REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:36 pm

Zom wrote:
I wouldn't call Buddhist faith "blind" exactly, rather confidence (saddha) is based on intellectual understanding, personal experience ect


Now where there is that intellectual understanding, pesonal experience and so on when we are talking about kamma, rebirth, hells, devas and so on?
That is pure blind faith. As it is.

In which sutta(s) did the Buddha recommend blind faith? And what do you mean by "pure"?
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:40 pm

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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:15 pm

Hi Daniel,
danieLion wrote:
Zom wrote:
I wouldn't call Buddhist faith "blind" exactly, rather confidence (saddha) is based on intellectual understanding, personal experience ect


Now where there is that intellectual understanding, pesonal experience and so on when we are talking about kamma, rebirth, hells, devas and so on?
That is pure blind faith. As it is.

In which sutta(s) did the Buddha recommend blind faith? And what do you mean by "pure"?

Let alone rebirth, hells, devas. What about faith that nibbana is possible?
SN 48.44: Pubbakotthaka Sutta — Eastern Gatehouse
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Those who have not known, seen, penetrated, realized, or attained it by means of discernment would have to take it on conviction in others
that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless,
has the Deathless as its goal & consummation;


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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:50 pm

cittasanto wrote:As I see it rebirth can be used as a working model for framing things, one can accept or deny it, it certainly isn't required by the Buddha to accept this specific teaching if you have no means of knowing its truth or not. but I put this down to trust, are the teachings to some extent doing what they say on the tin? if so is it reasonable to trust that it will have some benefit along the path?

danieLion wrote:I agree. And so does Thanissaro: when it comes to karma, faith/confidence is necessary. I have such faith/confidence. But it is still not blind. It is a wager. Thanissaro has also said that Pascal's wager makes the most sense if one replaces "God' with "karma" (He got the idea form K.N. Jayatilleke's Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge who says the same thing. Since Thanissaro's citation style is what Wikipedian editors call a "weasel" style--I do not mean that derogatorily--it's hard to say for sure. But if you read Thanissaro's passages in the Wings to Awakening on faith and cross reference that with the fact that he inlcudes Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge in the bibliography, it's not hard to put two and two together.) In fact, it was a persoanal experience with such a faith/confidence based verification of the Buddha's own law of karma that turned me from someone who meditated a lot and had an interest in the teachings of the Buddha to a convicted Buddhist.

I do not see pascals wager here exactly.
it is not hedging ones bets as belief is the safe bet, but just on a ditti level, there does come a point when hedging ones bets that something is of benefit for the path, whether or not it is true is something else, but whether or not it has benefit as a ditti in the here and now.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby Alex123 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:57 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:Secular Buddhists absolutely do not have the real, original teachings of the Buddha! I have no quarrel with them, honestly, but those who reject rebirth are in fact rejecting a teaching of the Buddha that cannot be cast into historical invalidity without inviting scholarly anarchy regarding the true message of the Pali Canon. If you reject rebirth, or claim that it was not taught by the Buddha, then you are in fact rejecting a core part of the original teachings - and you're free to do that, but please do acknowledge it.


How do we know the Buddha as a historical person even existed? What physical evidence do we have?

Also how do we know what He has actually said, and in which dialect(s) vs what was later standardized and written centuries later into suttas? We don't have any audio or video recordings....

So what the Buddha really taught is speculation.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby Viscid » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:03 pm

daniel wrote:But first, you have to believe in rebirth so when you have questions about progress variance, I can easily dismiss your inquiries and over-simplistically tell you that it depends on the work you've done in previous lives.


yogurt wrote:I have not been a Buddhist for more than about four years, but in those four years, during which time I have made contact with many different monks and teachers, I have never heard anyone, lay or ordained, make a claim like this to me or anyone else. This is a strawman.


m0rl0ck wrote:From what i have seen over the past 20 years that does quite often go with the territory. Beleiving in rebirth, karma to excuse inconsistent results i mean.


