How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

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How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:06 pm

How can a person prove that enlightenment exists, or that Bodhisattvas or Buddhas exist? What empirical evidence is there that any of the sutras, suttas, tantras and whatnot are true? I mean, most Buddhists are non-theistic. I too am a skeptic and was lead to believe that there isn't a personal god/sky-daddy watching over us, as the idea isn't supported by scientific fact. What real, hard evidence is there that bodhisattvas exist, that enlightenment is possibility or that rebirth can happen either? Outside of philosophical conjecture is it really possible to prove this? And if can't be proven, why become a monk and give your life to something that might not be true?

I'm not saying that these things aren't true, but before I take precepts I would like some evidence that Buddhism is actually something more than a dried up philosophy. I mean, claiming that you're a supremely enlightened individual is a pretty big deal, amirite? I'm considering the precepts but I'm still a skeptic. So prove me wrong.


:namaste: :toilet:
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Wesley1982 » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:31 pm

How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?


Properly and correctly invoking the blessing of a Buddha would naturally build up confidence.
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby gingercatni » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:36 pm

Ikkyu wrote:How can a person prove that enlightenment exists, or that Bodhisattvas or Buddhas exist? What empirical evidence is there that any of the sutras, suttas, tantras and whatnot are true? I mean, most Buddhists are non-theistic. I too am a skeptic and was lead to believe that there isn't a personal god/sky-daddy watching over us, as the idea isn't supported by scientific fact. What real, hard evidence is there that bodhisattvas exist, that enlightenment is possibility or that rebirth can happen either? Outside of philosophical conjecture is it really possible to prove this? And if can't be proven, why become a monk and give your life to something that might not be true?

I'm not saying that these things aren't true, but before I take precepts I would like some evidence that Buddhism is actually something more than a dried up philosophy. I mean, claiming that you're a supremely enlightened individual is a pretty big deal, amirite? I'm considering the precepts but I'm still a skeptic. So prove me wrong.


:namaste: :toilet:


Ultimately no one can prove to you the existence of the Buddha's and Bodhisattvas because they are separated from us via the realms of existence. The Buddha of our age, Gautama, had an enlightened mind, one could say divine. He was able to connect us to these Buddha's and Bodhisattva's so that whatever path you take, whichever school, all will lead to the one truth, nirvana. Faith is a very strong factor in Buddhism, you believe or don't believe. But I pose this question to you, if you remove all the doubt you have and concentrate on the core of what the Buddha said about human suffering, samsara etc, can you prove him wrong? :anjali:
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Fa Dao » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:58 pm

Ikkyu,
very simple...
#1 study the Buddhas teachings (whichever sect/school that catches your interest, doesnt matter really)
#2 Put them into sincere practice in your daily life
#3 Then you will Know without any doubt the Truth of what you are asking.
People can give you wonderful logical rational arguments all day long but at the end of the day you wont really be any closer to your answer. The ONLY way to really Know, is to Know through your own experiences that ultimately transcend experience.
"But if you know how to observe yourself, you will discover your real nature, the primordial state, the state of Guruyoga, and then all will become clear because you will have discovered everything"-Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Anders » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:13 pm

Ikkyu wrote:How can a person prove that enlightenment exists, or that Bodhisattvas or Buddhas exist? What empirical evidence is there that any of the sutras, suttas, tantras and whatnot are true? I mean, most Buddhists are non-theistic. I too am a skeptic and was lead to believe that there isn't a personal god/sky-daddy watching over us, as the idea isn't supported by scientific fact. What real, hard evidence is there that bodhisattvas exist, that enlightenment is possibility or that rebirth can happen either? Outside of philosophical conjecture is it really possible to prove this? And if can't be proven, why become a monk and give your life to something that might not be true?

I'm not saying that these things aren't true, but before I take precepts I would like some evidence that Buddhism is actually something more than a dried up philosophy. I mean, claiming that you're a supremely enlightened individual is a pretty big deal, amirite? I'm considering the precepts but I'm still a skeptic. So prove me wrong.


:namaste: :toilet:


There is no proofs. Sorry, but Buddhism isn't selling the kind of guarantees you want.

