Sam Harris on Buddhism

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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Sonny » Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:30 pm

Article I found interesting.


Distorted Visions of Buddhism: Agnostic and Atheist:

By B. Alan Wallace

http://www.mandalamagazine.org/archives ... d-atheist/

In the end I agree with V.Thubten Chodron - "We don’t need others’ approval to practice the Dharma. But we do need to be convinced in our hearts that what we do is right. If we are, then others’ opinions aren’t important.
Others’ criticisms don’t hurt the Dharma or the Buddha. The path to enlightenment exists whether others recognise it as such or not." :heart:
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:35 pm

Anti-religious sentiment exists in modern culture, even in Islamic culture. But it aims more toward a reformation of religion than it outright abolition. Perhaps Sam Harris' howl is not strictly anti-religious. I am inclined to believe that his stance towards religion goes as far as opposing the influence of organized religion which, historically, has a dark past (remember the Witch-Craze?). I don't read him as opposing genuine transcendence which is what Buddhism is about.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:36 pm

He is a complete materialist, "subjective" experience and transcendence are at best, unimportant distraction, and at worst irrational primitive thinking keeping the world in the dark ages for him. He also thinks torture, racial profiling, and "War on Islam" is a good thing. He's a real Humanist (sarcasm).

Even outside of Buddhism, his cartoonish caricature of religion is notable...
"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 undefineable » Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:32 pm

songhill wrote: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).

'What Buddhism says' (to my understanding) is that we are greater than the pancaskandha, while at the same time there's no more "stuff" to us than the pancaskandha. That's what I was trying to say.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby undefineable » Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:38 pm

catmoon wrote: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.

This shouldn't imply that no other atheist, past or present, shared atleast some of Sara's experience, or atleast something broadly similar. Besides, I can think of a lot of potential psychological benefits to atheism -such as the unacknowledged arrogance of existential certainty- as well as drawbacks.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:12 am

undefineable wrote:
songhill wrote: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).

'What Buddhism says' (to my understanding) is that we are greater than the pancaskandha, while at the same time there's no more "stuff" to us than the pancaskandha. That's what I was trying to say.


That seems contradictory to me. Never, in a single passage in the Nikayas does a disciple not reject a skandha, like material shape, as being the self. With regard to each skandha the refrain is always: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’ (M. i. 136). The point is to destroy and abandon the skandha (S.v.60-61), not the self. Put another way, we should abandon all desire for what is not the self.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:12 am

Lol geez again with this argument, seriously...it's a thread about Sam Harris lol.
"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 undefineable » Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:17 pm

songhill wrote:
undefineable wrote:
songhill wrote: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).

'What Buddhism says' (to my understanding) is that we are greater than the pancaskandha, while at the same time there's no more "stuff" to us than the pancaskandha. That's what I was trying to say.


That seems contradictory to me. Never, in a single passage in the Nikayas does a disciple not reject a skandha, like material shape, as being the self. With regard to each skandha the refrain is always: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’ (M. i. 136). The point is to destroy and abandon the skandha (S.v.60-61), not the self. Put another way, we should abandon all desire for what is not the self.


My point has been that a moderate materialist (i.e. one who admits the conceivability of a limited continuity of mind after death) such as Sam Harris can easily see the skandha argument above as a support for his materialism, given apparent correlations of the skandhas with brain processes.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby relay » Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:29 pm

lobster wrote:I think Sam Harris wants to overcome suffering and be happy. :smile:
He does not require an alien culture, primitive supernatural beliefs, cosmology or Buddhist orthodoxy (whatever that might be deemed to be).
Might he become enlightened, whilst others doze through Buddhist attachments?
Might be :twothumbsup:

------------------------------------------------------ :twothumbsup: ------------------------------------------------------

I did, thanks to this thread, wonder about the "New Atheists" (had I missed the Coronation?), only to find that I had missed nothing(ness):
…Most prominent were the intellectuals the media chose to anoint, with characteristic originality, as the New Atheists…

:coffee:
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~Chögyam Trungpa
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby songhill » Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:45 pm

undefineable wrote:My point has been that a moderate materialist (i.e. one who admits the conceivability of a limited continuity of mind after death) such as Sam Harris can easily see the skandha argument above as a support for his materialism, given apparent correlations of the skandhas with brain processes.


I have mixed opinions about Sam Harris. I think he needs to focus more on the faults of materialism, and read a little of Bishop Berkeley who is not that far from Buddhism. A few years ago I read somewhere that one of Bishop Berkeley’s detractors said to him that "ideas" were simply phenomena of the brain. To this Berkeley rejoined: "But is not the brain itself only a sensually percepted thing? If it is so, the brain itself can be reduced to the ideas (i.e. to the elementary units of perception)." Maybe the good Bishop’s dictum, "esse est percipi" (to be is to be perceived) is true.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:44 am

I agree with that idea. For many years, I have felt the graphic depiction of the brain such as this:

Image

Is, in some sense, wrong, or even kind of obscene. A brain per se is not a proper object of cognition, as it actually doesn't do anything. What is removed from the skull, as in the above image, is no longer really an organ, and certainly not 'something that thinks'. Whatever meaning it is able to comprehend, is only by virtue of its situatedness within the context of a living being, who is in turn situated in the environment. So it is really not an 'object which thinks'. In fact I would argue there is no object which thinks.

