Know for Yourself

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Know for Yourself

Postby Digger » Sun Nov 28, 2010 6:28 pm

I think we can all agree that Buddhism is something you need to "know for yourself" and not base any belief on blind faith, traditions, etc. One example telling us to "know for yourself":

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

And I think many here "know for themselves" the Four Noble Truths and for lack of a better term, "mundane" Buddhism.

But, regarding psychic powers, recalling past lives, the effect of karma as it applies to future rebirths, rebirth itself, does anyone here, from actual personal experience or knowledge, actually know these things for themselves?

Or does the knowledge come from something one has read or been told, believes on faith and can repeat, but never actually had personal experience / seeing / knowing / doing?

Thanks in advance for your responses.
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby cooran » Sun Nov 28, 2010 7:46 pm

regarding psychic powers, recalling past lives, the effect of karma as it applies to future rebirths, rebirth itself, does anyone here, from actual personal experience or knowledge, actually know these things for themselves?


If anyone said they did, how would you know they are being truthful, not stirring and not deluded?

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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby ground » Sun Nov 28, 2010 7:49 pm

Digger wrote:But, regarding psychic powers, recalling past lives, the effect of karma as it applies to future rebirths, rebirth itself, does anyone here, from actual personal experience or knowledge, actually know these things for themselves?


I know for myself that these are true. How? Through the Buddha's teachings.

My personal experience is that the Buddha taught the truth.

Now you may call this "blind faith", but I know that it isn't. :)


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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby ground » Sun Nov 28, 2010 8:00 pm

There are obvious perceptible phenomena.

There are hidden phenomena that are accessible through inference.

There are extremely hidden phenomena that are accessible through the witness of trustworthy persons.


Now if the Buddha were not trustworthy why practice the path he taught in the first place?


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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby kirk5a » Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:35 pm

Actually I think the psychic powers are in the "mundane" category and the direct seeing of the 4NTs is "supramundane."

So then, the powers are properly regarded as a side-item. Non-essential.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby Individual » Sun Nov 28, 2010 11:36 pm

Digger wrote:I think we can all agree that Buddhism is something you need to "know for yourself" and not base any belief on blind faith, traditions, etc. One example telling us to "know for yourself":

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

And I think many here "know for themselves" the Four Noble Truths and for lack of a better term, "mundane" Buddhism.

But, regarding psychic powers, recalling past lives, the effect of karma as it applies to future rebirths, rebirth itself, does anyone here, from actual personal experience or knowledge, actually know these things for themselves?

Or does the knowledge come from something one has read or been told, believes on faith and can repeat, but never actually had personal experience / seeing / knowing / doing?

Thanks in advance for your responses.

This matter is cleared up by demonstrating the things which aren't middle-way:

1. Don't be a dogmatic, religious\ideological extremist who blindly accepts things on "faith"
2. Don't be a skeptical fool who over-exaggerates the power of his own ability of rational observation.

If a monkey goes around thinking he already knows the truth, he does not penetrate the dhamma with insight -- it doesn't matter whether that certainty is placed in religion on the basis of faith or science on the basis of reason, either way it is misplaced. Genuine wisdom is without any footing, without any criteria. Because if there were any such criteria, they would also be subject to some kind of insightful analysis, which would only be possible with a kind of insight that is independent of all the ways in which thought might categorize it.

"Know for yourself," means this: reflecting the light of experience upon the mirror which is already present; it's not blind faith and nor mere logical observation. It is greater than that. It is the stuff of cosmic profundity. It is something one does with the heart rather than the brain. :)
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby ground » Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:37 am

To practice thoughts and directly perceive the effects of thoughts is to validate these thoughts as to "conducive" or "not conducive".
It is the desire to grasp the "truth" of words that is the source of suffering because there does not inhere the tiniest particle of permament truth in words.


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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby Hanzze » Mon Nov 29, 2010 2:22 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby zavk » Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:31 am

Hi Digger and other friends

On this idea of 'know for yourself'.... For our purposes here, let's limit our discussion only to the advice given in the Kalama Sutta, which says 'When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them.'