I've asked this question to people before, and some of them have explained their ability to meditate well based upon the influence of their past lives. If you accept the rebirth doctrine, it makes sense to do so. It is difficult to understand the complex dynamics which generate a propensity for developing any skill, including meditative ability, and so we are driven to devise some simpler mechanism to account for it. I can see many, many factors which lead an individual into becoming better or worse at meditating-- similar to the factors which determine temperament and personality. Many of these factors extend beyond our birth, beyond our individual history, and so it is tempting (and easier) to imagine a personality from one lifetime influencing the current one rather than trying to determine how the conditions of the world before our birth wrought our current composition.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:47 pm

danieLion wrote:So my purpose was and is to engage in a free exchange of ideas (here, I'm influenced by J.S. MIll and Paul Feyerabend) about these important issues. I don't know if originalism is "in error" and that's why I avoided the term. I am, however, perplexed by how anyone could make such a strong claim without being there themselves (a question still not answered to my satisfaction and looking like it probably won't be).

I guess I would argue that while we can't know what the Buddha's original teachings were in a concerete, verificationist sense, it is absolutely reasonable to say that the assumption of their general accuracy is the best model that fits the data, i.e. assuming the teachings attributed throughout time to a historical figure referred to as the Buddha are in fact related in a "strong" sense to his actual teachings is the best way to make sense of the data we have. The other assumptions we could possibly make - that the suttas as we have them represent a massive, intentional case of fraud, that through sloppy recording or transmission they have become meaningless, or that they refer back to a figure that did not actually exist, rendering them almost a simulacra in themselves - are not nearly as reasonable or pragmatically useful models by which to relate to the suttas.



The same goes for my concerns about rebirth. I don't know if it's "unreasonable." But I am concerned about teachers presenting it in a way that turns off otherwise genuine inquirers into Buddhism. I never said I "support rebirth" or "I don't support rebirth." I said I'm keeping an open mind (an application of critical thinking about it) and that I will continually test it in concert with what faith/confidence I do have in the Buddha with the hope of further verifying the validity of my faith.

I don't think anyone thinks that an inquiry into Buddhism cannot absolutely be made in earnest without an accompanying assumption of rebirth. The problem is that many monks and lay teachers honestly believe, either through scholarship into the doctrines of Right View or through personal experience gained by teaching meditators of different philosophies and temperaments, that attempting to present meditation (or Buddhism in general) without a presupposition of rebirth, at least as a moral framework, is in the end an unhelpful and almost Sisyphean task. I used the analogy of someone attempting to study evolutionary biology without an understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics; it may not immediately hinder their efforts, but the concept is built implicitly into the structure of the discipline. If one is teaching a method that relies, even only tangentially, on a set of philosophical assumptions, it might be best to "turn off" someone whose antipathy towards those assumptions renders their adoption, at least, again, as a moral framework, impossible.

I never said I believe in "the authority of the suttas," either, nor did I mention them in terms of "history." When I study the suttas, I do investigate (again, guided by my verificationist faith in the Buddha) and explore and bring historical scholarship into to it as much as possible to aid me. As an ultimate authority, the suttas are not reliable, as historical-critical methods (a la Analayo et al) have highlighted. I do hope and desire, however, to find a corpus of suttas that best reflect the message of the Buddha as close to his "original" teachings as possible. But even the term "original" in this sense can be misleading because the Buddha changed his mind on occasion, tailored his teachings to individuals and contexts, and, along with other arahants, admitted to making mistakes. So if by "original" we mean something static, I cannot accept that, for the Buddha was a dyanamic thinker and teacher, as were many of his disciples. The complexity of investigating in this way is further deepened by the facts of textual corruptions, inconsistencies, and a schismatic climate all ready evident in the parisa and sangha during the Buddha's times. In fact, I suspect that the self-refuge passages are an indication of the Buddha's own exasperation with attempts of those around him to pin him down or twist his message to suit their own biases.

I absolutely agree. Any attempts to render the suttas infallible or even "accurate" is silly; Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu, for example, estimates that roughly 10% of the suttas refer to direct statements made by the Buddha himself. But there is a huge difference between seeing the Canon as a collection of historical records referring to a real but often-changing teaching, while applying various methodologies in order to determine what constitutes the most accurate heartwood, and tossing the whole thing out and declaring a kind of epistemological anarchism (in the "eel-wriggling" sense, not Feyerabend's) or hand-wringing indecision. I am not implying that you are doing this, be clear; I am just stating that the two extremes - slavish obedience to an imperfect collection of scriptures and skepticism that renders all possible truths about the Buddha as completely, irreparably hidden behind a vale of time - are both not only detrimental to practice but also unjustified from a scholarly position.

