How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Whether you're exploring Buddhism for the first time or you're already on the path, feel free to ask questions of any kind here.

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:42 am

gregkavarnos wrote:
Ikkyu wrote:How can a person have a personal experience of Avalokitesvara and separate that from a hallucination or wishful thinking? The mind does play tricks on us, after all.
When it happens, I guarantee you that you will know 100% that it is not a hallucination or wishful thinking.
:namaste:


That's the same line Christians throw at me about the Holy Spirit.
User avatar
Ikkyu
 
Posts: 185
Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:20 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Ikkyu » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:47 am

wisdom wrote:I still stand by what I said in the context of the OP. He asked about Enlightenment, its reality, and the reality of Enlightened beings. I told him that if he is seeking Enlightenment, Buddhism is superior to all other mind sciences, *even* psychology. Yes I made a comparison, but that comparison already exists since psychology bills itself as a science of the mind. The OP is clearly scientific minded, critical and inclined to disbelieving in anything that smacks of the supernatural (based on his own words). As such I made this comparison in order to dissuade him from thinking that psychology might have the answers he seeks, as well as to say that based on my own experience Buddhism is a science and not a bunch of made up stories about Enlightened beings that can't actually exist. That aside, Psychology and Buddhism is not apples and oranges and people go to both for largely the same reasons, both can offer remedies for the same kinds of problems. In the least it can be said that there are many Buddhists who seek the Dharma to "merely" alleviate their suffering without any thought of Enlightenment, and they find a cure in Buddhism. Then we get into the student-teacher and patient-therapist relationship and the similarities found there.

As for those who think I am somehow deluded in making comparisons, we have to respond to people at their level of understanding of reality and the Dharma and not turn every question into a discourse on non-dual wisdom. Talking about there being no comparisons and so forth makes no sense to a person who is not familiar with the Middle Way and especially makes no sense to someone who has not realized emptiness.

This is of course just my opinion, and people are free to do and think as they like.


All I'm asking for is empirical evidence. Evidence that Buddhist enlightenment is any more real than the ecstasy Christian and Muslim mystics sense. That it's more real than Hindu moksha or the Nirvana of the Jains. To all these individuals the goal may be equated with the end of suffering. People experience these things independent of Buddhism and while I am aware of the concept of Pratekyabuddhas it just doesn't add up to me that this "enlightenment" is anything other than a very convincing bio-chemical experience created by neurotransmitters in the brain, as are all experiences, arguably.
User avatar
Ikkyu
 
Posts: 185
Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:20 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby vairocanafollower » Thu Jul 19, 2012 1:42 pm

You are already biased towards materialism. How do you expect us to fulfil your needs for answers if you have already made up your mind? You need to become a true sceptic in order to find the truth, which means withholding your beliefs till you find if something is right or wrong through investigation...

In the end of the day ‘materialism’ is just another religion with many blind followers, who will not sacrifice their own conclusions on how things work, in fear that they will have to deal with a Universe that is still in its entirety unknown to us...
vairocanafollower
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:31 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby odysseus » Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:19 pm

Maybe this article may convince you to inquire further before drawing harsh conclusions...

http://www.integralscience.org/material ... alism.html
Buddha is best on Earth!
My lord is best...
User avatar
odysseus
 
Posts: 311
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:50 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Andrew108 » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:11 pm

Ikkyu wrote:All I'm asking for is empirical evidence. Evidence that Buddhist enlightenment is any more real than the ecstasy Christian and Muslim mystics sense. That it's more real than Hindu moksha or the Nirvana of the Jains. To all these individuals the goal may be equated with the end of suffering. People experience these things independent of Buddhism and while I am aware of the concept of Pratekyabuddhas it just doesn't add up to me that this "enlightenment" is anything other than a very convincing bio-chemical experience created by neurotransmitters in the brain, as are all experiences, arguably.

