, my conclusion is that you might as well be dead. (By the way, I don’t have a problem with eternal death. But since I love life, I'd like to delay my death as long as possible!)

Okay, explain to me how it can mean death, when the Buddha (and many of his other followers who achieved Nibbana) could be alive for 40+ yrs? Like, your insistence that it means some sort of final death makes absolutely no sense to me. I've tried to explain this in various ways, so instead I'll ask you to explain yourself, because clearly I'm missing something. When I come back from a meditation, I'm still myself but my sense of self is gone and it takes awhile for it to come back. There's nothing at all about that that feels particularly "dead" to me.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Monday, May 27, 2024, 16:56 (58 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I’m sorry, but I find this confusing, so please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood something. Firstly, I see no way in which the self can be “unconditioned”: it is conditioned by a variety of factors, including heredity, upbringing, society etc. and, very importantly, experience, which is why it is NOT continuous but is a reality subject to changes. Secondly, there is no way it can be synonymous with consciousness, since vast areas of our self – including the organs of the body and the subconscious “mind” – function quite independently of consciousness. I have no idea what is meant by literally touching the bottom of consciousness, but of course if our self dies with our body, it is discontinuous in the sense that it comes to an end. [See below re the bolded sentence]

MATT: […] The "bottom of consciousness" is Nibbana.

dhw: My comment above dealt almost entirely with concepts of the self. My only comment on “Nibbana” was in response to your telling us that according to the Buddha, if you get to Nibbana, there is no eternal self, and so the sense of self is discontinuous.

MATT: Once you reach Nibbana, my interpretation is that conditioned existence stops for that person. […] the hardest and last thing to go is that final thread connecting the mind to what I've been calling "I AM."

dhw: “Conditioned existence” presumably means there can be no more experiences. The final thread is clearly consciousness of the self, which ties in with the concept that has caused us so much trouble: “all concept of self must disappear”. My one and only point is that if there is no concept of self, and there is no eternal self, then Nibbana means death.

MATT: Look, let me be honest, understanding Nibbana is hard even for many Buddhists, the only thing I can tell you is that it is absolutely true that the deeper and more peaceful the meditation, the more my sense of self gets silenced...

dhw: The discussion about Nibbana is not meant in any way to denigrate the personal, therapeutic effects of meditation. I’m concerned here ONLY with the meaning of Nibbana, which is supposed to be the ultimate goal for those who want to get there.

MATT: I've been very careful to refer to Nibbana as the extinguishing of the sense of self throughout this exchange.

dhw: So if Nibbana = no sense of self, and there is no eternal self, and the cycle of rebirth is over, there is no longer a “you”, and that is why I suggest that Nibbana means death.

I think Matt does not take the concept to death but to a point in meditation where self-recognition totally disappears temporarily.


The self

dhw: At any one moment, we will generally only be “using” part of our self. If I’m focusing on writing a play, I’m using my imagination and those parts of the body that are needed to record the words of the dialogue I am imagining. That doesn’t mean that my love of cricket no longer exists! The self is the total of all our personal attributes. What you are saying amounts simply to the fact that we are only conscious of them when we are conscious of them! As an analogy, I have flat feet. You seem to be saying that if I’m not thinking about my flat feet, I don’t have flat feet.

MATT: To understand me better, go back to where I brought up Phineas Gage. I believe you take for granted the idea that your love for cricket will always be there.

dhw: Of course I don’t. I keep agreeing that the self is NOT continuous. Please look at the bold at the start of this post. And last week I wrote: “I have already agreed that the self is NOT continuous. (My example was the newly enlightened bigot.) But the fact that it can change does not make it an illusion.”

MATT: If we're talking physical body parts, that's (literally) alot more solid. The errant thinking though is that your love of cricket has the same level of permanence and reality as your feet.

dhw: I never said or thought it did. My point is that we are not conscious all the time of everything that is there, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there! (Contd. in Part Two)

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 23:25 (57 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: So if Nibbana = no sense of self, and there is no eternal self, and the cycle of rebirth is over, there is no longer a “you”, and that is why I suggest that Nibbana means death.


I think Matt does not take the concept to death but to a point in meditation where self-recognition totally disappears temporarily.

You're a lot closer to the Mark here. In some of those higher states of meditation, the sense of self can be gone for days if not weeks without doing additional meditations.

The Buddha even after Nibbana spent many hours a day meditating. Now, true story, Meditation especially deep meditations can replace sleep somewhat. Modern monks who might meditate for 8 or more hours in a day need perhaps 5hrs of sleep on average. Meditation restores your mental energy, so when you come out of it, you're incredibly sharp, and as stated, with that 'sense of self' suppressed.

So you're talking about someone who spent the better part of those 40yrs after his enlightenment, regularly maintaining that state of consciousness. If Nibbana means "Not having any more experiences," then how do we explain the thousands of people that came to him for teaching, and even one of my favorite stories where he wept with a mother over her dead child?

So whatever Nibbana is, it isn't death, and it absolutely cannot mean incapable of new experience.

dhw might be politely implying 'maybe the Buddha was wrong?' but it's not like I'll ever know, I really don't care to become a monk and aim for that path. It's a subjective experience, but hey, at least the Buddhists are up front about all that from the start. It's been a very refreshing experience after growing up in hyper judgmental evangelical circles.

Fun sorta related tidbit: Most Christians today don't know that the opening to Genesis isn't the same in the original Hebrew. Christian bibles, due to heresies in the 1st and 2nd centuries edited a doctrine of "Creatio ex Nihilo" into the first translations to get rid of the Hebrew text which suggests that the world already existed before God did any creating. (My Jewish study Bible says, "When God began to create heaven and earth--the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water...") This is partly why some beautiful early Hebrew interpretations depict God as an artist--molding clay or painting the clouds. The most common translation in Christian Bibles is "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth..." That doesn't sound like much, but one more clearly suggests that stuff got created AND THEN God shaped, whereas the more ambiguous Jewish version gives room for stuff already being here. Which let's be honest, given that God already acknowledged the existence of OTHER Gods, makes ALOT more sense. (And yes, my Jewish Study Bible is my go-to for OT questions.)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 23:53 (57 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: So if Nibbana = no sense of self, and there is no eternal self, and the cycle of rebirth is over, there is no longer a “you”, and that is why I suggest that Nibbana means death.


DAVID: I think Matt does not take the concept to death but to a point in meditation where self-recognition totally disappears temporarily.


Matt: You're a lot closer to the Mark here. In some of those higher states of meditation, the sense of self can be gone for days if not weeks without doing additional meditations.

The Buddha even after Nibbana spent many hours a day meditating. Now, true story, Meditation especially deep meditations can replace sleep somewhat. Modern monks who might meditate for 8 or more hours in a day need perhaps 5hrs of sleep on average. Meditation restores your mental energy, so when you come out of it, you're incredibly sharp, and as stated, with that 'sense of self' suppressed.

So you're talking about someone who spent the better part of those 40yrs after his enlightenment, regularly maintaining that state of consciousness. If Nibbana means "Not having any more experiences," then how do we explain the thousands of people that came to him for teaching, and even one of my favorite stories where he wept with a mother over her dead child?

So whatever Nibbana is, it isn't death, and it absolutely cannot mean incapable of new experience.

dhw might be politely implying 'maybe the Buddha was wrong?' but it's not like I'll ever know, I really don't care to become a monk and aim for that path. It's a subjective experience, but hey, at least the Buddhists are up front about all that from the start. It's been a very refreshing experience after growing up in hyper judgmental evangelical circles.

Fun sort a related tidbit: Most Christians today don't know that the opening to Genesis isn't the same in the original Hebrew. Christian bibles, due to heresies in the 1st and 2nd centuries edited a doctrine of "Creatio ex Nihilo" into the first translations to get rid of the Hebrew text which suggests that the world already existed before God did any creating. (My Jewish study Bible says, "When God began to create heaven and earth--the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water...") This is partly why some beautiful early Hebrew interpretations depict God as an artist--molding clay or painting the clouds. The most common translation in Christian Bibles is "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth..." That doesn't sound like much, but one more clearly suggests that stuff got created AND THEN God shaped, whereas the more ambiguous Jewish version gives room for stuff already being here. Which let's be honest, given that God already acknowledged the existence of OTHER Gods, makes ALOT more sense. (And yes, my Jewish Study Bible is my go-to for OT questions.)

The Greeks had lots of fun with my Bible. They never understood one word had many meanings in the context of a given sentence. 'Yam' is anything from a drop of water to a sea (Hebrews had never seen an ocean.)

Nibbana tangent part 1

by dhw, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 13:14 (57 days ago) @ xeno6696

These posts are confusing. Matt, it would help if you would identify who is saying what! And please could both of you combine some of these posts. David’s last entries almost got squeezed out of my “forum index”! I’ll try to bring all the different entries together.

MATT (to dhw): 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.

DAVID: The way I view your description, is you lose consciousness of 'self' but always return to it. So even if discontinuous, it is always available to return to it. It is never lost.

Matt: If you take your 'self' to be that bare aware "in the now" consciousness, you are correct, but dhw is taking a definition that includes more than just that. See my comment re: Phineas Gage again.
And:
MATT: You overidentify that a "sense of self" means you as an entity. You already spend a good chunk of your day doing things where the sense of self is repressed or at least on snooze, unless every waking second of every day you repeat to yourself "I am dhw, I am dhw."

I will expand a little on my original reply to this, which was that the self is the total of all our attributes at any given time. The fact that we don’t consciously think of each one all the time does not mean they are not there. (I used the analogy of my flat feet, which you misinterpreted as meaning that all attributes were permanent.) No, the attributes may change at any time through illness, accident, or new experiences. But that does not mean they are not present or are not real. A bigot one day may have an experience that changes his rigid opinions. Psychotherapy may perform the same function. The bigotry was real, not illusory. Now the open mind is real. Phineas Gage is another illustration.

MATT (to DAVID:) I developed at a young age an intense worry that I was being too selfish when dealing with other people. So a message that targets the ego/self as a source of pain in the world has a strong resonance for me. I've been that guy.

You are an excellent illustration of the point that I am making. You disliked your selfish attributes of the past, and so you took steps to change them. Your previous self was real, and so is your current self. You have not removed any sense of self; you have changed the excessively egotistical attributes of your previous self.

MATT (to dhw:): I guess from my perspective, it seems like you're taking aim at the Buddhist ideal from the perspective where it's ineffable (like God.) I've tried to demonstrate with the compass analogy, that whatever it is that YOU think Nibbana is, I think your conception is mistaken. See my comment above where I talk about how meditation naturally suppresses the sense of self and just do what I do and take that to the logical conclusion where Nibbana is a state of mind where you're not caught in the wind anymore.

DAVID: As in the other thread, I understand you lose a sense of self in meditation but can always return to it.

MATT: And if you die in your sleep? There's a bigger picture that I'm aiming at here. If I take my love of philosophy as a concrete part of my 'self,' and I lose half my memories due to some trauma, then I'm lying.

Why lying? A trauma will change your attributes, as above. But your quote above was directed towards me, and the relevant part of my reply was this:

dhw: clearly, if we reach the point where something is ineffable, it can’t be discussed with words, and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken! All I have done is examine the words you have used, and extrapolate conclusions: if you tell me that Nibbana means that all concept of self disappears and there is no such thing as an eternal self, my conclusion is that you might as well be dead.

MATT: Okay, explain to me how it can mean death, when the Buddha (and many of his other followers who achieved Nibbana) could be alive for 40+ yrs?
And:
MATT: …..you're talking about someone who spent the better part of those 40yrs after his enlightenment, regularly maintaining that state of consciousness. If Nibbana means "Not having any more experiences," then how do we explain the thousands of people that came to him for teaching, and even one of my favorite stories where he wept with a mother over her dead child?

See Part Two for my answer

Nibbana tangent part 2

by dhw, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 13:25 (57 days ago) @ dhw

Contd. from PART ONE

I’m in no position to write a history of the Buddha’s thoughts and feelings during his last 40+ years, but I am prepared to guarantee that neither he nor his followers could possibly have gone on living without any concept of self. Bodily functions alone are constant reminders of our having a “self”, but you seem to be fixated on your idea that the “self” is an illusion just because you are not permanently aware of every attribute. You haven’t responded to my objections to this or to my definition of the self. (See next exchange for more detail.)

MATT: When I come back from a meditation, I'm still myself but my sense of self is gone and it takes awhile for it to come back. There's nothing at all about that that feels particularly "dead" to me.

This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.

MATT: I did start in the beginning of this to state that religions have their 'mysteries', in Christianity it's the resurrection, in Buddhism it's Nibbana. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what happens past that point. However, as I've also stated, from what I've experienced it doesn't 'feel' all that ineffable.

We are forced to use words to explain our beliefs. You have explained that in order to reach Nibbana, “all concept of self must disappear”. Elsewhere there was also mention of our desires having to disappear. My point is that if the “ideal” is for you to have no awareness of yourself and of any personal attributes, and you have no personal desires, you might as well be dead. And since the Buddha apparently did not believe in an eternal soul, we all end up dead anyway, once the (extremely mysterious) cycle of rebirth has ended.

Summary: The self is the sum total of all our attributes, both physical and mental, at any given time. Any attribute can be changed by new circumstances or experiences. We do not have to be conscious of all attributes at all times for those attributes to be real.

Nibbana: As I understand it, the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or to others.

I’ll steer clear of rebirth for the time being, but it seems clear to me that if the Buddha did not believe in an eternal soul, then once the cycle of rebirth had ended, there would be no afterlife. If there is an afterlife but we are not aware that it's our self living on, then once more we might as well be dead. But maybe, as you say, the Buddha deliberately left this part of the “doctrine” undeclared.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 18:18 (56 days ago) @ dhw

Contd. from PART ONE

dhw: I’m in no position to write a history of the Buddha’s thoughts and feelings during his last 40+ years, but I am prepared to guarantee that neither he nor his followers could possibly have gone on living without any concept of self. Bodily functions alone are constant reminders of our having a “self”, but you seem to be fixated on your idea that the “self” is an illusion just because you are not permanently aware of every attribute. You haven’t responded to my objections to this or to my definition of the self. (See next exchange for more detail.)

MATT: When I come back from a meditation, I'm still myself but my sense of self is gone and it takes awhile for it to come back. There's nothing at all about that that feels particularly "dead" to me.

dhw: This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.

MATT: I did start in the beginning of this to state that religions have their 'mysteries', in Christianity it's the resurrection, in Buddhism it's Nibbana. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what happens past that point. However, as I've also stated, from what I've experienced it doesn't 'feel' all that ineffable.

dhw: We are forced to use words to explain our beliefs. You have explained that in order to reach Nibbana, “all concept of self must disappear”. Elsewhere there was also mention of our desires having to disappear. My point is that if the “ideal” is for you to have no awareness of yourself and of any personal attributes, and you have no personal desires, you might as well be dead. And since the Buddha apparently did not believe in an eternal soul, we all end up dead anyway, once the (extremely mysterious) cycle of rebirth has ended.

Summary: The self is the sum total of all our attributes, both physical and mental, at any given time. Any attribute can be changed by new circumstances or experiences. We do not have to be conscious of all attributes at all times for those attributes to be real.

Nibbana: As I understand it, the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or to others.

I’ll steer clear of rebirth for the time being, but it seems clear to me that if the Buddha did not believe in an eternal soul, then once the cycle of rebirth had ended, there would be no afterlife. If there is an afterlife but we are not aware that it's our self living on, then once more we might as well be dead. But maybe, as you say, the Buddha deliberately left this part of the “doctrine” undeclared.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 23:28 (56 days ago) @ dhw

Contd. from PART ONE

I’m in no position to write a history of the Buddha’s thoughts and feelings during his last 40+ years, but I am prepared to guarantee that neither he nor his followers could possibly have gone on living without any concept of self. Bodily functions alone are constant reminders of our having a “self”, but you seem to be fixated on your idea that the “self” is an illusion just because you are not permanently aware of every attribute. You haven’t responded to my objections to this or to my definition of the self. (See next exchange for more detail.)

You conflate a "sense of self" with a "self." See my PART ONE response.)

MATT: When I come back from a meditation, I'm still myself but my sense of self is gone and it takes awhile for it to come back. There's nothing at all about that that feels particularly "dead" to me.

This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.

So you're very close with your description in that last statement, only, as I said in part one, the sense of self is what disappears. You still use self-referents, you still have access to all your memories and experiences, you just don't think about them in terms of "THIS IS MINE" anymore. Like, throw away Buddhism for a second. Do you own your body? I would say no, because I can't control when I die, and my body will dissolve in to the elements from whence it came. This is why many religious traditions treat the body "as a temple." This body was given to you perhaps, or in my case it was a natural process beginning in cellular biology. Buddhism tries to think about our lives from a zoomed out perspective, like that one, where unequivocally, our bodies don't exactly belong to us.

MATT: I did start in the beginning of this to state that religions have their 'mysteries', in Christianity it's the resurrection, in Buddhism it's Nibbana. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what happens past that point. However, as I've also stated, from what I've experienced it doesn't 'feel' all that ineffable.

