Bases for Skillful Action?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby contemplans » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:17 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:For me "Eternal unchanging happiness" makes no sense. The designation "unchanging" cannot fit into any kind of theory without the axioms of that theory being complete fabricated nonsense. The only way happiness can be eternal is through change. Happiness is an event and an event makes no sense without change. Outside of this kind of logical analysis which is built upon predictable change as the foundational axiom, I see no other way to engage in rational inquiry with regard to the reasons behind living a spiritual life. It is my opinion that there are rational strands of inquiry which illustrate the limits of a rational analysis. Rational analysis can not fully account for change and continuity within an event. This is why direct observation is required. One thing I base by practice upon is that if change is not apparent Im not paying attention.

Take care

Prasadachitta



I would call happiness a state of existence. The attainment of that happiness I would call an event. This relates to the quotes which relate the thing itself, which we desire to attain, and the use, namely, the attainment or possession of that thing. The goal is unchanging, but the attainment is through change. This is parallel to the path (which is changing) brings about the goal which is unchanging. By eternal I mean here just that it does not end. And for happiness, I mean the term which in Greek is eudaimonia, and in Latin beatitudo, and Pali sukha (the opposite of dukkha).

Unchaning
"there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis" (Ud 8.1)

Eternal
"neither passing away nor arising" (Ud 8.1)

Happiness (Here rendered "ease")
"Unbinding: the foremost ease" (Dhp 204)
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby chris98e » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:42 pm

contemplans wrote: Not only are they universally good for deepening one's practice of his teachings, but they are good by nature, which is shown by them leading to better births in the future. So they are a law of the cosmos. But if there is a law of the cosmos, then should there not be a law giver? And if they are universal, should not that law giver be all good?

Yes the Buddha's law is the law of the cosmos but not everyone follows that law, unfortantely. Such a question on whether there should be a supreme being to punish the wicked is too much of a fantasy. To have a supreme being to be able to be the judge, jury, and executer in a wise and compasionate manner is too much of a fantasy. And from my understanding Buddhsim does believe in Gods. I just don't think it believes in a kind of supreme being who is a wise judge, jury, and executioner over all existence. But if there were one yeah I think he should be strong in eithics. :buddha2:
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby contemplans » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:29 am

Sam Vega wrote:During meditation or on other fleeting occasions, I can experience myself as just being, or purely happy, but I don't think that this is what you mean, somehow.


Well it is tapping into what I mean. What I mean is "just being" or being "purely happy" are impossible without a source. Just like in everyday material life we don't create anything just by willing it in our minds. We don't think, "Spatula" and poof it appears. So likewise with the inner life we don't get to a point in which, poof, we create a state free from suffering and settle in. I think enlightenment is a lot more than just getting really good at not letting experience cause you suffering. I see that as really at the beginning of the path. Our conditioned changing lives don't produce this out of nothing, because what comes from nothing but nothing? We have the ingredients just waiting to be mixed in the right way, but I don't bring into existence wheat or earth or water (secondary matter) or even primary matter (defined by Thomists as pure potentiality). My understanding on both sides of the fence is that we come to a state which exists before us. In the case of Buddhism, I find that a purely subjective happiness won't do to explain Nibbana. We can choose not to entertain those questions, but I find them hard to ignore. Now the Buddha gives the simile of someone wanting to know all about the arrow that wounds them in neglect of cure. That is extremely valid. His view is that we are so wounded, there is no time for conversation. But the part of the simile that doesn't work to me is not that the wound isn't serious, but that why is a wound a bad thing at all. He takes that as self-evident, apparently, where as others seek to explain this. This is what I mean that you need to go outside the system to get that answer, or you operate on this as an assumption. But then what do you say to another who doesn't have that assumption?

" So inasmuch as we possess being, we desire happiness."

This bit seems to be particularly significant. I don't think of myself as "possessing being". I just am, and that contingently. Were I to possess being, there would have to be something to do the possessing, and that thing would need to possess being, and so on in an infinite regress.


The Thomists propose that we are matter and form. Matter is the principle of potentiality, and form the principle of actuality. We only possess being in that we are not pure being (pure actuality). If we were, we wouldn't change, and we would never have come to be. We would just BE. Now we do say, I am, but that is to say, I have life, or I exist, or I think. The Thomists would say that a person saying "I am" is acknowledging that you have a principle of activity, the first principle of life, which they call soul (anima). Since we are part activity (actuality) and part potentiality, this active principle is what we are pointing to when we say I am. This principle is not subject to corruption, either, because there is no contrariety in it, because both generation and dissolution come from the contrariety of actual and potential. Now the body is corruptable, but the soul is not the body, nor does it depend on the body, but rather is the act of a body, and the body is dependent on it. But a man is nothing other than this activity. So the teaching of all dhammas are not-self is in fact correct, in that Thomists do not posit any phenomena as self/soul, but simply the active principle of life.


