Cannot believe in magical things

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pedro1985
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Cannot believe in magical things

Postby pedro1985 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:38 am

I try to practice what is written in the suttas (www.accesstoinsight.com), because I think it is useful.

But even though the suttas contain a lot of wisdom, I still keep finding unbelievable things about:

- a world of gods, deva's
- rebirth
- remembering past lives
- magical powers (angulimala sutta)

I tried keeping an open mind about that rebirth is true and that gods and deva's who are mentioned in the suttas really exist.

But after reading about them alot, I noticed that I honestly cannot believe that rebirth, gods, deva's, etc are real. Neither do I believe that the Buddha had any magical powers. I believe he was a man without any magical powers at all, who was not able to fly, nor could he read someones thoughts from a large distance.

Nevertheless, the rest of what is explained in the suttas: 8-fold path, 4 noble truths, meditation; are very usefull. I try to follow this teachings every day.

I practice what is explained in the suttas because the way of life that is explained in the suttas is the most stable and usefull way of life (in my opinion).

Does anyone feel similar about this?

Please note that it is not my purpose to challenge anybodies beliefs in rebirth.

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Ben
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Ben » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:47 am

Don't sweat it, Pedro.
If you have confidence in the core teachings, then practice according to your teacher's instructions or the instructions in the teachings you are utilising.
The path of Dhamma is one ofliberation from developing insight/wisdom - not liberation through blind belief.
All the best,

Ben
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Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
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saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Zom
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Zom » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:50 am

But even though the suttas contain a lot of wisdom, I still keep finding unbelievable things about:

- a world of gods, deva's
- rebirth
- remembering past lives
- magical powers (angulimala sutta)


Something you don't know directly doesn't mean that such things don't exist at all. Belief in rebirth is an essential part of Dhamma, this is a constituent of the Right View. If you see Noble Eightfold Path as a useful thing, then you should develop it fully, including belief in rebirth. Saddha (belief) can be developed (take a look - http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Ajahn ... _Faith.pdf)

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Kim OHara
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:52 am

Hi, Pedro,
Quite a lot of us feel much the same way. Fortunately, Buddhism is not an "all or nothing" religion the way, e.g., some Christian sects are. You can - and should - accept and follow the teachings you find most useful and set the others aside. In a while - a year or a decade - you may find that some of them do indeed make sense to you. If so, fine; if not, that's fine too.
You can even choose whether or not to call yourself "a Buddhist" as you learn the dhamma. Everyone is welcome here.

:namaste:
Kim

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Aloka
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Aloka » Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:04 am

Hi Pedro,

I tend to interpret the Realms as psychological states in this lifetime - because anything connected to places somewhere else, for me, is just speculation and irrelevant to my practice here and now.

Here are some views of the supreme patriarch of Thailand which you might find interesting:

His Holiness' view on Heaven and Hell

... His Holiness’ two books on heaven and hell are truly analytical view on the subject from a Buddhist point of view. As we are so familiar, in religious sphere, the concept of heaven and hell is a very prominent belief. In many cases, it becomes the goal of religious practice itself.

On this very subject, His Holiness critically analyses that the very concept and belief of heaven and hell in Buddhism is a cultural influence of indigenous culture and belief. He states: (I quote) ‘the subject of cosmology appeared in Buddhism is clearly can be seen that it is not ‘Buddhist teaching’ at all but an ancient geography. The concept and belief about it was included in Buddhist Canon merely because of strong influence of popular belief of the time. Later Commentaries further explain about heaven and hell in a greater detail distant itself from the original teaching of the Buddha.

If Buddhism teaches such belief on heaven and hell it would not be Buddhism at all but an ancient geography. Buddha wouldn’t be the Buddha who delivered the Noble Truth and ‘timeless’ message for mankind.’ (p. 1) (end of the quote) He then shows in his teaching that the concept of heaven and hell in Buddhism are in fact symbolic, representing the quality of mind and spirituality instead. One can be in heaven and hell in this very earth and life. No need to wait until one dies...*

http://www.sangharaja.org/en_main.asp




with kind wishes,

Aloka

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:49 pm

pedro1985 wrote:But after reading about them alot, I noticed that I honestly cannot believe that rebirth, gods, deva's, etc are real. Neither do I believe that the Buddha had any magical powers. I believe he was a man without any magical powers at all, who was not able to fly, nor could he read someones thoughts from a large distance.


As others have said, it's no big thing, and many Buddhists regard their practice as a path of discovery, not one of taking on beliefs.

However I would advise trying to keep an open mind, ie not getting too pre-occupied with the whole belief / disbelief thing. I think sometimes people miss the point of suttas because they're too busy disbelieving and rejecting what they are reading.

