Buddhism and Death

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Buddhism and Death

Postby Challenge23 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:19 am

Hello,

Hopefully this should be the last of these newbie questions I'm posting. I am pretty sure this is the most serious one.

To Long; Didn't Read version: I think I have a phobia of dying and am not sure what the proof we as Buddhists have of reincarnation. Help?

Longer version:
From my understanding in order for Buddhism to make sense then we have to have karma and reincarnation. If you only live once then karma isn't nearly fast enough to balance the scales. If you don't have to worry about coming back to repeat the cycle then once you get to the point in your practice where you aren't a bad person to be around then you don't really need to push it anymore.
I would even go so far as to say that if you aren't being some sort of ludicrous hedonist then you aren't living your life right. Why serve sentient beings as in 70 years their suffering will absolutely end? Why work towards the end of suffering as it will come when you stop breathing no matter what you do?

I know there is something I'm not seeing here and that there is some way of proving these things that is as least as strong as the science behind neurology that basically shows that the brain is like an engine and consciousness is like heat that is generated when the brain is running. According to this theory when you turn off the brain consciousness just dissipates like heat dissipating off of an engine.

As I have been practicing I have realized that this is what is slowing my practice. I am scared that I am wasting my life going towards a goal that I will get to anyway that will at the same time be truly horrifying to me(the idea of all that I think of as me just whiffing off like blowing out a candle is really scary). Help?
I'm an agnostic in the same sense that Robert Anton Wilson was, except his reaction was laughter. Mine isn't.

I am not a teacher in any tradition, Buddhist or otherwise. Anything that I have posted should not be taken as representing the view of anyone other than my own. And maybe Larry S. Smith of Montgomery, Alabama. But most likely just me.
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:32 am

The Four Solaces
17. "The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom four solaces are found here and now.

"'Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.' This is the first solace found by him.

"'Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.' This is the second solace found by him.

"'Suppose evil (results) befall an evil-doer. I, however, think of doing evil to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?' This is the third solace found by him.

"'Suppose evil (results) do not befall an evil-doer. Then I see myself purified in any case.' This is the fourth solace found by him.

"The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom, here and now, these four solaces are found."

"So it is, Blessed One. So it is, Sublime one. The disciple of the Noble Ones, venerable sir, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom, here and now, four solaces are found.

"'Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.' This is the first solace found by him.

"'Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.' This is the second solace found by him.

"'Suppose evil (results) befall an evil-doer. I, however, think of doing evil to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?' This is the third solace found by him.

"'Suppose evil (results) do not befall an evil-doer. Then I see myself purified in any case.' This is the fourth solace found by him.

"The disciple of the Noble Ones, venerable sir, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom, here and now, these four solaces are found.

"Marvelous, venerable sir! Marvelous, venerable sir! As if, venerable sir, a person were to turn face upwards what is upside down, or to uncover the concealed, or to point the way to one who is lost or to carry a lamp in the darkness, thinking, 'Those who have eyes will see visible objects,' so has the Dhamma been set forth in many ways by the Blessed One. We, venerable sir, go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma for refuge, and to the Community of Bhikkhus for refuge. Venerable sir, may the Blessed One regard us as lay followers who have gone for refuge for life, from today."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el008.html
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby LastLegend » Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:27 pm

You are not alone. I am afraid of dying myself. Just gonna have to study Buddhism harder until we longer possess the fear.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

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―Listen! Those of you who devote yourselves to the Dharma
must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Jesse » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:57 pm

I hope this helps, but most of this is based on my limited understanding, anyways..

Think of it this way, we essentially have a sort of reverse amnesia of who we are, this reverse amnesia takes the form of "representation", or deluded views, about ourselves and everything else.

If you remove these deluded views, the problem of "I', disappearing forever, is no longer a problem. What is 'reborn', is an essence, and this essence on a non-deluded level is our true identity, the process of removing deluded views simply reveals this truth, and then there is no problem.

When you are angry, where did the anger come from? Something probably triggered it, but there were also probably other conditions that contributed to it, maybe your alarm clock didn't go off that morning, you didn't have time for your coffee, and maybe you got a flat tire on the way to work, whatever.

You could say the anger itself IS the trigger and the conditions that caused it. The same is true of 'I', the being whom fears it's own demise, treasures it's happiness, and shuns it's suffering.