My desires for happiness likewise do not seem to logically follow from my existence. They are multiple, and relatively short-lived, and keep arising and passing away. If there is such a thing as an underlying constant desire for happiness, I have never experienced it.


Can you point to a moment in which you didn't desire happiness? I am not talking about a moment in which you made a mistake based on denial or ignorance, because mistakes are bads interpreted as goods. Even suicide is sought in desire of happiness, even though the person is in error.

In any case, there is the making of "Kamma that leads to the ending of Kamma", and few Buddhists I know consider this to be merely an apophatic exercise.


I mean that at some point all phenomena are relinquished. The cataphatic come to the goal through analogic knowledge, but the apophatic through negation of everything not the goal.

As for rebirth, I'm not sure what you mean when you say it is taken for granted. There has been a huge amount of discussion of this topic on this site alone, and few are the Buddhists who have accepted a "party line" without careful reflection. ...


All I mean is that the suttas put it out as a proposition of faith ultimately based on faith in the Buddha as an undeceived truth-teller. There is no internal discussion justifying that belief. It is taken for granted in the suttas.




chris98e wrote:Yes the Buddha's law is the law of the cosmos but not everyone follows that law, unfortantely. Such a question on whether there should be a supreme being to punish the wicked is too much of a fantasy. To have a supreme being to be able to be the judge, jury, and executer in a wise and compasionate manner is too much of a fantasy. And from my understanding Buddhsim does believe in Gods. I just don't think it believes in a kind of supreme being who is a wise judge, jury, and executioner over all existence. But if there were one yeah I think he should be strong in eithics. :buddha2:


The gods I think of like angels -- incorporeal beings. In this there is similarity amongst many cultures. As for Buddhism, I maintain that the Buddha never addressed the question of God. Even the case of Brahma I think addressed Indian assumptions instead of metaphysical reality. As for "judge, jury, and executer in a wise and compasionate manner", we do this to ourselves all day and seem to be fine with it. Of course, our judgements are influenced by, shall we say, lowly criteria, but it is a principle we are fine with, even if we side with mercy over justice in almost all cases.
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:02 am

contemplans wrote:
I would call happiness a state of existence. The attainment of that happiness I would call an event. This relates to the quotes which relate the thing itself, which we desire to attain, and the use, namely, the attainment or possession of that thing. The goal is unchanging, but the attainment is through change. This is parallel to the path (which is changing) brings about the goal which is unchanging. By eternal I mean here just that it does not end. And for happiness, I mean the term which in Greek is eudaimonia, and in Latin beatitudo, and Pali sukha (the opposite of dukkha).

Unchaning
"there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis" (Ud 8.1)

Eternal
"neither passing away nor arising" (Ud 8.1)

Happiness (Here rendered "ease")
"Unbinding: the foremost ease" (Dhp 204)


Hello Contemplans,

It may seem to you that there is a useful reason for having a rational discussion about "Unchanging and Eternal" but it is not clear to me. I am confused as to your line of inquiry.

My spiritual practice has an element of accepting the unknown. However I feel that the basis for ethical action is a sphere which is relatively clear and straight forward. I find absolutely no reason to resort to theories of a first cause in order to justify its efficacy. Not only do I find such theories useless and implausible, I find they lack any degree of interest for me. We seem to concur about what happiness is how it is supported by establishing wholesome action. I simply see no reason to read more into the way things happen. I am happy and comforted by the apparent regularities which can be observed and that is enough for me. Any speculation is to me a waste of valuable time which could otherwise be used observing and learning from these regularities. It seems to me that this is a clear way to happiness and the only other way is to test the advise of others who inspire our trust and reverence. I hope this makes my basis for the establishing of skillful activity clear for you.

Take care

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:19 am

contemplans wrote:

Now the Buddha gives the simile of someone wanting to know all about the arrow that wounds them in neglect of cure.That is extremely valid. His view is that we are so wounded, there is no time for conversation. But the part of the simile that doesn't work to me is not that the wound isn't serious, but that why is a wound a bad thing at all. He takes that as self-evident, apparently, where as others seek to explain this. This is what I mean that you need to go outside the system to get that answer, or you operate on this as an assumption. But then what do you say to another who doesn't have that assumption?


