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Are mystics internalizing dogma or gaining genuine contemplative knowledge?

personperson Where is my mind?'Merica! Veteran

I read a short essay by Alan Wallace where he writes about this distinction, its about the length of a long magazine article so read it or not.

http://www.alanwallace.org/Dialectic Paper.pdf

The distinction he makes is key to me in developing faith in some of the more esoteric aspects of Buddhism. The two sides are one where contemplatives are internalizing the past scriptural doctrines that have taught them, the other saying that the methods and techniques taught help the contemplative train and focus their introspection to make actual discoveries and genuine knowledge about the mind.

Which side you come down on would seem to indicate where you find the authority in Buddhism. Does it come from scriptural authenticity or expert testimony?

Comments

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Does it come from scriptural authenticity or expert testimony?

    My guess is neither. It comes in the experience that is part of an actual-factual practice.

    "Mystic" is a strange word in my mind these days. Once it was the oooooeeeeeooo experiences that seemed to swirl around certain individuals. But today, "mystic" is mostly an intellectual construct trying to tie down experience that won't be denied and yet lacks credible language.

    My sense is that it's best to leave the mysticism out of a practicing tableau. Just practice and see what happens. I know of no serious student who hasn't brushed up against what an intellect-at-work might call some "weird shit." With continued practice, what was once weird or wonderful or wowsers fades gently and becomes part of the blue sky or the wetness of water.

    Learn from it? Sure. Define and clutch it ... just try it and you'll see why it's a fool's errand.

    Just noodling.

    lobsterCinorjerNirvana
  • Agree with @genkaku
    There are for Buddhists in particular negative and unneccessary associations of mysticism with spooky godly stuff.

    There is weird stuff that happens, exactly right but so what, nothing to cling to, move along.

    I would suggest that a template from a mystical or Buddhist perspective gives insight or meaning to internal processes that arise. These may also have outer manifestations. In Sufism this low ranking status is referred to as being a 'Hazrat'. In Christianity a 'state of grace'. In Buddhism one may be called 'developed' or some such dharma star status. In reality these conditions are left behind as soon as possible ...

    silver
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I'm awfully sorry. I tried reading it - honestly, I did.
    My eyes clouded over on more than one occasion, and I found myself having to read and re-read sentences in an effort to understand just what was being conveyed.

    I failed miserably.

    Would someone like to give this doofus a synopsis?
    Thanks.

    Nirvana
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @federica said:
    I'm awfully sorry. I tried reading it - honestly, I did.
    My eyes clouded over on more than one occasion, and I found myself having to read and re-read sentences in an effort to understand just what was being conveyed.

    I failed miserably.

    Would someone like to give this doofus a synopsis?
    Thanks.

    I kind of tried in the paragraph and the question after, the essay mostly fills in the details and makes arguments around the subject.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited February 2016

    What is the difference between scriptural authenticity and expert testimony to one yet to have a glimpse?

    Many people from many walks of life share a feeling of being a part of an all encompassing whole but when we label it and take the labels as truth then the stories sound so much more different.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    Thinking about such things doesn't have to be just about establishing a belief system, a practical aspect for developing faith in some of the more ineffable aspects of Buddhism would be to gain motivation for putting in the time and sacrifice needed to obtain them.

    I do my daily practices, change and grow. Practicing Buddhism has made me a happier, wiser person, so now what? They say there is more to it and I'm wondering if there is, can enough be learned through lay practice to say if the deeper truths are indeed true or not?

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @federica said:

    Would someone like to give this doofus a synopsis?
    Thanks.

    In a nutshell....Beware of unhappy Buddhists...They are not really practising.... just being intellectual ...

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Ah. ok, right....... There's no such thing as an unhappy Buddhist. There are only un-happy pseudo-Buddhists.

    In my opinion.

    I've met many Buddhists who have experienced unhappiness, but as practising Buddhists they've seen through the illusory deception of suffering. They know they're unhappy, and part of them ridicules it.

  • @David said:
    What is the difference between scriptural authenticity and expert testimony to one yet to have a glimpse?

    It accords with our experience.

    Sutra may be authentic drivel, to put it politely, designed for and from another time and understanding. I do not expect insight on cosmology, female emancipation, evolution, politics etc from an ancient ex-aristocrat [Shakyamuni]. Just as Christian, Koranic, Abrahamic scripture can be dismissed as superstition, ignorance or worse, unless dealing with the interior path of wisdom and truth alignment.

    Expert testimony on the interior landscape, how to tread, where to avoid, I find comes from those who glimpse and stare back at my interior. The confirmation is through personal practice and recognition. The Buddha was an awake yogi. The countless expert testimonies enhance, comment on, expand from and elucidate this process, experience and path of awakening.

    personWalkerKerome
  • You probably can't generalize to all cases.

  • @person said:
    The distinction he makes is key to me in developing faith in some of the more esoteric aspects of Buddhism.

