when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

General forum on Mahayana.

when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby steveb1 » Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:59 am

A good friend likes to tease me about the lack of evidence for "God", by which he means not only the sky father of the Abrahamic faiths, but any transcendental, non-material factor, state, entity, archetype or "Being". This would include Mahayanist claims of bodhisattvas, Jodo Shinshu claims about Amida Buddha/Other power, and just about any other claim regarding experiencing or knowing something real in our subjective selves and through subjective states.

I responded with something I read in Ken Wilber, namely that the knowledge-acquisition process is the same in spirituality as it is in science or any other quest for knowledge. Mainly, it consists of three steps:

1. Perform the Injunction: If you want to know "X", then do "Y". If you want to know if Jupiter has moons, look through a telescope, the specialized lens that reveals physical information; if you want to know about Buddha Nature or the Formless or Amida's reality, look through the specified lens (meditation, contemplation, deep listening to the scriptures, etc.) which reveals spiritual information.

2. Perform the experiment: look through the telescope, do the meditiations. Take notes.

3. Share your conclusions with a community of those who have adequately performed steps 1. and 2. - in other words, "peer review"

My friend says that viewing Jupiter's moons through a telescope is genuine evidence because it consists of sensually shared and observed data about objects "out there" that can be verified by plain sight. He says that meditation's data are not real evidence because they do not point to an observable "out there", but merely to a subjective, albeit possibly repeatable, personal experience.

There the debate stands. I had thought that knowledge-acquisition IS a form of evidence, if the three steps are correctly carried out. Why is it evidence when a physical lens reveals moons, but not evidence when following the same three steps reveals spiritual things? If three people look through a telescope and agree that they are seeing moons, and three people perform a particular meditation and agree that they have had (say) a satori, why are not both groups equally "evidence-finders"?

Is knowledge-acquisition only evidential if the knowledge acquired is about the material world? And if that's the case, what to make of Buddhism's empirical methods and means of testing its "data" ? Certainly the acquisition of new data about the ego/non-ego, samsara, bodhicitta, the place/function of the practitioner's mind, anatta, etc., must be considered a form of knowledge acquisition, which involves "evidence" in some meaningful sense. Otherwise, why Shakyamuni's constant injunctions to experiment, to not take his teaching on faith or to treat it like a dogma; why his triumphant claim of finding the Unborn, the Unconditioned? Is not the attainment of spiritual knowledge or "gnosis" an attainment of authentic knowledge-acquisition ?
steveb1
 
Posts: 307
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:37 am

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:29 pm

Steve, you picked a tough fight.

I don't know if I have the "right" answer, but you and your friend are in a sense talking about apples and golf balls.

I think the first error is that you are treating objects of Buddhist wisdom as objects of material knowledge. What is a moon? There are any number of ways to explain that - a massive orb orbiting around an even more massive orb orbiting around a star... you get my point. The objects of Buddhist wisdom are not of the same nature. If I were to suggest the scope of Buddhist knowledge in the observation of the moon, I'd suggest it pertains to the subject-object nature of observation. If you fully carry out the definition of the moon, you'll eventually get to an aspect that has to do with the observer who sees the moon, and get into the nature of that very observer. When you get to this point, you start seeing how the moon is actually no moon at all - ie. marked by sunyata. You find that the observer is no observer at all - anatman.

Buddha, to the extent that Buddha can be found, is found in this what I'll call, meta-level of experience. In the observation of the self, you come to these ineradicable 'dharmas' that are unarisen, and therefore non-perishing. It takes a refined observation and contemplation of phenomena to observe these subtle dharmas (which aren't even dharmas really - but rather qualities?) In my understanding, when we talk about Buddhas, self-power and other-power, we are talking about phenomena in this almost metaphysical realm - it is not metaphysical in so far as these things we observe are inseparable, indistinguishable, co-extensive with conditioned phenomena - are identical, ARE the phenomena and nothing else.

