How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby jeeprs » Mon Jun 11, 2012 12:43 pm

I agree with Anders. The key point in Buddhism is not belief, but knowledge. Knowledge of what? Knowledge of the truth of dependent origination, the non-existence of inherent self, and so on. In order to understand this it is necessary to explore it in depth, and to explore it in that kind of depth takes belief, to some extent - at least, the willingness to consider the idea and pursue it to the end. But at the end, it is not a question of belief, but one of knowledge, insight into the way things really are.

It is because Western religions insisted that you believe particular things, in a particular way, which has caused many of the problems we are having, like the split between religion and science. It didn't actually have to be that way, but now it has been that way for so long, that we can't conceive of it being any other way - which is what I meant by my remark.
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:04 pm

jeeprs wrote:The key point in Buddhism is not belief, but knowledge...
I personally would say that it is wisdom gained through practice and not knowledge. I might have a perfect knowledge of the Tripitaka, if I don't put it into practice though how will I develop bodhicitta?

Like I said to Malcolm in the plants and sentience thread: people have known about the sentience of people ever since people existed, but that hasn't stopped wars, rape, murder, etc...
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Andrew108 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:18 pm

Actually it's kind of annoying that Buddhists or anyone can be sure of themselves. I guess those who are sure of Buddhism are sure of the explanation Buddhism offers up. But I wonder if any explanation is in someways false. I'm reminded that it's said that after the Buddha attained enlightenment there was first his silence. He didn't immediately start explaining about the nature of reality.
So the student is told the explanation and becomes the teacher who tells the student and so on. It really is a matter of faith that the explanation as orthodoxy is believed.
But then what are we really talking about in Buddhism? If we are talking about understanding the nature of our experiences then would it be wise to condition our experiences with explanations no matter how beautiful they are?
What happens if we leave experiences alone? If we don't stir the pot? What in your experience matches the explanations given by Buddhists?
For me I understand the following:
1. The notion 'unborn'. I understand that experience changes so fast that you can't find the point when it arises.
2. Then I don't know where my thoughts go. So there is a dreamlike quality to life.
3. That this is experience is going to end abruptly when I die but I'm loving it while it's happening.
4. That I can't find a self but nor can I deny that I have a self.
5. That I'm limited in terms of things that I can and can't do - I share these limitations with others - we experience gravity for instance.
6. I don't want to be a cause of anyones suffering but then don't mind killing mosquitoes or eating animals.
7. I'm not sure that labels and concepts really matter. There is never a place to 'stick' them.
8. There is no other liberation except self-liberation and that self-liberation is a naturally occurring part of experience.
I'm sure of all the above because I've 'tasted' them with my experience. Apart from these things I don't really have anything to be sure of - but maybe i'm not a buddhist.
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:44 pm

Andrew108 wrote:1. The notion 'unborn'. I understand that experience changes so fast that you can't find the point when it arises.
Uuuuummmm... no actually, something is not unborn just because you cannot sense the time of it's birth, it's a little more complicated than that. If you are walking along and a bomb explodes, just because you did not see the point of arising of the explosion does not mean that it is unborn.
2. Then I don't know where my thoughts go. So there is a dreamlike quality to life.
Thoughts come from nowhere (emptiness) and go nowhere (emptiness) that is their quality. The impermanent and ungrapsable nature of "reality" makes it dreamlike, not the lack of awareness of this state. Actually a lack of awareness of impermanence reifies ones experience.
3. That this is experience is going to end abruptly when I die but I'm loving it while it's happening.
Love it or hate it you are going to die but this will not be the end of this experience, apparently one's habits just keep on rolling. Question that arises in my mind is: "have you tasted death wioh your experience?"
4. That I can't find a self but nor can I deny that I have a self.
How is bouncing between the extremes of existence and non-existence a basis for anything?
... 8. There is no other liberation except self-liberation and that self-liberation is a naturally occurring part of experience.
What do you mean by naturally occuring? Like you are walking down the street and BAM! one second ignorant dull-witedness and the next moment self-liberation? :thinking:
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Anders » Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:03 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:1. The notion 'unborn'. I understand that experience changes so fast that you can't find the point when it arises.
Uuuuummmm... no actually, something is not unborn just because you cannot sense the time of it's birth, it's a little more complicated than that. If you are walking along and a bomb explodes, just because you did not see the point of arising of the explosion does not mean that it is unborn.


It's not at all more complicated than how Andrew put it. If you look in depth thoroughly enough at a bomb exploding, you can't find a point of arising there either.

Madhyamika is not complicated. It untangles complications. If there is something about it you don't get it's probably because you are adding stuff to the equation you shouldn't, not because it has more levels of complexity.

Unless you are basically just spliting hairs about it being possible to have dull perception and this shouldn't not be mistaken for the non-apprehension of phenomena. But that would be argumentative just for the sake of it.
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I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:49 pm

Damn. These responses are amazing and informative. I'm afraid I'll be reading through them all for quite a while. Thank you so much everyone for your time and patience. I'm really considering the precepts despite my doubts... although, admittedly, some of these have been cleared up. Thank you so much again. :good:

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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ogyen » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:16 pm

Question:
How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Answer: Because of the 'i' in -ist.