    There is nothing esoteric or hidden in Buddhism. Not even in Tantra. The most obscure hidden teachings are being preserved and many are available throught the Internet. Performance artists and professional ultra spirituals may provide a contextual ritual 'horses mouth, whispering service' but the real esoteric stuff is experiental. When ready the experience unfolds and becomes apparant. Should I have revealed this top secret esoteric knowledge? Pah ... take it up with Manjushri. o:)

    karastiTara1978
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited February 2016

    While many of the great scholars and contemplatives of Tibet have emphasized the importance of a balance between these two themes, when a contemplative tradition degenerates, this tension is lost: scholars devote themselves exclusively to textual study, disclaiming the present possibility of experiential knowledge; while contemplatives disdain textual knowledge as dry intellectualism, thereby reducing their tradition to a system of theoretically barren techniques.

    Think I will have to agree with many of the great scholars and contemplatives of Tibet!

    The very possibility of genuine contemplative inquiry and insight has been called into question by modern scholars

    Not surprising. Neither Steven Katz nor Paul Griffiths are practicing Buddhists, let alone even generally Buddhist. Katz is Jewish and Griffiths is a Christian.

    A Christian and a Jewish person giving us an academic analysis of Buddhist insight practice, that they have never done themselves. That almost like asking a doctor for advice on how to fix your car. Or asking your car mechanic for investment strategies :)

    NirvanaJeffrey
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @lobster said:

    @person said:
    The distinction he makes is key to me in developing faith in some of the more esoteric aspects of Buddhism.

    There is nothing esoteric or hidden in Buddhism. Not even in Tantra. The most obscure hidden teachings are being preserved and many are available throught the Internet. Performance artists and professional ultra spirituals may provide a contextual ritual 'horses mouth, whispering service' but the real esoteric stuff is experiental. When ready the experience unfolds and becomes apparant. Should I have revealed this top secret esoteric knowledge? Pah ... take it up with Manjushri. o:)

    I guess it wasn't really clear in my OP, but that is kind of what it was referring to. Deep and profound realizations in ones own mind. Does the authority of Buddhism come from those who have realized them in their own minds or from an unbroken lineage of scriptural knowledge? Thanks for playing and stating a position.

    @seeker242 said:

    While many of the great scholars and contemplatives of Tibet have emphasized the importance of a balance between these two themes, when a contemplative tradition degenerates, this tension is lost: scholars devote themselves exclusively to textual study, disclaiming the present possibility of experiential knowledge; while contemplatives disdain textual knowledge as dry intellectualism, thereby reducing their tradition to a system of theoretically barren techniques.

    Think I will have to agree with many of the great scholars and contemplatives of Tibet!

    I think Alan Wallace was taking a shot at some of the scholars of Tibet as well. There is a belief amongst some there that deep realizations are no longer possible in "this degenerate age" so its better to just learn the teachings and gain merit for future lives when realizations will be possible again.

    The very possibility of genuine contemplative inquiry and insight has been called into question by modern scholars

    Not surprising. Neither Steven Katz nor Paul Griffiths are practicing Buddhists, let alone even generally Buddhist. Katz is Jewish and Griffiths is a Christian.

    A Christian and a Jewish person giving us an academic analysis of Buddhist insight practice, that they have never done themselves. That almost like asking a doctor for advice on how to fix your car. Or asking your car mechanic for investment strategies :)

    I agree, it seems like I see this sort of thing a lot. Thought out and reasoned arguments why certain out of the ordinary things aren't true, which are then picked up as the rational empirical explanation when in reality its as unproven and speculative as the more 'magical' explanation. Like in this instance where Katz and Griffiths make the argument that contemplative insights aren't genuine but rather extensive training in seeing things through the lens of scripture, sure its possible but its completely speculative and has no science backing up the claim.

  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran

    Would someone like to give this doofus a synopsis?
    Thanks.

    I suspect the learnèd academicians are the real doo-fusses here. My mother used to call some of 'em "educated fools." This paper —especially its opening page— is just painfully written. No, thank you, I do not need to give myself a headache!

    WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
    When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
    When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
    Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. (Whitman)

    What's called mysticism cannot in itself be taught —it can only be pointed to. Dogma, or received opinion, has nothing to do with real mystical experience and everything to do with mere conventions of one type or another.

    And the mystic "knowledge" is just a higher, truer poetry that unclouds the eyes from the transient furniture of this world.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    In my limited experience, it seems to be both. Thinking about my teacher talking about his life and his teachers, it seems like the scriptural knowledge supports the confidence in trusting that these types of more esoteric self experiences can and do happen. They talk about experiencing things that I can't imagine are even real, but they claim to have seen it. And despite lineage or not the devotion to teachers and practices seems to induce a lot of qualities that make someone more open to noting those experiences and trusting what they are learning. Confidence in what is happening and comparing it to others has to bring a lot of trust in the process and the teachers. When something happens as you are taught, your confidence in the teachings and teachers improves and you keep going along the path.

    lobsterperson
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited February 2016

    What set me off on this tangent which led me to the essay, was I was listening to one of the older Philosophize This! podcasts on belief and he asks us why we believe what we believe.

    In the TED talk I linked recently on science's take on no-self the speaker says that even though there is no core self in us scientists think it is a persistent illusion that can't be unlearned. Buddhism says you can, so if you believe Buddhism, why? It appears in the scriptures but others have claimed to realize it themselves over the years?