I think it would be helpful to examine a little closer the phrase 'When you know for yourselves...' Pali Buddhist scholar Stephen Evans has re-read the Kalama Sutta to suggest that the phrase should be more accurately translated as "When you come to feel for yourselves' or 'Should you come to feel'. (See Evans' essay on the Kalama Sutta here: https://sites.google.com/site/accesstoa ... st-studies)

A different dimension of understanding opens up when we translate the phrase in this manner. What it suggests is that the Kalama Sutta is not simply advising us to take ONLY a rigorous attitude of epistemological inquiry when we approach the Dhamma. The phrase 'should you come to feel' suggests that what we are aiming for is not so much epistemic certainty but ethical wholesomeness. If you reread the line from the Sutta you'll see that what we ought to come to feel for ourselves are whether 'qualities are skillful, blameless, praised by the wise, etc...' "Qualities' do not refer to such propositions as recollection of past lives or doctrines like kamma and rebirth. What is referred to here, as Evans points out in his essay, are fundamental mindstates and actions.

So what we are asked to evaluate is whether certain teachings, when followed, are conducive to ethical wholesomeness--whether they encourage wholesome mindstates and actions or not. As for such things as psychic powers, kamma and rebirth..... these things cannot be 'known' just by epistemic inquiry alone, because there is a limit to rational inquiry. Nevertheless, while we cannot 'verify' with epistemic certainty the truth of these teachings, we can evaluate them in terms of ethics. Hence, I have come to develop this attitude:

    'OK, I do not know for sure such things as psychic powers and rebirth, but would taking these teachings onboard help me to cultivate more wholesomeness in my life? If taking onboard such teachings lead to unwholesomeness--perhaps causing me to feel smug and arrogant about my understanding of the Dhamma or causing me to get into all sorts of self-absorbed, ill-mannered debates and arguments about kamma and rebirth--then perhaps I should set them aside or at least keep an open attitude with regards to these things. This does not invalidate these things as such. But I set them aside because they do not help me to cultivate the wholesome behaviour suggested by the Five Precepts. So even though I do not have epistemic certainty about such things, I can nevertheless have faith in the Buddha's teachings because I have empirical evidence to trust in the Dhamma. The empirical evidence comes not from 'proving', 'verifying' or 'knowing' such things as kamma and rebirth, but from the observation and experience of the results of wholesome mindstates and actions that arise from my honouring of the ethical precepts and from taking such teachings as kamma as a hypothesis (not an established 'fact'). Faith in this manner is in a sense not 'blind' but I can't say that it is 'verified' either because I do not have certainty of knowledge about all of the teachings.

:anjali: :smile: :group:
Last edited by zavk on Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby zavk » Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:37 am

On that note, it is also worth considering how these terms as 'knowing' and 'knowledge' have come to take on so much significance in contemporary understanding of Buddhism. The term 'enlightenment' is widely accepted as a reasonable translation of nibbana. This translation was introduced by T.W. Rhys Davids, founder of the Pali Text Society, and whose work has greatly influenced our understanding of Theravada (and Buddhism more generally) today. Rhys Davids was aware that the word Buddha derives from the term bodhi which means 'awakened' or 'to be awakened'. To attain nibbana is therefore an Awakening. 'Awakening' has quite different implications from the idea of 'enlightenment'.

So why did Rhys Davids translate nibbana as 'enlightenment'? I think he did it partly to counter the widely held misunderstanding of the time that Buddhism is pessimistic or nihilistic because traditional Buddhist texts typically explain nibbana as a kind of 'extinguishing' or 'blowing out'. So by translating nibbana as 'enlightenment', Rhys Davids could align Buddhism with the European Enlightenment and associate the Dhamma with the ideals of rationality, humanism, and liberalism highly esteemed in European culture. However, this also creates certain misunderstandings about what nibbana involves. The kind of 'knowing' involved in nibbana is a kind of 'direct knowledge' and NOT the deductive knowledge of the European Enlightenment. Given how the European Enlightenment's understanding of 'knowing' and 'knowledge' has deeply conditioned the way we relate to the world, it is very easy--if only out of habit and conditioning--for us to project what is really a Western-centric attitude onto the Dhamma, and thereby (wrongly) evaluate it according to our narrow understanding of 'knowing' and 'knowledge', without recognising that our understanding of 'knowing' and 'knowledge' is specific to our historical and cultural circumstances and that they may not be entirely adequate for explicating what the Buddha was on about.
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:28 pm

The question is interesting. The intention behind the question -even more... Why do you want to know?

