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Misunderstanding Buddhism and Meditation

The other day I was reading an article on a site called "The Book of Life". I've discovered that it is an initiative from the School of Life, a project started by Alain de Botton. I read a few things there and when I found this article I felt that it was presenting a wrong view of Buddhist meditation.

The article is here: http://www.thebookoflife.org/philosophical-meditation/

TL;DR: The article says that the "Western" type of Philosophical Meditation is better than the "Eastern" type of meditation. Buddhist meditation teaches you to push down your thoughts and ignore them, while Philosophical Meditation helps you analyze them.

What do you think? Am I misunderstanding the article and reading it the wrong way?

«13

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Buddhist meditation teaches you to push down your thoughts and ignore them

    I would suggest that is quite a common approach in Dharma.

    Are you reading things the wrong way? Perhaps philosophical meditation would help you answer that question?

    Does Buddhist meditation?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @tibellus said: What do you think? Am I misunderstanding the article and reading it the wrong way?

    I had a quick look, he seems to be talking about a method of contemplation, so not really meditation in the way that a Buddhist would understand it.

    lobster
  • 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

    AFAIAA, it's an incorrect view.
    Nowhere in Buddhism, have I ever learnt, or been taught that we should push thoughts down and ignore them.
    That's suppression which can lead to REpression.

    There is Vipassana and Samatha.... these are two methods of Meditation which one practises consecutively...
    However, to my understanding, it is better to begin with Vipassana, and progress to Samatha... to achieve Sunyata...

    However, anyone who decided to push down thoughts and ignore them, is going about it the wrong way.
    Calm thoughts yes. Let them float by, unhindered, yes.
    Do not attach excessive strong emotions to them, yes.
    Push them down? I think not.

    http://buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/3547/what-exactly-differentiates-vipassana-from-samatha-meditation

    lobstertibellusNerima
  • 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

    A Quotation from someone who probably knows best:

    "I was once instructed to meditate on thoughts. I investigated the nature of thought for two whole months. I can tell you firsthand that you can never find a thought. There is nothing there of substance, but with our mind we make it an Extremely Big Deal."
    ~ Pema Chödrön

    JeffreyNerima
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited July 2015

    "Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.'

    "Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent pleasant or painful?" — "Painful, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."

    "Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.'

    Anattalakkhana

    Does these instructions sound like thought suppression?
    The author has no understanding what Buddhist meditation involves or you have misunderstood it.

    BhikkhuJayasaratibellusbookworm
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @pegembara said:
    Does these instructions sound like thought suppression?

    Very much so.

    In essence gentleness, returning to the breath, daily practice, 'just sitting' etc is hard because people are making a meal of it. A hard to digest meal.

    A lot of people misunderstand meditation as a rigid concentration. A rigid sitting. A rigid 'do not allow thoughts to gain traction'. We get questions all the time from people who have misunderstood and therefore not been adequately advised or clearly never sat on a beach with not a care in the world ... :)

    I feel @SpinyNorman is exactly right, what is being described in the link is contemplation.

    Jeffrey
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited July 2015

    There is such a wide variety of what some may call " buddhist meditation" depending on the tradition. This can easily confuse people who make articles and talk about things they have no clue about.

    The only "buddhist" meditation, as in the meditation taught by the Buddha that was not already in practice at the time, is vipassana, which he taught to practice in conjunction with samatha meditation, specifically with the Jhanas as they provide the best base for seeing reality as it truly is.

    Now as buddhism spread different traditions added a variety of different methods , anything from mantra to tantra. There is a wide world of " buddhist meditation" out there, and I've yet to read an article, even on some "buddhist websites" that seems to get it remotely right.

    There is also of course this arrogance with many in the west about how they view Buddhism and Buddhists as backwards religious believers and we have the best way because we pick and choose what we want from where we want, so it's no surprise to see someone spouting western superiority.