Spiny

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby befriend » Fri Dec 16, 2011 1:44 pm

dont mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon. buddhism is here to TEACH us how to practice. then we must practice. so practice renunciation, charity, and meditation. dont confuse the teachings for the goal. who cares if you can translate the whole tripitaka into pali people have already done that for you, id rather spend my time volunteering at a soup kitchen than memorizing commentaries.

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Zom
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Zom » Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:07 pm


santa100
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby santa100 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:13 pm

Thank you Zom for the great essay by Bhikkhu Bodhi, which is quite relevant to the current topic..

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby manas » Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:43 pm

Hi pedro,

I agree that you don't need to believe eveything you read in the suttas if you cannot verify them via your experience. That's ok, so long as you follow the precepts, and find the Teachings useful in daily life, that is great. In fact it's more than just ok, it's good to not be too believing of things without also testing them out via direct experience, imho. Blind faith is not encouraged. But as Zom mentioned, I am making a special effort with just one thing, and that is the concept of kamma, rebirth and faring according to one's kamma. As a naturally sceptical person - and believe me, I can get plagued with doubt badly on occassion - I've come to an understanding of sorts over the years. As I have discovered through direct experience that many of the things that the Buddha speaks of in the suttas are indeed true, particularly in regards to the training and purification of the mind, I've had these wonderful moments where it's dawned on me, "the Buddha was right again! i've been misapprehending this...now I can see what he was talking about!" This keeps happening, and recently I confronted myself about my doubt regarding this world and the next, beings faring according to their kamma, etc. I said to myself, "the Buddha has been right about everything else so far...so many things that you did not understand before, have become clearer over the years...no other teacher knows anywhere near as much about the human mind-and-heart as the Buddha, I mean, have you found one, ever? No! So can't you just open your mind to one thing that you cannot as yet directly perceive, i.e. rebirth and faring according to kamma, on the basis that 'well he's been right about everything else, so why not just take this one (rebirth and kamma) on trust for now, on the basis of trusting the words of an exceedingly wise and noble being?"

I have not done this with regard to deva realms, hell realms, magical powers...no, those things are not central to the practice in the here-and-now. But at the least keeping the mind open to the possibility of kamma and rebirth is so important that I also recommend making a special effort with it. I see it as the one thing that I am finally willing to accept on faith, after so many years of being a die-hard sceptic, based upon my ever-growing regard for the Buddha as the consummate master of the mind, and it's training in virtue, concentration and insight, and as one who was also exceedingly good. It is a kind of 'sacrifice' I've made, to open my mind to something that I cannot directly perceive in the here and now. At the very least we must not deny the possibility of the next world (for us) and faring according to kamma, because to cling to that denial would hinder our progress. Just keep the mind open, and don't deny the possibility, that's my humble advice (and what i'm trying to do myself).

metta.

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reflection
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby reflection » Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:48 pm

Zom wrote:
But even though the suttas contain a lot of wisdom, I still keep finding unbelievable things about:

- a world of gods, deva's
- rebirth
- remembering past lives
- magical powers (angulimala sutta)


Something you don't know directly doesn't mean that such things don't exist at all. Belief in rebirth is an essential part of Dhamma, this is a constituent of the Right View. If you see Noble Eightfold Path as a useful thing, then you should develop it fully, including belief in rebirth. Saddha (belief) can be developed (take a look - http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Ajahn ... _Faith.pdf)

I do not agree that it is essential. I think the dhamma can be very powerful even without belief in rebirth. If one does not see reasons to belief it, just don't. Also, I wouldn't advice one to directly develop belief in rebirth, because how can you do that? If you have a skeptic mindset, you can't just decide on what to belief. Some people have such a mind, that just won't take anything without proof.

One can investigate rebirth, however. That's what I think is a more skillful approach. This can be done through meditation on death, for example. Then the belief may or may not arise all by itself; it may even become a proven fact for the person.

When I got interested in BUddhism I didn't want anything to do with rebirth. It just didn't fit my view of the world at that moment. So I left that undecided and focussed on the aspects that were more relevant to my situation. Through insights the knowledge on rebirth grew in me, however, but not because I thought I had to because it would be the most Buddhist thing to do. The same thing goes (to a lesser degree) for the other things that are listed in the first post.


With metta.
Last edited by reflection on Sat Jan 14, 2012 5:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Zom
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Zom » Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:15 pm

I do not agree that it is essential. I think the dhamma can be very powerful even without belief in rebirth.


As Buddha said - "if there is no rebirth, there is no living the holy life". The explanation of this statement is this: if there in only one life - no need to practise deep renunciation from the world. No need to be a monk. No need to accumulate kamma, no need to develop faculties. Everyone will end up quite soon with one and the same end. The best option will be to get a lot of money and enjoy sensual pleasures.