I think what you have written is very valid and I share your skepticism. Unfortunately there is no empirical evidence. Enlightenment as an objective fact shrivels up and dies when thought about dualistically as an existent thing. So you won't find anything called enlightenment existing as a 'thing'. It's not something that exists. But that's only the beginning of the story.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
Andrew108
 
Posts: 1502
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:41 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby conebeckham » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:30 pm

Funny thing--empirical evidence regarding the "truth of Dharma" can only be found in one's own stream of experience. Not outside. The very notion of "empirical evidence" presupposes a subject/object dichotomy, a materialist stance which is the dominant paradigm amongst the vast majority of educated humans at this juncture. This sort of view creates myriad reflections, explanations, conceptual frameworks, which can never be more than descriptions, and therefore, partial by their very nature. Incomplete, and in fact, missing the crucial element, even when they are most skillful.

As a result of all this, all the dogma and conceptual proliferation, including that which compares and contrasts, for example, the Enlightenment of Buddhism with Moksha, Divine Grace, Ecstacy, or even the biochemical process of neurotransmitters in the brain, are beside the point, and will never capture the Truth of the Experience itself.

As Chogyal Namkai Norbu Rinpoche said to his son, "Even the Buddha couldn't make everyone happy."
May any merit generated by on-line discussion
Be dedicated to the Ultimate Benefit of All Sentient Beings.
User avatar
conebeckham
 
Posts: 2649
Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:49 pm
Location: Bay Area, CA, USA

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby undefineable » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:39 pm

Ikkyu wrote:All I'm asking for is empirical evidence. Evidence that Buddhist enlightenment is any more real than the ecstasy Christian and Muslim mystics sense. That it's more real than Hindu moksha or the Nirvana of the Jains. To all these individuals the goal may be equated with the end of suffering. People experience these things independent of Buddhism


All the experiences you mentioned, along with all [other] delusions and hallucinations, are self-evidently real, and will be reflected in real biochemical processes measurable by an outside observer. The issue you're driving at is that hallucinatory aspects of experience (such as, we presume, the experience of Brahman in Hindu moksha) are derived through a kind of kink in one's own mental processing, such that it no longer refers to a real external object but still refers to an imagined external object.

However, the 'internal' reality of the mind as it is witnessed by itself (and not the physical reality of the brain that may be witnessed by the mind of a neuroscientist btw :tongue: ) is said to be the sole focus of Buddhist teachings. Sorry I can't find a reference, but I'm sure you could at least glean a matching impression. Delusion and hallucination, therefore, is less of an issue for Buddhism than it might be for most other belief systems, since if such experiences occur, they are to be examined for what they are rather than blindly accepted or dismissed for what they may or may not tell us about the outside world. When Buddhists still find themselves compulsively making grandiose claims about Reality, either to others or as internal dialogue, they are advised to rein them back -to the point at which what's left of them is rationally self-evident to them- and re-focus on something more down-to-earth such as breathing. There are plenty of examples of this in the literature (including online video/audio content).

Ikkyu wrote:while I am aware of the concept of Pratekyabuddhas it just doesn't add up to me that this "enlightenment" is anything other than a very convincing bio-chemical experience created by neurotransmitters in the brain, as are all experiences, arguably.


Correspondence with a deeper 'Reality' becomes more of an issue, I understand, later in the process of becoming fully enlightened, but in the early stages, we still have truisms such as the 1'st 2 of the 4 noble truths to keep us occupied, rather than speculations about God or immortality. In the 'Pratekyabuddhayana for example -still an 'early stage' for us 'maha/vajrayan-ists' (although we still may not have got that far yet)- the 5 skandhas are established to be a major focus of meditation, but at present, they are not contradicted by the findings of modern science, including (in particular) the corresponding science of neuropsychology.

