Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:55 pm

Ñāṇa wrote: "It's okay to be an atheist and a materialist and a Buddhist at the same time." Of course, this claim is a contradiction. If one is a materialist, then insofar as they consider themselves to be a Buddhist, they are a Buddhist who maintains a wrong view.
"an atheist and a materialist" Which is to say, one can be an atheist without being a materialist.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19194
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:37 pm

nowheat wrote:But this misses the point that what you are calling atheism is not inconsistent with the practice of the Buddha dharma, or with its morality. Materialism is incompatible with Buddhist rebirth, yes, but it is not incompatible with the morality that is the point of Buddhist rebirth.

Buddhist ethics entail engaging in actions that are more specific than just being a moral person. The actions motivated by Buddhist ethics include the laity acting in a reciprocal relationship with the monastic sangha. This includes generating merit (puñña) by giving monastics material requisites, and even participating in Uposatha days, and so on. This reciprocity between laity and monastics is essential for the continuity of the dhammavinaya.
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:06 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:You've read Batchelor. While he tries to be careful with his use of language, it's clear that assumptions of atheistic materialism underlies his Confessions and other related writings.
...
It's usually explicitly stated corresponding to the idea that "It's okay to be an atheist and a materialist and a Buddhist at the same time." Of course, this claim is a contradiction. If one is a materialist, then insofar as they consider themselves to be a Buddhist, they are a Buddhist who maintains a wrong view.


You are not saying, then, that a claim is being made that the Buddha was a materialist.

You are saying that the claim is that one can be a Buddhist and an atheist/materialist at the same time, and this is an unskillful false dhamma. And if we can define your atheist/materialist as not simply a non-believer, but as a disbeliever "only this is true, and all else is wrong", I would then agree that it is an unskillful view, but not as unskillful as believing in rebirth without solid evidence. The disbeliever is not creating evidence to fit a speculative theory, but is simply expecting that there is a lack of evidence because nothing exists to create evidence, and being honest about it. Every atheist I have ever met has agreed that if good evidence turns up, they will no longer be an atheist, which makes them not so much a die-hard non-believer, as someone who has weighed the evidence and found it lacking, and is open-minded enough to change. This means that when the evidence presents itself along the Buddhist path, they will no longer be an atheist, nor will they be a believer, they will be a knower.

I say again, that if you know personally that your understanding of the Buddha's teaching is both what he taught and what is true, then I cannot see why you would object to dedicated practitioners trying the path even if they are (as above) atheists. The truth will reveal itself, and these "atheists", being a generally open-minded lot, will then see it.

Ñāṇa wrote:Buddhist ethics entail engaging in actions that are more specific than just being a moral person. The actions motivated by Buddhist ethics include the laity acting in a reciprocal relationship with the monastic sangha. This includes generating merit (puñña) by giving monastics material requisites, and even participating in Uposatha days, and so on. This reciprocity between laity and monastics is essential for the continuity of the dhammavinaya.


You are concerned about the ability to keep up the monastic sangha. I am too, and I am not the only one. This is a topic under much discussion in the Secular Buddhist community. My understanding is that monastics are supposed to beg alms every day but in modern society this is no longer possible -- I understand it is against the law to do this here in the U.S. (though I haven't personally checked this). The way the sangha is organized needs to change to survive changes in society, that's sure. Our ability to keep passing on the dhammavinaya is a definite concern for all Buddhists, especially here in the West, where the old models aren't an easy fit with the existing culture.

:namaste:
nowheat
 
Posts: 525
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:42 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Thales » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:06 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The gravest danger of this "one life only" view is that it encourages the pursuit of selfish pleasures at any cost, and provides no incentive to abstain from unwholesome deeds, nor to cultivate wholesome ones.


This is a fallacy. The incentive to cultivate wholesome deeds is kamma, the fruits of which can be seen in this very life with or without a belief in the next life. When I am heedless I suffer, when I am heedful dukkha falls away. One doesn't need wait until after death to experience the results of one's own actions.
"Just as the ocean has a single taste, the taste of salt, so this Dhamma and Discipline has a single taste, the taste of release."

