Skeptical doubt

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barcsimalsi
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Skeptical doubt

Postby barcsimalsi » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:43 am

5. Sceptical Doubt

A man traveling through a desert, aware that travelers may be plundered or killed by robbers, will, at the mere sound of a twig or a bird, become anxious and fearful, thinking: "The robbers have come!" He will go a few steps, and then out of fear, he will stop, and continue in such a manner all the way; or he may even turn back. Stopping more frequently than walking, only with toil and difficulty will he reach a place of safety, or he may not even reach it.

It is similar with one in whom doubt has arisen in regard to one of the eight objects of doubt.[4] Doubting whether the Master is an Enlightened One or not, he cannot accept it in confidence, as a matter of trust. Unable to do so, he does not attain to the paths and fruits of sanctity. Thus, as the traveler in the desert is uncertain whether robbers are there or not, he produces in his mind, again and again, a state of wavering and vacillation, a lack of decision, a state of anxiety; and thus he creates in himself an obstacle for reaching the safe ground of sanctity (ariya-bhumi). In that way, sceptical doubt is like traveling in a desert.
The 5 hindrances

If not because of doubt, Gautama Buddha would never left his 2 great teacher to pursue higher attainment.

Between a pagan who has 100% faith and an dubious atheist, though ignorance imbedded in both of them but i think most people will agree that the atheist is in a better position.

Is it not doubt that keep a person from practicing blind faith and being proud and naive?
Is it not doubt that regulates the act of further investigation to gain more knowledge?

I failed to deeply understand how skeptical doubt is a hindrance. Please enlighten me.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby ground » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:50 am

barcsimalsi wrote:I failed to deeply understand how skeptical doubt is a hindrance. Please enlighten me.

You are referring to "doubt" in general but "doubt as a hindrance" refers only to the teachings of the Buddha. :sage:

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby alan... » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:53 am

the buddha kind of taught both too avoid skeptical doubt and too investigate and test his teachings.

i think the key in this sutta is that ones doubt should not be so strong that it causes wavering in practice as there will be no progress if one is in constant doubt to the point that it is impeding practice.

so the middle ground method would be (in my opinion) too practice sincerely and accept all teachings provisionally. if, after a good LONG time of sincere effort and practice, one sees absolutely NO validity too the practices or other ideas then, and only then, should one consider allowing serious skeptical doubt enter ones' mind.

and this applies too pagans and atheists as well. if a pagan approached their religion the same way it would have the same scientific testing type outcome. "i'll pray too the hawk goddess and have faith and if my prayer comes true then i'll continue to believe in her."

or an atheist... actually really atheists are turning a blind eye the same as someone with blind faith. atheism is utter denial that there is a god(s). blind faith is utter faith that there is a god(s). both are based on faith! neither can be proven, yet both claim too know for certain. agnostics on the other hand (which is what most atheists actually are, few are true "atheists") can do the same experiments as pagans or anybody else.

for buddhism we meditate and follow the path with great effort, if it helps us and makes us suffer less then we should have faith in it and the buddha himself.
Last edited by alan... on Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby barcsimalsi » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:07 am

ground wrote:
barcsimalsi wrote:I failed to deeply understand how skeptical doubt is a hindrance. Please enlighten me.

You are referring to "doubt" in general but "doubt as a hindrance" refers only to the teachings of the Buddha. :sage:

I'm confuse because this "general vs particular" interpretation does not occur in the other 4 hindrances.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby ground » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:15 am

barcsimalsi wrote:
ground wrote:
barcsimalsi wrote:I failed to deeply understand how skeptical doubt is a hindrance. Please enlighten me.

You are referring to "doubt" in general but "doubt as a hindrance" refers only to the teachings of the Buddha. :sage:

I'm confuse because this "general vs particular" interpretation does not occur in the other 4 hindrances.

It does not even occur there in case of doubt but that is how it is meant.