    Earthninjalobstertibellus
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    It does sound like contemplation but I wouldn't call it Buddhist contemplation really. It doesn't sound like a good idea to suppress thoughts

    I probably could show thoughts a little more compassion as I don't suppress negative thoughts as much as I oppress them. When I'm able to be mindful I can try to understand their causes but when I'm not I just tell them to scram. Even during meditation I sometimes see them as a nuisance when I could be more patient with their leaving.

    lobstertibellus
  • tibellustibellus Veteran
    edited July 2015

    Indeed, the article is talking about a form of western contemplation. Yet, unfortunately, it compares it to "buddhist meditation", which is considered inferior to the type of contemplation proposed by the author. One of the parts of the article that I have a problem with is this one:

    Adherents of meditation suggest that we sit very quietly, in a particular bodily position, and strive, through a variety of exercises, to empty our minds of content, quite literally to push or draw away the disturbing and unfocused objects of consciousness to the periphery of our minds, leaving a central space empty and serene. In the Buddhist world-view, anxieties and excitements are not trying to tell us anything especially interesting or valuable. We continuously fret without good purpose, about this or that random and vain thing – and therefore the best solution is simply to push the objects of the mind to one side.g.
    Buddhist meditation has been so successful, we are liable to forget another effective and in some ways superior path to finding peace of mind, this one rooted in the Western tradition: Philosophical Meditation.

    I know this shouldn't bother me too much, but this kind of stuff is imbued with superiority, and I don't know why they felt the need to compare their technique - which sounds like some form of psychoanalysis - with meditation.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @tibellus said: Indeed, the article is talking about a form of western contemplation. Yet, unfortunately, it compares it to "buddhist meditation", which is considered inferior to the type of contemplation proposed by the author.

    Bleedin' philosophers. ;)

    lobsterShoshin
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    I would say I do not suppress thoughts, but the idea is to notice that they are thoughts rather than being lost in the thoughts themselves.

    lobster
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    ""Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times." Thich Nhat Hanh - Excellent article.

    http://buddhism.about.com/od/Ritual-Liturgy-Practices/fl/Proselytization-and-Buddhism.htm

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @tibellus said:

    I know this shouldn't bother me too much, but this kind of stuff is imbued with superiority, and I don't know why they felt the need to compare their technique - which sounds like some form of psychoanalysis - with meditation.

    Maybe you feel there is an element of truth in it and you wish to feel you are on the superior path to 'some form of psychoanalysis'. Which sounds equally dismissive and superior ...

    Now what superior Buddhist tools do you have to overcome this 'bother'?

  • I don't dismiss it and I don't consider myself on the superior path. Maybe my wording was not right and sounded like that. I see both ways as having their advantages and disadvantages. I am bothered by the fact that someone is using other people's ways/tools to promote their own.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @tibellus said: I am bothered by the fact that someone is using other people's ways/tools to promote their own.

    MBSR is another example and they don't pay royalties to the Buddha either!

    lobsterInvincible_summer
  • tibellustibellus Veteran
    edited July 2015

    Point taken. :smile: I'll mind my own business.

  • 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

    No, I think you're right to be concerned...
    I had a friend who excitedly told me all about how her counsellor had taught her a brilliant NEW way of calming her mind, by going through some really cool exercises and how she felt so much better after only 5 times of doing it, and he is so cool because this apparently was his invention, and he's gonna write a book about it and sell a video and teach all his clients how to do it....

    And I replied, "Yes, I've been trying to teach you the same thing for ages. It's not new; Buddhists have been doing it for centuries." (which admittedly, was a bit smarmy of me).

    It took the wind right out of her sails (cruel, yes, I know) and I went on to explain that basically, this guy was taking £35 per half-hour session for teaching her something I could have let her know for free.
    Without knowing anything about what he had said to her, I talked about the method, the system, the practice the technique, the posture... and as I spoke, it became clearer and clearer to her that yes, it was exactly what HE had taught her, and claimed as his own technique....
    It was a bit of an eye-opener for her...

    She went back to him one more time.
    I suspect she called him out on it, because afaik, no book or video ever materialised....

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited July 2015

    @tibellus said:
    I am bothered by the fact that someone is using other people's ways/tools to promote their own.

    If a person uses proven 'Buddhist' techniques to 'benefits' others (to ease their suffering) and charges a fee for doing so...I can't see a problem with this.... There are many counsellors/therapists who dabble in Buddhism and develop their counselling/therapy around things like mindfulness and other forms of Buddhist meditation and psychology...

    Also there are many books based upon Buddhist psychology published by 'non Buddhists'...

    Earthninja
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    I think it's fine that Buddhist methods are being shared more widely because they clearly benefit people. The dabbling might be a problem though.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Jeffrey said: I would say I do not suppress thoughts, but the idea is to notice that they are thoughts rather than being lost in the thoughts themselves.