The reason is very simple: Enlightenment, knowledge of past lives, meeting celestial bodhisattvas etc. - All these are the product of mental cultivation. You can't take out a mind and show it to someone else. It's not a physical phenomena. You start to practise Buddhism because you feel an affinity with what it says and can recognise the rationales it has and maybe also because you recognise that meeting profound practitioners this practise has made a visible difference and you find them trustworthy. But all this is basically just inferential presumption.

Then over time you begin to confirm the truths of all this through your own practise.This is the only proof Buddhism offers - finding out for yourself. If that's not working for you, Buddhism is probably not for you.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:17 pm

Anders wrote:Then over time you begin to confirm the truths of all this through your own practise.This is the only proof Buddhism offers - finding out for yourself. If that's not working for you, Buddhism is probably not for you.
You mean I can't just pay somebody to practice for me and bring me the fruits of the practice? Damn!
:tongue:
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:22 pm

Believing that enlightenment is possible without having a foundation of mindfulness and other practice will do you as much good as believing there's a magical teapot orbiting the Earth.

Come and try it for yourself. Apply with sincere effort just one of the Buddha's teachings in your life. Does it do what he said it would? In my experience, it has. If not, I've always later found there was something not quite right on my end. In that way, I take it on good faith that the other teachings are also sound and wholesome.

I take things one step at a time. "That worked when I was happy earlier. Now I feel like crap. Will it still work? Oh, it does."
"Even a sliver of mindfulness in my day has given me great equanimity in difficult situations. I wonder what more mindfulness will do..."

Trying to consider all of the teachings at once is like trying to swallow a whole pharmacy. Befriend your ignorance and ills, then apply the appropriate medicine the Buddha prescribes.

If you don't feel ready to take the precepts, don't. Try them out first. See how concern for all life, even insects you carelessly trod on before, affects you. See how mindful and careful speech affects your relationships. I think you'll find the precepts have a funny way of making you get out of your own head. Then you'll be eager to take them for the wonderful good they do in the world around you, and not solely the benefit you can derive.

Hope that's helpful :) Good luck in your adventures!

:buddha1: :heart:
Namu Amida Butsu
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby AlexanderS » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:28 pm

Ikkyu wrote:How can a person prove that enlightenment exists, or that Bodhisattvas or Buddhas exist? What empirical evidence is there that any of the sutras, suttas, tantras and whatnot are true? I mean, most Buddhists are non-theistic. I too am a skeptic and was lead to believe that there isn't a personal god/sky-daddy watching over us, as the idea isn't supported by scientific fact. What real, hard evidence is there that bodhisattvas exist, that enlightenment is possibility or that rebirth can happen either? Outside of philosophical conjecture is it really possible to prove this? And if can't be proven, why become a monk and give your life to something that might not be true?

I'm not saying that these things aren't true, but before I take precepts I would like some evidence that Buddhism is actually something more than a dried up philosophy. I mean, claiming that you're a supremely enlightened individual is a pretty big deal, amirite? I'm considering the precepts but I'm still a skeptic. So prove me wrong.


:namaste: :toilet:


What kind of evidence are you thinking of?
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Lhug-Pa » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:57 pm

By applying the Scientific Method by actually doing the practices everyday and observing.

For those who are too stuck in their intellect to actually take action (or who haven't studied the practices enough to implement them), studying comparative Esotericism shows that all traditions have the same core doctrines and that this could not be mere coincidence nor merely a product of materialistic evolution.
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Paul » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:06 pm

AlexanderS wrote:
Ikkyu wrote:How can a person prove that enlightenment exists, or that Bodhisattvas or Buddhas exist? What empirical evidence is there that any of the sutras, suttas, tantras and whatnot are true? I mean, most Buddhists are non-theistic. I too am a skeptic and was lead to believe that there isn't a personal god/sky-daddy watching over us, as the idea isn't supported by scientific fact. What real, hard evidence is there that bodhisattvas exist, that enlightenment is possibility or that rebirth can happen either? Outside of philosophical conjecture is it really possible to prove this? And if can't be proven, why become a monk and give your life to something that might not be true?

I'm not saying that these things aren't true, but before I take precepts I would like some evidence that Buddhism is actually something more than a dried up philosophy. I mean, claiming that you're a supremely enlightened individual is a pretty big deal, amirite? I'm considering the precepts but I'm still a skeptic. So prove me wrong.


