Thoughts on Buddhism

lrkun

New Member
mirandansa said:
lrkun said:
When faced with an undesirable issue, they hurt themselves, to be specific: The picture where you posted a buddhist burned himself.
The burning was a means of protest, not of escaping the issue. There were several such monks during the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem administration in the early 1960s. The self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc (the one featured on Rage Against The Machine's album cover) actually increased international pressure on Diem and led him to announce reforms. The promise was however not implemented, and he instead launched nationwide raids on Buddhist pagodas. Several monks (including the ones in the earlier pictures and video) followed Duc's protest and burned themselves to death. The regime was eventually toppled by a coup.


These monks did not care about themselves; they cared about others. They wanted the situation to be changed for the people of Vietnam, and they hoped that Diem would change his mind through reason and not violence. But Diem did not listen to them. Duc realised that more political pressure was needed, so he decided to raise international awareness on the issue (and, before his self-immolation, a spokesperson for the Buddhists informed the U.S. correspondents of the plan so that journalists would turn up).



Duc's body was re-cremated during the funeral with more than 4,000 people. Interestingly, his heart remained intact and did not burn. It was then placed in a glass chalice at Xa Loi Pagoda as a symbol of compassion:

I can respect this. It is somewhat akin to an extreme way of doing things, but the results are all that matter.

With respect to the heart, that is way to mystical for me. I don't enjoy seeing morbid stuff and human body parts. :lol:
 

pdka2004

New Member
My own thoughts on Buddhism can only come from my own personal experiences. Not from being a member of the faith itself, but from living in a predominantly Buddhist society for 3.5 years...in my case Thailand

It was always a paradox to me that such a polite, well meaning and seemingly placid country could also be home to some shockingly callous crime and human exploitation. The Thais themselves were extremely reluctant to address the issue or even admit that it was one.

They would not get angry and denouce me as an evil foreign agitator, as would probably happen where I live now in the US, rather they would smile demurely and politely change the subject. And never invite me around again.

To be honest I never even figured it out until many years after I had stopped living there. The problem is the Buddhism

The same belief structure that generates such politeness, such placidity and calm...also generates an abhorent ability in some to commit evil acts to others

We all know that Buddhism teaches reincarnation. That each of us will be reborn as either a more or less enlightened being depending on how we have behaved in this lifetime. And most Buddhists do strive to be honest and at least well intentioned in how they lead their lives

But what happens to the ones that dont manage? Who realize that, according to their beliefs, they are going down a few branches in the enlightenment tree. My experience was that the wheels come off completely. These people cease to care about how this present life is led because no matter what they do they are going to have to start all over again in the next one anyway.

Edit : I brought this point up to a friend ( who is a Catholic - we're still friends). He said that this was what happened when people lost their faith. I differed from this opinion as to me it was their continued faith that caused them to behave like this
 

Laurens

New Member
I can remember visiting a Zen meditation group a couple of times. They were all nice people and such, but I couldn't help finding it a bit odd...

There seemed to be a lot of attachment to Japanese culture. Many people there dressed in traditional Japanese outfits, we had to enter the room (oops sorry 'dojo') in a specific manner, there seemed to be this huge obsession going on. They even had Japanese incense.

At the end they would chant the 'Heart Sutra' in Japanese. 'What the hell is the point?' I thought, isn't the point of chanting the sutra that you might understand it? Well how on earth are you meant to understand it if you are chanting it in a language that you do not speak?

I think a lot of people there took pleasure in participating in something Japanese, I found it very odd personally.
 

Zerosix

New Member
Laurens said:
I think a lot of people there took pleasure in participating in something Japanese, I found it very odd personally.
:shock:

Weebo's mixing with religion?! That can't be good desu?.
 

monitoradiation

New Member
Laurens said:
I can remember visiting a Zen meditation group a couple of times. They were all nice people and such, but I couldn't help finding it a bit odd...

There seemed to be a lot of attachment to Japanese culture. Many people there dressed in traditional Japanese outfits, we had to enter the room (oops sorry 'dojo') in a specific manner, there seemed to be this huge obsession going on. They even had Japanese incense.

At the end they would chant the 'Heart Sutra' in Japanese. 'What the hell is the point?' I thought, isn't the point of chanting the sutra that you might understand it? Well how on earth are you meant to understand it if you are chanting it in a language that you do not speak?

