Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby meindzai » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:44 pm

thereductor wrote:
In regard to this topic, I have to ask: Have you noticed a special version of DO geared toward the immaterial beings (remember link #4, nama-rupa)? So far I haven't, but I admit that my reading is incomplete, and I'm not a scholarly sort.



I asked Ven Dhammanando about this once on E-sangha and he actually said that yes, there is a D.O. for formless beings - and in their case it only involves nama and not rupa. This can not be found in the Suttas but I assume it's a perspective adapted from Abhidhamma.

But I have noticed that humans can experience the immaterial realm by the development of different modes of perception (see MN 121), so those experiences are not limited only to the beings existent in these realms. In terms of what humans are composed of, the Buddha described rupa in terms of the four great elements, which is a concise way to view experience (as solid, liquid, energy, motion), but is far incomplete in terms of modern physics. But still, the applications of that understanding is quite great. As is the list of 31 parts, which is far short of the total parts in the body understood in modern biology. Again, as has been pointed out on this forum time and time again, the Buddha was master of the similie and instruction, and may have been less concerned with imparting to us a flawless understanding of the mechanics involved.


As physical science, the four elements are a primitive understanding, but as you indicate the Buddha was not trying to impart a scientific understanding. The four elements are still quite useful in terms of understanding the dhamma, and they serve as appropriate objects of meditation and for developing a perception of anatta.

My point is this: the distinction between the three realms may be more a matter of short hand rather than an absolute reflection of reality. Perphaps each realm is labeled more in terms of the primary mode of perception rather than the matter-energy that it is formed from. The actual manner that an immaterial being forms and is maintained, let alone functions, is not spelled out in the canon.


Yes, it's not really the kind of thing the Buddha spent a lot of time on, but that's primarily because there isn't a whole lot of use for such realms with regards to liberation. Remember that the Buddha's first two meditation teachers attained formless states of meditation - and that the Buddha left these teachers becuase "'This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness... reappearance in the dimension of nothingness..."

My understanding is that one attains these meditative states, passes away while in them, and then reappears in these planes. One spents a few jillion years there only to take reappearance again in some other realm (back in the human realm with a 9 - 5 job, as Bhikkhu Bodhi once pointed out).


And neither is the full nature of consciousness. While it seems necessitated by rebirth that consciousness is not dependent on a specific beings existence, it is not necessitated by rebirth that consciousness is completely independent of all the universe and the laws therein.


Depends on which laws you mean! Since materiality is non-physical, physical laws do not apply, newtonian, quantum, string, whatever. All physical laws do is describe what happens in the world of materiality. If by law you mean dhamma, then nothing is exempt.

I have to ask, though: if the immaterial realm is really immaterial, then what is it constituted by, if you rule out both matter and energy? And if neither matter nor energy are there, by what means does cause and effect operate?


I think cause and effect operate by means of cause and effect. I don't see a need for anything else.

-M
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby PeterB » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:51 pm

Hmmmm. I think Batchelor's book is timely.
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby pilgrim » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:56 pm

Between the views expressed by Batchelor and those expressed by the Buddha, to me, there is no contest.
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby PeterB » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:59 pm

Maybe there actually IS no contest. As always it all depends on interpretation.
Speculating about what the Buddha taught about the D.O. of non material beings seems a far stretch to me.
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby meindzai » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:27 pm

PeterB wrote:Maybe there actually IS no contest. As always it all depends on interpretation.


I'll accept that sometimes. But I think we might have a different idea of where the barrier lies between intepretation and misrepresentation. Bachelor's claim is that he has literally "deconstructed" Buddhism. He then proceeds to rebuild it in his own image, claiming he is giving us the essence of the teachings, free of those things about Buddhism that make him uncomfortable.

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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby Reductor » Wed Apr 14, 2010 4:28 am

meindzai wrote:I asked Ven Dhammanando about this once on E-sangha and he actually said that yes, there is a D.O. for formless beings - and in their case it only involves nama and not rupa. This can not be found in the Suttas but I assume it's a perspective adapted from Abhidhamma.


It is in the Abhidhamma? Its presence there would not mean much to me, I'm afraid.


As physical science, the four elements are a primitive understanding, but as you indicate the Buddha was not trying to impart a scientific understanding.

...

but that's primarily because there isn't a whole lot of use for such realms with regards to liberation.



Oh, I know. If the Buddha considered them essential, I'm sure he would have detailed them to my satisfaction. As it is, I consider these meditative attainments interesting for the level of perceptual control they require in their attainment.

