Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

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Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby lament » Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:33 pm

Hello everyone. I'm wondering to what extent my beliefs could be compatible with Buddhism.

Raised with the scientific worldview, I believe very strongly that a mind is conditional on a complex physical system (e.g. a brain); that it is in some sense secondary to the physical world in which it arises; and therefore that it ceases completely after physical destruction of the brain, and there is no rebirth. My understanding of the Suttas suggests that this belief is called "annihilationism" and it is completely incompatible with orthodox Buddhism of any kind. But also I get an impression that there's a mild ongoing controversy, at least among Western Buddhists, on this and related issues - presumably because people find Buddhism useful and broadly agree with its premises, but can't accept this stuff.

Are there any branches of Theravada, no matter how modern or unorthodox, where holding this belief is acceptable, or am I just plain not a Buddhist? I can't pretend to be agnostic on this issue - cessation of the mind at death is a core belief for me.

NB: I'll keep trying to observe the precepts and attending Mahasi meditation workshops no matter what you reply, so don't worry about turning me away =)
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Re: Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:43 pm

You might be interested in the works of Stephen Bachelor. He wrote a book entitled Buddhism Without Beliefs.

Mainly I would encourage you to keep an open mind on the issue and simply set it aside for the time being. There are far more important aspects of your practice to deal with.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:44 pm

Greetings Lament,

Many people will tell you that you can't be Buddhist with such views, but I think that if you're prepared to hold your existing views about the physical universe "loosely" and not allow them to prohibit learning of the Dhamma, you may find that you relinquish them in time. Note, not reject them, but merely come to see the whole mental vs physical dichotomy dissolve, as you come to see that what matters in life is what is actually experienced, and not the ontological nature of what underlies that experience (whether it be physical etc.).

In this context, consider the following 2 suttas...

SN 35.23: Sabba Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

MN 60: Apannaka Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

In summary, what matters is the problem of dukkha (suffering) and its resolution... not ontological mysteries of the universe, that even if understood, would not give rise to liberation.

All the best.

MN 95: Canki Sutta wrote:There are five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Which five? Conviction, liking, unbroken tradition, reasoning by analogy, & an agreement through pondering views. These are the five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Now some things are firmly held in conviction and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not firmly held in conviction, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are well-liked... truly an unbroken tradition... well-reasoned... Some things are well-pondered and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not well-pondered, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. In these cases it isn't proper for a knowledgeable person who safeguards the truth to come to a definite conclusion, 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless."

"But to what extent, Master Gotama, is there the safeguarding of the truth? To what extent does one safeguard the truth? We ask Master Gotama about the safeguarding of the truth."

"If a person has conviction, his statement, 'This is my conviction,' safeguards the truth. But he doesn't yet come to the definite conclusion that 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless.' To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.

"If a person likes something... holds an unbroken tradition... has something reasoned through analogy... has something he agrees to, having pondered views, his statement, 'This is what I agree to, having pondered views,' safeguards the truth. But he doesn't yet come to the definite conclusion that 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless.' To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.

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)
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Re: Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby thaijeppe » Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:41 am

Hello

Are there any branches of Theravada, no matter how modern or unorthodox, where holding this belief is acceptable, or am I just plain not a Buddhist? I can't pretend to be agnostic on this issue - cessation of the mind at death is a core belief for me.


The answer to your question is clearly no there are no branches of Buddhism with a nihilistic view, it is wrong view.
Stephen Bachelor and secular Buddisme is not Buddhisme.

But I agree with Retro, that you can just try it out anyway, maybe your Wrong view will change to Right view, that
is what the path is all about.

:anjali:
Jeppe
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you
let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely,
you will know complete peace and freedom.
Ajahn Chah
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Re: Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby Alobha » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:46 am

lament wrote:Raised with the scientific worldview, I believe very strongly that a mind is conditional on a complex physical system (e.g. a brain); that it is in some sense secondary to the physical world in which it arises; and therefore that it ceases completely after physical destruction of the brain, and there is no rebirth.


Just in case you didn't know: There is empirical research on reincarnation done by Dr. Ian Stevenson. Google it up if you want to know about the empirical evidence on the topic.
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Re: Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:54 am

Alobha wrote:There is empirical research on reincarnation done by Dr. Ian Stevenson. Google it up if you want to know about the empirical evidence on the topic.

True, but the consensus seems to be that his evidence is enough to raise doubts about annihilationism but not enough to be considered proof of rebirth. See, for instance, this discussion - http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9900&start=60 - here on DW (there have been others, too).

I think Lonesome Yogurt's advice is good, Lament: look up Batchelor and 'secular buddhism' if you would like company but, better still, don't make too big an issue of this one aspect of the teachings.

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby Aloka » Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:17 pm

Alobha wrote:
Just in case you didn't know: There is empirical research on reincarnation done by Dr. Ian Stevenson. Google it up if you want to know about the empirical evidence on the topic.



There are also plenty of skeptics refuting Stevenson's research too if you Google for them.

Here's a random extract:

Those who want to believe in survival of a personality after death will likely ignore the weaknesses in Stevenson's methods and praise him for his meticulousness, his devotion to detail, his zeal to get every claim verified or disproved. For my part, I have to agree with Stevenson's own assessment of his work: he's provided evidence, but no compelling evidence for reincarnation.

I see no way to move forward using his methods or his data, so I see his work as a colossal waste of time. On the positive side, however, I agree with him that past life regressive therapy, which uses hypnosis, is rife with methodological problems, not the least of which is the problem with suggestion contaminating any evidence that might be uncovered for a past life.

Hence, past life regression cannot provide good evidence for reincarnation. Neither can collecting more stories from children who claim to have lived previous lives unless better methods of documentation, questioning witnesses and alleged experients, and verifying claims are developed.

http://www.skepdic.com/stevenson.html

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Re: Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby Alobha » Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:41 pm

Of course, sorry if that came out wrong. There is no evidence for reincarnation, but there is some good data that shows that the matter is not as clear as people may think it is. That can at least be enough to stay open to other possibilities than annihilationism.
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Re: Any Theravada branches compatible with annihilationism?

Postby lament » Tue Aug 21, 2012 3:38 am

Thanks everyone. I'll look into all those suggestions.
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