A Couple of Questions

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Heaviside
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A Couple of Questions

Postby Heaviside » Mon Mar 11, 2013 11:10 pm

This is my first post after lurking on the forum for some time.

I am a retired electrical engineering professor who has been interested in Therevada since some time in the 1960's. I had plans to go to Burma then to study, but the military takeover there happened at an inauspicious time for me. I have been trying to meditate off and on for many years without really measurablle success. It seems that a new world opens right away, then recedes into the ungraspable infinite distance.

I wonder if I might pose a couple of questions, one serious and one perhaps more seni-serious?

First question: It seems to me that the core of Therevada does not really involve gods and the supernatural; yet almost everthing I have consulted devolves sooner or later to the mystical. For instance the dissolution of the khandas and recombination into a new individual seems to have a strong parallel with modern genetics. However, the idea of rebirth in a lower or higher life form depending upon present karmic actions seems a bit far-fetched. And the Buddha himself would not state whether he was a god or not (the "noble silence"). If ego is a no-no, why do I sense a strong ego in many of the suttas?

Second question: Why are so many Buddhist monks obese? :roll:

All the best, with metta.
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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Mar 11, 2013 11:34 pm

The second question is easy - they have to rely on the lay people for food, and the desire to provide delicious, exciting meals for the monks often trumps the desire to give them healthy food. I've even seen a few monasteries where they have a sign up that says, "Please consider the health of the monks" and then a little accompanying chart explaining calories, nutrients, etc. That vague suggestion is about has concrete as the monks can get without breaking Vinaya.
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: A Couple of Questions

Postby daverupa » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:00 am

Heaviside wrote:...the core...


Brilliant!

:hug:

why do I sense a strong ego in many of the suttas?


Nevermind all that rest; do you have an example of this?
    "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: A Couple of Questions

Postby Modus.Ponens » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:14 am

Heaviside wrote:This is my first post after lurking on the forum for some time.

I am a retired electrical engineering professor who has been interested in Therevada since some time in the 1960's. I had plans to go to Burma then to study, but the military takeover there happened at an inauspicious time for me. I have been trying to meditate off and on for many years without really measurablle success. It seems that a new world opens right away, then recedes into the ungraspable infinite distance.

I wonder if I might pose a couple of questions, one serious and one perhaps more seni-serious?

First question: It seems to me that the core of Therevada does not really involve gods and the supernatural; yet almost everthing I have consulted devolves sooner or later to the mystical. For instance the dissolution of the khandas and recombination into a new individual seems to have a strong parallel with modern genetics. However, the idea of rebirth in a lower or higher life form depending upon present karmic actions seems a bit far-fetched. And the Buddha himself would not state whether he was a god or not (the "noble silence"). If ego is a no-no, why do I sense a strong ego in many of the suttas?

Second question: Why are so many Buddhist monks obese? :roll:

All the best, with metta.


Well, you're not a continuous person, but I'll answer anyway. :P

The core is the suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering and the way leading to the end of suffering. If you focus on this solely, you'll get to the highest goal of the path. The rest is secondary to this. One way to deal with it is to say to yourself: "If I practice diligently, I'll reach a state of meditation where I'll be able to confirm or deny these secondary things. Until then I'll be agnostic." The Buddha sometimes didn't answer questions because either answering yes or no would lead to wrong views. So he prefered silence. Finaly, the ego thing is a misconception. Pride/ego, while not a virtue, was not a thing that the Buddha opposed firmly, afaik. What he opposed firmly was seeing the khandas as a self. which has little to do with pride, or ego in the western vocabulary.

Because of what LY said and because many monks don't follow the vinaya rule that specifies that a monk should not eat after noon. If you're looking for an utopian group of individuals, let me shatter that illusion now.
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby pilgrim » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:43 am

Apart from the morning alms round which not all monks participate in regularly, there isn't much physical activity in the life of a monk. Maybe just some sweeping and washing.

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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby Heaviside » Tue Mar 12, 2013 4:19 am

Thanks for the responses folks. Please understand that I am not at all trying to be negative here. These are simply honest questions I have been mulling upon.

