Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:46 am

Pero wrote:
Astus wrote:Buddhism teaches that the primary driving force of the world is karma. That is reflected in Buddhist cosmology. The sequence of the becoming of the world is from top to bottom. That means that humans existed before animals.


Wow really? Can you give a link or something, I'd like to read a bit about it.


See the Aggañña Sutta: Wikipedia, the sutta
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:01 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:So unless one restricts our birth to this planet and forget that the fact that animals were here first doesn't mean we were those animals and couldn't take rebirth as humans (or equivalent) somewhere else, I see no problem in accepting the theory of evolution. I even think that the fact that there is an evolution (why not some sort of staticism instead, a different model of life and environment) goes pretty well with the theory of karma.
Now, is the theory of evolution in accord with Buddhist cosmology? No. Do I think Buddhist cosmology is more than expedient means? No. To me, it's just an ornament to the finger, perfectly changeable, not the direction it points. That's how I see it. I never bought that Mount Meru stuff anyway.
There's a story Chogyal Namkhai Norbu tells about a Gelugpa teacher that wanted to write a book insisting on this cosmology in spite of his advice for not doing so, since we now knew things weren't like that. If memory doesn't fail me, he was translating this book. It didn't fly, I guess. Funny story that goes to show how Buddhist cosmology is not such a big deal in terms of Path or View. Perhaps someone can tell you this story better. I found it quite amusing.


Sure, there are many realms and many "planets". Still, if we go with the sequence of lives there is still a problem. Also, many jatakas and stories about former buddhas are placed in India, including cities from the Buddha's time. We can put all this into the category of "myths", nevertheless, these are the traditional views. Just like anything, this can change too. But it's a good reminder how ANY teaching may be reviewed and changed or forgot for ever.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:10 am

Acchantika wrote:In genetics, evolution is defined as a change in the frequency and distribution of alleles at a given locus.


OK, that's evolution in genetics. Then what was mentioned under "evolution" is mainly the Evolutionary history of life.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby himalayanspirit » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:43 am

Thanks for the replies.

Buddha alluded to something like origin from Big Bang to the evolution of man from primitive organisms.

Gotama replies that they make these claims in forgetfulness of the past. The claims have no basis in fact. It is righteousness (dhamma) and not class distinction (vanna) that makes the real difference between man and man{1}. Do we not daily see Brahman women with child and bearing sons just like other folk? How can they then say that they are born of God? And as to their origin, when the evolution of the world began, beings were at first immaterial, feeding on joy, giving light from themselves, passing through the air. There was thick darkness round about them, and neither sun nor moon, nor stars, nor sex, nor measures of time. Then the earth rose in the midst of the waters, beautiful as honey in taste and colour and smell, and the beings, eating thereof, lost their brightness, and then sun and moon and stars appeared, and time began to run. And then also their bodies became more coarse and material, and differences of complexion (vanna) became manifest among them. Then some prided themselves, and despised others, on the ground of their finer complexion. And thereupon the fine-tasting earth ceased to be so.

Then successively fine moss, and sweet creepers, and delicate rice appeared, and each time the beings ate thereof with a similar result. Then differences of sex appeared; and households were formed; and the lazy stored up the rice, instead of gathering it each evening and morning; and the rights of property arose, and were infringed. And when lusts were felt, and thefts committed, the beings, now become men, met together, and chose certain men, differing from the others in no wise except in virtue (dhamma), to restrain the evil doers by blame or fines or banishment. These were the first Kshatriyas. And others they chose to restrain the evil dispositions which led to the evil doing. And these were the first Brahmans, differing from the others in no wise, except only in virtue (dhamma).


Ambattha Sutta
http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/dob/dob-03in.htm
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby himalayanspirit » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:51 am

This excerpt from the Ambattha Sutta is an answer the Buddha gives to the Brahmins who were claiming (and often still do) that they are of a superior variety compared to other human beings solely on the basis of being born into Brahmin households.

I can see that Buddha probably knew about evolution. Also, once Buddha held up a glass of water, and exclaimed to his disciples , "there are countless beings in this glass of water which you cannot see" (just random rephrasing from memory, which is not too strong!). Was he referring to the microbes in that glass of water? I am sure he did.
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Sep 02, 2011 3:54 pm

Astus wrote:Buddhism explains that the true goal of every being is happiness and they are confused by the three poisons. Evolution says that the primary instincts and the meaning of all life forms are self-preservation and reproduction.


I don't quite see the incompatibilty here. The primary instincts ARE the three poisons. So Darwin and Buddha agree on the main motivators for the behavior of organisms.

There is nothing in Darwin, moreover, which rules out the possibility of beings developing the capacity to free themselves from mere instinct -- through reason, or through moral, philosophical and religious systems. Indeed, many Darwinists and Darwin-influenced philosophers have held views which echo the Buddhist teachings.

Here is Thomas Huxley, for instance:

"The practice of that which is ethically best -- what we call goodness or virtue -- involves a course of conduct which, in all respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence. In place of ruthless self-assertion, it demands self-restraint; in place of thrusting aside, or treading down, all competitors, it requires that the individual shall not merely respect, but shall help his fellows; its influence is directed, not so much to the survival of the fittest, as to the fitting of as many as possible to survive".

And here is George Williams:

"Huxley viewed the cosmic process as an enemy that must be combated. I take a similar but more extreme position, based both on the more extreme view of natural selection as a process for maximizing selfishness, and on the longer list of vices now attributable to the enemy."