    Samatha is a method for "stopping" thoughts, not by suppressing but by focussing on something else, usually the breath.

    lobstermmo
  • 0student00student0 Explorer

    My problem with the article is that it uses the metaphor of "pushing thoughts aside... to create an inner peace". I think that's bs. Whenever I meditate I let thoughts linger and they disappear on their own. So my metaphor would be that thoughts dissolve into inner peace.
    Philosophical meditation has a completely different purpose.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @0student0 said:> My problem with the article is that it uses the metaphor of "pushing thoughts aside... to create an inner peace". I think that's bs.

    Letting thoughts go would be more accurate I think. Obviously poor Alain doesn't really get it, but then he is just a philosopher. ;)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited July 2015

    @tibellus said:
    Point taken. :smile: I'll mind my own business.

    LOL. I see no fault in you and very little in them. <3

    As @federica mentions, therapists, councillors, motivational consultants, lama4hire and a whole host of band wagon adopters are finding the value in Buddhist mind technology. Some of these techniques go back further than Shakyamuni Buddhism and the Buddhists themselves have appropriated or adapted other teachings. Long may it continue to the benefit of all beings.

    For example the traditional Buddhist image of a man with curls in a toga, might well originally be Greek or if you prefer Western European.
    http://www.thefullwiki.org/Greco-Buddhist

    ... Thieves! Charlatans! [... lobster goes shouting off into the distance ... ] :o

    Invincible_summer
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    @SpinyNorman I would say you return to the breath as a method to notice thoughts.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Jeffrey said: SpinyNorman I would say you return to the breath as a method to notice thoughts.

    Not usually with samatha, where the idea is to calm the mind, letting thoughts subside.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    @SpinyNorman thoughts subside on their own. You just notice them and don't try to do anything. Maybe it varies with teachers. But yeah my teacher teaches shamata vipashyana yet it might vary with lineage/teacher.

  • 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

    @Jeffrey said:
    SpinyNorman thoughts subside on their own. You just notice them and don't try to do anything.

    Oh boy, last night they sure didn't for me! I had something come up in my mind and could I shift the damn thing? Could I heck as like! So at one point, I took a deep breath, relaxed, dropped my shoulders and said: "Ok, I give up. Tonight's session has been a distinct diversion form the norm. I'll do better tomorrow." 11.15, and that was it....

    I quit, laid down - and fell asleep almost instantly, only waking up this morning at 06.40, which is a damn good night's sleep for me! So maybe it proved to be beneficial after all...

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited July 2015

    It could be misleading to say 'thoughts subside on their own'. Actually they do but they really never stop. They calm down but that is just the shamata and shamata is win or lose and is itself stressful to make calm. A paradox in some sense. But awareness itself is not win or lose. If aware of thoughts then win if aware of calm/no thoughts then win. There is always something to be aware of even if you are aware of the thought that you are not aware enough. That is still awareness.

    Zenshin
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Jeffrey said: It could be misleading to say 'thoughts subside on their own'. Actually they do but they really never stop.

    They do actually, but it can take a while. Then you can really experience the spaciousness of the mind.
    But of course it depends what practice one is doing.

  • Well, I read it. Yes, the author misinterprets both the technique and purpose of Buddhist meditation. The biggest problem I have with the article is that what they describe isn't "philosophical meditation" or any other type of meditation. It's contemplation. It's using our brains to sort experiences and assign meaning and made decisions. It's what our brains are designed to do. In psychology, we used to call it "talking therapy" when we went to a professional to help sort out our conflicting thoughts.

    lobster
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    If a person uses proven 'Buddhist' techniques to 'benefits' others (to ease their suffering) and charges a fee for doing so...I can't see a problem with this.... There are many counsellors/therapists who dabble in Buddhism and develop their counselling/therapy around things like mindfulness and other forms of Buddhist meditation and psychology...

    I wouldn't have come into Buddhist practice without my therapist adopting a Mindfulness-based (although he didn't call it that or market himself as such) approach to helping me with my anxiety disorder, so I tend to agree with this point of view.

    In this world, we all need to make a living. Might as well be doing something healing and helpful to others.

    I think the real issue comes up when people are trying to sell "enlightenment" or grossly overpriced meditation/spiritual services, especially in a sectarian ("Mine is better than yours") manner. By overpriced, I mean consciously making things more expensive than they actually need to be as to increase the apparent value of the product, and also for exploiting a trend.

