Thoughts on Samsara.

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:25 pm

If you really think you'll be around in some form or another post-mortem, which I think is more real than falling into oblivion as the materialists propose, then this cycle of dissatisfaction, old age, sickness, dying, death, loss of what is cherished and so on becomes quite nightmarish when taken to the logical ends.

For most people just remaining reasonably happy and avoiding intolerable physical pain as much as possible until death (which they foresee as an absolute end whereupon any and all sensation, experience and awareness ceases forever) is the basic idea around which one makes long term plans in life.

For me though the question is, "Okay, so what about after this life?"

From the perspective of the big picture any sort of mundane life with worldly pursuits is absolutely pointless and does more damage than good.

I think most westerners are naturally by default materialist (as in they believe post-mortem there is nothingness in the absolute sense for them and any idea of an afterlife is a religious fantasy to be believed in even if they themselves cherish the idea) owing to the education systems we're brought up in. Thus there is no real sense of some kind of post-mortem existence as being realistic and something to seriously consider.

The general attitude is, "Well, maybe there is, maybe there isn't! We can't know for sure, so let's live it up right now."

Thus my way of thinking, which nowadays is becoming exotic and archaic even in Asia I reckon, is incomprehensible to most people. It just doesn't work with the modern perspective of things. It seems too much of a risk to people -- why give up worldly pursuits on a risky venture such as enlightenment and liberation from samsara?

Again, if you think it is realistic and reasonable (as in grounded in observations and reason) and not some odd religious fantasy, then the severity of one's situation becomes readily apparent.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5958
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby zengammon » Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:56 am

Hi Huseng,

Yes, it does seem to me that (post-mortem) Rebirth is central. People don't need to "believe" or "not believe." Belief is besides the point. I just need to include it in my Practice. To practice rebirth. It's part of the method/medicine/finger, etc, and leads to insight beyond the description.

And Westerners, in my experience, often do seem to have an extraordinary faith in science. It often seems to be their First religion, which they measure Buddhism against. But they only measure science against itself. Makes sense for a scientist, maybe. It's ok with me, but I'm not sure it's helpful on the path.

I once attended a retreat with TNH in Vietnam. Several Westerners made the point of telling me in strong terms that "they were materialists!" No doubt. And that they were happy TNH "did not push Rebirth." So, they had this unshakeable given that they seemed quite attached to. I just listened. But I'm not sure they listened closely and openly to TNH's last dharma talk on Emptiness, Signlessness and Aimlessness.

Anyway, it's not my business, finally. I have my own work to do.

But I do think this goes too far:

"From the perspective of the big picture any sort of mundane life with worldly pursuits is absolutely pointless and does more damage than good."

The practice includes being human, joy, and the happiness of the householder, etc., to put it simply. Nothing is excluded. "This too." Otherwise we still have some kind of aversion, attachment, discrimination.

Not looking for an argument. And I think I understand your larger concern or point.

John (an American in Korea)
zengammon
 
Posts: 34
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:57 am
Location: Seoul, Korea. Sometimes California

Re: Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:40 pm

zengammon wrote:Hi Huseng,
And Westerners, in my experience, often do seem to have an extraordinary faith in science. It often seems to be their First religion, which they measure Buddhism against. But they only measure science against itself. Makes sense for a scientist, maybe. It's ok with me, but I'm not sure it's helpful on the path.


This is because westerners, and nowadays the majority of East Asians, are brought up within an education system that teaches materialist cosmology and ideology as default, and anything else is said to be "beliefs" that, while comforting, are considered unrealistic and secondary to materialism. With materialism comes a kind of hubris and condescending attitude towards other schools of thought. When this kind of ideology is held as dominant by the majority, arguing for anything against it will summon ridicule and mockery.

I once attended a retreat with TNH in Vietnam. Several Westerners made the point of telling me in strong terms that "they were materialists!" No doubt. And that they were happy TNH "did not push Rebirth." So, they had this unshakeable given that they seemed quite attached to. I just listened. But I'm not sure they listened closely and openly to TNH's last dharma talk on Emptiness, Signlessness and Aimlessness.


Right now a lot of people see appeal in Buddhism, but in western circles the trend is to sanitize it of undesirable "religious" elements and produce a new version suitable to their tastes. Some go so far as to think Buddha taught rebirth as "skilful means".

"From the perspective of the big picture any sort of mundane life with worldly pursuits is absolutely pointless and does more damage than good."