We are forced to use words to explain our beliefs. You have explained that in order to reach Nibbana, “all concept of self must disappear”. Elsewhere there was also mention of our desires having to disappear. My point is that if the “ideal” is for you to have no awareness of yourself and of any personal attributes, and you have no personal desires, you might as well be dead. And since the Buddha apparently did not believe in an eternal soul, we all end up dead anyway, once the (extremely mysterious) cycle of rebirth has ended.

Again, you just don't like my answers here. The sense I get of Nibbana, doesn't feel like death, and it can't be death because the Buddha lived after it. On this, you're just wrong my friend.

Summary: The self is the sum total of all our attributes, both physical and mental, at any given time. Any attribute can be changed by new circumstances or experiences. We do not have to be conscious of all attributes at all times for those attributes to be real.

But our brains construct our consciousness out of what's at hand, and that isn't always constant in time. Therefore our "self" is better described as I said up above.

Nibbana: As I understand it, the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or to others.

I’ll steer clear of rebirth for the time being, but it seems clear to me that if the Buddha did not believe in an eternal soul, then once the cycle of rebirth had ended, there would be no afterlife. If there is an afterlife but we are not aware that it's our self living on, then once more we might as well be dead. But maybe, as you say, the Buddha deliberately left this part of the “doctrine” undeclared.

The problem here is precisely that the Buddha left this undeclared, and you're engaging in raw speculation. As a fellow agnostic I would have thought it easier to suspend judgment here. As someone who walks this path and has told you where the compass points, who has even a little bit of an idea on what it feels like--you're just being dismissive. When you think of my comments as "I understand that this has been therapeutic.." when I'm trying to use that experience to help you understand the right place to look in my words... The "ideal" is that sense of peace.

I have told you, that whatever Nibbana means as an experience, it cannot mean death. He would have declared that, one, and two, he lived, and three, the little tidbit of Nibbana that i've attained, is awfully life-affirming. If Buddhists think death is life-affirming, then how could it still exist as an institution?

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 00:26 (56 days ago) @ xeno6696

Contd. from PART ONE

Matt: I’m in no position to write a history of the Buddha’s thoughts and feelings during his last 40+ years, but I am prepared to guarantee that neither he nor his followers could possibly have gone on living without any concept of self. Bodily functions alone are constant reminders of our having a “self”, but you seem to be fixated on your idea that the “self” is an illusion just because you are not permanently aware of every attribute. You haven’t responded to my objections to this or to my definition of the self. (See next exchange for more detail.)


You conflate a "sense of self" with a "self." See my PART ONE response.)

MATT: When I come back from a meditation, I'm still myself but my sense of self is gone and it takes awhile for it to come back. There's nothing at all about that that feels particularly "dead" to me.

This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.


So you're very close with your description in that last statement, only, as I said in part one, the sense of self is what disappears. You still use self-referents, you still have access to all your memories and experiences, you just don't think about them in terms of "THIS IS MINE" anymore. Like, throw away Buddhism for a second. Do you own your body? I would say no, because I can't control when I die, and my body will dissolve in to the elements from whence it came. This is why many religious traditions treat the body "as a temple." This body was given to you perhaps, or in my case it was a natural process beginning in cellular biology. Buddhism tries to think about our lives from a zoomed out perspective, like that one, where unequivocally, our bodies don't exactly belong to us.

MATT: I did start in the beginning of this to state that religions have their 'mysteries', in Christianity it's the resurrection, in Buddhism it's Nibbana. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what happens past that point. However, as I've also stated, from what I've experienced it doesn't 'feel' all that ineffable.

dhw: We are forced to use words to explain our beliefs. You have explained that in order to reach Nibbana, “all concept of self must disappear”. Elsewhere there was also mention of our desires having to disappear. My point is that if the “ideal” is for you to have no awareness of yourself and of any personal attributes, and you have no personal desires, you might as well be dead. And since the Buddha apparently did not believe in an eternal soul, we all end up dead anyway, once the (extremely mysterious) cycle of rebirth has ended.


Matt: Again, you just don't like my answers here. The sense I get of Nibbana, doesn't feel like death, and it can't be death because the Buddha lived after it. On this, you're just wrong my friend.

Summary: The self is the sum total of all our attributes, both physical and mental, at any given time. Any attribute can be changed by new circumstances or experiences. We do not have to be conscious of all attributes at all times for those attributes to be real.


But our brains construct our consciousness out of what's at hand, and that isn't always constant in time. Therefore our "self" is better described as I said up above.

Nibbana: As I understand it, the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or to others.

I’ll steer clear of rebirth for the time being, but it seems clear to me that if the Buddha did not believe in an eternal soul, then once the cycle of rebirth had ended, there would be no afterlife. If there is an afterlife but we are not aware that it's our self living on, then once more we might as well be dead. But maybe, as you say, the Buddha deliberately left this part of the “doctrine” undeclared.


The problem here is precisely that the Buddha left this undeclared, and you're engaging in raw speculation. As a fellow agnostic I would have thought it easier to suspend judgment here. As someone who walks this path and has told you where the compass points, who has even a little bit of an idea on what it feels like--you're just being dismissive. When you think of my comments as "I understand that this has been therapeutic.." when I'm trying to use that experience to help you understand the right place to look in my words... The "ideal" is that sense of peace.

I have told you, that whatever Nibbana means as an experience, it cannot mean death. He would have declared that, one, and two, he lived, and three, the little tidbit of Nibbana that i've attained, is awfully life-affirming. If Buddhists think death is life-affirming, then how could it still exist as an institution?

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 00:30 (56 days ago) @ David Turell

Contd. from PART ONE

Matt: I’m in no position to write a history of the Buddha’s thoughts and feelings during his last 40+ years, but I am prepared to guarantee that neither he nor his followers could possibly have gone on living without any concept of self. Bodily functions alone are constant reminders of our having a “self”, but you seem to be fixated on your idea that the “self” is an illusion just because you are not permanently aware of every attribute. You haven’t responded to my objections to this or to my definition of the self.


You conflate a "sense of self" with a "self." See my PART ONE response.)

MATT: When I come back from a meditation, I'm still myself but my sense of self is gone and it takes awhile for it to come back. There's nothing at all about that that feels particularly "dead" to me.

This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.


So you're very close with your description in that last statement, only, the sense of self is what disappears. You still use self-referents, you still have access to all your memories and experiences, you just don't think about them in terms of "THIS IS MINE" anymore. Like, throw away Buddhism for a second. Do you own your body? I would say no, because I can't control when I die, and my body will dissolve in to the elements from whence it came. This is why many religious traditions treat the body "as a temple." This body was given to you perhaps, or in my case it was a natural process beginning in cellular biology. Buddhism tries to think about our lives from a zoomed out perspective, like that one, where unequivocally, our bodies don't exactly belong to us.

MATT: I did start in the beginning of this to state that religions have their 'mysteries', in Christianity it's the resurrection, in Buddhism it's Nibbana. The Buddha deliberately left undeclared what happens past that point. However, as I've also stated, from what I've experienced it doesn't 'feel' all that ineffable.

dhw: We are forced to use words to explain our beliefs. You have explained that in order to reach Nibbana, “all concept of self must disappear”. Elsewhere there was also mention of our desires having to disappear. My point is that if the “ideal” is for you to have no awareness of yourself and of any personal attributes, and you have no personal desires, you might as well be dead. And since the Buddha apparently did not believe in an eternal soul, we all end up dead anyway, once the (extremely mysterious) cycle of rebirth has ended.


Matt: Again, you just don't like my answers here. The sense I get of Nibbana, doesn't feel like death, and it can't be death because the Buddha lived after it. On this, you're just wrong my friend.

Summary: The self is the sum total of all our attributes, both physical and mental, at any given time. Any attribute can be changed by new circumstances or experiences. We do not have to be conscious of all attributes at all times for those attributes to be real.


But our brains construct our consciousness out of what's at hand, and that isn't always constant in time. Therefore our "self" is better described as I said up above.

Nibbana: As I understand it, the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or to others.

I’ll steer clear of rebirth for the time being, but it seems clear to me that if the Buddha did not believe in an eternal soul, then once the cycle of rebirth had ended, there would be no afterlife. If there is an afterlife but we are not aware that it's our self living on, then once more we might as well be dead. But maybe, as you say, the Buddha deliberately left this part of the “doctrine” undeclared.


The problem here is precisely that the Buddha left this undeclared, and you're engaging in raw speculation. As a fellow agnostic I would have thought it easier to suspend judgment here. As someone who walks this path and has told you where the compass points, who has even a little bit of an idea on what it feels like--you're just being dismissive. When you think of my comments as "I understand that this has been therapeutic.." when I'm trying to use that experience to help you understand the right place to look in my words... The "ideal" is that sense of peace.

I have told you, that whatever Nibbana means as an experience, it cannot mean death. He would have declared that, one, and two, he lived, and three, the little tidbit of Nibbana that i've attained, is awfully life-affirming. If Buddhists think death is life-affirming, then how could it still exist as an institution?

May I ask, is there a place in Buddhism for the evidence of NDE's that consciousness is separate from the brain which must receive it??

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 06:06 (56 days ago) @ David Turell

I have told you, that whatever Nibbana means as an experience, it cannot mean death. He would have declared that, one, and two, he lived, and three, the little tidbit of Nibbana that i've attained, is awfully life-affirming. If Buddhists think death is life-affirming, then how could it still exist as an institution?


May I ask, is there a place in Buddhism for the evidence of NDE's that consciousness is separate from the brain which must receive it??

I thought I answered this or a similar question, but yes absolutely. It's off in that category with rebirth for me, but it is also why this particular school of Buddhism has continuously challenged me.

THIS consciousness is tied to a body, but as we get close to death leaving it is trivial. If you're in particular states of meditation at the time of death the experience becomes more like lucid dreaming. I'm not sure between which stages of meditation earns you psychic powers, but those are in the offing as well. Ajahn Brahm has so many stories to tell of Devas (celestial beings) or even of one story where A man several villages away died and his consciousness took over someone else's body. The Tibetan Book of the dead as I have mentioned earlier is supposed to be a complete guide to dying. It is through the lens of Tibetan Buddhism which has a more up close and personal attitude towards deities. But it's studied by students in all schools.

It's not clear at what point you gain psychic abilities, but once you reach the 2nd Jhana, you're supposed to be able to freely move through the memories of all your past lives--in that 'aftermath period' where the self is suppressed, and then somewhere between there and Nibbana is supposed to allow the practitioner to OBE, read minds, walk on water, an incomplete list is here. Some of the exploits of the Shaolin monks have been explained with physics, but obviously most people (including myself) kinda roll their eyes at flying through the air. Brahm has talked several times about a "mind-made-body".

However, as I stated at some point when I came back to chat here, there are also planes of existence where there is no material body component--mind made realms entirely. (The states of meditation beginning with the first Jhana all grant access to that universe of existence apparently.)

I know dhw you get frustrated when I don't compile bits together but I already answered your other two sets of comments. This is one I should have stated sooner, but while the Buddha did not declare what happens if you reach Nibbana and this body passes, he was adamant that both eternalism and annihilationism were false. This is one of several reasons his path is called "the middle way." Annihilationism is the materialist belief that this is the only life, period, when you die, that's it forever. Nibbana by definition is NOT that. Nibbana is also not eternalism: An eternal self that lives for all time. As I tried to say around the time that David asked if it meant joining God in some way, a cosmology that allows for realms that have no material component, clearly allow levels of latitude for odd realms of existence. Assume String Theory is true: there's many higher dimensions possible in our universe, surely there exists a bucket somewhere for what happens after you attain Nibbana, and then pass.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 19:07 (55 days ago) @ xeno6696

DAVID: May I ask, is there a place in Buddhism for the evidence of NDE's that consciousness is separate from the brain which must receive it??


MATT: I thought I answered this or a similar question, but yes absolutely. It's off in that category with rebirth for me, but it is also why this particular school of Buddhism has continuously challenged me.

THIS consciousness is tied to a body, but as we get close to death leaving it is trivial. If you're in particular states of meditation at the time of death the experience becomes more like lucid dreaming. I'm not sure between which stages of meditation earns you psychic powers, but those are in the offing as well. Ajahn Brahm has so many stories to tell of Devas (celestial beings) or even of one story where A man several villages away died and his consciousness took over someone else's body. The Tibetan Book of the dead as I have mentioned earlier is supposed to be a complete guide to dying. It is through the lens of Tibetan Buddhism which has a more up close and personal attitude towards deities. But it's studied by students in all schools.

It's not clear at what point you gain psychic abilities, but once you reach the 2nd Jhana, you're supposed to be able to freely move through the memories of all your past lives--in that 'aftermath period' where the self is suppressed, and then somewhere between there and Nibbana is supposed to allow the practitioner to OBE, read minds, walk on water, an incomplete list is here. Some of the exploits of the Shaolin monks have been explained with physics, but obviously most people (including myself) kinda roll their eyes at flying through the air. Brahm has talked several times about a "mind-made-body".

However, as I stated at some point when I came back to chat here, there are also planes of existence where there is no material body component--mind made realms entirely. (The states of meditation beginning with the first Jhana all grant access to that universe of existence apparently.)

I know dhw you get frustrated when I don't compile bits together but I already answered your other two sets of comments. This is one I should have stated sooner, but while the Buddha did not declare what happens if you reach Nibbana and this body passes, he was adamant that both eternalism and annihilationism were false. This is one of several reasons his path is called "the middle way." Annihilationism is the materialist belief that this is the only life, period, when you die, that's it forever. Nibbana by definition is NOT that. Nibbana is also not eternalism: An eternal self that lives for all time. As I tried to say around the time that David asked if it meant joining God in some way, a cosmology that allows for realms that have no material component, clearly allow levels of latitude for odd realms of existence. Assume String Theory is true: there's many higher dimensions possible in our universe, surely there exists a bucket somewhere for what happens after you attain Nibbana, and then pass.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 18:15 (56 days ago) @ dhw

MATT (to dhw): 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.

DAVID: The way I view your description, is you lose consciousness of 'self' but always return to it. So even if discontinuous, it is always available to return to it. It is never lost.

Matt: If you take your 'self' to be that bare aware "in the now" consciousness, you are correct, but dhw is taking a definition that includes more than just that. See my comment re: Phineas Gage again.
And:
MATT: You overidentify that a "sense of self" means you as an entity. You already spend a good chunk of your day doing things where the sense of self is repressed or at least on snooze, unless every waking second of every day you repeat to yourself "I am dhw, I am dhw."

dhw: I will expand a little on my original reply to this, which was that the self is the total of all our attributes at any given time. The fact that we don’t consciously think of each one all the time does not mean they are not there. (I used the analogy of my flat feet, which you misinterpreted as meaning that all attributes were permanent.) No, the attributes may change at any time through illness, accident, or new experiences. But that does not mean they are not present or are not real. A bigot one day may have an experience that changes his rigid opinions. Psychotherapy may perform the same function. The bigotry was real, not illusory. Now the open mind is real. Phineas Gage is another illustration.

MATT (to DAVID:) I developed at a young age an intense worry that I was being too selfish when dealing with other people. So a message that targets the ego/self as a source of pain in the world has a strong resonance for me. I've been that guy.

dhw: You are an excellent illustration of the point that I am making. You disliked your selfish attributes of the past, and so you took steps to change them. Your previous self was real, and so is your current self. You have not removed any sense of self; you have changed the excessively egotistical attributes of your previous self.

MATT (to dhw:): I guess from my perspective, it seems like you're taking aim at the Buddhist ideal from the perspective where it's ineffable (like God.) I've tried to demonstrate with the compass analogy, that whatever it is that YOU think Nibbana is, I think your conception is mistaken. See my comment above where I talk about how meditation naturally suppresses the sense of self and just do what I do and take that to the logical conclusion where Nibbana is a state of mind where you're not caught in the wind anymore.

DAVID: As in the other thread, I understand you lose a sense of self in meditation but can always return to it.

MATT: And if you die in your sleep? There's a bigger picture that I'm aiming at here. If I take my love of philosophy as a concrete part of my 'self,' and I lose half my memories due to some trauma, then I'm lying.

dhw: Why lying? A trauma will change your attributes, as above. But your quote above was directed towards me, and the relevant part of my reply was this:

dhw: clearly, if we reach the point where something is ineffable, it can’t be discussed with words, and so you can say that any verbalized conception is mistaken! All I have done is examine the words you have used, and extrapolate conclusions: if you tell me that Nibbana means that all concept of self disappears and there is no such thing as an eternal self, my conclusion is that you might as well be dead.

MATT: Okay, explain to me how it can mean death, when the Buddha (and many of his other followers who achieved Nibbana) could be alive for 40+ yrs?
And:
MATT: …..you're talking about someone who spent the better part of those 40yrs after his enlightenment, regularly maintaining that state of consciousness. If Nibbana means "Not having any more experiences," then how do we explain the thousands of people that came to him for teaching, and even one of my favorite stories where he wept with a mother over her dead child?

See Part Two for my answer

Note I am editing the dialog to identify persons.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 22:54 (56 days ago) @ dhw

Matt: If you take your 'self' to be that bare aware "in the now" consciousness, you are correct, but dhw is taking a definition that includes more than just that. See my comment re: Phineas Gage again.
And:
MATT: You overidentify that a "sense of self" means you as an entity. You already spend a good chunk of your day doing things where the sense of self is repressed or at least on snooze, unless every waking second of every day you repeat to yourself "I am dhw, I am dhw."

