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

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
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Re: when asked for ... "evidence" ... ideas, please ?

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:47 am

Experience of debating such questions on forums, and talking to friends, indicates that the only real answer to this question is 'sensitivity to suffering' - in other words, the ability to respond to the noble truth of suffering. If a person is not open to this possibility, then there is no way to talk to them about spiritual ideas. They won't generally see the point.

(I suppose this is one of the meanings of the Fire Sermon in the Lotus Sutra. You have to find ways to make the topic interesting, so as to interest those who are not really interested in them.)
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Nov 27, 2012 2:20 pm

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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.

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

Postby wisdom » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:10 pm


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

Postby wisdom » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:35 pm


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

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Nov 27, 2012 11:10 pm

I mentioned before, that if your context is based purely on the Pali literature, the Mahayana perspective might not apply. This doesn't mean that one is right and the other is wrong. It is quite unfortunate that a lot of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists have never read much Pali literature. It is rich in content, precise and direct.

But if the Dharma is the truth, then it is still the truth regardless of who said it. Fire is fire and it doesn't matter if one rubs two sticks together as the first caveman might have done, or uses an electric cigarette lighter, as long as the flame is produced. If practicing the Mahayana teachings results in the perfect cessation of suffering and rebirth, then it is Dharma, and proving that Shakayamuni really said it is of little importance to the Mahayanist.

I am always fascinated by those who rely exclusively on words from the Pali literature which were not written down until a century after they were (probably) spoken, recorded in a language that the Buddha did not speak, and preserved some 5,000 miles south of where he is said to have spoken them, and who refer to these texts as the absolute and exclusive gospel of Buddhism as though Indian society was any less complex 2,500 years ago than it is today.

Do you think that in 40 years of teaching, the Pali canon is all that was taught? Just as there are people with challenging viewpoints on this forum which is younger than the internet itself, don't you suppose the Buddha had forty years of conversations and debates with yogis, sadhus, Jains, Brahmins and all sorts of people? It is my understanding that he gave teachings to different types of people according to the questions they asked, and in the context of their own understanding. There is also much evidence to support the idea that Mahayana teachings were not just some reinterpretation that developed later on.

While the claim that Mahayana Sutras elevate the Buddha to the level of a superhuman or celestial being cannot be disputed, there are plenty of stories (including the legend of the birh of Prince Siddartha) in the Pali literature which can be interpreted the same way. Elaboration and selectivity is a fact of historical accounting!

But what is ironic is to insist, on the one hand, that the Buddha was an ordinary flesh & blood human, essentially indistinguishable from anyone else, and then in the same breath to suggest that since his time obviously nobody else has attained realization (of the perfect cessation of suffering and rebirth) ...ironic because, how would you know?

If a Buddha looks the same as you or me, there could be thousands of Buddhas all around us, driving taxis or whatever. If we insist that a Buddha is a regular guy and isn't radiating rainbows and flying around on a lotus flower, then there could have been many since Shakyamuni's time, and many traditions insist that there have been many enlightened teachers. If Only 1 person every so many thousands of years gets enlightened from practicing dharma, it must be pretty poor quality stuff.

Citing the insubstantial and illusory nature of our composite "reality"...and then criticizing Mahayanists because their description of The Buddha doesn't conform to that insubstantial and illusory "reality" is hardly an argument.

If you say a Buddha no longer perceives an object, then how could the Buddha touch the ground and say "The Earth is my witness" of even see and talk to people? If all thinking stops when one becomes enlightened, then how would one know that one is enlightened? That understanding makes no sense.
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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.

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

Postby greentara » Wed Nov 28, 2012 4:00 am

Padma, You surprise me! "If a Buddha looks the same as you or me, there could be thousands of Buddhas all around us, driving taxis or whatever. If we insist that a Buddha is a regular guy and isn't radiating rainbows and flying around on a lotus flower, then there could have been many since Shakyamuni's time, and many traditions insist that there have been many enlightened teachers. If Only 1 person every so many thousands of years gets enlightened from practicing dharma, it must be pretty poor quality stuff."
You are being overly optimistic to think there are thousands of enlightened beings around us. To subdue the ego, to truely detach oneself from family, possessions, the strong sense of ownership, concepts and engrained habits you have to be very ripe 'just like a fruit about to drop from the tree' and then maybe the mystery of divine grace is still needed.

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

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Nov 28, 2012 4:42 am

Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.