Rather than grasping at the assumed possibility that Buddhism is somehow 'false', those who are distressed by it may be better off finding a belief system -such as materialism (with its assertion that there can be nothing after death for us to worry about)- that doesn't affect them so negatively - The Dalai Lama has repeatedly gone on record to claim that it's usually better (i.e. safer) to follow one's parents' belief system rather than find a new one. However, many of us in the 'rising' generations in the west, myself included, have parents who grew up influenced by the 'hippy' movement to the point where their own belief systems most reflect those that would have seemed alien to our grandparents. The foundation from which we draw our worldviews therefore embraces more than just Christianity and western materialism.

In any case, how many sane people always make 'The Truth' their 1'st priority in life?
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
undefineable
 
Posts: 496
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:34 am

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby catmoon » Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:51 am

The closest thing there is to empirical evidence for enlightenment woud be the fMRI studies done by Matthieu Ricard et al. What it adds up to is pretty clear evidence that long meditative training can make people happier, improve concentration, and maybe even speed up perception. It would also appear that these abilities increase with the amount of time spent in training. The logical extrapolation is that with sufficient time, practice and study, something like enlightenment is possible.

There are still holes in the argument, but they are being closed with a speed that skeptics might find alarming.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
User avatar
catmoon
Former staff member
 
Posts: 3004
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:20 am
Location: British Columbia

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Andrew108 » Sat Jul 21, 2012 11:54 am

catmoon wrote:The closest thing there is to empirical evidence for enlightenment woud be the fMRI studies done by Matthieu Ricard et al. What it adds up to is pretty clear evidence that long meditative training can make people happier, improve concentration, and maybe even speed up perception. It would also appear that these abilities increase with the amount of time spent in training. The logical extrapolation is that with sufficient time, practice and study, something like enlightenment is possible.

There are still holes in the argument, but they are being closed with a speed that skeptics might find alarming.


Quite the reverse actually. In this case it would show that 'enlightenment' was brain-based. Hence the original poster's skepticism.
The mind/body dualism isn't relevant when i comes to understanding realization. One looks to both mind and body and asks if either has an actual foundation.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
Andrew108
 
Posts: 1502
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:41 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby undefineable » Sat Jul 21, 2012 12:57 pm

Andrew108 wrote:
catmoon wrote:The closest thing there is to empirical evidence for enlightenment woud be the fMRI studies done by Matthieu Ricard et al. What it adds up to is pretty clear evidence that long meditative training can make people happier, improve concentration, and maybe even speed up perception. It would also appear that these abilities increase with the amount of time spent in training. The logical extrapolation is that with sufficient time, practice and study, something like enlightenment is possible.

There are still holes in the argument, but they are being closed with a speed that skeptics might find alarming.


Quite the reverse actually. In this case it would show that 'enlightenment' was brain-based. Hence the original poster's skepticism.


But Buddhists are likely to accept that Enlightenment IS brain-based, typically occurring -as is supposed- to creatures with brains. This does not detract from it, because of the point I made about the place of mind in Buddhism.

Enlightenment doesn't just happen as the brain decays or anything like that ofcourse - Given Catmoon's last post, the opposite appears to be the case. This is because you need to use your mind to make enlightenment happen, and then only a small degree is usually possible over the course of a lifetime.

Andrew108 wrote:The mind/body dualism isn't relevant when i comes to understanding realization. One looks to both mind and body and asks if either has an actual foundation.


:twothumbsup: So strict monism is also unlikely to help in that case _ _
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
undefineable
 
Posts: 496
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:34 am

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Andrew108 » Sat Jul 21, 2012 2:12 pm

undefineable wrote:But Buddhists are likely to accept that Enlightenment IS brain-based, typically occurring -as is supposed- to creatures with brains. This does not detract from it, because of the point I made about the place of mind in Buddhism.

If enlightenment is seen as being brain-based or mind-based for that matter, then one assumes that there is a cause. Enlightenment in this sense would be a 'compounded' thing - an effect resting on some prior existing cause (meditation for example).
If we accept the idea that enlightenment is not a compound experience or 'thing' then we would assume that it is beyond cause and effect. So then we have to look - try to find within our experiences - what is it within our experiences that is beyond cause and effect?
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
Andrew108
 
Posts: 1502
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:41 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Boeta » Sat Jul 21, 2012 2:48 pm

Ikkyu, there is no empirical evidence that "enlightenment" exists. What can be stated though is that altered states of mind can be reached through meditation. I recommend reading some of what neuroscientist Sam Harris has written on the subject.