I will expand a little on my original reply to this, which was that the self is the total of all our attributes at any given time. The fact that we don’t consciously think of each one all the time does not mean they are not there. (I used the analogy of my flat feet, which you misinterpreted as meaning that all attributes were permanent.) No, the attributes may change at any time through illness, accident, or new experiences. But that does not mean they are not present or are not real. A bigot one day may have an experience that changes his rigid opinions. Psychotherapy may perform the same function. The bigotry was real, not illusory. Now the open mind is real. Phineas Gage is another illustration.

You're conflating "self" with "sense of self" with every line here. Buddhism (and my own meditative experience) demonstrates that I can still be a "self" without a "sense of self." And I'll be candid here: my lived experience from the meditations leads me to a very strong conviction on this: I know I'm right about this. On this, this is direct experiential knowledge here. Under your definition, if I lost half my memories, I'd still have the *same* sense of self, and that's patently false. I'd have *a* sense of self--I'd feel the same, but I wouldn't be the same, and as I interacted with friends and family, it would start to come out, all the different things that I had forgotten. This was my experience with Alzheimer's patients. This taught me (before Buddhism) that I can't take my memories for granted--they might not exist and that will hurt people--Buddhism just extended to also give me some mental distance between myself and my memories. Maybe instead of "that's not me" it looks more like "did I remember that correctly?" but that's purely a difference in degree. What ever my "self" is, it isn't my memories. Another way to look at it, The past can't be changed, the future is unknown, the only thing I can be *sure* of--and can fully rely on--is *right now.* This is why it would be more truthful to describe yourself as this "bare awareness right now."

This isn't a statement that the past doesn't exist. But that for all intents and purposes, if you don't remember it, it might as well *not* exist. This is like methodological materialism. The closer you get to your temporal present moment, the more safe and secure you can be about where your self actually lives. We're like a prism with the future streaming into us with white light, and the rainbow of past events scattering to the winds.

Returning to the Alzheimer's patients, the final lesson I learned is that it's a lot of suffering when people lose memories of entire people. So don't forget the past, but treat your recollections lightly.

MATT (to DAVID:) I developed at a young age an intense worry that I was being too selfish when dealing with other people. So a message that targets the ego/self as a source of pain in the world has a strong resonance for me. I've been that guy.

You are an excellent illustration of the point that I am making. You disliked your selfish attributes of the past, and so you took steps to change them. Your previous self was real, and so is your current self. You have not removed any sense of self; you have changed the excessively egotistical attributes of your previous self.

I applaud overall your description of the self, and on most things we're closer that maybe it seems, but again, as above, you're confusing the 'self' for the 'sense of self.' One goes away and the other remains. Imagine an hour or so of your life where phrases or feelings like "I am ME" just stop appearing? You don't feel the other "I'm NOT me", you feel neither thing. THAT is what consciousness without a sense of self is like. All of those things you describe happen to me or that guy, but without that sense of self. (I stopped using 'ego' because I looked up what that means in Freudian terms and its WAY too packed of a word for me to be using it. I'll just keep it to that felt sense of "I AM.")

Why lying? A trauma will change your attributes, as above. But your quote above was directed towards me, and the relevant part of my reply was this:

Lying is strong, but illustrative. See above as to my logic.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 00:21 (56 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: If you take your 'self' to be that bare aware "in the now" consciousness, you are correct, but dhw is taking a definition that includes more than just that. See my comment re: Phineas Gage again.
And:
MATT: You overidentify that a "sense of self" means you as an entity. You already spend a good chunk of your day doing things where the sense of self is repressed or at least on snooze, unless every waking second of every day you repeat to yourself "I am dhw, I am dhw."

I will expand a little on my original reply to this, which was that the self is the total of all our attributes at any given time. The fact that we don’t consciously think of each one all the time does not mean they are not there. (I used the analogy of my flat feet, which you misinterpreted as meaning that all attributes were permanent.) No, the attributes may change at any time through illness, accident, or new experiences. But that does not mean they are not present or are not real. A bigot one day may have an experience that changes his rigid opinions. Psychotherapy may perform the same function. The bigotry was real, not illusory. Now the open mind is real. Phineas Gage is another illustration.


You're conflating "self" with "sense of self" with every line here. Buddhism (and my own meditative experience) demonstrates that I can still be a "self" without a "sense of self." And I'll be candid here: my lived experience from the meditations leads me to a very strong conviction on this: I know I'm right about this. On this, this is direct experiential knowledge here. Under your definition, if I lost half my memories, I'd still have the *same* sense of self, and that's patently false. I'd have *a* sense of self--I'd feel the same, but I wouldn't be the same, and as I interacted with friends and family, it would start to come out, all the different things that I had forgotten. This was my experience with Alzheimer's patients. This taught me (before Buddhism) that I can't take my memories for granted--they might not exist and that will hurt people--Buddhism just extended to also give me some mental distance between myself and my memories. Maybe instead of "that's not me" it looks more like "did I remember that correctly?" but that's purely a difference in degree. What ever my "self" is, it isn't my memories. Another way to look at it, The past can't be changed, the future is unknown, the only thing I can be *sure* of--and can fully rely on--is *right now.* This is why it would be more truthful to describe yourself as this "bare awareness right now."

This isn't a statement that the past doesn't exist. But that for all intents and purposes, if you don't remember it, it might as well *not* exist. This is like methodological materialism. The closer you get to your temporal present moment, the more safe and secure you can be about where your self actually lives. We're like a prism with the future streaming into us with white light, and the rainbow of past events scattering to the winds.

Returning to the Alzheimer's patients, the final lesson I learned is that it's a lot of suffering when people lose memories of entire people. So don't forget the past, but treat your recollections lightly.

MATT (to DAVID:) I developed at a young age an intense worry that I was being too selfish when dealing with other people. So a message that targets the ego/self as a source of pain in the world has a strong resonance for me. I've been that guy.

You are an excellent illustration of the point that I am making. You disliked your selfish attributes of the past, and so you took steps to change them. Your previous self was real, and so is your current self. You have not removed any sense of self; you have changed the excessively egotistical attributes of your previous self.

I changed myself long ago. I was jolly fat kid and changed into my skinny much more serious guy before andv after medical school. I went from New York liberal to very conservative.> >


Matt: I applaud overall your description of the self, and on most things we're closer that maybe it seems, but again, as above, you're confusing the 'self' for the 'sense of self.' One goes away and the other remains. Imagine an hour or so of your life where phrases or feelings like "I am ME" just stop appearing? You don't feel the other "I'm NOT me", you feel neither thing. THAT is what consciousness without a sense of self is like. All of those things you describe happen to me or that guy, but without that sense of self. (I stopped using 'ego' because I looked up what that means in Freudian terms and its WAY too packed of a word for me to be using it. I'll just keep it to that felt sense of "I AM.")

Why lying? A trauma will change your attributes, as above. But your quote above was directed towards me, and the relevant part of my reply was this:

Lying is strong, but illustrative. See above as to my logic.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by dhw, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 13:46 (56 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: I will expand a little on my original reply to this, which was that the self is the total of all our attributes at any given time. The fact that we don’t consciously think of each one all the time does not mean they are not there. (I used the analogy of my flat feet, which you misinterpreted as meaning that all attributes were permanent.) No, the attributes may change at any time through illness, accident, or new experiences. But that does not mean they are not present or are not real. A bigot one day may have an experience that changes his rigid opinions. Psychotherapy may perform the same function. The bigotry was real, not illusory. Now the open mind is real. Phineas Gage is another illustration.

MATT: You're conflating "self" with "sense of self" with every line here. Buddhism (and my own meditative experience) demonstrates that I can still be a "self" without a "sense of self." Under your definition, if I lost half my memories, I'd still have the *same* sense of self, and that's patently false. I'd have *a* sense of self--I'd feel the same, but I wouldn't be the same, and as I interacted with friends and family, it would start to come out, all the different things that I had forgotten.

I feel more and more that there’s no disagreement between us, but you are using different terminology which in itself is confusing. You say the same sense of self would be false, but then you go on to say that you would still feel the same. Having the same sense of self to me means feeling the same! (Not to be confused with consciousness of the self – see later). But of course the self would not be the same because, as I keep pointing out, it is constantly subject to change! You then switch to the subject of memories. These are notoriously unreliable, but whatever I remember or think I remember is still part of the present me. In your case, you vividly remember the egotistical attributes of your past real self, and are fully aware of the changes that have led to the present real you. Your “sense of self” remains the same, but the self is not the same.

MATT: I applaud overall your description of the self, and on most things we're closer that maybe it seems, but again, as above, you're confusing the 'self' for the 'sense of self.' One goes away and the other remains.

That is precisely what I am saying, but let’s not exaggerate. The ‘self’ will no doubt continue to retain many of its attributes (which helps us to maintain our sense of self), but you will notice that in my summary, I specified that it is the total of our attributes at any given time. Some may go away, and may be replaced, but the sense of self remains.

MATT: Imagine an hour or so of your life where phrases or feelings like "I am ME" just stop appearing? You don't feel the other "I'm NOT me", you feel neither thing. THAT is what consciousness without a sense of self is like.

Again, there is no disagreement. It’s self-evident that we don’t spend our lives consciously thinking about what is or isn’t our “self”. Most of the time, our consciousness is focused on other things. But that doesn’t mean the self is not there!

dhw: This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.

MATT: So you're very close with your description in that last statement, only, as I said in part one, the sense of self is what disappears. You still use self-referents, you still have access to all your memories and experiences, you just don't think about them in terms of "THIS IS MINE" anymore.

No, the chances are that you will start thinking “this is mine” only if you’re discussing psychology with somebody, or if something goes wrong, or if your contact with others makes you think in those terms. If I tell you that I think you are a very intelligent, learned, and sensitive man (which I do!) then I reckon your “sense of self” will automatically be activated. But if your wife asks you to wash the car, I doubt if you will be inspired to start analysing yourself.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by dhw, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 13:53 (56 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: Do you own your body? I would say no, because I can't control when I die, and my body will dissolve in to the elements from whence it came.

Why are you suddenly talking of ownership? That has nothing to do with the “self”! You can hardly deny that your body is part of your “self”. And just like your mental attributes, it can be changed at any time. If you suffer from any physical illness, you are probably more conscious of your physical “self” than you are of your mental “self”.

MATT: The sense I get of Nibbana, doesn't feel like death, and it can't be death because the Buddha lived after it. On this, you're just wrong my friend.

You seemed to agree with my account of what the Buddha would have done in his last 40 years. My point was precisely that his “sense of self” could not have disappeared, and nor could all his desires. Hence my own concept of Nibbana:
Nibbana: As I understand it, the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or to others.

My point is that if the concept is as you have described it – “all concept of self must disappear”, together with all our desires – we might as well be dead.

Summary: The self is the sum total of all our attributes, both physical and mental, at any given time. Any attribute can be changed by new circumstances or experiences. We do not have to be conscious of all attributes at all times for those attributes to be real.

MATT: But our brains construct our consciousness out of what's at hand, and that isn't always constant in time.

“At any given time” means “what’s at hand”, and I have said that this can be changed (= not always constant). Once again you seem to disagree with something you agree with!

dhw: If there is an afterlife but we are not aware that it's our self living on, then once more we might as well be dead. But maybe, as you say, the Buddha deliberately left this part of the “doctrine” undeclared.

MATT: The problem here is precisely that the Buddha left this undeclared, and you're engaging in raw speculation.

There is no speculation on my part! It’s a simple conditional sentence, based on the concepts you offered us: if all sense of self has disappeared, and if there is an afterlife, you might as well be dead. If there is no afterlife, you will be dead anyway. I myself have no set view on the subject. I’ll wait and see what happens, or of course I shan’t ever know what happens!

MATT: I have told you, that whatever Nibbana means as an experience, it cannot mean death.

Once more: my point is that (a) if you attain Nibbana during your life on Earth, but that means you lose all sense of self and have no more desires, you might as well be dead. See my speculation on the Buddha’s last 40 years; and (b) see above for the question concerning a possible afterlife. That is why I have offered you an alternative definition of Nibbana. Do you agree with it or not?
--

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 20:12 (55 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: Do you own your body? I would say no, because I can't control when I die, and my body will dissolve in to the elements from whence it came.

dhw: Why are you suddenly talking of ownership? That has nothing to do with the “self”! You can hardly deny that your body is part of your “self”. And just like your mental attributes, it can be changed at any time. If you suffer from any physical illness, you are probably more conscious of your physical “self” than you are of your mental “self”.

MATT: The sense I get of Nibbana, doesn't feel like death, and it can't be death because the Buddha lived after it. On this, you're just wrong my friend.

dhw: You seemed to agree with my account of what the Buddha would have done in his last 40 years. My point was precisely that his “sense of self” could not have disappeared, and nor could all his desires. Hence my own concept of Nibbana:
Nibbana: As I understand it, the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or to others.

My point is that if the concept is as you have described it – “all concept of self must disappear”, together with all our desires – we might as well be dead.

Summary: The self is the sum total of all our attributes, both physical and mental, at any given time. Any attribute can be changed by new circumstances or experiences. We do not have to be conscious of all attributes at all times for those attributes to be real.

MATT: But our brains construct our consciousness out of what's at hand, and that isn't always constant in time.

“At any given time” means “what’s at hand”, and I have said that this can be changed (= not always constant). Once again you seem to disagree with something you agree with!

dhw: If there is an afterlife but we are not aware that it's our self living on, then once more we might as well be dead. But maybe, as you say, the Buddha deliberately left this part of the “doctrine” undeclared.

MATT: The problem here is precisely that the Buddha left this undeclared, and you're engaging in raw speculation.

dhw: There is no speculation on my part! It’s a simple conditional sentence, based on the concepts you offered us: if all sense of self has disappeared, and if there is an afterlife, you might as well be dead. If there is no afterlife, you will be dead anyway. I myself have no set view on the subject. I’ll wait and see what happens, or of course I shan’t ever know what happens!

MATT: I have told you, that whatever Nibbana means as an experience, it cannot mean death.

dhw: Once more: my point is that (a) if you attain Nibbana during your life on Earth, but that means you lose all sense of self and have no more desires, you might as well be dead. See my speculation on the Buddha’s last 40 years; and (b) see above for the question concerning a possible afterlife. That is why I have offered you an alternative definition of Nibbana. Do you agree with it or not?


I'm following along.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Friday, May 31, 2024, 00:43 (55 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: Do you own your body? I would say no, because I can't control when I die, and my body will dissolve in to the elements from whence it came.

DHW:

1. Why are you suddenly talking of ownership?
2. That has nothing to do with the “self”!
3. You can hardly deny that your body is part of your “self”.
4. And just like your mental attributes, it can be changed at any time.
5. If you suffer from any physical illness, you are probably more conscious of your physical “self” than you are of your mental “self”.

You've logically contradicted yourself on 1-3. First off, part OF a sense of self is some concept of possession. They co-arise together. This is betrayed on your third sentence where you reflexively state that 'the body is part of your "self".' I'm a part of nature, if I belong to anything, I belong to this world. I didn't create this body, I can't shape shift into other forms so I have little control over it.

DHW: My point is that if the concept is as you have described it – “all concept of self must disappear”, together with all our desires – we might as well be dead.

Well there's your problem, you've already said you're using your own concept of Nibbana! Which is fine, but then we're not really talking about Buddhism anymore. The Buddha was clear: Nibbana isn't annihilation, it isn't an eternal self, to attain Nibbana, the last thread to cut is to your sense of self. I'll call out what I said in bold: “all concept of self must disappear”.

MATT: The problem here is precisely that the Buddha left this undeclared, and you're engaging in raw speculation.

DHW: There is no speculation on my part! It’s a simple conditional sentence, based on the concepts you offered us: if all sense of self has disappeared, and if there is an afterlife, you might as well be dead. If there is no afterlife, you will be dead anyway. I myself have no set view on the subject. I’ll wait and see what happens, or of course I shan’t ever know what happens!

That's some lovely cheekiness, I do say! ;-) I mean, I'm immediately in your boat at least as far as the end result. I don't really know about an end result, life's final great mystery ;-)

But I disagree that Nibbana is as off-putting as what you're saying right here. Again, not my goal, but I mean, as far as afterlives go, it sounds a helluva lot better than singing someone's praises for eternity!

MATT: I have told you, that whatever Nibbana means as an experience, it cannot mean death.

Once more: my point is that (a) if you attain Nibbana during your life on Earth, but that means you lose all sense of self and have no more desires, you might as well be dead. See my speculation on the Buddha’s last 40 years; and (b) see above for the question concerning a possible afterlife. That is why I have offered you an alternative definition of Nibbana. Do you agree with it or not?
--

I do not, I go with the definition that the Buddha gave, since he discovered it. As for my own understanding on that, I will hold to the compass analogy.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 20:09 (55 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I will expand a little on my original reply to this, which was that the self is the total of all our attributes at any given time. The fact that we don’t consciously think of each one all the time does not mean they are not there. (I used the analogy of my flat feet, which you misinterpreted as meaning that all attributes were permanent.) No, the attributes may change at any time through illness, accident, or new experiences. But that does not mean they are not present or are not real. A bigot one day may have an experience that changes his rigid opinions. Psychotherapy may perform the same function. The bigotry was real, not illusory. Now the open mind is real. Phineas Gage is another illustration.