:namaste: :toilet:


What kind of evidence are you thinking of?


Exactly. How could a person actually prove, for example, that they are enlightened to you?

I think you're going to have to see for yourself by doing the work to be certain. However, as per the Kalama Sutta you can follow the advice of wise people who have evidently positive qualities.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Astus » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:22 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Anders wrote:Then over time you begin to confirm the truths of all this through your own practise.This is the only proof Buddhism offers - finding out for yourself. If that's not working for you, Buddhism is probably not for you.
You mean I can't just pay somebody to practice for me and bring me the fruits of the practice? Damn!
:tongue:


Actually, you can. It's called merit transference. Oh, and the payment for it is called donation.

As for the original question - although this has already been said - Buddhism is not about proving this or that, it is about relieving suffering. Taking and especially upholding the precepts is the first big step on the path to complete liberation from pain, sorrow and discontentment.
"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: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:49 pm

Wesley1982 wrote:
How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?


Properly and correctly invoking the blessing of a Buddha would naturally build up confidence.


I still don't understand how the Buddha's blessings, or any act of "blessing" to begin with are any more supportable by scientific evidence than the Bible, Qur'an or Scientology.
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:53 pm

Lhug-Pa wrote:By applying the Scientific Method by actually doing the practices everyday and observing.

For those who are too stuck in their intellect to actually take action (or who haven't studied the practices enough to implement them), studying comparative Esotericism shows that all traditions have the same core doctrines and that this could not be mere coincidence nor merely a product of materialistic evolution.


Yes, I agree that the scientific method should be applied in order to understand and prove the existence or non-existence of phenomena. And yes, empirical evidence does show that Buddhist practices do benefit people in great ways. However, although visualizations, meditations, mantras and dokusans may give someone happiness and well-being both mentally and physically, I still have yet to come across proof that beings such as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas actually exist.

Isn't it presumptuous to assume that human beings are really powerful enough to attain the highest state of being possible... that so-called "enlightenment" or bodhi? How do you know we aren't meant to suffer to some degree? What if suffering is actually a natural part of life that goes hand in hand with happiness? Even if it isn't, what makes Buddhists believe it is actually possible to get rid of it completely?
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:59 pm

Astus wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:
Anders wrote:Then over time you begin to confirm the truths of all this through your own practise.This is the only proof Buddhism offers - finding out for yourself. If that's not working for you, Buddhism is probably not for you.
You mean I can't just pay somebody to practice for me and bring me the fruits of the practice? Damn!
:tongue:


Actually, you can. It's called merit transference. Oh, and the payment for it is called donation.

As for the original question - although this has already been said - Buddhism is not about proving this or that, it is about relieving suffering. Taking and especially upholding the precepts is the first big step on the path to complete liberation from pain, sorrow and discontentment.


Again, this whole "merit" business seems dubious at best. How does one "transfer" something immaterial that is probably non-existent -- and more likely a philosophical abstraction -- to someone else? How does this make sense in the context of reality, which Buddha-dharma claims to be so well acquainted with?

Rebirth is another thing that is paradoxical to the enth degree. If consciousness is destroyed upon the moment of death, as we know it is, how do some "aggregates" recreate it from non-existence? If there is no self that is reborn, then where does the consciousness/awareness come from? The concept of skandhas such as "mental formation" and "consciousness" being everlasting, transferable principles seems silly. We know why consciousness exists: it's called brain function. When the brain and the network of neurons in it die so does consciousness.
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:02 pm

Paul wrote:
AlexanderS wrote:
Ikkyu wrote:How can a person prove that enlightenment exists, or that Bodhisattvas or Buddhas exist? What empirical evidence is there that any of the sutras, suttas, tantras and whatnot are true? I mean, most Buddhists are non-theistic. I too am a skeptic and was lead to believe that there isn't a personal god/sky-daddy watching over us, as the idea isn't supported by scientific fact. What real, hard evidence is there that bodhisattvas exist, that enlightenment is possibility or that rebirth can happen either? Outside of philosophical conjecture is it really possible to prove this? And if can't be proven, why become a monk and give your life to something that might not be true?

