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Book of Eights: Chapter 3

karastikarasti BreathingMinnesota Moderator

Figured we'd just do a new chapter every Monday if that's alright with everyone? If I forget, feel free to start it!

I found it interesting in the commentary where he says "the satisfactions that come from being entangled in doctrines are inherently unstable." Which is true, of course, but I think a lot of people, including myself, really attach ourselves to doctrines that we have determined to be true. For some people that means via faith but in Buddhism via testing it out for ourselves. But I think in doing that, we still end up attached because we believe we have the proof that that doctrine is therefore valid.

I can imagine it well enough to get the gist of how freeing it could be to not be attached to any view. But boy that's a hard one in our current lay lives, in some ares at least. Can we exercise a belief (say Right Speech) without being attached to the idea? It seems once we start to practice that way, we view the world that way, which to me suggests attachment to the Eightfold Path.

I do think the suggestion of not entering disputes is a good one, and I think most people can do well to back off jumping into discussions (especially online). It's funny how we feel left out of something when we don't get to put our 2 cents in, even in a news article that has 2000 comments. As if anyone reads any of them, :lol: In my Tibetan tradition, debate over doctrine is a major part of how many monks learn, so I wonder what they'd think of this. It always seemed to me (Buddhism or otherwise) that true debate is a good way to learn, not just about the other side but about how deep your beliefs are seeded. I kind of got the feel from the passages like its suggesting we don't jump into anything we disagree with. I can understand that, but in terms of being part of a Sangha if you truly feel a member is way off, isn't it in everyone's best interest to try to help them correct that view? Or are we just supposed to not bother at all? It almost seems like disengaged TOO far wouldn't be a good thing, either. Or is it simply a matter of investigating our reasons for getting involved to ensure they are without conceit?

The last passage, "Embracing nothing, rejecting nothing, Right here, a person has shaken off every view." the wording struck me. We talk a lot here about attachment and aversion. Same thing. But to see attachment compared to embracing was interesting. I like to think of myself as not attached (not too badly anyways, lol) to my views, but I definitely embrace them and perhaps it really is the same thing.


  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran

    There are some who dispute
    corrupted at heart,
    and those who dispute
    their hearts set on truth,
    but a sage doesn't enter
    a dispute that's arisen,
    which is why he is
    nowhere constrained.

    Now, how would one
    led on by desire,
    entrenched in his likes,
    forming his own conclusions,
    overcome his own views?
    He'd dispute in line
    with the way that he knows.

    Whoever boasts to others, unasked,
    of his practices, precepts,
    is, say the skilled,
    ignoble by nature —
    he who speaks of himself
    of his own accord.

    But a monk at peace,
    fully unbound in himself,
    who doesn't boast of his precepts
    — "That's how I am" —
    he, say the skilled,
    is noble by nature —
    he with no vanity
    with regard to the world.

    One whose doctrines aren't clean —
    fabricated, formed, given preference
    when he sees it to his own advantage —
    relies on a peace
    on what can be shaken.

    Because entrenchments[1] in views
    aren't easily overcome
    when considering what's grasped
    among doctrines,
    that's why
    a person embraces or rejects a doctrine —
    in light of these very

    Now, one who is cleansed[2]
    has no preconceived view
    about states of becoming
    or not-
    anywhere in the world.
    Having abandoned conceit[3] & illusion,
    by what means would he go?[4]
    He isn't involved.

    For one who's involved
    gets into disputes
    over doctrines,
    but how — in connection with what — [5]
    would you argue
    with one uninvolved?
    He has nothing
    embraced or rejected,[6]
    has sloughed off every view
    right here — every one.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    What comes to my mind around this topic is the difference between a lawyer finding the truth of something and a scientist. The lawyer has a fixed, biased view that supports their already existing position. While a scientist tries to have an open, objective and unbiased towards what is true.

    I don't have time for more right now and probably won't until tomorrow night but just wanted to jump in and throw in a couple cents.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I think that is the ideal, @person, but if you look into some studies about science, that is so, so often not the case. I see what you are getting at in the difference, but multiple studies (which is funny to think about, lol) have found scientists mostly aren't nearly so unbiased and open as we'd like to think. It's not so easy to get rid of our biases, many of them are unconscious. And scientists are fallible as well, with many high level stories of people taking bribes to make studies come out in someone's favor.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I found it interesting that the poem would call on the first line some "corrupt", that's a strong value judgment. I also found it curious that the poem doesn't offer a hint about how one goes about releasing oneself from the habit of forming views? I would have expected something along the lines of "whenever one feels the beginning of a view, one reminds oneself this too is subject to change, impermanent".