MATT: You're conflating "self" with "sense of self" with every line here. Buddhism (and my own meditative experience) demonstrates that I can still be a "self" without a "sense of self." Under your definition, if I lost half my memories, I'd still have the *same* sense of self, and that's patently false. I'd have *a* sense of self--I'd feel the same, but I wouldn't be the same, and as I interacted with friends and family, it would start to come out, all the different things that I had forgotten.

dhw: I feel more and more that there’s no disagreement between us, but you are using different terminology which in itself is confusing. You say the same sense of self would be false, but then you go on to say that you would still feel the same. Having the same sense of self to me means feeling the same! (Not to be confused with consciousness of the self – see later). But of course the self would not be the same because, as I keep pointing out, it is constantly subject to change! You then switch to the subject of memories. These are notoriously unreliable, but whatever I remember or think I remember is still part of the present me. In your case, you vividly remember the egotistical attributes of your past real self, and are fully aware of the changes that have led to the present real you. Your “sense of self” remains the same, but the self is not the same.

MATT: I applaud overall your description of the self, and on most things we're closer that maybe it seems, but again, as above, you're confusing the 'self' for the 'sense of self.' One goes away and the other remains.

dhw: That is precisely what I am saying, but let’s not exaggerate. The ‘self’ will no doubt continue to retain many of its attributes (which helps us to maintain our sense of self), but you will notice that in my summary, I specified that it is the total of our attributes at any given time. Some may go away, and may be replaced, but the sense of self remains.

MATT: Imagine an hour or so of your life where phrases or feelings like "I am ME" just stop appearing? You don't feel the other "I'm NOT me", you feel neither thing. THAT is what consciousness without a sense of self is like.

dhw: Again, there is no disagreement. It’s self-evident that we don’t spend our lives consciously thinking about what is or isn’t our “self”. Most of the time, our consciousness is focused on other things. But that doesn’t mean the self is not there!

dhw: This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.

MATT: So you're very close with your description in that last statement, only, as I said in part one, the sense of self is what disappears. You still use self-referents, you still have access to all your memories and experiences, you just don't think about them in terms of "THIS IS MINE" anymore.

dhw: No, the chances are that you will start thinking “this is mine” only if you’re discussing psychology with somebody, or if something goes wrong, or if your contact with others makes you think in those terms. If I tell you that I think you are a very intelligent, learned, and sensitive man (which I do!) then I reckon your “sense of self” will automatically be activated. But if your wife asks you to wash the car, I doubt if you will be inspired to start analysing yourself.

edited by DAVID

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 23:00 (55 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: I applaud overall your description of the self, and on most things we're closer that maybe it seems, but again, as above, you're confusing the 'self' for the 'sense of self.' One goes away and the other remains.

DHW: That is precisely what I am saying, but let’s not exaggerate. The ‘self’ will no doubt continue to retain many of its attributes (which helps us to maintain our sense of self), but you will notice that in my summary, I specified that it is the total of our attributes at any given time. Some may go away, and may be replaced, but the sense of self remains.

For the sake of time, I'm going to take the microscope here in the hopes that this is the lynchpin of the potential controversy.

What I want to focus in on here is that post-meditation, I'm fully conscious, but there's no 'sense of self'. The sense of self is like an emotion that only exists for brief moments. It's a state of consciousness where when I return to the five senses, there's enough distance between mind and senses that you can trace the threads, you can find the exact moment where your mind wraps a sound or a touch into something positive or negative, neutral is harder to feel. At that moment you can locate the precise part of you responsible for 'self-izing' your experience of phenomena.

I think what's becoming clear is that we are drawing the lines of 'self' at different places. I brought up memories because they're concrete, but as a mental structure, the self is little different than any of the rest of your memories. If you don't put energy into that memory--which we tend to do instinctively--it maintains itself and it remains firmly entrenched and lodged into the psyche.

But that doesn’t mean the self is not there!

Again, the conflation. I originally used the term "concept of self" in terms of its disappearance. As I've tried to show here, that 'sense of self' has more in common with an emotion or a thought--a concept. The error that MOST of us make is in mistaking that sense of self, AS the self. You don't like me drawing the line between that sense of self and that bare-awareness or "right now" attention of consciousness.


On your last bit, I still have a sense of self, I can just point to it more clearly when it's in my mind. If you complimented me right after a meditation, I wouldn't apprehend it in the same way as you suggest however. Typically when in that state there's more of a reflexive desire to share and reciprocate. It takes a good 30min for even a weakened buzz of thinking to resume. It's a very clear state. You can sense thoughts and emotions as they bubble up. It's raw awareness, 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.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by dhw, Friday, May 31, 2024, 12:45 (55 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: I applaud overall your description of the self, and on most things we're closer that maybe it seems, but again, as above, you're confusing the 'self' for the 'sense of self.' One goes away and the other remains.

dhw: That is precisely what I am saying, but let’s not exaggerate. The ‘self’ will no doubt continue to retain many of its attributes (which helps us to maintain our sense of self), but you will notice that in my summary, I specified that it is the total of our attributes at any given time. Some may go away, and may be replaced, but the sense of self remains.

MATT: What I want to focus in on here is that post-meditation, I'm fully conscious, but there's no 'sense of self'. The sense of self is like an emotion that only exists for brief moments.

You have changed the subject. My comment concerned the nature of the self as I attempted to define it. But you are talking about consciousness of the self, which I dealt with elsewhere: “It’s self evident that we don’t spend our lives consciously thinking about what is or isn’t our “self”. Most of the time our consciousness is focused on other things.” You go on to talk about memory:

MATT: If you don't put energy into that memory--which we tend to do instinctively--it maintains itself and it remains firmly entrenched and lodged into the psyche.

I have no idea what you mean by “putting energy into memory”. Memories are part of the “self”, but many disappear, many become distorted – they are probably more likely than most other attributes of the self to “change” with time. But whatever is there – accurate or not – is still a part of the self, but we’re not conscious of it unless circumstances require us to focus on it.

dhw: But that doesn’t mean the self is not there!

This was the conclusion to my ruminations on consciousness/unconsciousness of the self. The fact that we're not thinking about it doesn't mean that it’s illusory. I have no idea why you go on to call this a “conflation”.

MATT: Again, the conflation. I originally used the term "concept of self" in terms of its disappearance. As I've tried to show here, that 'sense of self' has more in common with an emotion or a thought--a concept. The error that MOST of us make is in mistaking that sense of self, AS the self. You don't like me drawing the line between that sense of self and that bare-awareness or "right now" attention of consciousness.

I don’t understand why you make it seem so complicated. Of course sense of self is not the self – it’s awareness of the self! What is your “sense of self” if it is not the consciousness/awareness of self as it is right now?

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.

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.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by dhw, Friday, May 31, 2024, 12:54 (55 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: Do you own your body? I would say no, because I can't control when I die, and my body will dissolve in to the elements from whence it came.

dhw:
1. Why are you suddenly talking of ownership?
2. That has nothing to do with the “self”!
3. You can hardly deny that your body is part of your “self”.
4. And just like your mental attributes, it can be changed at any time.
5. If you suffer from any physical illness, you are probably more conscious of your physical “self” than you are of your mental “self”.

MATT: You've logically contradicted yourself on 1-3. First off, part OF a sense of self is some concept of possession. They co-arise together. This is betrayed on your third sentence where you reflexively state that 'the body is part of your "self".' I'm a part of nature, if I belong to anything, I belong to this world. I didn't create this body, I can't shape shift into other forms so I have little control over it.

I have no idea why you have suddenly introduced the concept of ownership and possession and “belonging” to something. There is a perfectly simple concept that doesn’t need any of these terms: this is my body. What don’t you understand? And my body is part of my “self”. What don’t you understand? And just like the rest of my “self” the body can undergo changes. And most of the time, I am not conscious of my body. The fact that your Mum and Dad created it and you can’t become a wolf doesn’t mean it’s not yours! Do people really go around saying: “I own my house, my car, my TV and my body”?

dhw: My point is that if the concept is as you have described it – “all concept of self must disappear”, together with all our desires – we might as well be dead.

MATT: Well there's your problem, you've already said you're using your own concept of Nibbana!

No, that is the concept you spelled out for us! And my comment is on what you told us.

MATT: Which is fine, but then we're not really talking about Buddhism anymore. The Buddha was clear: Nibbana isn't annihilation, it isn't an eternal self, to attain Nibbana, the last thread to cut is to your sense of self. I'll call out what I said in bold: “all concept of self must disappear”.

Precisely the point I have made above, except that you’ve left out the very important bit about desires. So you’ve just confirmed that we really are talking about Buddhism.

MATT: The problem here is precisely that the Buddha left this undeclared, and you're engaging in raw speculation.

dhw: There is no speculation on my part! It’s a simple conditional sentence, based on the concepts you offered us: if all sense of self has disappeared, and if there is an afterlife, you might as well be dead. If there is no afterlife, you will be dead anyway. I myself have no set view on the subject. I’ll wait and see what happens, or of course I shan’t ever know what happens!

MATT: That's some lovely cheekiness, I do say! ;-) I mean, I'm immediately in your boat at least as far as the end result. I don't really know about an end result, life's final great mystery ;-)
But I disagree that Nibbana is as off-putting as what you're saying right here. Again, not my goal, but I mean, as far as afterlives go, it sounds a helluva lot better than singing someone's praises for eternity!

Nibbana in this present life as you have defined it is definitely off-putting for me. As far as afterlives go, yep, you’ve given me a good laugh. Thank you! I really can’t help wondering what one could possibly enjoy doing for the rest of eternity, and maybe the Buddha was hinting at something very wise with his rejection of the concept of an eternal soul!

MATT: I have told you, that whatever Nibbana means as an experience, it cannot mean death.

Once more: my point is that (a) if you attain Nibbana during your life on Earth, but that means you lose all sense of self and have no more desires, you might as well be dead. See my speculation on the Buddha’s last 40 years; and (b) see above for the question concerning a possible afterlife. That is why I have offered you an alternative definition of Nibbana. Do you agree with it or not?

MATT: I do not, I go with the definition that the Buddha gave, since he discovered it. As for my own understanding on that, I will hold to the compass analogy.

The only “definition” you have given us so far is the need to obliterate the self and get rid of all desires. My “definition” was: “the ideal state would be for the self to be rid of all attributes that cause suffering to oneself or others.” Please explain why you disagree.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Friday, May 31, 2024, 16:44 (54 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: I applaud overall your description of the self, and on most things we're closer that maybe it seems, but again, as above, you're confusing the 'self' for the 'sense of self.' One goes away and the other remains.

dhw: That is precisely what I am saying, but let’s not exaggerate. The ‘self’ will no doubt continue to retain many of its attributes (which helps us to maintain our sense of self), but you will notice that in my summary, I specified that it is the total of our attributes at any given time. Some may go away, and may be replaced, but the sense of self remains.

MATT: What I want to focus in on here is that post-meditation, I'm fully conscious, but there's no 'sense of self'. The sense of self is like an emotion that only exists for brief moments.

dhw: You have changed the subject. My comment concerned the nature of the self as I attempted to define it. But you are talking about consciousness of the self, which I dealt with elsewhere: “It’s self evident that we don’t spend our lives consciously thinking about what is or isn’t our “self”. Most of the time our consciousness is focused on other things.” You go on to talk about memory:

MATT: If you don't put energy into that memory--which we tend to do instinctively--it maintains itself and it remains firmly entrenched and lodged into the psyche.

dhw: I have no idea what you mean by “putting energy into memory”. Memories are part of the “self”, but many disappear, many become distorted – they are probably more likely than most other attributes of the self to “change” with time. But whatever is there – accurate or not – is still a part of the self, but we’re not conscious of it unless circumstances require us to focus on it.

dhw: But that doesn’t mean the self is not there!

This was the conclusion to my ruminations on consciousness/unconsciousness of the self. The fact that we're not thinking about it doesn't mean that it’s illusory. I have no idea why you go on to call this a “conflation”.

MATT: Again, the conflation. I originally used the term "concept of self" in terms of its disappearance. As I've tried to show here, that 'sense of self' has more in common with an emotion or a thought--a concept. The error that MOST of us make is in mistaking that sense of self, AS the self. You don't like me drawing the line between that sense of self and that bare-awareness or "right now" attention of consciousness.

dhw: I don’t understand why you make it seem so complicated. Of course sense of self is not the self – it’s awareness of the self! What is your “sense of self” if it is not the consciousness/awareness of self as it is right now?

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.

I have enjoyed this exchange. You don't disagree and I have the same thoughts about self.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, June 08, 2024, 16:22 (46 days ago) @ dhw

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.

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!"

Everything is back to nominal now.

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. Your words here echo that--I was honestly just trying to get you to say something to confirm it without me really prompting you.

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).

It did force me to do more studies here, which is never a bad thing. There's a very common misconception that Buddhism teaches literally "the self doesn't exist." And I mean, maybe, if we're drawing in crayon there's truth to that if we relate the Buddhist concept of self against the concept of self we've grown up with. I run the risk of offending maybe, but in my own case it has been an exercise in learning more about my nuances. Understanding for example, that I don't think about my "identity" all that often naturally leads to the question, "well, 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.

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. I tell you what, being on fire and itching head to toes (literally, fingers and toes had rash) makes me value the "nothing" of "normal" that I had taken for granted for several decades! I'm so thankful to be mostly itch free today that it fills me with a sense of joy--which means, in Buddhist terms, that's the best time to meditate. ;-)

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.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Saturday, June 08, 2024, 16:44 (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!"

Everything is back to nominal now.

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. Your words here echo that--I was honestly just trying to get you to say something to confirm it without me really prompting you.

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).

It did force me to do more studies here, which is never a bad thing. There's a very common misconception that Buddhism teaches literally "the self doesn't exist." And I mean, maybe, if we're drawing in crayon there's truth to that if we relate the Buddhist concept of self against the concept of self we've grown up with. I run the risk of offending maybe, but in my own case it has been an exercise in learning more about my nuances. Understanding for example, that I don't think about my "identity" all that often naturally leads to the question, "well, 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.

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. I tell you what, being on fire and itching head to toes (literally, fingers and toes had rash) makes me value the "nothing" of "normal" that I had taken for granted for several decades! I'm so thankful to be mostly itch free today that it fills me with a sense of joy--which means, in Buddhist terms, that's the best time to meditate. ;-)

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.

Glad you survived. I assume with steroids. Your last paragraph is the key, Buddhists wouldn't do it unless they liked what it did.

Nibbana tangent part 1

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.

Exactly.

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.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Sunday, June 09, 2024, 17:16 (45 days ago) @ dhw

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!"

dhw: 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.

dhw: 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).

dhw: 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.

dhw: 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.

dhw: Exactly.

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.

dhw: 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.

I am at peace with myself and all I know.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 22:51 (57 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: “Conditioned existence” presumably means there can be no more experiences. The final thread is clearly consciousness of the self, which ties in with the concept that has caused us so much trouble: “all concept of self must disappear”. My one and only point is that if there is no concept of self, and there is no eternal self, then Nibbana means death.

Then how come the Buddha didn't die and he continued to teach for 40yrs? What you're saying is an absurdity. Unless this whole time you've been talking about this from a metaphorical or romantic perspective? "If I, dhw, lost my sense of self, I would die!"

MATT: Look, let me be honest, understanding Nibbana is hard even for many Buddhists, the only thing I can tell you is that it is absolutely true that the deeper and more peaceful the meditation, the more my sense of self gets silenced...

The discussion about Nibbana is not meant in any way to denigrate the personal, therapeutic effects of meditation. I’m concerned here ONLY with the meaning of Nibbana, which is supposed to be the ultimate goal for those who want to get there.

But what you seem to keep ignoring, is that all of those therapeutic benefits is precisely the predicted results of following the Buddha's path, and that the compass that points to Nibbana is precisely that path that gave me those benefits. Nibbana is some far shore that I don't care about sure, but it isn't death. Or there would be no Buddhism.

MATT: I've been very careful to refer to Nibbana as the extinguishing of the sense of self throughout this exchange.

So if Nibbana = no sense of self, and there is no eternal self, and the cycle of rebirth is over, there is no longer a “you”, and that is why I suggest that Nibbana means death.

You overidentify that a "sense of self" means you as an entity. You already spend a good chunk of your day doing things where the sense of self is repressed or at least on snooze, unless every waking second of every day you repeat to yourself "I am dhw, I am dhw." Your "sense of self" is no different than an emotion really. It's not always on. And this is why I said this bridge won't be crossed, because you simply hold fast to your interpretation. I don't have that interpretation. I've even offered a better definition of the self, simply, conscious attention on the present moment, and you seem to reject that too, because you are attached to all of the memories and body parts that you feel makes you "you." But like I said when bringing up Phineas Gage, if you take those memories to be "you," as in "I, dhw am not myself without my memories and my love for cricket," then by your own definition if you suffered trauma and lost those things, you would cease to be yourself and die. You might not even be aware that stuff is all missing, but that's part of what the bigger picture of Buddhism tries to present to us.


MATT: If we're talking physical body parts, that's (literally) alot more solid. The errant thinking though is that your love of cricket has the same level of permanence and reality as your feet.

