Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby piotr » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:18 pm

Hi,

vinasp wrote:Hi everyone,

I think that Retro has made some excellent points, for example:

MN 48 wrote:
"If a monk is absorbed in speculation about the other world, then his mind is enthralled."

This agrees with DN 1 and indeed, most discourses.


This in no way says that there is no next world! Here the problem is not what a monk is obsessed about (as it's translated by Ñāṇamoli/Bodhi), but the fact of obsession itself:

    Here a bhikkhu, gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or to an empty hut, considers thus: 'Is there any obsession unabandoned in myself that might so obsess my mind that I cannot know or see things as they actually are?' If a bhikkhu is obsessed by sensual lust, then his mind is obsessed. If he is obsessed by ill will, then his mind is obsessed. If he is obsessed by sloth and torpor, then his mind is obsessed. If he is obsessed by restlessness and remorse, then his mind is obsessed. If he is obsessed by doubt, then his mind is obsessed. If a bhikkhu is absorbed in speculation about this world, then his mind is obsessed. If a bhikkhu is absorbed in speculation about the other world, then his mind is obsessed. If a bhikkhu takes to quarrelling and brawling and is deep in disputes, stabbing others with verbal daggers, then his mind is obsessed.


If you read the whole passage it actually confirms that there is a next world (as there is this world) in the Buddha's teaching — quite contrary to what you're trying to prove.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:30 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Thinking about this some more, the reservation I have with the "it's all just speculative soul theories" interpretation is that this drifts dangerously towards a nihilistic denial of kammic consequences, an "It's all just speculative soul theories, so, no worries...".

I'd be interested to hear thoughts about this, since I think it's an important thing to explore (since this interpretation, on the face of it, seems quite attractive...).

There are seven wrong views that are classified as doctrines of annihilationism (ucchedavāda). There are four wrong views that are classified as doctrines of endless equivocation (amarāvikkhepavāda). There is also the wrong view of nihilism (natthika-diṭṭhi), the wrong view of non-doing (akiriya-diṭṭhi), and the wrong view of non-causality (ahetu-diṭṭhi).
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby piotr » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:35 pm

Hi,

daverupa wrote:Here, indifference and non-delight are attitudes taken towards things that are insignificant, it seems to me. Perhaps we can see in this an instruction which guides from rebirth-view to right-view?


It is a practice towards disenchantment in order to cease future becoming, i.e. to stop rebirth.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:39 pm

Hi everyone,

I have always understood the annihilationist view to be a view about the
self, and that it was rejected for that reason.

I have been concerned for some time about the confusion of this view with
others, such as materialism, nihilism, and the view that: "There is nothing
after death". The Brahmajala Sutta (DN 1) defines the annihilationist view
as follows:

4. Annihilationism (Ucchedavāda): Views 51–57

84. "There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are annihilationists and who on seven grounds proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

85. "Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin asserts the following doctrine and view: 'The self, good sir, has material form; it is composed of the four primary elements and originates from father and mother. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.' In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

Is this the same as the materialist view?

Is this the same as the nihilist view?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:46 pm

vinasp wrote: Is this the same as the materialist view?

Is this the same as the nihilist view?

They are not necessarily the same.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby santa100 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:12 pm

I guess it depends on how we apply rebirth to our daily practice. MN48 and DN1 shows the wrong way of applying rebirth: just using it for mere talk and speculation; MN117 shows the correct way of application: actually using the right view to help carry out the practice of the 8NP..
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:31 pm

vinasp wrote: However, I do not think that passages where the Buddha talks about devas, to
people who already believe in them, constitutes "affirming the existence of"
such devas.


So are you saying the Buddha didn't himself believe in devas but taught about them anyway? Or that he knew they didn't exist but still taught about them? That seems to be the logical conclusion of what you're saying.

