Sam Harris on Buddhism

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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby futerko » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:53 pm

songhill wrote:
futerko wrote:But isn't vijñāna the fifth aggregate?


Yes it is. Here is some interesting stuff.

Man, according to the Buddha, is a psycophysical unit (nâmarûpa). This is made up of three components - the sperm and the ovum which go to make up the fertilised ovum or zygote along with the impact of the stream of consciousness of a discarnate spirit (gandhabba) or what is called the re-linking consciousness (patisandhi-viññâna). - The Message of the Buddha by K.N. Jayatilleke page 82


You know that is a Theravadan text?
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby wayland » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:22 pm

Nice post.
songhill wrote:Some helpful background. The Buddha does not deny the self (which in Pali is natthatta). He denies that the five grasping aggregates are the self, e.g., material shape, the first aggregate, is not the self.

No self to be found within the five aggregates, rather like the simile of the chariot and its parts. I think Buddha is pointing out that whatever we wish to cling to as 'self' is not.

In fact, the Buddha teaches to abandon all desire for what is not the self.

Absolutely. And perhaps to abandon all notions of what self is.

Next, it is not the self that transmigrates in hindu religions including Buddhism. It is usually the jiva. In Buddhism, consciousness or vijñâna transmigrates, not the jiva or the self (âtma).

I'm no expert on Hindu religions. I'm happy to leave others to decide whether Buddhism is one or not. :smile:

When the sentient being’s life comes to an end and his body dies, the consciousness will leave his body to take birth again together with his karmas. ~ Maharatnakuta Sutra

Seems good to me. It goes back to what you were saying about Buddha teaching us to abandon desire for what is not the self. He doesn't even allow 'consciousness' to fulfill that role. In this way the release is total.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:26 pm

futerko wrote:
songhill wrote:
futerko wrote:But isn't vijñāna the fifth aggregate?


Yes it is. Here is some interesting stuff.

Man, according to the Buddha, is a psycophysical unit (nâmarûpa). This is made up of three components - the sperm and the ovum which go to make up the fertilised ovum or zygote along with the impact of the stream of consciousness of a discarnate spirit (gandhabba) or what is called the re-linking consciousness (patisandhi-viññâna). - The Message of the Buddha by K.N. Jayatilleke page 82


You know that is a Theravadan text?


The book, The Message of the Buddha?
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby futerko » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:30 pm

songhill wrote:
futerko wrote:You know that is a Theravadan text?


The book, The Message of the Buddha?

Yes

wayland wrote:He doesn't even allow 'consciousness' to fulfill that role. In this way the release is total.

Right, the thread of continuity can't really be called "consciousness" in the everyday sense that we understand it.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:50 pm

wayland wrote:Nice post.
songhill wrote:Some helpful background. The Buddha does not deny the self (which in Pali is natthatta). He denies that the five grasping aggregates are the self, e.g., material shape, the first aggregate, is not the self.

No self to be found within the five aggregates, rather like the simile of the chariot and its parts. I think Buddha is pointing out that whatever we wish to cling to as 'self' is not.



The Buddha sounds a bit like Aristotle. The aggregates or skandha are the attributes; self or âtma is the substance. What is an attribute like material shape, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies and consciousness, are not substance (anâtman).
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby wayland » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:43 pm

songhill wrote:The Buddha sounds a bit like Aristotle.

Don't know Aristotle either. :shrug:
self or âtma is the substance.

What kind of substance?
What is an attribute like material shape, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies and consciousness, are not substance (anâtman).

I'm interested in how you define "substance". I've never encountered such a teaching. It may be that I'm misreading something.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:40 am

Songhill wrote:The Buddha sounds a bit like Aristotle. The aggregates or skandha are the attributes; self or âtma is the substance.