The practice includes being human, joy, and the happiness of the householder, etc., to put it simply. Nothing is excluded. "This too." Otherwise we still have some kind of aversion, attachment, discrimination.


Being human, joy, happiness of the householder and other mundane affairs are merely honey on the razor. It might be sweet, but the nightmare of samsara is deceptive. For some just attaining reasonable amounts of happiness in life is sufficient for their spiritual practise. I won't condemn them for that and Buddha clearly taught ways of attaining happiness in life, but such teachings are palliative and not curative.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5958
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby Yogicfire » Thu Jun 24, 2010 2:43 pm

In my experience (as a practitioner, and as a religious studies teacher) I don't think that the materialistic outlook on life necessarily dominates individual's thinking in the modern world. It is the dominant view from a cultural point of view (at least in the West), but that is because of a revolution in industry, science and society over the last few centuries. Traditional religions may well have been somewhat sidelined in this 'secularisation', but that doesn't necessarily mean that spiritual values and beliefs have also been pushed to the side. There have been plenty of empirical studies, field studies, and research that has shown that within this secularisation of society, strong trends towards seeking spiritual empowerment remain. Whether we call them 'New Age' or 'New Religious Movements' or whatever, the sense that material gain is not enough is quite prominent in many areas of Western society.

I also think that many people do believe in an afterlife. They may not quite know how to conceptualise it, or how to explain it, but in my experience the deep rooted sense that there is something more tends to exist more often than not. The nihilistic view that there is nothing after death (especially in Japan) seems to be a minority view actually (most people believe in their ancestors living on after dying, and the Buddhist rituals for remembering the dead are very prominent in Japanese society as you know).. In America, the stats for people believing in a God and an afterlife would be quite high (around 60-70%), and although Europe would be lower, the belief in some form of life after death is still very prevalent in almost every society.
Yogicfire
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Mon May 03, 2010 7:55 am
Location: UK

Re: Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 24, 2010 3:18 pm

Hi Yogicfire. :smile:

Yogicfire wrote:In my experience (as a practitioner, and as a religious studies teacher) I don't think that the materialistic outlook on life necessarily dominates individual's thinking in the modern world. It is the dominant view from a cultural point of view (at least in the West), but that is because of a revolution in industry, science and society over the last few centuries.


What I'm pointing out here is that in modern industrialized societies there are the realities of science and the beliefs of spirituality and religion. What neurology says about consciousness is fact or at least credible theory. What Buddhist Abhidharma says is religious belief.

People might carry around plenty of religious beliefs, but they don't think they're actually realistic in many cases. They're just "my beliefs" and it doesn't go beyond that.

Traditional religions may well have been somewhat sidelined in this 'secularisation', but that doesn't necessarily mean that spiritual values and beliefs have also been pushed to the side. There have been plenty of empirical studies, field studies, and research that has shown that within this secularisation of society, strong trends towards seeking spiritual empowerment remain. Whether we call them 'New Age' or 'New Religious Movements' or whatever, the sense that material gain is not enough is quite prominent in many areas of Western society.



I've noticed a trend towards sanitization of eastern religions which are then repackaged to suit the tastes of western consumers who want spirituality sans religion. There is spirituality, sure, but you can get the same thing from an Aikido class.

I also think that many people do believe in an afterlife. They may not quite know how to conceptualise it, or how to explain it, but in my experience the deep rooted sense that there is something more tends to exist more often than not.


Again, people believe in an afterlife, but don't necessarily think it is a realistic and rational view. There is the present day scientific view that consciousness ceases forever at physical death. That's is a view based on reason and inference. The "belief in an afterlife" is just that -- a belief, a feeling. I've met few people, even Buddhists, who have seriously gone beyond "the belief" in rebirth and examined it from a critical and rational angle -- that is to say formulate a realistic view about rebirth and refute materialist claims.

The nihilistic view that there is nothing after death (especially in Japan) seems to be a minority view actually (most people believe in their ancestors living on after dying, and the Buddhist rituals for remembering the dead are very prominent in Japanese society as you know)..


My experience in Japan is that while people might put their ancestors in shrines or whatever, they're uncertain as to whether or not it is just a ritual of respect or if they really think their ancestors' spirits are still around. Buddhist rituals are just a matter of going through the motions. It is expected. The average middle-class Japanese people, in my opinion, just do it and don't really know or really think it really has any effect. You just do it because it is tradition and expected.