    The fact that it calls those who have left behind views "cleansed", "unattached, embracing nothing, rejecting nothing", "shaken off every view" means perhaps abandoning views is an active process, a rejection.

    I think such a standpoint would lead to some practical problems. I think that it's very useful to be able to free oneself from the thicket of views, especially when considering views on imponderables, but I don't think it is a useful permanent state.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @karasti said:
    I think that is the ideal, @person, but if you look into some studies about science, that is so, so often not the case. I see what you are getting at in the difference, but multiple studies (which is funny to think about, lol) have found scientists mostly aren't nearly so unbiased and open as we'd like to think. It's not so easy to get rid of our biases, many of them are unconscious. And scientists are fallible as well, with many high level stories of people taking bribes to make studies come out in someone's favor.

    That's true, in real life things don't work the same as they do on paper. I guess it's really just a metaphor then, do you have a fixed view and are just looking for information and making arguments that back up that view or are you trying to be unbiased and let the information guide you towards a view?

    I don't know that that's totally it, it feels like the notion in the book takes it a step further but I think the distinction is kind of in the right direction.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Yeah, the book is interesting to me for that reason, you never know what part grabs you based on your current understanding, and where it takes you. For myself, I've always found it helpful to specifically take time to look at the things that poke me the wrong way. I've found a few in the book. And then different understandings on things I thought I grasped well.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I do wonder how to apply such ideas as letting go of all views, and still making it in this world. Thinking this morning about the stuff happening in the US in the past few days (and beyond) how does one work against people looking to do harm while remaining unattached to views? While at the same time not getting into disputes? On the one hand, most of my work is quiet work, in raising my children to be open and good people, for example. But in order to guide them in that direction, there definitely has been an embracing of views and ideals. I'm sure there are some people who understand this all very well and remain detached, but how does that help improve things? It doesn't seem like it's quite suggested to turn a blind eye, and one would think that someone able to let go of all views can see a whole lot more of the big picture than we can. But for someone who can do that, is the answer really not to do anything??

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @karasti that's a nice summary of my thought too. It feels to me as if forming a view is essential to making a judgment of almost any kind, and without judgment there is no differentiation of what to do or what not to do - one would seem to be left in limbo.

    I know that Osho went through a long period of just saying, "that's good" to everything that he was asked to approve, and that other people in the Ashram ended up pre-approving things before they were put in front of him. But a lot of the sutra's do show the Buddha exhibiting some very fine judgment.

    Perhaps what is being talked about is acquiring the ability to lay down the habit of forming views. If one could step back from the process of forming views at will, then that would be a very peaceful state, a place where the mind was not constantly forming its approvals and disapprovals to disturb the flow of awareness.

  • Lazy_eyeLazy_eye Veteran
    edited August 2017

    I see parallels here with Zen -- for example, Seng Ts'an writes that:

    The Great Way is not difficult,
    Just don’t pick and choose.
    If you cut off all likes or dislikes
    Everything is clear like space.

    Make the slightest distinction
    And heaven and earth are set apart.
    If you wish to see the truth,
    Don’t think for or against.

    And later in the same text he urges us to "drop our opinions" and, in a nutshell, not to make distinctions at all.

    Which of course raises the same questions that have come up in this thread: how does that work exactly? it desirable, don't we need views, wouldn't we be left powerless to respond to violence and hate..? In the face of what's been going on, does it seem more than a little ridiculous to advocate not holding views?

    I don't know. One possibility that occurred to me -- and this aligns with what @Kerome wrote above -- is that view can be seen as a root problem that drives all the rest. Without view formation, we wouldn't have neo-Nazis or other harmful adversaries to begin with, so there would be no need to combat them by means of view. Practically speaking, since these things have arisen, we do have to make distinctions between views that cause misery and views that help people. But ultimately view itself is the problem and the sage is one who has come to recognize this.

    Another way of saying the same thing is that all views -- even benevolent ones -- turn out to be empty in the face of anicca, anatta, and dukkha. So, yes, I try and raise my kids to be good people -- while also recognizing that being good will not ultimately solve the problem of samsara.