    It seems like a continuum though for what we each will believe or not believe that we each make individually. For example, what about bodhicitta, scientists say humans have a selfish gene and our biology can't be overcome, true altruism doesn't exist. Buddhism says you can have a selfless altruism. What about Samadhi, is it really possible to make the mind concentrate unwaveringly on a single object for 4 hours? Or the nature of mind, is the Dzogchen view of Rigpa and Dharmakaya that they are our essential nature and have a distinct reality like they say or is it just some heightened psychological state? How about idealism, are we each at the center of our own mandala universe?

    Where do you draw the line and why?

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Nirvana said:

    Would someone like to give this doofus a synopsis?
    Thanks.

    I suspect the learnèd academicians are the real doo-fusses here. My mother used to call some of 'em "educated fools." This paper —especially its opening page— is just painfully written. No, thank you, I do not need to give myself a headache!

    WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
    When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
    When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
    Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. (Whitman)

    What's called mysticism cannot in itself be taught —it can only be pointed to. Dogma, or received opinion, has nothing to do with real mystical experience and everything to do with mere conventions of one type or another.

    And the mystic "knowledge" is just a higher, truer poetry that unclouds the eyes from the transient furniture of this world.

    I agree the important thing isn't the belief, its the experience. Part of my thing though is how do we even know that looking at the 'stars' is something worthwhile or even possible in the first place? Some level of belief would seem necessary before embarking on the journey.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I think that it kind of comes down to the idea that you cannot always fully, logically understand something that you experience on those levels, and that you definitely cannot correctly impart it to someone else. I mean, you as the person who experiences is understand it, but not with the logical part of the mind (if that makes sense). I guess, to me, there is enough evidence that it is possible, from people who are attempting to put words to it and help others get there (even if that isn't quite possible). People like HHDL and TNH and supposedly Eckhart Tolle, among others, are saying it's not only feasible, but they are there (in varying degrees, HHDL and TNH are not claiming to be awake but it is obvious their practice has taken them to levels most of the rest of us are not at).

    Also, and this is one of those areas where words will fail me miserably. But I guess I feel, or if I am being honest, know, it to be true (BuddhaNature is mostly what I mean here...that we have a true/pure nature that we can get back to by short circuiting the layers of crap that us, and our history, have deposited over the many eons). It is like the same sensation as having something at the tip of your tongue. It's there, you KNOW it's there, but you can't quite grasp or reach it. And sometimes, it floats away and it's just gone. And then all of a sudden, at some point later in time, it's there in a flash, recalled just like that and it's such a sense of relief to have fulfilled that void. That is what that sensation of understanding that my true nature is there feels like to me. But so far, it keeps running amock and I have not landed on it yet. But Eckhart Tolle has, and while I haven't read his book I have read excerpts and interviews, and that is kind of how he explains it, it just all of a sudden was there.

    Somewhere in the sutras, Buddha says that you can get to that place by hard work and effort, but you can also get their spontaneously based on a lot of factors.

    I might be way off the mark. I'm not sure. But I feel so "close" to it (not in time or distance, but just...some other way I guess) that it has to be true. Some things just seem to come from a deeper place, somewhere beyond logical, thinking mind. There is something else there, and I think we can reach it. Based on what teachers have taught and how thy carry themselves. And based on a completely unprovable sensation, lol.

    personlobster
  • @karasti said:
    It is like the same sensation as having something at the tip of your tongue. It's there, you KNOW it's there, but you can't quite grasp or reach it.

    Tee hee.
    The tip of our tongue is indeed on the edge of our enlightenment. B)

    If we bite it, wag it, poke it, the enlightenment is there. We know we know it.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @person said:

    @Nirvana said:

    Would someone like to give this doofus a synopsis?
    Thanks.

    I suspect the learnèd academicians are the real doo-fusses here. My mother used to call some of 'em "educated fools." This paper —especially its opening page— is just painfully written. No, thank you, I do not need to give myself a headache!

    WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
    When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
    When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
    Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. (Whitman)

    What's called mysticism cannot in itself be taught —it can only be pointed to. Dogma, or received opinion, has nothing to do with real mystical experience and everything to do with mere conventions of one type or another.

    And the mystic "knowledge" is just a higher, truer poetry that unclouds the eyes from the transient furniture of this world.

    I agree the important thing isn't the belief, its the experience. Part of my thing though is how do we even know that looking at the 'stars' is something worthwhile or even possible in the first place? Some level of belief would seem necessary before embarking on the journey.

    I don't understand what you mean. Why would we need to believe something must be true simply because it's the most logical or verified explanation?

    I never had to believe looking at the stars was worthwhile because I would be the one assigning worth.

    Whether or not it's "real" is a non issue for me. Obstacles still need to be navigated.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @David said:

    @person said:

    @Nirvana said:

    Would someone like to give this doofus a synopsis?
    Thanks.

    I suspect the learnèd academicians are the real doo-fusses here. My mother used to call some of 'em "educated fools." This paper —especially its opening page— is just painfully written. No, thank you, I do not need to give myself a headache!

    WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
    When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
    When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
    Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. (Whitman)

    What's called mysticism cannot in itself be taught —it can only be pointed to. Dogma, or received opinion, has nothing to do with real mystical experience and everything to do with mere conventions of one type or another.

    And the mystic "knowledge" is just a higher, truer poetry that unclouds the eyes from the transient furniture of this world.