Buddhism is distinguished from the Vedantic traditions, and also many other forms of philosophy, precisely because it denies that there is any such thing as 'substance' in the sense understood by Aristotle. There is nowhere in the Pali texts were âtma is said to be 'a substance' or 'a being' or 'an object of knowledge'. It is a subtle point, and not to be interpreted as a form of nihilism. But the meaning of Śūnyatā, as developed in the Mahayaha is precisely the 'absence of inherent existence in any particular being'.

I know this is probably going to result in a philosophical debate which, in terms of this particular thread, will likely be

:offtopic:

but I just wanted to point that out.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:42 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I mean it's one thing to reserve judgement on things like karma, rebirth, odd cosmologies etc. It's quite another to emphatically state they have no possibility of existence at all..if one believes that, why bother with Buddhism? Just hump, drink, sleep, eat avoid pain and seek pleasure.


:good:

*raises eyebrows grinning*

That's a good question.

*smiles and grins*

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:58 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:So again I ask, why would someone like this be interested in Buddhism? Doesn't science, and philosophies derivative of western science provide all the answers needed for the naive realists worldview? I really question the usefulness of Buddhism to someone who thinks that thought is a mere byproduct of physical existence.


As someone who was once an atheist in my life, I can tell you that it leaves one unfulfilled, and there is something within oneself that yearns for more.
There is also an intuitive knowledge that one is being arrogant, no matter how uninsistant that "small voice" within ourselves may be.
It is, actually I think based on fear and anger, and in order to maintain an atheist worldview, it requires actually intentionally shutting out and dismissing information that might be contrary to one's held conclusions. It's much like fundamentalist Christianity in that sense, saying that only the Bible is true. You just force everything else out of your mind. Only science exists, all other accounts must be superstitious nonsense, etc. I also remember setting myself up in my mind as "superior" to those others who believed such "superstitious nonsense" when in actuality, I was being quite ignorant, as to the actual diversity of what actually does exist in the world. And just like fundamentalist Christianity, you just don't think about anything to the contrary or examine any such evidence with any amount of actual time and seriousness. Such thoughts are sortof scary, and so you just continue to associate with and discuss with people who affirm your worldview, rather than challenge it and present you with more information and a more rounded, and actually more empirical set of information and evidence.

That's the irony of atheism, they claim to be scientific, but they are actually quite biased towards materialism. True application of the scientific method means having an open mind and looking at all evidence. Not simply dismissing some out of hand, as being "irrelevant" and saying others are infallible.

That's actually quite bad science.

In my experience atheists are about as irrational and unreasonable and unscientific as fundamentalist Christians.
They sortof act as though they worship science, but they are actually afraid of anything that is not materialistic or mathematical.
I think it's rooted in a fear of being afraid that one won't be able to understand anything that falls outside of mathematical science. If one can't "measure" it, then how can one understand it? And if one can't understand it, then it's "out of control". I think that's kindof what it is, a fear of loosing control, combined with an anger toward certain specific religions and religious behavior.


At least that was my experience.

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:30 pm

Yeah, the complete rejection of anything but "one truth" in modern Atheism seems to make it quite similar to Christian fundamentalism.

A fun thing to do (well, maybe not fun exactly) is read arguments between "new athiests" and Fundamentalist Christians on facebook groups, the trappings are different, but ironically they are arguments for the exact same parameters of what constitutes truth, truth is always a dualistic notion of "is" or "isn't". In addition, both groups take the same jabbering, shrill tone most of the time. You could argue that the Athiests at least have science on the side of their form of reductionist worldview...but it's still reductionism, and taken as whole (rather than in parts, where it seems to make sense - for instance belief in evolution, modern physics etc.) it actually seems to rest on some pretty crazy assumptions.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:32 pm

songhill wrote:The Buddha sounds a bit like Aristotle. The aggregates or skandha are the attributes; self or âtma is the substance. What is an attribute like material shape, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies and consciousness, are not substance (anâtman).
Do not try to use the thread to show off your one trick pony (again), stay on topic.
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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: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:27 pm