So, I don't know if that is helpful or not, but basically, you need to be able to talk about Buddhism in terms your friend will understand - or else teach him Buddhist vocabulary which essentially requires him to undertake Buddhist practice to learn our methods of observation. When I say "our", this does not mean these methods of observation are some idiosyncratic mind frak. Bacon, iirc, formulated the scientific method and the means of building scientific knowledge has flowed since then. The Buddha and many other great adepts developed the Buddhist methods of observation to examine and understand the experience of being alive, and unfortunately, without it, its hard to make these observations - just like its impossible to see the moons of jupitor without refined equipment to help you see farther. Buddhist methods are lenses to be turned on the experience of living. They are tailored to reveal specific phenomena, but they are incapable of showing you the moons of jupitor, just as a telescope can't help you see the nature of your lived, moment to moment experience.

Hope that helps?
Queequeg
 
Posts: 490
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:31 pm

This is a great topic.
Let's take the position that your friend asserts, which is, first of all, that Jupiter exists outside of the mind of the perceiver. After all, this is a logical assumption. That planet was there long before anybody on Earth was ever born.
You ask: "Is knowledge-acquisition only evidential if the knowledge acquired is about the material world?"

The point is, using your example, three people can look at an object which is outside of themselves, such as Jupiter, and it is the similarity of that observation which establishes something as empirical data, meaning that "the existence of Jupiter is a fact".

Of course, even scientific data can sometimes show that what appears in front of us is not what we see. For example, when you see a star, it may have already died (ceased to exist) millions of years ago, and only now is the light from it reaching Earth. So you are not seeing it at all, only the light that came from it.

When The buddha tells people to test the teachings for themselves to verify if they work or not, this means that for each person, each individual has to test it out in the context of their own unique experience. So, for example, if Shamatha meditation is said to calm the mind, you have to try it out and see. I can't look at you and tell if your mind is racing around from thought to thought or if it is calm. I might be able to make some accurate assumptions based on watching you. and I can measure your brain activity with instruments, and this has been done, and so there is empirical data that shows that meditation changes brain activity in many different ways. But I don't have a telescope that can see your thoughts.

But your friend is correct, there is no scientific method to measure where Amitabha's Pure land is, or whether Hungry Ghosts exist or not. But you are also right, knowledge-acquisition IS a form of evidence. But it is not empirical evidence. It is only personal experience. It is proof only as far as one's personal experience of things is concerned. But this, of course, does not invalidate it. If an Apple fell off a tree and hit Isaac Newton on the head, he may say it hurts, but there is no empirical way to verify that. Nonetheless, it IS evidence to Newton that gravity is a force.His own personal experience of an apple falling on his head is sufficient proof to him that when apples fall on your head, it hurts.

Likewise, a group of Roshis ore Lamas can tell you that, based on their own experience, meditation leads to realization (of course, being humble, they wouldn't actually say they had realization!) So, we can say this is empirical evidence that at least something happens when you meditate. But we cannot prove that this 'something" is realization of buddhahood or whatever, because the thing we are identifying as the target object (enlightenment) is not a strictly defined thing. It's like if I ask you, "did you have a nice day today?" you can say yes, but nobody can prove it because there is nor absolute definition of what a "nice day" is.

We don't have to go all the way to Buddhaland to establish what is going on. If I eat a satisfying meal, the experience is enough evidence for me that I am full and happy. And my dinner companions may have a similar experience, But we cannot prove that each of us is having the exact same "experience". We cannot say that being satisfied from eating is an objectively measurable condition.

But that's okay. it doesn't have to be objectively verifiable in order to be valid.

.
.
.
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2845
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:32 pm

steveb1 wrote:My friend says that viewing Jupiter's moons through a telescope is genuine evidence because it consists of sensually shared and observed data about objects "out there" that can be verified by plain sight. He says that meditation's data are not real evidence because they do not point to an observable "out there", but merely to a subjective, albeit possibly repeatable, personal experience.