I never said or thought it did. My point is that we are not conscious all the time of everything that is there, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there! (Contd. in Part Two)

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 23:43 (57 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: “Conditioned existence” presumably means there can be no more experiences. The final thread is clearly consciousness of the self, which ties in with the concept that has caused us so much trouble: “all concept of self must disappear”. My one and only point is that if there is no concept of self, and there is no eternal self, then Nibbana means death.


Matt: Then how come the Buddha didn't die and he continued to teach for 40yrs? What you're saying is an absurdity. Unless this whole time you've been talking about this from a metaphorical or romantic perspective? "If I, dhw, lost my sense of self, I would die!"

MATT: Look, let me be honest, understanding Nibbana is hard even for many Buddhists, the only thing I can tell you is that it is absolutely true that the deeper and more peaceful the meditation, the more my sense of self gets silenced...

The discussion about Nibbana is not meant in any way to denigrate the personal, therapeutic effects of meditation. I’m concerned here ONLY with the meaning of Nibbana, which is supposed to be the ultimate goal for those who want to get there.


But what you seem to keep ignoring, is that all of those therapeutic benefits is precisely the predicted results of following the Buddha's path, and that the compass that points to Nibbana is precisely that path that gave me those benefits. Nibbana is some far shore that I don't care about sure, but it isn't death. Or there would be no Buddhism.

MATT: I've been very careful to refer to Nibbana as the extinguishing of the sense of self throughout this exchange.

dhw:v So if Nibbana = no sense of self, and there is no eternal self, and the cycle of rebirth is over, there is no longer a “you”, and that is why I suggest that Nibbana means death.


Matt: You overidentify that a "sense of self" means you as an entity. You already spend a good chunk of your day doing things where the sense of self is repressed or at least on snooze, unless every waking second of every day you repeat to yourself "I am dhw, I am dhw." Your "sense of self" is no different than an emotion really. It's not always on. And this is why I said this bridge won't be crossed, because you simply hold fast to your interpretation. I don't have that interpretation. I've even offered a better definition of the self, simply, conscious attention on the present moment, and you seem to reject that too, because you are attached to all of the memories and body parts that you feel makes you "you." But like I said when bringing up Phineas Gage, if you take those memories to be "you," as in "I, dhw am not myself without my memories and my love for cricket," then by your own definition if you suffered trauma and lost those things, you would cease to be yourself and die. You might not even be aware that stuff is all missing, but that's part of what the bigger picture of Buddhism tries to present to us.


MATT: If we're talking physical body parts, that's (literally) alot more solid. The errant thinking though is that your love of cricket has the same level of permanence and reality as your feet.

I never said or thought it did. My point is that we are not conscious all the time of everything that is there, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there! (Contd. in Part Two)

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 26, 2024, 17:15 (59 days ago) @ dhw

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.

dhw: Thank you.

MATT: 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.

dhw: I’m sorry, but I find this confusing, so please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood something. Firstly, I see no way in which the self can be “unconditioned”: it is conditioned by a variety of factors, including heredity, upbringing, society etc. and, very importantly, experience, which is why it is NOT continuous but is a reality subject to changes. Secondly, there is no way it can be synonymous with consciousness, since vast areas of our self – including the organs of the body and the subconscious “mind” – function quite independently of consciousness. I have no idea what is meant by literally touching the bottom of consciousness, but of course if our self dies with our body, it is discontinuous in the sense that it comes to an end.

MATT (to me): 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: I am equally puzzled by your insistence. At any one moment, we will generally only be “using” part of of our self. If I’m focusing on writing a play, I’m using my imagination and those parts of the body that are needed to record the words of the dialogue I am imagining. That doesn’t mean that my love of cricket no longer exists! The self is the total of all our personal attributes. What you are saying amounts simply to the fact that we are only conscious of them when we are conscious of them! As an analogy, I have flat feet. You seem to be saying that if I’m not thinking about my flat feet, I don’t have flat feet.

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!
[…] 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.

dhw: I’ve left out the rest of your statement because the misunderstanding is apparent on both sides. If you read my comment above, you’ll see that our disagreement has nothing to do with your personal circumstances. It is the Buddhist “doctrine” that I oppose: namely, the belief that for someone to achieve the ideal of Nibbana, they must lose all concept of self and all desires. I’m delighted that you have found your own “balance” without what I consider to be a renunciation of all that I consider to be fundamental to the enjoyment and I might even say the value of human life (in the context of those desires that benefit us and others). I think we actually agree - but I'm sure you'll tell me if we don't!

I'm still with dhw's thoughts.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 26, 2024, 16:41 (59 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.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 23:02 (57 days ago) @ David Turell

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.


David: 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.

I would definitely consider myself an autodidact though there are some things that I would probably have never learned without schooling.

But also, when I choose to study something, I'm very rarely interested in a surface explanation. I dive deep. I respect that we have different perspectives, and I feel the world is better for those perspectives. It's not lost on me, that I grew up as an only child to a single mother and I developed at a young age an intense worry that I was being too selfish when dealing with other people. So a message that targets the ego/self as a source of pain in the world has a strong resonance for me. I've been that guy.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 23:46 (57 days ago) @ xeno6696

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.


David: 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.


Matt: I would definitely consider myself an autodidact though there are some things that I would probably have never learned without schooling.

But also, when I choose to study something, I'm very rarely interested in a surface explanation. I dive deep. I respect that we have different perspectives, and I feel the world is better for those perspectives. It's not lost on me, that I grew up as an only child to a single mother and I developed at a young age an intense worry that I was being too selfish when dealing with other people. So a message that targets the ego/self as a source of pain in the world has a strong resonance for me. I've been that guy.

Thank you for your personal response. It helps explain you and your contribution.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 23, 2024, 19:52 (62 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: […] [Ego] was the easiest word to me to represent the shift from "I AM" to "i am." The issue in Buddhism is ultimately in how we relate to ourselves, even though its outward focus is on ultimately being kind and compassionate.

DHW: I still don’t know what you’re getting at, unless it really is the shift in priorities: away from egotism to awareness of the needs of others. This is one of our major topics: if the issue is how we relate to ourselves, why must we be rid of all desires (which means being rid of some of the things that give us the greatest joy in life) and “all concept of self must disappear”, so we’re not allowed to think how happy we are when we help others instead of just ourselves?


Matt: It's more than just egotism, it's in relinquishing the sense of self as it arises with your various mental phenomena. Right, so we would agree that if something happens and it causes explosive anger to rise up in you, it would be uncontroversial to check it before you did something to harm yourself or the object of your anger, correct? I've stated a version of this previously, but the degree to which you have reactive personality traits is the degree to which your sense of self sits more firmly embedded within those triggers--you're more attached. The path of becoming less reactive is another example of changing I AM" to "i am."

Pausing briefly, in

all concept of self must disappear


I have to call out two things:
1.) To achieve Nibbana your sense of self must disappear and
2.) By engaging in Buddhist practices, it leads inevitably to this. Anyone who follows the gradual training (outlined when I discussed the stages of meditation) will experience a weaker and weaker sense of self, until it's gone in Nibbana. You can stop this at any point, but you can't undo what's been done. This is a psychological transformation certainly.

I'll attempt to illustrate a couple things, both which I hope, will fill in some gaps. In explaining what the sense of self-dissolution feels like, one of my favorite meditations is in moving from the sense of my whole body, and then "expanding" it to take in the feeling of the sky. (This is poetic language, I don't know another way to phrase it.) When in this state of consciousness, there is no sense of self at all, in fact the very second it returns, the entire thing collapses. But more or less, you dissolve into the sky. At this phase, if unbidden thoughts arise, you can sense them as distant breaths. A willed thought however, collapses the entire space. I'm in my body, but I'm not experiencing the self in the slightest. The five senses are long gone. This is pure mind experience.

Now, the other side of this, is that I can sense my 'self' as other, and when my 'self' reasserts itself, this entire state disappears. It isn't like waking from a dream. In those cases, I'm very firmly in a sense of self. This is being in a state where the self is turned off. but I'm still experiencing mind. This then raises the question, "Who, or what, is the self if it's something you can consciously escape?" It isn't your mind--experiencing a literally self-less mind, it's very clear that there isn't even a sense of 'me' anymore. There's just a serene stillness where all of my normal day to day is missing. My 'true' self as it were, isn't that sense of self, it's that totally naked, bare awareness that is focusing on the mind as an object, but in a state where I can't hear, see, touch, smell, or taste anything, and my thoughts are gone as well.

Putting all that together, when the 'sense of self' (ego) intrudes, if I want to maintain the state, I don't interact with it. The second you do--that's what relinks attachment and causes the meditation to collapse. This is very similar to what happens in the next scenario you bring up.

so we’re not allowed to think how happy we are when we help others instead of just ourselves?


It's not that you're not allowed, but that tranquillity--the more you actively engage and allow yourself to be fully consumed by that content--disappears. And there's a difference between say, feeling joy, and feeling joy. Right, so when anger arises, we meet it immediately, and before dealing with its content, we recognize that there's anger within us, and the practices of compassion and loving kindness allow us to handle the content of that anger. Think of it more as moderately consuming your emotions as opposed to being ruled by them.

One of the key signs of a good teacher in Buddhism is in how gently they interact with even brash people. You have to be quite selfless (in both senses of the word) not to get agitated into unskillful behavior. Remember what I said about how deeper stages of meditation naturally last longer and longer, that's where this test comes from. Alright, gotta handle the rest of your comments...

A good explanation for it. We are so different. I feel no need for what you do.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Friday, May 24, 2024, 02:08 (62 days ago) @ David Turell

It's not that you're not allowed, but that tranquillity--the more you actively engage and allow yourself to be fully consumed by that content--disappears. And there's a difference between say, feeling joy, and feeling joy. Right, so when anger arises, we meet it immediately, and before dealing with its content, we recognize that there's anger within us, and the practices of compassion and loving kindness allow us to handle the content of that anger. Think of it more as moderately consuming your emotions as opposed to being ruled by them.

One of the key signs of a good teacher in Buddhism is in how gently they interact with even brash people. You have to be quite selfless (in both senses of the word) not to get agitated into unskillful behavior. Remember what I said about how deeper stages of meditation naturally last longer and longer, that's where this test comes from. Alright, gotta handle the rest of your comments...


Turell: A good explanation for it. We are so different. I feel no need for what you do.

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.

The counselor on the crisis line started walking me through breathing techniques to calm myself and I immediately recognized this as the first stage of Buddhist meditation. Recall that I'd been studying Buddhism since 2003 with occasional practice efforts at Soto and Kwan Um Zen centers.

When I realized that the meditation techniques worked to handle crisis-level anxiety I resolved then and there to just throw in my lot with the local monastery. It seemed to make sense to practice it not just during crisis but all the time in avoidance of crisis. Not at all different from why I exercise to avoid a potential heart attack. (I'm in good health, I just aim to keep it that way.)

I feel no compulsion to do this, but I am very welcome for everything it has taught me about myself. FWIW all my english-language brothers and sisters who practice also have similar experiences with the mind that I have described here over the last week. I'm not an outlier.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Friday, May 24, 2024, 17:12 (61 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: It's not that you're not allowed, but that tranquillity--the more you actively engage and allow yourself to be fully consumed by that content--disappears. And there's a difference between say, feeling joy, and feeling joy. Right, so when anger arises, we meet it immediately, and before dealing with its content, we recognize that there's anger within us, and the practices of compassion and loving kindness allow us to handle the content of that anger. Think of it more as moderately consuming your emotions as opposed to being ruled by them.

One of the key signs of a good teacher in Buddhism is in how gently they interact with even brash people. You have to be quite selfless (in both senses of the word) not to get agitated into unskillful behavior. Remember what I said about how deeper stages of meditation naturally last longer and longer, that's where this test comes from. Alright, gotta handle the rest of your comments...


Turell: A good explanation for it. We are so different. 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.

The counselor on the crisis line started walking me through breathing techniques to calm myself and I immediately recognized this as the first stage of Buddhist meditation. Recall that I'd been studying Buddhism since 2003 with occasional practice efforts at Soto and Kwan Um Zen centers.

When I realized that the meditation techniques worked to handle crisis-level anxiety I resolved then and there to just throw in my lot with the local monastery. It seemed to make sense to practice it not just during crisis but all the time in avoidance of crisis. Not at all different from why I exercise to avoid a potential heart attack. (I'm in good health, I just aim to keep it that way.)

I feel no compulsion to do this, but I am very welcome for everything it has taught me about myself. FWIW all my english-language brothers and sisters who practice also have similar experiences with the mind that I have described here over the last week. I'm not an outlier.

It's no wonder how your history went, from an early interest to full use. Mine was deterministic from age three, some sort of doctor.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, May 23, 2024, 00:24 (63 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: For example, when I'm focusing on writing code for work, there is no sense of self in my mind.
You also responded to David:
MATT: My argument is simply that if I'm not thinking about it or feeling it ALL the time, then it's not continuous.

The fact that you are not thinking about your “self” does not mean your “self” isn’t there, let alone that you must get rid of it! You don’t think all the time about your heart beating, but it is. We have now left the subjects of rebirth and Nibbana (both of which I think you have your own doubts about) and the vexed question of desirable and undesirable desires, and switched to whether there really is such a thing as self. I offered my own view on this:

This is where we may not reach common ground. If I say "I'm a fisherman," yet I spend only a weekend every few months fishing, we would agree that I'm not really a fisherman. In more vulgar terms, I spend most of my week as a programmer, it would be more accurate to say I'm that than it would be to say I'm a fisherman. For me, the self is the same thing. If I can reach a state of consciousness where I can recognize the self as 'other,' as 'intrusive,' then it means--and I've been consistent in how I phrase this throughout--that my original concept and experience of self as a continuous being is wrong and illusory. And we haven't left the orbit of Nibbana at all, because the core of Nibbana is precisely the sense of self. As for the desires, I already answered that: You get stronger and deeper meditations when you abstain.

MATT: I mean it might be a false dichotomy, but it's an accurate description of the two main camps in Western psychology. I'm biased, but I'm for the constructivist approach. […] The sense of self as I have experienced it isn't a continuous phenomenon. This body of course, is always here, but I would be lying if I told you I experienced my self as anything but discontinuous, and that's even before I got more involved with Buddhism.

DHW: Your examples only relate to the discontinuity of your consciousness of your self. You have not commented on my description above, and I’d be interested to know if there is anything with which you disagree.

Consciousness is precisely--entirely--my whole point.

So, let me counter you with this question, if you interpret my words as "discontinuity of your consciousness of your self" how does that square in the scenario I provided just a little bit ago of where my 'self' sits when doing that spaciousness meditation? If my sense of self can be discarded like a snake shedding its skin, and I can point to where it is in that meditation, then what do you suggest is conscious and aware of THAT? The self is a state of consciousness that we discard whenever we don't need it. This doesn't reject me as an individual or a sentient being, but it does reject categories of what the self really is.

The Buddha said this: "It is far better to think of your self as this body than it is to think of the self as this mind." His context was aimed at the Brahmin idea of the mind as an eternal soul, but it's broadly applicable and I think directly relevant to this conversation.

I'm not to the first Jhana, but it's clear that it is far better for me to say that this microsecond 'bare awareness/executive function' is my self than it is my normal daily 'self' that I spend more time in. However, even that bare awareness has causes and conditions that you can get past, that's what progressively dissolves by the time you reach the fourth jhana and beyond.

DAVID: Self is not an illusion. It lives in my consciousness.
And:
DAVID: I would say it is always there, waiting to be approached, so my attention to myself is intermittent, but as it is always available it is continuous. There are no gaps in that it always feels the same.

I totally agree that our attention is intermittent, but our self also lives in our unconscious or subconscious mind. I’d also say that although it feels the same because it’s always “you”, changes can be very substantial. I gave the example earlier of the bigot, but of course all forms of psychotherapy are based on efforts to change certain elements of the self. In THAT sense, one can say its nature may be discontinuous, but I agree emphatically with you that it is NOT an illusion.

Have you ever been accused of doing something, and you emphatically deny it only to have that person provide hard evidence that you're wrong?

Your denial was an illusion. It's the 'ego' or the self that drives those illusory impulses. It's the source of many distortions of reality. The 'illusory self' that I keep referring back to, is THAT thing. Once you gain an appreciation for what it feels like in your head, you can catch it. The 'truer you' is that executive function that allows you to say, "why do I so strongly feel I should deny this," check yourself because you know that this feeling is typically suspect, and then avoid the disavowal and get to the truth.

I bring up Phineas Gage yet again, and I would really like you to spend some time thinking slowly and carefully about this. If your entire personality can be rewritten by a chance blow through your brain, what does that say about your 'self' and your feelings of continuity?

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 23, 2024, 20:00 (62 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: For example, when I'm focusing on writing code for work, there is no sense of self in my mind.
You also responded to David:
MATT: My argument is simply that if I'm not thinking about it or feeling it ALL the time, then it's not continuous.

The fact that you are not thinking about your “self” does not mean your “self” isn’t there, let alone that you must get rid of it! You don’t think all the time about your heart beating, but it is. We have now left the subjects of rebirth and Nibbana (both of which I think you have your own doubts about) and the vexed question of desirable and undesirable desires, and switched to whether there really is such a thing as self. I offered my own view on this:


If I say "I'm a fisherman," yet I spend only a weekend every few months fishing, we would agree that I'm not really a fisherman. In more vulgar terms, I spend most of my week as a programmer, it would be more accurate to say I'm that than it would be to say I'm a fisherman. For me, the self is the same thing. If I can reach a state of consciousness where I can recognize the self as 'other,' as 'intrusive,' then it means--and I've been consistent in how I phrase this throughout--that my original concept and experience of self as a continuous being is wrong and illusory.....

