We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

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We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby PeterB » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:40 am

According to the Buddha we are not spirits who aquire a succession of bodies. Our bodies are no more but certainly no less "us" than any other khandic arising.
Ergo the purpose of meditation practice in Buddhism is not to cast off these bodies or transcend them, it is instead to gain insight into the way that the khandas arise...including rupa.

Any thoughts ?
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby Adrien » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:10 am

This as been one of my wondering (it's still one, but it doesn't spring doubt in me anymore) : are the Near Death Experiences compatibles with the Buddha's teachings ? "People" go out of their body, and then, things like talking to a "being of light" and other stuffs happen to them (see Dr. Raymond Moody's writings). A lot of people have witnessed that, so it's difficult for me to bash it down only because the suttas do not say so...

This would mean that there is some kind of (partial) separation between nama and rupa. And after death, instead of having a direct rebirth in five khandas, we continue with nama after abandoning rupa (at least for a little while).

Also, maybe what we experiment in NDE is related to our beliefs ? In this case, I would be interested to know what do buddhists see in these kind of experiences.
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby PeterB » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:58 am

I would like to turn the question round Adrien and ask, in an open minded way, how NDE or OOTB experiences can be explained in terms of the khandhas.
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby meindzai » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:14 pm

PeterB wrote:According to the Buddha we are not spirits who aquire a succession of bodies. Our bodies are no more but certainly no less "us" than any other khandic arising.
Ergo the purpose of meditation practice in Buddhism is not to cast off these bodies or transcend them, it is instead to gain insight into the way that the khandas arise...including rupa.

Any thoughts ?


Oversimplified, the prevailing view of the Buddha was something like what you've stated. A spiritual "success" or enlightenment would mean you would cast of your body and unite with Brahma or realize your true self as already connected with Brahma, and Brahma was not connected with Samsara but Nirvanna.

Still crudely speaking, the Buddha still holds that there is a consciousness that is separate from the body, but that even if it "leaves" it will still "land and grow" wherever it finds "food" for craving."

"Where there is passion, delight, & craving for the nutriment of physical food, consciousness lands there and grows. Where consciousness lands and grows, name & form alight. Where name & form alight, there is the growth of fabrications. Where there is the growth of fabrications, there is the production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is the production of renewed becoming in the future, there is future birth, aging, & death, together, I tell you, with sorrow, affliction, & despair.
- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I say "crudely speaking" because whenever you talk about a "consciousness" separate from the body people think we are talking about some sort of whole, but of course all we mean is that there are moments of consciousness arising and passing very quickly, which have no self of their own, which will continue to arise and pass as long as there are conditions (such as craving) for them to do so. Separation or not, there is no enightenment until the conditions are removed.

Even in formless realms there is arising and passing of consciousness with no body present. Pre-Buddhist teachers may have equated birth in these realms as enlightenment, which seems to be what the Buddha's first two meditation teachers were doing. But he stated quite clearly that even this would simply lead to more rebirth. See the Ariyapariyesana Sutta.

-M
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby PeterB » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:25 pm

Thanks for that meinsdzai. My post was a response to a view that emerges from time to time on the forum which sees the body as an obstacle or to be transcended, almost as though Buddhism were a form of gnosticism which seeks to distinguish between spirit and matter...
I think it is clear that what the Buddha was advocating was developing awareness of the processes of the rupa ( notably the breath ) not to transcend it in some way but to see its arising along with all phenomena.
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby meindzai » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:36 pm

PeterB wrote:Thanks for that meinsdzai. My post was a response to a view that emerges from time to time on the forum which sees the body as an obstacle or to be transcended, almost as though Buddhism were a form of gnosticism which seeks to distinguish between spirit and matter...
I think it is clear that what the Buddha was advocating was developing awareness of the processes of the rupa ( notably the breath ) not to transcend it in some way but to see its arising along with all phenomena.


But maybe it's worth it to ask why this view is so prevailent? After all, the first aggregate is the body. The first foundation of mindfulness is the body. A huge part of vipassana work deals with bodily processes. So there is still a sense that bodily attachment needs to be transcended, which makes it easy to confuse with the other spiritual disciplines you've mentioned.

I've found that this all becomes easy when I few Buddhism as being at the top of a continuum. (being a Buddhist I am apt to put Buddhism at the top.) It's not that gnostic or other mystic traditions have it wrong, but that they simply do not go as far as the Buddha did. Dis-enchantment of the body is a huge, major spiritual step that is not to be taken lightly. It's just that the Buddha had the genius and the audacity to ask "Is that all, really?" and he took it a step further.