Boeta
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 1:02 am

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby duckfiasco » Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:25 pm

How is an unconditioned state conditioned by the brain?
Namu Amida Butsu
"When people of the Pure Land school chant Namu amida butsu, they are doing zazen with their mouths, and when we do zazen, we are performing Namu amida butsu with our whole body." - Kosho Uchiyama (Opening the Hand of Thought)
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 528
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:37 pm

What's all this about enlightenment happening? Enlightenment is the natural state of the mind. The issue here is how we come to realise this, how we express it.
May all beings be happy
dharmagoat
 
Posts: 1199
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:39 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby undefineable » Sun Jul 22, 2012 12:38 am

Andrew108 wrote:If enlightenment is seen as being brain-based or mind-based for that matter, then one assumes that there is a cause. Enlightenment in this sense would be a 'compounded' thing - an effect resting on some prior existing cause (meditation for example).
If we accept the idea that enlightenment is not a compound experience or 'thing' then we would assume that it is beyond cause and effect. So then we have to look - try to find within our experiences - what is it within our experiences that is beyond cause and effect?


I'm not sure what your argument is here - or whether you've decided yourself which side of the fence you're going to sit on (or indeed whether like me you prefer to 'fence-sit'). Are you saying that any real enlightenment is impossible -since being unconditioned would disallow it neurological correlates- or that it exists above and beyond such things? I can't imagine, still less deduce and know, what full enlightenment is all about in any but the vaguest terms, but I've considered the theory that unconditioned enlightenment arises or is 'uncovered' in dependance on causes and conditions, as considered (though perhaps indirectly) here, for example:
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=102&t=6082&start=200

I find the whole question of caused v. uncaused enlightenment a little too dry and confusing for my taste, but it would certainly make sense that the functions of an enlightened brain would appear, to a neuroscientist, atleast subtly different to those of an unenlightened one. Given that enlightenment doesn't just appear all at once as a thing, but might instead be defined as a pattern of undistractedness (see, for example:
http://www.yellowbamboohk.com/Meditation/easymeditation/Easy%20Meditation.html
), we see that it is simply an alternative -albeit inaccessible- way of being whatever we were. This would explain the inspiration so many of us feel when we reflect on metaphors like 'original face' and sense dimly that everything is already resolved in some mode {I'm a former musician by the way ;) }.

dharmagoat wrote:What's all this about enlightenment happening? Enlightenment is the natural state of the mind.


If you feel this in your bones then kudos to you
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
undefineable
 
Posts: 496
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:34 am

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Andrew108 » Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:07 am

undefineable wrote:I'm not sure what your argument is here - or whether you've decided yourself which side of the fence you're going to sit on (or indeed whether like me you prefer to 'fence-sit'). Are you saying that any real enlightenment is impossible -since being unconditioned would disallow it neurological correlates- or that it exists above and beyond such things? I can't imagine, still less deduce and know, what full enlightenment is all about in any but the vaguest terms, but I've considered the theory that unconditioned enlightenment arises or is 'uncovered' in dependance on causes and conditions, as considered (though perhaps indirectly) here, for example:
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=102&t=6082&start=200

I find the whole question of caused v. uncaused enlightenment a little too dry and confusing for my taste, but it would certainly make sense that the functions of an enlightened brain would appear, to a neuroscientist, atleast subtly different to those of an unenlightened one. Given that enlightenment doesn't just appear all at once as a thing, but might instead be defined as a pattern of undistractedness (see, for example:
http://www.yellowbamboohk.com/Meditation/easymeditation/Easy%20Meditation.html
), we see that it is simply an alternative -albeit inaccessible- way of being whatever we were. This would explain the inspiration so many of us feel when we reflect on metaphors like 'original face' and sense dimly that everything is already resolved in some mode {I'm a former musician by the way ;) }.