:tongue:
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby kirtu » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:33 pm

Anders wrote:
kirtu wrote:
jeeprs wrote:I think underlying this post is the hereditary attitude towards 'what religion means' which dies very hard in the West. There is an implicit idea that if it has anything to do with 'religion', then it must demand allegiance to 'beliefs that cannot be rationally proven'.


But that attitude is not actually a component, or at least not a core component, of religious belief even though religions will have statements that can't be proven rationally. What you are describing with this attitude is blind belief. Blind belief is a characteristic of immature people.

Kirt


It's a core component of a lot of theistic, particularly monotheistic, religion, where faith is held up as a virtue and source of knowledge in and of itself and frequently put in opposition to empirical knowledge.


Faith is a virtue in theistic religions (faith is also a virtue in Buddhism). However it does not need to be blind, unreasoning faith. Blind, unreasoning faith devolves into blind obedience and legalistic observance. I have not personally met rabbis, pastors, priests or imams who would advocate blind faith and legalistic observance although I have met pastors whose minds are closed on particular issues (evolution and homosexuality for example).

The specific form of faith you are trying to skewer is revealed faith - knowledge or belief that comes from an outside source, usually a religious source and not necessarily configured for oneself empirically.

There also are and have been people who manipulated unreasoning faith for particular goals. But they were not able to manipulate all people. Many common Christians in Nazi Germany opposed racist and murderous aspects of the government, albeit too late to matter on a national level, because of their allegiance to loving one another as Jesus is set as an example to love all mankind. At the time this was decried as anti-human and anti-nature by the Nazi's as a form of blind, irrational faith in opposition to empirical knowledge because all animals and humans were overwhelming dominated by their blood (so genetics as understood at the time) and nature clearly creates a dominance hierarchy where the strong devour the weak (the fox and rabbit example).

The way Christianity talks about having one's faith tested shows a commitment to a faith that isn't just without proof, but is meant to endure in face of strong evidence or argument to the contrary.


So you have raised an important point about empirical knowledge. Empirical knowledge can be untrustworthy but secondly does not make moral statements and has little or nothing to say about morality itself. Please remember that many societies have proposed some empirical view to their own advantage (those people are inferior so we can wipe them out or enslave them, these people don't feel pain and they aren't really people so we can just kill them, those people are almost always thieves and liars and have this or that physical characteristic).

And the more capable one is of maintaining such faith, the more pious a believer you are.


Can be, but rather than using piety as some social advantage a mature believer will only be concerned with their own piety and observance in light of their theistic authority (so a form of inward oriented faith).

Which is why a lot of people struggle with the concept of belief in Buddhism and would rather it had none. But it takes a bit of exposure before it becomes apparent that belief in Buddhism is not a virtue in and of itself but rather a pragmatic means to end - the end in this case being actual empirical knowledge.


I think you are trying to make too strong an anti-faith case here. Faith in Buddhism is confidence in the teachings. The confidence can be derived from personal experience and from intuition. So faith in realization, for example, can be derived from a person having seen glimpses of the nature of mind via personal experience. It can also be derived strictly from faith in the sense of revealed faith from an outside source. In Buddhism we have faith followers, insight followers and actually a mixture of the two. And this comes from Shakyamuni directly, so a form of revealed knowledge.

Basically, it reflect the pragmatic role of belief in Buddhism: You don't have to believe this stuff, but take care not to be too rejecting either. The reason someone said this was probably that it is meant to be useful in some sort of context and maybe it could be of use to you to some day. And if not, no biggie.


This is of course a useful view but some people would find this view to be mixed with too much scepticism of the Buddhadharma and would view it as an inhibiting factor to realization.

Kirt
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:00 pm

Ogyen wrote:Question:
How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Answer: Because of the 'i' in -ist.

:tongue:


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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Anders » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:34 pm

kirtu wrote:I think you are trying to make too strong an anti-faith case here. Faith in Buddhism is confidence in the teachings. The confidence can be derived from personal experience and from intuition. So faith in realization, for example, can be derived from a person having seen glimpses of the nature of mind via personal experience. It can also be derived strictly from faith in the sense of revealed faith from an outside source. In Buddhism we have faith followers, insight followers and actually a mixture of the two. And this comes from Shakyamuni directly, so a form of revealed knowledge.


I am not making an anti-faith case at all. I am rather arguing for why belief does have a role to play in Buddhism, precisely because it plays a different role than it does in most monotheistic religion.
"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 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:19 pm

Anders wrote:Unless you are basically just spliting hairs about it being possible to have dull perception and this shouldn't not be mistaken for the non-apprehension of phenomena. But that would be argumentative just for the sake of it.
Actually what I wa trying to say with my clumsy example is that one should not mistake lack of mindfulness as knowledge of the unborn. It is possible not to be able to "see" something because you are not "looking" carefully enough. Is that clearer?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby kirtu » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:16 pm

Anders wrote:
kirtu wrote:I think you are trying to make too strong an anti-faith case here. Faith in Buddhism is confidence in the teachings. The confidence can be derived from personal experience and from intuition. So faith in realization, for example, can be derived from a person having seen glimpses of the nature of mind via personal experience. It can also be derived strictly from faith in the sense of revealed faith from an outside source. In Buddhism we have faith followers, insight followers and actually a mixture of the two. And this comes from Shakyamuni directly, so a form of revealed knowledge.


