Buddhism: just another "truth"?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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lostitude
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Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by lostitude »

Hello,

I’ve been having doubts lately about buddhist teachings, whether in written form or in talks given by monks. I feel that as soon as the topic discussed goes beyond the limits of "mundane" comprehension and goes on to describe things that mere mortals can only accept on faith, the dissonance between my perception of life and this Buddhist’s perception of life begs the question of whether I’m the one who’s deluded, or if he’s the one who’s gone crazy.

I can’t help but imagine the case of someone being presented with a square drawn on a piece of paper. He is told by someone trustworthy that no, this is not a square, this is actually a circle. If this person trains himself diligently for years and years and years to try and see the circle where all he can see at first is a square, will there not come a time when he will be sufficiently messed up to see a circle instead of a square?

What if Bhuddism actually had the same effect? Years of self-imposed conditioning until your perceptions finally align with the texts? And if you’re sane enough that your perceptions don’t really change, then you are told that "you’re not a very good Bhuddist or that your practice is flawed, or that you just have too much karma to gain any fruit from your practice?"

Thanks for your thoughts.
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cappuccino
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by cappuccino »

anyone can verify that Samsara is dangerous!


look at the difficulty of life…


whereas Nirvana is a refuge
Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty? ―Paul Gauguin
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Mr. Seek
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by Mr. Seek »

Can you please describe the teaching(s) that you are referring to so that we can comment on them?
Snp 5.11—"Having nothing, free of clinging: That is the island, there is no other."
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rhinoceroshorn
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

I feel that as soon as the topic discussed goes beyond the limits of "mundane" comprehension and goes on to describe things that mere mortals can only accept on faith,
That's one of the reasons why became very pragmatic about the Dhamma lately.
Despite I still sneak into some metaphysical topic for curiosity (craving for knowing certain things :embarassed: ), I pretty much only care about being in peace, being happy and doing the good (synonymous). Sticking to the N8FP, trying to do my best, being equanimous towards all mistakes, not being too hard on myself, being content with whatever I have.
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
lostitude
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by lostitude »

Mr. Seek wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:10 pm Can you please describe the teaching(s) that you are referring to so that we can comment on them?
Thank you but not really, it’s more of a general impression.
For example, the idea that joy or pleasure or satisfaction are inherently fake. Many smart people and philosophers are convinced that they can be real and satisfactory, and base their whole philosophy of life around this. Some of them do so after reading about Buddhism and finding it unconvincing.
And that’s where the argument of "that’s because you haven’t conditioned yourself enough" comes into play. And that’s where my doubts come from. Because it’s quite probable that you can condition yourself to believe, see, hear, smell pretty much anything even when it’s not there - with enough practice. And since Buddhist monks train literally for years day in, day out, what to them is a spiritual achievement, but to someone else could be a form of pathological delusion, would not be so surprising.
santa100
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by santa100 »

lostitude wrote:I can’t help but imagine the case of someone being presented with a square drawn on a piece of paper. He is told by someone trustworthy that no, this is not a square, this is actually a circle. If this person trains himself diligently for years and years and years to try and see the circle where all he can see at first is a square, will there not come a time when he will be sufficiently messed up to see a circle instead of a square?
But in that respect, Buddhism is not the one and only teaching that gives one headaches. Take the case of higher mathematics, like Non-Euclidean geometry. Using your same square and circle analogy, if you're taught in Euclidean geometry's Book I-Def 23 about parallel lines definition, you will get mad and not believe someone saying that the idea is not true... until you learn more about Non-Euclidean geometry. Same thing with your belief that your body is mostly solid and laugh at someone saying that the opposite is true, your body is mostly empty space.... until you learn more about Particle Physics! So, I don't think Buddhism requires that you have to self-hypnotize yourself into believing something that you're not currently able to experience at the moment. It simply recommends you to keep an open mind, to be fully aware that the "truth" as you know right now thru the limited constraints of your senses is only a tiny fraction, a one-one zillionth percent of the whole truth out there. That's all.
Last edited by santa100 on Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
SteRo
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by SteRo »

lostitude wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:52 pm Hello,

I’ve been having doubts lately about buddhist teachings, whether in written form or in talks given by monks. I feel that as soon as the topic discussed goes beyond the limits of "mundane" comprehension and goes on to describe things that mere mortals can only accept on faith, the dissonance between my perception of life and this Buddhist’s perception of life begs the question of whether I’m the one who’s deluded, or if he’s the one who’s gone crazy.

I can’t help but imagine the case of someone being presented with a square drawn on a piece of paper. He is told by someone trustworthy that no, this is not a square, this is actually a circle. If this person trains himself diligently for years and years and years to try and see the circle where all he can see at first is a square, will there not come a time when he will be sufficiently messed up to see a circle instead of a square?