I don't mean to be glib but the only way you can answer these questions is to look at your own experiences. Having confidence in understanding what enlightenment is or isn't is the whole point of the Buddhist path. I tend to agree with Dharmagoats sentiment about enlightenment being a 'natural state'. Although I disagree with the idea that there is a 'mind', much in the same way that I disagree that there is a 'brain'.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
Andrew108
 
Posts: 1502
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:41 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby dharmagoat » Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:54 am

Andrew108 wrote:I tend to agree with Dharmagoats sentiment about enlightenment being a 'natural state'. Although I disagree with the idea that there is a 'mind', much in the same way that I disagree that there is a 'brain'.

Hmmm... In terms of the absolute, you are quite right. But where the rules of language are concerned, a 'natural state' that is not the state of something does not make sense.
May all beings be happy
dharmagoat
 
Posts: 1199
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:39 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby Andrew108 » Sun Jul 22, 2012 10:34 am

dharmagoat wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:I tend to agree with Dharmagoats sentiment about enlightenment being a 'natural state'. Although I disagree with the idea that there is a 'mind', much in the same way that I disagree that there is a 'brain'.

Hmmm... In terms of the absolute, you are quite right. But where the rules of language are concerned, a 'natural state' that is not the state of something does not make sense.

It's natural in the sense that it is automatically present and we are never separate from it. It is empty of anything that could serve as giving it an identity and so it is not a state of 'something'.

From Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche -
''The mind has the faculty of apprehending forms, sounds and other phenomena, of experiencing happiness and suffering. Yet the world of appearances has never existed in itself. When you analyze it, nothing is there but emptiness. Just as space is the condition allowing worlds to unfold, the empty nature of the mind is the condition through which it can express itself. Space is without limits; no center or periphery can be assigned to it. Likewise, the mind has neither beginning nor end, neither in time nor in space.''

What I would do here is substitute the word 'mind' with the phrase 'mind/brain'. So the (mind/brain) 'has the faculty of experiencing forms, sounds and other phenomena, of experiencing happiness and suffering.Yet the world of appearances has never existed in itself'. Also... 'likewise the (mind/brain) has neither beginning nor end, neither in time nor in space'. And since there is no beginning or end there is no dwelling either. But of course in terms of ignorance there is the idea that brain and mind are separate and that enlightenment is something 'other'.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
Andrew108
 
Posts: 1502
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:41 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby odysseus » Sun Jul 22, 2012 12:36 pm

Andrew108 wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:I tend to agree with Dharmagoats sentiment about enlightenment being a 'natural state'. Although I disagree with the idea that there is a 'mind', much in the same way that I disagree that there is a 'brain'.

Hmmm... In terms of the absolute, you are quite right. But where the rules of language are concerned, a 'natural state' that is not the state of something does not make sense.

It's natural in the sense that it is automatically present and we are never separate from it. It is empty of anything that could serve as giving it an identity and so it is not a state of 'something'.


I think you´re both correct. No need to become entangled as both your arguments describe Enlightenment well enough IMHO.

:good:
Buddha is best on Earth!
My lord is best...
User avatar
odysseus
 
Posts: 311
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:50 pm

Re: How can Buddhists be so sure of themselves?

Postby dharmagoat » Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:15 pm

odysseus wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:Hmmm... In terms of the absolute, you are quite right. But where the rules of language are concerned, a 'natural state' that is not the state of something does not make sense.

It's natural in the sense that it is automatically present and we are never separate from it. It is empty of anything that could serve as giving it an identity and so it is not a state of 'something'.

I think you´re both correct. No need to become entangled as both your arguments describe Enlightenment well enough IMHO.

Actually, I see no disagreement whatsoever.
:cheers: Ginger beers all round.
May all beings be happy
dharmagoat
 
Posts: 1199
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:39 pm

PreviousNext

Return to Exploring Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests

>