-M
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby Nibbida » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:43 pm

meindzai wrote:
PeterB wrote:According to the Buddha we are not spirits who aquire a succession of bodies. Our bodies are no more but certainly no less "us" than any other khandic arising.
Ergo the purpose of meditation practice in Buddhism is not to cast off these bodies or transcend them, it is instead to gain insight into the way that the khandas arise...including rupa.

Any thoughts ?


Oversimplified, the prevailing view of the Buddha was something like what you've stated. A spiritual "success" or enlightenment would mean you would cast of your body and unite with Brahma or realize your true self as already connected with Brahma, and Brahma was not connected with Samsara but Nirvanna.

Still crudely speaking, the Buddha still holds that there is a consciousness that is separate from the body, but that even if it "leaves" it will still "land and grow" wherever it finds "food" for craving."

"Where there is passion, delight, & craving for the nutriment of physical food, consciousness lands there and grows. Where consciousness lands and grows, name & form alight. Where name & form alight, there is the growth of fabrications. Where there is the growth of fabrications, there is the production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is the production of renewed becoming in the future, there is future birth, aging, & death, together, I tell you, with sorrow, affliction, & despair.
- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I say "crudely speaking" because whenever you talk about a "consciousness" separate from the body people think we are talking about some sort of whole, but of course all we mean is that there are moments of consciousness arising and passing very quickly, which have no self of their own, which will continue to arise and pass as long as there are conditions (such as craving) for them to do so. Separation or not, there is no enightenment until the conditions are removed.

Even in formless realms there is arising and passing of consciousness with no body present. Pre-Buddhist teachers may have equated birth in these realms as enlightenment, which seems to be what the Buddha's first two meditation teachers were doing. But he stated quite clearly that even this would simply lead to more rebirth. See the Ariyapariyesana Sutta.

-M



My understanding is that consciousness is not separate from the body but one of the impermanent khandas that also ceases with death. What "carries over" from one lifetime to the next, I have read, are "kammic imprints."

NDE & OBE are experiences in the senses and khandas, just like all other experiences. They don't necessitate a soul or spirit, although they may well be the source of the notion of soul/spirit.

People have OBEs when they are not dying or even close to dying, like during seizures, migraines, and hallucinogenic drug use. It is more likely that these are a by product of brain function during certain conditions, which are then interpreted by us to have some metaphysical significance.
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby Adrien » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:52 pm

It is more likely that these are a by product of brain function during certain conditions, which are then interpreted by us to have some metaphysical significance.

There are some stories (I don't know if they're real or not) that cannot be explained by that : like people being able to repeat a conversation they heard in another room while they were having a NDE (and the conversation being verified afterwards).
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby PeterB » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:54 pm

meindzai wrote:
PeterB wrote:Thanks for that meinsdzai. My post was a response to a view that emerges from time to time on the forum which sees the body as an obstacle or to be transcended, almost as though Buddhism were a form of gnosticism which seeks to distinguish between spirit and matter...
I think it is clear that what the Buddha was advocating was developing awareness of the processes of the rupa ( notably the breath ) not to transcend it in some way but to see its arising along with all phenomena.


But maybe it's worth it to ask why this view is so prevailent? After all, the first aggregate is the body. The first foundation of mindfulness is the body. A huge part of vipassana work deals with bodily processes. So there is still a sense that bodily attachment needs to be transcended, which makes it easy to confuse with the other spiritual disciplines you've mentioned.

I've found that this all becomes easy when I few Buddhism as being at the top of a continuum. (being a Buddhist I am apt to put Buddhism at the top.) It's not that gnostic or other mystic traditions have it wrong, but that they simply do not go as far as the Buddha did. Dis-enchantment of the body is a huge, major spiritual step that is not to be taken lightly. It's just that the Buddha had the genius and the audacity to ask "Is that all, really?" and he took it a step further.

-M

Without wanting to be too pedantic I would say that transcending by understanding bodily processes is one thing and labelling those prrocesses as somehow an obstacle is another. Those processes are potentially just as effective a vehicle for absorption as any abstract ideal...perhaps more so
In reality most Dhamma teachers include elements of both..the breath AND metta for example .
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby meindzai » Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:26 pm

Nibbida wrote:My understanding is that consciousness is not separate from the body but one of the impermanent khandas that also ceases with death. What "carries over" from one lifetime to the next, I have read, are "kammic imprints."



Well, you didn't read that in the canon. :) It at no time says that consciousness ceases with death, and there is no equivalent concept for "kammic imprints." Consciousness simply continues to arise and fall, with or without a body. There's no location, no "where" for this. The body is inconsequential except that if that consciousness retains any degree of bodily craving, then there will be another bodily rebirth, otherwise rebirth will occur in some other realm.