This makes no sense. A wound is a wound because it is a wound. If a wound were desirable it would not be a wound. There is no assumption whatsoever here. If you are talking about the simile in this manner you are the man bleeding profusely while wondering if there really is a good reason for being healed. This is far more absurd than insisting on knowing who shot the arrow before you seek to be healed. It seems to me that you wish to question common sense. We desire health. Full stop. Now what?

But then what do you say to another who doesn't have that assumption?


You ask. Does your wound hurt? Would you like it to stop hurting? There is little that can be said to someone who is so confused as to not know the answer to this.

May our wounds be healed

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby contemplans » Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:25 am

Prasadachitta wrote:I am happy and comforted by the apparent regularities which can be observed and that is enough for me. Any speculation is to me a waste of valuable time which could otherwise be used observing and learning from these regularities. It seems to me that this is a clear way to happiness and the only other way is to test the advise of others who inspire our trust and reverence. I hope this makes my basis for the establishing of skillful activity clear for you.

Take care

Prasadachitta


Many aren't. We have a lot of people who suffer out there. Just because we're fine doesn't mean they're fine. People who are are grown don't come to practice first, and then speculate, but speculate first and come to practice. Some do neither. So people who don't take the ideas for granted never get beyond that point. There is a place to address the issues for the skeptics who don't accept your working hypothesis. I am not saying that is everyone's vocation, but some may be drawn to it and excel. I wish you well!
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:36 am

contemplans wrote:
Prasadachitta wrote:I am happy and comforted by the apparent regularities which can be observed and that is enough for me. Any speculation is to me a waste of valuable time which could otherwise be used observing and learning from these regularities. It seems to me that this is a clear way to happiness and the only other way is to test the advise of others who inspire our trust and reverence. I hope this makes my basis for the establishing of skillful activity clear for you.

Take care

Prasadachitta


Many aren't. We have a lot of people who suffer out there. Just because we're fine doesn't mean they're fine. People who are are grown don't come to practice first, and then speculate, but speculate first and come to practice. Some do neither. So people who don't take the ideas for granted never get beyond that point. There is a place to address the issues for the skeptics who don't accept your working hypothesis. I am not saying that is everyone's vocation, but some may be drawn to it and excel. I wish you well!


Indeed,

I agree that many people suffer much less by believing in speculative theories of causation and deriving ethical principles from these theories. I am glad that this is the case. I am confident that people who adhere to such theories do tend to be better off than those who reject or ignore ethical regularities. I disagree that people who dont take ideas for granted never get beyond that point. People can and do become inspired by perceived regularities without basing them on theoretical assumptions. I am perfectly accepting of the fact that people operate on differing assumptions than I do. I wish you well.

Prasadachitta

P.S. I am not fine. There is much to be done with regard to the pursuit of spiritual happiness whether for me or for those who I effect in a direct manner.
Last edited by Prasadachitta on Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby contemplans » Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:44 am

Prasadachitta wrote:This makes no sense. A wound is a wound because it is a wound. If a wound were desirable it would not be a wound. There is no assumption whatsoever here. If you are talking about the simile in this manner you are the man bleeding profusely while wondering if there really is a good reason for being healed. This is far more absurd than insisting on knowing who shot the arrow before you seek to be healed. It seems to me that you wish to question common sense. We desire health. Full stop. Now what?


A wound is a "wound" because it is a defect of our bodily perfection, which is health. But why is health perfection of the body? Why not disease? Really this is an assumption taken for granted. The suttas don't explain this. But this goes back to actuality and privation, and the concept of pure actuality being the measure of all things. The measure is written in us, that's why the opposite seems absurd. That's why all cultures observe that the ideal is life, truth, goodness, health, etc. There is error mixed in the judgement, but the ideals are there. What I am saying is the ideals are based on an absolute objective reality, not based on human convention. In fact, our ideals are greater than our bodies, since we do things which are beneficial to us, but are not beneficial to our bodies. An example is pushing our child out of the way of an oncoming car while we would surely be hit ourselves. That is universally regarded as noble and wise, even though the body may be destroyed. I would be surprised if a Buddhist said that was wrong. Maybe we are talking past one another now. I respect that you respect the wound. Others don't, and they want explanations which are not found in the suttas. Call it an act of charity to supply them with one if it accords with logic.
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:13 am

contemplans wrote:
A wound is a "wound" because it is a defect of our bodily perfection, which is health. But why is health perfection of the body? Why not disease? Really this is an assumption taken for granted.


A wound is a wound because we desire a body which functions according to our expectation. We expect our body to perform in a particular manner because we like it that way.

The suttas don't explain this.


Yes they do. Suffering arises in dependence upon causes and conditions. These conditions are given in the Suttas. You may not agree or you may not understand but an explanation is given.

But this goes back to actuality and privation, and the concept of pure actuality being the measure of all things.


