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Being informed / having opinions

Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal DhammaWe(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
"Don't seek enlightenment - just seek to drop your opinions." -- purportedly a Zen proverb.

Many people value being "informed." It's supposed to be a good thing to know what's going on in the world and be able to hold our own in a discussion. People who have their "head under a rock" are looked down upon. It's a privilege to be able to make up our own minds, we're told.

To what extent is this emphasis on forming opinions problematic, from a Buddhist perspective?

Aren't opinions merely an extension of our egos? Part of a conditioned/constructed "self" trying to impose itself on the world? So what good is it - as someone who practices Buddhism - to become an archive for various evaluations of the world that I experience?

To be clear, I'm not saying that reading up on the news or reading an op-ed piece is a bad thing, but I think that the urge to "take a side" on issues can be.

How ironic.

Anyways, what do you people think?

betaboyVastmindEvenThirdsndymornBeejEnriqueSpain

Comments

  • GuiGui Veteran
    Your True Self
    Zen Master Seung Sahn
    Thank you very much for coming today. But what is it that brought your body here? Is it your mind? What is mind? Where is it? What is its shape? Mind is no mind. A mountain does not proclaim, "I am a mountain!" A river does not say, "I am a river!" All names and all forms are made by thinking. Thus, mind is no mind. All things have name and form. Names and forms come from emptiness. Thus, form is emptiness, emptiness is form.
    When you are thinking, your mind, my mind, and all people's minds are different. If you cut through all thinking, your mind, my mind, and all people's minds are the same. The mind that cuts through all thinking is the true empty mind. The true empty mind is before thinking. Your substance is before thinking. Your substance is universal substance. Before thinking, there is no speech and no language. There is no God, no Buddha, no mountain, no river, nothing at all. Thus, no form, no emptiness.
    But, before thinking is truly just like this. No form, no emptiness is itself a clinging to emptiness. Put it down! Then you will have no inside and no outside; you will attain the Absolute. Everything that you see, hear, taste, and smell is the truth. God is God, Buddha is Buddha, mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers. The truth is like this. Form is form, emptiness is emptiness.
    If you cut through all thinking, your mind will become clear. Just that is your true self. Thinking is desire, desire is suffering. When the mind remains clear, there is no life and no death. You will find true freedom that has no hindrance.
    Your body has life and death, but your true self transcends both life and death. What, then, is one's true self? Does it exist or not? If you say that it exists, where is it? If you say that it does not, what is hearing this speech? Both these answers are not complete. Why? (striking the table) KATZ! Put it down, put it all down! The Great Way is in front of the door.



  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran
    To form an opinion is an attempt to, in effect, stop time.

    All things change in each moment but if we say "this is how it is" and stick to that then we are not seeing things as they really are as the circumstances of what we have formed an opinion on will have immediately changed and can never be the same again.

    We are not seeing things as they really are....
    lobsterInvincible_summer
  • betaboybetaboy Veteran
    edited October 2013

    "Don't seek enlightenment - just seek to drop your opinions." -- purportedly a Zen proverb.

    Many people value being "informed." It's supposed to be a good thing to know what's going on in the world and be able to hold our own in a discussion. People who have their "head under a rock" are looked down upon. It's a privilege to be able to make up our own minds, we're told.

    To what extent is this emphasis on forming opinions problematic, from a Buddhist perspective?

    Aren't opinions merely an extension of our egos? Part of a conditioned/constructed "self" trying to impose itself on the world? So what good is it - as someone who practices Buddhism - to become an archive for various evaluations of the world that I experience?

    To be clear, I'm not saying that reading up on the news or reading an op-ed piece is a bad thing, but I think that the urge to "take a side" on issues can be.

    How ironic.

    Anyways, what do you people think?

    Very insightful and enlightening post, especially the part about opinion and ego. In fact, some would even say that 'ego' or self is made up of opinions, judgment, images, etc., and without these the ego would cease to exist. Which is why perhaps why we tend to cultivate them (to give us a sense of self) despite the ignorance/pain it causes. So the answer to your question is, it is always problematic.
  • GuiGui Veteran
    The actual saying is "Don't seek the truth, just drop your opinions".
    So, for clear mind to be present, let go of thinking mind. I believe that is what this saying means.
  • jlljll Veteran
    Don't allow yourself to speak or talk very much. Don't read books! Read your own heart instead.

    ~ Ajahn Chah

    "Don't seek enlightenment - just seek to drop your opinions." -- purportedly a Zen proverb.

    Many people value being "informed." It's supposed to be a good thing to know what's going on in the world and be able to hold our own in a discussion. People who have their "head under a rock" are looked down upon. It's a privilege to be able to make up our own minds, we're told.