Dharma, likewise, is said to "go against the grain" of samsaric existence.

Not to mention the various strands of utilitarianism, from Mill to Singer to Sam Harris. If anything, we might say that evolutionary theory has confirmed that the Buddha was onto something, at least when it comes to the analysis of behavior.

The cosmology and time-sequencing, I agree, present some divergences.
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Jnana » Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:19 pm

By combining a prior cycle of involution (from consciousness to matter) with a latter cycle of evolution (from matter to consciousness) the two worldviews can be harmonized.
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby devilyoudont » Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:01 pm

A demonstration of the manner in which the misapplication of means can lead to unskillfulness: http://newhumanist.org.uk/904/trapped-by-buddha

Use a hammer on nails, not screws. Use the dharma for its one and only intended purpose, not for history lessons.

Also, when he was talking about sentient beings in the water, wasn't the Buddha referring to the perspective of interdependence in which phenomena are reflected in each other?
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Malcolm » Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:04 am

devilyoudont wrote:
Also, when he was talking about sentient beings in the water, wasn't the Buddha referring to the perspective of interdependence in which phenomena are reflected in each other?


No, he was talking about microorganisms -- which is why part of the gear issued to Buddhist monks back in the day was a special fine cloth which acted as a water filter.

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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby devilyoudont » Sun Sep 04, 2011 11:46 am

Thanks. Was it the Buddha himself who instituted this practice? While it's unquestionably hygienic for the drinker, I'm not sure how effectively this would save the lives of even those microorganisms that can be filtered out with a cloth strainer. Was the cloth washed in a lake or stream before drying out in order to release these animalcules back into their native environment?
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Malcolm » Sun Sep 04, 2011 12:32 pm

devilyoudont wrote:Thanks. Was it the Buddha himself who instituted this practice? While it's unquestionably hygienic for the drinker, I'm not sure how effectively this would save the lives of even those microorganisms that can be filtered out with a cloth strainer. Was the cloth washed in a lake or stream before drying out in order to release these animalcules back into their native environment?


Yes, it was the Buddha himself who instituted the practice. It was also a practice followed by other ascetics at the time. I am sure you can read about in a Vinaya commentary.
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Sep 04, 2011 4:32 pm

devilyoudont wrote:A demonstration of the manner in which the misapplication of means can lead to unskillfulness: http://newhumanist.org.uk/904/trapped-by-buddha


Thanks for that link. It was a good read.
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Astus » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:03 pm

I'd argue that "small beings" and microorganisms are not the same thing. Tiny insects are one thing, bacteria are another, and the second type of beings are not filtered by a simple cloth. It's also problematic to call bacteria "sentient beings" from a Buddhist point of view.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby LastLegend » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:07 pm

Astus wrote:I'd argue that "small beings" and microorganisms are not the same thing. Tiny insects are one thing, bacteria are another, and the second type of beings are not filtered by a simple cloth. It's also problematic to call bacteria "sentient beings" from a Buddhist point of view.


So what constitutes a sentient being then?
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Virgo » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:09 pm

LastLegend wrote:
Astus wrote:I'd argue that "small beings" and microorganisms are not the same thing. Tiny insects are one thing, bacteria are another, and the second type of beings are not filtered by a simple cloth. It's also problematic to call bacteria "sentient beings" from a Buddhist point of view.


So what constitutes a sentient being then?

The presence of mentality.

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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby LastLegend » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:10 pm

Virgo wrote:
LastLegend wrote:
Astus wrote:I'd argue that "small beings" and microorganisms are not the same thing. Tiny insects are one thing, bacteria are another, and the second type of beings are not filtered by a simple cloth. It's also problematic to call bacteria "sentient beings" from a Buddhist point of view.


So what constitutes a sentient being then?

The presence of mentality.

Kevin



Right. Do microorganisms have a presence of mentality?
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Virgo » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:15 pm

LastLegend wrote:

Right. Do microorganisms have a presence of mentality?

I have no idea.

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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:58 pm

Karma involves intention, right? In the case of a bacterium we don't have sufficient evidence to conclude it possesses "sentience". So how could we say there is an intention of killing?

It's quite different from, say, cattle or pigs -- where we have every reason to believe their experience of the world is similar to ours.
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby Malcolm » Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:03 pm

Astus wrote:I'd argue that "small beings" and microorganisms are not the same thing. Tiny insects are one thing, bacteria are another, and the second type of beings are not filtered by a simple cloth. It's also problematic to call bacteria "sentient beings" from a Buddhist point of view.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microorganism

Small animals, so called "micro-animals, are included within the category of microorganism.

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-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen
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Re: Evolution of humans and Mahayana Buddhism

Postby devilyoudont » Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:17 pm

Namdrol wrote:Yes, it was the Buddha himself who instituted the practice. It was also a practice followed by other ascetics at the time. I am sure you can read about in a Vinaya commentary.

Yes, I vaguely remember reading about it and I'm sure I can find it again. If I hadn't, I might have taken your post for sarcasm: Yeah, the Buddha handed out pollution masks and hovercrafts made of spices and coconut shells so the bhikshus wouldn't squish aerial or terrestrial bugs either! Some Jain ascetics actually do wear a cloth covering over their nose and mouth so as not to kill insects accidentally. Anyway, thanks again for the clarification.

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