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Viscid » Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:36 pm

manasikara wrote:I see it as the one thing that I am finally willing to accept on faith, after so many years of being a die-hard sceptic, based upon my ever-growing regard for the Buddha as the consummate master of the mind, and it's training in virtue, concentration and insight, and as one who was also exceedingly good. It is a kind of 'sacrifice' I've made, to open my mind to something that I cannot directly perceive in the here and now.


I don't see why you should need to 'sacrifice' anything in order to be open to the possibility of rebirth. There would only be a 'sacrifice' if one had very strong conviction in their denial of rebirth. A conviction born of ego, a bias one should willingly renounce. If you do not directly perceive a process which occurs after death, you do not need to have a personal opinion on the matter. Your affirmation or denial of rebirth doesn't make it any more or less true.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby reflection » Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:49 pm

Zom wrote:
I do not agree that it is essential. I think the dhamma can be very powerful even without belief in rebirth.


As Buddha said - "if there is no rebirth, there is no living the holy life". The explanation of this statement is this: if there in only one life - no need to practise deep renunciation from the world. No need to be a monk. No need to accumulate kamma, no need to develop faculties. Everyone will end up quite soon with one and the same end. The best option will be to get a lot of money and enjoy sensual pleasures.

I think this statement as you put it can't be seen without context. Do you have a reference?

Also, this is your view and does not need to be the same for everybody. I can understand your reasoning, but I think following the dhamma already makes the current life better, not only potential next lifes. I for example prefer meditation over money, rebirth or no rebirth. A lot of people think and experience this way.


Also, maybe you could go into my arguments in my previous posts?

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:36 pm

Isn't it miraculous to believe in the unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unconditioned nibbāna whereby we might escape from the born, originated, created, and condition mental and physical phenomena?

That was quite a leap of faith for the Bodhisatta who reasoned thus: “Since there is the born, originated, created, and conditioned, there must be that which is unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, and unconditioned.”

Is nibbāna any easier to understand and to know than heaven or hell, devas or goblins, or the thoughts of others? Surely, it is only through using our intelligence and imagination that we can have faith in such a state, and strive to realise it?

We don't need to imagine that suffering exists, since we can experience it directly every day whenever we pay attention. However, to experience the cessation of suffering is something much harder to perceive. We can experience that momentary cessation of suffering that comes about when we relinquish our attachment to something. From that experience, we can extrapolate and imagine what the total cessation of conditioned phenomena might be like.

One who practises mindfulness of the body, knows the “taste” of nibbāna. One who does not practice mindfulness of the body, does not know the “taste” of nibbāna.
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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Ben » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:06 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:One who practises mindfulness of the body, knows the “taste” of nibbāna. One who does not practice mindfulness of the body, does not know the “taste” of nibbāna.


Sadhu!
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Alex123 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:15 pm

Bhante,

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Is nibbāna any easier to understand and to know than heaven or hell, devas or goblins, or the thoughts of others? Surely, it is only through using our intelligence and imagination that we can have faith in such a state, and strive to realise it?


To me, it is far easier to understand in theory nibbāna (as absence of greed, anger and delusion) than Rain Devas, Nagas, Heaven, Hell, devas or goblins.


With best wishes,

Alex
"dust to dust...."

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby manas » Sat Dec 17, 2011 12:29 am

Viscid wrote:I don't see why you should need to 'sacrifice' anything in order to be open to the possibility of rebirth. There would only be a 'sacrifice' if one had very strong conviction in their denial of rebirth.


I used to think agnosticism was ok on this issue, but I think that to really prgress in the Dhamma we need to do better than that:

The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.

[1] "Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view. And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.

"And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents [asava], siding with merit, resulting in the acquisitions [of becoming]; and there is noble right view, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"And what is the right view that has effluents, sides with merit, & results in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are priests & contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is the right view that has effluents, sides with merit, & results in acquisitions.

"And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view.


What I am 'sacrificing' is my comfortable agnosticism. I'm tired of sitting on the fence. This issue is too important to be agnostic about.

with metta.

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:20 am

reflection wrote:... following the dhamma already makes the current life better, not only potential next lifes. I for example prefer meditation over money, rebirth or no rebirth. A lot of people think and experience this way.

In support of this position: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.060.than.html

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Cannot believe in magical things

Postby Viscid » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:56 am

manasikara wrote:And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no priests or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view


This to me still says that the denial of such things is wrong view. Right view may consist of a belief in rebirth, but I do not believe that such a belief is to be founded on blind faith. Rather, right view and its associated insight into the process of rebirth is gained by directly knowing and realizing it.

I can't see what advantage having blind faith in rebirth has-- it does not serve to make the Four Noble Truths or the Noble Eightfold Path any more relevant.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James


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