Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

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Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:52 pm

For people like me who view Dhamma Wheel through the "new posts" link, I would like to say up front that this thread is being posted in "The Dhammic free-for-all" section. If you aren't a fan of having religious beliefs questioned I respect you, have no wish to offend you and would like you to consider this note as a warning.

Preamble done.

In the few weeks I have been here I have been surprised to find many westerners who have taken on the religious beliefs of Buddhism. I don't mean some of the more sober, rational views that seem connect with ordinary life.

It would make more sense to come across intelligent, thoughtful, otherwise modern Asians doing this. You grow up in a culture where a set of beliefs are dominant and those beliefs seep into you, giving you a propensity to accept them.

I think human beings have a drive toward "religion", by that I mean having/making a mental map of the world, a map they can relate to and one that offers some comfort.

I also think, like S.N. Goenka ( who would not agree with these thoughts ), that people are wrongfully impressed by sensations. Sensations are just sensations. Sensations are not descriptions of reality. Just because a person is depressed doesn't mean their life is that bad. Just because a person feels confident, doesn't mean s/he has ability. That is just how they feel.

My opinion is that many people think If they feel something, they have found something real.

I'm guessing these two things are behind "the new orthodoxy/myth set" of most Westerners ( may not be true for everyone ). I've experienced many powerful sensations through meditation over the years. I've read some of the less questionable ( by western secular standards) Buddhist beliefs and I have felt a psychological/emotional gravity towards calling myself a Buddhist when combined with those strong sensations giving a "sense of reality" to things.

I also think many westerners reconcile with some of the more unfounded beliefs of Buddhism by using generous interpretations of those beliefs. I've been finding this harder to do by actually reading the suttas and seeing what is emphasized there.

I realize things get lost in translation, but even allowing for that I just have not been able to find support in the suttas for the cool sounding interpretations westerners have.

No offense or disrespect to anyone. I'm just thinking out loud and I put this thread in a section reserved for provocative topics.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby kirk5a » Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:10 pm

I'm still waiting for the provocative part. Buddhism isn't a "belief-based" religion.
"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: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:29 pm

kirk5a wrote:I'm still waiting for the provocative part. Buddhism isn't a "belief-based" religion.


That is what western meditators say. I haven't seen that reflected in the suttas or in Asian Buddhists. I think both have an admirable quality of not being bent out of shape over what other people believe, but both are steeped in beliefs. Beliefs that westerners might, in other circumstances, not be open to.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby kirk5a » Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:35 pm

Like what beliefs, for example?
"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: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 08, 2011 4:46 pm

kirk5a wrote:Like what beliefs, for example?


Kamma is one example.

In the western Buddhist realm, it is presented strongly as a concept of effecting your life here and now, first with everything being about intent.

I just read two suttas on kamma ( this one and this one ) where the emphasis is so strongly on the results coming after death/rebirth, a disinterested observer wouldn't endorse the western interpretation as being really about what is in those 2 suttas. Instead, those two suttas seem to be a very strong reflection of what see in Asian countries with it being all about collecting merit, like scoring points in a game for a better existence after death.

I know there are more suttas that may say other things, but my message is about emphasis. If the suttas talk about securing a better rebirth 9 times out of 10 than I think it would be fair to say that the Buddhist concept of kamma is really about that and not what many westerners make of it ( you reap what you sow, in this life ).
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Mar 08, 2011 5:34 pm

I think the problematic word here is "rebirth." If it's viewed as a "self" that gets reborn, then that's wrong. If the process is viewed without a "self," then you're somewhere in the ballpark. The suttas that you just quoted make sense if they're viewed in this way.

It might be helpful to not view a "life" as something that is contained to itself. The kamma of past lives affect it, and any kamma that is done in this life, will affect the future lives. It's as simple as that.

So, kill someone in this life, there will be "hell" in at least one of the future lives... do something good in this life, and then there will be "heaven" in one of the future lives. I don't see any problem. No one is self-contained.

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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:51 pm

So, what you think only westerners have figured how the universe works and all easterns 'believe' are wrong? :shrug:

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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:35 pm

I think that no one knows. (Or if someone knows, then he won't be able to make us actually see it in one way or other.) What's scary right now is that if we die, and then pop up in our next lives, we won't be able to remember that... just like we didn't with our previous ones.

We can only hope that we've laid our kamma well enough, and that these will lead us to the Dhamma again, still heading to Nibbāna. If there's no us in these next lives, then we've still done them a favor, anyway. We've made them a good life already, even pointed at the Nibbāna. That's how it really is... selfless.

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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:48 pm

rowyourboat wrote:So, what you think only westerners have figured how the universe works and all easterns 'believe' are wrong? :shrug:

with metta

Matheesha


If you are asking me for my personal view, I believe that the best quality answers are to be found in the sciences.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Ben » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:24 pm

MN 60: Apannaka Sutta

Regardless if one believes or disbelieves kamma and rebirth, if one engages in skilful action one will enjoy the fruits of skilful action (here and now). The Buddha did not try and tell his interlocutors tht they were wrong. He just led them through a rational argument to the conclusion that it was of benefit to engage in skilful action over non-skilful action.

