Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Buddism Basic Premise

I was listening to an Atheist talk about religion the other day and I found it rather interesting, the whole point of the speech is that there is not one religion that is "true", there isn't a religion that everything in it is flawless, Buddhism included in this as well... Now with me personally, Buddhism has helped me a whole lot, I think Buddhism is a very beautiful path, however, in this speech that this guy was giving, he got to a part where he called, No Eastern Cure, and in this he mentioned Buddhism, he walked us through and showed us that in Buddhism, the hardcore followers, there is no room for individuality, there is no room for self, you basically become a robot, at first this frustrated me but I got to thinking about it and I realized that in a way this is true, very true actually.. He mentioned that yes, Buddhism is a more of a test it, it works for you, no faith required, and this aspect draws a lot of people into Buddhism, especially from people leaving other religions, however the whole idea of reincarnation and rebirth is not a test it yourself confirmation aspect. Also he pointed out even the past premise of Buddhism, "Life is Suffering", broke all of that down and after awhile, I looked at it and said yes, what a ridiculous premise right there. Life is not suffering, life contains suffering but I wouldn't say life = suffering, and a way to eliminate some suffering is to eliminate attachment, which is how I have seen it broken down many times...

Basically I am here for help myself in understanding, could someone break this down for me, was the Buddha saying that Life IS Suffering, if so, I have a problem with this and I would like for it to be clarified and explained in another way than in a text book style way.

Comments

  • riverflowriverflow Veteran
    edited May 2013
    This fellow oviously hasn't really studied up on his Buddhism... in fact, it is hardly recognisable by such a description.

    The Pali word "dukkha" does not neatly translate to the English word, "suffering." Do check out these two blog posts by Barbara O'Brien:

    http://buddhism.about.com/b/2013/04/24/dukkha-and-you.htm

    http://buddhism.about.com/b/2013/04/10/nothing-personal.htm

    Also reincarnation (the transmigration of a "soul") is not synonymous with "rebirth."

    Oh, and I don't think anyone here is a robot (except maybe @robot !).

    Invincible_summerkarmablues
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    edited May 2013
    JosephW said:

    ...in Buddhism, the hardcore followers, there is no room for individuality, there is no room for self, you basically become a robot...

    ...Buddhism is a more of a test it, it works for you, no faith required, and this aspect draws a lot of people into Buddhism, especially from people leaving other religions, however the whole idea of reincarnation and rebirth is not a test it yourself confirmation aspect...

    ...what a ridiculous premise right there. Life is not suffering, life contains suffering but I wouldn't say life = suffering, and a way to eliminate some suffering is to eliminate attachment, which is how I have seen it broken down many times...

    Interesting post.

    I don't agree that in Buddhism there is no room for individuality. Just consider the spectrum of posts we have here on almost any topic. However, when you consider each poster's trend of posts, you can see that some see Buddhism as a lock-step belief system, while others see it as very flexible...and everything in between. It reminds me of an article I just read today, based on a nationwide poll, that a majority of Americans feel more religion is needed in the country, yet most of them don't go to church with any regularity at all. This again feeds into my belief that many people throughout the world, particularly Westerners, are morphing into an individual belief-system, rather than just being a member of "a" religion.

    Interesting point about Buddhism being a "test it yourself" religion,,,except of course when you come upon someone who is a fundamentalist Buddhist. They still say test it yourself, but then when your conclusion is different, they jump all over you.

    I agree, life does not equal suffering, although there are naturally periods of suffering in everyone's life. It would be just as inaccurate to say life = happiness. I do think that much suffering can be eliminated or decreased through non-attachment, but do we really want to detach from everything?

    I can already imagine which of our posters are going to be upset by your post.

    riverflow
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    edited May 2013
    @JosephW:

    I have a problem with the atheist argument of "religion = no freedom/individuality." I've met many atheists that seem to be against anything that - in their view - infringes on individuality and individual liberty. If it's not... well... atheism, then they won't have any of it. Excluding extremely fundamentalist forms of religions, many faith traditions do allow and encourage exploring faith in one's own way. Even conservative Christian churches don't believe that there is *one* way to express faith.

    So it may not be the individuality that the atheist is referring to, but it's far from the picture of "mindless sheeple" that he and other "freethinkers" paint. Just because people share a common belief system doesn't make them un-free. And who are we to judge others for their choices? If I decide to become a monk, follow the vinaya, and lose some of my "identity" (i.e. clothing and hair), but I feel free, what does it matter to anyone else?

