Faith and Belief

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Faith and Belief

Postby billybudd » Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:21 am

Pardon the silly wording of this question, but I don't want to create confusion:

Concerning Buddhism, what do you believe that an atheist philosopher or scientist would say is impossible?

edit: Let's word this again,
Beliefs that do not have bases in observation or experience. Or experiences that are not repeatable by people outside the Buddhist community.
Last edited by billybudd on Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby LastLegend » Fri Dec 30, 2011 3:16 pm

billybudd wrote:Pardon the silly wording of this question, but I don't want to create confusion:

Concerning Buddhism, what do you believe that an atheist philosopher or scientist would say is impossible?



Can you repeat the question?
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Acchantika » Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:52 pm

billybudd wrote:Concerning Buddhism, what do you believe that an atheist philosopher or scientist would say is impossible?


Nothing in Buddhism would be considered impossible by virtue of atheism alone. Buddhism might be considered a kind of weak atheism itself.

What are sometimes called "deities", "devas" or even "gods" in various schools of Buddhism share only a name with the "god/s" considered in theology.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Will » Fri Dec 30, 2011 8:26 pm

billybudd wrote:Pardon the silly wording of this question, but I don't want to create confusion:

Concerning Buddhism, what do you believe that an atheist philosopher or scientist would say is impossible?


Sorry, but your question is not silly, just unclear. Say it again in other words.
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby billybudd » Fri Dec 30, 2011 8:59 pm

Will wrote:Sorry, but your question is not silly, just unclear. Say it again in other words.


Beliefs that do not have bases in observation or experience. Or experiences that are not repeatable by people outside the Buddhist community.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Will » Fri Dec 30, 2011 10:16 pm

billybudd wrote:
Will wrote:Sorry, but your question is not silly, just unclear. Say it again in other words.


Beliefs that do not have bases in observation or experience. Or experiences that are not repeatable by people outside the Buddhist community.


All Buddhist "beliefs" are based in observation or experience, just not mere 5 sense experience, but those based in samadhi. Many of these can be repeated by non-Buddhists, because deep concentration or samadhi is practiced in many spiritual paths.
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby billybudd » Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:12 pm

Will wrote:All Buddhist "beliefs" are based in observation or experience, just not mere 5 sense experience, but those based in samadhi. Many of these can be repeated by non-Buddhists, because deep concentration or samadhi is practiced in many spiritual paths.


I'm starting to feel that the deeper into Buddhism a person is, the less "blind faith" they have. It seems works the other way around with most religions. I don't have any specific questions to be answered, just curious what you guys personally believe.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Mr. G » Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:37 pm

Buddhism has gotten a bit of a free pass against the more notable atheists like Dawkins, but Harris and the late Hitchens did write some pieces against Buddhism. I'd say it's not going to get better for Buddhists in the future.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby kirtu » Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:46 pm

billybudd wrote:Pardon the silly wording of this question, but I don't want to create confusion:

Concerning Buddhism, what do you believe that an atheist philosopher or scientist would say is impossible?

edit: Let's word this again,
Beliefs that do not have bases in observation or experience. Or experiences that are not repeatable by people outside the Buddhist community.


Karma, rebirth, unseen realms (hell, hungry ghost, asura, and god realms), most siddhi.

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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby catmoon » Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:57 pm

billybudd wrote:
Will wrote:All Buddhist "beliefs" are based in observation or experience, just not mere 5 sense experience, but those based in samadhi. Many of these can be repeated by non-Buddhists, because deep concentration or samadhi is practiced in many spiritual paths.


I'm starting to feel that the deeper into Buddhism a person is, the less "blind faith" they have. It seems works the other way around with most religions. I don't have any specific questions to be answered, just curious what you guys personally believe.


It's almost true. The problem with this picture is that it provides grounds for elitism and a hierarchy of beliefs. The process you describe is real, but you really must keep in mind that it not the only path. Let's look at a few of the paths one might take.

Beginning with rationalism, one absorbs basic teachings, and where they are not rationally provable one tests them out. If they are not testable, they go in the "undecideable" bin and stay there until either a test arises that can be applied, or a proof/disproof arises. This should lead to a minimalist, stripped-down version of Buddhism, focussing mainly on meditation and mindfulness.

Or, one may find that faith allows the seeker to skip over some of the rigorous logic and get quickly to the core of things. The risk is that one may miss a critical error of belief through lack of analysis. The benefit is that this may not happen and then you are home free.

One might pursue a fusion of the two, trying to do just enough analysis to catch the worst errors and taking the rest on faith. This can really send you rocketing down the path, but it is also possible that you will get the worst of both worlds, missing critical points of logic and opting to believe in bad doctrines.

A pragmatist might say, to heck with all the above, I don't care if it's right wrong or indifferent, show me something that works, show me results.

In all cases a teacher and Dharma and Sangha are very useful as checks against error, sources of new ideas, and repositories of ancient tested methods.