At least one other poster here agrees that this is a subtext of some modern teachers. But the my choice of the word "seems" here is of no small importance. Like I said, I'm trying to understand another's perspective. Yes, the Buddha believed in rebirth, but he didn't demand others do so.

It's not simply that he believed it, but instead that he spent much of his time formulating a specific doctrine of rebirth that played a large part of his Dhamma. Transmigration is affirmed in the First Noble Truth, for example. It wasn't tangential. So yes, you're right that the Buddha didn't demand it from his followers; that doesn't mean, however, that he didn't consider it a very wholesome and helpful belief to hold.

There is no such thing as Right Rebirth in the Noble Eight Fold Path, and it is not part of the bodhipakkhiyadhamma either.

I'm sorry, but I disagree. Right View includes denial of annihilationism. I don't believe that such a discrepancy is going to immediately torpedo someone's practice, but I do think that it will be a detriment.

I want to make it clear that, of all divergent views, a disbelief in rebirth is about the least bothersome to me. I think, for example, that a belief in a Creator God or a permanent self is essentially a brick wall to many a meditation practice. In comparison, rebirth is just a particularly rough speed bump.

Having said that, would you beleive that I want to beleive--and not only that, if rebirth is knowable beyond doubt, I want that too? But even if I did come to know for myself, how could I elminate the possibilty that what I experienced was not a product of my imagination influenced by the Buddha's and other Buddhists beliefs in rebirth? When folks in the suttas gain such knowledge it's an inner-vision experience. I have lots of inner experiences that seem very persuasive at the time but get contradicted in the future. How would knowledge of rebirth be any different? Believe it or not, I'm slowly starting to think there might be something to rebirth, but I'm cautious and concerned lest I end up self-deluded in yet one more way.

This is a great approach to the situation! I hope you don't think that I claim to know that rebirth is true. In terms of personal experience regarding knowledge of rebirth, I have essentially zip. I believe in rebirth, or at least place my confidence it the likelihood of its accuracy, because I think it's a model that is praised by the wise and fits well with what I do know about my mind and its experience. I guess the thing I'd like to highlight is that there is a middle ground between pure agnosticism and blind acceptance, and that's where I believe Buddhists should fall. We can have doubts, and be unsure, and be open and honest about those things, without tossing up our hands and claiming that such an important issue is unknowable; I don't think we have that luxury should we really hope to progress on the path.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:22 pm

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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:43 pm

mikenz66 wrote:What about faith that nibbana is possible?
SN 48.44: Pubbakotthaka Sutta — Eastern Gatehouse
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Those who have not known, seen, penetrated, realized, or attained it by means of discernment would have to take it on conviction in others
that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless,
has the Deathless as its goal & consummation;


I consider faith that nibbana is possible to be an essential part of what I've said about faith in the Buddha'a law of karma. You can't verify the cause and effect realities of awakening without assuming it's possible. Otherwise I don't see why anyone would be motivated to try at all.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:50 pm

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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:27 am

Alex123 wrote:
LonesomeYogurt wrote:Secular Buddhists absolutely do not have the real, original teachings of the Buddha! I have no quarrel with them, honestly, but those who reject rebirth are in fact rejecting a teaching of the Buddha that cannot be cast into historical invalidity without inviting scholarly anarchy regarding the true message of the Pali Canon. If you reject rebirth, or claim that it was not taught by the Buddha, then you are in fact rejecting a core part of the original teachings - and you're free to do that, but please do acknowledge it.


How do we know the Buddha as a historical person even existed? What physical evidence do we have?

Also how do we know what He has actually said, and in which dialect(s) vs what was later standardized and written centuries later into suttas? We don't have any audio or video recordings....

So what the Buddha really taught is speculation.

What do you mean by "physical evidence?" Are you making the Francis Crick/Patricia Churchland physicalist-elimative reductionism claim?

We don't know if the Buddha existed historically.

