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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Huseng wrote: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.
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.Huseng wrote:I don't see much Buddhist literature in English by western authors about investing in your future rebirths.
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.
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.
why give up worldly pursuits on a risky venture such as enlightenment and liberation from samsara?
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.
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