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How do you feel about the following excerpt by Wu Hsin?
I'm more gradual approach oriented than the excerpt seems to be hinting at. But it reminds me of a 17 minute video from a neurological perspective entitled "Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality". I'm not sure the excerpt and video are saying the same thing, but they sound strikingly similar to me.
It seems that religious belief often involves adding an element of "supernatural" to the natural world - God, Brahman, "ultimate reality", etc. I've talked to a lot of religious/spiritual types about their beliefs over the years, and gained the impression that many of them were seeking comfort rather than truth - or at least both comfort and truth. I mean the comfort of believing in something bigger, even when there isn't much evidence for it. Clutching at metaphysical straws IMO. The truth can be very uncomfortable of course.
As in my previous post I think there is more than one attitude towards the unknown, just having a bias towards one metaphysical view or another doesn't necessarily make someone a fearful and irrational. I imagine someone who has led an unethical life would be comforted with a view of physicalism since once they died none of their actions or unhappiness would remain.
Yeah, I would echo that sentiment. Believing in "nothing" seem just as much as a comfort as believing in God depending on the person.
I feel pretty much anything makes more sense than nothing. YMMV
I had a secular upbringing. In meditation I frequently find comfort in annihilation. The comfort doesn’t come from quieted fears of afterlife retribution but from harmony with the strongest belief in me. We’re born. We die. After clinical death, there’s a period, I’m convinced, of consciousness, but it fades. Then poof. What was is no more and doesn’t reappear elsewhere.
The early Buddhist text explicitly classify this as wrong view. There’s an intellectual trick to remedy that. An annihilationist view is only annihilationist because it presupposes a self. Banish that illusion and no self remains to be annihilated. But that reduces my practice to little more than the application of Buddhist meditation techniques to clearly perceive and experientially confirm what I already believe.
I think that is still wrong view.
“One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view. And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.”1
I’ve never had to grapple with gods, souls, universal justice or metaphysical stuff until Buddhism. If I don’t grasp at metaphysical straws, then what I’m doing isn’t Buddhism. Instead, I’m just meditatively running out the clock on what I believe is a pointless existence. On the other hand, if I’m discerning that as wrong view, then “this is one’s right view” and what I’m doing is Buddhism.
Going straight to the Four Noble Truths as right view puts me, personally, right back where I started: existence is pointless; come to terms with it; and let go. If that’s what those old text are saying, then I’m ahead of the curve. I don’t think that’s the case. I think those old text make it very explicit that that’s not what they’re saying.
“And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions [of becoming]; there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.
“And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“One makes an effort for the abandoning of wrong view & for entering into right view: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view.”1
But why would we observe these in insight practice? I think the purpose is to break the spell of conditioned reality, leading to dispassion for it and turning away from it. Why do that? "This is the Noble Truth of the origin of dukkha: It's this craving that leads to repeated becoming... This is the Noble Truth of the cessation of dukkha: It's the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving...." I think the conditioned constructs, becomings, can be stilled, revealing the Unconditioned, Nibbana.
I don't think the Unconditioned is a "thing". That would be more like revealing Atman/Brahman in Hindu practice, seeing through the aggregates ( personal experience ) to reveal a deeper reality.
"Unconditioned" is an epithet for Nibbana, and Nibbana is most often described as the cessation of craving, aversion and ignorance. So "unconditioned" seems to be an adjective rather than a noun, ie a state of mind unconditioned by the taints.
To say Nibbana is something other than a state of mind is not the same as concluding it therefore must be a personal or universal soul. But to say Nibbana is not something other than a state of mind might be to say it’s a conditioned phenomena, impermanent, dukkha.
I think “a state of mind unconditioned by the taints” is both the condition for realizing Nibbana and the fruit of having realized it. In both cases, such a mind may be a conditioned phenomenon, not Nibbana.
In the first instance, in that moment when there arises a conditioned mind with the taints stilled, the path “has been fully developed.” That forms a condition. As a result of it, in that same moment, dukkha is fully understood, craving completely abandoned and the cessation of dukkha, the reality of Nibbana, realized.
This moment forms the condition for the second instance of that state of mind. As a result of knowledge and vision, there arises a conditioned state of mind that is the fruit of having realized Nibbana. At the level of arahant, where the faculties are strong enough, the taints are not just stilled or partially eliminated but all are completely uprooted.
Seeing the truth cracks the foundation of ignorance, causing everything built on it to collapse. But the truth, Nibbana, and those states of mind, fruits of the path and of knowledge and vision, are not, in my humble analysis, the same.
“Birth is dukkha; aging is dukkha; death is dukkha....”
“[Nibbana] is the cessation of dukkha [by way of the cessation of its support, craving]...”
Nibbana is the cessation of dukkha; and dukkha is birth, aging and death; therefore, Nibbana is the cessation of birth, aging and death.
Maybe those ancient expositions use those words figuratively in reference to a psychological state. But, if Nibbana is merely a psychological state, then it’s conditioned on the capacity to experience psychological states. Therefore, it could not be called “the Unconditioned”. So, I think these words refer to a psychological state reflecting an actual reality that those ancients also called “the Unborn”, “the Ageless” and “the Deathless”.
Hence, Nibbana may be something other than the mind that realizes it, something other than a subjective reality brought into existence when someone realizes it. In other words, Nibbana may be an objective reality, “to be personally experienced by the wise.”
Impermanence is an objective reality.
It probably is, but that isn't what the Buddha was concerned with. In the suttas anicca is always described in terms of the aggregates, and the aggregates represent our personal experience. Similarly in the Heart Sutra, sunyata is described in terms of the aggregates.
I don't disagree with most of what you said there, but I don't see how it contradicts the statement that "impermanence is an objective reality", that the Buddha was unconcerned with its objectiveness, or that its objectiveness doesn't fit into the five aggregates. The first aggregate is form. It includes the body. The body is an objective reality. It is subject to aging, sickness and death. Each of those are also objective realities that, according to the suttas, should be contemplated often. The last of those appears in the Satipatthana sutta as a contemplation of decomposition. One compares his or her own body to the objective reality of corpses in different stages of decay. These are all teachings in the discourses attributed to the Buddha and all represent the objective reality of impermanence in the physical dimension of matter, the aggregate of form.