Skeptical doubt

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby kirk5a » Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:35 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:He gently puts his foot on the accelerator.

Or "emphatically" puts his foot on the accelerator, if his vehicle has an entertaining horsepower/weight ratio.
"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: Skeptical doubt

Postby binocular » Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:03 pm

barcsimalsi wrote:Thanks for the inputs guys, i like to add another simple simile.

Lets compare a person on a spiritual path with driving:
Vision/driving skill = spiritual knowledge and experience
Acceleration pedal = determination and effort
Brake pedal = doubt
Road sign = Dhamma
*It seems like faith doesn't fit anywhere.

A naive and over confident attitude is like driving a car without using the brake pedal. It's true the road sign is there to help us get to our destination but we need to use the brake and slow down whenever:
-there's limitation of vision upon the journey. (poor weather, bad and confusing road sign etc...)
-there's limitation of our own skills upon facing extreme situation. (overtaking another speeding vehicle, dangerous traffic etc...)


I don't think this is an adequate analogy.

"To doubt" basically means "to be of two minds; to be torn in two; to not be able to decide; to be uncertain."

If we are to go with a vehicular analogy, then doubt would be to have one's vehicle pulled by two horses, each of them going in different directions.


Back to Dhamma, i see that doubt may still exist along the practice of noble 8 fold path for example when nimitta arise for the first time and especially when coming across some obscurities in the sutta. But, it is there to alert and keep us from clinging to one particular view. And of course it must be pair with right determination and effort to make progress.


The raft is to be clung to until one reaches the other shore, and only then let go.
Last edited by binocular on Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby binocular » Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:15 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:A healthy amount of skepticism is good and is probably how most of here came across the Dhamma; for example being skeptical of some of the things in the Bible, creation-stories, chosen race above the rest, a Divine being with many human frailties, etc.


I don't relate to what you seem to mean here ... It's as if your default is to believe anything anyone says, and only afterwards put a stop to it. ...?


But too much skepticism and one cannot make progress as shown in some of the similes here. Everything is considered relative, there are no absolutes, everything is culturally nuanced, etc. and no progress can be made.


Skeptics aren't interested in making progress to begin with.


I think there can be a middle way where you start with some faith or confidence in the Path and the teachings and try it out for yourself and see if it works; sanditthiko.


I am skeptical (!) about such a verificationist approach.
In a true experiment, there are constants and there are variables. But in "spirituality," we cannot perform real experiments (ie. we cannot really test or verify anything) because we are operating only with variables and no constants. We can just go, putting one foot in front of the other.
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:43 pm

binocular wrote:I don't relate to what you seem to mean here ... It's as if your default is to believe anything anyone says, and only afterwards put a stop to it. ...?


And I am not sure what you mean here. :lol: I don't agree with everyone here on every issue and I don't put a stop to anyone expressing their views. If you see something I posted that suggests otherwise, please report it to another moderator or admin.

binocular wrote:I am skeptical (!) about such a verificationist approach.
In a true experiment, there are constants and there are variables. But in "spirituality," we cannot perform real experiments (ie. we cannot really test or verify anything) because we are operating only with variables and no constants. We can just go, putting one foot in front of the other.


Sure we can (in my opinion). We can see if we are happier, if we have less suffering. We can see if we are making progress.
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby Alex123 » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:19 pm

binocular wrote:"To doubt" basically means "to be of two minds; to be torn in two; to not be able to decide; to be uncertain."


Right. When one knows a bit more, one can see other ways of looking at same things and this can create doubt until one has enough wisdom to see the precise truth (if there is such a thing).


If one has enough certain (if there is such a thing) knowledge, doubt and faith is no longer needed.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby mogg » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:58 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
barcsimalsi wrote:Lets compare a person on a spiritual path with driving:
Vision/driving skill = spiritual knowledge and experience
Acceleration pedal = determination and effort
Brake pedal = doubt
Road sign = Dhamma
*It seems like faith doesn't fit anywhere.

A naive and over confident attitude is like driving a car without using the brake pedal. It's true the road sign is there to help us get to our destination but we need to use the brake and slow down whenever:
-there's limitation of vision upon the journey. (poor weather, bad and confusing road sign etc...)
-there's limitation of our own skills upon facing extreme situation. (overtaking another speeding vehicle, dangerous traffic etc...)