Modus Ponens said "Pride/ego, while not a virtue, was not a thing that the Buddha opposed firmly, afaik. What he opposed firmly was seeing the khandas as a self. which has little to do with pride, or ego in the western vocabulary." Well, it seems to me that the glue which holds holds the khandas together (in our self image) is the ego. I don't have immediate access to the suttas as I write this, but the Buddha often spoke of himself as "the perfect one" and likened his teaching to a handful of leaves as contrasted with all the leaves in the forest which, he said, were equivalent to his knowledge.

I don't claim at all to understand this for it seems to me to be quite a conundrum: we need a sense of self to exist in this world, which is filled with aggression and competiveness, but it leads us into a distorted sense of who we are.

Let me pose the following question. When I am meditating and a distraction arises, what recognizes it and decides to let it go? And where is this thing located?

All the best.
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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby pegembara » Tue Mar 12, 2013 8:16 am

Heaviside wrote:Let me pose the following question. When I am meditating and a distraction arises, what recognizes it and decides to let it go? And where is this thing located?

All the best.


During meditation, a distraction arises. It is recognized and let go of. That is all.
Let me pose this question.
When "you" are breathing, what breathes? Is it the lungs, the chest muscles, the individual cells of the brain, skin, kidneys or is it the mitochondria inside the cells? Or is it the chemical reaction that "breathes"? What is actually doing the breathing?
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:43 am

Let me pose the following question. When I am meditating and a distraction arises, what recognizes it and decides to let it go? And where is this thing located?


I think it is recognised by a faculty, or ability, called discernment, or wisdom. It isn't really located anywhere, in the way that a physical thing is. (It is - in this sense alone - rather like a sense of self, or a mood, or an abstract quality. One can't give co-ordinates for it.) But is is related to other things that we can identify, in that it arises under certain conditions, and is associated with other definite feelings, etc. which is probably the closest we can get to saying "where" it is located.

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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby Modus.Ponens » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:03 pm

Heaviside wrote:Thanks for the responses folks. Please understand that I am not at all trying to be negative here. These are simply honest questions I have been mulling upon.

Modus Ponens said "Pride/ego, while not a virtue, was not a thing that the Buddha opposed firmly, afaik. What he opposed firmly was seeing the khandas as a self. which has little to do with pride, or ego in the western vocabulary." Well, it seems to me that the glue which holds holds the khandas together (in our self image) is the ego. I don't have immediate access to the suttas as I write this, but the Buddha often spoke of himself as "the perfect one" and likened his teaching to a handful of leaves as contrasted with all the leaves in the forest which, he said, were equivalent to his knowledge.

I don't claim at all to understand this for it seems to me to be quite a conundrum: we need a sense of self to exist in this world, which is filled with aggression and competiveness, but it leads us into a distorted sense of who we are.

Let me pose the following question. When I am meditating and a distraction arises, what recognizes it and decides to let it go? And where is this thing located?

All the best.


"Perfect One"? I think I've read "perfectly enlightened one", but not "perfect one". The ego in western popular language has two distinct meanings: the pride and the self. You are using the two meanings with one word. Please rewrite the paragraph saying what you mean (that is if the Buddha was narcissist or if the Buddha had a sense of self).
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby kirk5a » Tue Mar 12, 2013 2:07 pm

Heaviside wrote:Let me pose the following question. When I am meditating and a distraction arises, what recognizes it and decides to let it go?

The mind.
And where is this thing located?

That's a distraction.
"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: A Couple of Questions

Postby Heaviside » Tue Mar 12, 2013 3:44 pm

But the Buddha used a reductio ad absurdum in one of the suttas (wish I could remember which, but I could dig up the reference) to show that the "I" doesn't exist. He asked, for example, does it reside in any of the six sense bases and showed it could not. He thus eliminated all possibilities one by one. Ergo, the "I" does not exist.

Now I did not mean a material object when I asked what recognizes, but which faculty? I suppose it would have to be in the contact between mind and mental formations, but mind as a sense base has always seemed to me to be a rather vague concept.
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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby IanAnd » Tue Mar 12, 2013 5:19 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Let me pose the following question. When I am meditating and a distraction arises, what recognizes it and decides to let it go? And where is this thing located?


I think it is recognised by a faculty, or ability, called discernment, or wisdom. It isn't really located anywhere, in the way that a physical thing is. (It is - in this sense alone - rather like a sense of self, or a mood, or an abstract quality. One can't give co-ordinates for it.) But is is related to other things that we can identify, in that it arises under certain conditions, and is associated with other definite feelings, etc. which is probably the closest we can get to saying "where" it is located.