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:42 pm

daverupa wrote:
SN 22.79 wrote:"Thus an instructed disciple of the noble ones reflects in this way: 'I am now being chewed up by [aggregates]. But in the past I was also chewed up by [aggregates] in the same way I am now being chewed up by present [aggregates]. And if I delight in future [aggregates], then in the future I will be chewed up by [aggregates] in the same way I am now being chewed up by present [aggregates].' Having reflected in this way, he becomes indifferent to past [aggregates], does not delight in future [aggregates], and is practicing for the sake of disenchantment, dispassion, and cessation with regard to present [aggregates]."


Here, indifference and non-delight are attitudes taken towards things that are insignificant, it seems to me. Perhaps we can see in this an instruction which guides from rebirth-view to right-view?


Taking the sutta as a whole this looks like a reminder to be mindful in the present as a means of developing insight into the 3 characteristics, and not to be distracted by speculation about the past and future.

Spiny
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:45 pm

Goofaholix wrote:Annihalation means simply annihalation.

I guess it means nothing usually identified as "me" continuing on in some form or other after this body dies, other than as food for words.

No continuation of any of the aggregates in some form or another, no force of becoming or kamma creating a new process.



That's how I understand it. In which case holding an annihalationist view must include a denial of rebirth and the realms. So if annihalationist view is wrong view, then rebirth denial must also be wrong view?

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:46 pm

Hi everyone,

The process through which we come to believe something is rather obscure.
Most of us cannot simply believe whatever we like. Nor can we make ourselves
believe something just because someone else says that we should believe it.

All such pressure on people to believe something actually does is to make
people say that they believe it, when in fact, they do not.

Try making yourself believe that the earth is flat. Can you do it?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:54 pm

vinasp wrote: The process through which we come to believe something is rather obscure.


I agree, but it seems to me the process through which we come to disbelieve is also rather obscure.

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby santa100 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:19 pm

Actually one doesn't believe just for the sake of believing. One believes so s/he could put it into practice. Believing in a flat earth won't help one achieving anything. Believeing in rebirth (or at least keep an open mind about its possibility) opens up great opportunities and potentials for one's own practice. At the very least, it helps one thinks twice before commiting any unskillful deeds, thus is a very skillful mean to help maintaining one's sila. And this is the gist of what the Buddha said in His Safe Bet Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ). And indeed the wisest course is to place one's bets with Him.. :smile:
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:24 pm

Hi Spiny,

Quote:
"That's how I understand it. In which case holding an annihalationist view must include a denial of rebirth and the realms. So if annihalationist view is wrong view, then rebirth denial must also be wrong view?"

On that reasoning, the eternalist view entails belief in rebirth and the realms.
So if the eternalist view is wrong, then affirmation of rebirth must also be
wrong.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby daverupa » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:49 pm

piotr wrote:Hi,

daverupa wrote:Here, indifference and non-delight are attitudes taken towards things that are insignificant, it seems to me. Perhaps we can see in this an instruction which guides from rebirth-view to right-view?


It is a practice towards disenchantment in order to cease future becoming, i.e. to stop rebirth.


Future becoming is not, now, a source of dukkha for me - the only possible contact therefrom is actually via the aggregates which I can imagine now as being in the future, but those images I am to renounce (per SN 22.79 - up to and including aspirations that merit generate a heavenly/superior future becoming). It is only the aggregates which I can recall/imagine in the past, but those I am to be indifferent towards, irrespective of whether they appear to be from an earlier life or not. The present aggregates receive the practice of awareness and mindfulness, and this does not require rebirth-view to manifest.

The key issue is that rebirth doesn't require affirmation or denial when it comes to Dhamma practice, while motivation and gladness and energy, et al, are required, and in fact they are clearly indicated as being so required throughout the Suttas.

---

I think the problem has become clarified, and I will phrase it this way: an error is made by equating positions of honest epistemological assessment with positions of persistent eel-wriggling.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:58 pm

rowboat wrote:
nowheat: I am not asking for a generalized statement that "it's part of the noble eightfold path" but where specifically it says one must accept the actuality of the next world to have right view.

