Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

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: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby muni » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:20 am

deepbluehum wrote:[
Imagine in the next 50 years science made it possible to live for 1000 years. During that time the pollution became so thick, the smog blocked the sun. Then, no one born during this time would ever have seen the sun. As time carried on, many stopped believing there is a sun. Someone who lived during the time of the clear sky would say, "Have faith. There is a sun. We must clear the sky to see it."

Is this an irrational request? Skeptics about karma and rebirth are like these people, because an ethical life is not sufficient to clear the smog from the sky and attain the highest most sublime happiness that also puts a definitive end to samsara.



Trust/faith.

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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby Red Faced Buddha » Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:14 am

There will be some superstitious and irrational beliefs in Buddhism,but I think that's more local traditions than anything.I think Buddhism needs to be saved from people like Sam Harris and other "rational" Western Buddhist.They're the ones Buddhism needs to be saved from.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:04 am

I agree with you. No matter how rational something appears to be, it rests on axioms, or assumptions, of some kind, and not all of them can be established rationally. There has to be faith in something for the whole process to get started.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby catmoon » Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:24 am

I don't think the problem is rationalism, I think it's exclusivism. Whichever position you hold, if you hold it to be the truth to the exclusion of any other path, there are going to be difficulties.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:53 am

Still, all of that said, I am a firm advocate of reason. When I am debating on secular philosophy boards I notice persistent attempts to devalue or 'explain' reason. I generally argue that 'you can't explain reason because reason is what explains'. That actually is a very eastern style of argument. But in any case, what most people mean by an 'appeal to reason' is actually an appeal to 'what is tangible'. In other words, when they appeal to reason, what they are really appealing to ultimately is sense-perception. But as Buddhists well know the phenomena of sense perception have no ultimate grounding. So ultimately this appeal to what is tangible, actually ends up in some form of irrational thinking, insofar as the realm of tangible phenomena does not contain its own origin (I.e. is not self-existent.)

Buddhists by contrast value reason and are experts at using reasoning, but they also understand the limits of reason. However in the Buddhist view, the 'limit of reasoning' does not point at something irrational but at something beyond mere logic which is the Buddha's realization of higher truth. They are able to draw on this realization to use reason most effectively.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby undefineable » Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:57 pm

jeeprs wrote:But in any case, what most people mean by an 'appeal to reason' is actually an appeal to 'what is tangible'. In other words, when they appeal to reason, what they are really appealing to ultimately is sense-perception.

This is a conflation of reason and empiricism - An 'empiricist' uses data from the senses to understand reality, only using reason to make sense of that data. The empiricist justification of the materialist philosophy followed by many scientists (and all 'scientism-ists') consists of the circular argument:

"I can prove truths, using the Scientific Method, from sense objects alone; therefore only objects sensed while applying the scientific method can be true".

This is (of course) profoundly irrational in the fullest negative connotation of the word (anti-rational would be a better term), and clearly comparable to the almost-parallel Christian argument:

"I can gain a clear impression of reality, using the Bible, from reading alone; therefore only reading the Bible can provide a clear impression of reality".

{I've arranged both 'arguments' symmetrically from the word 'therefore'; the only difference is that the scientific method proves its limited truths, whereas the Bible proves nothing at all.}

So, "rationalists" don't always look so rational under scrutiny - Many of them would feel kinda :toilet: if advances in detection equipment proved that ghosts were simply inhabitants of parallel dimensions/universes 'wormholing' into ours {Precisely why that won't happen :jumping: }.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby undefineable » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:33 pm

So Buddhism, to my understanding, is less irrational than materialism, in that its rational justification doesn't display the kinds of gaping holes I just pointed out.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:57 pm

catmoon wrote:I don't think the problem is rationalism, I think it's exclusivism. Whichever position you hold, if you hold it to be the truth to the exclusion of any other path, there are going to be difficulties.

That's true.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby Martin007 » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:35 am

DaftChris wrote: why believe in things that ignorant people from the past believed?


I don't think they were ignorant - early Indian thought was remarkably sophisticated.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby windsweptliberty » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:59 pm

It's great that you are questioning. I think the answer lies in whether your interpretation of the dharma is literal of figurative - or a combination. :heart: My interpretation tends to lean towards the figurative side.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:51 pm

You (anybody) really have to be specific about what you mean by "superstition" or "irrational beliefs".
For example, people ask if the other realms...hungry ghosts, hell realms, god realms and so forth are "real" or not ...or are they just metaphors for our human neuroses"
...but that is not really a very good question. More accurately, one should ask "Do beings experience other realms as realistically as we experience the human realm?" And the answer is yes, and it isn't because these "realms" (a curious word to begin with) "exist" in any sense that is more or less real than our own, but because these experiences are not different from our own neuroses, but they are carried (by karma) to the extreme. So, it isn't even a matter of "real vs. metaphor" but more a matter of degree. So, beings are reborn in various realms, but just as with this realm, it is a projection of the mind.