    I agree the important thing isn't the belief, its the experience. Part of my thing though is how do we even know that looking at the 'stars' is something worthwhile or even possible in the first place? Some level of belief would seem necessary before embarking on the journey.

    I don't understand what you mean. Why would we need to believe something must be true simply because it's the most logical or verified explanation?

    I never had to believe looking at the stars was worthwhile because I would be the one assigning worth.

    Whether or not it's "real" is a non issue for me. Obstacles still need to be navigated.

    I think we must be on different pages here or something because I'm not really getting where you're coming from either. It seems like you're saying you could believe in whatever you wanted to simply because you found it helpful.

    Its sort of an assumed fact of the way I view the world that I would want anything I assign worth to, to be real.

    I'm not saying your way is wrong, it just doesn't compute for me.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @person said:

    @David said:

    @person said:

    @Nirvana said:

    Would someone like to give this doofus a synopsis?
    Thanks.

    I suspect the learnèd academicians are the real doo-fusses here. My mother used to call some of 'em "educated fools." This paper —especially its opening page— is just painfully written. No, thank you, I do not need to give myself a headache!

    WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
    When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
    When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
    Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. (Whitman)

    What's called mysticism cannot in itself be taught —it can only be pointed to. Dogma, or received opinion, has nothing to do with real mystical experience and everything to do with mere conventions of one type or another.

    And the mystic "knowledge" is just a higher, truer poetry that unclouds the eyes from the transient furniture of this world.

    I agree the important thing isn't the belief, its the experience. Part of my thing though is how do we even know that looking at the 'stars' is something worthwhile or even possible in the first place? Some level of belief would seem necessary before embarking on the journey.

    I don't understand what you mean. Why would we need to believe something must be true simply because it's the most logical or verified explanation?

    I never had to believe looking at the stars was worthwhile because I would be the one assigning worth.

    Whether or not it's "real" is a non issue for me. Obstacles still need to be navigated.

    I think we must be on different pages here or something because I'm not really getting where you're coming from either. It seems like you're saying you could believe in whatever you wanted to simply because you found it helpful.

    No I'm saying beliefs are not required from where I stand.

    I've heard it said that the more we believe the less we know.

    I don't know if it's true nor do I believe it.

    Shoshin
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited February 2016

    So you're saying that you if you want to know whether having a loving heart will overcome anger you don't need to believe it, all you need to do is try it out so you can know for sure?

    Maybe that's not what you mean, but I think that is true too. What I am saying though is that some things require much time, effort and sacrifice (such as a realization of emptiness or attainment of Samadhi) to know in that way so it would seem unlikely that an individual would make that kind of commitment just out of curiosity or something. I would need to have some level of conviction that it was possible and worthwhile.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @person said:
    So you're saying that you if you want to know whether having a loving heart will overcome anger you don't need to believe it, all you need to do is try it out so you can know for sure?

    It just seems like common sense to me. How can we be angry and at the same time emit peace? And how can we be at peace during a fit of our own anger?

    Maybe that's not what you mean, but I think that is true too. What I am saying though is that some things require much time, effort and sacrifice (such as a realization of emptiness or attainment of Samadhi) to know in that way so it would seem unlikely that an individual would make that kind of commitment just out of curiosity or something. I would need to have some level of conviction that it was possible and worthwhile.

    See, for myself I don't need conviction of anything other than knowing I help when I can.

    I think about and even have theories based on things like rebirth and some kind of universal consciousness in the process of self discovery and awareness but nothing I'd hang my hat on.

    Interconnectiveness I can feel and I've felt it as long as I can remember so I don't question it.

    It's just always been obvious to me. Buddhism comes in when trying to deal with the truth but finding the truth is our job.

    Sometimes doctrine confirms what we've already felt, sometimes it is a catalyst for our own understanding and sometimes it is parotted to sound good.

    We have to be discerning.

    Kerome
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @David said:

    @person said:
    So you're saying that you if you want to know whether having a loving heart will overcome anger you don't need to believe it, all you need to do is try it out so you can know for sure?

    It just seems like common sense to me. How can we be angry and at the same time emit peace? And how can we be at peace during a fit of our own anger?

    I was just trying to clarify your meaning, not making a point of my own.

    Maybe that's not what you mean, but I think that is true too. What I am saying though is that some things require much time, effort and sacrifice (such as a realization of emptiness or attainment of Samadhi) to know in that way so it would seem unlikely that an individual would make that kind of commitment just out of curiosity or something. I would need to have some level of conviction that it was possible and worthwhile.

    See, for myself I don't need conviction of anything other than knowing I help when I can.

    I think about and even have theories based on things like rebirth and some kind of universal consciousness in the process of self discovery and awareness but nothing I'd hang my hat on.

    Belief doesn't need to be some kind of rock hard certainty. I think of how we can say we know anything at all? At some level even the notion that we are alive and not just some computer simulation of some advanced society is a belief. Just because my understanding is that everything we think we know is a belief, doesn't mean all beliefs are the same. We believe that the earth is round and revolves around the sun because science has a rigorous methodology and other humans have made observations that we have faith in, not because we have seen it ourselves. We can see through the illusion of self and cut the root of our suffering and humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs are beliefs too. We aren't able to find out everything we need to know directly for ourselves, or at least not without a lot of time invested, so how do we come to our conclusions or best guesses?

