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 Post subject: Philosophy vs Practice
PostPosted: Sat May 25, 2013 7:32 pm 
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Lately I've been troubled by the inability of meditation, and spirituality in general to produce any real tangible truth about reality. Even if all attachment is severed, does that negate the importance of "figuring out", what reality is?

No matter how much I try, i can't let go of my searching for answers to life's big questions. In a way, I feel as if letting go of the search is in a way, betraying myself. I know it seems absurd, but before I die I would like to understand life itself, is there some ultimate purpose to it? If not, is it purposeless? Is a lack of purpose a purpose in itself? At the moment, I feel as if the third option might be the closest to the truth. No purpose is the purpose, an open ended existence where anything and everything is possible.

Anyway, I haven't figured out how to console the differences between the path Buddhism offers and this search. I almost feel as if they are contradictory. Yet I am drawn to both. In your experiences which do you believe is a more worthwhile en-devour?

Would satisfying your ultimate desire, and perhaps even purpose of your existence be more important, or achieving some measure of realization? I imagine you can 'take' neither with you once death arrives, so which is really more important?

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PostPosted: Sat May 25, 2013 8:23 pm 
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Very interesting and deep questions. Unfortunately I do not know the answers... and in this unknowing I find the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment.

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PostPosted: Sat May 25, 2013 8:44 pm 
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Quote:
Would satisfying your ultimate desire, and perhaps even purpose of your existence be more important, or achieving some measure of realization?
There is no dilemma. Buddhas know all knowables.

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-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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PostPosted: Sat May 25, 2013 8:53 pm 
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Jesse wrote:
Would satisfying your ultimate desire, and perhaps even purpose of your existence be more important, or achieving some measure of realization? I imagine you can 'take' neither with you once death arrives, so which is really more important?
I do not see them as being mutually exclusive and, just as an aside, apparently you do take realisation with you since mind is all you take with you at death.

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PostPosted: Sat May 25, 2013 10:32 pm 
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They are not opposites.
Do more practice,
and keep asking the questions.
.
.
.

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 12:01 am 
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Yes, I agree with Padma.
Just today i found one very inspiring sentence while reading in the medium-length lamrim text by Tsongkhapa. It fits to this question:
(Uh - i have to translate from German...)

"Because the mind is moved like water,
it does not stay (keep quiet) without the foundation of Silent Pause (?) [Shamata].
With a mind, that is not in meditative balance,
the reality can not be realized.
Also the sublime One (Buddha) said: ' Because of meditative balance the reality, just as it is, becomes totally aware."

Means: to get a chance to understand reality AS IT IS one must train the mind to be one-pointed-focused and calm. Otherwise there will always be misinterpretations of the truth and the thinking the delusion was real.
With the achieved peace of mind, in meditation, one can start to analyse the phenomenons (Vipassana).
This is the combination of Method (Shamata) and Wisdom (Vipassana) .
Naturally it is not easy done by thinking about it twice or three times, but it is a longtime practice. :smile: A very felicitous inspiring longtime practice.

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 12:15 am 
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gregkavarnos wrote:
... just as an aside, apparently you do take realisation with you since mind is all you take with you at death.


You also take non-realization and all your bad habits with you just as Trungpa said. Trungpa's response to "what is reborn?" was "Your bad habits." struck me for many years as needlessly dark but he was 100% correct and direct. If we don't attain some degree of realization now then we will have real trouble shortly. What realization do we need? Well, just like the progression on the path of accumulation, we need to accumulate merit and wisdom. This has often been rejected by people as a Byzantine or Medieval presentation from a bygone era but when we study this progression it's all true. In the beginning we really look at the five precepts and really eliminate the negativities that they guard against. We can condense these to not harming any being and as much as possible being kind and generous. That's a good start. Being universally kind and generous in our world is in itself a kind of enlightenment.

As for understanding reality - this can take a while (lifetimes) and all true understanding of reality is non-conceptual. One may have to take descriptions of reality with some faith for a while.

Kirt

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 12:27 am 
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Jesse wrote:
I know it seems absurd, but before I die I would like to understand life itself, is there some ultimate purpose to it? If not, is it purposeless? Is a lack of purpose a purpose in itself? At the moment, I feel as if the third option might be the closest to the truth. No purpose is the purpose, an open ended existence where anything and everything is possible.