I do not follow you here.

The measure is written in us, that's why the opposite seems absurd.


The absurdity lies in the fact that the opposite just isn't the case and is therefore a wast of time speculating about. We could make up an infinite number of stories about how things could be if they were not the way they are. But....?

That's why all cultures observe that the ideal is life, truth, goodness, health, etc. There is error mixed in the judgement, but the ideals are there. What I am saying is the ideals are based on an absolute objective reality, not based on human convention.


Again... We expect our body to perform in a particular manner because we like it that way. The origins of what we like and dislike are vast and the results dont always serve us too well. What are the ideals? The term "absolute objective reality" has little meaning for me. I can not conceive of an objective separate from the subjective. This may be a limitation but as of now I dont think so.

In fact, our ideals are greater than our bodies, since we do things which are beneficial to us, but are not beneficial to our bodies. An example is pushing our child out of the way of an oncoming car while we would surely be hit ourselves..


Indeed many conditions highlight values which go beyond our bodies. Its a beautiful thing. Far greater happiness is found in such higher values. This is one of the more beautiful aspects of the pattern of ethical regularities.

That is universally regarded as noble and wise, even though the body may be destroyed. I would be surprised if a Buddhist said that was wrong.

As would I.

Maybe we are talking past one another now. I respect that you respect the wound. Others don't, and they want explanations which are not found in the suttas. Call it an act of charity to supply them with one if it accords with logic

If people can conform to ethical regularities through believing in a universal law giver then so be it. I will only shoot holes in there logic when I see it directly causing harm to themselves and others which in my opinion it eventually does.

Kindly

Prasadachitta
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:31 am

Hi contemplans,
contemplans wrote:Underlying assumptions taken for granted is the reason. I understand that the Buddha explained only stress and the ending of stress, but there are underlying assumptions which are never explained through reason, which we must go outside of the system to find. The most fundamental is that all beings desire lasting happiness.

Ven. Thanissaro wrote:Some people say that unlimited goodwill comes naturally to us, that our Buddha- nature is intrinsically compassionate. But the Buddha never said anything about Buddha-nature. What he did say is that the mind is even more variegated than the animal world. We're capable of anything. So what are we going to do with this capability?

We could do — and have done — almost anything, but the one thing the Buddha does assume across the board is that deep down inside we want to take this capability and devote it to happiness. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... heart.html (Ven. Thanissaro's italic, my bolds)

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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 23, 2011 8:37 am

Hi contemplans
contemplans wrote:Rebirth is taken for granted.

This thread, viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&hilit=rebirth+debate, The Great Rebirth Debate, is 132 pages long.
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:02 am

Hi once again, contemplans,
contemplans wrote:
Bringing it back to karma, I believe there has to be an ultimate basis to action, otherwise the holy life is not possible. Here are some section of Thomas Aquinas relating to ends and happiness. You'll find them quite in accord with basic Buddhist philosophy, especially as regards are goal.

Ven. Thanissaro wrote:This is where the head comes in. If we think of the heart as the side of the mind that wants happiness, the head is the side that understands how cause and effect actually work. If your head and heart can learn to cooperate — that is, if your head can give priority to finding the causes for true happiness, and your heart can learn to embrace those causes — then the training of the mind can go far.

This is why the Buddha taught the brahma-viharas in a context of head teachings: the principle of causality as it plays out in (1) karma and (2) the process of fabrication that shapes emotions within the body and mind. The more we can get our heads around these teachings, the easier it will be to put our whole heart into developing attitudes that truly are sublime. An understanding of karma helps to explain what we're doing as we develop the brahma-viharas and why we might want to do so in the first place. An understanding of fabrication helps to explain how we can take our human heart and convert it into a place where brahmas could dwell.

The teaching on karma starts with the principle that people experience happiness and sorrow based on a combination of their past and present intentions. If we act with unskillful intentions either for ourselves or for others, we're going to suffer. If we act with skillful intentions, we'll experience happiness. So if we want to be happy, we have to train our intentions to always be skillful. This is the first reason for developing the brahma-viharas: so that we can make our intentions more trustworthy....

So the first lesson of karma is that if you really want to be happy, you can't trust that deep down you know the right thing to do, because that would simply foster complacency. Unskillful intentions would take over and you wouldn't even know it. Instead, you have to be heedful to recognize unskillful intentions for what they are, and to act only on skillful ones. The way to ensure that you'll stay heedful is to take your desire for happiness and spread it around.