What if Bhuddism actually had the same effect? Years of self-imposed conditioning until your perceptions finally align with the texts? And if you’re sane enough that your perceptions don’t really change, then you are told that "you’re not a very good Bhuddist or that your practice is flawed, or that you just have too much karma to gain any fruit from your practice?"

Thanks for your thoughts.
You are on the right track. However what needs to be investigated is when systems of thought like "buddhism" are assessed then on what basis are these systems assessed? That is: assessment of a system can only take place on the basis of taking another system of reference for granted. But on what grounds is the system of reference taken for granted?
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ It's definitely not science but science may provide guidelines nevertheless.
Mr. Seek
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by Mr. Seek »

lostitude wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:25 pm
Mr. Seek wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:10 pm Can you please describe the teaching(s) that you are referring to so that we can comment on them?
Thank you but not really, it’s more of a general impression.
For example, the idea that joy or pleasure or satisfaction are inherently fake. Many smart people and philosophers are convinced that they can be real and satisfactory, and base their whole philosophy of life around this. Some of them do so after reading about Buddhism and finding it unconvincing.
And that’s where the argument of "that’s because you haven’t conditioned yourself enough" comes into play. And that’s where my doubts come from. Because it’s quite probable that you can condition yourself to believe, see, hear, smell pretty much anything even when it’s not there - with enough practice. And since Buddhist monks train literally for years day in, day out, what to them is a spiritual achievement, but to someone else could be a form of pathological delusion, would not be so surprising.
It's rather late and I have some business to attend to, so I can't go into the details of what I want to express. But nonetheless I'll leave you with a small excerpt from MN 125, it illustrates quite well how the Dhamma is not easy to grasp:
“It would be good if Master Aggivessana would teach me the Dhamma as he has heard and memorized it.”—“Prince, I can’t teach you the Dhamma as I have heard and memorized it. If I were to teach you the Dhamma as I have heard and memorized it, you wouldn’t understand the meaning of my words. That would be wearisome and aggravating for me.”

“May Master Aggivessana teach me the Dhamma as he has heard and memorized it. Perhaps I might understand the meaning of his words.”—“If I were to teach you the Dhamma as I have heard and memorized it, then if you understand the meaning of my words, well and good. If you don’t understand the meaning of my words, leave it to each his own. Don’t question me any further about it.”—“May Master Aggivessana teach me the Dhamma as he has heard and memorized it. If I understand the meaning of his words, well and good. If I don’t understand the meaning of his words, I’ll leave it to each his own. I won’t question Master Aggivessana any further about it.”

Then the novice Aciravata taught Prince Jayasena the Dhamma as he had heard and memorized it. When this was said, Prince Jayasena said to him, “It’s impossible, it’s unfeasible, that a monk who remains heedful, ardent, and resolute could touch singleness of mind.” Then, having declared the impossibility and unfeasibility [of that attainment] to the novice Aciravata, Prince Jayasena got up from his seat and left. Then the novice Aciravata, not long after Prince Jayasena’s departure, went to the Blessed One. On arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he told the Blessed One the entirety of his conversation with Prince Jayasena.

When this was said, the Blessed One said to the novice Aciravata: “What did you expect, Aggivessana? For Prince Jayasena—living in the midst of sensuality, consuming sensuality, chewed on by thoughts of sensuality, burning with the fever of sensuality, intent on the search for sensuality—to know or see or realize that which is to be known through renunciation, seen through renunciation, attained through renunciation, realized through renunciation: That’s impossible.”
In other words, it's not simple! Few can realize this kind of stuff, and that's normal and OK.

Also, by the way: serious, 24/7 monastic practice, where there is sense restraint and ascetism, is not common just in Buddhism, you know, it's common throughout all traditions, all religions. Pretty much all serious religions, on their higher level, advocate for sense restraint, letting go, non-clinging, etc. The one big difference is that Buddhism advocates for full-on non-clinging, not just to sensual pleasures, but also to views, habits and practices, doctrines of self, etc.
Snp 5.11—"Having nothing, free of clinging: That is the island, there is no other."
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rhinoceroshorn
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

the idea that joy or pleasure or satisfaction are inherently fake
SN 14.33 wrote:Mendicants, if there were no gratification in the earth element, sentient beings wouldn’t love it. But because there is gratification in the earth element, sentient beings do love it. If the earth element had no drawback, sentient beings wouldn’t grow disillusioned with it. But because the earth element has a drawback, sentient beings do grow disillusioned with it. If there were no escape from the earth element, sentient beings wouldn’t escape from it. But because there is an escape from the earth element, sentient beings do escape from it.
Perhaps you think that way because of the Theravādin doctrine of "three characteristics", or am I mistaken?
I like Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu's approach in seeing dukkha, anicca and anatta as perceptions to be adopted to become dispassionate towards the world.

