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Book of Eights: Chapter 8

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran
edited September 18 in Arts & Writings

Since @Fosdick had to return his copy to the library, I thought I'd do the Monday honours.

This chapter is about the habits of monastic debaters (presumably not followers of the Buddha) and their attachment to views, need for praise, poor reactions to not being accepted by judges and so on. It's titled the Discourse to Pasūra, who presumably was a well known debater at the time.

Sections that stood out for me were...

Wishing for praise while debating in an assembly,
They become anxious.
Refuted, they become depressed.
Criticized and shaken,
They seek [their opponents'] faults.

It seems that attacking the man rather than the argument is a habit as old as mankind.

Pasūra, what opponent would you get
From those who live without opponents,
Who don't counter views with views,
Who don't grasp anything here as ultimate?

The Buddha here is advocating not clinging to views, not entering the debate. It's interesting because some modern monastic communities - like the Tibetan Buddhists - have a lively debating culture, and in a way our forum here too sometimes hosts discussions which turn into debates.

Interpreting this discourse is about not over-generalising, I think. It is aimed at a specific environment, but in general discourse and debate do have a valid function. It would be very quiet if there was never a response, or an alternate idea communicated...

FosdickVastmind

Comments

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited September 21

    @Kerome said

    It would be very quiet if there was never a response, or an alternate idea communicated...

    Ah, wouldn't old RumpleTrumpkin like that, though!

    Fronsdal says in the chapter introduction that the discourse is concerned "with how views are held, not what the views are ... This doesn't mean the Buddha is suggesting one should have no views ... one should avoid holding tight to any view: there is no peace in clinging."

    So in looking for how these teachings might apply to me personally, I think I tend to read them in a more general and less specific way, and as advocating avoidance of clinging to much of anything, not just to philosophical/religious ideas.

    Probably the closest I've come to the specific situation discussed in the chapter has been in my various exchanges with Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses over the years. I've never attempted to debate them, exactly - what's the use? But for a long time I sought to get them to explain exactly how they came to the conclusion that their particular view was compelled by facts, and compelled by reasoning from those facts. In the end, one of them finally conceded that their view was held because they chose to hold it, not because it was necessarily true. Victory at last! I might have "roared like a hero", had I been so inclined.

    lobsterKerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Well the coming into being of religious views is in itself something fraught with difficulty: shamans take psychoactive substances, prophets might be schizophrenic or psychotic, holy books get outdated by science even if they once made sense.

    So to take views from any of those and cling to them tightly is setting yourself up not just for potential disappointment but also a lifetime of verbal conflict, which is not conducive to peace or of benefit to self or others.

    The Buddha dharma on the other hand is a rare jewel in my opinion, because of an almost scientific approach ("test the teachings") and an appreciation of pragmatism and focus. I think it is a particularly good fit with a scientific background, which encourages evolving ones views based on evidence.

  • @Fosdick said:
    ... In the end, one of them finally conceded that their view was held because they chose to hold it, not because it was necessarily true. Victory at last! I might have "roared like a hero", had I been so inclined.

    B)

    Views and opinions are not True. The Truth can not be countered/contradicted or opposed. That is why it is often silent, even in the face of oppression, ignorance and our human affiliations ...

    At best we can allude to Truth. Express it in symbol or some idealised form. In Buddhism we aim to experience it directly and hold up our blooming ...

    People able to express or operate from the Enlightened phase are not trying to convince, convert or subjugate, merely to awaken ...

    That's the plan.
    http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/articles/the-ordinary-and-the-seven-factors-of-awakening/

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    If Truth cannot be countered, contradicted or opposed, then what do we do with Alternative Facts and lobbyists, dear @lobster. Besides burn them in effigy, I mean. I think the Truth being unopposable is only the case internally when meditating on the path of the dharma.

    It strikes me that the enlightened if they try merely to 'awaken' must have some process where awakening does not require understanding. It's an interesting contrast with for example Thich Nhat Hanh teaching inter-being, which he says is a teaching that can set you free... but it is still a process of the mind, working through understanding.

    lobster
  • Criticized and shaken,
    They seek [their opponents'] faults.

    In a sense we are the faulty opponent, when we cling to an opposable certainty/opinion. Such behavour leads to our and others dukkha. Unless of course we play devils advocate ... (always knew the devil had a use) ;)

    A personal example for me would be understanding, being and experiencing atheism. I only did so by understanding, immersing and following the arguments. Now I have a position where, 'emptiness is form and form is emptiness'.

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

    My wife tells me that, in Judaism, debating the Torah is considered to be a form of prayer. With this orientation, I wonder if they manage to escape the problem of attaching and clinging to views? It's an interesting approach at least.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    I really appreciate when a topic I'm interested in is opposed and engaged in. I find that my own understanding and reasoning gets improved and refined when debated.

    What seems to be explained here isn't about having views or what the right view is, rather it is about how we relate to our views and the views of others. Are we attached or averse to the view or can we remain impartial and objective, willing to see and understand other views with an open mind.

    So much of the trouble with politics these days seems to be exactly this. That people are so attached and entrenched in their particular view of the right way that we can't imagine or understand another's worldview.

    lobsterVastmind
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