I am not making an anti-faith case at all. I am rather arguing for why belief does have a role to play in Buddhism, precisely because it plays a different role than it does in most monotheistic religion.


I was making the point that traditionally belief does in fact play the same role in Buddhism that belief plays in most monotheistic religion. The difference is actually that as one gains more and more realization, that realization itself becomes the solid basis for faith in the Buddhadharma.

Kirt
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“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby jeeprs » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:24 pm

gregkarvarnos wrote:I personally would say that it is wisdom gained through practice and not knowledge. I might have a perfect knowledge of the Tripitaka, if I don't put it into practice though how will I develop bodhicitta?


I don't mean scholastic or academic knowledge. The Buddha 'knows and sees', this is why the canon is replete with statements like 'So the Dhamma I declare I have entered & dwell in, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge' (MN 36). There are very many statements of this type. I quite agree on the importance of practice, devotion, commitment, and so on, but at the end of the day, the Buddha is 'one who knows' and as the practice matures, so too does 'direct knowledge'.

As for bodhicitta, my experience of that, such as it is, is that it is something that arises spontaneously, although I am sure it is connected to the practice.
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Jun 12, 2012 8:46 am

jeeprs wrote:As for bodhicitta, my experience of that, such as it is, is that it is something that arises spontaneously, although I am sure it is connected to the practice.
Spontaneously, given the correct causes and conditions. Otherwise, according to the teachings on dependent origination, you just keep spinning around on the samsaric merry-go-round!
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Andrew108 » Tue Jun 12, 2012 8:56 am

gregkavarnos wrote:
Anders wrote:Unless you are basically just spliting hairs about it being possible to have dull perception and this shouldn't not be mistaken for the non-apprehension of phenomena. But that would be argumentative just for the sake of it.
Actually what I wa trying to say with my clumsy example is that one should not mistake lack of mindfulness as knowledge of the unborn. It is possible not to be able to "see" something because you are not "looking" carefully enough. Is that clearer?
:namaste:

So when you look carefully enough what do you see?
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Anders » Tue Jun 12, 2012 9:04 am

kirtu wrote:I was making the point that traditionally belief does in fact play the same role in Buddhism that belief plays in most monotheistic religion. The difference is actually that as one gains more and more realization, that realization itself becomes the solid basis for faith in the Buddhadharma.

Kirt


I don't think it's the same role. Faith is generally a substitute for direct experience in monotheism, not a pathway to it. It's Buddhism's emphasis on experiential knowledge that changes this relationship and that is also why Buddhism has much fewer tensions with science than monotheism suffers from. We are beholden to reality as it is, to some extent at any rate. Buddhism and Abrahamic religions both rely on scriptures but Buddhist ones are meant to point back to facets of the human experience. In contrast, large parts of Abrahamic religion is founded on claims that lie completely outside the realm of human experience. They are, in a very literal sense, matters of faith and will always be so. Buddhist matters of faith don't have to always be so. They can be verified through personal experience. I know there are exceptions among mystical branches of monotheism, but this is a largely periphery aspect of said religions.

I agree that realisation engenders conviction (The Buddha defines a stream-entrant as, among other things, someone with total conviction in the Tathagata) though this is almost self-evident. When events go like this: "Wow, the Buddha was actually completely correct on the most decisive aspect of life. I have seen for myself enlightenment is not a myth and I did it by following the path he laid out" then it's a pretty natural conclusion from there to say "he's probably right about the rest of the path from here too."
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I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:00 am

Andrew108 wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:
Anders wrote:Unless you are basically just spliting hairs about it being possible to have dull perception and this shouldn't not be mistaken for the non-apprehension of phenomena. But that would be argumentative just for the sake of it.
Actually what I wa trying to say with my clumsy example is that one should not mistake lack of mindfulness as knowledge of the unborn. It is possible not to be able to "see" something because you are not "looking" carefully enough. Is that clearer?
:namaste:

So when you look carefully enough what do you see?
At the relative or the absolute level?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Anders » Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:09 am

gregkavarnos wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:So when you look carefully enough what do you see?
At the relative or the absolute level?
:namaste:


Is that how you actually experience stuff? Through lenses of 'absolute' and 'relative'?
"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 » Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:18 am

Anders wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:So when you look carefully enough what do you see?
At the relative or the absolute level?
:namaste:


Is that how you actually experience stuff? Through lenses of 'absolute' and 'relative'?
At this point in time of my development, not having sufficiently stabilised my "post-meditation" state, absolutely, undoubtedly, positively, yes!
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby jeeprs » Tue Jun 12, 2012 12:28 pm

You might find this an interesting essay: Dharma and Religion. It is not a scholarly work but an opinion piece on a site about 'Vedic sciences'. I don't agree with everything in it but I think the basic distinction it makes is a good one.
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