    @JosephW, could you tell me what aspect of Buddhism that he referred to that you agree turns people into "robots?"


    This is a common criticism of Buddhism, that it's extremely pessimistic and unrealistically so - "Look at its basic tenets - 'Life is Suffering!' How can that be? I had a great time with my friends the other day - therefore this teaching is wrong!"

    Even reading the first two Noble Truths explain away this misconception:
    "Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress:[1] Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.

    "And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming..."
    -- SN 56.11

    It's not that everything in life is suffering. It's the clinging and craving to things in life that we are so apt to do that make us suffer.
    riverflowMaryAnnekarmablues
  • JosephW said:

    ...was the Buddha saying that Life IS Suffering, if so, I have a problem with this and I would like for it to be clarified and explained in another way than in a text book style way.

    This is a common understanding, even among Buddhists, but it is not the only way to interpret his teachings. It is much more practical to see the four noble truths are practice instructions, not ontological statements.

    "He attends appropriately, This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by seeing.

    Note that the instruction "This is stress" is a perception adopted about the phenomena arising in the moment. Not "Life is stress," "This is stress." More info on this perspective.

    He didn't take a position on what's left when all stress is released in this way, other than that it's beyond words or criteria.
    riverflowInvincible_summer
  • JosephWJosephW Veteran
    edited May 2013
    @Invincible_summer

    Well what he was discussing for 20 minutes before making that statement was the detachment philosophy of Buddhism, so I am assuming this is his main point for the "robot" idea.

    @vinlyn

    I am certain many people will get offensive, though they have no reason to, I am more asking a question out of worry and confusion of myself while reflecting someones thoughts that I had listened to.

    @Lazy_eye

    Yes, that helps, thank you.
  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing great lakes Veteran
    @Lazy_eye well said.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    JosephW said:

    was the Buddha saying that Life IS Suffering

    No.
    The Buddha was saying life is Nirvana, once you follow the 8 fold path.

    To quote Yinyana Rinpoche Richard Dawkins:
    What worries me about religion is that it teaches people to be satisfied with not understanding.
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins

    I consider myself more Borg than robot. Attached to my IPod touch and Ipad and awaiting my Google Glass implant . . .

    Resistance is attachment.
    Freedom is irrelevant. Self-determination is irrelevant.
    You must comply.
    OM MANI PEME HUM HRIH

    :hiding:
  • TheEccentricTheEccentric Hampshire, UK Veteran
    edited May 2013
    Life does=suffering because even good times and nice things are suffering because they are impermanent, there are no times of true happiness in samsara just when you suffer less.

    Our lives begin suffering, we come out crying for a reason (and unless enlightenment is attained in that life) you die suffering.
    riverflowMaryAnnekarmablues
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    Good grief. Buddhist doctrine is not easy to understand, but it is very difficult to misunderstand it as completely as this 'atheist' speaker mentioned by the OP. I think it would require being very careful not to read anything about it.
  • zenmystezenmyste Veteran
    We dont have to say LIFE = SUFFERING

    But its a fact that there 'is' suffering in Life...

    And that suffering arises when we 'want' , crave, desire more and more and more.... Or if we wants to stay the same etc etc...

    Buddhism is about 'mental' suffering!
    There is 'mental suffering' in the world because of how we 'view things' and over think about things etc...

    suffering is all self inflicted, and it is hard to overcome BUT can be done!

    Buddhism, aswell as practising 'acceptance' is the key to serenity!
    MaryAnneriverflowvinlynInvincible_summer
  • mynameisuntzmynameisuntz Explorer
    edited May 2013

    Life does=suffering because even good times and nice things are suffering because they are impermanent, there are no times of true happiness in samsara just when you suffer less.

    Our lives begin suffering, we come out crying for a reason (and unless enlightenment is attained in that life) you die suffering.

    Is it suffering if one understands and lives the middle way? Happiness, good times, nice things, etc., from my understanding, are only a means of suffering when they foster attachment and further desire. Is it not possible to be totally happy in a moment with the understanding that it is just a moment, just a feeling, and one that will be gone sometime soon?

    From the books I have read, it is not that life 'IS' suffering, but rather life contains suffering. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, and that is what we set out to do; remove suffering. For those who are enlightened, there may still be experiences of pain, but is there still suffering?
    Floriankarmablues
  • zenmystezenmyste Veteran

    Our lives begin suffering, we come out crying for a reason (and unless enlightenment is attained in that life) you die suffering.