Accordingly I also have the view that patterns seen in such images in this:

Image

Do not actually represent 'thoughts'. Why? Because to infer this misunderstands the nature of 'representation'. When a rational being looks at a sign or a symbol, he or she knows 'this sign means such-and-such' by the process of inference and the ability to grasp abstract ideas. However a neural pattern doesn't represent something, because it is not a sign or a symbol. What is it, exactly? Well, in fact, as an image, it is nothing whatever. It is exactly what you see: a collection of coloured spots on a film. A specialist may be able to infer something about what the subject of such a scan is thinking, but this inference is again much more a matter of interpreting signs and symbols, than an insight into the nature of what thinking actually is.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:50 am

Great post!
"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 Konchog1 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:07 am

jeeprs wrote:I agree with that idea. For many years, I have felt the graphic depiction of the brain such as this:

Is, in some sense, wrong, or even kind of obscene. A brain per se is not a proper object of cognition, as it actually doesn't do anything. What is removed from the skull, as in the above image, is no longer really an organ, and certainly not 'something that thinks'. Whatever meaning it is able to comprehend, is only by virtue of its situatedness within the context of a living being, who is in turn situated in the environment. So it is really not an 'object which thinks'. In fact I would argue there is no object which thinks.
Hey, wait a minute. If you attach a machine to the heart, or lungs, or stomach, they function right? But the brain doesn't. The brain alone requires the people to be alive to function. Thus, there is something outside of the brain that thinks!

Why am I just realizing this now?
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby catmoon » Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:19 pm

Konchog1 wrote:
jeeprs wrote:I agree with that idea. For many years, I have felt the graphic depiction of the brain such as this:

Is, in some sense, wrong, or even kind of obscene. A brain per se is not a proper object of cognition, as it actually doesn't do anything. What is removed from the skull, as in the above image, is no longer really an organ, and certainly not 'something that thinks'. Whatever meaning it is able to comprehend, is only by virtue of its situatedness within the context of a living being, who is in turn situated in the environment. So it is really not an 'object which thinks'. In fact I would argue there is no object which thinks.
Hey, wait a minute. If you attach a machine to the heart, or lungs, or stomach, they function right? But the brain doesn't. The brain alone requires the people to be alive to function. Thus, there is something outside of the brain that thinks!

Why am I just realizing this now?


This sounds interesting. Can you spell out the logical steps?
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:24 pm

catmoon wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:
jeeprs wrote:I agree with that idea. For many years, I have felt the graphic depiction of the brain such as this:

Is, in some sense, wrong, or even kind of obscene. A brain per se is not a proper object of cognition, as it actually doesn't do anything. What is removed from the skull, as in the above image, is no longer really an organ, and certainly not 'something that thinks'. Whatever meaning it is able to comprehend, is only by virtue of its situatedness within the context of a living being, who is in turn situated in the environment. So it is really not an 'object which thinks'. In fact I would argue there is no object which thinks.
Hey, wait a minute. If you attach a machine to the heart, or lungs, or stomach, they function right? But the brain doesn't. The brain alone requires the people to be alive to function. Thus, there is something outside of the brain that thinks!

Why am I just realizing this now?


This sounds interesting. Can you spell out the logical steps?
Well, a person in a coma for example. If the body is attached to machines then the body can survive for decades (it just becomes a matter of money). If the materialists were right, and we are just our bodies, then the person's mind would be active too. So the fact a body can be alive but not the mind means that the mind is not just something physical.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:33 am

Just because a body shows no outward signs of life does not mean that the mind is not functioning. Note I said mind and not brain. Brain activity can be measured and people in comas do not show brain activity, but does that mean that their mind has also stopped "working"?

Thing is that for human existence we require a mind and form combination. Does this mean that keeping the body alive also keeps the mind in the specific mind/body combination functioning? What research has been done on people that come out of comas? What do they report? Again, how valid are their reports? I ask this because if the sense minds of smell, sight, touch, hearing an taste are not functioning can the sense mind of mind continue to function independently without input from the others?
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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 catmoon » Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:18 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Just because a body shows no outward signs of life does not mean that the mind is not functioning. Note I said mind and not brain. Brain activity can be measured and people in comas do not show brain activity, but does that mean that their mind has also stopped "working"?

Thing is that for human existence we require a mind and form combination. Does this mean that keeping the body alive also keeps the mind in the specific mind/body combination functioning? What research has been done on people that come out of comas? What do they report? Again, how valid are their reports? I ask this because if the sense minds of smell, sight, touch, hearing an taste are not functioning can the sense mind of mind continue to function independently without input from the others?
:namaste:


I believe it is only the most severe cases of coma that show no brain activity. I believe some people have emerged from long comas, with intact memories of all the conversations that took place in their room. Want me to dig up some references?
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby wayland » Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:04 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:if the sense minds of smell, sight, touch, hearing an taste are not functioning can the sense mind of mind continue to function independently without input from the others?
:namaste:

It is easily accomplished in the dream state where a whole dualistic environment is created and upheld by mind without any active external sense input. Not sure if this would be the case in a coma though. :namaste:
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:41 pm

Sorry for the OT, but I can't divorce the topic of this thread from my own cultural trappings:

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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:38 pm

Jikan wrote:Sorry for the OT, but I can't divorce the topic of this thread from my own cultural trappings:




:bow: :bow: :bow:
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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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