~Ud 5.5
User avatar
Thales
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:41 pm

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby santa100 » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:42 pm

Thales wrote:
"One doesn't need wait until after death to experience the results of one's own actions"

Unfortunately, quite often in life, one does have to wait until after death to experience the results of his/her own actions. Look at millions of children in Africa or Asia who were born without eye sight, without arms and legs, shoot and kill people as child soldiers, or work 16 to 18 hours in factories with the most horrible working conditions possible. Then look at Hugh Hefner, a healthy and wealthy 85 year-old man, enjoying every single pleasure possible in life with the world most beautiful women, some whose age is not even close to one fourth his age! Without a next life, it'd be extremely tough to tell Hugh how his heedlessness has made him suffer or to tell those children to simply be heedful to make dukkha disappear..
santa100
 
Posts: 1503
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:26 pm

Greetings Thales,

I'd agree that "no incentive to abstain from unwholesome deeds, nor to cultivate wholesome ones" is over-reaching somewhat...

Dhammapada wrote:15. The evil-doer grieves here and hereafter; he grieves in both the worlds. He laments and is afflicted, recollecting his own impure deeds.

16. The doer of good rejoices here and hereafter; he rejoices in both the worlds. He rejoices and exults, recollecting his own pure deeds.

17. The evil-doer suffers here and hereafter; he suffers in both the worlds. The thought, "Evil have I done," torments him, and he suffers even more when gone to realms of woe.

18. The doer of good delights here and hereafter; he delights in both the worlds. The thought, "Good have I done," delights him, and he delights even more when gone to realms of bliss.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14622
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:57 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:I agree with Ven. Pesala's post above and the quote provided from Venerable Mahāsī Sayādaw. There is a real danger in the nihilistic views.


Trouble is Mahāsī Sayādaw appears to be confusing annhialationism with nihilism, which is common it would seem.

David N. Snyder wrote:I/we take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, not a God, not gods, not devas.


A very important point.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1870
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:02 am

nowheat wrote:You are saying that the claim is that one can be a Buddhist and an atheist/materialist at the same time, and this is an unskillful false dhamma. And if we can define your atheist/materialist as not simply a non-believer, but as a disbeliever "only this is true, and all else is wrong", I would then agree that it is an unskillful view, but not as unskillful as believing in rebirth without solid evidence. The disbeliever is not creating evidence to fit a speculative theory,

This "speculative" argument is not very useful, in my opinion.

By all means label taking various statements in the suttas at face value as speculative, but you'd then have to agree that the possibility of nibbana, and the end of all dukkha is also speculative.

There is an appeal to authority by all non-ariyan Dhamma practitioners.

:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10117
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:02 am

Ñāṇa wrote: Therefore, this pesky little word has significant connotations that are contrary to 2500 years of Pāli dhammavinaya and Theravāda Buddhism.


If you find it pesky then don't use, it's a no brainer really, if you want to say materialism then say that, if you want to say annhialationism or nihilism then the same goes, if you are being pesked by a pesky word then it's a peskation of your own creation.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1870
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:18 am

Ñāṇa wrote:This notion of questioning rebirth, setting aside the teachings on rebirth, or denying that the Buddha taught rebirth is entirely a modern phenomenon occurring due to the influence of materialist views. This entire phenomenon is a dodgy enterprise -- a narcissistic urge to remake the samaṇa Gotama in one's own image.


Is it a modern phenomenon? or a western phenomenon? we'll never know because westerners haven't had the chance to grow up in a society where this world view is assumed.

I've spent a lot of time in SE Asia and have a lot of contact with SE Asian people of all levels of education, mostly Thai being married to one and all.

For the educated Thais the impression I get is that they don't really have any less doubt about what happens after death than we do, but they are happy to work with it as an assumption because it's such a big part of their culture, after all it's what you practise rather than what you believe that's important.

For the uneducated the view seems to be more a mixture of animism and eternalism. For example when my mother in law was dying her sisters wanted to mark her body so that when she was reborn they might be able to identify her by the birth mark, I see no Buddhadhamma in this.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1870
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:19 am

Ñāṇa wrote:If someone accepts the existence of devas and higher realms then they are not atheistic.