MATT: I mean it might be a false dichotomy, but it's an accurate description of the two main camps in Western psychology. I'm biased, but I'm for the constructivist approach. […] The sense of self as I have experienced it isn't a continuous phenomenon. This body of course, is always here, but I would be lying if I told you I experienced my self as anything but discontinuous, and that's even before I got more involved with Buddhism.

DHW: Your examples only relate to the discontinuity of your consciousness of your self. You have not commented on my description above, and I’d be interested to know if there is anything with which you disagree.


Matt: Consciousness is precisely--entirely--my whole point.

So, let me counter you with this question, if you interpret my words as "discontinuity of your consciousness of your self" how does that square in the scenario I provided just a little bit ago of where my 'self' sits when doing that spaciousness meditation? If my sense of self can be discarded like a snake shedding its skin, and I can point to where it is in that meditation, then what do you suggest is conscious and aware of THAT? The self is a state of consciousness that we discard whenever we don't need it. This doesn't reject me as an individual or a sentient being, but it does reject categories of what the self really is.

The Buddha said this: "It is far better to think of your self as this body than it is to think of the self as this mind." His context was aimed at the Brahmin idea of the mind as an eternal soul, but it's broadly applicable and I think directly relevant to this conversation.

I'm not to the first Jhana, but it's clear that it is far better for me to say that this microsecond 'bare awareness/executive function' is my self than it is my normal daily 'self' that I spend more time in. However, even that bare awareness has causes and conditions that you can get past, that's what progressively dissolves by the time you reach the fourth jhana and beyond.

DAVID: Self is not an illusion. It lives in my consciousness.
And:
DAVID: I would say it is always there, waiting to be approached, so my attention to myself is intermittent, but as it is always available it is continuous. There are no gaps in that it always feels the same.

Matt: I totally agree that our attention is intermittent, but our self also lives in our unconscious or subconscious mind. I’d also say that although it feels the same because it’s always “you”, changes can be very substantial. I gave the example earlier of the bigot, but of course all forms of psychotherapy are based on efforts to change certain elements of the self. In THAT sense, one can say its nature may be discontinuous, but I agree emphatically with you that it is NOT an illusion.


Have you ever been accused of doing something, and you emphatically deny it only to have that person provide hard evidence that you're wrong?

No.


Matt: Your denial was an illusion. It's the 'ego' or the self that drives those illusory impulses. It's the source of many distortions of reality. The 'illusory self' that I keep referring back to, is THAT thing. Once you gain an appreciation for what it feels like in your head, you can catch it. The 'truer you' is that executive function that allows you to say, "why do I so strongly feel I should deny this," check yourself because you know that this feeling is typically suspect, and then avoid the disavowal and get to the truth.

Matt: I bring up Phineas Gage yet again, and I would really like you to spend some time thinking slowly and carefully about this. If your entire personality can be rewritten by a chance blow through your brain, what does that say about your 'self' and your feelings of continuity?

I know his story. A damaged brain will not interpret self or consciousness properly.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 17:17 (64 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: My fully developed self likes excitement. But I don't benefit myself at the expense of others.

Matt: I would say that is a well-balanced self.

DAVID: I am conscious of myself; therefore, I have a self I invent as I live. Being religious, that self is connected to my soul.

Matt: I’m not sure about invention. I think most of us are conscious of the different facets of our “self” and eventually of changes that may have taken place as life proceeds. But if, for instance, you are kind-hearted and like helping people, I wouldn’t say you have “invented” your kindness.

We work on our ego-defense mechanisms all our lives. Most of the time they are reasonable, butthey can make us sick.


dhw (to Matt) I’ll leave it there for the time being, as I am becoming more and more convinced that in terms of the development of the self (as opposed to its total disappearance) we are actually in agreement.

MATT: I think you're too hung up on the concept that Nibbana means the destruction of the self. Nibbana's best description is of an egoless person. The "self" is a concept. An idea. We invent it with our minds.

It’s a concept we use to describe something which is very real to us. That’s how language functions, even when it is used to describe something that can’t be pinned down to one specific quality. I don’t think many people would quarrel with me if I said my “self” was the sum total of all my personal attributes, whatever they maybe. (See below for changes.) The “ego” is also a concept or idea, and as you have fastened upon it here, I just wonder if maybe you are thinking in terms of egotism, which puts one’s own self before anyone else’s. That is certainly undesirable! But that was not the word you used when I raised my objections to your picture of the ideal, in which we must rid ourselves of all desires, and “all concept of self must disappear”. If you had said all egotism must disappear, I would have agreed, though I still object to the removal of desires which can bring us joy without inflicting any harm, and of passion which can often lead to good works of benefit to all.

dhw: I started to read the article, but stopped very soon when I saw how enormous it was, and when I read this:
QUOTE: “the substance theory and illusion theory are the two most representative views, despite their contradictions. The core claim of the former is that the self is a reality, an independent entity, based on the notion that most of us intuitively perceive the sameness of our personality, memories, and recollections as if the subject “I” is always present, while the latter states that the substantial, continuous self is an illusion because our experience is always fluid.”

I see this as a totally false dichotomy. For me the self is a reality, an independent identity based on personal attributes which although partially continuous may also be partially fluid. The fact that it is an independent entity does not mean that it can’t change, and the fact that it can change does not mean that it is illusory!

Self is not an illusion. It lives in my consciousness.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 16:25 (66 days ago) @ dhw

Although we have consensus on many “realities”, they’re all subjective experiences that run through the filter of bolded I, I or the ego. And as far as these are (or this is) concerned, I see no possibility of the self ever being knowable as a totality. The example you’ve chosen is not even a trait of personality but as you say, a simple change of view: your opinion re NDEs changed because you learned something new. I would distinguish between opinions about particular subjects and the general characteristics which make up the “I” that forms those opinions. However, if you’ve been a bigot and new information or new experiences teach you not to be a bigot, then of course the “I” will change, and this is how I see it – a mixture of the actual and the potential, and the potential can never become totally actual unless you undergo every experience life can offer you. Which is impossible. I thought you remained at best open-minded about rebirth, but that only complicates matters. Have your previous lives created the characteristics you were born with? Your present “you” certainly can’t learn anything from your previous experiences if you don’t even know what they were. Whatever they were, you can still only work on those you have now.

I think I can apply a couple of correctives here. The first being simply this, I've considered myself a scientist for a very long time now. Part of being a scientist is being an empiricist, and it's impossible for those things to not influence your personality, so I reject your rejection here! You can measure your extent to your ego's involvement by how you feel when someone challenges you about it. The other part, learning how to dissolve attachments also grants you the ability to watch them as they form, and say, "but not that." When you learn to dissolve existing attachments you also prevent new ones from forming, and--you can't help this. It becomes automatic--again--part of your personality. It's exactly the same thing as when my botanist friend can point against a wall of green and say, WHOA, LOOK AT THAT Sphaeralcea munroana! It's the same mental process, you're just applying it to the thoughts in your head. "Whoa, this idea, it really energizes me, I should take note of that and not let it excite me too much!" For some people, that might "dull" life, but to me that's a healthy enjoyment, that also prevents my ego from harming myself or others. ;-)

MATT: What's at the center of the onion? The end.

I don’t dislike the onion image, as it corresponds to the above concept: you have endless layers of potential “I”, but only new experiences will peel them. However, for me it fails because we can never know the centre. If you think you’ll go on peeling (= having new experiences) for the rest of eternity, so be it. If you think you WILL reach the centre, then there’s nothing more to experience. And that is supposed to lead to the perfect peace when “all concept of self disappears”. No bolded “I”, “I” or “ego”? Might as well not exist. Hence the end = death.

So the central truth of Buddhism is precisely that we CAN dissolve the ego out of our subjective experience, and the reason I like both the onion and the lotus similes is that when the flower is open, there's nothing left to open, only the flower remains, and with the onion, very similarly, once you've gotten to the bud, there's no more work to do. The psychological transformation of removing that last "I AM" is supposed to be radically profound, you are at maximum peace, in this very life. But you still clearly experience things--the Buddha lived for 40yrs after Nibbana. But those experiences will no longer generate an ego-attachment.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 18:57 (66 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: Although we have consensus on many “realities”, they’re all subjective experiences that run through the filter of bolded I, I or the ego. And as far as these are (or this is) concerned, I see no possibility of the self ever being knowable as a totality. The example you’ve chosen is not even a trait of personality but as you say, a simple change of view: your opinion re NDEs changed because you learned something new. I would distinguish between opinions about particular subjects and the general characteristics which make up the “I” that forms those opinions. However, if you’ve been a bigot and new information or new experiences teach you not to be a bigot, then of course the “I” will change, and this is how I see it – a mixture of the actual and the potential, and the potential can never become totally actual unless you undergo every experience life can offer you. Which is impossible. I thought you remained at best open-minded about rebirth, but that only complicates matters. Have your previous lives created the characteristics you were born with? Your present “you” certainly can’t learn anything from your previous experiences if you don’t even know what they were. Whatever they were, you can still only work on those you have now.


Matt: I think I can apply a couple of correctives here. The first being simply this, I've considered myself a scientist for a very long time now. Part of being a scientist is being an empiricist, and it's impossible for those things to not influence your personality, so I reject your rejection here! You can measure your extent to your ego's involvement by how you feel when someone challenges you about it. The other part, learning how to dissolve attachments also grants you the ability to watch them as they form, and say, "but not that." When you learn to dissolve existing attachments you also prevent new ones from forming, and--you can't help this. It becomes automatic--again--part of your personality. It's exactly the same thing as when my botanist friend can point against a wall of green and say, WHOA, LOOK AT THAT Sphaeralcea munroana! It's the same mental process, you're just applying it to the thoughts in your head. "Whoa, this idea, it really energizes me, I should take note of that and not let it excite me too much!" For some people, that might "dull" life, but to me that's a healthy enjoyment, that also prevents my ego from harming myself or others. ;-)

MATT: What's at the center of the onion? The end.

I don’t dislike the onion image, as it corresponds to the above concept: you have endless layers of potential “I”, but only new experiences will peel them. However, for me it fails because we can never know the centre. If you think you’ll go on peeling (= having new experiences) for the rest of eternity, so be it. If you think you WILL reach the centre, then there’s nothing more to experience. And that is supposed to lead to the perfect peace when “all concept of self disappears”. No bolded “I”, “I” or “ego”? Might as well not exist. Hence the end = death.


So the central truth of Buddhism is precisely that we CAN dissolve the ego out of our subjective experience, and the reason I like both the onion and the lotus similes is that when the flower is open, there's nothing left to open, only the flower remains, and with the onion, very similarly, once you've gotten to the bud, there's no more work to do. The psychological transformation of removing that last "I AM" is supposed to be radically profound, you are at maximum peace, in this very life. But you still clearly experience things--the Buddha lived for 40yrs after Nibbana. But those experiences will no longer generate an ego-attachment.

I must not be as critical. I feel at peace as is.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 21:43 (66 days ago) @ David Turell

So the central truth of Buddhism is precisely that we CAN dissolve the ego out of our subjective experience, and the reason I like both the onion and the lotus similes is that when the flower is open, there's nothing left to open, only the flower remains, and with the onion, very similarly, once you've gotten to the bud, there's no more work to do. The psychological transformation of removing that last "I AM" is supposed to be radically profound, you are at maximum peace, in this very life. But you still clearly experience things--the Buddha lived for 40yrs after Nibbana. But those experiences will no longer generate an ego-attachment.


I must not be as critical. I feel at peace as is.

You must be dead! ;-)

I have to sit still for close to an hour to get any kind of mental calm, or get a massage.

Out of curiosity, have you ever read Julian Jaynes?

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Monday, May 20, 2024, 18:07 (65 days ago) @ xeno6696

So the central truth of Buddhism is precisely that we CAN dissolve the ego out of our subjective experience, and the reason I like both the onion and the lotus similes is that when the flower is open, there's nothing left to open, only the flower remains, and with the onion, very similarly, once you've gotten to the bud, there's no more work to do. The psychological transformation of removing that last "I AM" is supposed to be radically profound, you are at maximum peace, in this very life. But you still clearly experience things--the Buddha lived for 40yrs after Nibbana. But those experiences will no longer generate an ego-attachment.


DAVID: I must not be as critical. I feel at peace as is.


You must be dead! ;-)

I have to sit still for close to an hour to get any kind of mental calm, or get a massage.

Out of curiosity, have you ever read Julian Jaynes?

I was sleeping overnight. Jaynes, no.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 19, 2024, 16:31 (66 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I greatly appreciate the manner in which you’re educating us into the many different facets of Buddhism. This is “enlightening” in itself, but I’m not altogether sure what facets you actually believe in, and there are definitely facets that I find both confusing and in some ways disturbing. I’ve summarized these as follows:

1) I find the concept of rebirth extremely confusing, and it’s clear from your response that you do too. Nibbana is so nebulous that to me it suggests eternal death as the ideal state. You have tried to explain why it isn’t.
2) A monk’s experience doesn’t explain to me why I should rid myself of all the personal desires which are integral to my individuality and the fulfilment of which have given me the greatest joy in life. But I can understand totally that if my desires cause unhappiness for me or other people, then I need to make changes to myself.

dhw: It’s the latter that is clearly causing most of the difficulty, and you’ve tried to explain it here:

MATT: […] take my changing views on talking about NDE/OBE. Until a few years ago, while I would indulge you and Dr. Turell in some of those conversations, by and large I was dismissive. A huge part of that was because I had a strong 'identity view' as they say in Buddhism. This is one example of an attachment. I had the view, "I am a strict empiricist." This is a problem. Because now, I've engaged myself so strongly with a particular view about my self, I've created a distortion that at minimum makes me less compassionate about the lived experiences of others. There's a feeling involved with this, quite subtle, but it's the imposition of the ego between myself and reality.
If your sense of I is too strong, your attachment to this self (I instead of I) will miss the possibility of learning your "true" self, which would rightly be not just *you* in the sense of this life, but the totality of *you*. More accurately, my 'self' isn't just Matt in this life, it's Matt and all the previous lives rolled into one continuity.

dhw: Although we have consensus on many “realities”, they’re all subjective experiences that run through the filter of bolded I, I or the ego. And as far as these are (or this is) concerned, I see no possibility of the self ever being knowable as a totality. The example you’ve chosen is not even a trait of personality but as you say, a simple change of view: your opinion re NDEs changed because you learned something new. I would distinguish between opinions about particular subjects and the general characteristics which make up the “I” that forms those opinions. However, if you’ve been a bigot and new information or new experiences teach you not to be a bigot, then of course the “I” will change, and this is how I see it – a mixture of the actual and the potential, and the potential can never become totally actual unless you undergo every experience life can offer you. Which is impossible. I thought you remained at best open-minded about rebirth, but that only complicates matters. Have your previous lives created the characteristics you were born with? Your present “you” certainly can’t learn anything from your previous experiences if you don’t even know what they were. Whatever they were, you can still only work on those you have now.

MATT: What's at the center of the onion? The end.

dhw: I don’t dislike the onion image, as it corresponds to the above concept: you have endless layers of potential “I”, but only new experiences will peel them. However, for me it fails because we can never know the centre. If you think you’ll go on peeling (= having new experiences) for the rest of eternity, so be it. If you think you WILL reach the centre, then there’s nothing more to experience. And that is supposed to lead to the perfect peace when “all concept of self disappears”. No bolded “I”, “I” or “ego”? Might as well not exist. Hence the end = death.

Perhaps I should add that I do not wish to die! This is because in spite of the horrors all around us, “I” have found life richly rewarding, because “I” have consciously enjoyed fulfilling “my” desires, including the wonderful children that are the direct result of some of those desires! Another inclusion is the desire never to hurt but always to help others. Theoretically I would welcome a rebirth, in the hope that I would continue to do the same. I totally understand and applaud any philosophy that will help others to achieve this balance (which I think is the position you are in). I only object to the negative views of life and the self that make rebirth sound like a punishment for having a self rather than an opportunity to develop and enrich it!

I read and edited but cannot add a comment to a well-covered discussion.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:42 (67 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: Nice, we're moving right along! =-) I would heartily agree that so far my experience of Buddhism has been precisely therapeutic.

dhw:This implies that you have been aware of something in yourself that was out of balance, and so I can only applaud whatever it is that has restored you to what you consider the right balance.

dhw: Of course love should not entail possession or control. Whenever the ego or self leads to imbalance or to negative attitudes, there will be suffering. That doesn’t mean the ego/self must disappear! It must make the adjustments that will achieve a balance between itself and the other person’s ego/self.

MATT: Au contraire! The extent to which any of us is capable of having a wholesome and uplifting love for someone is precisely the same sliding scale that removes "us" from the equation. The more you care for someone or some thing, the less "you" is in that, and the more the object is within it.

dhw: Within what, and why something? We seem to be talking about different kinds of love here. If I love my motor car, is it the same as loving my wife, or as loving God? My comment was specifically about the relations between two people, and frankly if the wife totally removed her “self” and existed entirely for the husband, she might just as well be a robot. And ditto the other way round.(Did you ever see the film “Stepford Wives”?)