Karma is also something which is often misunderstood..
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby windsweptliberty » Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:16 pm

Foaming monk, I always see a lot of thoughtful insight into your explainations! Thank you.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby Alfredo » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:18 pm

I would say that Buddhism is similar to other religions in this regard. We should distinguish "irrational" (counter to reason) from "arational" (not resolvable by reason) aspects. For example, reincarnation is neither proven nor disproven--it is as reasonable to believe in it as to reject it (though some Buddhists disagree). Buddhism contains many beliefs of this nature. Outright irrational beliefs (such as the flat earth, or spontaneous generation) are less central to the religion, and tend to be abandoned as soon as they become untenable.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby undefineable » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:58 am

Alfredo wrote:I would say that Buddhism is similar to other religions in this regard. We should distinguish "irrational" (counter to reason) from "arational" (not resolvable by reason) aspects. For example, reincarnation is neither proven nor disproven--it is as reasonable to believe in it as to reject it (though some Buddhists disagree). Buddhism contains many beliefs of this nature. Outright irrational beliefs (such as the flat earth, or spontaneous generation) are less central to the religion, and tend to be abandoned as soon as they become untenable.

:good:

windsweptliberty wrote:I think the answer lies in whether your interpretation of the dharma is literal of figurative - or a combination.

Or somewhere inbetween - rather than a mix of extremes :thinking:
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby futerko » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:24 am

Alfredo wrote:For example, reincarnation is neither proven nor disproven--it is as reasonable to believe in it as to reject it (though some Buddhists disagree).

From a dualistic viewpoint it would seem the reasonable belief that follows from something neither proven or disproven would be to remain open without comitting to either stance.
From a non-dualistic perspective it seems a bit irrelevant, if you realise the continuity of the middle way then belief doesn't really come into it.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby windsweptliberty » Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:07 am

undefineable wrote:Or somewhere inbetween - rather than a mix of extremes


Your right. :twothumbsup:
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby Alfredo » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:45 am

Futerko wrote:
From a dualistic viewpoint it would seem the reasonable belief that follows from something neither proven or disproven would be to remain open without comitting to either stance.


Good point. As a practical matter, a lot of us seem to need this type of belief. Perhaps it is just social conformism, or a deep-seated human desire for reassurance. Perhaps the belief itself allows us to perceive life in a way that we would not otherwise be able to.
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby futerko » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:08 pm

Alfredo wrote:Futerko wrote:
From a dualistic viewpoint it would seem the reasonable belief that follows from something neither proven or disproven would be to remain open without comitting to either stance.


Good point. As a practical matter, a lot of us seem to need this type of belief. Perhaps it is just social conformism, or a deep-seated human desire for reassurance. Perhaps the belief itself allows us to perceive life in a way that we would not otherwise be able to.


True. The other aspect of this of course is to provide some kind of moral compass, which can be seen in regard to karma as well as in monotheistic belief systems, and kind of lacking in these days of nihilism. Maybe its just that people are less gullible these days, but haven't yet realised how to find their own way to a wider perspective beyond selfishness.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby Alfredo » Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:53 pm

Religious rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, atheists /materialists / etc. seem about as well-behaved as religious folk. Since this is hard for many people to believe, we see even irreligious people wanting to bring up their children as "something."
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Re: Is Buddhism just as irrational as other beliefs?

Postby undefineable » Mon Dec 24, 2012 8:00 pm

Alfredo wrote:Futerko wrote:
From a dualistic viewpoint it would seem the reasonable belief that follows from something neither proven or disproven would be to remain open without comitting to either stance.


Good point. As a practical matter, a lot of us seem to need this type of belief. Perhaps it is just social conformism, or a deep-seated human desire for reassurance. Perhaps the belief itself allows us to perceive life in a way that we would not otherwise be able to.


I might say that your 'belief in the validity of a belief' depends on whether the original hypothesis is demonstrably nonsensical, but then who is to say either way? - Whether we label something 'likely' or 'unlikely' makes no difference as to its truth; even a mathematically proven 'probability' doesn't affect an actual outcome. Your mentioning 'need', 'reassurance', and (even) 'conformism' imply that the hypothesis in question is God or Heaven, but if it's something like cyclic rebirth in samsara -which only the hardest kernel of ego can derive comfort from- then this becomes tricky. I suppose one stance always entails more commitment -even if it's merely the emotional effect of the suggestion- than the other; this side is best avoided in my view.
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