I believe he did and think I can defend that belief well, but I don't know it for a fact.

This is a slippery slope to the solipsism and philosophical scepticism (which I'm opposed to as a zeteticist and on other grounds) of Plato's Allegory of the Cave and Descartes Meditations where he asked himself how he could be sure if he was not just dreaming or not. More recently, it has been called the Brain In A Vat Problem and provides the philosophical premises for movies like The Matrix Trilogy and Inception.

So, how does Alex know he's not just dreaming all this? How does Alex know he's not just a brain in a vat or a body in an incubator to provide energy for The Machines (this also relates to the artificial intelligence)?

And we don't know what the Buddha actually said or have absolute certainty about which languages he spoke and whether or not the suttas are a clear and distinct reperesenation of his life and teachings. But it's what we have to go on and the reason why must investigate for ourselves and perpetually test for oursleves. It is why at least confidence in things like the Buddha's law of karma is necessary to help us to do so.

However, to say, "What the Buddha taught is speculation" is to reason in a circle. If it's all just a matter of speculation, then we can't even, as your sentence implies, contrast his teachings to speculations about his teachings, can we?
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby m0rl0ck » Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:47 am

This has been an interesting thread :)
To DL and LY, when you guys use the word rebirth what do you mean?
Do you mean literal something unknown and personal is passed from container to container like some kind of liquid? Or do you mean more like a bag of marbles dropped and bursting and its force spreading in all directions?
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:15 am

m0rl0ck wrote:This has been an interesting thread :)
To DL and LY, when you guys use the word rebirth what do you mean?

The concept that the impersonal stream of experience does not begin at birth or end at death, but continues in a cycle of arising and ceasing across multiple lifetimes as propelled by ignorance.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:26 am

danieLion wrote:So my purpose was and is to engage in a free exchange of ideas (here, I'm influenced by J.S. MIll and Paul Feyerabend) about these important issues. I don't know if originalism is "in error" and that's why I avoided the term. I am, however, perplexed by how anyone could make such a strong claim without being there themselves (a question still not answered to my satisfaction and looking like it probably won't be).

LonesomeYogurt wrote:I guess I would argue that while we can't know what the Buddha's original teachings were in a concerete, verificationist sense, it is absolutely reasonable to say that the assumption of their general accuracy is the best model that fits the data, i.e. assuming the teachings attributed throughout time to a historical figure referred to as the Buddha are in fact related in a "strong" sense to his actual teachings is the best way to make sense of the data we have. The other assumptions we could possibly make - that the suttas as we have them represent a massive, intentional case of fraud, that through sloppy recording or transmission they have become meaningless, or that they refer back to a figure that did not actually exist, rendering them almost a simulacra in themselves - are not nearly as reasonable or pragmatically useful models by which to relate to the suttas.

Well put. Thanks. I cannot improve upon this.

...delete...

danieLion wrote:I never said I believe in "the authority of the suttas," either, nor did I mention them in terms of "history." When I study the suttas, I do investigate (again, guided by my verificationist faith in the Buddha) and explore and bring historical scholarship into to it as much as possible to aid me. As an ultimate authority, the suttas are not reliable, as historical-critical methods (a la Analayo et al) have highlighted. I do hope and desire, however, to find a corpus of suttas that best reflect the message of the Buddha as close to his "original" teachings as possible. But even the term "original" in this sense can be misleading because the Buddha changed his mind on occasion, tailored his teachings to individuals and contexts, and, along with other arahants, admitted to making mistakes. So if by "original" we mean something static, I cannot accept that, for the Buddha was a dyanamic thinker and teacher, as were many of his disciples. The complexity of investigating in this way is further deepened by the facts of textual corruptions, inconsistencies, and a schismatic climate all ready evident in the parisa and sangha during the Buddha's times. In fact, I suspect that the self-refuge passages are an indication of the Buddha's own exasperation with attempts of those around him to pin him down or twist his message to suit their own biases.