The presence of the immaterial realm in the Buddhist cosmology produces a stumbling block for some materialist minded Buddhists, and I think that's a shame, especially since they're really not integral to the goal. Since the exact nature of these beings is both unspecified in the canon, and because we cannot study them, and because they're not that important really, but still a stumbling block for many, I think it is useful to offer explanations for them outside of the doctrine. I don't want to take a specific material view of them and then stamp that as 'the truth', which people might latch onto with much vigor and to their detriment. But it would soften up this particular 'obstacle' in the acceptance of rebirth, which is important for the proper living of the holy life (as stated by the Buddha somewhere in the MN).


And neither is the full nature of consciousness. While it seems necessitated by rebirth that consciousness is not dependent on a specific beings existence, it is not necessitated by rebirth that consciousness is completely independent of all the universe and the laws therein.


Depends on which laws you mean! Since materiality is non-physical, physical laws do not apply, newtonian, quantum, string, whatever. All physical laws do is describe what happens in the world of materiality. If by law you mean dhamma, then nothing is exempt.


Which laws could I mean? I don't know, 'cause I'm more or less completely ignorant of all but the most rudimentary physic principals. But I don't find it useful, or necessary, to think of consciousness as something altogether apart from the universe.


I have to ask, though: if the immaterial realm is really immaterial, then what is it constituted by, if you rule out both matter and energy? And if neither matter nor energy are there, by what means does cause and effect operate?


I think cause and effect operate by means of cause and effect. I don't see a need for anything else.


Then it is easy for you, where it may not be so easy for others. In the end I'm a big fan of conviction in the Buddha, so its really not a problem for me either way. However, I don't see any need for the immaterial to be seen completely separate from the material. Often in Buddhist scripture duality of any kind is shunned by the Buddha.

But there seems to be certain thinking habits for both religionists/spiritualist and the materialists.

A materialist often takes some described thing and says 'it does not exist, it has not been proven by science'. The bias is that science has already proven everything that is existent as existent, even if understanding of what seems existent is sketchy. They don't accept anything unproven as being possible.

Religionists have often had a trickier bias: they take some principal and determine that it is a spiritual principal and there for separate from material reality, then assert that science cannot prove it. The distinction between spiritual and material is made, seemingly, only because something has already been deemed spiritual, and for no other reason. If there is a scientific explanation, it is suspect, because spiritual things cannot be proven by such means. But is that really the case?

For my part, I'm just trying to avoid these two things. Normally I am not inclined to speculation in such abstract matters.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby plwk » Wed Apr 14, 2010 3:44 pm

from the Review wrote:In the first part of Confession of Buddhist Atheist, Mr. Batchelor shares the fascinating story of how he came to his conclusions regarding karma and rebirth, and Buddhism in general. As a young man, he ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk - one of the first Westerners to do so

I wonder if it would make any difference if he was ordained as a Theravada Bhikkhu... :popcorn:
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What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby PeterB » Wed Apr 14, 2010 3:57 pm

Certainly his experience as a monk under a Tibetan teacher who seems to have combined some fairly superstious views with a very heavy handed approach to teaching, seems likely to have shaped his views. A teacher btw who also made his own opposition to vipassana practise clear.
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby Bankei » Thu Apr 15, 2010 11:54 pm

Who was his Tibetan teacher?
-----------------------
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Apr 16, 2010 1:25 am

Bankei wrote:Who was his Tibetan teacher?


Geshe Rabten
Geshe Thubten Ngawang
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby Nibbida » Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:51 am

PeterB wrote:Certainly his experience as a monk under a Tibetan teacher who seems to have combined some fairly superstious views with a very heavy handed approach to teaching, seems likely to have shaped his views. A teacher btw who also made his own opposition to vipassana practise clear.


This was my impression too.
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby ground » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:19 am

PeterB wrote:Certainly his experience as a monk under a Tibetan teacher who seems to have combined some fairly superstious views with a very heavy handed approach to teaching, seems likely to have shaped his views. A teacher btw who also made his own opposition to vipassana practise clear.

This sounds interesting. What are your reasons for those statements? I mean "superstious views" are widespread among all traditions in terms of their followers not necessarily in terms of the doctrines of the traditions. E.g. in the tibetan tradition there is a lineage of logical reasoning which actually teaches a perfect antidot against superstition.
So what would you consider superstition in the context of your statement?
And on what grounds do you say "A teacher btw who also made his own opposition to vipassana practise clear"? To my knowledge vipassana is a foundation in the tibetan tradition.