I think a lot of people there took pleasure in participating in something Japanese, I found it very odd personally.
It's kinda similar to anything new-agey. I'm of the opinion that they're doing those things like tarot cards or crystal viewings and whatnot just because they don't completely understand it, and that gives them a thrill that there's mysteriousness in the world. Its partly the novelty factor, and there's also a bit of it to do with wanting to not understand it, which makes it appealing. I can't find a good phrase for it but there you go.
 

mirandansa

New Member
pdka2004 said:
We all know that Buddhism teaches reincarnation. That each of us will be reborn as either a more or less enlightened being depending on how we have behaved in this lifetime.
I already addressed that misunderstanding, which is basically a confusion of the Buddhist anatta (non-self) cycle of consciousness with the Hindu atman (immortal soul) cycle of a self:
The original Pali and Sanskrit texts have no word corresponding exactly to the English "rebirth" or "reincarnation" (it's important to note the paradigmatic difference that crops up in the translations -- "rebirth" and "reincarnation" are individualistic/atomistic terms, and Buddhism doesn't operate on individualism/atomism). The actual Pali words in the texts are like this:

Stream of consciousness (vià±à±ana-sotam),
upon dissolution of the aggregates (khandhas),
makes room for a new aggregation.

The newly aggregated consciousness is neither identical to nor entirely different from the previously dissolved consciousness.

(cf. Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism)

One obvious point of consideration on this is meme. A meme is a unit of cultural ideas. What exactly is a cultural idea? What does it mean to have an idea? An idea is a state of consciousness. Then what does it mean to share an idea? It's to share a state of consciousness. But consciousness itself is such a cognitive state. So what does it mean that person A and person B share cognitive state X? It means that A is partly B and B is partly A.

A person cannot be defined only in terms of the physical body. In fact, when we talk about someone in terms of personality, we are talking about a metaphysical structure. And such structures are what memes are about. And memes are something that can self-replicate trans-personally.

Other points of consideration include embodied cognition, situated cognition, panpsychism, etc.
Also:

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/reincarnation.htm
http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/tp/buddhismunfaq.htm

But what happens to the ones that dont manage? Who realize that, according to their beliefs, they are going down a few branches in the enlightenment tree. My experience was that the wheels come off completely. These people cease to care about how this present life is led because no matter what they do they are going to have to start all over again in the next one anyway.
There will be no "starting all over again" for them, for anyone. Their each self will die when their physical body dies and disintegrates -- that's what Siddhartha (the Buddha) teaches.
 

mirandansa

New Member
Laurens said:
At the end they would chant the 'Heart Sutra' in Japanese. 'What the hell is the point?' I thought, isn't the point of chanting the sutra that you might understand it? Well how on earth are you meant to understand it if you are chanting it in a language that you do not speak?
The sutra is not to be understood through chanting in the first place; you study it by reading and contemplating it. The chant is a form of meditation. You focus on the body and the sound by way of observing the "nowness" and "suchness" of reality:

 

mirandansa

New Member
Understanding the awareness:




Thich Nhat Hanh [tʰǐk ɲə̌t hà¢Ã‹ÂÃ‹â‚¬Ã‰Â²], one of the leading Buddhist peace activists, explains Nirvana, the ultimate cognitive goal of Buddhism:


Hanh went around with Martin Luther King, who nominated Hanh for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize:

 

acheron

New Member
It is a bit difficult to clearly discuss Buddhism in threads like this because of the incredible variety of Buddhist practice throughout the world. Buddhist philosophy doesn't prescribe very many actions at all; the philosophy is more or less a study of the nature of mind. Beyond the philosophy though are practices that are deeply cultural and local. Zen as practiced in Japan bears very little resemblance to the complex pantheon and ritualistic practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Pure Land buddhism is sort of a buddhist form of Mary worship, and is very popular in China, while in Burma there are massive massive numbers of monks and they end up being a potent political force simply by numbers, and because they have slightly more ability to speak freely than the general populace.

On top of the many regional branches of buddhism, one has to add that there are very different sets of rules for monks/nuns than there are for the general populace. Giving up worldly possessions is not a general buddhist precept, but it is a rule that most sects apply for monks. Sex is not frowned upon for the general populace, but it is for monks and nuns. That said, part of the philosophy does include the point that deep attachment to material goods or sex, or really anything, will cause suffering, and thus should be avoided.