I have met people who can read my and other's past lives (as well as their own). I have met people who have vague sense of having met/been with certain people. There are stories of people who were hypnotized and we able to remember past lives. The are stories of little children spontaneously recalling past lives. There is anecdotal evidence of past life stories being true..

How much do you want to disbelieve??

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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby Digger » Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:27 am

Thanks all for your responses.

For Zavk, yes I know the "know for yourself" in the sutta I used was aimed specifically for that sutta, but a general Buddhist principle is to know things for yourself and not go by blind faith. Also, alternate translations sometimes put a different "twist" on meanings and it is hard to know the true intent of the original speaker (especially when you can't ask the original speaker questions to clarify). From our brief conversation here, you seem as if you have read and studied much. May I ask your background?

For rowyourboat, the reason I am asking about this relates to how "deep" it is possible for one to go and how "deep" I should attempt go in my own practice. When you said "How much do you want to disbelieve", I'm not saying I do or don't believe, I am saying that I have not seen / known / experienced these things for myself. I am asking if others here have seen / known / experienced these things personally.
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby zavk » Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:40 am

Hi Digger

I am a cultural researcher and am researching into contemporary (Western) Buddhism, but while I have studied some historico-cultural books on Buddhism, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly well-read especially with regards to canonical Buddhist texts themselves. There are several members here (both monastics and laypeople) who are much, much more knowledgeable about the suttas and commentaries. While I do not focus on these texts as such, I do refer to them in my work and of course for my own practice.

As for my work, I’m researching into Buddhism as a broad cultural formation, investigating how, as a living tradition, it interacts organically with the ecology of social, cultural, and political relations that make up our contemporary society. I’m particularly interested in exploring how Buddhist understanding could be used to facilitate analyses of such politically-charged issues as faith, spirituality, and consumerism--in the hope that Buddhism, together with certain continental philoosphical thought, can help us develop more ethical ways of engaging with these things. My work therefore doesn’t fall strictly within the traditional discipline of Buddhist Studies per se. I suppose my research into Buddhism attempts to follow the guidelines of what has been described as Buddhist critical-constructive reflection, a kind of approach that draws on both traditional Buddhist studies and the social sciences/humanities to mutually illuminate one another and to tackle contemporary problems.

As for what you say about the Buddhist advice to ‘know for yourself’. I agree that it is almost like a general principle that comes up again and again in other places and not just the Kalama Sutta. However, what I’ve noticed is that this idea of ‘know for yourself’ has to be understood alongside the idea of (well, for convenience I’ll just call it) ‘care for yourself’, which in its fullest sense requires also a kind of selflessness and care for others. However, I can’t cite specific texts to illustrate this, maybe others can help out here. Please note that I am using general terms to explain myself here and I’m not claiming that these terms that can be found in canonical texts; this is just how I’ve understood the Dhamma in the context of my practice and research and is how I would express them in simple language.

To ‘know for yourself’, as I understand it, involves taking the truth claims of Buddhism as ‘hypotheses for living’, which we then explore in the context of our everyday thought, speech, and action, as we attempt to follow the five precepts, develop mental training, and cultivate kindness and compassion in our dealings with others. ‘Know for yourself’, as I see it, is a kind of embodied knowing, a kind of knowing-in-action, rather than a knowing that derives solely from logic and reason.

Researching into the history of Buddhism suggests that it would be inaccurate to interpret this idea of ‘know for yourself’ narrowly in epistemological terms because unlike the western philosophical tradition, Buddhism does not draw sharp distinctions between epistemology, ethics, ontology, and other categories. There seems to be mutually supportive interrelationships between these categories in Buddhism. As for how these interrelationships unfold, I will have to let others who are more knowledgeable than me explain it—I’m still discovering this for myself.

Take care :anjali:
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby clw_uk » Wed Dec 01, 2010 6:44 pm

And I think many here "know for themselves" the Four Noble Truths and for lack of a better term, "mundane" Buddhism.




MUNDANE Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths? Are you kidding


The whole of Buddhism, the heart of Buddhism, the thing for which there could be no Buddhism is the four noble truths


dukkha and its cessation, the rest is a footnote
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby Digger » Wed Dec 01, 2010 11:53 pm

For clw_uk:

Maybe I used the wrong word, "mundane, meaning of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly".