So, when you think of karma, don't think of it as some guy on a computer keeping track of all good deeds, and bad deeds, it's more like the anger example, simplified anyways.

So is it a waste of your life, to remove the obscuration of views that lead you to fear death? or is it better to live hedonistically, and enjoy life as much as possible? Cause I can tell you the former leads to far more happiness than the latter..

http://www.beyondthenet.net/dhamma/trilogy.htm
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el231.html
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby asunthatneversets » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:22 pm

Challenge23 wrote: Hello,

Hopefully this should be the last of these newbie questions I'm posting. I am pretty sure this is the most serious one.

To Long; Didn't Read version: I think I have a phobia of dying and am not sure what the proof we as Buddhists have of reincarnation. Help?

From my understanding in order for Buddhism to make sense then we have to have karma and reincarnation. If you only live once then karma isn't nearly fast enough to balance the scales. If you don't have to worry about coming back to repeat the cycle then once you get to the point in your practice where you aren't a bad person to be around then you don't really need to push it anymore.
I would even go so far as to say that if you aren't being some sort of ludicrous hedonist then you aren't living your life right. Why serve sentient beings as in 70 years their suffering will absolutely end?


Some of these things such as karma and rebirth may be good pointers in the process of removing the ignorance which binds us to suffering. But there are no "ultimates" in buddhism when it comes to the ins-and-outs of the teaching. What is stated at the beginning may not necessarily be what is true at the end. An analogy of peeling away the layers of an onion is often used... what is present at the start is soon discarded* and you continue layer by layer until you reach the core (*or not discarded per se, but seen as only having conventional purpose and ultimately lacking inherent existence). Use these pointers as a map and a good structure for your personal conduct and view, but don't attach to them too tightly. Do not treat buddhism as a belief system, do not believe anything except for that liberation is real and the Dharma can take you there.

Challenge23 wrote: Why work towards the end of suffering as it will come when you stop breathing no matter what you do?


Do you absolutely know that the end of suffering will come upon the cessation of breathing? Or is there a possibility that you tell yourself that now as a sort of light at the end of this tunnel you feel you're in? Perhaps a statement like this is a reflection of the way you feel, in that, in the midst of this predicament you find yourself in... the struggle to escape the tunnel has become tiring and pointless. Consider for a moment; the possibility that you were never in the tunnel to begin with, that truth is what this teaching reveals. Suffering is born of a grave misunderstanding regarding the nature of reality. The whole schematic of you as an individuated entity, living, suffering, dying someday, is an unneeded blemish upon the truth of what is happening right now. Why not be free? Your argument is akin to being in a desert and dying of thirst when all of a sudden someone walks up to you and says "hey, you're sitting on a well full of fresh water, it's right there under you, you just have to dig a little" to which you reply "what is the point of quenching my thirst and stopping my suffering if it will cease upon death anyways".

Challenge23 wrote: I know there is something I'm not seeing here and that there is some way of proving these things that is as least as strong as the science behind neurology that basically shows that the brain is like an engine and consciousness is like heat that is generated when the brain is running. According to this theory when you turn off the brain consciousness just dissipates like heat dissipating off of an engine.


This would be a wrong view (in my opinion), and a debilitating one in buddhism due to taking the brain to be some type of ultimate physical "thing" which generates consciousness. Some neuroscience may state this but it doesn't mean that is the way it is, those neuroscientists certainly haven't figured out how the brain supposedly produces consciousness. This has been the issue with a lot of science... for centuries science has approached it's endeavors with the fundamental assumption that reality is indeed a form of ultimate physical suchness, constructed and composed of matter, constituent particles, elements etc... it treats the world like an artifact and this view in turn makes you yourself an anomaly and fluke living on a rock floating through infinite space. A fluke who was born, subject to decay in time and ultimately succumbs to death. This perception "physicalizes" experience and makes you a mere dissipating consciousness which resides in this structure composed of flesh, bone and blood. This type of perception and belief structure can undoubtably ONLY result in one feeling fragile and anxious. Luckily, although this (physicalist) view has been adopted, believed and taught to the masses, it lacks inherent reality. You have been indoctrinated with this view, but it is unreal.

Things are only that way if you believe them to be. In truth they are quite the opposite, and buddhism is one way (one of the best in my opinion) to experientially discover the unreality of the deluded view I described above. You are not bound by any such limitations.