In America, the stats for people believing in a God and an afterlife would be quite high (around 60-70%), and although Europe would be lower, the belief in some form of life after death is still very prevalent in almost every society.


I would argue that while most people have religious views, there is a duality in their minds -- one of a "realistic scientific view" (which is what they think is really real) and a "religious view" which is one of feeling, belief, mystery and personal opinion.

You might believe in god and heaven, or even rebirth, but you still plan your life around a single life.

In cultures where rebirth is considered realistic and axiomatic, people plan their lives around not just the present one, but future ones as well. In such cultures you really think you will exist again in a future life and plan accordingly (generation of merit being a big practise).

I don't see much Buddhist literature in English by western authors about investing in your future rebirths. That's because most people instinctively and unconsciously assume, thanks to their education, that they'll be nothing at death.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5958
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby kirtu » Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:15 pm

Huseng wrote:I don't see much Buddhist literature in English by western authors about investing in your future rebirths.


Then we need to start ....

That's because most people instinctively and unconsciously assume, thanks to their education, that they'll be nothing at death.


Well I think many western Buddhists see insight as being superior to merit and assume that they will always be able to deeper their insight and in this life attain a sufficient degree of realization. Also merit itself has been glossed by "traditional" Buddhists who themselves don't understand it very well (although practice it) and have an unfortunate tendency to still explain merit practices as creation of luck (tying meritorious activities to the current material situation).
Teachers also do not often explain that merit creation is the generation of a special virtuous mind (usually) that has a positive karmic effect.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4497
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby 5heaps » Sun Oct 31, 2010 1:26 pm

Huseng wrote:I don't see much Buddhist literature in English by western authors about investing in your future rebirths.
its prevalent in tibetan buddhism (particularly gelug trained people). you can readily find alan wallace, michael roach, jeffrey hopkins, berzin, thurman etcetc talking about it often and at length.

much less so in other systems though, i think. perhaps because these systems do not train in logic as a standard topic of study, and so they cannot accommodate opposing views conceptually with ease and skill. even so, though, if ones meditation is truly great (ie. near the peak of the form realm) this will increase intelligence to the point where coarser conceptuality is easily understood and dealt with.
5heaps
 
Posts: 432
Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:09 am

Re: Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby Individual » Sun Oct 31, 2010 2:37 pm

Huseng wrote:If you really think you'll be around in some form or another post-mortem, which I think is more real than falling into oblivion as the materialists propose, then this cycle of dissatisfaction, old age, sickness, dying, death, loss of what is cherished and so on becomes quite nightmarish when taken to the logical ends.

For most people just remaining reasonably happy and avoiding intolerable physical pain as much as possible until death (which they foresee as an absolute end whereupon any and all sensation, experience and awareness ceases forever) is the basic idea around which one makes long term plans in life.

For me though the question is, "Okay, so what about after this life?"

From the perspective of the big picture any sort of mundane life with worldly pursuits is absolutely pointless and does more damage than good.

I think most westerners are naturally by default materialist (as in they believe post-mortem there is nothingness in the absolute sense for them and any idea of an afterlife is a religious fantasy to be believed in even if they themselves cherish the idea) owing to the education systems we're brought up in. Thus there is no real sense of some kind of post-mortem existence as being realistic and something to seriously consider.

The general attitude is, "Well, maybe there is, maybe there isn't! We can't know for sure, so let's live it up right now."

Thus my way of thinking, which nowadays is becoming exotic and archaic even in Asia I reckon, is incomprehensible to most people. It just doesn't work with the modern perspective of things. It seems too much of a risk to people -- why give up worldly pursuits on a risky venture such as enlightenment and liberation from samsara?

Again, if you think it is realistic and reasonable (as in grounded in observations and reason) and not some odd religious fantasy, then the severity of one's situation becomes readily apparent.

I think people who think in terms of self & other benefit more from thinking about that, will more likely escape Samsara from thinking about that, than thinking about whatever worlds might be beyond this one.

Als, it is as important to believe in the reality of death as the reality of rebirth. :)
Individual
 
Posts: 407
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:20 am

Re: Thoughts on Samsara.

Postby shinchan » Wed Nov 03, 2010 11:22 am

People might carry around plenty of religious beliefs, but they don't think they're actually realistic in many cases. They're just "my beliefs" and it doesn't go beyond that.