One good thing about Sam Harris that I may have misjudged, he is very much open to the notion of reincarnation and the paranormal. He writes:

My position on the paranormal is this: While there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized. If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out. And if it is true that toddlers occasionally start speaking in ancient languages (as Ian Stevenson alleges), I would like to know about it. However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. The fact that I have not spent any time on this should suggest how worthy of my time I think such a project would be. Still, I found these books interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claims of religious dogmatists. (Here, I am making a point about gradations of certainty: can I say for certain that a century of experimentation proves that telepathy doesn’t exist? No. It seems to me that reasonable people can disagree about the data. Can I say for certain that the Bible and the Koran show every sign of having been written by ignorant mortals? Yes. And this is the only certainty one needs to dismiss the God of Abraham as a creature of fiction.) (Highlight is mine.)


I hope Mr. Harris has read the late Professor Robert Almeder's book, Death & Personal Survival: The Evidence For Life After Death. It is a must read, especially, for Buddhists who are tired of the uninformed pronouncements of secular Buddhists that reincarnation could very well be a Buddhist fiction.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:28 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
songhill wrote:The Buddha sounds a bit like Aristotle. The aggregates or skandha are the attributes; self or âtma is the substance. What is an attribute like material shape, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies and consciousness, are not substance (anâtman).
Do not try to use the thread to show off your one trick pony (again), stay on topic.
:namaste:


:oops:
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Fri Dec 28, 2012 10:01 pm

While I consider Buddhism almost unique among the world’s religions as a repository of contemplative wisdom, I do not consider myself a Buddhist. My criticism of Buddhism as a faith has been published, to the consternation of many Buddhists. ~ Sam Harris

Sam Harris is sort of right about religious theology which is always trying to reify the hyper abstract. Indeed, no amount of writing and speculating about God is going to bring about his materialization. Sam Harris may also be right about prayer. But I am not sure that he is right about religion (including shamanism), in general, if by religion we mean the gnosis or acknowledgment of the transcendent, that is, something outside and beyond nature (samsara) which, I hasten to add, is at the heart of Buddhism.

Sam Harris seems to be espousing a kinder and gentler form of materialism which has nothing to do with any kind of transcendent; certainly not one that is ineffable and cannot be captured by the nets of the human senses. But materialism has not been proven. It has no ground upon which to stand. Its claims are mere speculation. That we are not more than the sum total of our psycho-physical body has not been proven, either. In my humble view, where primitive materialism ends, true religion begins as if to say, "Your self is greater than the sum total of your body parts—it is your true refuge, not your human body."
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby undefineable » Sat Dec 29, 2012 3:04 am

songhill wrote:if by religion we mean the gnosis or acknowledgment of the transcendent, that is, something outside and beyond nature (samsara) which, I hasten to add, is at the heart of Buddhism.

Another understanding of 'samsara' is of a fundamental whirlpool of self-centredness associated with the particular specimens of living nature, rather than of the whole of nature as opposed to something 'transcendent' to it. I'm unconvinced that the most fully enlightened philosophy would accept the concept of transcendence -let alone that of something 'outside and beyond nature' (which wouldn't be 'transcendent' in the strict literal sense)- since Buddhist philosophy actually embraces an immaterial mind as part of nature in the usual 'scientific' sense. Perhaps that's why Sam Harris is prepared to give time to reincarnation that he won't give to God :thinking: [/quote]
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby undefineable » Sat Dec 29, 2012 3:32 am

songhill wrote:That we are not more than the sum total of our psycho-physical body has not been proven, either.

You imply that the only options are a) the above and b) a kind of mystical 'non-psychophysical non-part' somehow knitting that body together. A full picture of what we are might involve more than just spurious substances :soapbox:

On the other hand, materialism, as embraced by 'New Atheists', fails to account for the integrity of wholes - We may feel torn into our constituent shreds by this philosophy, but how can we then account for the sense of hanging together in one piece that we may have experienced before our exposure to it? Even Buddhist philosophy -with its 'four imponderables'- struggles here, unless perhaps you're a realised meditator and so don't even need it to resolve such issues :thinking:
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:23 am

undefineable wrote:
songhill wrote:That we are not more than the sum total of our psycho-physical body has not been proven, either.