    To what extent is this emphasis on forming opinions problematic, from a Buddhist perspective?

    Aren't opinions merely an extension of our egos? Part of a conditioned/constructed "self" trying to impose itself on the world? So what good is it - as someone who practices Buddhism - to become an archive for various evaluations of the world that I experience?

    To be clear, I'm not saying that reading up on the news or reading an op-ed piece is a bad thing, but I think that the urge to "take a side" on issues can be.

    How ironic.

    Anyways, what do you people think?

    maarten
  • Can you have the opposite of or a different 'opinion'? Someone does. Someone with a different set of circumstances and hinderances, arisings and obstacles.
    So is that my opinion? Don't like it? I have others but you can form your own . . . or not . . .

    This comes back to a question about right speech. True speech is self evident, it does not find or express through the component of distracting opinions. It is why the wise are so often silent and we are left with our opinionated chatter . . . contrary, static or fluctuating ideas, opinions and other mind holdings . . .
    :wave:
    zenffInvincible_summer
  • How many opinions do you actually need?
    The media these days seems obsessed with opinions. What do you think about this or that? Vote now to give your opinion. Why? What difference does it make? But if I say "I don't know" I feel like a failure for not having an opinion.
    The older I get the less sure I am about anything.
    Invincible_summer
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited October 2013



    To what extent is this emphasis on forming opinions problematic, from a Buddhist perspective?

    I would say when those opinions reinforce, feed and cause to persist wrong views. When they cause the arising of or cause to persist greed, ignorance, ill will. :om:
    I. The four bonds

    “Monks, there are four bonds. Which four? The bond of sensual pleasure, the bond of being, the bond of opinion, the bond of ignorance.

    I.3. The bond of opinions

    “And how is there the bond of opinions? Here, monks, someone does not understand as it really is the arising, the subsiding, the sweetness, the wretchedness, and the leaving behind of opinions. For one not understanding as it really is the arising, the subsiding, the sweetness, the wretchedness, and the leaving behind of modes of opinion; who, with respect to opinion, is obsessed with passion for opinion, delight in opinion, affection for opinion, intoxication with opinion, thirst for opinion, fever for opinion, attachment to opinion, craving for opinion: this, monks, is called ‘the bond of opinion’. Thus the bond of sensual pleasure, the bond of being, and the bond of opinion. AN 4.10
    Yoga Sutta: Bondage
    .
    At Sāvatthī... There the Blessed One said this:

    “I will preach to you, monks, the burden, the bearer of the burden, the taking up of the burden, and the putting down of the burden.Hear this.

    “And which, monks, is the burden? That of which it should be said: the five clung-to aggregates. “Which five? The form clung-to aggregate, the feeling clung-to aggregate, the perception clung-to aggregate, the formative mental functions clung-to aggregate, the sensory consciousness clung-to aggregate. This, monks, is called the burden. SN 22.22 Bhāra Sutta: The Burden
    According to the above and below, it appears to me the Buddha is saying that opinions are a burden since they are nothing other than one of the five skandhas
    The sutras describe five aggregates:

    1. "form" or "matter": external and internal matter. Externally, rupa is the physical world. Internally, rupa includes the material body and the physical sense organs.

    2. "sensation" or "feeling" : sensing an object as either pleasant or unpleasant or neutral.

    3. "perception", "conception", "apperception", "cognition", or "discrimination" : registers whether an object is recognized or not (for instance, the sound of a bell or the shape of a tree).

    4. "mental formations", "impulses", "volition", or "compositional factors" : all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, prejudices, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object.

    5. "consciousness" or "discernment": In the Nikayas/Āgamas: cognizance, that which discerns.
    But, if you are of the opinion that "all 5 skhandra are dukkha" that would be a fine opinion to have because it is right view.

    If you take the statement "drop your opinions" literally, drop means to "let go of, to stop clinging to.". But it's much more inclusive than just opinions about world affairs, politics, etc. It includes opinions of good vs bad. For example, "pain is bad therefore it must be avoided" or "pleasure is good therefore we must go get pleasure". If you were to drop the opinion that "pain is bad and pleasure is good", then you would be perfectly fine with whichever one you are presented with, AKA you would have equanimity. There would be no clinging and no aversion to anything. If there is no clinging and no aversion to anything, then there is no more suffering.

    Just my opinion!