I always felt dukkha as "a inherent characteristic" conflicted with the first noble truth. Seeing it as a perception removes the apparent conflict.
Last edited by rhinoceroshorn on Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
lostitude
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by lostitude »

Mr. Seek wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:34 pm
Also, by the way: serious, 24/7 monastic practice, where there is sense restraint and ascetism, is not common just in Buddhism, you know, it's common throughout all traditions, all religions. Pretty much all serious religions, on their higher level, advocate for sense restraint, letting go, non-clinging, etc.
Precisely, and Christian ascetics end up seeing Jesus or Mary in their sleep and while awake. Sufi ascetics talk to Mohammed as if he were sitting next to them. Maybe a believer in the Spaghetti God could end up seeing flying spaghettis around him after similar practice. That’s what 24/7 monastic practice can do to someone who has enough faith in what he’s doing. Hence my doubts.
For Prince Jayasena—living in the midst of sensuality, consuming sensuality, chewed on by thoughts of sensuality, burning with the fever of sensuality, intent on the search for sensuality—to know or see or realize that which is to be known through renunciation, seen through renunciation, attained through renunciation, realized through renunciation: That’s impossible.
So basically, point of view A, that of Prince Jayasena, can only be maintained through sensuality. Point of view B, that of the Buddha, can only be maintained through renunciation.
In both cases the point of view can only be maintained within a specific frame of mind. How does that make them universal, if they depend on external conditions? Why would the point-of-view generated by renunciation be deemed more "true" than the one generated by sensuality?
lostitude
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

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rhinoceroshorn wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:47 pm
Perhaps you think that way because of the Theravādin doctrine of "three characteristics", or am I mistaken?
Never heard of those, actually :|
lostitude
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by lostitude »

santa100 wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:29 pm Same thing with your belief that your body is mostly solid and laugh at someone saying that the opposite is true, your body is mostly empty space.... until you learn more about Particle Physics!
True, although I’m sensing that this metaphor doesn’t quite match the one I used... I’ll think about it and see where the glitch is.
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rhinoceroshorn
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

lostitude wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:48 pm
rhinoceroshorn wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:47 pm
Perhaps you think that way because of the Theravādin doctrine of "three characteristics", or am I mistaken?
Never heard of those, actually :|
Suffering, inconstancy, non-self.
Eyes downcast, not footloose,
senses guarded, with protected mind,
not oozing — not burning — with lust,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
Image
See, Ānanda! All those conditioned phenomena have passed, ceased, and perished. So impermanent are conditions, so unstable are conditions, so unreliable are conditions. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.
Dīgha Nikāya 17
coconut
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by coconut »

Sometimes you need to have the integrity and honesty to tell yourself that you haven't really been practicing the path like the suttas say. Do you still indulge in sex? porn? video games? over eating? virtue? right speech? self-honesty? self-reflection? mindfulness 24/7 (sense restraint 24/7)? Have you perfected your virtue? perfected not falling into the 3 misconducts for a day? a week? a month? a quarter of a year? a year? Have you observed every uposotha for a year? daily asubha meditation? daily ahara patikula (repulsiveness of food)? daily brahma viharas? reflected on the dhamma properly? read every sutta in the 4 nikayas?

Be honest with yourself. No one wants to admit that they're not lifting themselves up to the bar, and instead lowering the bar to themselves.
lostitude
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Re: Buddhism: just another "truth"?

Post by lostitude »

coconut wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:53 pm Sometimes you need to have the integrity and honesty to tell yourself that you haven't really been practicing the path like the suttas say. Do you still indulge in sex? porn? video games? over eating? virtue? right speech? self-honesty? self-reflection? mindfulness 24/7 (sense restraint 24/7)? Have you perfected your virtue? perfected not falling into the 3 misconducts for a day? a week? a month? a quarter of a year? a year? Have you observed every uposotha for a year? daily asubha meditation? daily ahara patikula (repulsiveness of food)? daily brahma viharas?

Be honest with yourself. No one wants to admit that they're not lifting themselves up to the bar, and instead lowering the bar to themselves.
Thanks, but it seems that you have misread my post. I’m talking about the possibility of Buddhists simply being deluded by years and years of psychosis-inducing training. And here you’re telling me "that’s because you haven’t been training properly".
This is exactly what I was describing in the final sentence of my opening post.

lostitude wrote:What if Bhuddism actually had the same effect? Years of self-imposed conditioning until your perceptions finally align with the texts? And if you’re sane enough that your perceptions don’t really change, then you are told that "you’re not a very good Bhuddist or that your practice is flawed, or that you just have too much karma to gain any fruit from your practice?"
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