MATT: You admit there's a balance, a sliding scale if you will. I picture at one end, Agape, and at the other end, desiring the object's destruction. (There's an interesting conversation to be had in that perhaps indifference is worse than a spiteful hate, but maybe later.)

dhw: But we’re not talking about the obvious opposites. We’re talking about the Buddhist ideal, in which “all concept of self disappears”, and how this is to be applied in our daily lives. And I am arguing (rather fiercely!) that the total disappearance of self will destroy everything that makes the individual’s life worth living, and what is essential is that we achieve a balance between what is good for our self and also what is good for other selves.

dhw: 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. […]

MATT: While all the various sects of Buddhism have different ideas about what Nibbana actually means, in none of them does it imply death. […]Nibbana isn't death, it just stops the cycle of rebirth that suffering causes. You will not take another physical form. You're simply freely liberated until the current universe cycle ends.

dhw: I find the concept of rebirth “that suffering causes” extremely confusing. Are we reborn because of the suffering we’ve caused, or because of the suffering we’ve endured? Why is rebirth automatically regarded as something negative that needs to be stopped? It’s as if Buddhists believe that being alive is some kind of punishment! Secondly, if you have no physical form, no joy, no suffering, no individuality, what DO you have? Some definitions describe Nibbana as a place of perfect peace. What can be more peaceful than the grave? You say “freely liberated”. If you have no body and no self, what are you free to do, and how and where can you do it?

MATT: So I tried to answer part of that puzzle by pointing out that in Buddhism, there's a level of the universe that lacks physical components--totally mind-made. There's no body like what you have on earth. We get into areas where I've not explored deeply because alot of it appears hogwash to someone who's predilection leans heavily materialist.

dhw: Nothing to do with materialism. Lack of physical components is no different from the western concept of an afterlife, in which the individual lives on as a soul or spirit. The huge difference lies in the fact that in the western concept, the individual keeps his or her individual identity, whereas what you are proposing is an immaterial being without an individual identity (the self has disappeared). If the something that lives on is not “you”, then “you” might as well be dead.

MATT: [..] my read is that whatever we are after shedding, when we dissolve into the universe we're joining something far greater than ourselves. We join the great cosmic "we." ;-)

dhw: Religious people would say we join God. Both concepts are equally nebulous. WHAT (or WHO) joins, and WHAT (or WHO) are/is the cosmic “we”? And if “I” have lost my individuality, what’s the point?

I'm following without comment.

Nibbana tangent parts 1 & 2

by David Turell @, Friday, May 17, 2024, 18:48 (68 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.

MATT: I can tell you that my progression through earlier states of meditation before the first demonstrates a definite progression towards a peaceful and sublime state that sticks with me when its over. That state heightens my ability for love and makes me more easily express compassion and forgiveness.

dhw: Thank you. This makes sense to me. It’s a rather beautiful form of therapy, whereas I had jumped the gun and taken “seclusion” to mean you should go and be a monk, which you will have gathered is not my idea of living a life of love and empathy with others.

MATT: My main goal in sharing that sequence was to demonstrate how each step in the continuum pushes into finer and finer views of consciousness, where you walk right on past all the normal daily states of consciousness to a place where you're still aware but all concept of self disappears, which is a far better idea of what nibbana means than the rest. (dhw’s bold)

dhw: Without a concept of self, I am nothing, and Nibbana is also nothing. If I don’t know this is me, how do I feel love or compassion for others, the joy of music “I” like, the excitement of seeing “my” children and grandchildren?

MATT: As for the begging question, there's several things at play, first off, you have to have a subdued sense of self in order to do it.

dhw: Yes indeed, and that is a concept of self. Instead of “I’m important,” you have “I’m humble.”

MATT: I have a harder time understanding why you think this monastic practice wouldn't teach you to have more love and compassion?

dhw: This is a huge leap from “all concept of self” disappearing. Of course you will understand other people’s suffering if you’ve suffered too. And if your monks go out into the community comforting the poor, offering them food, shelter, understanding, then I’m all for it. But that’s not the same as losing all concept of self. How will you do it if you don’t even know that you WANT to do it? The lesson you’re teaching us is to open your own self up to an understanding of other people’s selves, and not to fret if there are things your self can’t have. You have confirmed this later:

MATT: The equanimity we want is the equanimity that leads us not to desire for things that feed our ego, and/or are out of our control anyway.

dhw: Agreed. That is not loss of self but a change in the attitudes of self. Ditto with your definition of “attachment”.

MATT: it directly implies ego in Buddhism. You can love without attachment. To live without attachment in Buddhism, is to live without feelings of possession, to give up feelings of control, to always err against ego.

dhw: Of course love should not entail possession or control. Whenever the ego or self leads to imbalance or to negative attitudes, there will be suffering. That doesn’t mean the ego/self must disappear! It must make the adjustments that will achieve a balance between itself and the other person’s ego/self.

dhw: "My view is that there is intrinsically nothing whatsoever wrong with possession or with thinking in terms of this is me/mine."

MATT: Right... but at the same time every civilization that has ever existed has created social institutions to deal with me/mine precisely because if you don't muzzle it, that is what causes terrible problems.

dhw: Not to deal with me/mine, but to ensure that me/mine does not cause suffering to other me/mines!

dhw: 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. […]

MATT: While all the various sects of Buddhism have different ideas about what Nibbana actually means, in none of them does it imply death. […]Nibbana isn't death, it just stops the cycle of rebirth that suffering causes. You will not take another physical form. You're simply freely liberated until the current universe cycle ends.

dhw: I find the concept of rebirth “that suffering causes” extremely confusing. Are we reborn because of the suffering we’ve caused, or because of the suffering we’ve endured? Why is rebirth automatically regarded as something negative that needs to be stopped? It’s as if Buddhists believe that being alive is some kind of punishment! Secondly, if you have no physical form, no joy, no suffering, no individuality, what DO you have? Some definitions describe Nibbana as a place of perfect peace. What can be more peaceful than the grave? You say “freely liberated”. If you have no body and no self, what are you free to do, and how and where can you do it?

dhw has offered all the reasonable comments I could add.

A brief word on methodology.

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 02:16 (68 days ago) @ dhw

I've recalled a tendency not just here but even a couple years back where when I bring up how the practices of Buddhism have affected me personally.

That wasn't an attempt to put up some sort of a defensive wall (like, this is personal to me, don't criticize it).

In every case it's to attempt to make my point empirically.

1.) The practices do X to achieve Y
2.) The unwritten assumption is that my experiences are shared with my fellows, as in, my experiences aren't an outlier
3.) Any controversy that may arise in discussing the texts should always be resolved from the place of experience. Lacking experience, talk to someone who has it. They ought to help you get there.

Buddhism is the most empirical religion I've ever encountered. Usually, if a question seems thorny, a monk will either fill in the gaps with their own experience, or give you exercises to help you realize whatever sticking point you have in the text.

Obviously with the really big questions, there's a definite gap--not every monk achieves Nibbana for example, no monk can really train you beyond their own experience.

"Faith" in Buddhism doesn't quite mean the same thing as it does in Christianity. You build faith by applying the teachings and observing the results in your life. Supposedly, once you reach a particular point, you'll give up your doubts and you'll more or less believe the lot. I'm nowhere near close to that yet, but my experience thus far does track.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

A brief word on methodology.

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 18, 2024, 16:03 (67 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: I've recalled a tendency not just here but even a couple years back where when I bring up how the practices of Buddhism have affected me personally.

That wasn't an attempt to put up some sort of a defensive wall (like, this is personal to me, don't criticize it).

In every case it's to attempt to make my point empirically.

1.) The practices do X to achieve Y
2.) The unwritten assumption is that my experiences are shared with my fellows, as in, my experiences aren't an outlier
3.) Any controversy that may arise in discussing the texts should always be resolved from the place of experience. Lacking experience, talk to someone who has it. They ought to help you get there.

Buddhism is the most empirical religion I've ever encountered. Usually, if a question seems thorny, a monk will either fill in the gaps with their own experience, or give you exercises to help you realize whatever sticking point you have in the text.

Obviously with the really big questions, there's a definite gap--not every monk achieves Nibbana for example, no monk can really train you beyond their own experience.

"Faith" in Buddhism doesn't quite mean the same thing as it does in Christianity. You build faith by applying the teachings and observing the results in your life. Supposedly, once you reach a particular point, you'll give up your doubts and you'll more or less believe the lot. I'm nowhere near close to that yet, but my experience thus far does track.

a great explanation of your methodology.

Nibbana tangent part 1

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, May 16, 2024, 21:16 (69 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: I feel the issue you might have is less with equanimity and more with attachment. The best way I can explain this, is that attachment implies a notion of control. […]when you see the word "attachment" in Buddhism, you should be thinking more along the lines of a love that does not control or make demands. […] Any feeling that creates a sense of possession ought to be discarded. "This is ME! That is MINE!" are OK with a healthy detachment.

I have no idea why you think attachment implies control, especially in the context of love. Of course relationships break down if one partner takes no notice of the other’s needs. If you think that form of attachment implies control, you need a language lesson and a marriage guidance counsellor! And your last comment seems to me to be contradictory. I possess my house and my worldly goods, and my students thanked me for the help I gave them, and the audience cheered my last play production. I get pleasure out of “this is me and mine”. Why should I “discard” that sense? But then you say I needn’t discard it if I have a healthy detachment. Thank you! My view is that there is intrinsically nothing whatsoever wrong with possession or with thinking in terms of this is me/mine. But as in most areas of human life, something perfectly “healthy” can turn into something extremely unhealthy when carried to extremes, e.g. the only thing that matters in life is that I should own as much property as I can get, and to hell with the damage I cause to other people. (See Part Two for my concept of a "healthy" balance.)

I'll deal with the contradiction first: IN Buddhism you have the Four Noble Truths. It's placed in the context of rebirth, take that as you will, but you have to have some awareness of where the ideas come from.

1. There is suffering
2. The cause of suffering is craving, attachment, desire
3. The cessation of suffering is in letting go of the above
4. The Buddha's Eightfold path is what you do in order to achieve this letting go

The word "attachment" that you seem so hung up on... it directly implies ego in Buddhism. You can love without attachment. That's kind of the whole point of our english phrase "if you love something, let it go." To live without attachment in Buddhism, is to live without feelings of possession, to give up feelings of control, to always err against ego. You acknowledge this directly when you say "I needn’t discard it if I have a healthy detachment. ..can turn extremely unhealthy when carried to extremes..." You recognize that too much is bad. Monastic traditions in general, and Buddhism in particular, gives a set of practices to do exactly that. The practices on offer

The highest form of Love in Christianity is Agape. Agape is literally, "selfless love." You would give up your life for the sake of another, and ultimate expression of giving up control. In this, Buddhism and Christianity strive for the same thing. Attachment implies control because attachment involves the ego which wants everything to be "ME/MINE" and wants to hold onto everything forever--which it can't as there is nothing in this world that is permanent.

"My view is that there is intrinsically nothing whatsoever wrong with possession or with thinking in terms of this is me/mine."

Right... but at the same time every civilization that has ever existed has created social institutions to deal with me/mine precisely because if you don't muzzle it, that is what causes terrible problems.

In Buddhism, you're taught to acknowledge the "conventional" self, such that you don't bind too strongly with "Me/Mine." It's not that its intrinsically evil--nothing that every living being is subject to can be intrinsically evil--but that if you set your goal for Nibbana, you'll never get there without banishing that concept. If you don't want to give up your attachments, then don't set that goal, easy as that. It's not like Christianity, there's no commandment that any given practitioner get on the conveyor belt to Nibbana like there is with Christianity where only with belief in Jesus can you reach heaven. The kinds of problems you seem to have here I simply don't believe apply to anyone who isn't wearing monk's robes. Why aim for Nibbana? If you don't see the possible benefits, then its not for you.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 1

by David Turell @, Friday, May 17, 2024, 18:41 (68 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: I feel the issue you might have is less with equanimity and more with attachment. The best way I can explain this, is that attachment implies a notion of control. […]when you see the word "attachment" in Buddhism, you should be thinking more along the lines of a love that does not control or make demands. […] Any feeling that creates a sense of possession ought to be discarded. "This is ME! That is MINE!" are OK with a healthy detachment.

I have no idea why you think attachment implies control, especially in the context of love. Of course relationships break down if one partner takes no notice of the other’s needs. If you think that form of attachment implies control, you need a language lesson and a marriage guidance counsellor! And your last comment seems to me to be contradictory. I possess my house and my worldly goods, and my students thanked me for the help I gave them, and the audience cheered my last play production. I get pleasure out of “this is me and mine”. Why should I “discard” that sense? But then you say I needn’t discard it if I have a healthy detachment. Thank you! My view is that there is intrinsically nothing whatsoever wrong with possession or with thinking in terms of this is me/mine. But as in most areas of human life, something perfectly “healthy” can turn into something extremely unhealthy when carried to extremes, e.g. the only thing that matters in life is that I should own as much property as I can get, and to hell with the damage I cause to other people. (See Part Two for my concept of a "healthy" balance.)


I'll deal with the contradiction first: IN Buddhism you have the Four Noble Truths. It's placed in the context of rebirth, take that as you will, but you have to have some awareness of where the ideas come from.

1. There is suffering
2. The cause of suffering is craving, attachment, desire
3. The cessation of suffering is in letting go of the above
4. The Buddha's Eightfold path is what you do in order to achieve this letting go

The word "attachment" that you seem so hung up on... it directly implies ego in Buddhism. You can love without attachment. That's kind of the whole point of our english phrase "if you love something, let it go." To live without attachment in Buddhism, is to live without feelings of possession, to give up feelings of control, to always err against ego. You acknowledge this directly when you say "I needn’t discard it if I have a healthy detachment. ..can turn extremely unhealthy when carried to extremes..." You recognize that too much is bad. Monastic traditions in general, and Buddhism in particular, gives a set of practices to do exactly that. The practices on offer

The highest form of Love in Christianity is Agape. Agape is literally, "selfless love." You would give up your life for the sake of another, and ultimate expression of giving up control. In this, Buddhism and Christianity strive for the same thing. Attachment implies control because attachment involves the ego which wants everything to be "ME/MINE" and wants to hold onto everything forever--which it can't as there is nothing in this world that is permanent.

"My view is that there is intrinsically nothing whatsoever wrong with possession or with thinking in terms of this is me/mine."

Right... but at the same time every civilization that has ever existed has created social institutions to deal with me/mine precisely because if you don't muzzle it, that is what causes terrible problems.

In Buddhism, you're taught to acknowledge the "conventional" self, such that you don't bind too strongly with "Me/Mine." It's not that its intrinsically evil--nothing that every living being is subject to can be intrinsically evil--but that if you set your goal for Nibbana, you'll never get there without banishing that concept. If you don't want to give up your attachments, then don't set that goal, easy as that. It's not like Christianity, there's no commandment that any given practitioner get on the conveyor belt to Nibbana like there is with Christianity where only with belief in Jesus can you reach heaven. The kinds of problems you seem to have here I simply don't believe apply to anyone who isn't wearing monk's robes. Why aim for Nibbana? If you don't see the possible benefits, then its not for you.

I don't see or need the benefits, so it is not for me.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 16:02 (70 days ago) @ dhw

MATT: The next stage after that last one is "Nibbana," which is "extinction," which in Pali means the same thing as putting out a candle. […] You're still very much alive, but your mind is permanently changed. The reason why this breaks the cycle of rebirth is that a person who achieves nibbana is utterly incapable of engaging in impure acts, and can no longer generate kamma.

The person is utterly incapable of engaging in any acts at all!

How is that so when the Buddha was on this earth teaching for 40yrs after he achieved it?


MATT: it's clear to me that your consciousness doesn't get destroyed, the consciousness being that place where all your memories and seeds were stored […] it isn't clear to me what this means other than possibly just returning to the primordial stuff of the universe.

I have no idea what purpose can possibly be served by having all your memories – good and bad – stored in a consciousness which is no longer yours. Returning to the primordial stuff of the universe is precisely what happens when we die, and so the ultimate goal of Buddhism seems to be the total blank we call death. Frankly, this is one of the few subjects on which I actually agree with David: I love life, and I accept the grief and pain as the price that must sometimes be paid for the pleasure, rapture, joy and love. And I do my best to help others cope with their grief and pain, and I think that caring for others is infinitely preferable to “pure” equanimity (= indifference).

This is more interesting discussion here. I would suggest that what you think is *your* consciousness, isn't really yours. Ownership is illusion. I mean, do you even have a title granting you ownership? Can you make your consciousness do whatever you will? For as long as you will? Nietzsche said this best, "A thought comes when it wills, not when I will." The act of imagining or creating, as a writer yourself, when you have tried to "command" the entire process how good was the result vs when you were "in the zone" and it flowed from you naturally? Returning to the main theme, probably the only actual control you have over your consciousness is your ability to end your own life, and I think its obvious why that's considered anathema in almost all religions. (sans some warrior cultures)

As for the parts about grief and whatnot: Nowhere does it say not to grieve, but the steps here I originally posted was from a summary given to monks about the final stages of meditation before you break through to Nibbana. Even prior to the first Jhana, you've already done alot of work to recognize that you are simply part of a bigger cosmos, that any sense of ownership you have is illusory and fleeting. It pops up with the protestants too, "God giveth, God Taketh away." All religions have a sense for this: give up your desire for control. Buddhism takes it a little farther by drawing those lines to all the things that go on inside your head as well.

