The human/animal realm

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The human/animal realm

Postby Laurens » Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:47 pm

Greetings

Evolution has long deflated our conceited notion that we are somehow distinct and separate from the animal kingdom (though many still ardently contest this notion - against all the facts). We are indeed Apes, no matter how uncomfortable that makes creationists. In Buddhism there is a division between the human realm and the animal realm - as if we are somehow beyond it and distinct from it, but I was thinking of it today and I think that the 'human realm' is not as distinct as would seem and perhaps at least part of the goal of Buddhism is to break free from the shackles of the animal realm.

Evolution cannot subtract - it can only build upon what is already there - this can be seen in our brains, we have distinct layers in our brains that show the different parts literally stacked up on top of each other. From our reptilian brain, to the cerebral cortex (the human part of the brain). The earlier parts of our brain have some important survival wiring in them, but its fair to say that those parts of our brains can have a negative impact upon our behaviour also. Our sexual desires, ritualistic behaviour, aggression etc. all stem from the earlier parts of our brains. I think that a lot of the suffering that we experience is due to these ancient parts of our brain, and perhaps Buddhism could be considered the art of using the cerebral cortex to liberate ourselves from the shackles of our reptilian and mammalian brains. So maybe it is not that we are distinct from the animal realm at birth - but we may, at least psychologically liberate our minds from the negative influences of our more animal brains.

Perhaps a lot of Dhamma practice is aimed at this? Releasing the grip that our ancient brain has over our lives. Perhaps we should not consider ourselves too distant from our animal cousins after all.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Sobeh » Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:02 pm

Laurens wrote:Evolution cannot subtract...


Incorrect - where is your tail?

Otherwise you are taking the six realms rather literally here, so your question is based on premises I do not agree with.

Think laterally here: in the Buddha's day, the division between animals and humans was an obvious fact, as were the deva realms. These days we describe the world of beings very differently, but it's all superfluous. The Dhamma is for the world of the six sense bases of human beings, and the problem of suffering therein.

Viggahika Sutta wrote:"Monks, do not wage wordy warfare, saying: 'You don't understand this Dhamma and discipline, I understand this Dhamma and discipline'; 'How could you understand it? You have fallen into wrong practices: I have the right practice'; 'You have said afterwards what you should have said first, and you have said first what you should have said afterwards';[1] 'What I say is consistent, what you say isn't'; 'What you have thought out for so long is entirely reversed'; 'Your statement is refuted'; 'You are talking rubbish!'; 'You are in the wrong'; 'Get out of that if you can!'

"Why should you not do this? Such talk, monks, is not related to the goal, it is not fundamental to the holy life, does not conduce to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment or to Nibbana. When you have discussions, monks, you should discuss Suffering, the Arising of Suffering, its Cessation, and the Path that leads to its Cessation. Why is that? Because such talk is related to the goal... it conduces to disenchantment... to Nibbana. This is the task you must accomplish."
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Laurens » Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:13 pm

Sobeh wrote:
Laurens wrote:Evolution cannot subtract...


Incorrect - where is your tail?

Image
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Hoo » Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:51 pm

Just my view, but evolution does subtract. IMHO the vestigal tail of humans is an example of "excess equipment" that is shed along the evolutionary path. I left biology a long time ago so maybe someone can give some other examples. I seem to remember vestigal limbs in living snakes????
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Sobeh » Thu Jun 24, 2010 12:17 am

That was the point; we had a tail, we 'lost' it. Sure we still have some bits left over, but it is not the tail we once had. Ergo, evolution can subtract.
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Marge » Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:09 am

Hi Laurens,

I also believe we have a lot of animal traits that are wrapped up in our psyche. As you said, some of them are useful, but many can hamper our more logical mind. In fact, probably most of our so-called evil thoughts are animal thoughts. Buddhism, and Christianity, and probably most religions have at their core wholesomeness. If one cannot control these instincts, the unwholesome actions or thoughts, it is likely going to bring you suffering and consequences. Hopefully, we will continue evolving to where the animal traits that bring us the most problems will be gone. Until then, we have the dhamma.
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Sobeh » Thu Jun 24, 2010 3:49 am

Marge wrote:we have a lot of animal traits...


