Buddhism based on fear/hope?

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Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Feb 26, 2010 5:18 pm

Hi all,

The questions to follow were prompted by another thread; I thought it might be beneficial to explore them separately. Here goes...

The Dalai Lama has defined a Buddhist as "one who, motivated by fear of suffering in the lower realms, takes refuge in the Triple Jewels" (my paraphrase...I don't have the specific passage in front of me just now). Elsewhere, he writes "to take refuge, two conditions must be present -- fear of rebirth in the three lower realms, and faith in the power of the objects of refuge to protect you from this threat".

H.H. the Karmapa writes: "with no conviction in future lives, naturally there is no genuine concern about falling into the lower realms. Indeed there are many who lack conviction in the very existence of these lower realms ... Our practice of the Dharma itself is likely to be motivated by the eight worldly concerns, and if that is the case, it becomes doubtful whether our practice actually qualifies as a Dharma practice."

Atisha, in the 11th century, set out five levels of refuge. The first, "Worldly Scope", does not even qualify as Buddhist. The first Buddhist level (initial scope) is defined as "taking refuge to gain higher rebirth as a human or god, and to avoid the lower realms such as animal, hungry spirit, or hell being."

My questions for Dhammawheel members:

-- Do you agree with this definition of a Buddhist? Are these statements from Vajrayana practitioners consistent with the Theravadin view of taking refuge?

-- Has fear been an important motivator in your practice/decision to take refuge? Is it fear of hell/preta/animal rebirth etc specifically, or do you see it in a different way? Do you entertain a hope of being reborn as a god?

-- Do you have a powerful belief in the existence of hells -- powerful enough to motivate you to make life decisions based on that fear? On the flip side, do you have a powerful belief in the existence of heavens? What is your belief based on? Did you have it before you came to Buddhism?

-- If you became convinced that the threat of rebirth in the lower realms is not real, how would your practice be affected (if at all)?

-- If you have ever considered (or might consider) ordaining or otherwise renouncing worldly life, how contingent is this decision on the possibility of (literal) rebirth in the lower realms -- or the possibility of heaven? If you did not believe these are real possibilities, would there be any point to a monastic life? Would you still "give it all up" if there was no (literal) benefit to be gained in the afterlife, or would you look instead for worldly fulfillment?

Thanks for any responses! I will try to answer them myself later.

LE
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Kenshou » Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:00 pm

Fear is no motivator for me, at least not in this sense. If anything, Buddhist practice makes me feel more confident in the face of the possibility of such a bad destination.

However, and I say this only from a personal standpoint, but I have absolutely no way at this point in time to verify the truth of rebirth for myself, so I have no reason to allow it to take a significant role in my practice. If I did, it would be based on assumptions, and I don't see the point of that. If practice that is motivated by worldly concerns is not true Dhamma practice, then I am not capable of "true" dhamma. This world is all I know, I have no good reason to place faith in any future existence unless I can somehow come to know it for myself. But, weather or not I'm a true Buddhist from the view of Vajrayanists is not much of a concern.

I think I do have the capacity to ordain without fear of lower realms playing a part. The urge to figure it out in this life is motivation enough. And I figure that even if there are such realms, what better way to work to avoid them than through diligent practice as a monk? If there is rebirth, I hope to not be reborn again. If there is no rebirth, then I hope to defeat my own defilements and unbind myself from the world before my death, even if at the point of death it doesn't make a difference anyway.
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Annapurna » Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:19 pm

Dear Lazyeye,

I have never ever been afraid of hell in my whole (Christian) life and I won't start now as a Buddhist. I don't practice Buddhism to be reborn in good realms, even though I am convinced of future lives.

And I wouldn't take refuge for selfish reasons that are supposed to help my being.

I'm here to work on perfection, and help the being of others, and I am almost too busy with that life to be worried about lower or higher realms, although they do appear, sometimes, in my mind...

I have experienced tastes of heaven and hell as quick or late results of good and bad actions, and so I think those realms exist at least in my mind.

I don't hope to be reborn as a God.