Hi Jesse - you and have had interacted previously, you may recall that I was critical of your posts on mind/brain identity. I admire your sincerity and the fact that you are wrestling with these difficult questions. Our whole culture is going through that. I think your questions about 'meaning and purpose' are a reflection of the modern view that the Universe is a basically meaningless combination of elements and that our existence in it is due to chance. But I think we need to see this in its historical context. That view actually developed out of the preceeding Christian view and to some extent was a reaction against it. So where the Christian view tended to see a plan, the modern view tended towards its opposite, and so on. This conflict is still raging, as you know. (Of course I am drastically simplifying here but it's a forum and I can't spell out the details.)

I will own up that possibly the way I resolved this owed something to my experiences in the 60's (being a generation earlier than yourself) which enabled the exploration of, let's say, some radically different perspectives on life, the universe and everything, sometimes by means of entheogens. Whilst not a sustainable lifestyle, it did open up alternatives that were neither traditionally religious nor overtly scientistic in the Dawkins-Dennett mode (which as you know I am not friendly towards.) That is what initially drew me to Buddhist meditation, which remains my main interest in Buddhism.

So the philosophy that I have developed out of this, is a spiritual philosophy, but it draws on many sources. I actually did an initial degree in Comparative Religion, Anthropology, Philosophy and Psychology. I had to design my own curriculum, in effect, because nobody was teaching what I needed to learn. But during the course of that, and a subsequent Master of Buddhist Studies, I feel I have developed a satisfactory type of East-West synthesis which does address many of your questions. So I am happy to try and share those perspectives and also some of the readings around that, if you think you might find it useful.

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 2:04 am 
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Jesse wrote:
Would satisfying your ultimate desire, and perhaps even purpose of your existence be more important, or achieving some measure of realization? I imagine you can 'take' neither with you once death arrives, so which is really more important


The funny thing is that a little bit realization shows you that the questions you are asking are poorly posed, so you can relax about them. An analogy is what they call referred pain in medicine. You feel like you have a back ache and you go to the doctor looking for a solution to that problem. But when the doctor checks you out, he finds the problem is with some other organ, the problem just feels like it' s in the back. In the same way, our failure to understand our nature expresses itself in a sense of unfulfilled longing. We give a grand name to that longing, such as searching for the meaning of life. The problem is quite real and honestly felt, but its solution does not lie in answering the question. It lies in resolving the confusion about our nature.

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 2:08 am 
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Jesse wrote:
Lately I've been troubled by the inability of meditation, and spirituality in general to produce any real tangible truth about reality.


It is the experience from meditation and spirituality that produces real truth.
What is troubling about this reality? What aspect of the effort involved is unclear? What practice has led to this troubled conclusion? Buddhism is not an intellectual assertion only, it has to be engaged in. No engagement is just a life of unresolved trouble. I take it you know this? :hi:

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 2:28 am 
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Jesse wrote:
I know it seems absurd, but before I die I would like to understand life itself...
Do you understand yourself?

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If there is clinging, you do not have the view. --Drakpa Gyaltsen


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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 3:10 am 
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Jesse is right in saying that meditation does not produce 'tangible truths about reality'.

Quote:
Tangible: Discernible by the touch; palpable: a tangible roughness of the skin.
b. Possible to touch.
c. Possible to be treated as fact; real or concrete: tangible evidence.
2. Possible to understand or realize: the tangible benefits of the plan.
3. Law That can be valued monetarily: tangible property.


Meditation deals with intangibles. But once you understand that and know how to navigate that kind of space, there is a great deal of consistency in user accounts of meditative insights, and so on. Buddhism is exceptionally good in that sense. I think that is what the attraction is for those who seek a kind of scientific approach to such questions.

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 3:48 am 
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Thanks for all the replies, rather than responding to them all, I will respond generally.

There where a few replies that the mind, habits and such travel beyond death, this is something I am uncertain about.

These days I have trouble believing anything unless I can directly experience, or know about it. Perhaps this is a rigid attitude, but I also believe it is the most accurate.

How can we know what happens after our death? Even further how can we be certain? Uncertainty is what irks me. :)

The thing about direct experience is, there are no tangibles as it's been said, I find it hard to ascertain what truth is to be found in it..
Rather it's more about letting go of our attachments to such knowledge and the desire to know, right?

So to let 'the fires burn out', in a sense is to abandon truth, at least the intellectual form of it. This is where I don't see how philosophy and realization are compatible.

Perhaps I misunderstand though. I do tend to think in very black and white terms.