Further, I think its a mistake to characterise "Asian" Buddhism as somehow deficient and its patronising. The development of wisdom, that is real wisdom bhavana-maya-panna, is impossible without devotion/confidence. Saddha is the first of the five bala. Some of the most impressive Buddhists I have met are Asians who had more wisdom in their little toe than the vast majority of western Buddhists I've met. Perhaps instead of evaluating Asian Buddhism as somehow less than the mark, try and critically examine your own understanding and practice of the Dhamma. This, I think, might be more beneficial to you.
No disrespect.

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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:46 pm

Ben wrote:MN 60: Apannaka Sutta


Thanks for the sutta citation, I will check it out.


Regardless if one believes or disbelieves kamma and rebirth, if one engages in skilful action one will enjoy the fruits of skilful action (here and now).


This goes back to the point I was making. The here and now is not emphasized, at least in the suttas I've seen. Kamma is talked about in terms of setting up the best post death experience you can work toward.

The Buddha did not try and tell his interlocutors tht they were wrong. He just led them through a rational argument to the conclusion that it was of benefit to engage in skilful action over non-skilful action.


I can't agree with that because I was just reading a sutta last night where the Buddha flat out told someone they were wrong.

Further, I think its a mistake to characterise "Asian" Buddhism as somehow deficient and its patronising.


Those aren't my words.

I was trying to convey the difference between a westernesque interpretation of kamma ( not supported by the suttas I've seen -- the point of this thread ) where the this life and intention matters. An interpretation where people can see things for themselves.........versus a religious interpretation of kamma, supported by the suttas, where it is all about scoring merit points and preparing for an after death existence.

If you don't believe me, read this sutta. It was my inspiration for this thread. It is all about death and building merit.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby daverupa » Tue Mar 08, 2011 10:41 pm

Jhana4 wrote:If you don't believe me, read this sutta. It was my inspiration for this thread. It is all about death and building merit.


It's also addressed to a brahmin, and where you see religion I see skillful means. "Kamma is intention" is elsewhere attested, and moreso. Replace the word "kamma" with "intention" in that Sutta, and see how the import shifts.
    "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: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby lojong1 » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:23 pm

The emphasis on the past in your inspiration sutta MN 135 is due to the question asked at the beginning:
"Master Gotama, what is the reason, what is the condition, why inferiority and superiority (hiinappanitata/inequality) are met with among human beings, among mankind? For one meets with short-lived and long-lived people, sick and healthy people, ugly and beautiful people, insignificant and influential people, poor and rich people, low-born and high-born people, stupid and wise people. What is the reason, what is the condition, why superiority and inferiority are met with among human beings, among mankind?"

The question emphasizes the past. It asks how people can be born into different situations, and basically things were before as they are now: people behave differently, with different results.

Jhana4 wrote:what many westerners make of it (you reap what you sow, in this life)

Those many would appear to me to be misrepresenting, if by "in this life" they mean only in this life.

Jhana4 wrote:I just have not been able to find support in the suttas for the cool sounding interpretations westerners have.

Hard to argue that.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:52 am

People are taking offense in this thread. I mean no offense to either Asian or Western Buddhists.

I'm stating my opinion that from what I have seen of the suttas, common western interpretations and some of the conversations here it seems like westerners are abandoning one orthodoxy for another.

Everybody has their own road to walk, I can respect that, but thinking out loud that is not for me.

I think the willingness to free inquiry, with accepting the answers whether or not they reenforce what you want to hear is too valuable.

Again, it isn't my intention to disrespect anyone.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Fede » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:01 am

"Intention" and "result" are two different things.

No matter what one's intentions, they don't always hit the mark.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:16 am

Hello Jhanna4,

Here are my thoughts on your post.

Jhana4 wrote:In the few weeks I have been here I have been surprised to find many westerners who have taken on the religious beliefs of Buddhism. I don't mean some of the more sober, rational views that seem connect with ordinary life.


Do realize how conceited this sounds? Are you are the arbiter of what is sober and rational?

Jhana4 wrote:It would make more sense to come across intelligent, thoughtful, otherwise modern Asians doing this. You grow up in a culture where a set of beliefs are dominant and those beliefs seep into you, giving you a propensity to accept them.


You take it for granted that these things are accepted out of something other than a mere societal indoctrination? This seems like pure hubris to me.

Jhana4 wrote:I think human beings have a drive toward "religion", by that I mean having/making a mental map of the world, a map they can relate to and one that offers some comfort.


These "Mental Maps" come in all shapes and sizes and "religion" is but one kind.

Jhana4 wrote:I also think, like S.N. Goenka ( who would not agree with these thoughts ), that people are wrongfully impressed by sensations. Sensations are just sensations. Sensations are not descriptions of reality. Just because a person is depressed doesn't mean their life is that bad. Just because a person feels confident, doesn't mean s/he has ability. That is just how they feel.

My opinion is that many people think If they feel something, they have found something real.


So what do these feelings mean? You have not said much here but I cant say I disagree.