My goal is different.
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:32 pm

Fear was not a factor for me either. It was about searching for a Path and finding one that made the most sense and for me at least, compatible, not at odds with science.

I think you will find that for those who are more versed in the Dhamma, fear is less of an issue or not an issue at all. Those who are not that versed in it or only hear some sermons from a monk or teacher once in a while during important holiday times, might be more inclined to follow sila based out of fear. That is my guess anyway.

I think what defines someone as a Buddhist is first of all their wish to be called a Buddhist and then some acceptance or following of the Triple Gem and Four Noble Truths, with no specific litmus tests.
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:49 pm

I don't agree with the Dalai Lama on this one, fear has never been a motivator for me and I think that's true for most western practitioners.

An awareness of suffering, an awareness that I was stuffing up this life, that I wasn't quite in step with how things were supposed to be, that even when things were really good they didn't satisfy, this was and still is my motivator (though now I'm aware I'm not the only one).

If there are hell realms then they are just a continuation of the above, maybe more intense.
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Bodhisurfer » Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:19 pm

Kenshou wrote:Fear is no motivator for me, at least not in this sense. If anything, Buddhist practice makes me feel more confident in the face of the possibility of such a bad destination.

However, and I say this only from a personal standpoint, but I have absolutely no way at this point in time to verify the truth of rebirth for myself, so I have no reason to allow it to take a significant role in my practice.



Very much true for me too. Fear not a motivating factor for me. More a case of 'this seems to make a lot of sense..' :buddha1: The four noble truths start to become more and more obvious. The idea that if I dont practise hard I may be reborn as a... doesnt figure in my thinking at all.
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Aloka » Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:18 pm

Fear has never had any place in my practice, nor was it the reason I became a Buddhist in the first place.

As far as the Hell realms are concerned, I regard them as mental states, as well as extreme states of physical or environmental suffering caused by warfare,starvation, natural disasters etc

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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:46 pm

I guess in life we generally change in response to pressure. So if there is no fear of lower births, our practice is likely to progress to the extent of satisfying some external pressure and then taper off.

Fear of lower births is therefore a great motivator until practice takes root and gathers momentum. If some can do it without - great! Me, I don't have enough belief in the lower realms to worry, but on the other hand there are plenty of lower realms right here and falling into them in this lifetime is a distinct possibility.
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby baratgab » Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:50 pm

I like to answer questions directly, but for goodness sake, this was thirteen overlapping questions! :lol:

No, no fear, thank you. And yes, please, I would like to ordain, because I can't see what else could or should I do. :smile:
"Just as in the great ocean there is but one taste — the taste of salt — so in this Doctrine and Discipline there is but one taste — the taste of freedom"
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 26, 2010 9:26 pm

Greetings,

Fear is not a motivator for me. Rather, I'm goal focused... my short-term goal is wisdom and a reduction of suffering, and my long-term goal is the cessation of suffering... so long as I'm putting in the effort, I get enough "carrot" that I don't need "stick".

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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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Feb 27, 2010 3:15 am

i honestly cant remember why i became buddhist just the how. i remember reading the dhammapada and not being able to disagree with any of it, and it totally changing my world. but there was no fear of hell that drove me to practice, in fact there was a fear of hell because i began practice...
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby ground » Sat Feb 27, 2010 9:38 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Hi all,

The questions to follow were prompted by another thread; I thought it might be beneficial to explore them separately. Here goes...

The Dalai Lama has defined a Buddhist as "one who, motivated by fear of suffering in the lower realms, takes refuge in the Triple Jewels" (my paraphrase...I don't have the specific passage in front of me just now). Elsewhere, he writes "to take refuge, two conditions must be present -- fear of rebirth in the three lower realms, and faith in the power of the objects of refuge to protect you from this threat".

H.H. the Karmapa writes: "with no conviction in future lives, naturally there is no genuine concern about falling into the lower realms. Indeed there are many who lack conviction in the very existence of these lower realms ... Our practice of the Dharma itself is likely to be motivated by the eight worldly concerns, and if that is the case, it becomes doubtful whether our practice actually qualifies as a Dharma practice."