    Interconnectiveness I can feel and I've felt it as long as I can remember so I don't question it.

    It's just always been obvious to me. Buddhism comes in when trying to deal with the truth but finding the truth is our job.

    Sometimes doctrine confirms what we've already felt, sometimes it is a catalyst for our own understanding and sometimes it is parotted to sound good.

    We have to be discerning.

    I think we're essentially in agreement but coming at it differently. Maybe the term belief has too negative a connotation for us in our Christian culture. Belief to me is just how you see the world not some blind conviction.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @person said:> I think we're essentially in agreement but coming at it differently. Maybe the term belief has too negative a connotation for us in our Christian culture. Belief to me is just how you see the world not some blind conviction.

    I think we all have assumptions.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @person said:

    @David said:

    @person said:
    So you're saying that you if you want to know whether having a loving heart will overcome anger you don't need to believe it, all you need to do is try it out so you can know for sure?

    It just seems like common sense to me. How can we be angry and at the same time emit peace? And how can we be at peace during a fit of our own anger?

    I was just trying to clarify your meaning, not making a point of my own.

    Maybe that's not what you mean, but I think that is true too. What I am saying though is that some things require much time, effort and sacrifice (such as a realization of emptiness or attainment of Samadhi) to know in that way so it would seem unlikely that an individual would make that kind of commitment just out of curiosity or something. I would need to have some level of conviction that it was possible and worthwhile.

    See, for myself I don't need conviction of anything other than knowing I help when I can.

    I think about and even have theories based on things like rebirth and some kind of universal consciousness in the process of self discovery and awareness but nothing I'd hang my hat on.

    Belief doesn't need to be some kind of rock hard certainty. I think of how we can say we know anything at all? At some level even the notion that we are alive and not just some computer simulation of some advanced society is a belief. Just because my understanding is that everything we think we know is a belief, doesn't mean all beliefs are the same. We believe that the earth is round and revolves around the sun because science has a rigorous methodology and other humans have made observations that we have faith in, not because we have seen it ourselves. We can see through the illusion of self and cut the root of our suffering and humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs are beliefs too. We aren't able to find out everything we need to know directly for ourselves, or at least not without a lot of time invested, so how do we come to our conclusions or best guesses?

    Interconnectiveness I can feel and I've felt it as long as I can remember so I don't question it.

    It's just always been obvious to me. Buddhism comes in when trying to deal with the truth but finding the truth is our job.

    Sometimes doctrine confirms what we've already felt, sometimes it is a catalyst for our own understanding and sometimes it is parotted to sound good.

    We have to be discerning.

    I think we're essentially in agreement but coming at it differently. Maybe the term belief has too negative a connotation for us in our Christian culture. Belief to me is just how you see the world not some blind conviction.

    I would just switch the word "belief" with "the most logical conclusion based on whatever we have to go on".

    I don't believe the world is a sphere but the other planets are spheres and I can see the curvature of the Earth from an airplane. The moon is a sphere, the sun is a sphere. It wouldn't make sense to think Earth is flat since the invention of the telescope.

    I don't believe this is real and not some simulation because there is no evidence to suggest the latter and it makes little difference either way.

    Even if we are in an advanced alien simulation, it wouldn't suggest the aliens know any more about what's really going on than we do. They could also be a simulation and have gods even. They could also be inferior simulations just like we could be inferior to any simulated intelligence we give rise to. There are just too many unknowns to hang a hat on one of them.

    I think belief is a fascinating study but not especially helpful in this day and age.

    Having faith in our friends to tell the truth and being able to believe what they tell us is a different kind of belief I think so I am not speaking of trust, just beliefs about the nature of reality. I'm sure you get that but wanted to clarify.

    My shrine needs dusting. The bald bodhisattvas now have a full head of fuzzy dust hair. I'm sure they don't care but I wash them off anyways.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @David thanks for taking up this subject again. Looking back on the thread I'm wondering if most of the disagreements don't arise because of how I think about the word belief.

    Lets say you believe your doctor's appointment tomorrow is at 10. If you then look at your calendar and see it is at 11 you don't stick with your belief that its at 10 because "that's what you believe". Now you've changed your belief that your doctor's appointment is at 11, you can say you now know its at 11, but do you really? Maybe you wrote it down wrong, maybe the NSA hacked your phone and changed the time or maybe the scheduler at the doctors office accidentally put your name in the 11:15 slot so when you get there the doctor isn't ready for you until 11:15. There are almost always other possibilities in any "most logical conclusion based on whatever we have to go on" so I think things we think we know usually fall into beliefs rather than true knowledge. Like I said though, not all beliefs are the same, we make logical conclusions or like @SpinyNorman said well, assumptions, about the world and going back to my OP what do we base those conclusions on about difficult to see things in Buddhism, scriptural authenticity or expert testimony?

    I don't believe the world is a sphere but the other planets are spheres and I can see the curvature of the Earth from an airplane. The moon is a sphere, the sun is a sphere. It wouldn't make sense to think Earth is flat since the invention of the telescope.