    I personally do not agree with this statement!!!

    Not everybody dies suffering at all! (Far far from it)

    And they dont 'need' to achieve enlightenment at all! In fact, hoping you attain enlightenment is just another way in which you could cause suffering!

  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    Its a quibble, but might it not be the case that simply not being a fully realised being would be suffering? It would be suffering the loss of true identity, an absence, a separation from God if you like. HHDL says somwhere that only fully realised practioners are ready for death, and not being ready for death when it happens I would call unsatisfactory. But I suppose if a piano lands on my head tomorrow there won't be time to be dissatisfied.

    zenmyste
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    There are 3 levels of suffering.

    1) The type of suffering that we all recognize, even animals. Breaking a leg, going hungry, the ending of a long relationship.

    2) The suffering of change. We feel hot so we jump in the pool, we feel better, then as we stay in the pool we begin to get too cold and pruny. Or we eat a cookie and its really good, then we eat another and 10 cookies later its maybe not so good. The sources of what we call happiness are simply the experience of change from one state to another. They aren't a true source of happiness.

    3) There is a subtle level called all pervasive suffering. We can't normally notice this, really only when one has calmed the mind and reduced the first 2 sufferings does it become noticeable. Supposedly there is a feeling of suffering by simply having a body and a mind that is transcended with the attainment of liberation.

    So when people misinterpret Buddhism as saying all life is suffering they are really only thinking of the first type and haven't investigated enough to learn about the others or the possibility of freeing oneself from them.

    Regarding individuality, in a sense its kind of true. If one follows the teachings they will probably give up their love of horror movies and maybe will stop identifying so closely with their local sports team. Its not a mandate though to fit in and get along, it comes about as an individuals choice to abandon certain things and adopt others in order to find more happiness and reduce their suffering.

    riverflowkarmabluesVastmindInvincible_summer
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    I think that's a very good summary, @person, perhaps the best I've ever seen it described.

    In regard to type 2, this is where there's some very good non-Buddhist advice that everyone (including Buddhists) ought to heed -- "don't sweat the small stuff" -- but, unlike the common saying, it's not all small stuff.
    riverflow
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    I've been to talks from atheists, satanists, pagans, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sufis.
    The funny thing about all of them, when they get to comparing the other religions (or lack of religion) is that they are looking at them from a point of view of "I read a bit about that, and found it didn't make sense, and this is where I am now, which makes sense so that nothing else does." They aren't seeing things through a clear lens as a result. They are seeing things, as we all do, from their own point of view.

    When I was at a retreat this spring, the Lama asked each of us what kind of unsatisfactory things happened each day. One lady insisted she had a perfect day, nothing unsatisfactory. Then it came out that actually, no, she had had a sliver. Then she argued she did not view the sliver as unsatisfactory. yet the fact that it stung enough to have to remove it, means she was suffering unsatisfactoriness enough to fix the sensation. Then when you break your day down into smaller sections, it's easy to see so much of that in our lives, on small scale (slivers) and on large scale (Pet died, grandma died, neighbor suffered in a horrific car accident, etc). It's unavoidable that these things happen to us every day, it's just how life is. But that doesn't mean every moment is suffering, it just means we recognize that it's there and it's something all beings seek to avoid (or would prefer not happen to them) and that the ultimate way out in Buddhism is to become enlightened so you do not have to be reborn into this circle of ongoing unsatisfactoriness.

    I'm happy with my life, 99% of the time. I am over-all a happy person. I love life, I am enjoying spending much more time living in the present. But I cannot deny that there are unsatisfactory things. I can adjust my attitude about them, I can choose to a degree how much I suffer. But I cannot deny it happens. When I get up in the morning, my knee is sore and stiff. It's not something I dwell on and feel sorry about, I stretch it and it's fine and I go on with my day. But it still happened. This morning I ate too much breakfast and I'm suffering being a bit overfull. I was on my way out the door when the phone rang, and it was a call I had to take so I was impatient at trying both to finish the phone call and get out the door on time. All unsatisfactory aspects of my day so far and I've only been awake for 2 hours.
    Lazy_eyeInvincible_summer
  • mynameisuntzmynameisuntz Explorer
    edited May 2013
    @karasti - is removing a sliver indicative of suffering or pain? I feel there is a difference between the two, and from my [limited] understanding, something can be painful without causing suffering.
  • The closest thing to "Life is dukkha" that the Buddha said is this:
    All conditioned things are dukkha.
    (Dhammapada verse 278)

    Or in other words, he is saying that everything, whether found in the physical world or the mental realm, is dukkha.