One example is found in MN 117:
...And what is wrong view?[/b]'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 brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.


Note that Wrong View is not "doubt" about another world, it is a DENIAL. I agree that it goes against the Buddha's teaching to deny something we cannot KNOW because we have no direct experience of it.

"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 brahmans & 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.

Note that this is the first of the "two sorts" of right views, and the one described just above is the TAINTED right view (effluents/asava); it is the one that results in further acquisitions of the aggregates, which is why the [of becoming] gets inserted -- it fosters belief in self. This is not the view the Buddha teaches us leads to liberation. The OTHER right view, the one "without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path" is the one the Buddha teaches as his method.

So while acceptance of "the other world" is right view when compared to wrong view (it has better results in terms of moral action), it is not something one HAS to have to be on the path, and in fact it is counterproductive (effluents/asava/acquisitions).


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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:11 pm

daverupa wrote:
rowboat wrote:One example is found in MN 117


It'll be useful to recollect this .pdf article by Ven. Analayo, which discusses the structure and language of this Sutta and the likelihood that its demarcation of "right view" and "right view with effluents" is traceable to a later Abhidhamma stratum of composition. This means that such a demarcation is possibly a later development, made much of by disciples but not made as much of by the Buddha. (Similar with the additions of the A2, B2 sections of the other Majjhima Nikaya Sutta which is often cited in this connection.)

One might call this sort of thing "creeping brahminism", if one was so inclined.


I might actually believe this, if this triple-leveled teaching were not found elsewhere in the suttas. Another good example of it is in MN 78, in which the Buddha talks about ending unwholesome behavior, and then he talks about ending wholesome behavior. That wholesome behavior he's talking about ending is the middle right view. He also talks about the same thing in subtler ways, for example in MN 120 "Reappearance by Aspiration" he is just addressing the two variants of right view, in fact making fun of aspirations for rebirth, and ending the shaggy dog story with a dry punch line about his own method. It's all throughout the suttas, so it's unlikely to be an abhidhammic insertion or creeping brahminism (which I believe is a red herring created by misunderstanding -- sorry, I'm going to say it again -- dependent origination).

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:45 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Equivocation about the actuality of the next world is a wrong view. DN 1:

    Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin is dull and stupid. Due to his dullness and stupidity, when he is questioned about this or that point, he resorts to evasive statements and to endless equivocation: 'If you ask me whether there is a world beyond — if I thought there is another world, I would declare that there is. But I do not take it thus, nor do I take it in that way, nor do I take it in some other way. I do not say that it is not, nor do I say that is neither this nor that.'

    Similarly, when asked any of the following questions, he resorts to the same evasive statements and to endless equivocation: Is there no world beyond? Is it that there both is and is not a world beyond? Is it that there neither is nor is not a world beyond?

It's impossible to simultaneously hold a wrong view and right view.


The sutta you quoted clearly says that equivocating in the way the eel-wriggler does is wrong -- it does not, however, tell us why it is wrong. It does not say "it is wrong because there is a another world and he needs to accept that".

The above equivocation is also repeated in the next sutta, where the viewpoint is attributed to Sanjaya. What becomes clearer on reading it there, is that it makes the holder of the view unable to do anything effectively because he cannot make up his mind. He is not even sure that action has an effect:

DN 2 wrote: If you ask me: 'Is there another world?' if I thought so, I would say so. But I don't think so. I don't say it is so, and I don't say otherwise. I don't say it is not, and I don't not say it is not. If you ask: 'Isn't there another world?... Both?... Neither?'... 'Is there fruit and result of good and bad deeds?... Isn't there?... Both?... Neither?... Does the Tathagata exist after death?...


The Buddha can be seen to equivocate (can be interpreted as equivocating) on many of the same issues. The difference is that the Buddha actually knows something about these things and can therefore act on them. He knows which ones are worth discussing and which ones are not, and of those above, the one he does discuss is whether there are fruit and results of good and bad deeds and that he redefines in his own way.