That's an arbitrary belief. A lot of mystical experience can and clearly is reproduced, though it is usually a lot more difficult than looking into a telescope and confirming one's belief that Jupiter's moons exist by virtue of having personally seen them. This is how yogic lineages operate. The disciple reproduces for themselves the same experience as their master. If it didn't work like this, presumably people long ago would have found little value in it all and dropped it. Natural selection would have come into play in other words.



There the debate stands. I had thought that knowledge-acquisition IS a form of evidence, if the three steps are correctly carried out. Why is it evidence when a physical lens reveals moons, but not evidence when following the same three steps reveals spiritual things?


Because feelings, immaterial experience and emotions are considered nowadays to largely be secondary epiphenomena that don't really exist, while physical matter, energy and experience via one's physical sensory apparatus constitute what is real. Nowadays it is largely materialism that dictates objectivity.

If you look at classical models, however, logic and more importantly immaterial experiences are considered equally as real and valid as matter and sensory experience, if not more in some cases. That goes for both west and east.


If three people look through a telescope and agree that they are seeing moons, and three people perform a particular meditation and agree that they have had (say) a satori, why are not both groups equally "evidence-finders"?


Within the tradition, that might be so, but outside the tradition it is not.



Is knowledge-acquisition only evidential if the knowledge acquired is about the material world?


It depends on who you talk to.

Some people appreciate knowledge about internal experiences such as emotions, the mind and so on, though others shy away from such things because they see it all as subjective and not sufficiently objective in describing how reality actually is. This is all quite arbitrary of course, because you make a decision for yourself whether or not you include immaterial experiences as part of your reality. Denying their reality is problematic for some people (myself included) because much of what we experience is clearly not material or externally apparent to all parties.

This is especially prudent in matters related to suffering. Nobody else experiences my own suffering, though nevertheless I still need to find ways to address and remedy this clearly apparent disagreeable experience lest I will remain disturbed and distressed.


And if that's the case, what to make of Buddhism's empirical methods and means of testing its "data" ? Certainly the acquisition of new data about the ego/non-ego, samsara, bodhicitta, the place/function of the practitioner's mind, anatta, etc., must be considered a form of knowledge acquisition, which involves "evidence" in some meaningful sense.


Logic, reason and personal testimony and experience comprise the basis of evidence. It isn't modern science, though it is still a means to knowing. Science is a system of logic where you test theory against experience, which is possible in the Buddhist context to some degree (though many claims are unfalsifiable, and not falsifiable which in an important distinction in science).

The outcome of your conclusions and experience may not be readily available to others, but then the whole point of the project is to remedy suffering, not find out some objective reality. An objective reality is likely not possible, anyway, because human experience varies so much. Such a plurality of views is unsettling to those with a vested interest in some kind of orthodoxy, scientific or otherwise, but for many humans throughout history it hasn't been such a big deal.


Otherwise, why Shakyamuni's constant injunctions to experiment, to not take his teaching on faith or to treat it like a dogma; why his triumphant claim of finding the Unborn, the Unconditioned? Is not the attainment of spiritual knowledge or "gnosis" an attainment of authentic knowledge-acquisition ?



In the context of wisdom gained via practice, meditation and contemplation, he also pointed out you have to initially take it on conviction that it is possible until actually having gained such wisdom and experience for oneself. See the following:



"Excellent, Sariputta. Excellent. Those who have not known, seen, penetrated, realized, or attained it by means of discernment would have to take it on conviction in others that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation; whereas those who have known, seen, penetrated, realized, & attained it by means of discernment would have no doubt or uncertainty that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation."