Here is another version of that:

The person with too much doubt has his foot on the brake. He refuses to take it off, not knowing or afraid of what might happen. He sees a green light but knows that the green color has no intrinsic meaning and is culturally based. It might mean stop in one culture or go in another. He has no faith or confidence that the cars going the other way are stopped or will stop. So he keeps his foot on the brake. He goes no where.

Another person has a good balance of some skepticism and confidence. He has confidence in the people who placed the signs that they did so at the right places. He follows those signs. He trusts that the signs will take him to the place where he is supposed to go. He is also careful, so when he enters the intersection, he still checks with his head and eyes to make sure it is clear. He gently puts his foot on the accelerator. He progresses toward his destination.

This is an excellent analogy :thumbsup:
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby barcsimalsi » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:40 am

binocular wrote:The raft is to be clung to until one reaches the other shore, and only then let go.

Of course not the raft but it's defective parts.
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby ground » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:06 am

binocular wrote:
I think there can be a middle way where you start with some faith or confidence in the Path and the teachings and try it out for yourself and see if it works; sanditthiko.


I am skeptical (!) about such a verificationist approach.
In a true experiment, there are constants and there are variables. But in "spirituality," we cannot perform real experiments (ie. we cannot really test or verify anything) because we are operating only with variables and no constants. We can just go, putting one foot in front of the other.

The whole issue seems to be depending on perceiving "true" vs "false" in the context of the ideas arising upon reading, seeing words of the teachings. "Is it really true?" seems to be the essence. But there is no truth without the one that perceives or sees a truth.
It is most likely that there will arise confirmation when someone starts "with some faith or confidence in the Path and the teachings" and tries it out for himself and "see if it works" if this happens in the context of dukkha and wanting to get rid or reduce dukkha. It is most likely that this someone will perceive the teachings as "true" because the expected effect has arisen. It is totally irrelevant what an outside experimenter who is conceiving in terms of "real" and "true" in an objective sense may have to say about all this. Why? Because dukkha has a source and the way to reduce or eliminate it affects this very source - it is not meant to convince an outside experimenter.
It is just about this:
Both formerly and now, monks, I declare only stress and the cessation of stress
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... tml#dukkha


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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:10 am

Well said, ground.

:sage:

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


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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby barcsimalsi » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:20 am

equilibrium wrote:
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)


Part of the cognitive distortion is that we’re temporarily unable to remember any counter-examples — times that we succeeded and when the task went well, and times when we experienced obstacles and difficulties and overcame them. We think of ourselves as trapped, and stuck, and can’t imagine any creative way out of our situation. The hindrance of doubt hijacks the mind — both our emotions and our thoughts — and leaves us feeling trapped.
http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practi ... l-of-doubt

Now i understand much better.
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby ground » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:52 am

"skeptical doubt" is a kind of wavering, which however prevents involvement. Once "skeptical doubt" has been let go of practice based on the teachings may arise. Once practice based on the teachings has arisen desired effects may arise. Once desired effects have arisen applying the teachings to one's own conceiving and practice of it may arise OR uncritical affirmation of one's own ideas in the context of the teachings may arise, passion in the context of the teachings may arise, dukkha in the context of the teachings may arise, conceiving "what is good for me must be good for others too" may arise, perceiving one's own ideas as "What the Buddha said" may arise, perceiving one's own ideas as the only way, the only truth may arise.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby binocular » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:38 am

ground wrote:
binocular wrote:
I think there can be a middle way where you start with some faith or confidence in the Path and the teachings and try it out for yourself and see if it works; sanditthiko.


I am skeptical (!) about such a verificationist approach.
In a true experiment, there are constants and there are variables. But in "spirituality," we cannot perform real experiments (ie. we cannot really test or verify anything) because we are operating only with variables and no constants. We can just go, putting one foot in front of the other.

The whole issue seems to be depending on perceiving "true" vs "false" in the context of the ideas arising upon reading, seeing words of the teachings. "Is it really true?" seems to be the essence. But there is no truth without the one that perceives or sees a truth.
It is most likely that there will arise confirmation when someone starts "with some faith or confidence in the Path and the teachings" and tries it out for himself and "see if it works" if this happens in the context of dukkha and wanting to get rid or reduce dukkha. It is most likely that this someone will perceive the teachings as "true" because the expected effect has arisen. It is totally irrelevant what an outside experimenter who is conceiving in terms of "real" and "true" in an objective sense may have to say about all this. Why? Because dukkha has a source and the way to reduce or eliminate it affects this very source - it is not meant to convince an outside experimenter.


I'm not talking about convincing an outside experimenter. I'm talking about having an experimenter's mentality oneself - looking at oneself, at one's own life, one's own experiences with the kind of distance with which an outside observer would watch another person.
In fact, I'd say modern society is encouraging this kind of distant attitude toward oneself. Technically, such an attitude is based on internalizing external criteria to the point where one thinks those criteria are one's own, and where one is willing to dismiss one's insights and experiences if they don't match those criteria.


It seems we're actually generally in agreement, but have not expressed ourselves the same way.

Other than that, I still don't believe in a verificationist or confirmationist approach. Just as one doesn't enroll to college just for the sake of seeing whether one can complete the courses and get a degree or not, so one doesn't take up a path of spiritual practice just to see if it works. Instead, I think one starts out with the conviction that it will work out and that it will be worth the effort.

I don't believe in gambling nor in trying things out just for the sake of trying them out. Perhaps some people's lives are open and resourceful enough that they can afford gambling and trying things out for the sake of trying them out. Mine certainly isn't, so I guess on this point, there is a disconnect between myself and those people ...
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby binocular » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:41 am

ground wrote:The whole issue seems to be depending on perceiving "true" vs "false" in the context of the ideas arising upon reading, seeing words of the teachings. "Is it really true?" seems to be the essence.


Of course, when talking about spirituality and such, there can also be the issue present of how to talk about it in such a way that will not endanger one's image in the eyes of other people.

So defending traditional Buddhism against modern skeptics may involve a lot of pandering to scientism, skepticism etc.

But the result of that may simply be wrong view and a deterioration of one's practice.
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby ground » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:11 pm

binocular wrote:I'm not talking about convincing an outside experimenter. I'm talking about having an experimenter's mentality oneself - looking at oneself, at one's own life, one's own experiences with the kind of distance with which an outside observer would watch another person.

Yes .... but how do you look at yourself without getting involved in self? How? How can such a selfless investigation be done? And what is the basis for investigational assessments?
No answer expected ...

binocular wrote:Other than that, I still don't believe in a verificationist or confirmationist approach. Just as one doesn't enroll to college just for the sake of seeing whether one can complete the courses and get a degree or not, so one doesn't take up a path of spiritual practice just to see if it works. Instead, I think one starts out with the conviction that it will work out and that it will be worth the effort.

I do not understand "verificationist or confirmationist approach" as "just to see if it works" but I understand"verificationist or confirmationist approach" as: One takes it up because there is identification with what is called dukkha and because one expects relief, i.e. one has at least faith that it can work if done rightly. But maybe there are some that do not believe in dukkha and just have some time to spend ... I don't know. :sage:
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby ground » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:17 pm

binocular wrote:
ground wrote:The whole issue seems to be depending on perceiving "true" vs "false" in the context of the ideas arising upon reading, seeing words of the teachings. "Is it really true?" seems to be the essence.


Of course, when talking about spirituality and such, there can also be the issue present of how to talk about it in such a way that will not endanger one's image in the eyes of other people.

One's image? Who cares and why?
Why carry so much weight?

Don't talk to people who do not understand. Do not seek affirmation from others by means of explanations being understood or accepted. It is just the sense of self seeking affirmation.

binocular wrote:
So defending traditional Buddhism against modern skeptics may involve a lot of pandering to scientism, skepticism etc.

But the result of that may simply be wrong view and a deterioration of one's practice.

Defend? Why? Too much weight ... drop it.

You think there is something weak like "traditional Buddhism" that needs your shelter?

Or is it sense of self clinging to an idea that wants to protect itself?

Yes cultivation of the latter may deteriorate practice.

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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby Alex123 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:39 pm

binocular wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:A healthy amount of skepticism is good and is probably how most of here came across the Dhamma; for example being skeptical of some of the things in the Bible, creation-stories, chosen race above the rest, a Divine being with many human frailties, etc.


I don't relate to what you seem to mean here ... It's as if your default is to believe anything anyone says, and only afterwards put a stop to it. ...?


I do relate. I was Christian in elementary school because many people around me were. If I didn't have skeptical attitude later on, I'd probably still believe in the Bible.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby binocular » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:23 am

ground wrote:
binocular wrote:I'm not talking about convincing an outside experimenter. I'm talking about having an experimenter's mentality oneself - looking at oneself, at one's own life, one's own experiences with the kind of distance with which an outside observer would watch another person.

Yes .... but how do you look at yourself without getting involved in self? How? How can such a selfless investigation be done? And what is the basis for investigational assessments?
No answer expected ...


It's called an "unbiased analysis of one's own experience." I've been instructed to do it. Although I don't agree such a thing is even theoretically possible. Someone once said that Western psychology was made by extroverts for extroverts.


I do not understand "verificationist or confirmationist approach" as "just to see if it works" but I understand"verificationist or confirmationist approach" as: One takes it up because there is identification with what is called dukkha and because one expects relief, i.e. one has at least faith that it can work if done rightly.


Alright.


But maybe there are some that do not believe in dukkha and just have some time to spend ... I don't know.


Some certainly explain themselves that way.


ground wrote:One's image? Who cares and why?
Why carry so much weight?

Don't talk to people who do not understand. Do not seek affirmation from others by means of explanations being understood or accepted. It is just the sense of self seeking affirmation.
/.../


I wasn't talking about myself. :)

I was talking about some modern Buddhists who try very hard to make sense of some traditional teachings (be they about kamma, rebirth or giant fishes), and of those who renounce those traditional teachings on the grounds that they do not fit the modern scientific paradigm.
Some of these people find that their self-image and self-esteem are at stake when it comes to their spirituality and how they talk about it to others.
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby binocular » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:25 am

Alex123 wrote:I do relate. I was Christian in elementary school because many people around me were. If I didn't have skeptical attitude later on, I'd probably still believe in the Bible.


But maybe this is just a hindsight analysis, biased for the sake of satisfying some other motive ...
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby Alex123 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:28 am

binocular wrote:
Alex123 wrote:I do relate. I was Christian in elementary school because many people around me were. If I didn't have skeptical attitude later on, I'd probably still believe in the Bible.


But maybe this is just a hindsight analysis, biased for the sake of satisfying some other motive ...


Yes, it is hindsight analysis. I was in christian school and at that time I didn't have skeptical mind as I have developed it later. If I didn't develop it, I might have still been a Xtian.
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Re: Skeptical doubt

Postby whynotme » Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:02 pm

barcsimalsi wrote:
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.

Well, they are two kinds

Doubt is a hindrance of the mind, in the sense that it makes your life unhappy, no matter where it is. When in doubtful state, the mind can not make decisions, and so it can not live peacefully.

The other thing, you can call it doubt, too, if you like the name, but from reality, the state of the mind, is totally different. E.g, you start a business, you don't know for sure that you will not lose your money but you accept the chance and keep moving. In this story, the mind made decision and accept the result and continue to move on.

The story of the Buddha, before enlightened, he think that maybe jhana leads to the goal, but he didn't know it for sure. But this is not doubt as hindrance, it is just skeptical thought. Normally, people don't recognize the differences between thoughts and doubt as the state of the mind. Doubt as the state of the mind is a hindrance, thoughts are not. But thoughts, especially repeated thoughts can lead to doubtful state. Doubtful state is emotion, while thought is reason.

Two sides of the coin, wisdom and good faith are just the same, or you can call it: faith with wisdom. You should know the result of actions, believing is included as an action, and, knowing is wisdom. I.e you should know, there are different faiths in the world, if I choose to believe one of them, what will I get, what will I lose in case that belief is true/false? If I choose to not believe them, what will I get, what will I lose in case it is true/false?

You may know, that is the worthy result, but without faith I can't achieve it, then you need faith, or you know keeping this faith doesn't help me at all then you should leave it, etc.. Faith is just faith, just a tool like books, teachers, skills, computer.. you should use your wisdom to process them and to use them for you own benefit. Compare the advantages and losses, then make decision. And because decision has been made, the mind don't live in the hindrance state. But be careful, while the mind doesn't live in the hindrance state, the result of choosing a wrong faith to believe may lead to a hindrance state in the future.

Wisdom is what makes Buddhism. Buddhism includes faith, so does other religions, or even atheists, scientist, or in business, politics, in war, sport, in everyday aspect. Without faith, there isn't much anything in this world. But only Buddhism encourages people to deeply analyse their own faith.

In short, the reality is the ultimate goal. If your doubt is against the reality, make you worse, then it is a hindrance. If your doubt helps you achieve the truth and good thing, then it is good faith. If your faith both help you in some part and harm in some others, then it is mixed. Change your faith: keep what is good and leave what is bad. And of course, since it is a faith, you don't know for sure it is good or bad.
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