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A few questions - Dhamma Wheel

A few questions

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.
Q3D
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A few questions

Postby Q3D » Wed Aug 18, 2010 1:15 am

Hi

I've just recently looked into Buddhism, therefore please forgive the ignorance I'm sure is contained in this post! :lol:

Question one: I understand that part of the Noble Eightfold Path, right intention, includes the intention of "renunciation of desire". What exactly does this mean? I'm confused in the following way. If "desire" means merely wanting something (ie, wishing it was the case that the state of affairs ("reality") was different in any way to the way it is at this very moment), then it includes eating, drinking, sleeping, even simply moving about. If one completely renounces one's desires, then one has no desire to eat, drink or even move. Therefore, this renunciation implies a swift death by starvation (as an aside, I am led to understand that this type of renunciation is desirable in Jainism).

Question two: Are rebirth and the various "heavans" and "hells" mandatory to "believe in"? The thing that has drawn me to Buddhism is that it appears to be extremely pragmatic and its concerns very relevant, even after over two millenia from its founding. For example, the focus on ending suffering and the lack of metaphyiscal guesswork concerning a "God" set it apart, in my opinion, from most contemporary religions. That said, rebirth and the numerous worlds, because they do not stand up to scientific scrutiny, appear to be on par with Chrisitian/Islamic/Jewish notions of heavan and hell, the host of Hindu gods, the gods of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Fiji etc etc. In short, these aspects seem to require mere faith. This strikes me as doing severe violence to what I see as the Buddha's preferred approach of rational, systematic enquiry and observation into the nature of existence and experience.

Question three: Related to the above, is the doctrine of wholsome and unwholsome kamma to be accepted merely on faith? Are we to "believe" in it just because someone told us to, or can we actually verify the principle in experience? Certainly, sometimes wholesome actions are seen to bear wholesome fruits and some unwholsome actions unwholsome fruits. But not always. It is no answer to say "the causal matrix is so unbelievably complex that we can never know or observe exactly the nature of the "seeds" of kamma ripening into corresponding "fruits"; ergo, just believe in it because I, or someone else, has claimed it is true".

Any help much appreciated!

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Modus.Ponens
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Re: A few questions

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Aug 18, 2010 2:47 am

He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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Goedert
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Re: A few questions

Postby Goedert » Wed Aug 18, 2010 3:01 am


Q3D
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Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 12:34 am

Re: A few questions

Postby Q3D » Wed Aug 18, 2010 3:43 am

Last edited by Q3D on Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Jason
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Re: A few questions

Postby Jason » Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:34 am

"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" ().

(Buddhist-related blog)
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Zom
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Re: A few questions

Postby Zom » Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:58 am


lojong1
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Re: A few questions

Postby lojong1 » Wed Aug 18, 2010 8:35 am


nameless
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Re: A few questions

Postby nameless » Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:08 am

1. I think we need to examine why desire causes suffering. When we don't get what we want, we suffer. We we get what we want, we attach to it but it inevitably decays, we suffer. When we get what we don't want, we suffer. So if you seek food, but you don't mind not getting what you like, or getting what you don't like, or not getting anything at all, and you just have it without thinking "it's so delicious I can't bear for the experience to end", then there is no suffering. On the other hand, it is our bodies' nature to need food. Think about the Middle Path, without indulging in desire, but without clinging to "I should have no desire" either. Clinging is another cause for suffering.

2. The concept of "mandatory" belief in heaven and hell: What does it mean? If you follow it then you will be granted something and if you don't you won't? It's more of, if you have the belief, you will act in certain ways and reap certain results. Personally, it's not something I think about much, and if you ask me I don't believe but I don't reject it either. If you take the stance "you believe in something unprovable hence you're intellectually irresponsible" then you miss the point. Some people, just for example, may need the concept of heaven and hell to motivate them to engage in helpful behaviour. It's not ideal, but nothing is.

On faith: Buddhism is a lot about rational, systematic enquiry and observation into the nature of existence and experience. On the other hand, there is still faith. You're putting faith in the belief that the Buddha actually was awakened and following his path will lead you to cessation of suffering. Faith that all the time and effort you're putting into Buddhist practice, whichever way you carry it out, is worthwhile. If you read suttas, faith that the suttas were accurately transcribed and later translated. If you go to a teacher, faith that the teacher is a good or at least acceptably competent one.

On "intellectual responsibility": Science studies what is observable. What is observable? All that we get through our six senses. Why six? Because it's all our ancestors needed to survive. We're not able to observe the world accurately, we only observe it well enough to survive. Some animals are blind because they never needed sight. We lack (sense x) because we never needed it, and furthermore we're not capable of imagining what sense x is like. So do we deny something because we can't sense it? A bat would tell you light doesn't exist.

3. Of course, the causal matrix is so unbelievably complex that we can never know or observe exactly the nature of the "seeds" of kamma ripening into corresponding "fruits". But that doesn't mean we just take it on faith. I think overall we can observe wholesome actions bearing wholesome results more often that not. We can't speak for other people, maybe that mass murderer feels perfectly happy, I don't know. You can only observe yourself so do so. If you steal something, kill someone, insult someone etc., do you suffer yourself? And this includes both external results and internal feelings of suffering.

If you want to know about studies, I read a book by Philip Zimbardo "The time paradox". He's a former president of the American Psychological Association so his research probably leans towards being reliable. He talks about people feeling gratitude towards things in the past having better mental well-being, people volunteering to help other having better well-being. If you read research on happiness, you'll probably find that things related to happiness are probably more wholesome than not.

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son of dhamma
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Re: A few questions

Postby son of dhamma » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:59 am

Sometimes no Buddhas arise in the world. Sometimes they do. When it happens, it is for the welfare and happiness of men, out of compassion for all creatures. For a long, long time he has been working to become a Buddha. He met other Buddhas along the way. And after his long striving he attains his final life, yet not without showing everyone else how to get there.


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