-M
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby meindzai » Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:34 pm

PeterB wrote:Without wanting to be too pedantic I would say that transcending by understanding bodily processes is one thing and labelling those prrocesses as somehow an obstacle is another. Those processes are potentially just as effective a vehicle for absorption as any abstract ideal...perhaps more so
In reality most Dhamma teachers include elements of both..the breath AND metta for example .


The body is still presented as an obstacle in the sense that it is the most seductive place for attachment to occur. Of course the problem is not the body itself but the attachment to it - perhaps that is the point of distinction. It seems that some of the earlier yogis were literally trying to rip themselves out of it. This is why we have the concept of "asubha" or "foulness" of the body, which isn't presented necessarily as a fact of existence but as an antidote to that attachment. See cemetery contemplations, etc.

-M
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby Nibbida » Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:40 pm

meindzai wrote:
Nibbida wrote:My understanding is that consciousness is not separate from the body but one of the impermanent khandas that also ceases with death. What "carries over" from one lifetime to the next, I have read, are "kammic imprints."



Well, you didn't read that in the canon. :) It at no time says that consciousness ceases with death, and there is no equivalent concept for "kammic imprints." Consciousness simply continues to arise and fall, with or without a body. There's no location, no "where" for this. The body is inconsequential except that if that consciousness retains any degree of bodily craving, then there will be another bodily rebirth, otherwise rebirth will occur in some other realm.

-M


You're right about that. I don't remember who, but it was some teacher (20th century) who wrote about the "kammic imprints" part.

I thought that since consciousness was one of the 5 khandas it would not carry over any more than the other 4 into another lifetime. I certainly don't speak from authority or certainty about this.




By the way, the Police had it completely wrong:



They get points for making statements on materialism and craving, however.
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby PeterB » Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:51 pm

meindzai wrote:
PeterB wrote:Without wanting to be too pedantic I would say that transcending by understanding bodily processes is one thing and labelling those prrocesses as somehow an obstacle is another. Those processes are potentially just as effective a vehicle for absorption as any abstract ideal...perhaps more so
In reality most Dhamma teachers include elements of both..the breath AND metta for example .


The body is still presented as an obstacle in the sense that it is the most seductive place for attachment to occur. Of course the problem is not the body itself but the attachment to it - perhaps that is the point of distinction. It seems that some of the earlier yogis were literally trying to rip themselves out of it. This is why we have the concept of "asubha" or "foulness" of the body, which isn't presented necessarily as a fact of existence but as an antidote to that attachment. See cemetery contemplations, etc.

-M

At once both the most seductive place for attachment to occur AND the most fertile ground for the cultivation of awareness . The Tibetans refer to " the precious human body", as I said earlier the aim of Dhamma is not some platonic idealism.
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby meindzai » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:21 pm

Nibbida wrote:You're right about that. I don't remember who, but it was some teacher (20th century) who wrote about the "kammic imprints" part.


Yeah, sounds a bit new-agey.

I thought that since consciousness was one of the 5 khandas it would not carry over any more than the other 4 into another lifetime. I certainly don't speak from authority or certainty about this.


Well of the 5 aggregates only 1 of them is the body which is form (rupa) and the other for are name/mentality/whatever you want to call it. Thought of in this way it is the body that is the "odd' one and not consciousness. The body, strictly speaking is purely optional. In the formless realm a being possesses only the four aggregates. Fine material beings (like devas) have "not-much" of a body, I suppose you could say.

The only beings I can't really get my head around (see the 31 planes of existence) are the Unconscious beings (asaññasatta) who are said to have a body and no mind!

-M
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby Annapurna » Wed Feb 09, 2011 7:45 pm

On which level are they, M?

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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby Annapurna » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:02 pm

meindzai wrote:
The only beings I can't really get my head around (see the 31 planes of existence) are the Unconscious beings (asaññasatta) who are said to have a body and no mind!

-M


To make an attempt at answering your 'question'.

In the introduction or preface I read:

It is pointless to debate whether these realms are real or simply fanciful metaphors that describe the various mind-states we might experience in this lifetime.


If we assume it is the latter, mindstates....then having a body but no mind... I thought of sleep, and of coma.

Sleep is such a heavenly place when you are in pain...you still have a body, but your conscious mind is not "there" anymore, not aware of it...

What do you think of this ?

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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby Kenshou » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:03 pm

meindzai wrote:
The only beings I can't really get my head around (see the 31 planes of existence) are the Unconscious beings (asaññasatta) who are said to have a body and no mind!