SN 48.44
PTS: S v 220
CDB ii 1689
Pubbakotthaka Sutta: Eastern Gatehouse


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


On the plus side, once you do have such attainments you are unshakeable.
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5991
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Taiwan

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:38 pm

PS- I don't know what tradition of Buddhism you practice. Nonetheless, I would suggest Evil and/or/as Good and Being and Ambiguity, both by Brook Ziporyn. They focus on Tientai Buddhist philosophy, but to the extent that Tientai is built on Madhyamika it may be interesting to the broader Mahayana community. He does some very interesting work by trying to explain Buddhist concepts like Sunyata and dependent origination, albeit within the logic paradigm of Tientai Threefold Inclusive Truth, in terms that might be more intelligible to modern students of Western Philosophy.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 490
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:03 pm

Just wanted to add something...
You can take the argument in another direction as well. From the Buddhist point of view, from moment to moment, Jupiter is always changing. The "Jupiter" you look at on Tuesday is not the same as it was on Monday. The only thing you see are a lot of very similarly arising conditions, for example, the giant, swirling storm know as the "Red Spot" contnues to arise in pretty much the same place on that planet. So, from this way of understanding, "Empirical evidence' is only based on the assrtion that a "thing" called "Jupiter" has a finite existence (reality) to it to begin with, which Buddhism denies.

It exists only so far as it doesn't ever change too quickly or very much..
Beyond that condition, what is the person with the telescope looking at?
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2845
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby Jikan » Thu Nov 08, 2012 3:09 pm

steveb1 wrote:There the debate stands. I had thought that knowledge-acquisition IS a form of evidence, if the three steps are correctly carried out. Why is it evidence when a physical lens reveals moons, but not evidence when following the same three steps reveals spiritual things? If three people look through a telescope and agree that they are seeing moons, and three people perform a particular meditation and agree that they have had (say) a satori, why are not both groups equally "evidence-finders"?


Because we don't find "things" in meditation: no archetypes, no Being, no eye ear nose tongue body or mind. Satori isn't a thing. Buddha-nature isn't a thing.

Curiously, when we look through a telescope and find a blotch of light we identify as a moon of Jupiter, we don't find a "thing" there either in the last analysis.

Wilber's three steps are interesting in this instance, but I'm wondering if Wilber's overall approach may be misleading, in that he identifies sunyata (emptiness) with Meister Eckhardt's description of God, with the Hegelian world-spirit, and so on (this is in Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality). If you look at Wilber's descriptions of his own meditations (One Taste), you can see he is finding something which he calls Spirit. He finds what he seeks, in other words. That's fine for his style of practice, but we do it differently in the Buddhist world.
Need help getting on retreat? Want to support others in practice? Pay the Dana for Dharma forum a visit...

viewtopic.php?f=114&t=13727
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5780
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby viniketa » Thu Nov 08, 2012 4:58 pm

Ask your friend how he "knows" when he is happy (or sad).

:namaste:
If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
User avatar
viniketa
 
Posts: 819
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:39 am
Location: USA

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby lobster » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:25 pm

Subjective internal processes lead to verifiable changes.
Increased calm, body changes and brain changes can be measured. Whilst an uncontrolled mind can not produce the ability to overcome cold, this visualisation works and enables 'impossible' feats . . .
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wim_Hof
Healing through visualisation borrowed from meditation traditions is a scientific fact.
However these are just superficial by products. The interior landscape is far more than can be imagined or logically inferred.

Some imagine. Some know.
Gnosis versus ignorance :twothumbsup:
User avatar
lobster
 
Posts: 952
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:06 pm

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby steveb1 » Thu Nov 08, 2012 6:13 pm

Dear Dharma Wheel foks,

As the OP, I can only say a heartfelt "thank you" for all of your thoughtful, insightful replies to my question. You've given me so much to think about and contemplate that I feel a bit (pleasantly) overwhelmed :) The scholarship and erudition you have shown in your replies, to me, is somewhat mind-blowing. You know your stuff, and you know how to express it. I will re-visit and re-read these pages, take notes, and make an effort to hone my understanding and deepen my appreciation of the Buddhist stance on these "questions of evidence".