The second lesson of karma is that just as you're the primary architect of your own happiness and suffering, other people are the primary architects of theirs. If you really want them to be happy, you don't just treat them nicely. You also want them to learn how to create the causes for happiness. If you can, you want to show them how to do that. This is why the gift of dharma — lessons in how to give rise to true happiness — is the greatest gift. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... heart.html (Ven. Thanissaro's italics, my bolds)

Daniel :heart:
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:57 am

contemplans,
I offer this for your reflection.
DanieLion :heart:
contemplans wrote:All I mean is that the suttas put it out as a proposition of faith ultimately based on faith in the Buddha as an undeceived truth-teller. There is no internal discussion justifying that belief. It is taken for granted in the suttas.


Ven. Thanissaor wrote:The presentation of the teaching: Because the Buddha's listeners were already caught in the midst of the web of this/that conditionality, he had to present his message in a way that spoke to their condition. This meant that he had to be sensitive both to the linear effects of past kamma that might either prevent or support the listener's ability to benefit from the teaching, and to the listener's current attitudes and concerns. A person whose adverse past kamma prevented Awakening in this lifetime might benefit from a more elementary teaching that would put him/her in a better position to gain Awakening in a future lifetime. Another person's past kamma might open the possibility for Awakening in this lifetime, but his/her present attitude might have to be changed before he/she was willing to accept the teaching.

A second complication entailed by the principle of this/that conditionality is that it has to be known and mastered at the level of direct experience in and of itself. This mastery is thus a task that each person must do for him or herself. No one can master direct experience for anyone else. The Buddha therefore had to find a way to induce his listeners to accept his diagnosis of their sufferings and his prescription for their cure. He also had to convince them to believe in their own ability to follow the instructions and obtain the desired results. To use a traditional Buddhist analogy, the Buddha was like a doctor who had to convince his patients to administer a cure to themselves, much as a doctor has to convince his patients to follow his directions in taking medicine, getting exercise, changing their diet and lifestyle, and so forth. The Buddha had an additional difficulty, however, in that his definition of health — Unbinding — was something that none of his listeners had yet experienced for themselves. Hence the most important point of his teaching was something that his listeners would have to take on faith. Only when they had seen the results of putting the teachings into practice for themselves would faith no longer be necessary.

Thus, for every listener, faith in the Buddha's Awakening was a prerequisite for advanced growth in the teaching. Without faith in the fact of the Buddha's knowledge of Unbinding, one could not fully accept his prescription. Without faith in the regularity of the Dhamma — including conviction in the principle of kamma and the impersonality of the causal law, making the path open in principle to everyone — one could not fully have faith in one's own ability to follow the path. Of course, this faith would then be confirmed, step by step, as one followed the teaching and began gaining results, but full confirmation would come only with an experience of Awakening. Prior to that point, one's trust, bolstered only by partial results, would have to be a matter of faith [MN 27 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html].

Acquiring this faith is called "going for refuge" in the Buddha. The "refuge" here derives from the fact that one has placed trust in the truth of the Buddha's Awakening and expects that by following his teachings — in particular, the principle of skillful kamma — one protects oneself from creating further suffering for oneself or others, eventually reaching true, unconditioned happiness. This act of going for refuge is what qualifies one as a Buddhist — as opposed to someone simply interested in the Buddha's teachings — and puts one in a position to benefit fully from what the Buddha taught .... http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#intro (all emphases mine except italics)
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Thus the experience of his Awakening gave a new purpose to narrative and cosmology in the Buddha's eyes: they became tools for persuading his listeners to adopt the training that would lead them to the phenomenological mode. This accounts for the ad hoc and fragmentary nature of the narratives and cosmological sketches in his teachings. They are not meant to be analyzed in a systematic way. It is a mistake to tease out their implications to see what they may say about such metaphysical questions as the existence or lack of existence of entities or identities underlying the process of kamma and rebirth, the relationship between the laws of kamma and the laws of the physical sciences, or the nature of the mechanism by which kamma makes its results felt over time [see the discussion of appropriate questions in II/G http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... yoniso1-2g]. The search for systematic answers to such issues is not only invalid or irrelevant from the Buddhist point of view, it is actually counterproductive in that it blocks one from entering the path to release. And, we should note, none of the modes of discourse — narrative, cosmological, or phenomenological — is capable of describing or even framing proper questions about what happens after Awakening, for such issues, which lie beyond the conditions of time and the present, cannot be properly expressed by the conventions of language and analysis, which are bound by those conditions. Only a person who has mastered the skill of release has the mental skills needed to comprehend such matters [AN 4.174 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html, The Mind Like Fire Unbound pp. 31-32]. The Buddha reserved his systematic explanations for the particular phenomenological mode to be used in viewing the process of kamma in its own terms, as it is being mastered, so that the actual problem of kamma and its retribution (as opposed to the theoretical questions about them) will be solved. The right way to listen to the narratives and cosmological sketches, then, is to see what they imply about one's own need to master the kammic process on the level of awareness in and of itself.