    ShoshinCinorjerlobstersilver
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    @SpinyNorman As my teacher means 'spacious' that is already the quality of mind whether there are thoughts or not. An experience of spaciousness is not the same thing as the fundamental spaciousness which is there for every experience. Meditation I believe is not to have experiences but rather to become aware of awareness which is so easy that it is hard.

    ShoshinCinorjerlobster
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @tibellus said:
    Buddhist meditation teaches you to push down your thoughts and ignore them

    I would say that's inaccurate. In fact, many Buddhist meditation teachers will tell you that is the completely wrong way to do it! A lot of people mistake "letting go" with "ignoring", but they are two very different things. Ignoring contains an element or notion of aversion, while the letting go does not. With or without aversion is a very big difference. :)

    CinorjerlobstersilverInvincible_summer
  • @seeker242 said:A lot of people mistake "letting go" with "ignoring", but they are two very different things. Ignoring contains an element or notion of aversion, while the letting go does not. With or without aversion is a very big difference.

    How true. In teaching meditation, one of the hard parts is convincing the new person that the goal is not to eliminate thoughts. I would watch their faces and see frustration as they kept going, "Damn! Another thought. OK, focus. Um.... Hey, I'm doing it. Damn! Another thought!" and so on.

    ShoshinlobstersilverInvincible_summer
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Earthninja said:
    Thoughts are only as powerful as belief in them.
    Do we try and stop the wind blowing? Who cares, let it blow.
    Why do we have to stop thoughts?
    If they don't have conscious attention they become background noise. Like the wind.
    It's only because we care about them do they have so much power.

    Once I realised this my meditations have been great, thoughts are all equal in weightlessness.
    If we try and stop/suppress thoughts it means we don't understand them.

    The Dhammapada : "Twin Verses" (well sort of :) )

    ( Depending upon the translation Mind or Perception can replace the word 'thought' )

    "All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If we speak or act with an evil thought, pain follows us, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.

    All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If we speak or act with a pure thought, happiness follows us, like a shadow that never leaves."

    @Earthninja
    I 'think' I see where you're coming from....After a while through 'awareness' (meditation and or contemplation practice) thought patterns can shift in a more wholesome direction (by focusing ones conscious attention, using awareness of awareness as a leverage so to speak...

    The Tibetans call this "Lamrim" Mind Training....

    In the conventional everyday sense, we run on self-generated thought patterns :)

    lobsterCinorjer
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @Shoshin sure that's another way, watching thoughts you can change their patterns. You can become aware of your subconscious thought patterns and condition more wholesome patterns.

    I'm coming from more an Advaita approach to them, letting the conditioning run out of juice rather than changing them.
    I personally practice both kinds of meditation but I tend to "ignore" thoughts. Back to breath.
    They are just spinning bullshit most of the time haha.
    Useful occasionally. Haha.

    ShoshinCinorjer
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Earthninja said:

    They are just spinning bullshit most of the time haha.
    Useful occasionally. Haha.

    Perhaps more useful than we think @Earthninja ...when it comes to day to day interaction.... try getting through the day without paying conscious attention to your thoughts... (the ego being ones focus of conscious attention' so to speak... "Thoughts> words> deeds" Our intentions set things in motion....

    As our dear friend Mr Watts would say "Thought thought thought "thinker" thought thought thought "thinker" The ego being the 'Thinker" which in fact is just another thought thinking it's thinking, in the ongoing cycle of thoughts that flow through the mind day in day out...(But don't go telling the ego this, it might 'think' it's a load of non sense-and it could well be right :lol: )

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @Shoshin the conditioned mind labels everything it comes across, be it "objects" or other thoughts.
    If you go for an hour walk, do you need to "think" to do this?
    Thoughts are useful for planning but we don't need the incessant stories they spin about "reality"

    Once you see that most thoughts are bullshit you are less likely to listen to them.
    Eckhardt Tolle says his thoughts are reduced to about 10%. They activate when the need arises.
    We don't need them to label everything and tell us untrue stories.
    "I'm worried, I'm angry, I don't like this, I really love... I don't think she is very nice... Etc."
    Once you question the reality of these perceived thoughts you see they are all untrue. Only when they are believed do we believe it into existence - Mooji

    silver
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Earthninja said:
    Shoshin the conditioned mind labels everything it comes across, be it "objects" or other thoughts.
    If you go for an hour walk, do you need to "think" to do this?
    Thoughts are useful for planning but we don't need the incessant stories they spin about "reality"

    Once you see that most thoughts are bullshit you are less likely to listen to them.
    Eckhardt Tolle says his thoughts are reduced to about 10%. They activate when the need arises.
    We don't need them to label everything and tell us untrue stories.
    "I'm worried, I'm angry, I don't like this, I really love... I don't think she is very nice... Etc."
    Once you question the reality of these perceived thoughts you see they are all untrue. >Only when they are believed do we believe it into existence - Mooji

    For the most part @Earthninja I 'think' we are on the same page...