Atisha, in the 11th century, set out five levels of refuge. The first, "Worldly Scope", does not even qualify as Buddhist. The first Buddhist level (initial scope) is defined as "taking refuge to gain higher rebirth as a human or god, and to avoid the lower realms such as animal, hungry spirit, or hell being."

My questions for Dhammawheel members:

-- Do you agree with this definition of a Buddhist?

Yes, from the perpective of the Lamrim teachings. This means: Act as if you were terrified by the potential sufferings in the lower realms that are considered to be the effect of wrong actions. If your do not believe in these realms and your actions are not guided by such a strong discipline then you have to attain unshakable belief in these realms otherwise you will fail.
Lazy_eye wrote:Are these statements from Vajrayana practitioners consistent with the Theravadin view of taking refuge?

I don't know.

Lazy_eye wrote:-- Has fear been an important motivator in your practice/decision to take refuge?

My fear to have to stay in the realm I was has been my motivator to start studying buddhism. Much later the reason to formally take refuge was actually the meeting of a special type of teaching.

Lazy_eye wrote:Is it fear of hell/preta/animal rebirth etc specifically, or do you see it in a different way? Do you entertain a hope of being reborn as a god?

The description of the hells in vajrayana is really very terrifying as to oneself and helpful to generate compassion as to others.
If there is something like "rebirth" compliant with my ordinary conventional understanding of "birth" then I would prefer to be reborn as a human until the "maturity" is of the kind required to enter the realm of gods, animals, hungry ghosts or hell beings.

Lazy_eye wrote:-- Do you have a powerful belief in the existence of hells -- powerful enough to motivate you to make life decisions based on that fear? On the flip side, do you have a powerful belief in the existence of heavens? What is your belief based on? Did you have it before you came to Buddhism?

s. above: act as if you firmly believed. If you do not believe and your discipline is a failure then practice to attain firm belief.

Lazy_eye wrote:-- If you became convinced that the threat of rebirth in the lower realms is not real, how would your practice be affected (if at all)?

s. above.

Lazy_eye wrote:-- If you have ever considered (or might consider) ordaining or otherwise renouncing worldly life, how contingent is this decision on the possibility of (literal) rebirth in the lower realms -- or the possibility of heaven? If you did not believe these are real possibilities, would there be any point to a monastic life? Would you still "give it all up" if there was no (literal) benefit to be gained in the afterlife, or would you look instead for worldly fulfillment?

I do not understand the question and the connection between "monastic life" and "realms", sorry. It is all about the cessation of dukkha. Just this.

Kind regards
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Sekha » Sat Feb 27, 2010 10:28 am

I was not attracted to the Buddha's teaching by fear. But I don't take any pride in this. This fearlessness was rather based on ignorance than wisdom.

Over time, seeing suffering all around, getting conviction in the Buddha's words, I began to get this fear. I used to strive for enlightenment out of craving for attainments. I would say that now, it is rather the fear of great future suffering, and the fear of becoming lost in dukkha and samsara as the people I see all around which makes me strive even harder.

I remember the day I started reading the Buddha's words. I was in Bodhgaya and I had just bought 'Numerical discourses of the Buddha' by BB. And I came across that sutta where he says that few among humans are those who are not reborn in decrease. It shook me deeply, and I can't explain this reaction on the basis of logic. Then I set out of my guesthouse and I was receptive to these qualities within people which are conducing to lower states of being. And I noticed that even in such a place, everyone, Indian or Asian, or westerner was filled up with those qualities. And I was as well.

Anyway, 'Taking refuge' is something which is done out of fear of a danger isn't it?
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:05 pm

I think various people approach the dhamma for various reasons- if someone seeks refuge in the buddha, dhamma and sangha- they qualify as buddhist, according to the Buddha. As Dukkhanirodha points out there must be a reason to take refuge- it could be refuge from suffering (in this life). I started not believing in rebirth much but then as I grew to accept it more, it did add that extra urgency and meaning to my practice. I don't think I worry or fear of hellish realms and the deva realms do not appeal to me. The point of my practice is to put an end to this constant yo-yo of realms and come to a stop. Does it make me less of a buddhist that nibbana attracts me?
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby notself » Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:44 pm

Rebirth as it is described in the OP is a rebirth of self. IMO, this is a teaching for laypeople who are not well versed in the suttas particularly in the concept of anatta. (Let's scare the country folk so the will lead moral lives.) Something is reborn but isn't that something more like an informational process than a self?