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.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 17:08 (70 days ago) @ xeno6696

MATT: The next stage after that last one is "Nibbana," which is "extinction," which in Pali means the same thing as putting out a candle. […] You're still very much alive, but your mind is permanently changed. The reason why this breaks the cycle of rebirth is that a person who achieves nibbana is utterly incapable of engaging in impure acts, and can no longer generate kamma.

dhw: The person is utterly incapable of engaging in any acts at all!


Matt: How is that so when the Buddha was on this earth teaching for 40yrs after he achieved it?


MATT: it's clear to me that your consciousness doesn't get destroyed, the consciousness being that place where all your memories and seeds were stored […] it isn't clear to me what this means other than possibly just returning to the primordial stuff of the universe.

dhw: I have no idea what purpose can possibly be served by having all your memories – good and bad – stored in a consciousness which is no longer yours. Returning to the primordial stuff of the universe is precisely what happens when we die, and so the ultimate goal of Buddhism seems to be the total blank we call death. Frankly, this is one of the few subjects on which I actually agree with David: I love life, and I accept the grief and pain as the price that must sometimes be paid for the pleasure, rapture, joy and love. And I do my best to help others cope with their grief and pain, and I think that caring for others is infinitely preferable to “pure” equanimity (= indifference).

Thank you, dhw.


Matt: This is more interesting discussion here. I would suggest that what you think is *your* consciousness, isn't really yours. Ownership is illusion. I mean, do you even have a title granting you ownership? Can you make your consciousness do whatever you will? For as long as you will? Nietzsche said this best, "A thought comes when it wills, not when I will." The act of imagining or creating, as a writer yourself, when you have tried to "command" the entire process how good was the result vs when you were "in the zone" and it flowed from you naturally? Returning to the main theme, probably the only actual control you have over your consciousness is your ability to end your own life, and I think its obvious why that's considered anathema in almost all religions. (sans some warrior cultures)

I feel like I have more control than that.


Matt: As for the parts about grief and whatnot: Nowhere does it say not to grieve, but the steps here I originally posted was from a summary given to monks about the final stages of meditation before you break through to Nibbana. Even prior to the first Jhana, you've already done alot of work to recognize that you are simply part of a bigger cosmos, that any sense of ownership you have is illusory and fleeting. It pops up with the protestants too, "God giveth, God Taketh away." All religions have a sense for this: give up your desire for control. Buddhism takes it a little farther by drawing those lines to all the things that go on inside your head as well.

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.

For some folks, stuck with hurtful memories, leaving the past is difficult. It is like fighting the inevitable. Losses must happen.

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 17:53 (70 days ago) @ David Turell
edited by xeno6696, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 17:59

Matt: This is more interesting discussion here. I would suggest that what you think is *your* consciousness, isn't really yours. Ownership is illusion. I mean, do you even have a title granting you ownership? Can you make your consciousness do whatever you will? For as long as you will? Nietzsche said this best, "A thought comes when it wills, not when I will." The act of imagining or creating, as a writer yourself, when you have tried to "command" the entire process how good was the result vs when you were "in the zone" and it flowed from you naturally? Returning to the main theme, probably the only actual control you have over your consciousness is your ability to end your own life, and I think its obvious why that's considered anathema in almost all religions. (sans some warrior cultures)


I feel like I have more control than that.

That certainly hasn't been my experience. When I focus to deliberately imagine things, sans distractions, eventually I get bored.

I don't control when I get bored, it just happens. I'd rather not get bored, I'd rather I stay in that state until I get my task done, but I absolutely have no control over it. I don't control the distractions either, those come purely from thoughts that zip in from the aether.

When emotional experiences arise, I don't control those either: the causes and conditions have to be right, and then it will bubble up or explode to the surface. I don't have control over those either. I CAN however, do metta meditations on someone I hate for weeks and wear that hatred down. All of that is to say, "free will" as we're taught it exists is hogwash. Free will is something you have to prepare and train for, so that way when you get into the right situation, it executes according to plan. The "free will" is in the planning and practice, once you're faced with the event, that almost always plays out like a symphony where the conductor might have to make do with what's at hand. A great experiment with free will is to have someone repeat a phrase over and over and then ask a question that makes someone say the opposite thing. If the person's never been exposed to the trick, they'll keep on going sometimes being aware of what they're doing while they're doing it. This is why the military does "basic training," in fact.

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. Meditation sharpens the ability to see when this happens. 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. Even in the course of writing this sentence, my brain is having two other streams of thought that interject, one reminding me to get back to work, and another wondering what I'm going to have for lunch.

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. And this is all when I'm actively engaged in a task, writing these words, and not in the more common state between tasks where, well, that's just a whirlwind of randomness, like the nonstop shifting of a radio dial.


Matt: As for the parts about grief and whatnot: Nowhere does it say not to grieve, but the steps here I originally posted was from a summary given to monks about the final stages of meditation before you break through to Nibbana. Even prior to the first Jhana, you've already done alot of work to recognize that you are simply part of a bigger cosmos, that any sense of ownership you have is illusory and fleeting. It pops up with the protestants too, "God giveth, God Taketh away." All religions have a sense for this: give up your desire for control. Buddhism takes it a little farther by drawing those lines to all the things that go on inside your head as well.

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.


For some folks, stuck with hurtful memories, leaving the past is difficult. It is like fighting the inevitable. Losses must happen.

Forgiveness meditations for me, have helped immensely to heal exactly these sorts of things. Beyond just the logical "it's the past, you can't change it." It's like peeling back layers of an onion and finding bits of sand... that's the best analogy I can think of.

^^^I didn't control the construction of that analogy either, I asked myself, 'what's a good analogy for this,' and after a few seconds of buzzing, an onion appeared in my mind, and a reference to the princess and the pea. I then actively put those bits together, recognizing that we never actually find grains of sand in an onion, now do we? I better qualify that with 'best analogy I can think of...'

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Nibbana tangent part 2

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 16, 2024, 18:13 (69 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: This is more interesting discussion here. I would suggest that what you think is *your* consciousness, isn't really yours. Ownership is illusion. I mean, do you even have a title granting you ownership? Can you make your consciousness do whatever you will? For as long as you will? Nietzsche said this best, "A thought comes when it wills, not when I will." The act of imagining or creating, as a writer yourself, when you have tried to "command" the entire process how good was the result vs when you were "in the zone" and it flowed from you naturally? Returning to the main theme, probably the only actual control you have over your consciousness is your ability to end your own life, and I think its obvious why that's considered anathema in almost all religions.


dhw: I feel like I have more control than that.


Matt: That certainly hasn't been my experience. When I focus to deliberately imagine things, sans distractions, eventually I get bored.

I don't control when I get bored, it just happens. I'd rather not get bored, I'd rather I stay in that state until I get my task done, but I absolutely have no control over it. I don't control the distractions either, those come purely from thoughts that zip in from the aether.

When emotional experiences arise, I don't control those either: the causes and conditions have to be right, and then it will bubble up or explode to the surface. I don't have control over those either. I CAN however, do metta meditations on someone I hate for weeks and wear that hatred down. All of that is to say, "free will" as we're taught it exists is hogwash. Free will is something you have to prepare and train for, so that way when you get into the right situation, it executes according to plan. The "free will" is in the planning and practice, once you're faced with the event, that almost always plays out like a symphony where the conductor might have to make do with what's at hand. A great experiment with free will is to have someone repeat a phrase over and over and then ask a question that makes someone say the opposite thing. If the person's never been exposed to the trick, they'll keep on going sometimes being aware of what they're doing while they're doing it.

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. Meditation sharpens the ability to see when this happens. 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. Even in the course of writing this sentence, my brain is having two other streams of thought that interject, one reminding me to get back to work, and another wondering what I'm going to have for lunch.

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. And this is all when I'm actively engaged in a task, writing these words, and not in the more common state between tasks where, well, that's just a whirlwind of randomness, like the nonstop shifting of a radio dial. >


Matt: As for the parts about grief and whatnot: Nowhere does it say not to grieve, but the steps here I originally posted was from a summary given to monks about the final stages of meditation before you break through to Nibbana. you are simply part of a bigger cosmos, that any sense of ownership you have is illusory and fleeting... All religions have a sense for this: give up your desire for control. Buddhism takes it a little farther by drawing those lines to all the things that go on inside your head as well.

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.


For some folks, stuck with hurtful memories, leaving the past is difficult. It is like fighting the inevitable. Losses must happen.


Forgiveness meditations for me, have helped immensely to heal exactly these sorts of things. Beyond just the logical "it's the past, you can't change it." It's like peeling back layers of an onion and finding bits of sand... that's the best analogy I can think of.

^^^I didn't control the construction of that analogy either, I asked myself, 'what's a good analogy for this,' and after a few seconds of buzzing, an onion appeared in my mind, and a reference to the princess and the pea. I then actively put those bits together, recognizing that we never actually find grains of sand in an onion, now do we? I better qualify that with 'best analogy I can think of...'

I am fascinated by your exposition of how your brain seems to struggle so actively. My mind is quiet by comparison. Perhaps it is because I'm not looking deeper as you do. I don 't have the desire but for some reason you do. Can tell us why you had to do this in Buddhism?

Nibbana tangent part 2

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Thursday, May 16, 2024, 22:07 (69 days ago) @ David Turell

Forgiveness meditations for me, have helped immensely to heal exactly these sorts of things. Beyond just the logical "it's the past, you can't change it." It's like peeling back layers of an onion and finding bits of sand... that's the best analogy I can think of.

^^^I didn't control the construction of that analogy either, I asked myself, 'what's a good analogy for this,' and after a few seconds of buzzing, an onion appeared in my mind, and a reference to the princess and the pea. I then actively put those bits together, recognizing that we never actually find grains of sand in an onion, now do we? I better qualify that with 'best analogy I can think of...'


I am fascinated by your exposition of how your brain seems to struggle so actively. My mind is quiet by comparison. Perhaps it is because I'm not looking deeper as you do. I don 't have the desire but for some reason you do. Can tell us why you had to do this in Buddhism?

So the first meditation anyone learns is breath meditation. And basically everybody--struggles in this way. The Buddha referred to this as "monkey mind." This article discusses it in modern psychological terms, and yes, it's worse now than it was decades ago.

The goal in the beginning, is to relax to the point where the only thing you're focusing on is the breath. The first "fruit" of the teaching is in learning how difficult it is to simply focus on this one thing. As your relaxation deepens your mind naturally silences and the stillness you experience makes the normal everyday mind very obviously brash and loud. I've had enough experience of the silence that when my mind moves, it's very obvious.

Surgeons and professional athletes that learn this meditation regard the silence precisely like "being in the zone" when they're working.

As to "why looking deeper," you can't help it. Once you've identified the silence, all thoughts screech by like Hulk leaping from building to building. Every meditation session results in that being staved off for a time, and time in has a linear effect with time-out, meaning, if I'm still for an hour, my mind takes at least that long before returning to normal.

Deeper and deeper meditations lead to longer periods of silence and a sharped ability to perceive mental phenomena. I'm as attuned to what's going on in my head as my botanist friend is in identifying plants from a distance on a walk. Habitual thinking does lead to predictable results, but alot of stuff in that stream of consciousness is... just like I said, a radio dial where depending on where I pause I get a different station.

--
\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by David Turell @, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 16:46 (70 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I remember that in our past discussions on this subject, we talked about the nature of “Nirvana”, which has always bugged me. One website defines this as “the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person's individual desires and suffering go away. The origin of the word nirvana relates to religious enlightenment; it comes from the Sanskrit meaning "extinction, disappearance" of the individual to the universal.” It means no more rebirth as well as no more self, and hence no more suffering or pleasure. To me, this means nothing more or less than our eternal death. Can you enlighten us?

MATT: Well, not exactly. Enlightenment is a personal practice.

dhw: Yeah, but my request only concerned the meaning and implications of “Nirvana”! Huge thanks for your whole post, which as always is immensely impressive and stimulating. I can’t comment on every detail, but will stick to the subject that bugs me, as summarized above. The following statements of yours are extremely relevant to my “bug”:

1. "...and abides in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion.

Rapture and pleasure seem mighty positive to me, but at a single stroke the jhana eliminates what for me is the greatest imaginable source of rapture and pleasure, which is love for others, including partner and children. Seclusion demands absolute focus on the self, which contradicts what I thought was another central precept of Buddhism: empathy and compassion for others.

4. "Again, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the fourth jhana, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.

This was a big leap, as pain and grief had not been mentioned before. Equanimity would seem to mean total indifference to everything!

8. "It is possible here that by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, some bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception."

dhw: I see that the literal meaning of “bhikkhu” is “beggar”. All part of the journey to total focus on the self, even at the expense of others? And this is the last stage before entering “nothingness”, or as I said in my own brief summary and you now repeat:

MATT: The next stage after that last one is "Nibbana," which is "extinction," which in Pali means the same thing as putting out a candle. […] You're still very much alive, but your mind is permanently changed. The reason why this breaks the cycle of rebirth is that a person who achieves nibbana is utterly incapable of engaging in impure acts, and can no longer generate kamma.

dhw: The person is utterly incapable of engaging in any acts at all!

MATT: it's clear to me that your consciousness doesn't get destroyed, the consciousness being that place where all your memories and seeds were stored […] it isn't clear to me what this means other than possibly just returning to the primordial stuff of the universe.

dhw: I have no idea what purpose can possibly be served by having all your memories – good and bad – stored in a consciousness which is no longer yours. Returning to the primordial stuff of the universe is precisely what happens when we die, and so the ultimate goal of Buddhism seems to be the total blank we call death. Frankly, this is one of the few subjects on which I actually agree with David: I love life, and I accept the grief and pain as the price that must sometimes be paid for the pleasure, rapture, joy and love. And I do my best to help others cope with their grief and pain, and I think that caring for others is infinitely preferable to “pure” equanimity (= indifference).

dhw thank you for equating us in this area of thought.


MATT: To the extent that there is a final mystery in Buddhism, it's this.

dhw: Yep, I agree. It just doesn’t make sense to me!

MATT: I'm not a huge expert here, I've done some research on this for my novel--and that was over 10yrs ago. I'll be revisiting it the next couple years however as I get those juices flowing again.

dhw: A novel? Hey, this is great news. A 10-year hiatus is not such good news, but please, please, get those juices flowing!

My thoughts also.

Rebirth PART ONE: evidence in young children

by David Turell @, Saturday, May 11, 2024, 18:29 (74 days ago) @ xeno6696

Matt: It is perhaps fortuitous that this gets posted when it does.

So rebirth is obviously an important teaching in Buddhism, though it's also true that it's not a dogmatic religion and like most things I've deferred judgment as the question certainly appears unknowable. Well, at least til I die, and I'm not so eager for that just YET!

I think it's also interesting that reincarnation existed as a belief in early Christianity, prior to the 2nd century AD. (Speaking of things we'll never truly know!)

But yes, in my own school of Thai Forest Buddhism there are masters who claim that full knowledge of all your past lives is indeed knowable, it's one of the fruits you attain on the way to enlightenment.

As far as religious truths go, it is at least something attainable.


Thanks for your comment. Does Buddhism recognize that consciousness is separate from the brain?


So, there's alot of variation--Tibetan Buddhism by itself is almost its own syncretic thing, and that happened as well with chan which later influenced all the current Zen schools. [Chan is essentially a syncretism with Dao.]

So you have some teachings that suggest "the mind is all, all things lead with mind" which is in line with your Zen schools.

In the Theravadan traditions which is in my orbit, they would say something different. Mind as we experience it is fully conditioned, in other words, there's not a concrete, permanent entity, mind is unique to that lifetime.

There is a stream of consciousness but it isn't 'you.' You can't think when you're in this realm. And yes, according to the teaching when you reach these meditative states, you're "there."

So if you're meditating in the 2nd Jhana when this body expires, you'll be reborn in that state.

Consciousness is that which is aware of the present moment--which we don't do all the time without training. So the definition is different. SO it would be best perhaps to summarize, that mind can only exist with the condition of the body, but consciousness knows no such bounds. IN the west we conflate mind with consciousness, and at least according to my school, that's a distortion. Our memories are part of an inert "store consciousness" that reignites as it were into a new body. Our minds reconstruct these memories into experiences, but how that works when reborn into higher realms, seems like alot of speculation to me. But there's answers, at least.

Now, there's a continuity of this experience, and the entire Tibetan Book of the Dead is a treatise on the experience of the mind dying and dissolving into consciousness. Out of Body experiences are considered commonplace though I've never had it happen. Monks throughout southeast asia and in Tibet regularly claim the ability to leave their bodies and there's a whole plethora of anecdotes for this including veridical experiences. (This is where your awesome kung fu stories have their root...)

While the body lives, there's enough cause and effect to maintain a mind, thus a sense of self and follow your consciousness out for a jaunt.

Never done that myself, but hey, if it happens I'll report back.

Thank you for reappearing and exposing us to your teachings.

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