Sam is on the right track here (as well as pegembara's reply). The reason I highlight Sam's response is because he hints at the defining realization of which one needs to become apprised. And that is the teaching on dependent co-arising (or paticcasamuppada).

If you are of an intellectual or academic bent, try looking into Richard Gombrich's two works How Buddhism Began and What the Buddha Thought (more so the latter than the former) as these will help you begin the journey into self discovery. The way Gombrich explains it in How Buddhism Began — and the insight I gleaned from his writing — is contained in the following sentence: "The Buddha's interest in how not what, his emphasis on processes rather than objects, could be said to be summarized in his teaching of the paticca-samuppada, conditioned origination." When I read that, I knew exactly what he was talking about because I had studied dependent co-arising in depth and how it related to the way the mind moves from mind event to mind event.

This impression is confirmed further on in that same book where he makes the following statement, " 'Mind' will normally do very well [here he is speaking about his choice of translations for the Pali words cetas/ceto] provided one does not forget that the Buddha did not think of it as an object but as the process of thinking."

To answer your question (which both Sam and pegembara have already done) about "what recognizes it and decides to let it go," it is awareness (or, to be a little more exact, "conscious awareness"). There is just "awareness" of events (or conscious awareness) outside of what one might perceive as being a "self" or "person," that is happening at any given moment, based upon the foundation of having a physical body equipped with six senses (the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, tactile touch, and mind) which have "contact" with the physical world.

On account of the six senses and contact with form or matter (rupa), feeling (vedana) arises when there is contact between any of the six internal organs (eye, ear etc.) and the six external objects (sight, sound, etc.). Perception (sanna) is related to the six external objects and arises upon contact; volition (sankhara) is the response of the will to the six external objects and arises upon contact; and consciousness (vinnana) grasps the characteristics of the six external objects (visual consciousness, auditory consciousness etc.) and arises upon contact.

What I have just described are the five elements that make up the five aggregates of personality view, which the Buddha taught. Get to know and study these five clinging aggregates and their relationship with paticcasamuppada (the process) and you will have your answer right in front of you.

In brief, the mind mistakes these five "clinging" aggregates for self view. "Clinging" because they are drawn in by the illusion of there being a "self" to cling to, when in reality there is only a process (a mental process) ongoing.
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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Mar 12, 2013 8:36 pm

Heaviside wrote:But the Buddha used a reductio ad absurdum in one of the suttas (wish I could remember which, but I could dig up the reference) to show that the "I" doesn't exist. He asked, for example, does it reside in any of the six sense bases and showed it could not. He thus eliminated all possibilities one by one. Ergo, the "I" does not exist.

Now I did not mean a material object when I asked what recognizes, but which faculty? I suppose it would have to be in the contact between mind and mental formations, but mind as a sense base has always seemed to me to be a rather vague concept.


I think the sutta is the Chachakka Sutta

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

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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby Heaviside » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:46 pm

IanAnd wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:
Let me pose the following question. When I am meditating and a distraction arises, what recognizes it and decides to let it go? And where is this thing located?


I think it is recognised by a faculty, or ability, called discernment, or wisdom. It isn't really located anywhere, in the way that a physical thing is. (It is - in this sense alone - rather like a sense of self, or a mood, or an abstract quality. One can't give co-ordinates for it.) But is is related to other things that we can identify, in that it arises under certain conditions, and is associated with other definite feelings, etc. which is probably the closest we can get to saying "where" it is located.

Sam is on the right track here (as well as pegembara's reply). The reason I highlight Sam's response is because he hints at the defining realization of which one needs to become apprised. And that is the teaching on dependent co-arising (or paticcasamuppada).

If you are of an intellectual or academic bent, try looking into Richard Gombrich's two works How Buddhism Began and What the Buddha Taught (more so the latter than the former) as these will help you begin the journey into self discovery. The way Gombrich explains it in How Buddhism Began — and the insight I gleaned from his writing — is contained in the following sentence: "The Buddha's interest in how not what, his emphasis on processes rather than objects, could be said to be summarized in his teaching of the paticca-samuppada, conditioned origination." When I read that, I knew exactly what he was talking about because I had studied dependent co-arising in depth and how it related to the way the mind moves from mind event to mind event.