Thanks again, very much, for everyone who has, or is now, contributing. You guys are wonderful.

- Steve -

'steveb1'
steveb1
 
Posts: 307
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:37 am

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby duckfiasco » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:04 pm

Okay I didn't realize how long this post was until after I wrote it, but I hope it's of benefit to you and your friend. I'm no great expert so I hope others will chime in where I'm misleading or inaccurate.

I think there may also be a misunderstanding of what bodhisattvas and buddhas and deities like Chenrezig are in Buddhism. In the Western world, we very much tend to apply the materialistic mindset (me in here, you out there) to everything, so we get a Christian god that is separate from us out there intervening in the world (from where??) if you ask nicely. Then naturally, this view gets carried over to Buddhist deities and spirits.

We must start from our relativistic viewpoint, since materialism is the condition of our times. So we recognize that merely accepting a bodhisattva as an emanation of some separateness "out there" would be somewhat useless to us, even if we could believe it with the same force that we believe that seeing Jupiter in a telescope means our idea of Jupiter is external and substantial in its own right. You've seen what little good that does in some Christians who accept this literal factuality of God but are hostile to non-Christians. I'll use Chenrezig as an example. The first steppingstone from what I've seen is then the acceptance of Chenrezig as a representation of our compassion and capacity to love. These are things that even heavily materialistic people can accept, that we can feel compassionate and that we can love.

So we work with that a little while, visualizing, imagining, allowing ourselves to pretend that there is a deity made of light above us somehow sending love to suffering beings arrayed around us. If it were to remain at this point, it would still be beneficial since materialism can create incredible egocentricity where we don't even entertain the possibility of others' suffering, only our own. It would still be transformative to reconnect with our capacity to call up love at will and practice compassion. Previously we may have thought these were feelings thrust upon us by circumstance and therefore if we felt hateful towards someone, it was just THEM acting on US and that's just how it is. If we felt love, or more often we think this when we don't feel love, it's out of our hands, something done to us by others.

But with this practice, the armor of materialism develops a tiny crack. Maybe there's more at play here than someone "making" me feel a certain way. We called up specific feelings that we may have thought were the effects of external causes. So we pursue the practice further.

When our visualization, our imagined picture of Chenrezig, becomes more and more solid, we can almost feel the presence of something external to us, like some wonderful friend who has come into the room. Our compassion practice has become so strong that it seems to extend beyond us, and perhaps our materialist minds interpret it as someone "out there" is compassionate. Sticking with the practice, we imagine this compassion emanating from Chenrezig in a physical space near us. You may even have the sensation of a literal being in the room, depressing the floor next to your cushion or only a few inches out of reach above you. But wait, cries the materialist mind, there is no one there, this is all the brain playing tricks on itself. Maybe the presence vanishes from the distraction. Our materialism thinks it has triumphed, but the crack actually grows from this thought instead.

Our minds can call up not only feelings we THOUGHT we had no control over previously, but it can call up the sense of physical presence of another being. Were a scientist to sit there measuring the air around you, they would likely find no one else there, no being occupying physical space. But this strengthens the momentum of what we may be discovering: that mind is the author of reality, that things are not so solid when we stop chanting the mantras of materialism to ourselves. So we continue on.

With the blessings of a teacher and much practice, we may start to have other experiences. We really feel crowds of suffering beings around us, as though we could touch them. The light we envision around Chenrezig begins to actually play through our eyelids, as though closing our eyes in the bright sun. Just observing all of this with detached curiosity, we then imagine Chenrezig dissolving into us; we become someone/something else. We feel we are this embodiment of compassion and love. Ideas of me in here, you out there, are weakened so much as to be utterly irrelevant at the moment. They're on hold. Our reality becomes nothing but droves of endless suffering beings and our compassion for their plight, our ability to help them and their innate ability to help themselves. We may perceive physical signs.