LonesomeYogurt wrote:I absolutely agree. Any attempts to render the suttas infallible or even "accurate" is silly; Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu, for example, estimates that roughly 10% of the suttas refer to direct statements made by the Buddha himself. But there is a huge difference between seeing the Canon as a collection of historical records referring to a real but often-changing teaching, while applying various methodologies in order to determine what constitutes the most accurate heartwood, and tossing the whole thing out and declaring a kind of epistemological anarchism (in the "eel-wriggling" sense, not Feyerabend's) or hand-wringing indecision. I am not implying that you are doing this, be clear; I am just stating that the two extremes - slavish obedience to an imperfect collection of scriptures and skepticism that renders all possible truths about the Buddha as completely, irreparably hidden behind a vale of time - are both not only detrimental to practice but also unjustified from a scholarly position.

Again, well said. I too am trying avoid extremes (see my reply to Alex123, above).

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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:28 am

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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby m0rl0ck » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:37 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:This has been an interesting thread :)
To DL and LY, when you guys use the word rebirth what do you mean?

The concept that the impersonal stream of experience does not begin at birth or end at death, but continues in a cycle of arising and ceasing across multiple lifetimes as propelled by ignorance.


What i have never understood about this is whose experience? The idea of experience presupposes a perceiver.
Additionally, where does the experience end and begin? Does my "impersonal stream of experience" include my mother and father? my culture? my entire universe? And in the last case are "we" all experiencing the same universe or do we each get individual copies? Where are the boundaries between my "impersonal stream of experience" and anyone elses? And how can you know those boundaries if they exist, survive the death of the physical body?
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby Alex123 » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:56 am

danieLion wrote:What do you mean by "physical evidence?"


Remains of bones that can be dated to approximately 5th BC India and being of the Buddha.

danieLion wrote:I believe he did and think I can defend that belief well, but I don't know it for a fact.


I try to as well. In any case, it is interesting and inspiring story.,


danieLion wrote:So, how does Alex know he's not just dreaming all this? How does Alex know he's not just a brain in a vat or a body in an incubator to provide energy for The Machines (this also relates to the artificial intelligence)?


Ultimately we cannot be absolutely sure about anything. However the evidence tilts probability into a certain favor that the world obeys certain physical laws and is being studied relatively well by science.


danieLion wrote:And we don't know what the Buddha actually said or have absolute certainty about which languages he spoke and whether or not the suttas are a clear and distinct reperesenation of his life and teachings.


Right. Ultimately one has to think for oneself and use suttas as a guide rather than infallible authority.


danieLion wrote:However, to say, "What the Buddha taught is speculation" is to reason in a circle. If it's all just a matter of speculation, then we can't even, as your sentence implies, contrast his teachings to speculations about his teachings, can we?


Ultimately we do not know what He has said. He left no voice recordings nor books. We aren't even sure of his name, nothing to say about dialects that He spoke, or what He spoke. IMHO.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby Alex123 » Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:02 am

danieLion wrote: Pascal's wager is not concerned with the here and now but future afterlife and the safest assumptions to have about it. Of course, going with the safest assumption can drastically change one's behaviors here and now, but the wager primarly adresses uncertainties about the unseen/unkown "spritual" realms and one's possible future existence.


Pascal's wager is deeply flawed. It doesn't address the issue of MULTIPLE religious beliefs. How do we know if we should worship God, Allah, Zeus, or some other God?

A clever Christian can say that "God planted fossils into the earth and sets up evidence against his own existence to test our faith."

A christian can say that "who cares if you achieve Awakening in this life, before death, if after death you will suffer eternally".

I made a program long ago to calculate mathematical expectancy of belief using Pascal's Wager sort of thing, and if there are more than one God, there is no way out.
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby SarathW » Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:24 am

Alex wrote:
How do we know the Buddha as a historical person even existed? What physical evidence do we have?
Also how do we know what He has actually said, and in which dialect(s) vs what was later standardized and written centuries later into suttas? We don't have any audio or video recordings....
So what the Buddha really taught is speculation.

==========================
I think
-It is not mandatory to know whether Buddha exist or not, to attain Nirvana.
- It is not necessary to know whether Einstein wrote e =mc2 to split the atom.
- What Buddha taught is not speculation. You can experience, very brief taste of Nirvana, if you practice very little amount of non-anger and non-attachment. :)
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Re: REAL Meditation: The Originalist Thesis

Postby danieLion » Wed Mar 06, 2013 3:05 am

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