You imply that the only options are a) the above and b) a kind of mystical 'non-psychophysical non-part' somehow knitting that body together. A full picture of what we are might involve more than just spurious substances :soapbox:

On the other hand, materialism, as embraced by 'New Atheists', fails to account for the integrity of wholes - We may feel torn into our constituent shreds by this philosophy, but how can we then account for the sense of hanging together in one piece that we may have experienced before our exposure to it? Even Buddhist philosophy -with its 'four imponderables'- struggles here, unless perhaps you're a realised meditator and so don't even need it to resolve such issues :thinking:


Either we are greater than the sum total of our psycho-physical organism (the pañcaskandha) or we are not. Buddhism says we are; the materialists say no. I think I would put Sam Harris in the category of Buddhism since he is not against the paranormal (= beyond the range of scientifically known).
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:11 am

The fact that Harris is prepared to entertain the notion of what we classify as 'paranormal phenomena' does not mean that his views are not essentially materialist. I mean he says things like 'As students of the Buddha, we should dispense with Buddhism', as if 'we' now know 'the truth' which invalidates most of what those silly Buddhists - poor, old-fashioned things that they were - were obliged to cling through, due to their being Superstitious Believers.

Jackson Lears wrote:Harris is not interested in religious experience. He displays an astonishing lack of knowledge or even curiosity about the actual content of religious belief or practice, announcing that “most religions have merely canonized a few products of ancient ignorance and derangement and passed them down to us as though they were primordial truths.” Unlike medicine, engineering or even politics, religion is “the mere maintenance of dogma, is one area of discourse that does not admit of progress.” Religion keeps us anchored in “a dark and barbarous past,” and what is generally called sacred “is not sacred for any reason other than that it was thought sacred yesterday.” Harris espouses the Enlightenment master narrative of progress, celebrating humans’ steady ascent from superstition to science; no other sort of knowledge, still less wisdom, will do.

There is one religious practice Harris does admit to tolerating: Buddhist meditation, which allows one to transcend mind-body dualism and view the self as process. Only the wisdom of the East offers any access to this experience of self, Harris insists, as he tosses off phrases plucked at random from a Zen handbook. Given the persistent popularity of the wisdom of the East among the existential homeless of the West, the exemption Harris grants Buddhism is perfectly predictable, as is his thoroughgoing ignorance of Western intellectual tradition. “Thousands of years have passed since any Western philosopher imagined that a person should be made happy, peaceful, or even wise, in the ordinary sense, by his search for truth,” Harris proclaims, ignoring Montaigne, Erasmus, Ignatius of Loyola, Thomas Merton, Martin Buber, Meister Eckhart and a host of other Protestants, Catholics, Jews and humanists. Harris’s lack of curiosity complements his subservience to cultural fashion.


Same Old New Atheism, The Nation, May 16, 2011, p 3.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sat Dec 29, 2012 6:34 am

Excellent article.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby catmoon » Sat Dec 29, 2012 7:12 am

Sara H wrote:As someone who was once an atheist in my life, I can tell you that it leaves one unfulfilled, and there is something within oneself that yearns for more.There is also an intuitive knowledge that one is being arrogant, no matter how uninsistant that "small voice" within ourselves may be.


I don't think you can tell us that at all. You have assumed that whole world's experience of atheism is similar to your own, which it is isn't.

I think it would be much fairer if the above were rephrased this way:


As someone who was once an atheist in my life, I can tell you that it left me unfulfilled, and there was something within me that yearned for more. I also had an intuitive belief that I was being arrogant, no matter how uninsistant that "small voice" within me was.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
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