Then we end the session and "me" versus "you" momentarily disappearing didn't cause any great calamity. It likely comes back. Materialists will cry, "It was all in your head. We just saw you sitting there, maybe with a smile on your face. You were hallucinating." But now, having seen the subjectivity of our previous assertions that external factors objectively impact our passive internal ones, that in fact these internal factors can be manipulated such that they give rise to apparently external phenomena with the same believability as a candle on the altar, we begin to doubt the basic premise of materialism: that I am in here, neatly cut off from the external, free to observe objectively as though my mind somehow doesn't exist in the process.
The question arises: What things do I tell myself about reality all the time and accept without question? If I can feel, see, become compassion and Chenrezig, how is what I perceive affected by other such factors that I'm unaware of at the moment? This is a very good thing to investigate thoroughly.

From the relative perspective, we don't work from outside to inside, which in fact is the entire premise of materialism, but rather from questioning the solidity of this inside, of our perceptions and experience, which is often our go-to means of giving legitimacy to the outside we impute with factuality. The Buddha said where there is perception, there is deception.

Here are two problems I see with materialism. The first is when we offer a method of experimentation with Buddhist ideas, they say you must use materialist methods. Materialism already posits "me versus you" as a premise, that "in here" is subjective and unreliable compared to objective and solid "out there" that we can measure. Using any meditation or visualization technique, you'll find this supposition is largely arbitrary. Even for people like your friend who likely won't use "unscientific" methods, some experiments like the double-slit experiment have suggested the very same thing. You cannot slice apart the act of observation into observer and observed as though those things exist inherently outside of the act of observation. They all interact.

It gives rise to important questions. At what point does an external phenomenon become an internal one? Follow the process closely and you will find it harder and harder to pinpoint. So how can you use a method that accepts a framework to be true to test ideas precisely contrary to the framework? It's akin to Christian Science: starting with an assumption (the earth is 4,000 years old) and interpreting evidence to prove that assumption instead of holding it in investigative doubt. I think the problem with materialism is it's self-affirming: this is the ground of reality, so reality is interpreted in ways that appear to confirm the assumption. It's something that few account for in its influence on our experience of reality.

The second problem is that materialism often ignores the impact of internal means of verification, citing their subjectivity, while using exactly those same means to make statements about an external reality. It's as though the scientific method or objectivity were a shelf upon which to set our human mind and body while we work, and that we can be free from ourselves (??) while we measure and make conjectures about reality. It's a very strange and disconnected way to relate to the world, and I think one of the major drivers of increasing depression and anxiety in the US, at least.

So in response to your friend, there really is no quick and easy answer because these aren't quick and easy questions. A way I would try to open your friend's mind to other possibilities though is something like, "When does a phenomenon become observed, what is it observed by, and how does this turn into a fact?" Grill him thoroughly. "I see it with my eye" is not an answer. What part is the seeing? When does the light become a perception? When does the perception become an idea? What makes this idea a fact and not this other one? You may get a response like I've gotten where the question sounds absurd and your friend refuses to answer anymore, but maybe it'll get him thinking at least :)

Everything is utterly bizarre in its insubstantiality, in its transitoriness. Light and shadows, colors passing through glass, beautiful yet unimaginable and unable to be grasped even for a moment. And still, the play of our minds is astounding in its vividness. Something is lost when we let our curiosity about everything become just another concept to file away with what we had for dinner last night. If you can, don't let your friend miss this richness!
Namu Amida Butsu
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 614
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby steveb1 » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:26 pm

Thanks, duck, for your lengthy, thoughtful post - more good ides for me to ponder ;)
steveb1
 
Posts: 307
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:37 am

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby Jesse » Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:52 pm

I don't think there will ever be any "proof", aside from person experience and even then it's hard to pin down exactly what you are experiencing. I highly doubt the universe at large conforms to humans understanding, but we often think it does.