-M


I would question (whoever's) comment that they have "no mind" so to say. Asañña indicates to me that they are merely non-perceiving. This doesn't mean they have no mind (or more specifically mental experience in general) per say, but the total absence of perception would be quite a different sort of mind.

That's my guess, though I have no idea where to find reliable information on this or weather this sort of being is mentioned in the suttas.
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby PeterB » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:16 pm

PeterB wrote:According to the Buddha we are not spirits who aquire a succession of bodies. Our bodies are no more but certainly no less "us" than any other khandic arising.
Ergo the purpose of meditation practice in Buddhism is not to cast off these bodies or transcend them, it is instead to gain insight into the way that the khandas arise...including rupa.

Any thoughts ?


This is my O.P.


This is all getting much too esoteric for my taste. I either know nor care whether other modes of existence are possible.
The purpose of the thread was demonstrate that the Buddha did not postulate a series of embodiments taken by a disembodied entity.
In fact he was at pains to teach that this was not the case.
I do know that I find myself in the human realm, and that in common with others in this realm I have given the keys to end suffering, and that this key involves for many focusing on a basic requirement of our rupa...the breath.
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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:34 pm

Hi Peter,

PeterB wrote:
PeterB wrote:According to the Buddha we are not spirits who aquire a succession of bodies. Our bodies are no more but certainly no less "us" than any other khandic arising.
Ergo the purpose of meditation practice in Buddhism is not to cast off these bodies or transcend them, it is instead to gain insight into the way that the khandas arise...including rupa.

Any thoughts ?


This is my O.P.


This is all getting much too esoteric for my taste. I either know nor care whether other modes of existence are possible.
The purpose of the thread was demonstrate that the Buddha did not postulate a series of embodiments taken by a disembodied entity.
In fact he was at pains to teach that this was not the case.
I do know that I find myself in the human realm, and that in common with others in this realm I have given the keys to end suffering, and that this key involves for many focusing on a basic requirement of our rupa...the breath.


Great topic!
I always felt that rupa gets neglected by many 'western' Buddhists. Revisiting Ledi Sayadaw again recently, one sees that observation of rupa (process) kayagata-sati (most frequenly manifested in anapana-sati) is crucial in liberation. As is, developing an understanding and observing the four great primaries and their characteristics as they arise and pass away in the body.
paṭhavī-dhatu: earth element. Characteristic of extension
āpo-dhātu: water element. Characteristic of cohesion
tejo-dhātu: fire element. Characteristic of heat/cold
vāyo-dhātu: wind element. Characteristic of movement/vibration

God forbid that one should turn to Wikipedia at a time like this, but this is quite good...

Understanding sufferingThe Four Elements pertinence to the Buddhist notion of suffering comes about due to:

The Four Elements are the primary component of "form" (rūpa).
"Form" is first category of the "Five Aggregates" (khandhas).
The Five Aggregates are the ultimate basis for suffering (dukkha) in the "Four Noble Truths."
Schematically, this can be represented in reverse order as:

Four Noble Truths → Suffering → Aggregates → Form → Four Elements
Thus, to deeply understand the Buddha's Four Noble Truths, it is beneficial to have an understanding of the Great Elements.

[edit] Meditation objectIn the Mahasatipatthana Sutta ("The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness," DN 22), in listing various bodily meditation techniques, the Buddha instructs:

"...Just as if a skilled butcher or his assistant, having slaughtered a cow, were to sit at a crossroads with the carcass divided into portions, so a monk reviews this very body ... in terms of the elements: 'There are in this body the earth-element, the water-element, the fire-element, the air-element.' So he abides contemplating body as body internally...."[18]
In the Visuddhimagga's well-known list of forty meditation objects (kammaṭṭhāna), the great elements are listed as the first four objects.


As I mentoned Ledi Sayadaw earlier, it might be worthwhile, for those who are interested, to review his Vipassana Dipani as well as his other works.
kind regards

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Re: We Are Not Spirits Who Have Aquired Bodies.

Postby zavk » Thu Feb 10, 2011 2:02 am

Can I take this opportunity to ask for a favour? I'm looking to collect quotes--from the suttas, commentaries, sayings of teachers, past and present--that express the sentiment: 'The truth of the universe/life/existence/reality can be found within this very body.'

It doesn't have to be these exact words but I'm looking for anything that express this sentiment. I'm not looking for delineations of the specific dimensions of the khandhas or elements as such. I'm looking for pithy, proverb-like statements or advice put in general, non-technical language. I vaguely recall Ajahn Mun saying something like that. I'm very bad with keeping track of what I have read so any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!
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