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How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic? - Dhamma Wheel

How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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JiaYi
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How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby JiaYi » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:21 am

Hi this is my first post and hope to get some guidance.

Can one pick and choose his beliefs about the dhamma and still remain a Buddhist?

I notice that for many westerners, Buddhism = meditation only. Many I've met disown the mystical aspects (devas, ghosts, etc) completely or ignore suttas that contain references to them because it doesn't correspond with their view of reality.

I am a skeptic. Trouble is I often find myself going nihilistic about life, which is actually quite depressing. Buddhists tell me that's wrong view but do not tell me why except to say that the Buddha said so. Is there some rational explanation that's more skeptic-friendly?

Thanks!

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Fede
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Fede » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:32 am

"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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plwk
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby plwk » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:13 am


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retrofuturist
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:15 am

Greetings JiaYi,

If it's of any use...

Buddhism For The Modern Skeptic
viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1118

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby danieLion » Sat Oct 22, 2011 12:17 pm


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ground
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby ground » Sat Oct 22, 2011 1:33 pm


Nicro
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Nicro » Sat Oct 22, 2011 2:06 pm


Jhana4
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Jhana4 » Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:03 pm

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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JiaYi
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby JiaYi » Sun Oct 23, 2011 4:56 am

Hello friends, thank you for all your wonderful replies. Being a complete noob and trying to take baby steps into this, I feel quite overwhelmed by some of your deeper responses but I appreciate them much, thank you!

I read the usual skeptic stuff by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins etc. people who say good things about Buddhism but would almost exclusively equate it with meditation. None of them would touch the mystic side of things, well except for Harris who appeared uncomfortable that "there are college-educated men and women who apparently believe that Guru Rinpoche was actually born from a lotus." http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... he-buddha/

I know I'm not alone in wanting to embrace and reconcile the Buddhist view towards life which makes so much sense to me with the deistic side of Buddhism that makes no sense to me. References of deities and magical things seem to appear all over the suttas, especially the Mahayana ones hence why I opted for Theravada. That's why I wondered, if one just adopted the philosophy and mental cultivation bits and ignored (or disbelieved) the magical deity stuff, would the Buddha have approved? I noted some said yes, some said no to the question whether one could pick and choose beliefs and still remain a Buddhist. If no, does that mean faith is a requirement for enlightenment, i.e. truth is something you believe in rather than discover for yourself?

p/s about the nihilism bit, until I know better - through some kind of evidence that I can understand, I assume that when life ends, it ends. There is no rebirth, no karma. I don't usually believe in something just because its a comforting thought or because everyone says so. But the point is, if this is the one and only life we have - a point in the journey where atheists depart from Buddhists - why be good? That is the mental dead-end that I've found rather distressing.

p/s again: I'm going thru all the links given in this thread and I like what I see, especially the Apannaka Sutta which I'm reading now. :-)

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Kim OHara
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:28 am


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JiaYi
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby JiaYi » Sun Oct 23, 2011 6:10 am

Hi Kim, thanks for the tips and I'll certainly look up sasana.org. Yes you're right I did mention karma as its popularly used - as something that applies in a next life. Its clear to me that cause and effect does happen in this life although it doesn't always balance. Not all drug lords, killers and plunderers suffer like their victims for instance. Some get away scot free, many simply don't suffer the dramatic consequences that's often depicted in karmic retribution stories.

I do believe in making the most out of this life but I am mindful that we may differ on what a "good life" means. I have a friend who blames religion to this day for him missing out on sleeping with every beautiful woman he had ever propositioned to. That's what good means to a 27 year old stud, and I've noted what's "good" really depends on age, culture, education, even mental health. Here in Singapore for instance, the absence of money is almost a guarantee of a miserable life as it is in urban China. That's just speaking as a common man in the street in a society where compassion is not very easy to find.

But I do get what you mean and yes I have resorted to suspending judgement / being agnostic on articles that seem to appeal less to rationale and more to faith for now.

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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:49 am

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

pegembara
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby pegembara » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:50 pm

The whole Buddhist practice can be summarised into developing sila, samadhi and panna or sense restraint, mental stillness and wisdom respectively. The latter 2 entails meditation.

One has to at least trust that the system works as advertised.
There is no need to believe anything else.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Jaidyn
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Jaidyn » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:35 pm


Jhana4
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Oct 23, 2011 2:00 pm

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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kirk5a
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby kirk5a » Sun Oct 23, 2011 2:49 pm

"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:49 pm

My personal opinion is when a person goes through life sorting things into assumptions and beliefs right out of the starting gate, it makes life very complicated. It seems the most realistic conclusion about the suttas is to notice that some of them describe devas, petas and nagas, (notice these suttas describe these entities without forming an opinion one way or the other) and that the Buddha taught some things which we can directly experience here and now, and other things which may take quite a bit of training and experience to personalty experience. To sort through the scriptures sorting them into piles marked "I believe this," and "I don't believe that" to me seems premature and presumptuous. Five years from now one might have to go back and do a lot of re-sorting. I know in my life I've re-sorted my laundry many, many times. It would have saved me a lot of work if I hadn't been quite so sure I knew everything when I was younger. :tongue:

M4
Author of Redneck Buddhism: or Will You Reincarnate as Your Own Cousin?

chownah
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby chownah » Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:40 am

Mr. Skeptic,
Chill out....do some meditation....read some stuff....if you believe it then great...if you don't believe it then great....don't start to think that if you believe something then it is true and don't start to think that if you don't believe in something then is is false.....keep an open mind....pay attention to your thoughts and where they are coming from.....I think this is all you need to do to begin learning about anything including Buddhism.....
chownah

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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:39 am


Jhana4
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Re: How best to learn Buddhism as a skeptic?

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:52 pm

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.


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