Anyway, because of the way that Buddhist philosophy adapts to local cultural traditions, it simply can't be discussed as a single entity.
 

mirandansa

New Member
acheron said:
It is a bit difficult to clearly discuss Buddhism in threads like this because of the incredible variety of Buddhist practice throughout the world. Buddhist philosophy doesn't prescribe very many actions at all; the philosophy is more or less a study of the nature of mind.
As Alan Watts explains, Buddhism is essentially a dialectic framework for the mind in its relation to the world around i.e. for the dialogue between the mind and its environment. As the world changes, the mode and content of the dialogue may change. That's why we see in the ancient scriptures more deity-oriented commentaries on Siddhartha's teachings that are essentially neither theistic nor atheistic.

Beyond the philosophy though are practices that are deeply cultural and local. Zen as practiced in Japan bears very little resemblance to the complex pantheon and ritualistic practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Pure Land buddhism is sort of a buddhist form of Mary worship, and is very popular in China, while in Burma there are massive massive numbers of monks and they end up being a potent political force simply by numbers, and because they have slightly more ability to speak freely than the general populace.
Japan also has a polytheistic form of Buddhism that came about under the influence of the indigenous Shinto tradition. While "Buddha" originally refers to a cognitive state, some Japanese take it as referring to a set of distinct deity-beings.

On top of the many regional branches of buddhism, one has to add that there are very different sets of rules for monks/nuns than there are for the general populace. Giving up worldly possessions is not a general buddhist precept, but it is a rule that most sects apply for monks. Sex is not frowned upon for the general populace, but it is for monks and nuns. That said, part of the philosophy does include the point that deep attachment to material goods or sex, or really anything, will cause suffering, and thus should be avoided.
And that point derives from the observation of the Middle Way, which suggests also that the very desire to avoid the attachment to material goods, sex, etc. is itself a form of psychological attachment. This is where Buddhism differs from asceticism, the principle of forbidding oneself all pleasures.
 

SirYeen

New Member
TheFlyingBastard said:
Oh god. Now look what you did guys. You got mirandansa going again.
If you don't like them just scroll past them. To be honest, I for one enjoyed his/her posts.
 
Iprodigy said:
TheFlyingBastard said:
Oh god. Now look what you did guys. You got mirandansa going again.
If you don't like them just scroll past them. To be honest, I for one enjoyed his/her posts.
I would too, if only they weren't so slow. Note that this was in response to a post that consisted of half a dozen YouTube videos with stuff that wasn't even all that relevant.
They could be a lot more clear and concise instead of filled with blogging-relevant content.

Her last post was good like that, though, so two thumbs up for that.
 

mirandansa

New Member
It's not uncommon that neuroscientists have interests in the Eastern religion/philosophy especially Buddhism. We find the same kind of philosophical resonance among prominent physicists...



Erwin Schrà¶dinger (1887-1961) -- winner of 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics and student of Vedanta philosophy (a precursor to Buddhism)

The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. [...] The material world has only been constructed at the price of taking the self, that is, mind, out of it, removing it; mind is not part of it.</COLOR></B><i></i>
(Mind and Matter, 1958)

This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of this entire existence, but in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance.<i></i>
(My View of the World, 1961)

No self is of itself alone. It has a long chain of intellectual ancestors. The "I" is chained to ancestry by many factors ... This is not mere allegory, but an eternal memory. [...] Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge... It has nothing to do with the individual. The ego or its separation is an illusion. Indeed in a certain sense two "I"'s are identical namely when one disregards all special contents , their Karma. The goal of man is to preserve his Karma and to develop it further... when man dies his Karma lives and creates for itself another carrier.<i></i>
(Writings of July 1918, quoted in A Life of Erwin Schrà¶dinger, 1994, by Walter Moore)

I insist upon the view that 'all is waves'.<i></i>
(In a 1959 letter to John Lighton Synge)



Niels Bohr (1885-1962) -- winner of 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics

When awarded the highest order by the Danish government, he designed his own coat of arms which featured the symbol of Tao:



The concept of Tao is a crucial element in Zen Buddhism.