I'm not saying that these things aren't true, but before I take precepts I would like some evidence that Buddhism is actually something more than a dried up philosophy. I mean, claiming that you're a supremely enlightened individual is a pretty big deal, amirite? I'm considering the precepts but I'm still a skeptic. So prove me wrong.


:namaste: :toilet:


What kind of evidence are you thinking of?


Exactly. How could a person actually prove, for example, that they are enlightened to you?

I think you're going to have to see for yourself by doing the work to be certain. However, as per the Kalama Sutta you can follow the advice of wise people who have evidently positive qualities.


Yes, I have meditated. And I do see its positive qualities. I view the Buddha as one of the wisest individuals to have ever graced the Earth with his presence. I enjoy going to Buddhist services and meditating with a Sangha. However the reason I have not taken the precepts or officially become Buddhist, despite the beauty and love and tolerance Buddhism obviously fosters, is that I don't see evidence for a number of Buddhism's metaphysical claims.
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:08 pm

Fa Dao wrote:Ikkyu,
very simple...
#1 study the Buddhas teachings (whichever sect/school that catches your interest, doesnt matter really)
#2 Put them into sincere practice in your daily life
#3 Then you will Know without any doubt the Truth of what you are asking.
People can give you wonderful logical rational arguments all day long but at the end of the day you wont really be any closer to your answer. The ONLY way to really Know, is to Know through your own experiences that ultimately transcend experience.


I have been studying the Lam Te Thien (Vietnamese Rinzai Zen) tradition and reading on other Buddhist traditions for a year and a half now. I still have yet to understand how Buddhas or Bodhisattvas can be proven to exist.

Ok. So I'll put it this way and add two more of my cents:

The only way I can see Buddhas and Bodhisattvas existing is if they are merely aspects of our minds, a view which I tend to gravitate towards. However it seems that the majority of Buddhists believe that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like Amitabha, Mahavairocana and others are ACTUAL, full-fledged beings existing in either "Pure Lands" or some other dimension.

And while quantum mechanics and M-theory would seem to propose the existence of higher dimensions and a multiverse, this is more theoretical than cold hard fact. We still can't prove what beings inhabit these dimensions, if at all.
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Seishin » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:09 pm

Ikkyu wrote:
Wesley1982 wrote:
How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?


Properly and correctly invoking the blessing of a Buddha would naturally build up confidence.


I still don't understand how the Buddha's blessings, or any act of "blessing" to begin with are any more supportable by scientific evidence than the Bible, Qur'an or Scientology.


The answer is simple. It can't be scientifically proven.

If you feel Buddhist practice is good and praise worthy then it shouldn't matter whether these things can be proven or not, should it?

Gassho,
Seishin.
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:20 pm

In response to Seishin:

Yes, as I've stated, Buddhist practice is clearly praiseworthy as in terms of practicality and utilitarian function it works and works very well. However the proof of a metaphysical claim does not necessarily stem from utilitarian function.

Here's a conjecture:

1. Buddhism and its associated practices work at making people free from suffering, which is ostensibly its purpose.
2. Buddhism asserts the existence of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, enlightenment, rebirth, etc.
2. Therefore Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, enlightenment, rebirth, etc. exist (simply because their invocations, etc. make people free from suffering)?
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:28 pm

Ikkyu wrote:Here's a conjecture:

1. Buddhism and its associated practices work at making people free from suffering, which is ostensibly its purpose.
2. Buddhism asserts the existence of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, enlightenment, rebirth, etc.
2. Therefore Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, enlightenment, rebirth, etc. exist (simply because their invocations, etc. make people free from suffering)?


[As you probably know], the conclusion does not follow. But maybe the conclusion doesn't need to follow. If one follows the path and sees benefit in a reduction of suffering, then one should continue on the beneficial path and possibly see the fruits and validity of the other metaphysical items later.
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Seishin » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:31 pm

Sorry Ikkyu but I'm not sure what you are asking. Some people have faith in the things that have no proof. Some suggest that we will understand these things through practice and attainment, which again requires faith. This bears most resemblance to a religious path.

Or you can go down the route that others have taken (Steven Batchelar et al) and remove from your sphere of practice those things which cannot be scientifically proven and continue to practice none-the-less.

Gassho
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