See after all Buddhism is a religion.
Why follow a religion if one does not have faith in it?
Buddhists would never call their faith "blind" because "blind" is a negative assessment and does not comply with faith. They call it "provisionally" or "informed".

With that I do not want to imply that to call it "blind" would be appropriate because for me faith is just faith. :sage:

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby barcsimalsi » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:18 am

alan... wrote:
so the middle ground method would be (in my opinion) too practice sincerely and accept all teachings provisionally. if, after a good LONG time of sincere effort and practice, one sees absolutely NO validity too the practices or other ideas then, and only then, should one consider allowing serious skeptical doubt enter ones' mind.

So it's agreeable that skeptical doubt can at times be beneficial.
alan... wrote:
and this applies too pagans and atheists as well. if a pagan approached their religion the same way it would have the same scientific testing type outcome. "i'll pray too the hawk goddess and have faith and if my prayer comes true then i'll continue to believe in her."

or an atheist... actually really atheists are turning a blind eye the same as someone with blind faith. atheism is utter denial that there is a god(s). blind faith is utter faith that there is a god(s). both are based on faith! neither can be proven, yet both claim too know for certain. agnostics on the other hand (which is what most atheists actually are, few are true "atheists") can do the same experiments as pagans or anybody else.

What you wrote is a healthy way of thinking but the diehard pagans still gonna be pagans and same to the diehard atheist. In the end, an injection of skeptical doubt proves to be useful.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby alan... » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:29 am

barcsimalsi wrote:
alan... wrote:
so the middle ground method would be (in my opinion) too practice sincerely and accept all teachings provisionally. if, after a good LONG time of sincere effort and practice, one sees absolutely NO validity too the practices or other ideas then, and only then, should one consider allowing serious skeptical doubt enter ones' mind.

So it's agreeable that skeptical doubt can at times be beneficial.
alan... wrote:
and this applies too pagans and atheists as well. if a pagan approached their religion the same way it would have the same scientific testing type outcome. "i'll pray too the hawk goddess and have faith and if my prayer comes true then i'll continue to believe in her."

or an atheist... actually really atheists are turning a blind eye the same as someone with blind faith. atheism is utter denial that there is a god(s). blind faith is utter faith that there is a god(s). both are based on faith! neither can be proven, yet both claim too know for certain. agnostics on the other hand (which is what most atheists actually are, few are true "atheists") can do the same experiments as pagans or anybody else.

What you wrote is a healthy way of thinking but the diehard pagans still gonna be pagans and same to the diehard atheist. In the end, an injection of skeptical doubt proves to be useful.


and i think that's one thing that draws so many too buddhism: the acceptance of a testing attitude towards the faith. most religions teach that any kind of testing attitude or anything but blind and total faith is a great sin. have you read the kalama sutta?

i'm basing this totally on assumption rather than absolute fact backed up by sutta quotes, but i think it may be safe too say that skepticism is somewhat welcome but not in the form of destructive doubt. a testing mind is welcome but one that is deliberately breaking things down out of doubt is not. this makes sense since if one is very doubtful one is likely to create a snowball effect that will heap on more and more doubt. whereas if one can just let their doubts be, neither accepting anything on faith nor denying anything blindly, one has given the dhamma a fair chance to come to fruition through direct practice.

for example if one thinks: "meditation does not work, the mind cannot sit still. i know this for a fact." and then they sit down with this firmly in the forefront of their mind, they will find exactly this too be true and get up after five minutes. but if they have some doubt, but firmly leave it aside in favor of giving meditation a serious and whole hearted try, they almost definitely will have success.

and again, a little healthy doubt can be good! someone with blind faith may assume meditation is super easy and always works the exact same and could have a false positive by thinking they are reaching high jhana states and be let down when it doesn't work the same next time or someone tells them otherwise. they may sit for five minutes and then get up and say "wow, i mastered the first jhana!" but a person who leaves both views aside can let the experience be exactly what it is and nothing more.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby ground » Mon Apr 22, 2013 6:59 am

barcsimalsi wrote:So it's agreeable that skeptical doubt can at times be beneficial.