Jhana4 wrote:I'm guessing these two things are behind "the new orthodoxy/myth set" of most Westerners ( may not be true for everyone ). I've experienced many powerful sensations through meditation over the years. I've read some of the less questionable ( by western secular standards) Buddhist beliefs and I have felt a psychological/emotional gravity towards calling myself a Buddhist when combined with those strong sensations giving a "sense of reality" to things.


Lets talk about the questions more and take less for granted shall we.

Jhana4 wrote:I also think many westerners reconcile with some of the more unfounded beliefs of Buddhism by using generous interpretations of those beliefs. I've been finding this harder to do by actually reading the suttas and seeing what is emphasized there.


They are Buddhists because they strive to realize what the Buddha realized. Not necessarily because they take everything the Suttas say as fact. Here again you seem to presume that you know what is "unfounded".

Jhana4 wrote:I realize things get lost in translation, but even allowing for that I just have not been able to find support in the suttas for the cool sounding interpretations westerners have.

No offense or disrespect to anyone. I'm just thinking out loud and I put this thread in a section reserved for provocative topic


Im not sure you understand these "cool sounding interpretations" much less the suttas which might support them.

I am not offended in the least. I just thought I would give you my honest impression of your post.

Take Care

Gabe
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:15 am

I think the western view on Kamma tends to correspond much more closely to the teachings on Conditionality (idappaccayata) http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... e.html#ida that we find in the canon.

Kamma, Idappaccayata, and Paticcasumpada all seem to be interrelated teachings to me and when people talk about Kamma they may well using the most well known word and be referring to some or all three.

I understand a belief of Kamma was well established in the audiences the Buddha taught, wheras Idappaccayata and Paticcasumpada were the Buddhas very own teaching.

A good way to teach new concepts would be to use as an example a concept that is already ingrained in the culture and understood by the audience.

Obviously the OP wasn't just about Kamma but I think it gives an example of how looking at one teaching in isolation can result in a blinkered view wheras looking at interrelationship of various teachings gives a different perspective. One advantage westerners have in not having the cultural upbringing is the opportunity to do that objectively.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby ground » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:26 am

Jhana4 wrote:... I believe that the best quality answers are to be found in the sciences.


The clinging to views begins where one questions or argues against the views of others although their views are wholesome after all while having one's own "agenda of right view(s)".

If however one's views are at odds with the teachings of the Buddha in that one accepts "this" but rejects "that" then one will even not be able to differentiate between "wholesome" and "unwholesome" in the context of the path.


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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:47 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:
Jhana4 wrote:In the few weeks I have been here I have been surprised to find many westerners who have taken on the religious beliefs of Buddhism. I don't mean some of the more sober, rational views that seem connect with ordinary life.


Do realize how conceited this sounds? Are you are the arbiter of what is sober and rational?



Hi Gabriel. No, I don't realize how conceited it sounds. I'm taking "conceited" in the literal sense, not in the sense of an insult when it is used in questions that are similar to yours. I don't pretend to have all of the answers. My post, in part, was about concerns I have of western Buddhists believing things that don't seem to be supported by the suttas I've been reading.

My opinion is that it doesn't make a person conceited to question beliefs, nor does it imply that person thinks s/he is the sole source of answers.

In my experience people who ask questions about cherished ideas are often met with push-back, attacks and hostility. That seems to be the tone of most of the replies I have gotten to my post. Which goes back to my original disappointment in seeing people exchanging one set of superstitions and orthodoxy for another set, just more exotic.

The source of my disappointment was that I was introduced to Buddhism open minded, critically thinking professors, authors and monks. One of the benefits of this board is that I am now exposed to many more views and people within Buddhism. The collision of these two subcultures is one of the results.

I do have to say that about 2-3 people who have replied to me turned into an opportunity for education, as I had originally hoped by pointing me to exts in the spirit of conversation, rather than the spirit of threatened puritanism trying to push an offensive belief out the door.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Sensations, Bait & Switch, Self Deception & Religion

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:50 pm

Goofaholix wrote:I think the western view on Kamma tends to correspond much more closely to the teachings on Conditionality (idappaccayata) http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... e.html#ida that we find in the canon.

Kamma, Idappaccayata, and Paticcasumpada all seem to be interrelated teachings to me and when people talk about Kamma they may well using the most well known word and be referring to some or all three.

I understand a belief of Kamma was well established in the audiences the Buddha taught, wheras Idappaccayata and Paticcasumpada were the Buddhas very own teaching.

A good way to teach new concepts would be to use as an example a concept that is already ingrained in the culture and understood by the audience.

Obviously the OP wasn't just about Kamma but I think it gives an example of how looking at one teaching in isolation can result in a blinkered view wheras looking at interrelationship of various teachings gives a different perspective. One advantage westerners have in not having the cultural upbringing is the opportunity to do that objectively.


I'm the OP and I would like to thank you for this informative ( and non-hostile ) reply.

I was introduced to Buddhism by people ( monks, authors and professors ) who weren't easily threatened by people asking questions about their beliefs and who could respond to such questions with interesting discourse ( rather than clinging to and quoting from their bibles ). I was starting to think, from the replies to this thread that such people in Buddhist circles on the internet were gone. From your reply I see they are just a little bit in the minority. Thanks
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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