The great extension of our experience in recent years has brought light to the insufficiency of our simple mechanical conceptions and, as a consequence, has shaken the foundation on which the customary interpretation of observation was based. [...] Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems.
(Atomic Physics and the Description of Nature, 1934)



Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) -- winner of 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics

We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning. [...] Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word "understanding." [...] Any concepts or words which have been formed in the past through the interplay between the world and ourselves are not really sharply defined with respect to their meaning: that is to say, we do not know exactly how far they will help us in finding our way in the world. We often know that they can be applied to a wide range of inner or outer experience, but we practically never know precisely the limits of their applicability. This is true even of the simplest and most general concepts like "existence" and "space and time". Therefore, it will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth.
(Physics and Philosophy, 1958)



Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958) -- winner of 1945 Nobel Prize in Physics and student of parapsychology

The layman always means when he says "reality" that he is speaking of something self-evidently known; whereas to me it seems the most important and exceedingly difficult task of our time is to work on the construction of a new idea of reality. [...] Both of us [seem] to agree that the future of Jung's ideas is not with [psycho-] therapy... but with a unitarian, holistic concept of nature and the position of man in it.<i></i>
(In letters to Markus Fierz, as quoted in The Innermost Kernel : Depth Psychology and Quantum Physics : Wolfgang Pauli's Dialogue with C. G. Jung, 2005, by Suzanne Gieser)

Although I have no objection to accepting the existence of relatively constant psychic contents that survive personal ego, it must always be born in mind that we have no way of knowing what these contents are actually like "as such." All we can observe is their effect on other living people, whose spiritual level and whose personal unconscious crucially influence the way these contents actually manifest themselves.<i></i>
("Modern Examples of Background Physics", 1948, as translated by David Roscoe in Atom and Archetype, 1992, edited by Carl Alfred Meier)



Eugene Wigner (1902-1995) -- winner of 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics and student of Vedanta philosophy

It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.<i></i>
(Symmetries and Reflections: Scientific Essays, 1970)



David Bohm (1917-1992) -- considered as one of the best quantum physicists of all time (REF) and student of Buddhism

<B>Man's general way of thinking of the totality, i.e. his general world view, is crucial for overall order of the human mind itself. If he thinks of the totality as constituted of independent fragments, then that is how his mind will tend to operate, but if he can include everything coherently and harmoniously in an overall whole that is undivided, unbroken and without border (for every border is a division or break) then his mind will tend to move in a similar way, and from this will flow an orderly action within the whole. [...] My suggestion is that at each state the proper order of operation of the mind requires an overall grasp of what is generally known, not only in formal logical, mathematical terms, but also intuitively, in images, feelings, poetic usage of language, etc. [...] The notion that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion.
(Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 1980)

We often find that we cannot easily give up the tendency to hold rigidly to patterns of thought built up over a long time. We are then caught up in what may be called absolute necessity. This kind of thought leaves no room at all intellectually for any other possibility, while emotionally and physically, it means we take a stance in our feelings, in our bodies, and indeed, in our whole culture, of holding back or resisting. This stance implies that under no circumstances whatsoever can we allow ourselves to give up certain things or change them. [...] If I am right in saying that thought is the ultimate origin or source, it follows that if we don't do anything about thought, we won't get anywhere.
(Changing Consciousness, 1991)

Oft-cited remarks on Buddhism from scientists include this:


<COLOR color="#FFFFFF">Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.

Fritjof Capra, a Ph.D. physicist and systems theorist who studied with Heisenberg, wrote in his The Tao of Physics (1975): "The influence of modern physics goes beyond technology. It extends to the realm of thought and culture where it has led to a deep revision in man's conception of the universe and his relation to it. [...] Whenever the essential nature of things is analysed by the intellect, it must seem absurd or paradoxical. This has always been recognized by the mystics, but has become a problem in science only very recently. [...] Mystics understand the roots of the Tao but not its branches; scientists understand its branches but not its roots. Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science; but man needs both."
 
Yeah, see, and this is less good. This just reads like a pamphlet. It's a shame because I really feel mirandansa can make good posts with useful information.
Do you have anything about Buddhism itself?
 

mirandansa

New Member
TheFlyingBastard said:
Do you have anything about Buddhism itself?
"Buddhism itself" is a very general (and versatile) way of dealing with experiential phenomena, focusing on the nature of present consciousness. If one is to grasp what "Buddhism itself" is about, one is to enter into the discussion of consciousness. And i meant to give some modern intellectual contexts by drawing on quotes from modern scientists.