I think what you are saying is that it takes more than 'belief' to motivate actions. Sunday Christians, for example, may have some vague, unexamined belief in an afterlife of rewards and punishments -but it doesn't effect their overall conduct the other six days of the week. They still behave is as this life is all that really matters. Western Buddhists tend to do something similar with the belief in rebirth. They say they believe in reincarnation, and maybe they do, but they don't do anything to invest in their next incarnation. Is this what you mean? If so, I agree. But such a thing is inevitable in a country with a good standard of living like America. People with every pleasure on their table aren't going to risk forfieting what they can see for what they can't and, from their perspective, such an an attitude is very reasonable.

why give up worldly pursuits on a risky venture such as enlightenment and liberation from samsara?


I wish I can remember the exact sutra I read this in but I do seem to remember a snippet of dialogue between Shakyamuni and one of his disciples that went something like this (forgive my paraphrasing).

DISCIPLE: What if I don't believe in a life after this one. Why persue to nirvana?

SHAKYAMUNI: For those who don't believe in rebirth, I offer freedom in this life. For those who do believe in rebirth, freedom in this life as well as the next.

Of course, it takes a certain amount of insight (not to mention experience) to realize the vanity of most worldly pursuits but for those who can see that vanity, Buddhism offers a way to overcome it. What really impressed me about Buddhism and caught my interest is the figure of Buddha himself:

Shakyamuni was not some poverty stricken carpenter like Jesus who may as well of made a virtue of his inescapable poverty. Shakyamuni was a prince. Everything a mortal might reasonably desire was his for the asking. He could indulge in any luxury. Could eat any food, as much of it as he wanted. He had his choice of sexual partners and could indulge any fetish, no matter how taboo. Even if he wasn't so carnally minded, he must have at least had intellectual or athletic ambitions. As a prince he could hire the greatest tutors in India to teach him and make him an expert in whatever subject or art he was bold enough to pursue mastery of. Do you understand? He could have had anything . But at the age of 29 he gives it all up and becomes a homeless yogi. Now you may think: "Well, maybe Shakyamuni was just having a midlife crises". Maybe so. That's what I would think. But he keeps at it. After he attains nirvana he still, presumably, could put his crown back on and return to a life of virtual omnipotence. But he doesn't. Whatever nirvana is, apparently it is so damn good that all the wealth, fame, sex, and power in the world cannot compare to it!

THAT'S what initially sparked my interest in Buddhism. Not some void in my life left after materialism ripped away my spiritual center, and I think that may be what lures many westerners to Buddhism. It's not the stick of samsara, but the carrot of nirvana that goads us greedy materialists! Hence, unless you are a Pure Land Buddhist, rebirth becomes rather irrelevant. You're gonna bust your ass right now in this life so you can attain nirvana and then enjoy it as soon as possible! Now if you die in the process and don't attain you may, it's true, have foregone some fleeting, piss ant pleasures for nothing. But then, if you are discontent enough to even dedicate a second thought to something beyond these piss ant worldly pleasures then chances are they weren't going to bring you much happiness in the first place.

My point is that while a belief in rebirth can be a goad; it isn't the only one. You don't have to believe in any afterlife to see this pointless, rat-race-to-the-gutter 'life' for what it is. Nietzsche was a hardcore materialist but he spoke very eloquently of it in Thus Spake Zarathustra :

Yea, a dying for many hath here been devised, which glorifieth itself as life: verily, a hearty service unto all preachers of death!

The state, I call it, where all are poison–drinkers, the good and the bad: the state, where all lose themselves, the good and the bad: the state, where the slow suicide of all—is called “life.”

Just see these superfluous ones! They steal the works of the inventors and the treasures of the wise. Culture, they call their theft—and everything becometh sickness and trouble unto them!

Just see these superfluous ones! Sick are they always; they vomit their bile and call it a newspaper. They devour one another, and cannot even digest themselves.

Just see these superfluous ones! Wealth they acquire and become poorer thereby. Power they seek for, and above all, the lever of power, much money—these impotent ones!

See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another, and thus scuffle into the mud and the abyss.

Towards the throne they all strive: it is their madness—as if happiness sat on the throne! Ofttimes sitteth filth on the throne.—and ofttimes also the throne on filth.

shinchan
 
Posts: 12
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 1:10 pm


Return to Personal Experience

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: twiz and 3 guests

>