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

Postby joda » Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:02 am


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

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

Postby joda » Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:57 am


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

Postby joda » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:01 am


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

Postby greentara » Wed Nov 28, 2012 1:35 pm

Has anyone seen the series on TV featuring Derren Brown? He is a British illusionist, mentalist and hypnotist. I am amazed at how open to suggestion people are and he's able to manipulate them into doing the most audacious and often horrific acts. You'd like to think he wouldn't be able to penetrate your defences but could he? Watching this program you wonder how skilled powers could take advantage of you. The human mind appears to be very vulnerable.

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

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:59 pm

Actually, I am not a Pure Land practitioner, specifically, although I am very familiar with it.
And, I am very skeptical in my approach to dharma, and my convictions are rooted in that skepticism.

But to respond to a few of your comments,
No, the Pali literature does not threaten my understanding, or 'destroy the basis' of my practice.
If you rely on snippets from one text or another, and apply them narrowly, then yes, you can establish a lot of contradictions.
But you can widen the context of your understanding and see
where all these different teachings and schools lead to the same thing.
People should really read from all these sources, I think.

As far as why Buddhists need "faith" ...I would say "faith" (and you could substitute a lot of words for that) but i think in the Buddhist context it is more of a tool, or method for letting go of attachment. Intellectual understanding is a great thing, but it can also be something that we cling to for in order to justify how right we are about this or that. "Faith" is really, a totally stupid thing...and that's the beauty of it. Chanting to be reborn is Amitabha's Pure Land is probably one of the most idiotic things a person can do --from an intellectual perspective--and that is why it is so liberating. It is the manifestation of the complete letting go of the self. But Buddhism doesn't have a monopoly on this sort of thing.

There is a term used in Japanese Pure Land buddhism, ShinJin, which is usually translated as 'faith", but that is not really the right meaning. It doesn't mean blind faith or "belief" as one usually thinks of "belief in God". The meaning has more to do with absolute conviction based on what one considers to be valid reasoning. This does not contradict what the Buddha taught. A lot of Buddhists, especially , I think, in the west, are not motivated at all by fear of rebirth, or by karma or by some abstract notion of 'enlightenment'. Buddha said to test out the teachings, apply them fully to one's own experience and then see if, in one's own experience, they prove to be valid.

If you think of rebirth as only occurring when the physical body perishes, and regard consciousness as a sort of "thing" that goes from one body to another, the way a soul goes to heaven in Christianity, that is a very common but simplistic way of understanding. Buddha taught that there is nothing that exists that can be truly regarded as a 'self", so what can die and what can be reborn? Yet, awareness persists from moment to moment, even in an ever-changing, ever dying and ever-being reborn body. We die and are reborn every second. Every part of the baby you were when you were born is dead! A dead baby. gone. It is the illusion of a continuous "me" that causes problems. So, from the Buddhist point of view, awareness is not dependent on any continuity of the body whatsoever to begin with, so rebirth from moment to moment or lifetime to lifetime is pretty much the same thing. An arbitrary distinction.

If you try to grasp Dharma in the same way you might have grasped Christianity, or regard them as a study of comparative religions, then this is going to lead to confusion. If you say, "Well, I came from such and such a religious background, and I rejected that, and some of the stuff you are saying sure reminds me of that, so I reject that too, and here is why you are wrong" then the discussion really isn't about the teachings themselves, or what they really point to, but about one's own baggage.

Anyway, what is your point?
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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.

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

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

Postby wisdom » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:32 pm


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

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Nov 29, 2012 1:11 am

Joda, please correct me if I am mistaken,
but I think you are regarding "enlightenment"
in much the same way that Christians regard heaven,
as a sort of a final destination or goal thing.
While essentially, that may be true,
you really have to look at what is meant by "destination"
and whether a destination is only realized at the end of a journey
or can be reached constantly, in every step of that journey.

For Christians, this would be going to heaven when you die,
reached by accepting Christ as your savior and praying for forgiveness of your sins.

If one insists on applying this sense of definition to Buddhism, it might be assumed that
for the Buddhist, by practicing meditation, perhaps some austerities, chanting, etc.
so that at some point one will have reached enlightenment.

But in both these examples, reaching the goal is an "either - or" proposition
and the topic of this thread is, "what evidence is there that enlightenment (nirvana) exists?"

However, while some schools may in effect present the Dharma in this manner,
generally speaking, Buddhists do not look at "reaching nirvana" in that way.
"enlightenment" is not an either-or proposition...
do such and such and such and then you reach nirvana or your buddha-nature or whatever.
it is a little more subtle than that.
and so, one can encounter many realized teachers
and people who really are free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
This doesn't mean they never have a bad day.
But what the Dharma teaches is how to experience joy without depending on it
and how to experience sadness without dwelling on it.
A little bit of enlightenment gained from non-attachment to the passing appearances of things.