    Perception is actual action (acts on our brain cells) and thought becomes aware of the act and translates into words or other physical action...In other words "Thoughts are just movement confined to the brain" which in turn are neurons firing together and wiring together creating neuropathways and the old well established neuropathways that have been conditioned over time, are what we all sankharas...

    By just observing the thoughts and not reacting to them, one is in a sense allowing those particular neuropathways to go back to 'nature' so to speak ( returning to the natural state).... "Buddha Nature" perhaps :)

    It's just my thoughts thinking out loud in cyber space....... :)

    Earthninja
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    I think we are. Great stuff @Shoshin :)

    Shoshin
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited July 2015

    @Earthninja said:

    Why do we have to stop thoughts?
    If they don't have conscious attention they become background noise. Like the wind.
    It's only because we care about them do they have so much power.

    Great analogy. We can't stop thoughts. They cease on their own accord. BTW the greatest good and the greatest evil begins with a thought.

    Substituting the word consciousness with thoughts-

    "Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.'

    "Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent pleasant or painful?" — "Painful, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."

    "Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.'

    Anattalakkhana

    lobsterEarthninja
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited July 2015

    Trying to> @Earthninja said:

    Shoshin sure that's another way, watching thoughts you can change their patterns. You can become aware of your subconscious thought patterns and condition more wholesome patterns.

    I'm coming from more an Advaita approach to them, letting the conditioning run out of juice rather than changing them.
    I personally practice both kinds of meditation but I tend to "ignore" thoughts. Back to breath.
    They are just spinning bullshit most of the time haha.
    Useful occasionally. Haha.

    Also we can focus on and sort of stretch out the space between thoughts which allows us to experience spacious mind without the effort of trying to change or control anything other than our focus.

    Saying thoughts are not real doesn't really sit well with me, lol. Their content may not be true (though at times it may be spot on) and so what they allude to may not be real. Plus they can't be grabbed onto by physical means so they take up no space but they do happen.

    I figured out why I am at odds with a lot of people in the existence department. Many figure that in order to truly exist, a process must take up space but I disagree. Taking up space is just another phase of existence.

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @ourself said:
    Also we can focus on and sort of stretch out the space between thoughts which allows us to experience spacious mind without the effort of trying to change or control anything other than our focus.

    I got told today to aim for 30 minutes between thoughts (during meditation) it does help see clearer that's for sure.

    Saying thoughts are not real doesn't really sit well with me, lol. Their content may not be true (though at times it may be spot on) and so what they allude to may not be real. Plus they can't be grabbed onto by physical means so they take up no space but they do happen.

    Who says thoughts aren't real? I agree with what you write here. Yes they arise from nowhere and go back into nowhere. Like a mirage.

    I figured out why I am at odds with a lot of people in the existence department. Many figure that in order to truly exist, a process must take up space but I disagree. Taking up space is just another phase of existence.

    Wouldn't you say for something to exist it needs to be able to be experienced through one or more senses? Forget taking up space.

    A cup, you can see, touch, hear when broken... Etc.
    therefore it exists. I don't think it's that hard.

    Santa Claus? - a thought/concept

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited July 2015

    We may not believe in Santa but there many other fictional things we believe in and take to be real. If you don't agree, feel free to send me those green notes.

    Why humans run the world : A "Western" type of Philosophical Meditation

    .. how come humans alone of all the animals are capable of cooperating flexibly in large numbers, be it in order to play, to trade or to slaughter? The answer is our imagination. We can cooperate with numerous strangers because we can invent fictional stories, spread them around, and convince millions of strangers to believe in them. As long as everybody believes in the same fictions, we all obey the same laws, and can thereby cooperate effectively.