From these points it should become clear why kamma, as an article of faith, is a necessary factor in the path of Buddhist practice. The teaching on kamma, in its narrative and cosmological forms, provides the context for the practice, giving it direction and urgency. Because the cosmos is governed by the laws of kamma, those laws provide the only mechanism by which happiness can be found. But because good and bad kamma, consisting of good and bad intentions, simply perpetuate the ups and downs of experience in the cosmos, a way must be found out of the mechanism of kamma by mastering it in a way that allows it to disband in an attentive state of non-intention. And, because there is no telling what sudden surprises the results of one's past kamma may still hold in store, one should try to develop that mastery as quickly as possible.

In its phenomenological mode, the teaching on kamma accounts for the focus and the terms of analysis used in the practice. It also accounts for the mental qualities needed to attain and maintain that level of focus and analysis. In terms of focus, the principle of scale invariance at work in the complexities of kamma means that their essential processes can be mastered by focusing total attention on them right at the mind in the immediate present. This focus accounts for the practice of frames-of-reference meditation [II/B http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part2-b], in which attention is directed at present phenomena in and of themselves. These phenomena are then analyzed in terms of the four noble truths, the phenomenological terms in which appropriate attention and discernment direct and observe the experience of developing the qualities of skillful action.

The most immediate skillful kamma that can be observed on this level is the mastery of the very same mental qualities that are supporting this refined level of focus and analysis: mindfulness, concentration, and discernment, together with the more basic qualities on which they are based. Thus, these mental qualities act not only as supports to the focus and analysis, but also as their object. Ultimately, discernment becomes so refined that the focus and analysis take as their object the act of focusing and analyzing, in and of themselves. The cycle of action then short-circuits as it reaches culmination, and Unbinding occurs. These elements of focus, analysis, and mental qualities, together with the dynamic of their development to a point of culmination, are covered by the teachings on the Wings to Awakening discussed in detail in Parts II and III. Thus the Wings can be viewed as a direct expression of the role of skillful kamma in the path to release.

It is entirely possible that a person with no firm conviction in the principle of kamma can follow parts of the Buddhist path, including mindfulness and concentration practices, and gain positive results from them. For instance, one can pursue mindfulness practice for the sense of balance, equanimity, and peace it gives to one's daily life, or for the sake of bringing the mind to the present for the purpose of spontaneity and "going with the flow." The full practice of the path, however, is a skillful diverting of the flow of the mind from its habitual kammic streams to the stream of Unbinding. As the Buddha said, this practice requires a willingness to "develop and abandon" to an extreme degree [AN 4.28 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html]. The developing requires a supreme effort aimed at full and conscious mastery of mindfulness, concentration, and discernment to the point of non-fashioning and on to release. A lack of conviction in the principle of kamma would undercut the patience and commitment, the desire, persistence, intent, and refined powers of discrimination [II/D http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part2-d] needed to pursue concentration and discernment to the most heightened levels, beyond what is needed for a general sense of peace or spontaneity. The abandoning involves uprooting the most deeply buried forms of clinging and attachment that keep one bound to the cycle of rebirth. Some of these forms of clinging — such as views and theories about self-identity — are so entrenched in the narrative and cosmological modes in which most people function that only firm conviction in the benefits to be had by abandoning them will be able to pry them loose. This is why the Buddha insisted repeatedly — and we will have occasion to return to this theme at several points in this book [II/E http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... l#part2-e; III/A http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part3-a] — that conviction in the fact of his Awakening necessarily involves conviction in the principle of kamma, and that both forms of conviction are needed for the full mastery of the kamma of heightened skillfulness leading to release .

The Canon contains many well-known passages where the Buddha asks his listeners not to accept his teachings simply on faith, but these remarks were directed to people just beginning the practice. Such people need only accept the general principles of skillful action on a trial basis, focusing on the input of their actions into the causal system at the present moment, and exploring the connection between skillful intentions and favorable results. The more complex issues of kamma come into play at this level only in forcing one to be patient with the practice. Many times skillful intentions do not produce their favorable results immediately, aside from the sense of well-being — sometimes clearly perceptible, sometimes barely — that comes with acting skillfully. Were it not for this delay, the principle of kamma would be self-evident, no one would dare act on unskillful intentions, and there would be no need to take the principle on faith. As we noted in the Introduction, the complexity of this/that conditionality is the major cause for the confusion and lack of skill with which most people live their lives. The ability to master this process takes time.