In spite of many western scholarly interpretations,
The Dharma is really more process-oriented than goal oriented.
It's not like you are wallowing in samsara an then you try really hard and then suddenly you have achieved nirvana,
like trying to get a stubborn cork out of a wine bottle.
And so you often hear The Buddha being referred to as having attained
"Complete Enlightenment", meaning having completely eliminated
the generation (karma) of attachment, revulsion and ignorance
(called the three poisons) and all of their various manifestations (greed, anger, and so on).

What the Buddha noticed was that regardless of what people believed,
whether they thought reincarnation or rebirth was real or not,
whether they were materialists, or Vedic priests, kings, cow herders or whatever
or even whether they were human or not,
all this stuff didn't really matter. What really mattered was that
all beings were driven by the same insatiable desire to derive happiness
from things that had no lasting substance to them,
or were harmful to them. So, they suffer as a result.

What he taught was that the path to liberation from that endless craving
begins with working with ones own thoughts and emotions,
by analyzing them (vippasana), by patiently letting them exhaust themselves (shamatha)
and by employing various means (the eightfold path, the precepts and so forth)
in order to take control over one's actions of body, speech and mind
so that one can realize complete liberation, just as he did.
The Buddha considered it to be a very workable proposition.

This is different that saying there is some kind of a a self, or some sort of non-self,
that suppresses all desire until all of a sudden one becomes a buddha.
That's why, if somebody asks for evidence,
You know, "evidence of what?"
...evidence that if I eliminate the causes of suffering, I will no longer experience suffering?
What kind of evidence does one need to prove that?
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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.

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

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:35 am

:good:

Truly great posting.

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

Postby Monlam Tharchin » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:23 am

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

Postby songhill » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:52 am


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

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:59 am

I think there are a couple of things to consider.
If you say, "simply the absence of craving" then you have to look at what is meant by craving,
in the buddhist context.
You might think it means never having any motivation towards accomplishing something,
or of wanting to get somewhere, or of wanting to do anything. Just sort of going blank.
But if that were the case, nirvana could be easily attained by a swift blow to the head.
When people asked the Buddha various questions, did he want to answer them?
Did he desire to have people stop suffering?
During the rainy (monsoon) season, did he crave having a dry place to sit?

So, is "craving" merely a matter of wanting something that you don't have,
maybe something that you need, or that would make things better,
or does it have to do more with attachment to desire,
and the feeling that you just can't rest until you get what you want?
Or does it have to do with "taking refuge" in things which are composites,
which cannot bring lasting happiness,
and of searching outside of oneself for peace of mind
when, maybe, peace of mind can only be found by working with the mind itself?
So, defining "craving" is important.

The other thing is,
if you are talking about nirvana in the sense of positive/negative
(the main point of the question, I think)
My understanding is that in nirvana, nothing extra is gained.
you don't acquire anything that you didn't already have.
So, it's like when you clean a window, and remove all the dirt and grime,
the window's original nature is clear.
You don't have to add anything to it,
or coat it with any sort of "clear paint" or anything to make it clear.
Once the dirt is removed, the window is as it always has been, fundamentally.
So in that sense, nirvana is simply realization of the mind's original state,
realized when craving and attachment to illusions cease.

But just as a glass window isn't merely an open hole in the wall,
neither is nirvana simply the absence of everything,
because the fundamental nature of mind is awareness.
Awareness is what the mind manifests as.
And we know, or can infer anyway, that the mind's true nature,
while being empty of any shape or color or size specifically,
that the mind's original state is the state of being free from craving,
and that freedom from craving likewise brings peace of mind.

"Peace of mind" is essentially the absence of craving.
And we can infer this, because
peace of mind (freedom from a troubled mind) is ultimately what everyone is after,
which is why we do all of the things we do in order to be happy,
and the absence of craving is ultimately what everyone is after,
and during those brief but frequent moments when we experience it,
like right after we finish a meal and no longer crave food,
or finish having sex, or get some money after being without money,
every time our cravings are satisfied, we are happy with that.
But the problem, the nature of suffering, is that
happiness doesn't last, because the causes of that satisfaction are temporary.
What a Buddha has realized is the perfection of the end of craving,
complete realization, perfect peace of mind without any residue or going back,
which is nirvana.

(Note: I have been writing a lot here, and in the previous post, but this is just my limited understanding of things, based on what I have remembered from my wonderful teachers. The reason I write in the style of breaking up concepts by line is that I find it easier to express words this way, and to follow long, drawn out concepts this way. This is the way speeches are often written for people who give speeches. Unfortunately, it also can make it sound as though I am either an authority or a real pompous ass, and trust me... I am not an authority!!!)


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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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