Challenge23 wrote: As I have been practicing I have realized that this is what is slowing my practice. I am scared that I am wasting my life going towards a goal that I will get to anyway that will at the same time be truly horrifying to me(the idea of all that I think of as me just whiffing off like blowing out a candle is really scary). Help?


So you're saying that in pursuing the unreality of yourself via buddhism you're just chasing a fact that will be actualized upon physical death anyways? What buddhism reveals is that this "you" you take yourself to be is a misconception, and that you are indeed vastly more than just this. You take yourself to be a limited individual with a physical body who lives in time and is going to die, but upon the realization of your true nature you discover that you certainly aren't that... and that what you truly are is inconceivable, beyond nothing, beyond everything, unborn, undying, timeless and perfect. It is a liberation, not something to fear. You feel fear and anxiety about your existence at this time because you're identifying with an abstraction, something that isn't truly there(the way you believe it to be). In the fruition of buddhism one doesn't activate a death of self (it's not as you say, "all that I think of as me just whiffing off like blowing out a candle"), instead what happens is a deep and intuitive discovery(beyond belief) that you were never born to begin with, and that which is unborn cannot die. This is why nirvana(liberation) it is called 'escaping the cycle of birth and death', birth and death are understood to be happenings which are predicated on a false "self", and therefore suffering itself is based on an illusion. There is nothing here which was born, and there is nothing here which will die, and I know you cannot believe that (and I would not ask you to) but if applied correctly this teaching will reveal this truth.

Your skepticism and questioning are good things, question everything.

(Apologies for all the edits, i initially typed this out too quick.)
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby 5heaps » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:23 pm

Challenge23 wrote:the science behind neurology that basically shows that the brain is like an engine and consciousness is like heat that is generated when the brain is running. According to this theory when you turn off the brain consciousness just dissipates like heat dissipating off of an engine.

there is no such scientific evidence, they dont even have a definition for the mind yet

even if karma is wrong and its not the cause and effect machination behind the mind, the mind nevertheless is still a produced object (ie. produced chemically, behaviorally, or whatever). therefore what you do will still determine the minds circumstances. as it turns out, being a hedonist, thinking short-term, and only about oneself, conditions the mind toward suffering, because it makes the mind too narrow and tight ie. you could be thinking about many ppl and on a grand scale, but you only think about yourself. which is more fun? why do you only think about yourself? because thats the result/effect of having obsession about yourself present as the cause

in either case the mind will only be understood through some effort. one can either attempt to investigate the mind from a 3rd person perspective such as collaborative scientific measurement, or you can do it through 1st person introspection if you are lucky to find a really really qualified teacher.
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Wesley1982 » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:44 pm

I've already ascertained that my own funeral is inevitable at some point in life. Dealing with concrete facts about yourself leads to comprehension of reality.
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Wesley1982 » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:50 pm

Challenge23 wrote:Hello,

Hopefully this should be the last of these newbie questions I'm posting. I am pretty sure this is the most serious one.

To Long; Didn't Read version: I think I have a phobia of dying and am not sure what the proof we as Buddhists have of reincarnation. Help?

Longer version:
From my understanding in order for Buddhism to make sense then we have to have karma and reincarnation. If you only live once then karma isn't nearly fast enough to balance the scales. If you don't have to worry about coming back to repeat the cycle then once you get to the point in your practice where you aren't a bad person to be around then you don't really need to push it anymore.
I would even go so far as to say that if you aren't being some sort of ludicrous hedonist then you aren't living your life right. Why serve sentient beings as in 70 years their suffering will absolutely end? Why work towards the end of suffering as it will come when you stop breathing no matter what you do?

I know there is something I'm not seeing here and that there is some way of proving these things that is as least as strong as the science behind neurology that basically shows that the brain is like an engine and consciousness is like heat that is generated when the brain is running. According to this theory when you turn off the brain consciousness just dissipates like heat dissipating off of an engine.

As I have been practicing I have realized that this is what is slowing my practice. I am scared that I am wasting my life going towards a goal that I will get to anyway that will at the same time be truly horrifying to me(the idea of all that I think of as me just whiffing off like blowing out a candle is really scary). Help?