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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby PeterB » Fri Apr 16, 2010 8:17 am

I know about Rabten's opposition to Vipassana both from reading Batchelor on the subject and because Batchelor told me that Rabten was very discouraging of his or anyones practising it.
As to superstition, as I gather you are a Vajrayana practitioner it is perhaps more in keeping wirh Right Speech if I simply withdraw those words rather than detail my meaning to you.
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby ground » Fri Apr 16, 2010 5:55 pm

PeterB wrote:I know about Rabten's opposition to Vipassana both from reading Batchelor on the subject and because Batchelor told me that Rabten was very discouraging of his or anyones practising it.

I suspect that you are referring to a certain kind of vipassana meditation. Of course the tradition of Rabten teaches vipassana. However "their" vipassana may not comply with "your" vipassana or the one suitable for Batchelor.
Batchelor may just have picked the "wrong" tradition, i.e. the tradition not suitable for him. Such things happen. Sometimes people do things due to strange "reasons".

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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:15 pm

TMingyur wrote:
PeterB wrote:I know about Rabten's opposition to Vipassana both from reading Batchelor on the subject and because Batchelor told me that Rabten was very discouraging of his or anyones practising it.

I suspect that you are referring to a certain kind of vipassana meditation. Of course the tradition of Rabten teaches vipassana. However "their" vipassana may not comply with "your" vipassana or the one suitable for Batchelor.
Batchelor may just have picked the "wrong" tradition, i.e. the tradition not suitable for him. Such things happen. Sometimes people do things due to strange "reasons".
Batchelor, if I recall correctly, did a vipassana course with Goenka. Now, why would that be wrong?
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby ground » Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:47 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
PeterB wrote:I know about Rabten's opposition to Vipassana both from reading Batchelor on the subject and because Batchelor told me that Rabten was very discouraging of his or anyones practising it.

I suspect that you are referring to a certain kind of vipassana meditation. Of course the tradition of Rabten teaches vipassana. However "their" vipassana may not comply with "your" vipassana or the one suitable for Batchelor.
Batchelor may just have picked the "wrong" tradition, i.e. the tradition not suitable for him. Such things happen. Sometimes people do things due to strange "reasons".
Batchelor, if I recall correctly, did a vipassana course with Goenka. Now, why would that be wrong?


I don't know. My position is that everything that is "good" for the practitioner as long as it is buddhist it is okay.

However I know that in Rabten's school "Zen-like" meditation types are not considered "right". But as far as I know Goenka's cannot be considered "Zen-like".

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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby Nibbida » Tue May 04, 2010 2:20 pm

You know, it's funny. Years ago, this whole issue of rebirth, the accepting/rejecting/agnostic approachs, seemed so important to me. I felt I had to have some clear position on the issue, as if my practice could not progress without having some certainty first.

Now it really feels like a non-issue. Whatever is, is. Practicing kindness, insight into impermanence and not-self, developing equanimity & concentration: this is all that matters now. My white-knuckled grip on the need for certainty over doctrinal issues has somehow dropped by the wayside. Maybe there are answers for certain things. In which case, good. Maybe for other things there are no factual answers to be had. Just as good. Wait and see.

I'm starting to see the value behind Seung Sahn's admonition to "always keep don't know mind."
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby PeterB » Tue May 04, 2010 2:33 pm

And what exactly does " always keep dont know mind " equate to if translated into something approaching English ? Throw out our discriminating faculty ? Emulate children ? Divest ourselves of our education in order to discover our inner noble savage ? Or what ?
Its the kind of sentiment which in a certain context is assumed to be self explanatory...but as far as I am concerned is not.
If in a Buddhist context i dont know something I turn to the Canon, and I wrestle with its meaning.
Afterwards I may or may not know more about whatever...but at least I do not know on a more informed level..
It seems to me that there are other alternatives to " white knuckle certainty " on the one hand and leaving our head at the door on the other.
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby Nibbida » Tue May 04, 2010 3:35 pm

Hah. I take it as staying away from the need to cling to certainty, or attachment to views.
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Re: Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

Postby PeterB » Tue May 04, 2010 3:39 pm

Whats wrong with certainty or views ? Batchelor has views. And he is cerain about what he finds unhelpful.
When did views become a bad thing...out side of certain interpretations of Zen ?
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