I have actually written a poem about this topic, obviously I've given it alot of thought lately. :P
------------
What does it mean to exist? How absurd this experience!
If life leads me in any direction; it is a pursuit to understand
How beautiful, maddening; that this life shrines through the darkness
lighting up the universe in all it's infinite diversity.

This moment spirals through time, winding; un-winding and falling to ashes,
it's like a beautiful song, a symphony so complex just to hear it's faint echo
is to stare god in the eyes; it is a dance; and I've been dancing forever
seeing just how far ahead I can run; before I catch me.

You see I want to capture the truth; and bottle it for my pleasure;
like holding a flame in a jar; just to say I found you; and I'll never let you go.

The trouble in capturing something so beautiful; is the moment it's no longer free
it ceases to be beautiful; ceases to be it'self, like a butterfly that's lost it's wings.

But I feel drawn, compelled, like a ghost being beckoned by a distant voice;
and I must find the other side of this tug; this pull.

I imagine a truth so complete, that I could die in that instant forever fulfilled;
and I must have it, even if doing so causes my complete annihilation.

For I will have seen the mind of god.
-

Anyways, I appreciate all of your insightful replies.

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 4:35 am 
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Interesting topic. Wasn't sure how to respond so I looked up life's big questions and will now answer them.

Big Bang Theory — how and why did the universe begin?
No one knows.

Time Travel — is time travel physically or logically possible?
No one knows.

Meaning of Life — what's the point of living? why are we here?
No one knows.

Creation vs. Evolution — are we descended from apes?
That's not so bad, is it?

Artificial Intelligence — could a computer have a mind?
The only question is how much better it will be.

Life After Death — what is death and why should we fear it?
It is better to not fear it.

Extraterrestrial Life — are we alone in the universe?
No one knows. But it seems absurd that we could be alone.

Cultural Relativism — are moral values relative or absolute?
Relative.

Ethical Dilemmas — how do we decide between right and wrong?
Depends on the situation, cuz there are no moral absolutes.

Social Justice — should the rich help the poor?
Yes.


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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 5:20 am 
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oushi wrote:
Very interesting and deep questions. Unfortunately I do not know the answers... and in this unknowing I find the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment.

+1. (Me too.)

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 5:33 am 
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Jesse wrote:
Lately I've been troubled by the inability of meditation, and spirituality in general to produce any real tangible truth about reality. Even if all attachment is severed, does that negate the importance of "figuring out", what reality is?

No matter how much I try, i can't let go of my searching for answers to life's big questions. In a way, I feel as if letting go of the search is in a way, betraying myself. I know it seems absurd, but before I die I would like to understand life itself, is there some ultimate purpose to it? If not, is it purposeless? Is a lack of purpose a purpose in itself? At the moment, I feel as if the third option might be the closest to the truth. No purpose is the purpose, an open ended existence where anything and everything is possible.

The Search for Truth ... I know it well! I've been on that wild roller coaster for a long time.

I won't share any of my discoveries ... don't wanna spoil/perturb your journey.

But I will say this: If the drive to search is upon you, pour everything you have into it! Body, mind, and soul. To do less is to stifle your primal and sacred urge/instinct to achieve wholeness.

Enjoy. :-)

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 7:17 am 
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I don't know if you're really interested in analysing the issues, but this would be my take on some of the points you raised

Quote:
Lately I've been troubled by the inability of meditation, and spirituality in general to produce any real tangible truth about reality. Even if all attachment is severed, does that negate the importance of "figuring out", what reality is?


One answer: Nothing to figure out! The world is not something to be explained or figured out. The Buddhist approach, anyway, is to start with the truth of suffering, which everyone is familiar with: the inevitability of illness, old age and death, losing what you treasure, and getting what you don't want. That is the question the Buddha asks you to consider. As part of answering that, you might also discover something fundamental about reality itself, but the answers that are provided don't necessarily exist on the level on which the question is being asked.

Jesse wrote:
You see I want to capture the truth; and bottle it for my pleasure;
like holding a flame in a jar; just to say I found you; and I'll never let you go.


Here's an interesting thing - I think it was Aristotle who said, as one of the basic attributes of what makes us human, is that 'man desires to know'. I think you are feeling that pull, but at the same time you're trapped in the Western cultural situation of only trusting what you think you can measure. This has given rise to a certain type of problem called:

Quote:
Cartesian anxiety, which refers to the notion that, ever since René Descartes promulgated his influential form of body-mind dualism, Western civilization has suffered from a longing for ontological certainty, or feeling that scientific methods, and especially the study of the world as a thing separate from ourselves, should be able to lead us to a firm and unchanging knowledge of ourselves and the world around us. The term is named after Descartes because of his well-known emphasis on "mind" as different from "body", "self" as different from "other".