As one progresses further on the path, however — and as the process of developing skillfulness in and of itself comes more and more to take center stage in one's awareness — the actual results of developing skillfulness should give greater and greater reason for conviction in the principle of kamma. Except in cases where people fall into the trap of heedlessness or complacency, these results can spur and inspire one to hold to the principle of kamma with the increasing levels of firmness, focus, and refinement needed for Awakening. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part1-b (all emphases mine except italics)

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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby acinteyyo » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:45 pm

Hi contemplans,
may you adress some points here so that I may be able to understand your view better?
contemplans wrote:Underlying assumptions taken for granted is the reason. I understand that the Buddha explained only stress and the ending of stress, but there are underlying assumptions which are never explained through reason, which we must go outside of the system to find.
Why should we search for their explanation in the first place? In order to use a system one doesn't necessarily need to know it's underlying assumptions or how it works in detail, by its results one can affirm its functionality and benefits. To be able to use a car one doesn't need to now how the engine works, one doesn't have to go out to find the explanations for the underlying assumptions the manufacturers used to build the car. It would take much time to figure out all this knowledge and even if we asume that one finally may understand it completely, that knowledge won't make him a better driver when he or she then sits in a car for the first time. It is quite certain, that the one who drives the car although not understanding it completely will win a race before the one who tries to understand the car has even started the engine once. This is not a very good simile but I hope you understand the point I'm trying to make.
contemplans wrote:The most fundamental is that all beings desire lasting happiness.
Really? As I see it, the most fundamental is that all beings desire that what they desire lasts. Some realize that what they desire changes, so they change their desired object hoping that it won't change like the thing before. Some realize that there is no-thing which lasts so they create an imagination of something (not to be found within the all, therefore assumed to be "outside") wich is unchanging and start desiring that. In fact they fail to see that it is not an object which they desire but it is desiring what they desire. With this imagination they think they find lasting happiness... until it changes too, because it's just a trick of the mind.
contemplans wrote:Now the Buddha gives the simile of someone wanting to know all about the arrow that wounds them in neglect of cure. That is extremely valid. His view is that we are so wounded, there is no time for conversation. But the part of the simile that doesn't work to me is not that the wound isn't serious, but that why is a wound a bad thing at all. He takes that as self-evident, apparently, where as others seek to explain this. This is what I mean that you need to go outside the system to get that answer, or you operate on this as an assumption. But then what do you say to another who doesn't have that assumption?
He doesn't take as self-evident that a wound is a bad thing. He does take as self-evident that a wound hurts! He points out that the arrow is the source for this pain and that if you want to stop the pain the arrow has to be removed. Those others seeking to explain why a wound is a bad thing concern themselves with negligibilities. The question is not whether a wound is a good or a bad thing, the question is does it hurt and do you want to stop the pain?

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:05 pm

Hi once again contemplans
contemplans wrote:So the teaching of all dhammas are not-self is in fact correct, in that Thomists do not posit any phenomena as self/soul, but simply the active principle of life.


There is no room in the doctrine of anatta for the identification of self with a Soul, God, Happiness, or Thought.
D :heart:
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby chownah » Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:17 pm

danieLion wrote:Hi once again contemplans
contemplans wrote:So the teaching of all dhammas are not-self is in fact correct, in that Thomists do not posit any phenomena as self/soul, but simply the active principle of life.


There is no room in the doctrine of anatta for the identification of self with a Soul, God, Happiness, or Thought.
D :heart:

Are you sure? Seems like an imaginary self wouldn't take up very much room....if we re-arrange things I think we might be able to squeeze it in. :shrug:
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby contemplans » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:23 pm

acinteyyo wrote:Why should we search for their explanation in the first place? In order to use a system one doesn't necessarily need to know it's underlying assumptions or how it works in detail, by its results one can affirm its functionality and benefits. To be able to use a car one doesn't need to now how the engine works, one doesn't have to go out to find the explanations for the underlying assumptions the manufacturers used to build the car. It would take much time to figure out all this knowledge and even if we asume that one finally may understand it completely, that knowledge won't make him a better driver when he or she then sits in a car for the first time. It is quite certain, that the one who drives the car although not understanding it completely will win a race before the one who tries to understand the car has even started the engine once. This is not a very good simile but I hope you understand the point I'm trying to make.