    From a Mahayana perspective, there is the recognition that most people are not enlightened sages, and part of the bodhisattva's work is to engage sentient beings at our own level -- steering us away from views that lead to affliction, and toward views that bring happiness, even if all of this is ultimately empty.

  • Lazy_eyeLazy_eye Veteran
    edited August 2017

    BTW, I was using the Seng Ts'an translation found here: http://providencezen.org/trusting-in-mind-third-patriarch-of-zen-seng-tsan

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    My view is similar to what @Kerome said, I think. I can imagine a place where one can be free from views and judgments yet respond to the world. I think such a person would be in a place we can't really comprehend because they'd see everything so differently. I can't imagine it means they should ignore harmful things happening to others, but they would know with complete clarity how to deal with it, and be able to do so without having to think logically about what is happening, and thus form views. And probably understand quite well how all the views came together to create the situation.

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited August 2017

    What does it mean to be attached to a view? It seems to me that attachment is very largely a matter of emotional investment in that view.

    Without emotion being involved, it is possible to favor one view over another without attachment, and to accept that the view you favor at the time may not be correct - most likely is not correct - but to decide to go with it anyway until something changes, or you learn something new that bears on it. Then the view can be altered to fit the new situation. No emotion, no problem.

    But emotion is sneaky, it easily arises without our being aware of it - one must always be mindful, always vigilant. Maybe when we are fully enlightened we can relax - but I wouldn't count on it.

  • Baruch ben Spinoza supossedly said "Come let us reason together". If that were only possible. What a price he payed for being an independent thinker.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    Maybe there's something in the distinction between having a view and being attached to a view? I understand having ideas about the way things are or should be but not being rigidly attached to them because I've been wrong before or knowledge changes or perspective changes or whatever reason I've changed my views before for.

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited August 2017

    As one knows, so one speaks:
    How could one overcome one's views
    When led by desire, stuck in what's pleasing
    And making up ( ideas of ) what's correct?

    I think that pretty well sums up what I was saying as regards the role of emotion in shaping our views. Desire is an emotional force. What is pleasing is emotionally satisfying. To me, this verse suggests that emotion is apt to be the seed out of which our views arise.

    If one is not emotionally invested in a view or opinion, is it possible to actually dispute different views? Or do the views become more like possibilities that we can discuss in a detached way, to see where they might logically lead?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    @person I think that yes, that is the key. For me, I must just not be there yet. I can say I'm not attached, but it had to reconsider when I saw the use of the word "embrace" in these passages. I might claim I'm not attached to my views, but I sure embrace them fully and whole-heartedly and I think whenever you do that, you are therefore pretty much automatically rejecting the opposite view. If you then set forth your view in an attempt to help others, you get asked why and you find yourself defending your view. I'm not sure how to get out of that (other than to completely ignore people who ask but then it is potentially a lost opportunity to connect and understand).

  • @Fosdick said:
    But emotion is sneaky, it easily arises without our being aware of it - one must always be mindful, always vigilant. Maybe when we are fully enlightened we can relax - but I wouldn't count on it.

    :) ... as a failed Tantrist and undisciplined Zenith, I like to work myself into an emotional fervour, opinionated doctrinal certainty and then like Paul on the road to Damascus, argue for the opposition with weary indifference to the vagaries of certainty ... o:)

    For obvious reasons being a zealot, muddled non-middle wayer, wrathful cructacean, sith monk etc, is prone to active naughtiness, persecution, troll loving, Muslim bashing and other non spiritual responses.

    It is why strong emotional attachment to temporary ideals such as life, lamas, life choices and self delusion as a way of ignorance is so appealing to our need for permanency ...

    Relax, breath deeply and as @Fosdick recommends, be vigilant/attentive ... =)

  • Isn't our delight/addiction in trying to figure all this stuff out intellectually part of what must come into focus and be seen through? C.S. Lewis was no Buddhist, but this is certainly where I've gotten hung up. Maybe this quote speaks to being attached to a view of ourselves. Wait! What am I doing still under the covers?!

    "It is so fatally easy to confuse an aesthetic appreciation of the spiritual life with the life itself-to dream that you have waked, washed, and dressed and then to find yourself still in bed."~ C.S. Lewis

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