    No you're right, it wouldn't make sense. Recently the rapper B.O.B put out there that he concluded the earth was flat and he backed it up with his logical reasons. You have your reasons for coming to your conclusion so now you believe that the world is round and B.O.B. believes the world is flat. That doesn't mean that the two beliefs are equal though one is well founded the other isn't.

    I don't believe this is real and not some simulation because there is no evidence to suggest the latter and it makes little difference either way.
    Even if we are in an advanced alien simulation, it wouldn't suggest the aliens know any more about what's really going on than we do. They could also be a simulation and have gods even. They could also be inferior simulations just like we could be inferior to any simulated intelligence we give rise to. There are just too many unknowns to hang a hat on one of them.

    Some scientists and philosophers have put forward this idea and say they may be able to prove it. http://news.discovery.com/space/are-we-living-in-a-computer-simulation-2-121216.htm so do you know this is real or do you believe it?

    So I think when I'm talking about belief, I'm talking about all the assumptions and conclusions we make about the world, no matter how well founded and not only belief in things no one can see, like God or bigfoot.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @person said: So I think when I'm talking about belief, I'm talking about all the assumptions and conclusions we make about the world, no matter how well founded and not only belief in things no one can see, like God or bigfoot.

    I think an important aspect of Buddhist practice involves looking carefully at the way we experience things, and re-examining the assumptions we have.

    personDavidShoshinlobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @David not exactly a big part of the discussion, but we can be at peace and still experience anger. Keeping a peaceful and calm and nonreactive mind doesn't mean never experiencing normal human emotions. It means recognizing them and letting them come and go just like thoughts and not feeding them or letting them take you on a ride. The surface stays calm even if there is a bit of rumbling underneath that needs to pass. If one expects to attain peace of mind and never experience disturbing emotions, I don't think that will happen. Even the most accomplished teachers still experience sadness, anger, and other "negative" emotions. They just do not react to them like most of the rest of us do.

    Vastmind
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @karasti said:
    @David not exactly a big part of the discussion, but we can be at peace and still experience anger. Keeping a peaceful and calm and nonreactive mind doesn't mean never experiencing normal human emotions. It means recognizing them and letting them come and go just like thoughts and not feeding them or letting them take you on a ride.

    I agree, my argument there was poorly worded. I meant that we can not project peace when our anger is taking us on a ride.

    I have yet to be in a peaceful state when I've been acting out of anger. After I've realized what I was doing is another matter but not during the ride of emotion.

    Experiencing anger is different than acting out of anger and I meant the latter. Sorry for the confusion.

    I can't really recall how that tied into the o/p (it may have been good for the anger thread) but I don't think we have to believe in dogma to benefit from doctrine and sometimes doctrine can shine a light on our own experiences prior to hearing the doctrine.

    If it is said that nurturing a kind heart can ease the suffering of anger and one can feel it working and it confirms something they already felt was true, where would the need for belief in dogma come into play?

    Not directing that question at you, I'm just trying to put things back into context.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @David said:
    If it is said that nurturing a kind heart can ease the suffering of anger and one can feel it working and it confirms something they already felt was true, where would the need for belief in dogma come into play?

    You can come to believe in something because you've done it and gained confidence in it, beliefs aren't only about blind faith. Beliefs occur in a continuum some with a high degree of certainty some with none.

    Renee Descarte was asking himself what he could be certain of and he thought that everything he experienced could be an illusion played on him by a demon, but he reasoned that even though he couldn't be certain of his experience, the bare fact that he has experience couldn't be denied, hence "I think therefore I am"

    be·lief.

    [bəˈlēf]

    NOUN
    1.an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists:
    "his belief in the value of hard work"
    2.
    (belief in)

    trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something:
    "a belief in democratic politics" ·

    synonyms: faith · trust · reliance · confidence · credence

    You can disagree with my interpretation of course and I don't mean to belabor the point, but from your words I'm getting the impression that I haven't gotten my point across rather than a differing of views.

  • @SpinyNorman said:
    I think an important aspect of Buddhist practice involves looking carefully at the way we experience things, and re-examining the assumptions we have.

    Many of us move from our nonsense, monkey scatty mind, madness, dukkha, agitation etc to a reliance/confidence/trust in a more balanced, quieter, emptied being.
    This comes from a pragmatic Middle Way of regular reliance on inner silence/stillness or meditation. For many of us this is anything and everything but stillness ...

    She should have died hereafter;
    There would have been a time for such a word.
    — To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
    Signifying nothing.

    — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    If you want to understand Life and all its nuances, Shakespeare's a damn good place to look.
    Ahead of his time, in so many ways.

    He was a local lad, and never travelled, and fairly rural and relatively rustic in his lifestyle.

    “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

    Now where the heck did Mr basic rural country boy get that....?

    Nele
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @person said:

    @David said:
    If it is said that nurturing a kind heart can ease the suffering of anger and one can feel it working and it confirms something they already felt was true, where would the need for belief in dogma come into play?

    You can come to believe in something because you've done it and gained confidence in it, beliefs aren't only about blind faith. Beliefs occur in a continuum some with a high degree of certainty some with none.

    Renee Descarte was asking himself what he could be certain of and he thought that everything he experienced could be an illusion played on him by a demon, but he reasoned that even though he couldn't be certain of his experience, the bare fact that he has experience couldn't be denied, hence "I think therefore I am"

    be·lief.