Of course. Skeptical doubt as to the generally advocated mundane purposes of life is appropriate. E.g. whether sense pleasures are worthwhile can be doubted. Whether the pursuit of selfish goals entails happiness can be doubted. :sage:

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby daverupa » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:16 am

The hindrance of doubt is doubt over the distinction between wholesome and unwholesome. Skeptical doubt about this or that doctrinal point or historical event is quite different.
    "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: Skeptical doubt

Postby robertk » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:37 am

It was wisdom that led the Buddha ro leave his first two teachers.Nothing to do with skeptical doubt.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby barcsimalsi » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:03 pm

daverupa wrote:The hindrance of doubt is doubt over the distinction between wholesome and unwholesome.

At least it is better than a misinform person without doubt. Some religious extremists who killed in the name of religion might be confident what they did was right without a doubt.
Doubt is a sign when there's a realization to one's own ignorance. Until ignorance is completely diminish, doubt serves us more than it hinders us [IMO].

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby Alex123 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:11 pm

alan... wrote:or an atheist... actually really atheists are turning a blind eye the same as someone with blind faith. atheism is utter denial that there is a god(s). blind faith is utter faith that there is a god(s). both are based on faith! neither can be proven, yet both claim too know for certain. agnostics on the other hand (which is what most atheists actually are, few are true "atheists") can do the same experiments as pagans or anybody else.



IMHO, you are mis-characterizing atheism, and more importantly, science. Science is about empiric fact and evidence. Current facts and evidence really make idea of all powerful God very very unlikely. Idea of Creator God just adds additional unexplained problems and additional layer which we cannot investigate rather than solving all problems. Extraordinary claims require extra ordinary proof.


Dawkins places himself at 6 on the scale, which he characterizes as "I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there", but leaning toward 7. About himself, Dawkins continues that "I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden. link
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:58 pm

I wonder if we can relate the hindrance of "skeptical doubt" to the so-called placebo effect, thought to play a role in many kinds of therapy or healing. In brief:

Petr Skrabanek and James McCormick wrote:The physician’s belief in the treatment and the patient’s faith in the physician exert a mutually reinforcing effect; the result is a powerful remedy that is almost guaranteed to produce an improvement and sometimes a cure


The effect has been studied in relation to both mainstream and alternative therapies, including yoga, Tai Chi, cancer treatments and SSRIs. In a nutshell, believing the therapy will work actually accounts for at least some of the effect. Cultivating such belief/confidence requires suspension of doubt and skepticism.

Although my meditation experience is not advanced enough to me to say, I would guess that doubts about the practice probably need to be suspended in order to enter deep states of samadhi. I would think they'd be a barrier to attaining those states, just as is the case with the other four hindrances.

Of course, the placebo effect can be problematic because there is the risk of exploitation by charlatans. I don't think we are being asked to remove all our critical filters and just accept any old claim. We have to choose carefully!

In some ways, it's a little like entering a relationship. Most people would say that a deep and abiding trust is necessary to sustain the relationship. If you constantly doubt and pick away at the foundations, a breakup will eventually follow. The problem is that trust also increases the risk of being harmed or exploited. It's a dilemma.

With regard to Dhamma, the Buddha instructed those curious about his teachings to investigate them thoroughly and determine whether "these things lead to benefit and happiness" before making a full commitment.

One problem with hardcore skepticism is that it tends to assume that medically/scientifically unproven=harmful. But that may not necessarily be the case. Plenty of folks have benefited from things like yoga, acupuncture or Chinese medicine even though the medical basis remains somewhat shaky. Conversely, a number of supposedly verified medical interventions -- SSRIs are a notorious example -- may be largely or even entirely dependent on the "placebo effect".

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby alan » Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:29 pm

Premise is incorrect. Buddha did not leave his first teachers because of doubt, skeptical or otherwise.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby barcsimalsi » Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:39 pm

alan wrote:Premise is incorrect. Buddha did not leave his first teachers because of doubt, skeptical or otherwise.