The entire gamut of our experiences in life are based in a system of ideas and beliefs that have been invented and evolved throughout human history. And that's all it really is, a bunch of ideas and concepts. When you get rid of them all of the "big questions" about life become meaningless, and they really are.. they aren't even real.

I've often though this was just a way of avoiding asking questions, that have no answer, or are just difficult to answer, but I do believe there is truth in this. Reality has nothing to do with our ideas about it, plain and simple.
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Jesse
 
Posts: 831
Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 6:54 am
Location: Virginia, USA

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby catmoon » Fri Nov 09, 2012 12:51 am

I think you're stuck. What your friend is looking for is the kind of evidence that you can pull out and show to people. Short of developing siddhis and perfoming miracles, no such evidence is available.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
User avatar
catmoon
Former staff member
 
Posts: 2995
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:20 am
Location: British Columbia

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby Jinzang » Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:21 am

There's two possible arguments you can make. First you can argue that the effects of meditation can be measured objectively through brain scans and the if he searches the Web he will find these studies. This accepts his argument about objective measurement. Second, you can ask him if subjective evidence cannot count in science, how could we ever know if a pain relieving medicine works, since pain is a subjective phenomenon and only known through personal report. This challenges his position. Similar arguments could be made for all medicines affecting the mental state.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
Jinzang
 
Posts: 384
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:11 am

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby futerko » Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:42 am

Jinzang wrote:There's two possible arguments you can make. First you can argue that the effects of meditation can be measured objectively through brain scans and the if he searches the Web he will find these studies. This accepts his argument about objective measurement. Second, you can ask him if subjective evidence cannot count in science, how could we ever know if a pain relieving medicine works, since pain is a subjective phenomenon and only known through personal report. This challenges his position. Similar arguments could be made for all medicines affecting the mental state.


Third, in clinical trials, placebos such as sugar pills have been shown to have an effect, more pills have a greater effect, and when injected rather than taken orally they have an even greater effect. The power of belief does produce "scientifically verifiable" results.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
User avatar
futerko
 
Posts: 993
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2012 5:58 am

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:59 am

catmoon wrote:I think you're stuck. What your friend is looking for is the kind of evidence that you can pull out and show to people. Short of developing siddhis and perfoming miracles, no such evidence is available.


Oh, people fall in love all the time.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2845
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby Queequeg » Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:38 pm

I'm hesitant to post the thoughts below for a number of reasons, the most of which I don't want to be seen as criticizing other's practice. I am offering up these thoughts as a fellow Buddhist who has a deep and abiding interest not only in my individual practice, but an interest in this common endeavor we share to make sure that the flow of Buddhadharma continues and benefits ever greater numbers of our fellows. Please understand that what I offer comes from this perspective.

Reading some of the responses in this thread, its somewhat surprising to me how easily people interpret Buddhism as segregated from "materialism". "Materialists" might see the logic in this segregation, but Buddhist wisdom is wider, deeper - encompassing - and I believe accommodates materialistic views. In my understanding, Buddhist wisdom provides the tools to consider materialism and show its proper place and fuller significance within a greater awareness of Enlightenment. In the Lotus Traditions we call this Opening the Trace to Reveal the Root.

If Buddhists accept this segregation, this sort of retreat is problematic on many levels - in the broadest strokes, it ghettoizes Buddhism into some anachronistic pocket - Buddhists are a matter of degrees different, but no less irrelevant than Charismatic Snake Handlers. It undermines the evangelism of Buddhadharma because when we do this, it may undermine our vow to engage others and make Buddhadharma comprehensible to others - it may crystallize an arrogance demanding people come to us and understand us on our terms rather than what I believe was the Buddha's humble spirit of seeking to be understood and diligently making efforts to do so.

The way I understand, Buddhist thought has great contributions to make, not only to scientific inquiry and knowledge, but secular matters such as philosophy, government, etc. all aspects of life in the human realm - not to mention the emancipation of each and every being. But so long as we accept the boundaries in which we have been segregated - by others and by our own assumptions - we become irrelevant.