My view is that it is not a necessity at all to know. Even if one was operating on a level of complete faith, and never entertained any notion based on rational inquiry, they would still be capable of being very holy and accomplished based on a simple teacher/disciple level. My contention is that rational inquiry, metaphysical inquiry, etc. are negatives, or hindrances. My basic understanding is that because the goal is ineffable, then nothing we can say or describe will help the situation. Some schools say you eventually get to that point, but it seems that the Buddha regarded this as a working proposition for the whole path. Underlying this is a rejection of the value of analogic knowlwedge. Every sage since the beginning of time will say that the highest levels come into a level which is beyond us, but up to that final point there is a difference on how analogic knowledge is treated. Analogic knowledge is knowledge of the ineffable based on analogy to things which we can talk about (positive statements). When the Buddha says that Nibbana is peace, that is analogic, because we only know "peace" through things that are ultimately unpeaceful. I am of the view that a balance is greater. The other extreme would be complete rational inquiry viewpoint without any regard to the limits of language, or regard to theory in action, which are generally people who are dry and dogmatic.


contemplans wrote:The most fundamental is that all beings desire lasting happiness.
Really? As I see it, the most fundamental is that all beings desire that what they desire lasts. Some realize that what they desire changes, so they change their desired object hoping that it won't change like the thing before. Some realize that there is no-thing which lasts so they create an imagination of something (not to be found within the all, therefore assumed to be "outside") wich is unchanging and start desiring that. In fact they fail to see that it is not an object which they desire but it is desiring what they desire. With this imagination they think they find lasting happiness... until it changes too, because it's just a trick of the mind.


The last stages of awakening still have a desire for Nibbana which is to be relinquished. All humans desire, and I think it is a common to all humans that a relinuishment of desire for even the perfect good are to be relinquished since human desire still has an element left tethering us to our mundane nature. If there was a desire, then there is still something imperfect in the equation. I think unchanging is the key word in the equation. I agree that the final stage would be relinquishing the desire for the goal, the desire to no longer desire the goal, and desire to have a desire. When I say "desire lasting happiness" and you say "desire that what they desire lasts" we are really just saying the same thing in different words. When folks desire a steak, they really don't desire steak, but the happiness which arises from steak. They don't desire that they always desire steak. Now that happiness is fleeting, but the desire for happiness is always there, and shifts objects. The problem is that the desire is fixed on objects which inherently cannot fulfill the ultimate root of the desire. Now fixing on an object which is pure, and unchanging, is a worthy object. On a low level you are correct that people desire their desires, but that doesn't change their underlying search for lasting satisfaction. In that state there is no desire, but it isn't in contradiction to desires, but overcomes them and goes beyond them.

He doesn't take as self-evident that a wound is a bad thing. He does take as self-evident that a wound hurts! He points out that the arrow is the source for this pain and that if you want to stop the pain the arrow has to be removed. Those others seeking to explain why a wound is a bad thing concern themselves with negligibilities. The question is not whether a wound is a good or a bad thing, the question is does it hurt and do you want to stop the pain?


The Buddha was a senstive man. He left his home after seeing sickness, old age, and death. He had a background based on his religion that such things were already bad, no need to explore further, and was able to take the next level of reasoning. He was riding on his culture as a basis to start. And we are riding on our since Judeo-Christian teaching regard wournd as bad too. I don't think it can be escaped as reality, but there are people who try.

danieLion wrote:Hi once again contemplans
contemplans wrote:So the teaching of all dhammas are not-self is in fact correct, in that Thomists do not posit any phenomena as self/soul, but simply the active principle of life.


There is no room in the doctrine of anatta for the identification of self with a Soul, God, Happiness, or Thought.


The basic teaching shared by orthodox Buddhism and the Thomists is that that identification is needed at all levels except the final steps when you relinquish it. At least Thanissaro Bhikkhu holds this, saying we become more skillful in identification of self. The Thomists are comfortable, however, with putting out that the substantial form of our bodies is what is called a soul. People acknowledge this without knowing it. But ultimately, yes, this information will need to be relinquished because we don't understand the form outside of matter.
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby acinteyyo » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:36 pm

Thank you for your reply.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby chris98e » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:52 pm

contemplans wrote:As for Buddhism, I maintain that the Buddha never addressed the question of God.
As for "judge, jury, and executer in a wise and compasionate manner", we do this to ourselves all day and seem to be fine with it. Of course, our judgements are influenced by, shall we say, lowly criteria

As for Buddhism, I maintain that the Buddha has brought up the idea of lesser Gods. And The Buddha has also brought up the idea of there being a super supreme God in recognizing Brama as that super supreme God.
Also I judge myself with a high criteria. But that's just me. :twothumbsup:
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Re: Bases for Skillful Action?

Postby chris98e » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:55 pm

But to say that Brahma is a supreme God who can wisely and compassionately judge people is something that I do not care about. I don't think the Buddha cared about it either. Its just something the Buddha had to deal with while coming across Brahmins during his teaching period
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