    So how is that true?

    This is because all con­di­tioned things are impermanent, changing and subject to decay. In this way, everything - whether physical objects or pleasurable experiences - is unsatisfactory because their impermanent nature means that any happiness they may bring is unsustainable. As there is nothing that can be relied upon to bring lasting happiness, it is said that everything is dukkha (unsatisfactory).
    riverflow
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    Precisely so.
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    My view also. I hope we're not going to end up all agreeing. That would be dull.
    Jeffrey
  • Florian said:

    My view also. I hope we're not going to end up all agreeing. That would be dull.

    No it wouldn't.

    JeffreyFlorianpersonlobster
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    At first I didn't get your joke, John
    John_Spencer
  • John_SpencerJohn_Spencer Veteran
    edited May 2013
    Yes you did. (Sorry, just trying to introduce some controversy)
  • black_teablack_tea Explorer
    The atheist in question was misinterprating suffering as being the Really Big Bad Stuff when in reality it also includes a lot of day to day annoyances, stress, etc. I have many things in my life that I enjoy -- it's really not a bad life I have. Yet, that doesn't negate the fact that on a day to day basis everything isn't uniformally enjoyable. I've been experiencing some stress over my employment situation, I haven't been sleeping so well this week, and I've been clenching my teeth again. Those things don't negate the positive things going on, but neither do the positive things negate the stressful annoying crap.

    As for individuality -- I don't think you lose that. Buddhism may encourage certain behaviors and ways of thinking about things, but that doesn't make me or anyone else less of an individual. Just because I sit and chant, try not to squash bugs, don't eat meat anymore, and try (often unsuccessfully) to deal with my anger issues doesn't mean I'm any less 'me'. For that matter, by being an atheist, the speaker is himself adhereing to a particular belief system that encourages particular ways of understanding and interacting with the world. Nor does Buddhism make you an unfeeling robot -- rather it teaches you ways to deal with strong emotions so you don't get swept up to the point of causing problems for yourself and others.

    Also, the atheist belief that there is nothing after death is as much a matter of faith as the Buddhist belief in rebirth. Atheists don't have access to any more knowledge in this area than anyone else does. Faith has become a rather dirty word of late because people tend to equate it with unthinking blind faith, but faith doesn't have to be blind. It doesn't mean that you have to stop thinking and questioning and shut everything else out. It's ironic that the folks who like to rail against faith often have very strong faith themselves, they just can't seem to recognize it as such.
    Jeffreyperson
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    Ha ha. Nice one John.

    @black_tea. Quite agree. Atheism is a faith like any other.
  • Florian said:

    My view also. I hope we're not going to end up all agreeing. That would be dull.

    Aren't we supposed to? We're all robots here, right? ha
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    JosephW said:

    I was listening to an Atheist talk about religion the other day and I found it rather interesting, the whole point of the speech is that there is not one religion that is "true", there isn't a religion that everything in it is flawless, Buddhism included in this as well... Now with me personally, Buddhism has helped me a whole lot, I think Buddhism is a very beautiful path, however, in this speech that this guy was giving, he got to a part where he called, No Eastern Cure, and in this he mentioned Buddhism, he walked us through and showed us that in Buddhism, the hardcore followers, there is no room for individuality, there is no room for self, you basically become a robot, at first this frustrated me but I got to thinking about it and I realized that in a way this is true, very true actually..

    I don't find this to be true at all, but your mileage may vary.
    JosephW said:

    Basically I am here for help myself in understanding, could someone break this down for me, was the Buddha saying that Life IS Suffering, if so, I have a problem with this and I would like for it to be clarified and explained in another way than in a text book style way.

    It's a common misconception that Buddhism teaches life is nothing but suffering (i.e., suffering is the only true reality) and denies any kind of happiness or joy. While a common enough criticism, I think it's not only unfair but completely untrue.

    For starters, when people say that Buddhism teaches 'life is suffering,' this is mostly likely referring to a misunderstanding of the Pali phrase, "Sabbe pi dukkham" (All is dukkha).

    The first noble truth states that, in short, the five clinging-aggregate (panca-upadana-khandha) are dukkha (SN 56.11), i.e., it's the clinging in reference to the aggregates that's dukkha, not the aggregates themselves.