    This is something only humans can do. You can never convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising that after he dies, he will go to Chimpanzee Heaven and there receive countless bananas for his good deeds. No chimp will ever believe such a story. Only humans believe such stories. This is why we rule the world, whereas chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.

    The same mechanism is at work in politics. Like gods and human rights, nations are fictions. A mountain is something real. You can see it, touch it, smell it. But the United States or Israel are not a physical reality. You cannot see them, touch them or smell them. They are just stories that humans invented and then became extremely attached to.

    It is the same with economic networks of cooperation. Take a dollar bill, for example. It has no value in itself. You cannot eat it, drink it or wear it. But now come along some master storytellers like the Chair of the Federal Reserve and the President of the United States, and convince us to believe that this green piece of paper is worth five bananas. As long as millions of people believe this story, that green piece of paper really is worth five bananas. I can now go to the supermarket, hand a worthless piece of paper to a complete stranger whom I have never met before, and get real bananas in return. Try doing that with a chimpanzee.

    To conclude, whereas all other animals live in an objective world of rivers, trees and lions, we humans live in dual world. Yes, there are rivers, trees and lions in our world. But on top of that objective reality, we have constructed a second layer of make-believe reality, comprising fictional entities such as the European Union, God, the dollar and human rights.

    And as time passes, these fictional entities have become ever more powerful, so that today they are the most powerful forces in the world. The very survival of trees, rivers and animals now depends on the wishes and decisions of fictional entities such as the United States and the World Bank — entities that exist only in our own imagination.

    http://ideas.ted.com/why-humans-run-the-world/

    tibellusEarthninjaDavidsilver
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited July 2015

    @Earthninja;

    I would say that to exist is to affect and/or the ability to cause an effect.

    What you say is true of experience but not existence, I don't think. I think rocks were around before the ability to distinguish between it all.

    The skandhas depend on each other to come together in order to sense before there can be perception.

    Even the potential for energy or virtual particles are kinds of energy and in particle and vacuum physics, particles are forced into time/space from within empty space, stay for a very short time and go back.

    Santa Claus? I've seen the spirit of Santa Claus in action. And not the Santa of commercialism either.

    But we aren't talking about Santa Claus, we are talking about things like a subjective self, thoughts and karma.

    Would you say gravity exists or is it one of those things that can be neither said to exist nor not to exist?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    We certainly experience the effects of gravity.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited July 2015

    @SpinyNorman said:
    We certainly experience the effects of gravity.

    Yes... And I'd say we also experience the effects of subjective self awareness, causation and thoughts.

    The only one of these that seems unlikely to have a cause is causation but they all have effects.

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @ourself said:
    Earthninja;

    I would say that to exist is to affect and/or the ability to cause an effect.

    Good point but I'm not 100% on this. Only because cause and effect are debated in some teachings. It feels that way here.

    What you say is true of experience but not existence, I don't think. I think rocks were around before the ability to distinguish between it all.

    Yeah but again that's your and my belief. You don't know for 100%. Plus you can experience rocks now anyway.

    The skandhas depend on each other to come together in order to sense before there can be perception.

    Even the potential for energy or virtual particles are kinds of energy and in particle and vacuum physics, particles are forced into time/space from within empty space, stay for a very short time and go back.

    Again this is what you have learnt, nobodies even seen an atom. Do they exist? Maybe. Is it in our direct experience to know for 100%? No, we just look at a computer to try and make sense.

    Santa Claus? I've seen the spirit of Santa Claus in action. And not the Santa of commercialism either.

    Never the less it's a concept.

    But we aren't talking about Santa Claus, we are talking about things like a subjective self, thoughts and karma.

    Thoughts we can experience, there is awareness of thoughts. I'm not sure how Karma works fully. It's kind of like a memory system it seems.
    Oh no not this subjective self debate again hahah. You will find this out sooner or later. All those sayings, "Who am I?" "There is no sufferer!" "The cosmic joke"
    Without pointing to your body or mind, can you find a subjective self ?

    Would you say gravity exists or is it one of those things that can be neither said to exist nor not to exist?

    I don't know anything about gravity, I know it's a theory. Something to do with mass having a pull depending on the size. Everything seems to have a relationship. Don't know?! :)

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited July 2015

    @Earthninja;

    Yes, I can find my subjective self easy enough without pointing to anything in particular.

    It's all in the action.

    Can we even point to mind? We can point to the brain but mind seems elusive in physical terms.

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