The point is that this is a tautology; "we" are animals, so in essence it is saying "animals have a lot of animal traits," which is simply obvious.

The fundamental problem is basing the discussion on the six realms ontology and the inherent dichotomy of animals and humans; there is simply no reason to consider such speculative metaphysics as having any significant bearing on the Dhamma (aside from admittedly important context). Whatever we are, the Dhamma is tailor-made to this particular state of being.
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Fruitzilla » Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:35 am

Thinking most of our unwholesome tendencies are animal in nature is pretty Christian I think. I've never seen hatred, greed or lust in an animal in the systematic way we humans go about these things...

Personally I think they are the result of the fact that we are the only "animal" that knows it's going to die.
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Sobeh » Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:46 am

Fruitzilla wrote:I've never seen hatred, greed or lust in an animal in the systematic way we humans go about these things...


Chimps do all that, even small-scale warfare. Many animals have this sort of behavior.
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Fruitzilla » Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:41 am

Sobeh wrote:
Fruitzilla wrote:I've never seen hatred, greed or lust in an animal in the systematic way we humans go about these things...


Chimps do all that, even small-scale warfare. Many animals have this sort of behavior.


True, but this sort of behaviour arises at a certain biological/neurological complexity and only gets stronger as complexity increases. This is why I think it's more of a human trait than an animal one.

I can vaguely remember Wilhelm Reich writing somewhere that under the nice social veneer of human beings, there's all kinds of repressed ugliness. Below that is the more biological functioning, which tends to be more genuinly social.
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby PeterB » Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:42 am

Marge wrote:Hi Laurens,

I also believe we have a lot of animal traits that are wrapped up in our psyche. As you said, some of them are useful, but many can hamper our more logical mind. In fact, probably most of our so-called evil thoughts are animal thoughts. Buddhism, and Christianity, and probably most religions have at their core wholesomeness. If one cannot control these instincts, the unwholesome actions or thoughts, it is likely going to bring you suffering and consequences. Hopefully, we will continue evolving to where the animal traits that bring us the most problems will be gone. Until then, we have the dhamma.

I would suggest gently Marge that your understanding of Buddhadhamma is in need of work. As is mine , as is most peoples.
Evolution is not going to mean that the three signs of being , dukkha, anicca and anatta are somehow going to be left behind.
Buddhism I would suggest does not have wholesomeness at its core. At best wholesomeness might be one means , not an end.
At the heart of Buddhadhamma is the understanding of things as they are.
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Donuts Dad » Fri Jun 25, 2010 5:25 am

I think it would be good to remember that 'evolution' is not the same thing as 'progress'. Huge numbers of species evloved into organisms that couldn't survive.
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Mawkish1983 » Fri Jun 25, 2010 6:00 am

Donuts Dad wrote:'evolution' is not the same thing as 'progress'.
:goodpost: I lose track of how often I try to explain that!
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby PeterB » Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:53 am

And enlightenment is not the same thing as "progress ".
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Laurens » Fri Jun 25, 2010 9:19 am

Sobeh wrote:That was the point; we had a tail, we 'lost' it. Sure we still have some bits left over, but it is not the tail we once had. Ergo, evolution can subtract.


okay, but it cannot delete entirely
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Re: The human/animal realm

Postby Rui Sousa » Fri Jun 25, 2010 11:09 am

Laurens wrote:
Sobeh wrote:That was the point; we had a tail, we 'lost' it. Sure we still have some bits left over, but it is not the tail we once had. Ergo, evolution can subtract.


okay, but it cannot delete entirely


Why not?

According to the Wikipedia, snakes have completely dropped anatomical features such as the pectoral arch: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_skeleton#Vestigial_limbs
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