    [bəˈlēf]

    NOUN
    1.an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists:
    "his belief in the value of hard work"
    2.
    (belief in)

    trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something:
    "a belief in democratic politics" ·

    synonyms: faith · trust · reliance · confidence · credence

    You can disagree with my interpretation of course and I don't mean to belabor the point, but from your words I'm getting the impression that I haven't gotten my point across rather than a differing of views.

    I don't get it. Isn't this thread basically calling into question the validity of personal or mystical experience lining up with an objective reality?

    As if people only have these experiences because they heard that other people have them?

    So many people from so many walks of life report the feeling of non-separation but they each have a unique spin.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @David said:

    @person said:

    @David said:
    If it is said that nurturing a kind heart can ease the suffering of anger and one can feel it working and it confirms something they already felt was true, where would the need for belief in dogma come into play?

    You can come to believe in something because you've done it and gained confidence in it, beliefs aren't only about blind faith. Beliefs occur in a continuum some with a high degree of certainty some with none.

    Renee Descarte was asking himself what he could be certain of and he thought that everything he experienced could be an illusion played on him by a demon, but he reasoned that even though he couldn't be certain of his experience, the bare fact that he has experience couldn't be denied, hence "I think therefore I am"

    be·lief.

    [bəˈlēf]

    NOUN
    1.an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists:
    "his belief in the value of hard work"
    2.
    (belief in)

    trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something:
    "a belief in democratic politics" ·

    synonyms: faith · trust · reliance · confidence · credence

    You can disagree with my interpretation of course and I don't mean to belabor the point, but from your words I'm getting the impression that I haven't gotten my point across rather than a differing of views.

    I don't get it. Isn't this thread basically calling into question the validity of personal or mystical experience lining up with an objective reality?

    As if people only have these experiences because they heard that other people have them?

    So many people from so many walks of life report the feeling of non-separation but they each have a unique spin.

    Oh, I see where you are coming from now, it wasn't my intention to call into question personal experience equating it with blind faith. If someone hadn't had any personal success applying particular teachings, on what basis then would they have any confidence that it were true? I had in my mind some of the things that couldn't so easily be seen through a daily practice but takes years of dedicated effort, like a realization of emptiness, bodhicitta or Samadhi, but for someone just starting it could be something like is mindfulness actually effective or isn't love just some mushy sentiment? For some of the easier things one could just try it out and see, but for the things that take real effort and sacrifice, what then? Should we rely on an unbroken and authentic lineage of teachings or accept the testimony from those who have put in the time and claim that they occur?

  • @person, if it is to be a threshold to warrant effort, can you point to an example of 'true / genuine' knowledge that you've encountered?

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited February 2016

    @Zero said:
    @person, if it is to be a threshold to warrant effort, can you point to an example of 'true / genuine' knowledge that you've encountered?

    Good question, thanks.

    Not really, I guess you could say I know for certain that 2+2=4 or that I know what its like for me to see the sky. Besides that I don't believe in certainty, there are things that are very likely, like the earth going around the sun and things that are extremely unlikely like people living with dinosaurs, then there are a whole host of things that fall somewhere in between.

    Many of the big questions, what is the meaning of life? what should I do with my work? where are we going as a society? don't seem to have a cut and dried true answer, so the problem is how to come to enough certainty/confidence to cross that threshold so we can direct our energy meaningfully.

  • @person said:
    Not really,

    Determining what is 'true / genuine' to you, depends on the specific standard of proof you adhere to in ascribing degrees of certainty / confidence - its a cascade of expedient assumptions.

    @person said:
    I guess you could say I know for certain that 2+2=4 or that I know what its like for me to see the sky.

    But what does that knowledge say about the system you're describing? Or what is that knowledge - how to assess its quality?

    @person said:
    so the problem is how to come to enough certainty/confidence to cross that threshold so we can direct our energy meaningfully.

    If one is unable to pin down a specific instance of encountering 'true / genuine' then how to assess what is meaningful? Chicken and egg.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Zero said:

    @person said:
    Not really,

    Determining what is 'true / genuine' to you, depends on the specific standard of proof you adhere to in ascribing degrees of certainty / confidence - its a cascade of expedient assumptions.

    I probably should have added 'for you' after asking what gives Buddhism its authenticity? in my OP

    @person said:
    I guess you could say I know for certain that 2+2=4 or that I know what its like for me to see the sky.

    But what does that knowledge say about the system you're describing? Or what is that knowledge - how to assess its quality?

    @person said:
    so the problem is how to come to enough certainty/confidence to cross that threshold so we can direct our energy meaningfully.

    If one is unable to pin down a specific instance of encountering 'true / genuine' then how to assess what is meaningful? Chicken and egg.

    I suppose you have to just take your best guess and go from there. I'm vulnerable to the skeptic argument for empirical proof and maybe just trying to justify to myself that taking the word of an experienced meditator is acceptable as a basis for a belief.

  • ZeroZero Veteran

    @person said:
    I probably should have added 'for you' after asking what gives Buddhism its authenticity? in my OP

    I suppose then it's 'you' that brings authenticity.

    @person said:
    I suppose you have to just take your best guess and go from there. I'm vulnerable to the skeptic argument for empirical proof and maybe just trying to justify to myself that taking the word of an experienced meditator is acceptable as a basis for a belief.