    In SN 35.23, the Buddha defines 'the all' (sabbam) as the eye and forms, ear and sounds, nose and aromas, tongue and flavours, body and tactile sensations, and intellect and ideas. According to the commentaries, dukkha is defined as 'that which is hard to bear.'

    Moreover, in SN 35.24, the Buddha defines 'the all' as a phenomenon to be abandoned [via the abandonment of greed/passion (raga) in regard to the six sense media]. Without the presence of greed/passion in regard to the six sense-media, they are no longer 'difficult to bear.' This is a far cry from the blanket statement 'life is suffering.'

    In addition, think there are positive forms of happiness to be experienced in life; and the suttas are full of references to various forms of bliss, joy, pleasure, happiness, etc., especially in relation to various states of meditative absorption (jhana).

    In AN 5.28, for example, the pleasure (sukha) and rapture (piti[) experienced in first jhana is said to be "born from withdrawal [from the hindrances], accompanied by directed thought and evaluation." In the second jhana, a more refined form of pleasure and rapture is said to be "born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought and evaluation."

    Then there's the "pleasant abiding" of the third jhana where one "permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded with pleasure divested of rapture," and the fourth where one sits "permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness, so that there is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness."

    Additionally, in AN 4.62, there's mention of "four kinds of bliss" that can be attained by a householder "partaking of sensuality" (i.e., indulging in a non-contemplative lifestyle): the bliss of having, the bliss of wealth, the bliss of debtlessness and the bliss of blamelessness.

    And of course, there's nibbana, "the highest bliss" (Dhp 204).

    Far from being a joyless path, Buddhism embraces pleasure and happiness. But the type of pleasure the Buddha advocates is one that doesn't come at the expense of, or place any burdens upon, others.
    Jeffreykarmablues
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    @mynameisuntz I guess it comes down to changing thinking about everything as suffering, and more so as being unsatisfactory which seems to be a more accurate translation of dukkha. Pain doesn't have to mean suffering. But it is almost always unsatisfactory. The fact that the sliver caused enough discomfort for her to have to stop what she was doing to tend to the discomfort caused by the sliver made it unsatisfactory. (in the words of the lama who was running the retreat). Most of the time, there is more than goes along with pain, than feeling the pain. It interrupts our lives, it makes us frustrated, impatient, crabby, sad, and so on. I injured my knee last winter, and even more so than dealing with the physical pain, was being forced to sit in a chair for months. Being unable to do the things I enjoyed. Being unable to even get into the shower myself, dress myself, or get my shoes on. The pain was the least amount of suffering in the whole ordeal. The injury and surgery led to a whole lot of dukkha (which I'm still dealing with on a daily basis even) far beyond the degree of the pain, which was bad enough.
  • JosephWJosephW Veteran
    I wouldn't blame the speaker for misunderstanding, especially when there are atleast three different ways of looking at the subject just on this thread, a forum focused on Buddhism.
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    JosephW said:

    I wouldn't blame the speaker for misunderstanding, especially when there are atleast three different ways of looking at the subject just on this thread, a forum focused on Buddhism.

    If you're going to give a speech about why other religions aren't worth people's time, I would hope that you actually did some research and had a decent grasp on the basic tenets as opposed to going off of "quick-glance" interpretations.
    karmablues
  • JosephWJosephW Veteran

    JosephW said:

    I wouldn't blame the speaker for misunderstanding, especially when there are atleast three different ways of looking at the subject just on this thread, a forum focused on Buddhism.

    If you're going to give a speech about why other religions aren't worth people's time, I would hope that you actually did some research and had a decent grasp on the basic tenets as opposed to going off of "quick-glance" interpretations.
    I do agree with that, though I am fairly new to Buddhism, even in the months that I have been looking into Buddhism, I have found that there are many things I don't fully understand...

  • CittaCitta Veteran
    JosephW said:

    JosephW said:

    I wouldn't blame the speaker for misunderstanding, especially when there are atleast three different ways of looking at the subject just on this thread, a forum focused on Buddhism.

    If you're going to give a speech about why other religions aren't worth people's time, I would hope that you actually did some research and had a decent grasp on the basic tenets as opposed to going off of "quick-glance" interpretations.
    I do agree with that, though I am fairly new to Buddhism, even in the months that I have been looking into Buddhism, I have found that there are many things I don't fully understand...

    Dont worry, that only applies to the first 30 or so years. After that we are still confused, but at a higher level.

    ;)
    VastmindriverflowFlorian
Sign In or Register to comment.