I am trying to say that it is possible, at least for myself, to know / grasp / understand the Four Noble Truths. But I am not currently able to see or experience or know for myself past lives, karma as it affects future lives, psychic powers, etc.

Please don't misinterprete what I am saying. I'm not saying that the Four Noble Truths are "mundane, meaning common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative" (other meaning of mundane).

I understand that they are our foundation. I think it is possible for people to understand the Four Noble Truths even if they can't for themselves reach past lives, karma as it affects future lives, psychic powers, etc.

Sorry if I caused confusion.
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Dec 03, 2010 7:39 pm

Digger wrote:Thanks all for your responses.

For rowyourboat, the reason I am asking about this relates to how "deep" it is possible for one to go and how "deep" I should attempt go in my own practice. When you said "How much do you want to disbelieve", I'm not saying I do or don't believe, I am saying that I have not seen / known / experienced these things for myself. I am asking if others here have seen / known / experienced these things personally.


Hi Digger,

Yes, an open mind is always essential. It is also helpful to ask people -like you are doing on this forum. It is possible to pursue 'pubbenivanussati nana' -the knowledge of past lives- but there is no knowing whether you have the ability to give rise to this knowledge or not (...in this lifetime :smile: ). However the Buddh guaranteed the ability to give rise to insight knoweldges like insight into causality, and insight into non self. So if I were you I would pursue those. :smile:

It must be said that the Buddha says that 'knowing for oneself' is about exclusively buddhist knowledges/dhammas. Knowing past lives is not exclusively Buddhist and is known in many other religions (mostly Indian at that).

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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby Skaffen » Sun Dec 05, 2010 1:35 pm

Digger wrote:For clw_uk:


I am trying to say that it is possible, at least for myself, to know / grasp / understand the Four Noble Truths. But I am not currently able to see or experience or know for myself past lives, karma as it affects future lives, psychic powers, etc.

I think it is possible for people to understand the Four Noble Truths even if they can't for themselves reach past lives, karma as it affects future lives, psychic powers, etc.

Sorry if I caused confusion.


You know of the 4NT, like a starter chess players knows how the pieces move. 'Grasping' indicates you are perhaps not aware of the basic principles, never mind tactics, tempo, position....altho' Buddhism suits the Go analogy better as it really is a game with simple mechanics, minimal constraints/rules - yet computers still fall behind humans, whereas in Chess the machines dominate now.

Karma is self-evident - Action & Reaction, it is not accounted and then administered back evenly. It goes around, and may come around sometime soon....or maybe not. There is no deity or higher power keeping tabs. It illustrates our connectedness rather than emphasize the differences.

Psychic Powers etc....well there is a prize for anyone that can do anything Psychic in a controlled lab (approx $1m if memory serves) - I think there was a couple of efforts, however there is no verifiable evidence of Psychic Powers to this day....beyond the standard thinking ability, which to be honest I wouldn't trade.
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sun Dec 05, 2010 3:19 pm

Individual wrote:1. Don't be a dogmatic, religious\ideological extremist who blindly accepts things on "faith"
2. Don't be a skeptical fool who over-exaggerates the power of his own ability of rational observation.


Yes, there's a need for balance. The way I'd describe it is keeping an open mind.

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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby Digger » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:02 pm

For Skaffen:

I'm not sure how you are equating "grasping" with "not aware of the basic principles, never mind tactics, tempo, position"
Grasping means "to get hold of mentally; comprehend; understand" "broad or thorough comprehension" (www.dictionary.com)

Regarding karma being self evident, it is not self evident to me how doing something in this lifetime affects a future lifetime or how doing something in a past lifetime affected my present lifetime. I can see cause and effect within my own lifetime but not prior to or ahead of.

The $1 million prize you are talking about is from the stage magician named Amazing Randi.

For Spiny:

Yes I do have an open mind. That is why I am here asking my original post question.

Thanks all.
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Re: Know for Yourself

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:38 pm

Hi Digger,

Insight into causality is not just about being aware there are causes which leads to effects in this lifetime. It is an insight which arises when engaged in the meditation of vipassana ie - it is the result of specific process which has a set culmination, and generates/is driven by progressively deeper understanding of the laws of perception - or to put in other terms: how our minds create our reality/world.

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