I may be wrong, but in my understanding, Buddhist wisdom, particularly of the Mahayana brand, ought to lead us to deeper engagement with all aspects of our world, including materialist views and assumptions. As I understand it, Buddhist wisdom should be able to "open" the substance of "materialistic" or "scientific" knowledge to reveal that even this is a function of the True Aspect of reality. Buddhist wisdom ought to be able to show the reconciliation of these views with enlightenment. Buddhist wisdom should be able to identify and deconstruct the arbitrary limitations that lead to the distortions of materialist view and open it into the full context of universal enlightenment.

Some of these problems I am pointing to may relate to deeper doctrinal disagreements within our own broader Buddhist community. I believe, however, these are subjects we ought to consider and discuss openly.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 490
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Nov 09, 2012 6:51 pm

On an absolute level, you are absolutely right :) It's all dharma. I think most everyone here has a deep desire to liberate suffering sentient beings, so for my part when I blabber on about materialism, it's from the viewpoint of helping share a steppingstone that I found helpful in releasing self-cherishing just a tiny bit. My intention certainly isn't to show some kind of arrogance over people who are SO confused and SO wrong because they have materialist views. In fact, the same problem can arise in any aspect of Buddhist practice, such as tonglen where it may be tempting to view others condescendingly as we somehow become the source for their relief. The habitual self-cherishing attitude does gymnastics to keep the upper hand, simply because it's an attitude that pervades humanity and that we've practiced for our whole lives, if not lives previous to that.

I'm not sure materialism, in the sense I mean it where I am cut off from you and this me inside somehow has life inflicted upon it, has any place in the Buddhadharma beyond an entry gate into practice. We all start where we are. I started from depression and suicidal thoughts, which are incredibly self-centered. In fact, it may be a good way to generate compassion when you see others thoroughly entrenched in their own ideas to the point of suffering (like political arguments :tongue: ). To the extent this becomes a "me better than you" thing is contingent on the quality of one's practice, I think.

In the end, it really is all ideas, it's all smoke and mirrors. In the relative sense the OP's friend and all of us spend most of our time at though, some ideas are more or less skillful in reaching a glimmer of emptiness, of releasing our death grip on self-cherishing that is the hallmark of samsara. That's why I think materialism is of potential great harm when turned into a life boat, a way of life. By its very nature it tends to become just that. It makes a kind of feedback loop that hides itself and its own influence, similar to conspiracy theories that deal with conflicting evidence as further proof of the coverup.

I hope others more skillful in expressing the dharma than I will continue to add their input :)
Namu Amida Butsu
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 614
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby viniketa » Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:16 pm

I see "materialism" used in different ways around the forum. One is more accurately called "consumerism" and the idea that material objects lead to happiness. The other, more accurate, use has to do with reducing "mind" to the sum of operations of the material "body", such that all aspects of mind cease at death. This is more properly "reductionistic".

While the latter is certainly associated with "science", it is a limited view to reduce science to materialism. In general, the conduct of science is "positivistic" in that the community of scientists strongly encourage research hypotheses to be stated falsifiable terms, but the statement of hypotheses is such a small part of scientific endeavors. More informative to Buddhism, and other non-scientific philosophies, is to question the extent to which contemporary science is limited to such "reductionist" models. The answer is: It isn't. More than ever, perhaps in part due to the advent of computers, scientific models have become more systems-oriented and "emergent", recognizing that many things in the world are greater than the simple sum of some parts.

To the OP, I would say that your friend is limiting himself to reductionist view and may benefit (particularly if he is a scientist) from broadening his view of what is science and what is scientific.

:namaste:
If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
User avatar
viniketa
 
Posts: 819
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:39 am
Location: USA

Next

Return to Mahāyāna Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 14 guests

>