Its possible that after cause of death is determined that the mind/spirit journeys for 40 days before finally finding rest in the realms of the 'heavens'.
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Dave The Seeker » Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:21 pm

Wesley1982 wrote:Its possible that after cause of death is determined that the mind/spirit journeys for 40 days before finally finding rest in the realms of the 'heavens'.


What does the cause of death have to do with anything?

In my understanding, the mind may be reborn at any moment, and up to 49 days (this may not be 'days' as we understand 'time'), after death of the body it has occupied for a time of existence in the precious human realm. And it depends on the Karma it created while being in this realm if it goes to a realm of pleasure or of greater suffering than that of a precious human rebirth.


Kindest wishes, Dave
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Wesley1982 » Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:30 pm

The Seeker wrote:
Wesley1982 wrote:Its possible that after cause of death is determined that the mind/spirit journeys for 40 days before finally finding rest in the realms of the 'heavens'.


What does the cause of death have to do with anything?

In my understanding, the mind may be reborn at any moment, and up to 49 days (this may not be 'days' as we understand 'time'), after death of the body it has occupied for a time of existence in the precious human realm. And it depends on the Karma it created while being in this realm if it goes to a realm of pleasure or of greater suffering than that of a precious human rebirth.


Kindest wishes, Dave


Your cause of death determines when your physical body/self in this earthly life is finished.
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Dave The Seeker » Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:39 pm

Are you saying that there needs to be a cause of death to be determined for a body to be dead?

Then any autopsy with the words 'undetermined cause' means the person is not dead...................

Once the respiratory system is not functioning, unless kept alive by artificial means, a body is dead.


Kindest wishes, Dave
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Challenge23 » Mon May 07, 2012 7:13 pm

Ok. I've been trying to put together something in regards to the responses since I first saw them. I have yet to write anything that I really like so I'll just post what I have. Please understand that my concerns are connected in with other various ideas which I will be threading in throughout my response. I hope it is clear. Also, if there are any doubts I have absolutely no hostility to anyone who responded or anyone who is here. Please be charitable in regards to interpretation as I can assure you that I am charitable in regards to my writing.


asunthatneversets wrote:
Do you absolutely know that the end of suffering will come upon the cessation of breathing? Or is there a possibility that you tell yourself that now as a sort of light at the end of this tunnel you feel you're in? Perhaps a statement like this is a reflection of the way you feel, in that, in the midst of this predicament you find yourself in... the struggle to escape the tunnel has become tiring and pointless. Consider for a moment; the possibility that you were never in the tunnel to begin with, that truth is what this teaching reveals. Suffering is born of a grave misunderstanding regarding the nature of reality. The whole schematic of you as an individuated entity, living, suffering, dying someday, is an unneeded blemish upon the truth of what is happening right now. Why not be free? Your argument is akin to being in a desert and dying of thirst when all of a sudden someone walks up to you and says "hey, you're sitting on a well full of fresh water, it's right there under you, you just have to dig a little" to which you reply "what is the point of quenching my thirst and stopping my suffering if it will cease upon death anyways".


Here's the thing. I don't absolutely "know" anything. I don't think it is, even in theory, possible to "know" anything. I don't "know" that the person that posted the words above me is, in fact, a "person" and not a very cleverly designed computer program. I act as if the person who typed it is an actual person because it is convenient and there are no long range repercussions otherwise. However, I think in my initial post I wasn't clear enough in what I was saying and for that I am sorry. I will be more clear.

I definitely agree that Buddhist practice can benefit someone regardless of what happens after we die up to a point. Being compassionate has measurable positive effects on the body and meditation rewires the brain in a positive way. This has been confirmed via experiments and evidence continues to increase every day. This was not what I was talking about, however.

It has been shown that in order to get the benefits of meditation and compassion one only needs to practice a limited amount. Like the spiritual equivalent of running three times a week. What I am talking about is the spiritual equivalent of becoming a marathon runner. Doing the long retreats(months or even years), practicing an hour or more every day. From personal experience I know that level of practice can turn you into a hot mess or, at best, cause you to lose out on a lot of your life. The goal when you put in that vastly increased amount of time is, of course, to achieve Enlightenment for the good of all sentient beings. My concerns is that this effort is wasted. This, of course, would not matter if we just come back again and again(and would even be a wise use of our time) . However, if it is wasted and this is all we get then that changes everything. Sacrifices become inherently more tragic as in some cases you will never get back what you gave up. Every experience from dating to eating hot dogs is something that you will never have another chance to do once you stop breathing. For me, this puts the idea of doing 1500 hours worth of a particular practice into a whole different perspective.