    Blind faith vs empirical proof brings an image to mind of one big belief vs a big pile of beliefs stacked on beliefs...
    It's closer and more immediate - better than a best guess.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Zero said:

    @person said:
    I probably should have added 'for you' after asking what gives Buddhism its authenticity? in my OP

    I suppose then it's 'you' that brings authenticity.

    I'd say its some combination of the two.

    @person said:
    I suppose you have to just take your best guess and go from there. I'm vulnerable to the skeptic argument for empirical proof and maybe just trying to justify to myself that taking the word of an experienced meditator is acceptable as a basis for a belief.

    Blind faith vs empirical proof brings an image to mind of one big belief vs a big pile of beliefs stacked on beliefs...
    It's closer and more immediate - better than a best guess.

    Science is easy to believe. Toast Jesus not so easy. There are things in the middle though that aren't so clear cut but have an important impact on one's understanding of the world.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited March 2016

    @person said: I suppose you have to just take your best guess and go from there. I'm vulnerable to the skeptic argument for empirical proof and maybe just trying to justify to myself that taking the word of an experienced meditator is acceptable as a basis for a belief.

    An experienced meditator can only point the way, we have to make the discoveries for ourself. So perhaps it's more to do with having faith/confidence/trust in a particular method or approach? Or a particular philosophical model of ourselves and the world?

    lobster
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said: I suppose you have to just take your best guess and go from there. I'm vulnerable to the skeptic argument for empirical proof and maybe just trying to justify to myself that taking the word of an experienced meditator is acceptable as a basis for a belief.

    An experienced meditator can only point the way, we have to make the discoveries for ourself. So perhaps it's more to do with having faith/confidence/trust in a particular method or approach? Or a particular philosophical model of ourselves and the world?

    Yes exactly, faith is just a means to an end. I didn't intend to make it sound like belief alone was the point.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited March 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:
    An experienced meditator can only point the way, we have to make the discoveries for ourself. So perhaps it's more to do with having faith/confidence/trust in a particular method or approach? Or a particular philosophical model of ourselves and the world?

    I feel this is exactly right.

    If we practice meditation that is suited to us, we will learn focus. We will calm the monkey mind. It works. Confirmed by many here from personal experience. Just as stated and continually reported.

    Be kind, we will have an easier life. Duh? Can it be true? Of course it is.

    If we relax and are more accepting, we are less enfuriated and frustrated. Well I never, how extraordinary we did not spot that one ... ;)

    Back to meditation:
    Traditionally most Christians are not contemplatives and most world wide Buddhists are not meditators.
    If we are, that is where the model is found to be true.
    The mind can be made more peacable. The mind becomes less dependent on circumstance, external happenings, body changes. The more enabled mind centres on interior resources and alignment.

    If we practice, we know beneficial change. We trust our experience. We trust our fellow travellers, those gone before accord with our knowing. Obvious really. Simple. Pragmatic.

    person
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    A very interesting thread. I think that for belief in any writings as accurate and true, there is a prerequisite that there is a lineage of scriptural reliability in origination, copying and translation. That starts you off on the right foot, before you even consider truth in the practice, claims of extreme altered states, enlightenment and so on.

    Belief and ones level of trust increases as one finds things that resonate with past experience, and increases further as you try things out and find them to be true. It's like advancing along a balance. But for me, some parts of the sutra's are sufficiently unlikely, given the world we live in, that I still reserve judgment on them.

    From my reaction to the teachings, I believe the personal experience is still central to Buddhism, regardless of whether Tibetan meditators hold that great realisations are still possible or not. The core of it is belief in enlightenment. If you have that, it doesn't matter if you get try to get there by staring for years at a cave wall, washing rice in the monastery kitchen, or sitting on a cushion in the prescribed pose.

    Intermediate special experiences while meditating, well, they may happen, or they may not. From what I have heard and read, it is better not to attach too much importance to these things because they may signal crucial stages or not, and it may take 10 years or 100 lifetimes to come to fruition. Enlightened masters are rare beings.

    personlobster
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    A very interesting thread. I think that for belief in any writings as accurate and true, there is a prerequisite that there is a lineage of scriptural reliability in origination, copying and translation. That starts you off on the right foot, before you even consider truth in the practice, claims of extreme altered states, enlightenment and so on.

    Belief and ones level of trust increases as one finds things that resonate with past experience, and increases further as you try things out and find them to be true. It's like advancing along a balance. But for me, some parts of the sutra's are sufficiently unlikely, given the world we live in, that I still reserve judgment on them.

    From my reaction to the teachings, I believe the personal experience is still central to Buddhism, regardless of whether Tibetan meditators hold that great realisations are still possible or not. The core of it is belief in enlightenment. If you have that, it doesn't matter if you get try to get there by staring for years at a cave wall, washing rice in the monastery kitchen, or sitting on a cushion in the prescribed pose.

    Intermediate special experiences while meditating, well, they may happen, or they may not. From what I have heard and read, it is better not to attach too much importance to these things because they may signal crucial stages or not, and it may take 10 years or 100 lifetimes to come to fruition. Enlightened masters are rare beings.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    lobster
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