I don't fear for an unpleasant rebirth for myself. I am motivated to practice well so I may pass on a skillful kamma stream (informational process) to the self after me. It bothers me that someone else will suffer because of my unskillful actions in this life. At the same time I am extremely grateful for the skillful actions of those who preceded me.

Am I off base with my understanding?
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Sekha » Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:14 pm

notself wrote:It bothers me that someone else will suffer because of my unskillful actions in this life. At the same time I am extremely grateful for the skillful actions of those who preceded me.

Am I off base with my understanding?


I don't think this is the way anatta should be understood. You are not more the one you were 10 min ago than the one you were 10 lives back.
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Annapurna » Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:58 pm

Dukkhanirodha wrote:I was not attracted to the Buddha's teaching by fear. But I don't take any pride in this. This fearlessness was rather based on ignorance than wisdom.

Over time, seeing suffering all around, getting conviction in the Buddha's words, I began to get this fear. I used to strive for enlightenment out of craving for attainments. I would say that now, it is rather the fear of great future suffering, and the fear of becoming lost in dukkha and samsara as the people I see all around which makes me strive even harder.

I remember the day I started reading the Buddha's words. I was in Bodhgaya and I had just bought 'Numerical discourses of the Buddha' by BB. And I came across that sutta where he says that few among humans are those who are not reborn in decrease. It shook me deeply, and I can't explain this reaction on the basis of logic. Then I set out of my guesthouse and I was receptive to these qualities within people which are conducing to lower states of being. And I noticed that even in such a place, everyone, Indian or Asian, or westerner was filled up with those qualities. And I was as well.

Anyway, 'Taking refuge' is something which is done out of fear of a danger isn't it?


And I came across that sutta where he says that few among humans are those who are not reborn in decrease.


What does that mean: reborn in decrease?

Sorry, I'm not a Native speaker. :(
Anyway, 'Taking refuge' is something which is done out of fear of a danger isn't it?


That sounds like a very acceptable way of saying it.

It's no shame to seek shelter of a danger.

I was receptive to these qualities within people which are conducing to lower states of being. And I noticed that even in such a place, everyone, Indian or Asian, or westerner was filled up with those qualities. And I was as well.


Like what, in particular?

Just not following the Noble 8 fold path and the precepts, or deeper subtleties?

Thank you, Dukkanirodha.
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Sekha » Sat Feb 27, 2010 5:57 pm

'to be reborn in decrease' simply means being reborn in a lower state. The Buddha speaks of hells, animal world and hungry ghosts world.

As for the qualities I couls see, it would be difficult for me to describe exactly what happened at that moment. Actually, it has become my everyday way of seeing people now. When I see someone, the first sign that comes up is an element of suffering, being different for everyone. Some frustration of unfulfilled desire, some fear, some hatred, an unwholesome desire, some greed etc. It helps in keeping a mind of compassion and it prevents me from getting fooled by appearances of happiness or beauty born of sensual attachment in others.
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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59
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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Laurens » Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:50 pm

I think that any faith that speaks about life time after life time of suffering is based upon fear.

Suffering is something we naturally fear as humans, and it is given an awful lot of weight in Buddhism. I would say definately there is a large element of fear involved.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Buddhism based on fear/hope?

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:34 pm

Laurens wrote:I think that any faith that speaks about life time after life time of suffering is based upon fear.

Suffering is something we naturally fear as humans, and it is given an awful lot of weight in Buddhism. I would say definately there is a large element of fear involved.


So if Buddhism taught that at the end of your life that's it, you totally cease to exist is that something that you think would not evoke fear in people?

Fear comes from within not from outside. Two people boarding a plane at the same time, one fears crashing and/or terrorists and the other doesn't, who's fault is that?
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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