So blind faith is abandoned by some and actually cultivated by others, but I don't think it can really be taken as a sign of error.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sun Jan 01, 2012 12:32 pm

kirtu wrote:
billybudd wrote:Pardon the silly wording of this question, but I don't want to create confusion:

Concerning Buddhism, what do you believe that an atheist philosopher or scientist would say is impossible?

edit: Let's word this again,
Beliefs that do not have bases in observation or experience. Or experiences that are not repeatable by people outside the Buddhist community.


Whatever you find that goes against the metaphysics of philosophic naturalism. Pretty much the whole of Buddhadharma. Superficially one can find a lot of things that don't clash between Buddhism and materialism (let's call it like this for the sake of this discussion).
However, if you deepen your studies, you'll understand that at its root both systems are worlds apart.
Have in mind that both are based on metaphysical predilections, aka as beliefs. Again, superficially materialism may seem to make a lot of sense and seems to be more solid that Buddhadharma in terms of what we can experience easily. However, there comes a point where you'll have to stand on belief alone if you want to remain a materialist.
OTOH, Buddhadharma makes some pretty radical statements about the nature of reality (the dream like thing, for instance). So you will have to refine your mode of inquiry. Nice and precise instruments or mathematical models just don't cut it any longer. Your mode of inquiry will be direct experience and this means you must refine your mind, let's put it like this, to a point where you can investigate the nature of reality. In the end, it is said, you don't stand on beliefs, but instead you have direct experience of the claims of Buddhadharma.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:31 pm

billybudd wrote:edit: Let's word this again,
Beliefs that do not have bases in observation or experience. Or experiences that are not repeatable by people outside the Buddhist community.


Most religious experience, no matter the religion, is generally based on one's own personal experiences and reliance on the testimonies contained in scripture. The problem that arises when faced with opposition from science is that you cannot test such claims against reproducible events. What a yogi experiences in meditation cannot be repeated under laboratory conditions or even documented by a third party.

The main difference between scientific and religious thought is falsifiability. Religions generally make unfalsifiable claims.

As for Buddhist-specific experiences and observations, a lot of such things would be possible in other Indic religious systems (recollection of past lives for example), though not all of it of course.

Most scientists in our present day would reject past life recollection, either calling it psychosis or fantastical thinking, because in present mainstream theories of life we are just bio-chemical lifeforms with no past or future lives. This of course is a belief, though it often gets labelled as a fact.

Materialists generally don't consider one's mental reality to have the same value as the material as materiality is considered primary while mental phenomena are seen as a epiphenomena of it. On the other hand, if you see the mental as having primacy, then the material world becomes a bi-product of mental activity.

At its core, Buddhism favours the latter way of thinking. Volitional action (karma) leads to formations (samskara) and ultimately to our common collective reality. The universe is essentially a product of the collective karma of all sentient beings within it. In the materialist world view the innate physical world exists before we do and we are just a temporary product of it.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Adamantine » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:05 am

I like to recommend the book "Magic Dance" by Thinley Norbu as a mode of inquiry into this issue: specifically the chapter "The Two Extremes and Beyond the Two Extremes" as well as the chapter "Magic and the Mysterious"
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby billybudd » Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:33 pm

I have been reading through various Suttas of the Canon for the first time this month. I've noticed the two types of discussions that many of you are referring to. "Natural, normal, explainable, logical" then the "spiritual, unexplainable, divine." I am able to find fairly elaborate but logical philosophical models to explain nearly all the 'divine' passages, however I know that many people take these passages from a literal stand point.

Another type of variation in the Buddha's words I've noticed is "modest, humble, loving, teaching, simple" then there's a "badarse, powerful, better-than-you" personality that appears fairly often. The powerful Buddha personality is often connected with direct use of supernatural abilities, and things that can't simply be explained through logical philosophical models. But because it's so different, I can't help but imagine that this isn't him, but love stuck monks elaborating a little bit over the years.

I don't really have any questions, just looking for a sound board, I guess. And sorry for not replying for a few days, I have been out of town.

edit: I even feel that the "spiritual, unexplainable, divine" passages are needed, because it's simply so very very hard to explain certain concepts without asking for a little bit of faith from his followers. And, add on to this, I feel that if the Buddha was born in Europe a thousand years later, his teachings would be worded differently so as to be accepted by the religion of the country. In place of Karma would be Sin and so on. Although what he did may not be possible in another culture.
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Mr. G » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:20 pm

billybudd wrote:I feel that if the Buddha was born in Europe a thousand years later, his teachings would be worded differently so as to be accepted by the religion of the country. In place of Karma would be Sin and so on. Although what he did may not be possible in another culture.


I don't think so. Tenets like karma and rebirth would have been taught as there are just too many suttas where they are emphasized. There is good and bad karma, so karma is not equivalent to sin...but I understand the point you're trying to make.

I think a good modern day example is Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche who fled from India to Italy. He can speak Italian fluently, and as we know Italy is primarily Catholic/Christian. However he still emphasizes core principles like karma, rebirth, dependent origination, etc.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Faith and Belief

Postby Jikan » Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:39 am

Glad to hear you're making a start in your study of the teachings, billybudd.
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