This impression is confirmed further on in that same book where he makes the following statement, " 'Mind' will normally do very well [here he is speaking about his choice of translations for the Pali words cetas/ceto] provided one does not forget that the Buddha did not think of it as an object but as the process of thinking."

To answer your question (which both Sam and pegembara have already done) about "what recognizes it and decides to let it go," it is awareness (or, to be a little more exact, "conscious awareness"). There is just "awareness" of events (or conscious awareness) outside of what one might perceive as being a "self" or "person," that is happening at any given moment, based upon the foundation of having a physical body equipped with six senses (the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, tactile touch, and mind) which have "contact" with the physical world.

On account of the six senses and contact with form or matter (rupa), feeling (vedana) arises when there is contact between any of the six internal organs (eye, ear etc.) and the six external objects (sight, sound, etc.). Perception (sanna) is related to the six external objects and arises upon contact; volition (sankhara) is the response of the will to the six external objects and arises upon contact; and consciousness (vinnana) grasps the characteristics of the six external objects (visual consciousness, auditory consciousness etc.) and arises upon contact.

What I have just described are the five elements that make up the five aggregates of personality view, which the Buddha taught. Get to know and study these five clinging aggregates and their relationship with paticcasamuppada (the process) and you will have your answer right in front of you.

In brief, the mind mistakes these five "clinging" aggregates for self view. "Clinging" because they are drawn in by the illusion of there being a "self" to cling to, when in reality there is only a process (a mental process) ongoing.



Thanks so much for these references---and Sam nailed the sutta I was referring to. Thanks Sam!

By the way, where in the Arizona desert are you! My wife ad I just returned from Yuma, where we winter. I really enjoy hiking in the desert (during the winter, for sure!).
Do the best you can with what you have to work with.

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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby Nyorai » Wed Mar 13, 2013 2:21 am

Heaviside wrote:This is my first post after lurking on the forum for some time.

I am a retired electrical engineering professor who has been interested in Therevada since some time in the 1960's. I had plans to go to Burma then to study, but the military takeover there happened at an inauspicious time for me. I have been trying to meditate off and on for many years without really measurablle success. It seems that a new world opens right away, then recedes into the ungraspable infinite distance.

I wonder if I might pose a couple of questions, one serious and one perhaps more seni-serious?

First question: It seems to me that the core of Therevada does not really involve gods and the supernatural; yet almost everthing I have consulted devolves sooner or later to the mystical. For instance the dissolution of the khandas and recombination into a new individual seems to have a strong parallel with modern genetics. However, the idea of rebirth in a lower or higher life form depending upon present karmic actions seems a bit far-fetched. And the Buddha himself would not state whether he was a god or not (the "noble silence"). If ego is a no-no, why do I sense a strong ego in many of the suttas?

Second question: Why are so many Buddhist monks obese? :roll:

All the best, with metta.

The monks are being compassionate to accept the offering from laybuddhist for blessing. In fact these monks need not necessarily have to eat them all, or moderately eat it. Strong ego in many of the suttas, if there is no such ego stuff in it, how one going to understand it, how it come about, where it goes to, why there is such ego. So, presenting you a sutta without words, your ego still will not cease as you may ask, what is Buddha talking?
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If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path. He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self.Image

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Re: A Couple of Questions

Postby IanAnd » Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:23 pm

Heaviside wrote:
IanAnd wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:I think it is recognised by a faculty, or ability, called discernment, or wisdom. It isn't really located anywhere, in the way that a physical thing is. (It is - in this sense alone - rather like a sense of self, or a mood, or an abstract quality. One can't give co-ordinates for it.) But is is related to other things that we can identify, in that it arises under certain conditions, and is associated with other definite feelings, etc. which is probably the closest we can get to saying "where" it is located.

Sam is on the right track here (as well as pegembara's reply). The reason I highlight Sam's response is because he hints at the defining realization of which one needs to become apprised. And that is the teaching on dependent co-arising (or paticcasamuppada).

By the way, where in the Arizona desert are you! My wife and I just returned from Yuma, where we winter. I really enjoy hiking in the desert (during the winter, for sure!).

You were in my backyard. North Foothills.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV


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