And this, I believe, brings us back to the point about modern "materialists". They aren't eel-wrigglers. They don't spend any time at all wriggling between "maybe there is, maybe there isn't". And more to the point, they understand that actions have results. They are reasonably certain there is no other world but as I have said before, every single one I have ever met would give up that certainty in the face of good evidence, so on two counts they are not the kind of materialists described in the suttas: their materialist views don't lead them to actions inconsistent with the dhamma, and in the case of every Buddhist atheist I have met, their relative certainty that this is is their only life makes them want to practice *more diligently* not less; and they have no doubts that actions bear fruits.

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:53 pm

Goofaholix wrote:What I believe nowheat is asking for is the reference that supports Nana's assertion that belief in (or acceptance of) a worldview that includes literal rebirth as a fact is a prerequisite to the eightfold path and/or a pre-requisite to stream entry.

Yes, thanks.

mikenz66 wrote:It seems clear that not holding a materialist-annihilationist view is mandatory.

Could we discuss what that would mean in practice?

Yes, thanks!

Goofaholix wrote:Metaphysics aside I think though the most significant thing is a lack of a long term view in that the fruits of ones actions bear results even outside of the limited perspective of "my life", taking such a view is self centered and the opposite of what the Buddha was trying to achieve. From what i've observed the force of becoming is so powerful I don't find it hard to believe the affects of it could continue on in some form or another, of course though I don't apply "I", "me", or "mine" to that whatever it is.

Exactly! Thanks!!

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:33 pm

nowheat wrote:The above equivocation is also repeated in the next sutta, where the viewpoint is attributed to Sanjaya. What becomes clearer on reading it there, is that it makes the holder of the view unable to do anything effectively because he cannot make up his mind. He is not even sure that action has an effect....

One doesn't have to equivocate on every point mentioned among the doctrines of equivocation in order to maintain a wrong view. A good example of equivocation regarding rebirth is the many qualms and doubts about rebirth stated in the 143 pages (and counting) of the Great Rebirth Debate thread.

nowheat wrote:The Buddha can be seen to equivocate (can be interpreted as equivocating) on many of the same issues.

The only questions among these that the Buddha sets aside as undeclared are the four regarding the post-mortem status of a tathāgata.

nowheat wrote:And this, I believe, brings us back to the point about modern "materialists". They aren't eel-wrigglers.... They are reasonably certain there is no other world....

And this is also a wrong view. Again, one cannot attain the path of stream-entry while maintaining a wrong view.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:58 pm

Hi everyone,

Mike said:
"It seems clear that not holding a materialist-annihilationist view is mandatory.
Could we discuss what that would mean in practice?"

The Brahmajala Sutta (DN 1) describes those who hold the eternalist view
and the annihilationist view, which are both views about the self.

Anyone who has not yet removed the view of self, is bound to hold some
variation on these two views.

This is why DN 1 does not call these wrong views, nor does it ask lay
people to give up these views.

It describes how a monk, when he becomes enlightened, has transcended
these views.

DN 1.3.57
"When those ascetics and Brahmins who are speculators about the past,
the future, or both, having fixed views, put forward views in sixty-
two different ways, that is conditioned by contact.

That all of these (Eternalists and the rest) should experience that
feeling without contact is impossible.

With regard to all of these .... they experience these feelings by
repeated contact through the six sense-bases, feeling conditions
craving, craving conditions clinging, clinging conditions becoming,
becoming conditions birth, birth conditions ageing and death, sorrow,
lamentation, sadness and distress.

"When a monk understands as they really are the arising and passing
away of the six bases of contact, their attraction and peril, and
the deliverance from them, he knows that which goes beyond all of
these views. [ DN 1.3.57 to 1.3.71 Walshe 1987.]

Regards, Vincent.
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