Both you and robertk is right, thanks for pointing out.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby alan » Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:48 pm

Actually, it was dissatisfaction with his teachers that motivated him to carry on alone.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby Coyote » Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:43 pm

alan wrote:Actually, it was dissatisfaction with his teachers that motivated him to carry on alone.


But that is wisdom, surely?
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby equilibrium » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:05 pm

barcsimalsi wrote:.....

Nourishment of Doubt:
There are things causing doubt; frequently giving unwise attention to them — that is the nourishment for the arising of doubt that has not yet arisen, and for the increase and strengthening of doubt that has already arisen. (source: SN46.51)

Denourishing of Doubt:
There are things which are wholesome or unwholesome, blameless or blameworthy, noble or low, and (other) contrasts of dark and bright; frequently giving wise attention to them — that is the denourishing of the arising of doubt that has not yet arisen, and of the increase and strengthening of doubt that has already arisen.

Of the six things conducive to the abandonment of doubt, the first three and the last two are identical with those given for restlessness and remorse. The fourth is as follows:
Firm conviction concerning the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

In addition, the following are helpful in conquering Doubt:
Reflection, of the factors of absorption (jhananga);
Wisdom, of the spiritual faculties (indriya);
Investigation of reality, of the factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga). (source: The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest, Nyanaponika Thera)

If there is a pot of water which is turbid, stirred up and muddy, and this pot is put into a dark place, then a man with a normal faculty of sight could not properly recognize and see the image of his own face. In the same way, when one's mind is possessed by doubt, overpowered by doubt, then one cannot properly see the escape from doubt which has arisen; then one does not properly understand one's own welfare, nor that of another, nor that of both; and also texts memorized a long time ago do not come into one's mind, not to speak of those not memorized. (source: SN46.55)

Sceptical Doubt:
A man travelling through a desert, aware that travellers may be plundered or killed by robbers, will, at the mere sound of a twig or a bird, become anxious and fearful, thinking: "The robbers have come!" He will go a few steps, and then out of fear, he will stop, and continue in such a manner all the way; or he may even turn back. Stopping more frequently than walking, only with toil and difficulty will he reach a place of safety, or he may not even reach it.

It is similar with one in whom doubt has arisen in regard to one of the eight objects of doubt. Doubting whether the Master is an Enlightened One or not, he cannot accept it in confidence, as a matter of trust. Unable to do so, he does not attain to the paths and fruits of sanctity. Thus, as the traveler in the desert is uncertain whether robbers are there or not, he produces in his mind, again and again, a state of wavering and vacillation, a lack of decision, a state of anxiety; and thus he creates in himself an obstacle for reaching the safe ground of sanctity (ariya-bhumi). In that way, sceptical doubt is like traveling in a desert. (source: The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest, Nyanaponika Thera)

The abandonment of sceptical doubt:
There is a strong man who, with his luggage in hand and well armed, travels through a wilderness in company. If robbers see him even from afar, they will take flight. Crossing safely the wilderness and reaching a place of safety, he will rejoice in his safe arrival. Similarly a monk, seeing that sceptical doubt is a cause of great harm, cultivates the six things that are its antidote, and gives up doubt. Just as that strong man, armed and in company, taking as little account of the robbers as of the grass on the ground, will safely come out of the wilderness to a safe place; similarly a monk, having crossed the wilderness of evil conduct, will finally reach the state of highest security, the deathless realm of Nibbana. Therefore the Blessed One compared the abandonment of sceptical doubt to reaching a place of safety. (source: The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest, Nyanaponika Thera)

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:24 pm

To my (lazy?) eye at least, it seems clear that skeptical doubt refers to doubt concerning the teacher, path and practice.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby binocular » Mon Apr 22, 2013 6:50 pm

There's a very instructive joke:


- How many skeptics does it take to change a lightbulb?
- Actually, they won't do it. They have no sense of urgency about the situation; they aren't sure they're really in the dark.


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