Unless of course you believe the dictionary.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1870
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:27 am

nowheat wrote:I would support the macro-literal-rebirth view as being a useful teaching tool if I did not find volumes and volumes being written debating whether there could be rebirth or not, rather than focusing on practice. It was undoubtedly a good teaching tool when it was the default belief system. I find that Westerners who do not have rebirth as their native view spend a great deal of time and effort trying to understand and adopt it, time that would be far better spent on understanding what the Buddha is saying at the core about how we create our false sense of self. With dependent origination, the Buddha is saying something very precise about where that "self" originates, how we create it, and why we should be doing something about it, and that is being obscured by efforts to get people to adopt a world-view that is not natural to them. A world view that they will have to let go of to be liberated unless it becomes evident through their practice to be a truth.


It does seem to be a trojan horse that gets us focussing on the problem as defined in several indian religions rather than the solution as ddefined by the Buddha.

Luckily on retreats we have noble silence otherwise we'd be wasting our time discussing the mephysical context rather than the eightfold path there too.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1870
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:59 am

mikenz66 wrote:This "speculative" argument is not very useful, in my opinion.

By all means label taking various statements in the suttas at face value as speculative, but you'd then have to agree that the possibility of nibbana, and the end of all dukkha is also speculative.

Just as, if I lived long ago in an area where tobacco grew wild, and most of the people I knew smoked, and died young, and coughed a lot, and I noticed that those who didn't smoke didn't die young, and I thought, "If I could give up smoking, maybe I could free myself of this." And I slowly cut down on the amount I was smoking, and my cough lessened, and I felt better. Could I predict with absolute certainty that I would be able to quit smoking, and avoid the evil fate of an early death? Not with certainty, no. Would certainty be necessary to continue? No, simply finding that I get better and better is enough to keep me moving in that direction.

I don't need certainty that nibbana and the end of all dukkha are possible to continue heading in that direction. Faith is not necessary, only the confidence built of experience.

There is an appeal to authority by all non-ariyan Dhamma practitioners.


Is there? And which one is that?

:namaste:
nowheat
 
Posts: 525
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:42 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:21 am

Hi everyone,

Of course the puthujjana is correct in that the teachings are meant to be
understood in the way that he claims, by the majority of followers.

His mistake is to assume that this is the only way to make sense of the
teachings. In fact, it is merely the puthujjana's understanding.

The problem is that the puthujjana cannot see that there is another way
to understand the teachings. If he could see this, then he would no longer
be a puthujjana, but an ariya savaka.

"Potthapada, all those wanderers are blind and sightless, you alone
among them are sighted." DN 9.33 Walshe 1987.

Regards, Vincent.
vinasp
 
Posts: 1188
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:12 am

nowheat wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:This "speculative" argument is not very useful, in my opinion.

By all means label taking various statements in the suttas at face value as speculative, but you'd then have to agree that the possibility of nibbana, and the end of all dukkha is also speculative.

Just as, if I lived long ago in an area where tobacco grew wild, and most of the people I knew smoked, and died young, and coughed a lot, and I noticed that those who didn't smoke didn't die young, and I thought, "If I could give up smoking, maybe I could free myself of this." And I slowly cut down on the amount I was smoking, and my cough lessened, and I felt better. Could I predict with absolute certainty that I would be able to quit smoking, and avoid the evil fate of an early death? Not with certainty, no. Would certainty be necessary to continue? No, simply finding that I get better and better is enough to keep me moving in that direction.

I don't need certainty that nibbana and the end of all dukkha are possible to continue heading in that direction. Faith is not necessary, only the confidence built of experience.

Well, sure, meditation and sila make one happier and so on. Any meditation/sila programme will do that, not just Buddhist.

How do you know you're heading in the direction of Nibbana? By all accounts it's a difficult and challenging process, that involves nibbida (variously translated as dispassion, or often something stronger, such as aversion) with the aggregates, to the extent that one can drop them completely:
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=11701
nowheat wrote:
There is an appeal to authority by all non-ariyan Dhamma practitioners.

Is there? And which one is that?

That nibbana is possible. Something that I take on faith.

As the Buddha himself states:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"Excellent, Sariputta. Excellent. Those who have not known, seen, penetrated, realized, or attained it by means of discernment would have to take it on conviction in others that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation; whereas those who have known, seen, penetrated, realized, & attained it by means of discernment would have no doubt or uncertainty that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation."


:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10117
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:24 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:That nibbana is possible. Something that I take on faith.

That's one way of getting there... there may be others.

For example, nibbana is asankhara (unfabricated). We can observe sankharas (fabrications) rise and cease. We can learn to tranquillize the fabrications. We can learn that it is possible to forestall the rising of sankharas.

In other words, rather than headlong believing in nibbana, we can see and understand the characteristics of experience which make it not nibbana.

Actually, a simile comes to mind. Imagine a rubbish dump. You can learn how to take the existing rubbish away. You can also learn how rubbish goes into the rubbish dump and see from experience that it's possible to stop that process from occurring. You can reasonably envisage a site devoid of rubbish, even though you've not witnessed it (i.e. nibbana) with your body.

(None of that necessarily contradicts your statement "There is an appeal to authority by all non-ariyan Dhamma practitioners." statement though... however it may be possible to downgrade it from 'appeal to authority' to inference? maybe?)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14622
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:48 am

Hi everyone,

"There is Brahma, sir, who is overcomer, by none overcome, he is the
seer of whatever may be, with power and dominion: who sees him of the
Brahmas, that is the best of sights.
There are the devas of radiant splendour, in whom joy flows and
overflows, who ever and again utter a cry of: 'Joy, oh joy!'
who hears that sound - it is the best of sounds.
There are the all-lustrous devas ...
There are the devas which go to the sphere of ....

[Ananda] "This is but the way of puthujjana's, this talk of the venerable
Bhaddaji."
..........
"When, while one looks, the cankers are destroyed - that is the best
of sights.
When, while one listens, the cankers are destroyed - that is the best
of sounds. ......... [AN Book of Fives # 170.]

[ PTS Gradual Sayings, III, page 148, E.M.Hare.]
vinasp
 
Posts: 1188
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:56 am

nowheat wrote:I say again, that if you know personally that your understanding of the Buddha's teaching is both what he taught and what is true, then I cannot see why you would object to dedicated practitioners trying the path even if they are (as above) atheists. The truth will reveal itself, and these "atheists", being a generally open-minded lot, will then see it.

Again, materialism is a wrong view. Rejecting the actuality of the next world is a wrong view. Equivocating about the next world is a wrong view. It's impossible to attain the first noble path of stream-entry while maintaining a wrong view. Likewise, it's impossible to attain the higher paths and fruitions and full liberation while maintaining a wrong view. In other words, these wrong views are impediments to seeing the four noble truths.

nowheat wrote:The way the sangha is organized needs to change to survive changes in society, that's sure. Our ability to keep passing on the dhammavinaya is a definite concern for all Buddhists, especially here in the West, where the old models aren't an easy fit with the existing culture.

It's not the dhamma nor the vinaya which needs to change. It's the views of the people who go for refuge in the three jewels which need to change. This is what the path is all about. There is a developmental process. Otherwise, human beings would already be awake and there would be no need for a noble eightfold path.
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:15 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:That nibbana is possible. Something that I take on faith.

That's one way of getting there... there may be others.

For example, nibbana is asankhara (unfabricated). We can observe sankharas (fabrications) rise and cease.

Sure, that's the normal thing to do isn't it? Watch rise and fall, etc.
retrofuturist wrote:We can learn to tranquillize the fabrications. We can learn that it is possible to forestall the rising of sankharas.

Sure, with the cessation of ignorance, clinging, etc....
retrofuturist wrote:In other words, rather than headlong believing in nibbana, we can see and understand the characteristics of experience which make it not nibbana.

I don't understand the point here. Did anyone suggest attaining nibbana by believing it?

What I meant was that we take the possibility of nibbana on faith, and then we practice. As you say:
retrofuturist wrote:But that doesn't contradict your statement that "There is an appeal to authority by all non-ariyan Dhamma practitioners."

:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10117
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby rowboat » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:35 am

Ñāṇa: It's not the dhamma nor the vinaya which needs to change. It's the views of the people who go for refuge in the three jewels which need to change. This is what the path is all about. There is a developmental process. Otherwise, human beings would already be awake and there would be no need for a noble eightfold path.


Very true.
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
Ud 5.5
User avatar
rowboat
 
Posts: 413
Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:31 am
Location: Brentwood Bay, British Columbia

PreviousNext

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests