Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby culaavuso » Thu Apr 03, 2014 4:38 am

NMRK32 wrote:isn't that kinda like a fire without flames?

It seems more like the other way around: It's like flames without fire. If you look at what we call a "fire", there are flames and there are embers and there is fuel and there is heat and there is air, but there isn't really any "fire" to be found. The name "fire" is just what we call this combination of flames and embers and fuel. Much like how "fire" can not be found apart from flames, embers, fuel, heat, and air, there is no "self" that can be found apart from form, feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness. It's just the name that's given to this combination.

NMRK32 wrote:However, as Buddhism is often taught and often times expressed in the sutras and the commentaries with all its metaphysical projections it inadvertedly lends itself to those questions.

It can be useful to take a step back from this and ask what metaphysical projections accomplish. Any idea is a tool for understanding experiences and shaping behavior in relation to those experiences. Any idea that can't be tested through personal experience has an influence on choices and behavior. So the useful question then is: when holding this belief, do greed, hatred, and delusion increase or decrease? Do the actions shaped by this belief lead to affliction or not?

NMRK32 wrote:Do I treat it as a stress release method or as something more? Is it really a soteriological method of deliverance or just a meditational exercise into apathy?

Developing apathy leads to affliction through unskillful behavior and leads to delusion as a result of lacking effort and awareness. The seven factors of enlightenment include "energy" and "investigation", and the ten perfections include "resolute determination". These are not compatible with apathy. Similarly the practices of good-will, compassion, and sympathetic joy are in direct contradiction to developing apathy.

It can help to release stress, but while there is some overlap "dukkha" is not exactly the same thing as what English means by "stress". It is a method to completely eliminate dukkha. Thus it is something more than just a way to release stress.
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby binocular » Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:41 am

NMRK32 wrote:I must insist that when the teacher is good enough the student will follow.

Which may take a few years for the student.

Like in a class, you will have the genuises who will catch it all the moment you say it, others will need a few repetitions. But a good teacher aims to leave nobody behind. We cannot be elitists and split people into the worthy and the unworthy ones or the capable and incapable ones. Not very noble...


/.../
"Kesi, I train a tamable person [sometimes] with gentleness, [sometimes] with harshness, [sometimes] with both gentleness & harshness.

"In using gentleness, [I teach:] 'Such is good bodily conduct. Such is the result of good bodily conduct. Such is good verbal conduct. Such is the result of good verbal conduct. Such is good mental conduct. Such is the result of good mental conduct. Such are the devas. Such are human beings.'

"In using harshness, [I teach:] 'Such is bodily misconduct. Such is the result of bodily misconduct. Such is verbal misconduct. Such is the result of verbal misconduct. Such is mental misconduct. Such is the result of mental misconduct. Such is hell. Such is the animal womb. Such the realm of the hungry shades.'

"In using gentleness & harshness, [I teach:] 'Such is good bodily conduct. Such is the result of good bodily conduct. Such is bodily misconduct. Such is the result of bodily misconduct. Such is good verbal conduct. Such is the result of good verbal conduct. Such is verbal misconduct. Such is the result of verbal misconduct. Such is good mental conduct. Such is the result of good mental conduct. Such is mental misconduct. Such is the result of mental misconduct. Such are the devas. Such are human beings. Such is hell. Such is the animal womb. Such the realm of the hungry shades.'"

"And if a tamable person doesn't submit either to a mild training or to a harsh training or to a mild & harsh training, what do you do?"

"If a tamable person doesn't submit either to a mild training or to a harsh training or to a mild & harsh training, then I kill him, Kesi."

"But it's not proper for our Blessed One to take life! And yet the Blessed One just said, 'I kill him, Kesi.'"

"It is true, Kesi, that it's not proper for a Tathagata to take life. But if a tamable person doesn't submit either to a mild training or to a harsh training or to a mild & harsh training, then the Tathagata doesn't regard him as being worth speaking to or admonishing. His knowledgeable fellows in the holy life don't regard him as being worth speaking to or admonishing. This is what it means to be totally destroyed in the Doctrine & Discipline, when the Tathagata doesn't regard one as being worth speaking to or admonishing, and one's knowledgeable fellows in the holy life don't regard one as being worth speaking to or admonishing."

"Yes, lord, wouldn't one be totally destroyed if the Tathagata doesn't regard one as being worth speaking to or admonishing, and one's knowledgeable fellows in the holy life don't regard one as being worth speaking to or admonishing!

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



If one doesn't want to be left behind, then one just has to make an effort to catch up.

I've heard this analogy once from someone from another religion:
People who are new to religion/spirituality tend to take one of two extreme approaches to spiritual life: Some are like the babies of kangaroos, being used to and expecting to be fully taken care of, nurtured and protected by others all the time. Some are like the babies of monkeys, left to themselves much of the time, clinging to the fur of the back of their mother for dear life, while she runs and jumps from tree to tree.
Neither is a viable option in the long run. Being like a kangaroo baby makes one too dependent on others. Being like a monkey baby one tries to be independent before one is really able to.
Fortunately, we're human, so we have some more options available.
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby binocular » Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:57 am

NMRK32 wrote:But doesn't that presuppose an experiencer? A underlying knower? An inquisitor? The conflict I have had with Theravada is that the illusionary, self is doing both the knowing and the liberating...

It's not Theravada to have a conflict with. Theravada efforts to keep in line with the Pali Canon, and the Pali Canon says:

Dwelling at Savatthi... Then a certain brahman went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "What now, Master Gotama: Is the one who acts the same one who experiences [the results of the act]?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is the same one who experiences,' is one extreme."

[The brahman:] "Then, Master Gotama, is the one who acts someone other than the one who experiences?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences,' is the second extreme. Avoiding both of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by means of the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.
/.../

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



NMRK32 wrote:As a buddhist I

Why do you consider yourself a Buddhist?

I have found that the majority of my problems related to Buddhism disappeared once I have made an effort to be more reserved and conscientious about calling myself a Buddhist.
"Being a Buddhist" is after all not the same kind of category as "being an African-American" - ie. it doesn't automatically apply 24/7 regardless of one's choices.


I just think that Buddhism has left itself purposely or accidentally open to such discussion and speculation, hence all the different schools of thought in it. Again, all these questions do not seem to matter much as to what I feel whilst meditating for instance but on a theoretical mundane level I think buddhism is a very nebulous system of thought. One moment it's a holy path, the next it's a strategy, it gets into metaphysical grounds but quickly runs away before anyone notices. It's neither here nor there.

I don't know of any religion where what you describe above could not apply.


I would advocate for a clear streamlining and reinterpretation perhaps of what it really is....

And have someone else do your homework?
:)
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby Bakmoon » Thu Apr 03, 2014 10:06 pm

NMRK32 wrote: So if there is no ultimate experiencer, who's experiencing the dukkha? And how come the answer is the eightfold path? Don't the really devout Christians and Muslims who place all their faith in their respective Gods and transcend themselves overcome dukkha? They won't be continuing on after death anyway, so while they're here their religions too offer the same type of transcedence and detachment from worldly and selfish affairs if followed to the letter, no?


There is no who, ultimately. Ultimately speaking, dukkha simply arises.

And I can't give an upfront proof that the Noble Eightfold Path is the answer, and neither is it reasonable to expect one. Allow me to illustrate by an analogy. Suppose Alice and Bob bump into each other one day and Alice tells Bob that she found a treasure map that shows a path through the woods scattered with bits of various precious goods until finally the path ends in a cave filled with gold. Alice says that she wants to find the treasure and offers to let Bob come with. Bob says that he refuses to even take one step along the path until Alice can give him a logical proof that the treasure at the end of the path is real. Alice says that neither of them can know one way or another until they actually set out on the trail, but she is curious and thinks at least it is worth a shot but Bob is still uninterested and leaves.

Afterwards Alice gets all her gear together and sets out with her treasure map into the woods. After walking for a while she finds a small gold coin under a large rock just like the map says. She gets excited and thinks to herself that her map has something to it after all. She goes further and finds more treasure along the path and she becomes even more confident in the map until finally, she comes to a cave and enters to find it full of gold coins, upon which she is absolutely convinced that the map is true.

That's what the spiritual journey is like. The Buddha's teachings are like the treasure map, the trail is like the Noble Eightfold Path, the gold coins along the way are like the happiness we gain initially from developing our character and through meditative practice, and Nibbana is like the cave full of gold at the end. The only way you can find out for sure if the path leads somewhere is to walk it.

As for how this is different than what the devout Christians believe, well that's an easy one. They say that God himself cannot be directly experienced or known in this life and that the final goal is in the afterlife. Nibbana can be realized in the here and now.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby Ananda26 » Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:04 pm

Freedom from suffering is very worthwhile goal and found in Buddha's teaching is how to get it.
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby NMRK32 » Mon Apr 07, 2014 11:59 am

culaavuso wrote:
NMRK32 wrote:isn't that kinda like a fire without flames?

It seems more like the other way around: It's like flames without fire. If you look at what we call a "fire", there are flames and there are embers and there is fuel and there is heat and there is air, but there isn't really any "fire" to be found. The name "fire" is just what we call this combination of flames and embers and fuel. Much like how "fire" can not be found apart from flames, embers, fuel, heat, and air, there is no "self" that can be found apart from form, feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness. It's just the name that's given to this combination.

NMRK32 wrote:However, as Buddhism is often taught and often times expressed in the sutras and the commentaries with all its metaphysical projections it inadvertedly lends itself to those questions.

It can be useful to take a step back from this and ask what metaphysical projections accomplish. Any idea is a tool for understanding experiences and shaping behavior in relation to those experiences. Any idea that can't be tested through personal experience has an influence on choices and behavior. So the useful question then is: when holding this belief, do greed, hatred, and delusion increase or decrease? Do the actions shaped by this belief lead to affliction or not?

NMRK32 wrote:Do I treat it as a stress release method or as something more? Is it really a soteriological method of deliverance or just a meditational exercise into apathy?

Developing apathy leads to affliction through unskillful behavior and leads to delusion as a result of lacking effort and awareness. The seven factors of enlightenment include "energy" and "investigation", and the ten perfections include "resolute determination". These are not compatible with apathy. Similarly the practices of good-will, compassion, and sympathetic joy are in direct contradiction to developing apathy.

It can help to release stress, but while there is some overlap "dukkha" is not exactly the same thing as what English means by "stress". It is a method to completely eliminate dukkha. Thus it is something more than just a way to release stress.




Dear Brother/Sister

Sorry for the late reply, life is pretty hectic when one’s on night shifts. I have only now had the chance to sit down and read your post.
Here’s my thoughts on the points you’ve raised.

The Fire Analogy

We generally agree that the being we now perceive as ourselves is just like the flames, embers, fuel, heat and air in a fire. Where I feel that I begin to disagree
with Theravada’s interpretation sometimes is the utter denial of an ultimate fire in actual terms. And here’s why.
If indeed a conscious, living being is likened to the phenomenon of fire and his/her skandhas to the constituent parts you’ve mentioned then we can draw the following conclusions.

There is no being there i.e. no fire
The constituents of fire are not fire itself by themselves
When one or all go missing or are removed we don’t actually have a fire.
So far so good. No logical objections I imagine. But let’s apply this logic in the exact same fashion to a sentient being, let’s make that being a man. Let’s call that man, Siddhartha Gautama….

There is no Siddhartha Gautama - Indeed this is a conventional, transitory ego. A term of convenience this person uses on a daily basis to communicate with other mundane creatures. His skandhas are bound together and give rise to him. But ultimately he is not the Skandhas.
His skandhas are not Siddhartha. They are not a being themselves, one by one, individually. They don’t really have a self, real or transitory. They’re just bits….
You cannot have Siddhartha when one or more go missing or their mutual bond torn apart by death. Correct?

Now if the above statements are true, then we have the following dharmic problems.

If Karma is a process, a law, impersonal and universal and the skandhas themselves are devoid of self, personality and ultimately nothing more than bits in flux then who is reborn after death? Who receives the fruits of Karma? How can the skandhas that supposedly hold nothing of the previous person give rise to a new being that receives the previous person’s karma? How come the Buddha then recalled his previous lives? There was no ultimate self inside any of his previous incarnations who retained the memories and qualities of that momentary, transitory being. Hence none of those memories would have passed on by themselves. Memories need a concrete being to have experienced them, a mind to have stored them, a brain to have processed them and a mind that retained them and carried them across to recall them. But Siddhartha who was something/someone else before is a brand new being that somehow inherited the karmic flow of those past beings…so basically the momentum of their actions but that momentum somehow retains a sense of continuity which he was able to experience and remember. His skandhas couldn’t really do all that….they’re….selfless….devoid of being….they’re impersonal, interdependent bits…..they only seem to give rise to a ‘self’ when they’re bundled up together…right?
If Siddhartha never harboured an deeper, essential Self of sorts then who observed his thoughts during meditation? Who focused on the spaces between each successive thought? Who detached himself from body, form, mental formations, consciousness and ultimately a sense of ego? Who did all the shedding of the skandhas? They can’t shed themselves….they can’t make decisions. Otherwise they would be the Self. Who turned his attention inwards? Who attained liberation? Who and how did manage to experience and then recall Nirvana after coming out of meditation? If the arahant is no longer there when he enters Nirvana, who experiences it? Who knows what was attained?
If I kill and dismember a person, I am a criminal. Would you also not say that I have just generated a lot of bad karma. But if I pull apart a mannequin then I am not. Neither will I reap the negative fruits of my Karma in another life. That’s most likely because a mannequin is made up of stuff, inorganic bits and bats. A human being however exists. Perhaps in a deeper, fundamental sense. Perhaps it’s not just a process, a flux. Would you not say?

You see for certain basic truths of the buddhist argumentation to make sense there NEEDS to be an ultimate self. Of course, this begs the question, how does one get to experience that higher Self inside him/her without attaching some sort of mental formation, a phantom to it when trying to conceptualise it? How does one describe and do justice to something outside of time, space, name and form? Perhaps that’s why Thanissaro Bhikshu often describes the buddhist path as the No-self Strategy. Because it may well be just a strategy. A non religious method, devoid of ritual and speculation to get in touch with our Higher Self. The one that does transmigrate, that never stays the same, that’s formless and so difficult to grasp, the ground of our experiences and being. The skandhas cannot be liberated. If consciousness and mind, inorganic bits that scatter after death then technically they couldn’t make the decision on their own to escape samsara. In the same way that the logs cannot remove themselves from the fire, or the fuel, or the flames. Someone needs to put the fire out or one of the constituents needs to run out. Air, or fuel perhaps. But in that case we just have nothing but a materialist interpretation of the dharma. We die, bye-bye. There is no need for a dharma. Yes, we’re transitory, whether actual or imaginary phantoms inside our brains so we might as well indulge for as long as we can. Why practice anything? Yes life is dukkha, but it’s not only just dukkha….to know dukkha, there has to be joy….I get to experience pain and separation only because I get to experience elation, coming together and joy. If life was just dukkha, there would be no joy…so why don’t I just overindulge in whatever gives me a feeling of joy? Unto my final draw of breath. Ultimately I will die and take none of the dukkha or the joy with me….So is there a point in buddhism??

The adherents of Pudgalavada Buddhism asked the same questions I ask above and they arrived at a similar conclusion at which logically one would if the teaching is to make logical sense. In my opinion Theravada went too hardcore on the Scriptures. Kinda like literal interpreters of the Bible. But like everything in life, so does the dharma need to be interpreted in a way that makes sense. And of course at the same time practiced.

If the purpose of the dharma consists basically of a temporary being, trying to ultimately die once and for all then how is that not ‘spiritual suicide’? I doubt that’s what the Buddha had in mind. In one of Thanissaro Bhikshu’s talks I heard say that the Buddha said that there’s two kinds of people who misunderstand him, those who draw inferences from things they should not and those who don’t draw inferences from things they should. I’m not saying in any way that I have understood his dharma in its totality or even at all. But logically, for certain core parts of buddhism to make sense I am beginning to suspect that buddhism needs a soul. Perhaps not one we can pin down and define as all definitions box it up, confine it, restrict it and misinterpret it but one that can ultimately be experienced.

Would you not say?
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby NMRK32 » Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:15 pm

Which make take a few years for the student


Yes, but ultimately you don’t become a teacher if you lack the patience. You leave it to someone else who has it…

If one doesn’t want to be left behind, then one just has to make an effort to catch up


I would like to believe that in this particular case one is trying his utmost depending on his mental faculties and abilities.


People who are new to a religion……


Although I am not in any way the most advanced practitioner I am also not new….

It’s not Theravada to have a conflict with…


It’s not Christianity to have a conflict with….Evangelical Americans from Texas though often do bring it out in me….

Why do you consider yourself a Buddhist?


Well logically, I play the piano a lot so I am a bit of a pianist. My sister plays the violin so she’s a violinist…I work on a reception desk at night so I am also a night-time receptionist…..and I try to follow and study the buddhist path so I would call me a buddhist…..and because I also like languages and I have a degree in six of them I am also a bit of a linguist…..and my political beliefs make me a bit of a socialist…..but certainly not an elitist….


And have someone else do your homework?


I would never presume…but it would be nice if the teacher conducted the lecture in English, my Mongolian is not that good these days. It would also help if the textbooks were written in a more concise and lucid way. Kinda like when you go to a restaurant. You wouldn’t want someone to chew your food for you, then spit it in your mouth and say ‘Swallow!’……But equally, you wouldn’t want to go hunting for that venison steak before Sebastian served it to you on his white linen tablecloths….
:anjali:
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby binocular » Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:35 pm

NMRK32 wrote:But logically, for certain core parts of buddhism to make sense I am beginning to suspect that buddhism needs a soul. Perhaps not one we can pin down and define as all definitions box it up, confine it, restrict it and misinterpret it but one that can ultimately be experienced.

It's not that one "has" a self; one _is_ a self. This is trivially true by virtue of grammar.

To _search_ for self would be like taking your own eyes, putting them under the microscope, and then with those same eyes, look at those very eyes. It's a logical (not to mention practical) impossibility.

If one would "have" a self, then one could search for it, and eventually experience it. But since one is a self, there is no self to experience. That doesn't mean that there is no self. But it does mean that efforts to "_search_ for a self" are misguided.

A sentence like "Do I have a self?" is gramatically the same as "Does this chair have a chair (that is that very same chair)?" or "Does X have X?" It's not clear what one can do with such a question, and similar questions and statements.
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby beeblebrox » Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:33 pm

NMRK32 wrote:
It’s not Theravada to have a conflict with…


It’s not Christianity to have a conflict with….Evangelical Americans from Texas though often do bring it out in me….



This is a good point, thank you for making it.

:anjali:
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby culaavuso » Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:54 pm

NMRK32 wrote:If Karma is a process, a law, impersonal and universal and the skandhas themselves are devoid of self, personality and ultimately nothing more than bits in flux then who is reborn after death?

What is conventionally called a "being" is a process driven by desire, passion, delight, and craving. Craving sustains the "being" when one body has been set aside and it has not yet been reborn. (SN 23.2, SN 44.9).

NMRK32 wrote:Who receives the fruits of Karma? How can the skandhas that supposedly hold nothing of the previous person give rise to a new being that receives the previous person’s karma?

The Buddha taught that it is wrong to say that the one who acts is the same as the one who experiences, and also wrong to say that the one who acts is other than the one who is experiences (SN 12.46). This can be understood by the fire analogy again by considering that it isn't quite right to say that it is now the same fire as it was an hour ago, nor is it really an entirely different fire. The process has simply continued.

NMRK32 wrote:How come the Buddha then recalled his previous lives? There was no ultimate self inside any of his previous incarnations who retained the memories and qualities of that momentary, transitory being. Hence none of those memories would have passed on by themselves. Memories need a concrete being to have experienced them, a mind to have stored them, a brain to have processed them and a mind that retained them and carried them across to recall them.

Memories are not an identity. One person can write a memory down and another person can read it. Files can be copied from one computer to another and present the same information. One person can film an event and another person can watch it. The writing, computer data, film, or whatever other form of memory can pass on by itself and be experienced by the same or another being in the future. Often memories are associated with ideas of a concrete being, but the idea of a concrete being is not a prerequisite for the experience of memory.

NMRK32 wrote:If Siddhartha never harboured an deeper, essential Self of sorts then who observed his thoughts during meditation? Who focused on the spaces between each successive thought? Who detached himself from body, form, mental formations, consciousness and ultimately a sense of ego? Who did all the shedding of the skandhas? They can’t shed themselves….they can’t make decisions. Otherwise they would be the Self. Who turned his attention inwards? Who attained liberation? Who and how did manage to experience and then recall Nirvana after coming out of meditation? If the arahant is no longer there when he enters Nirvana, who experiences it? Who knows what was attained?

The Tathagata can not be identified as this sort of eternal Self (SN 44.2).
There is no Self that observes thought. Observation and thought are processes that happen. The idea of a self is constructed based on these things happening. The suttas include passages where the Buddha explains that asking who does these things is simply an invalid question (SN 12.12). The question is based on asserting a false premise that there is some kind of Self overseeing these processes. Another sutta explains that even observation and consciousness is not self because it can not be controlled (SN 22.59).

NMRK32 wrote:If I kill and dismember a person, I am a criminal. Would you also not say that I have just generated a lot of bad karma. But if I pull apart a mannequin then I am not. Neither will I reap the negative fruits of my Karma in another life. That’s most likely because a mannequin is made up of stuff, inorganic bits and bats. A human being however exists. Perhaps in a deeper, fundamental sense. Perhaps it’s not just a process, a flux. Would you not say?

This is the difference between one aggregate (form) and five aggregates (form, feeling, perception, volition, consciousness). There is no 'Self' required to explain the distinction.

NMRK32 wrote:You see for certain basic truths of the buddhist argumentation to make sense there NEEDS to be an ultimate self. Of course, this begs the question, how does one get to experience that higher Self inside him/her without attaching some sort of mental formation, a phantom to it when trying to conceptualise it? How does one describe and do justice to something outside of time, space, name and form?

Perhaps trying to have such a direct experience could lead to an understanding of the futility of such attempts. This might be one of the best ways to understand that there is no higher Self to be experienced.

NMRK32 wrote:Perhaps that’s why Thanissaro Bhikshu often describes the buddhist path as the No-self Strategy. Because it may well be just a strategy. A non religious method, devoid of ritual and speculation to get in touch with our Higher Self.

Another interpretation of this is that Thanissaro Bhikkhu is pointing out that holding to the view "I have no self" is a doctrine of self. Clinging to the view that "I exist" or "I do not exist" is still clinging to a view of self. Saying that there is a fire is wrong because there is no eternally existing higher Fire to be found. Saying that there is no fire is wrong because it will still burn you if you put your hand in it. Understanding what is actually happening doesn't require the assertion that a higher Fire exists or that fire does not exist.

NMRK32 wrote:The one that does transmigrate, that never stays the same, that’s formless and so difficult to grasp, the ground of our experiences and being. The skandhas cannot be liberated. If consciousness and mind, inorganic bits that scatter after death then technically they couldn’t make the decision on their own to escape samsara. In the same way that the logs cannot remove themselves from the fire, or the fuel, or the flames. Someone needs to put the fire out or one of the constituents needs to run out. Air, or fuel perhaps.

This shows how important it is to stop fueling the fire if it is to be allowed to burn out. It's probably not a coincidence that the suttas talk about starving the hindrances and understanding the food for becoming. The idea of not providing any further fuel and allowing the fire to burn out is supported by the cannon. (SN 46.51). See, for example, Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Mind Like Fire Unbound where he discusses the word upādāna that is commonly translated as "clinging" in many Buddhist texts.

Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Once a fire has been provoked, it needs 'upādāna' — commonly translated as fuel — to continue burning. Upādāna has other meanings besides fuel, though — one is the nourishment that sustains the life & growth of a tree — and as we will see below, wind can also function as a fire's upādāna. Thus, 'sustenance' would seem to be a more precise translation for the term.


NMRK32 wrote:But in that case we just have nothing but a materialist interpretation of the dharma. We die, bye-bye. There is no need for a dharma. Yes, we’re transitory, whether actual or imaginary phantoms inside our brains so we might as well indulge for as long as we can. Why practice anything? Yes life is dukkha, but it’s not only just dukkha….to know dukkha, there has to be joy….I get to experience pain and separation only because I get to experience elation, coming together and joy. If life was just dukkha, there would be no joy…so why don’t I just overindulge in whatever gives me a feeling of joy? Unto my final draw of breath. Ultimately I will die and take none of the dukkha or the joy with me….So is there a point in buddhism??

The point is the cessation of dukkha. There is pleasant experience that does not involve dukkha. There is also mundane elation and joy that does involve dukkha. From a materialist perspective the process will end itself at the end of life, but there are two shortcomings with such a perspective. The first shortcoming is that it ignores the possibility of eliminating dukkha in this life. The second is that it assumes without irrefutable evidence that the process which gives rise to dukkha will completely cease at death.

NMRK32 wrote:But like everything in life, so does the dharma need to be interpreted in a way that makes sense. And of course at the same time practiced.

Without practice it's quite difficult to understand the teachings. Purely intellectual understanding has limitations in how far it can go towards understanding the Dhamma. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the Dhamma is described as subtle and hard to see, and why the Buddha initially wasn't sure it could even be taught.

NMRK32 wrote:If the purpose of the dharma consists basically of a temporary being, trying to ultimately die once and for all then how is that not ‘spiritual suicide’? I doubt that’s what the Buddha had in mind. In one of Thanissaro Bhikshu’s talks I heard say that the Buddha said that there’s two kinds of people who misunderstand him, those who draw inferences from things they should not and those who don’t draw inferences from things they should. I’m not saying in any way that I have understood his dharma in its totality or even at all. But logically, for certain core parts of buddhism to make sense I am beginning to suspect that buddhism needs a soul. Perhaps not one we can pin down and define as all definitions box it up, confine it, restrict it and misinterpret it but one that can ultimately be experienced.

The idea that Buddhism needs the idea of a soul is a misunderstanding of the Dhamma. It seems unlikely to be what the Buddha had in mind. Taking the idea of a higher Self or an Observer as a premise and then using logic to draw inferences is not going to lead to an understanding of the Dhamma because the Dhamma teaches that the premise is mistaken. Logic can only lead to valid conclusions when the premises are valid. Refusing to investigate deeply held but unproven beliefs can be a significant impediment to fruitful practice of the Dhamma.
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby NMRK32 » Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:55 pm

binocular wrote:
NMRK32 wrote:But logically, for certain core parts of buddhism to make sense I am beginning to suspect that buddhism needs a soul. Perhaps not one we can pin down and define as all definitions box it up, confine it, restrict it and misinterpret it but one that can ultimately be experienced.

It's not that one "has" a self; one _is_ a self. This is trivially true by virtue of grammar.

To _search_ for self would be like taking your own eyes, putting them under the microscope, and then with those same eyes, look at those very eyes. It's a logical (not to mention practical) impossibility.

If one would "have" a self, then one could search for it, and eventually experience it. But since one is a self, there is no self to experience. That doesn't mean that there is no self. But it does mean that efforts to "_search_ for a self" are misguided.

A sentence like "Do I have a self?" is gramatically the same as "Does this chair have a chair (that is that very same chair)?" or "Does X have X?" It's not clear what one can do with such a question, and similar questions and statements.


AHA!!! So you are in there after all???? :hug:

That's what I'm trying to say. Perhaps that's what Thanissaro Bhikshu means when he calls the Dharma a no-self STRATEGY. Perhaps it's all about doing away with the skandhas by dis-identifying with them all only to experience 'being'. That 'being' that manifests in various forms in Samsara that ultimately can only liberate itself when it discovers that nothing of what it 'thought' it was by means of Maya is what it truly IS. And then it simply basks in its own Light. :meditate: :namaste:
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby NMRK32 » Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:57 pm

Craving sustains the ‘being’ when one body has been set aside and it has not yet been reborn


So something impersonal, a feeling, cuz that’s what craving is….a desire….gives rise to a personal being. Conscious, sentient, that can recall its past lives, decide to release itself from Samsara, that reaps the benefits or negative results of its Karma…. (as per Scripture, scripture, scripture). Makes me wanna reach for my mother’s Bible…

The Buddha taught that it is wrong to say that the one who acts is the same as the one who experiences…..


Of course, the mind and all the different senses and organs seem to fuse into a whole synergistic system that is always different. For instance, when you drive, you are in the car, you fuse with it, kinetically becoming part of it, bound to its momentum, your mind focuses on the road and you ‘become’ a driver. But when you come off the car you become a walker, a sitter, an eater etc, depending on which activity or system kinetic or otherwise you are momentarily a part of. So the doer is not the same as the listener, nor the experiencer the same as either of the previous two. But they all happen on the same ground of ‘being’…..

Memories are not an identity. One person can write down and another person can read it. Files are copied from one computer to the next and present the same information


Nobody claimed that the memories themselves are an identity. But the Buddha recalled ‘his’ past lives. Not the past lives of another. In other words, I cannot access your files without having access to your computer. You do not have my memories from my childhood. You never experienced them. And I don’t have yours. For me to have any recollection I need to be a part of the same system. It needs to have taken place in actual terms on the grounds of my own being in whatever shape or form or manner in my own time continuum. In other words, the Buddha experienced his past lifetimes, not the past lifetimes of Ananda or Prashant or Kumarajiva or Mahavira who were standing nearby.

Observation and thought are processes……sutra quote, sutra quote

No disagreement there, a screwdriver, a drill and a screw are tools too. But they don’t decide to put a hole in the wall by themselves. They are set to the task by a user. Similarly, all the tools we have at our disposal logically must be utilised by someone.

The sutras include passages where the Buddha explains that asking who does these things is an invalid question


With regards to achieving a state of detachment yes, I agree. As a strategy to experience relief from dukkha, I agree. In a logical sense, no question should really be invalid. You ask a question if you need help understanding something difficult or when someone’s theory leaves you with more questions than answers, inherently I don’t see why a question would be invalid.

The question is based on asserting a false premise that there is some kind of Self overseeing these processes


Says who? The sutra? Isn’t that kinda like saying that Jesus loves you cuz the Bible tells you so?

Another sutra explains that even observation and consciousness is not self because it cannot be controlled

This kinda goes back into a circular system of budhist logic. For the Buddha would accept something as Self only if it had control over itself and others. It could say, I want to be a pink elephant and lo! it would be…But such limitations could perhaps be explained easier by simply saying that as parts of a functioning universe we cannot go about willing wild stuff into being arbritrarily. It would upset the balance somehow. Imagine if every time you got angry you managed to wish the entire city into oblivion and death. There would be no human left. So perhaps such limitations simply make sense in a synergistic manner but they do not in themselves refute categorically the existence of a Self. Neither does the Buddha coincidentally. This is where I’m getting at, Theravada at least in its modern western manifestation seems too zealous in its approach to scripture in a sort of agony to stick as close to the ‘real deal’ when we know historically that Mahayanists and Theravadins were part of early Buddhism almost simultaneously. Not to mention Pudgalavada and other early offshoots. In fact Pudgalavada became the predominant Buddhist sect in India for a while before Buddhism gave way to Hinduism. In the meanwhile Theravada migrated out of India and took root elsewhere, never to achieve the same status in India again. Which shows one thing, that Scripture was from quite early on, judged, analysed and interpreted. I believe that a similar parallel is to be found in the literal interpretation of biblical and quranic scripture. Nothing good has come out of such approach with them. Why are we an exception?

This is the difference between one aggregate (form) and five (aggregates)


I am simply discussing the syllogistic process here, the premises on which impersonal bits and bats make up a system, organic or inorganic and we cannot say that the system exists when those parts are pulled asunder. The same argument used against king Menander (Milinda)….what’s an ‘ox-cart’? Is it the ox? Is it the wheel? the wagon? the axel? So far so good but if break the wheel, I have no karmic retribution in a future life. If I butcher the ox however it’s a whole different deal….I find this paradoxical.

Perhaps trying to have a direct experience could lead to an understanding of the futility of such attempts. This might be one of the best ways to understand that there is no higher Self to be experienced


Perhaps the problem is that I am using fire to burn fire or water to wet water. Similarly I’m taking myself apart, detach and ultimately discard all my tools of discernment and all ability to experience, then take my very ego and sense of self and then throw that away too and somehow I am expecting to find a self in me…..well I ain’t looking for one….but still somehow, something experiences Nirvana. Something reaches a state conventional language cannot describe but one seems to be experiencing it vividly enough to come back a changed man and preach it to the masses….perhaps the problem is a case of looking at the wrong place with the wrong instruments. Or perhaps it’s not just about looking but simply experiencing. Simply being….in Nirvana, not talking about it. Simply being ‘self’ not trying to define self.

Saying that there is a fire is wrong because there is no externally existing fire-self to be found

Yet, fuel, air and combustion only ever give birth to fire but not jelly. The inherent natural ‘sense’ of ‘fire-ness’ must somehow exist. Yes this is metaphysical speculation. Understanding that the fire is happening does not require the assertion that a higher fire exists or not but then again that is that. That’s as far as such an observation and logic can take one. You can observe a process and say a process is happening such as a poster is being stuck on the wall. But it doesn’t get there by itself. There is an agent that acts and makes it happen. But overall the analogy of the fire and other non sentient situations is a bad one that simply doesn’t mesh very well with the logic of karmic retribution or past life remembrance. Take the forrest fire analogy for instance. Rebirth is often likened to a forrest fire, flames jumping to a new section of the forrest and starting a new fire there that came from the previous patch by means of the wind. But this example is workable only in this scenario. If you have a fire in a hearth, carefully constructed by man where the fire is contained safely there is no passing on or even passing away. The fire can be maintained indefinitely. So does karma exist? Does it affect a new being or only one and the same? Again, it’s all contingent on the scenario and the point of view of the speaker. This is how logic can sometimes trap itself in a circular system out of which it never comes out.


This shows how important it is to stop fuelling the fire if it is allowed to burn out

Again, who decides to allow it to burn out? It either doesn’t have enough fuel, it runs its course and it just burns out anyway (nastikas) or someone allows it to burn out because he/she has no need for it any longer (astikas)….In the first case there is no need to do anything as its fate is simply a matter of time. In the second scenario an agent is required to make that decision….which when taken further and analysed is nothing short of suicide….

The point is the cessation of dukkha. There is pleasant experience that does not involve dukkha. There is also mundane elation and joy that does involve dukkha. From a materialist perspective the process will end itself at the end of life, but there are two shortcomings with such a perspective. The first shortcoming is that it ignores the possibility of eliminating dukkha in this life. The second is that it assumes without irrefutable evidence that the process which gives rise to dukkha will completely cease at death


The first shortcoming would make sense only from a certain perspective and in specific situations. For instance, unless a materialist is beset with some incurable debilitating disease or something utterly dramatic unfortunate event he would simply not care to eliminate dukkha. Because all too simply he would look at the ‘bright side’ of life, set new goals and adapt. It’s remarkable how people who have lost limps, were afflicted with cancers, lost loved ones etc have found the strength in themselves (the irony!) to set new goals and move on with their lives and in many cases enjoy it even more than before by accepting their ultimate doom and dissolution at the point of death. So how does the buddhist path benefit them? It apparently can stop dukkha from arising at all in the first place? For some this may not really be so much of a problem as to warrant all that strenuous hard practice at all. Why eat one meal a day, wear a single yellow robe and meditate for hours, year in and year out until you are able to transcend everything? When you can just get some counselling, set goals and move on with your life within a few weeks or months? Again, the point of the practice is brought into question. If buddhism does not have actual metaphysical benefits for me, then why would I want to listen to it? Mind you, this is not a personal question, I am happy experiencing buddhism. It’s just a logical question from a materialist’s point of view.
The second shortcoming is really just a matter of faith…the materialist breaks down the being into guts, bones and processes and thinks that when all that is done that’s it but the buddhist assumes the process continues on and that’s simply a process that continues and no ‘being’ actually survives. Which is another thing that the Buddha was silent about when Vacchagota asked him whether he has or hasn’t got a ‘self’…the rest is Theravada inference just as much as the opposite is eternalist inference. Ultimately we are all trapped in our syllogistic processes that arise from the initial axioms and ground rules that we ourselves have set down for our logic.


The idea that Buddhism needs the idea of a soul is a misunderstanding of the Dharma. It seems unlikely to be what the Buddha had in mind


The very fact that you used the expressions ‘it seems’ and ‘unlikely’ suggests inference in itself.

Taking the idea of a higher Self or an Observer as a premise and then using logic to draw inferences is not going to lead to an understanding of the Dharma because the Dharma teaches that the premise is mistaken. Logic can only lead to valid conclusions when the premises are valid


I suggested the presence of a higher Self more as a ground of ‘being’, an experiencer. In fact the word ‘being’ I think expresses it better. Kind of like a river. The water changes all the time, it flows, never the same. The river swells, dries and floods again and again but somehow we know that west of our city there IS a river. Never the same, difficult to define if we apply dharmic logic but still it IS there.

Refusing to investigate deeply held but unproven beliefs can be a significant impediment to fruitful practice of the Dharma

Kinda like stuff written in Scriptures? Kinda like a dharma?

Always respectfully
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby culaavuso » Mon Apr 07, 2014 8:54 pm

NMRK32 wrote:Makes me wanna reach for my mother’s Bible…

NMRK32 wrote:Says who? The sutra? Isn’t that kinda like saying that Jesus loves you cuz the Bible tells you so?

If there is no acceptance of scripture, no acceptance of teachers, and no willingness to practice to learn these things, then these things are unlikely to be understood. The choice to do or not do these things is open. In the end, scriptures and teachers are only helpful to the extent that they can lead to a fruitful practice and realization of the goal of the cessation of dukkha. If reading scriptures is unhelpful, why should reading posts on a web forum be any more helpful? Both cases are simply text with words pointing at a path of practice. Rejecting scripture because it is scripture is no more wise than believing scripture because it is scripture.

NMRK32 wrote:With regards to achieving a state of detachment yes, I agree. As a strategy to experience relief from dukkha, I agree. In a logical sense, no question should really be invalid. You ask a question if you need help understanding something difficult or when someone’s theory leaves you with more questions than answers, inherently I don’t see why a question would be invalid.

Questions are invalid logically if they are based upon a false premise, because no answer other than "the question is invalid" leads to a logical truth. Questions are invalid pragmatically if any answer given is unhelpful.

NMRK32 wrote:I believe that a similar parallel is to be found in the literal interpretation of biblical and quranic scripture. Nothing good has come out of such approach with them. Why are we an exception?

One purpose of scripture is to put it into practice, to test it, and to see if it is helpful. If it is not helpful, there is no need to use it. This is simply a practical use of information that is available.

NMRK32 wrote:something experiences Nirvana. Something reaches a state conventional language cannot describe but one seems to be experiencing it vividly enough to come back a changed man and preach it to the masses

NMRK32 wrote:But it doesn’t get there by itself. There is an agent that acts and makes it happen.

NMRK32 wrote:Again, who decides to allow it to burn out?

This appears to be the result of assuming that there must be some Observer or Self or Actor and then trying to reason about Nibbana based on that mistaken premise. If that premise is questioned rather than assumed as an axiom it may be easier to understand the Dhamma.

NMRK32 wrote:If buddhism does not have actual metaphysical benefits for me, then why would I want to listen to it? Mind you, this is not a personal question, I am happy experiencing buddhism. It’s just a logical question from a materialist’s point of view.

If there is intention to realize the cessation of dukkha, there is a point to the practice of the Dhamma. If there is no intent to realize the cessation of dukkha then there is either no motivation to listen to the Dhamma or the motivation is misguided.

NMRK32 wrote:I suggested the presence of a higher Self more as a ground of ‘being’, an experiencer. In fact the word ‘being’ I think expresses it better. Kind of like a river. The water changes all the time, it flows, never the same. The river swells, dries and floods again and again but somehow we know that west of our city there IS a river. Never the same, difficult to define if we apply dharmic logic but still it IS there.

This is quite like the fire discussed earlier. The river and the fire are names applied to a process, but there is no "higher Fire" or "higher River" to be found. The self is as real as a fire or a river, which is to say that all three are labels applied by perception.

NMRK32 wrote:
culaavuso wrote:Refusing to investigate deeply held but unproven beliefs can be a significant impediment to fruitful practice of the Dharma

Kinda like stuff written in Scriptures? Kinda like a dharma?

Investigating the scriptures and the Dhamma is a good start to a fruitful practice. Only through investigating them and experimenting with the teachings in practice can they be understood. Simply reading and reasoning about them will not achieve the goal. Studying a map does not allow an understanding of whether it is accurate in the way that using the map to travel somewhere does.
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby binocular » Tue Apr 08, 2014 9:48 am

culaavuso wrote:This appears to be the result of assuming that there must be some Observer or Self or Actor and then trying to reason about Nibbana based on that mistaken premise. If that premise is questioned rather than assumed as an axiom it may be easier to understand the Dhamma.

I think that premise is in and of itself not problematic. The problems emerge because we try to define that self somehow (after all, if we are using words, we surely must mean something by them, or we wouldn't use them, right?), and in our current unenlightened state, however we would define "self", it would be with some combination of the aggregates - and thus any definition of "self" that we may currently come up with, would firmly keep us in samsara.
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby binocular » Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:13 am

culaavuso wrote:If there is no acceptance of scripture, no acceptance of teachers, and no willingness to practice to learn these things, then these things are unlikely to be understood. The choice to do or not do these things is open. In the end, scriptures and teachers are only helpful to the extent that they can lead to a fruitful practice and realization of the goal of the cessation of dukkha. If reading scriptures is unhelpful, why should reading posts on a web forum be any more helpful? Both cases are simply text with words pointing at a path of practice. Rejecting scripture because it is scripture is no more wise than believing scripture because it is scripture.


If there is intention to realize the cessation of dukkha, there is a point to the practice of the Dhamma. If there is no intent to realize the cessation of dukkha then there is either no motivation to listen to the Dhamma or the motivation is misguided.
[/quote]

Yes... If one is to experience one's efforts in Buddhism as meaningful, one has to become serious about it, one has to stop flirting with the Dhamma, make a conscious effort to move past the initial infatuation with the Dhamma, stop relying on a sense of emotional appeal. Of course, this can be quite difficult. The embarrassment of realizing that many years of one's investment in the Dhamma have been rather superficial, can be so intense that one can't see past it. But ultimately, if one is to make progress, one has to get serious.

It can help to heed instructions in some talks here, search by "your own."
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby binocular » Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:25 am

NMRK32 wrote:That's what I'm trying to say. Perhaps that's what Thanissaro Bhikshu means when he calls the Dharma a no-self STRATEGY.

To be sure, he calls it the noT-self strategy, not no-self.

Perhaps it's all about doing away with the skandhas by dis-identifying with them all only to experience 'being'. That 'being' that manifests in various forms in Samsara that ultimately can only liberate itself when it discovers that nothing of what it 'thought' it was by means of Maya is what it truly IS. And then it simply basks in its own Light.

I'm not sure about that, given that it is coming from an admittedly unelightened perspective.
;)
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Re: Is there really a point in practicing Buddhism?

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:41 pm

The point of Buddhism is that there isn't a point to Buddhism.

You don't have to practice Buddhism, but it couldn't hurt.
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