Richard J. Bernstein coined the term in his 1983 book Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis.

Yet at the same time, you say

Quote:
I imagine a truth so complete, that I could die in that instant forever fulfilled;
and I must have it, even if doing so causes my complete annihilation.


And that is very much an image of 'nirodha', cessation, or even nirvana, extinction of one's sense of separate selfhood.

Hence your conflict.

So Western culture has turned its back on its own cultural and philosophical heritage, so it feels itself 'lost in space' - the accidental outcomes of a fortuitous process. And I think your poem eloquently captures that cultural predicament and also the desire to know something beyond that. But you are exceedingly fortunate to actually come to the point of being able to articulate it. Many people can't. If you can handle the search, I'm sure there's an answer to be found, but be prepared for the fact that it may not be the answer you think you want.

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 7:58 am 
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kirtu wrote:
You also take non-realization and all your bad habits with you just as Trungpa said.
Of course this is 100% true, but the OP did not frame it in this way. They framed it in terms of achieving their desire, or some degree of realisation. Now, unless the desire that they accomplish / actualise/ materialise is 100% mental, then the only thing they will take with them is the habit of (the specific) desire, whereas with the realisation, they will take all of that with them.

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 8:07 am 
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I just wonder, what "100% true" or "100% correct" mean, if it can be applied to something read, or heard?

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PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 8:16 am 
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Jesse wrote:
------------
What does it mean to exist? How absurd this experience!
If life leads me in any direction; it is a pursuit to understand
How beautiful, maddening; that this life shrines through the darkness
lighting up the universe in all it's infinite diversity.

This moment spirals through time, winding; un-winding and falling to ashes,
it's like a beautiful song, a symphony so complex just to hear it's faint echo
is to stare god in the eyes; it is a dance; and I've been dancing forever
seeing just how far ahead I can run; before I catch me.

You see I want to capture the truth; and bottle it for my pleasure;
like holding a flame in a jar; just to say I found you; and I'll never let you go.

The trouble in capturing something so beautiful; is the moment it's no longer free
it ceases to be beautiful; ceases to be it'self, like a butterfly that's lost it's wings.

But I feel drawn, compelled, like a ghost being beckoned by a distant voice;
and I must find the other side of this tug; this pull.

I imagine a truth so complete, that I could die in that instant forever fulfilled;
and I must have it, even if doing so causes my complete annihilation.

For I will have seen the mind of god.
Nice poem! I have to admit that I do not agree with all the sentiments but nice nonetheless!

Yesterday, being Vesak day, I sat and read Matrceta's Hymn to the Buddha - An English Rendering of the Satapañcasatka and in the introduction to the prayer Ven Dhammika makes the following statement:
Quote:
There can be no doubt that Matrceta's hymn likewise is an expression of a deep devotion to the Buddha and an admiration of his qualities. But quite apart from the author's motive in writing it, the value and indeed the purpose of the Hymn to the Buddha is twofold. First it is meant to awaken our faith. Matrceta recognized as did the Lord himself that faith has the power to arouse a tremendous amount of positive zeal and energy. Long before we have directly experienced it, faith keeps our eyes fixed firmly on the goal. When we stumble and fall, faith picks us up; when doubt causes us to falter, it urges us on; and when we get side-tracked, it brings us back to the Path. Without faith in the Buddha and the efficacy of his Dharma we would never even bother to try to put the teachings into practice. As Nagarjuna says:

One associates with the Dharma out of faith, but one knows truly out of understanding; understanding is the chief of the two, but faith precedes.

The Buddha's qualities are worthy of respect in themselves, but when they are described so fully and so beautifully in verses like those of Matrceta, our faith can only be strengthened and grow.
Now this very same type of faith exists in regards to science too. We cannot directly see subatomic particles (for example), we can read accounts of what scientists believe are the reactions of subatomic particles under VERY specific conditions, but we cannot actually see them. So we have faith in the accounts of the scientists, in the veracity of their observations, in their interpretation of what they observe, etc... Why is one type of faith/trust considered as "medieval" and "superstitious" while the other is modern and valid? Actually the possibility of personally verifying the Buddhas words is actually higher than that of personally verifying the words of scientists since we have all the tools necessary in our hands whereas it is unlikely we will ever have our own litle CERN...

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