    :p
    pegembaraJeffreyInvincible_summer
  • maartenmaarten Veteran
    edited October 2013
    I found this talk on finding a teacher and searching for the truth to be inspiring
    http://audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/2930.html

    It mentions reasoning as one of the unreliable (although not useless) ways in which people try to get at the truth. The talk also goes into the idea that if you would state something as the truth based on informed opinion, it would go against right speech (since informed opinion is not a reliable source of truth, you cannot really make such a claim). Instead, it is suggested to say something like "from what I have read, I'm inferring that X". So what I infer from this talk is that you can make use of informed opinion, just don't treat it as the truth.
  • “Something is only true if the opposite is also true”
    How wonderful or as Marvin the paranoid android might say, 'yes depressing isn't it.'
    'Of any two options, choose the third', is one of my favourite sayings. Does this mean we can encompass polarities? Be aware of our and another's position and aware of more . . . ?

    IMHO it is all a little too much . . . :hair:
  • It can be bodhicitta that someone froze into a sutra or view for the mental benefit of those who are seeking.
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    Thanks for all the replies!

    Another thought... Is it even beneficial to try and stay "in the loop" with current affairs when all our media is geared towards putting opinions in our heads? Is it an obligation as a Buddhist to be aware of the suffering and problems in the world, and attempt to ameliorate them? Why is saving sentient beings Right and not just a matter of opinion?
    Gui said:

    The actual saying is "Don't seek the truth, just drop your opinions".
    So, for clear mind to be present, let go of thinking mind. I believe that is what this saying means.

    Yes, but I was getting more at the idea that there seems to be room for conflict if one wishes to "be informed" yet not hold any opinions. It's just a form of worldly renunciation I never really thought about before.
    zenff said:

    “Something is only true if the opposite is also true”.

    This absurd contradiction helps me; partly because it is impossible to live a normal life without expressing opinions.
    It is my job to form, express and defend opinions. And when you look closely, every day is full of opinions and choices. What do I have for breakfast? Wait, I’ll check my opinions, on what a good breakfast is for me, first. And this goes on all day.

    Maybe what’s important is to be able to see the other side. So we’re not too identified with our opinions. We just use them for practical purposes.

    Good point, @zenff. Seeing both sides is pretty key to losing attachment to a single opinion. However, I think that what comes with that is learning how to deal with that ambiguity on a daily basis. Personally, it sometimes feels a bit stressful to not have an easy way out by just saying A is better than B full stop.
    Jeffrey said:

    It can be bodhicitta that someone froze into a sutra or view for the mental benefit of those who are seeking.

    Sorry @jeffrey, I'm not following. Could you rephrase that?
  • To be clear, I'm not saying that reading up on the news or reading an op-ed piece is a bad thing, but I think that the urge to "take a side" on issues can be.

    How ironic.
    Here is Ollie Octopus teaching me the value of allowing others opinions. Unfortunately HH Ollie got eaten by a hungry cructacean

    :eek2:

    [so delicious . . . ]

    . . . after I reincarnated as a wer-lobster, I found out that 30% of Americas were of the opinion that we had NOT landed on the moon.

    Que?

    As an exercise I tried to find convincing arguments that something ludicrous was true. I constructed the evidence for the Eiffel Tower Hoax

    What was scary was how soon, on some level, looking for evidence started to make the unreal more real . . .
    . . . which in my opinion is all we ever do, until ready to throw opinions out . . . :screwy:
  • Thanks for all the replies!

    Another thought... Is it even beneficial to try and stay "in the loop" with current affairs when all our media is geared towards putting opinions in our heads? Is it an obligation as a Buddhist to be aware of the suffering and problems in the world, and attempt to ameliorate them? Why is saving sentient beings Right and not just a matter of opinion?

    Gui said:

    The actual saying is "Don't seek the truth, just drop your opinions".
    So, for clear mind to be present, let go of thinking mind. I believe that is what this saying means.

    Yes, but I was getting more at the idea that there seems to be room for conflict if one wishes to "be informed" yet not hold any opinions. It's just a form of worldly renunciation I never really thought about before.
    zenff said:

    “Something is only true if the opposite is also true”.

    This absurd contradiction helps me; partly because it is impossible to live a normal life without expressing opinions.
    It is my job to form, express and defend opinions. And when you look closely, every day is full of opinions and choices. What do I have for breakfast? Wait, I’ll check my opinions, on what a good breakfast is for me, first. And this goes on all day.

    Maybe what’s important is to be able to see the other side. So we’re not too identified with our opinions. We just use them for practical purposes.

    Good point, @zenff. Seeing both sides is pretty key to losing attachment to a single opinion. However, I think that what comes with that is learning how to deal with that ambiguity on a daily basis. Personally, it sometimes feels a bit stressful to not have an easy way out by just saying A is better than B full stop.
    Jeffrey said:

    It can be bodhicitta that someone froze into a sutra or view for the mental benefit of those who are seeking.

    Sorry @jeffrey, I'm not following. Could you rephrase that?
    I can't think how to phrase it. Frozen bodhicitta means that it is a text. Frozen awakened mind.
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