Schrodinger was clearly into the Upanishads, which is strongly interrelated with Buddhism. He said:

"The multiplicity is only apparent. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not of the Upanishads only. The mystical experience of the union with God regularly leads to this view, unless strong prejudices stand in the way."
(as quoted in The Eye of Shiva: Eastern Mysticism and Science (1981) by Amaury de Riencourt)

The oldest Upanishads -- Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya -- are from the pre-Siddhartha era, while Taittiriya, Aitareya and Kausitaki are post-Siddhartha and show Buddhist influences in terminology and explanations. Note how Schrodinger makes a direct reference to Nirvana in my last post, for instance.


We can easily identify the essence of Buddhism:


FOUR TRUTHS
  • It suffers -- A sentient being comes out with the capability to sense and perceive. Because of that, a sentient existence is inherently subject to perceptual illusions and cognitive suffering.
  • It starts to suffer -- Such suffering emerges when it clings to illusory senses and perceptions such as self-hood that craves.
  • It ends to suffer -- When it relinquishes illusions and craving, it is liberated from cognitive suffering.
  • It advances -- It reaches cognitive freedom by following the Eightfold Path.


EIGHTFOLD PATH
  • Wisdom | Right View -- observe reality as it is, not just as it appears to be
  • Wisdom | Right Intention -- rid a thought of whatever qualities it views to be wrong
  • Ethics | Right Representation -- express with right intention
  • Ethics | Right Action -- behave with right intention
  • Ethics | Right Livelihood -- work with right intention
  • Focus | Right Effort -- endeavour to improve
  • Focus | Right Mindfulness -- apprehend contexts and possibilities
  • Focus | Right Concentration -- contemplate perceptual items





... which appears to have pretty universal applicability. Surely there are many people who openly respect such principles in some way or the other but who don't identify with Buddhism because they are unaware that these are taught in Buddhism or because they don't want to sound religious or whatnot, among other possible reasons. At any rate, they wouldn't have to call themselves a Buddhist, since, unlike Christianity or Islam, there is no dictator to be imagined as forcing people to side with himself under a specific label. This is how "Buddhism itself" is more of an experience-based philosophical and psychological enterprise than what most people may conceive as an imagination-based religion. And my intention in quoting the above scientists was to show how they were Buddhists in their philosophical orientation while not explicitly calling themselves as such. They talk about how the customary sense of reality is illusory and how important the role of consciousness is in the way reality manifests; that's perfectly a Buddhist analysis. They may well have reached such wisdom through their own scientific research, and the point is that you would eventually come to the same kind of cognitive landscape as the one traditionally represented under the banner "Buddhism" if you, by whatever appropriate means, manage to pay enough attention to the elusive details of the nature of reality.

In the video i attached on the second page of this thread, Ethan Nichthern describes how the meditation as practised in Buddhism can be practised by people of any religious or non-religious convictions. That's because it works on what all conscious human beings have in common -- consciousness -- without necessarily resorting to specific mythical imaginations as in the Christian and Islamic prayers. "Buddhism itself", somewhat like the Linux kernel ;) , is optimally general, portable, and adaptive to various circumstances (Dr. Lewis Lancaster at UC Berkeley's Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures considers this portability as one of the major factors in the spread of Buddhism: his lecture). You strip it of all mumbo jumbo and you would still have its essence, the basic ground for the dialectic relationship between the mind and its environment and the path to follow in order to achieve and maintain the state of cognitive well-being.

For some people, Buddhism serves as an "opener" for such an introspective dialogue. Schopenhauer (1788-1860) -- a great influence to Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Schrodinger, and Einstein -- explicitly said that his philosophy could not have been conceived before he was exposed to Buddhism (he also called himself a Buddhist). (This may be an example of what Alan Watts means by "an opening gambit" in the video i attached on the first page.)

Schopenhauer also appreciated the Upanishads, much like Schrodinger, summarising it in his The World as Will and Representation as "It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death!".




Recap: The more we focus on the core of Buddhism, the more we detect the generality and non-religiosity of its philosophical framework. It's true that Buddhism has some rather religious extensions in certain regions; but if we are to talk about "Buddhism itself", our focus would have to be on the nature of consciousness and reality that the Four Truths and the Eightfold Path address, and that's what all the above scientists' quotes are about.
 
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