To use your analogy, the water is about 3 inches down and I accept that digging 3 inches is a very good idea. I'm talking about digging a hundred feet and going past the water in order to get to a pocket of oxygen.

asunthatneversets wrote:
Luckily, although this (physicalist) view has been adopted, believed and taught to the masses, it lacks inherent reality. You have been indoctrinated with this view, but it is unreal.

Things are only that way if you believe them to be. In truth they are quite the opposite, and buddhism is one way (one of the best in my opinion) to experientially discover the unreality of the deluded view I described above. You are not bound by any such limitations.



But if the view was unreal then we wouldn't be able to create things based upon that view. If the brain didn't generate all of the factors that one would attribute to mind then we wouldn't be able to create chemicals that influence all of those factors(i.e., xanex wouldn't do anything for anxiety as anxiety would be an emotion which is the property of the mind and therefore isn't affected by the brain chemistry).

Of course, you might respond that the point of Buddhist thought is that the mind doesn't have inherent existence so mapping traits of what we would consider "mind" is irrelevant. However, if you take that tack then you get into a whole other set of issues which(to be frank) I haven't been able to even get a fair lead on. For example, if the Buddha was Enlightened and Enlightenment is living the truth that the mind doesn't inherently exist, then how did the Buddha eat or even walk from one place to another. Or, to think of that example another way, how can you articulate at a mental level going from the living room to the kitchen to get a glass of water if there is no "I" to interact with the chair, floor, glass, and faucet?

asunthatneversets wrote:
There is nothing here which was born, and there is nothing here which will die, and I know you cannot believe that (and I would not ask you to) but if applied correctly this teaching will reveal this truth.

Your skepticism and questioning are good things, question everything.


I think that you briefly touched on the last bit of the problem. I've been following the teaching and the only thing I get is more logical problems. I have heard it said that there are some things that you don't understand through reason but in my experience the phrase, "this idea is beyond logic" is invariably code for, "I don't want you to look at this too hard, just be quiet and give me your stuff." And I do not intend to be a casualty to someone else's cunning.


5heaps wrote:
there is no such scientific evidence, they dont even have a definition for the mind yet



Kinda. There isn't a definition of what the mind is but the materialistic theory does explain how it works fairly well. I touched on that above and can elaborate if you would like.

5heaps wrote:
even if karma is wrong and its not the cause and effect machination behind the mind, the mind nevertheless is still a produced object (ie. produced chemically, behaviorally, or whatever). therefore what you do will still determine the minds circumstances. as it turns out, being a hedonist, thinking short-term, and only about oneself, conditions the mind toward suffering, because it makes the mind too narrow and tight ie. you could be thinking about many ppl and on a grand scale, but you only think about yourself. which is more fun? why do you only think about yourself? because thats the result/effect of having obsession about yourself present as the cause


Well, with absolute(as opposed to "all due" which I think is a sort of cop out) respect, after a certain point I question that thinking on a grand scale really decreases suffering except in a very tiny number of people. An example. Let's say that I have a big hunk of bread, more than enough than I need. If I, through my compassion, give 1/2 of that bread to someone else then yes, that will increase overall happiness. However, I would suggest that if I gave all of my bread to others then, instead of feeling happy because of my compassion, I would feel hungry. And rather foolish. Of course, this requires careful thought in regards to what is a "need" and what is a "want" and there are some people who can happily give everything they have away and go through vast amounts of damage because of this with a smile on their face. To be blunt, I'm not one of those people(no matter how much part of me wants to be).
I'm an agnostic in the same sense that Robert Anton Wilson was, except his reaction was laughter. Mine isn't.

I am not a teacher in any tradition, Buddhist or otherwise. Anything that I have posted should not be taken as representing the view of anyone other than my own. And maybe Larry S. Smith of Montgomery, Alabama. But most likely just me.
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Re: Buddhism and Death

Postby Andrew108 » Tue May 08, 2012 9:20 pm

Genuine dharma points towards a reality that is not just brain-based. This genuine dharma also points to the fact that living and dying are never really 'done'. I'm not a teacher so I can't go further than this. Except to say that genuine dharma is closer than you think and more amazing than you can imagine. Genuine dharma pisses on death.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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