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Knowing the goal of the dhamma

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

So I was involved in a discussion with a fellow Buddhist who had reached a point in his spiritual evolution where he wasn’t sure he actually wanted enlightenment. He was convinced he knew what it meant for the mind and spirit to be enlightened, he had tracked down all the Pali terms for the different areas of mind that the suttas said would be affected. The whole idea of cessation rather scared him, and he thought that without cares and worries and anxiety he wouldn’t be the same father for his children.

To this my response was, how do you actually know these things? The Pali cannon has had 400 years of oral transmission, there are many cultural influences visible in the material, it has been translated several times, it has been transcribed again and again, the attribution is not certain, the editing is not certain. It seems an uncertain edifice to build one’s life upon, is it not better to go step by step, each time testing the lore and seeing that its effect on you is wholesome?

He then said, that’s more or less what I do. But don’t you feel that you need to know the endpoint? What you are involved in, are trying to do?

I thought it was an interesting question, which comes down to how you approach the dhamma. Do you see it as a goal-based plan, which will take you right up to arhat-ship, or do you go step by step and you try to cope with the uncertainties as they come?

personShoshinDavid

Comments

  • 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

    Ok. In terms of the Earth's entire existence, reducing it to a 24-hour period, Man came into existence as a recognisable entity and being in 'his' own right, at 23:58 and 43 seconds. It's 'now' midnight.
    I would say I have been studying Buddhism of less time than it takes to count a millionth second of a blink.
    I would respectfully suggest that first of all, he cease trying to out-think the Buddha.
    Everything the Buddha taught is all he needs to answer his questions. Secondly, he may have read up on Enlightenment, but he has completely misunderstood the notion of 'cessation'.

    I hate to be banging the drum this early, but tell him to Simplify. And read "Being Nobody, Going Nowhere". The author sets everything out in such a simple, easy-to-understand way, that it should relieve him of his despondency.

    Thus have I found (both in my 15 years here, and 25+ years of studying Buddhism): If something in Buddhism jars and screws with our Mind, it's not 'Buddhism' that is at fault. It's us.
    We are taking the medicine, but we're not completing the course and fulfilling the prescription.
    If there's something your friend is dissatisfied with, it's not the story. It's the reader.

    BunkslobsterKeromeGui
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    Enlightenment is a process. It is the awakening as emerging into the light. Ordinary people, unaware of their Buddha nature, stumble around in the darkness. As we grow, we first ignite a small spark which become a soft glow growing into a light in the darkness and expanding as if daylight emerging and pushing away the darkness of night.
    Buddha comes from within an ordinary person. Enlightenment is the awakening to that reality.

    peace to all

    ShoshinBunkslobsterWalker
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Well said @Lionduck

    When we stop processing, there is a chance.

    So stillness and cessation of arisings is both process, path and goal. End of ego? Too lofty for the short. End of life. Death.

    End of ignorance? Bodhisattva it!

    BunksShoshinhowWalker
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @federica said:
    I would respectfully suggest that first of all, he cease trying to out-think the Buddha.
    Everything the Buddha taught is all he needs to answer his questions.

    That makes some sense. Again with Nirvana we are back to being unable to test the teachings, and so taking on faith the Buddha’s judgment. But I do think you are right in thinking that the Buddha didn’t lose much of his humanity in his enlightenment, judging from all the various suttas and what is in them.

  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    @federica said:

    @Kerome said: ... But I do think you are right in thinking that the Buddha didn’t lose much of his humanity in his enlightenment,

    That's actually when he found it. Before then, it wasn't Humanity. It was Ego. Because Ego is based on self-preservation, 'what's-in-it-for-me'-ism. When you become Enlightened, all that drops away, and you're left in the purest, selfless, egoless compassionate state.

    federica,wonderful and inspiring.thank you.

    Bunkslobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    compassionate state.

    California or state of emergency? :p

    Tee Hee. Nothing like Covid Karma to clear the pure and live for The Enlightenment. <3

    The goal of Buddhism is purely functional. No more heroes. Just a State of Zen. o:)

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited May 18

    The goal?

    I just can't see enlightenment as the end goal and to me even as it would have to command all 8 spokes, it really only seems to point to harmonious or Right view.

    Most of us here are aware of the Zen parables about chopping wood, carrying water and mountains and rivers once again being mountains and rivers. To me these are saying that enlightenment is being aware of the two truths that are really one truth and whatever else points to D.O. and non-self and then to use that in the subjective experience. As if to say that's great but the other 7 spokes need to be in harmony with that understanding.

    To me Buddhism is a process of awareness and the only goal could be discovery.

    Now in turn this makes me question again the whole thing because Buddha was about the cessation of suffering and I think this is why some Buddhists will say that is the end goal.

    I don't see an ending there however. How could I when I see all endings as beginnings and in the distance can almost make out a message from the Maitreya Buddha even as I hold no beliefs about them?

    Perhaps I just suffer from wishful thinking and it perplexes me because of all the crappy things that keep happening. The Sakyong is a perv, nationalists worldwide are mongering fear about "globalization" which only serves to keep people divided, clean air and water is a partisan issue, we have pointless fighting all over the place and now a new disease is on the warpath.

    It seems it could be a depressing picture when looking objectively but to do that is to drop all subjectivity. Then there is no moral dilemma and everything just works together. Just information without experience. Cooperation. Not chaos or evil or ignorance or mere survival. Cooperation.

    When I add the subjective experience back in, suddenly all is not just suffering. It is also wonderous.

    To have it all end as if being were just a big wash seems like such a waste.

    I think Buddha was able to teach through experience that it is possible to live without the added stress.

    Just the cessation of suffering, not the cessation of living or discovery or awakening.

    Just the suffering.

    ShoshinBunksKeromeadamcrossley
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Goodly post @David 🖖🏼

    When I add the subjective experience back in, suddenly all is not just suffering. It is also wonderous.

    Part of the wondrous is non separation. It means that the lovely experiences/are dukkha and the dukkha has a component of the joyous ... 🔆

    To have it all end as if being were just a big wash seems like such a waste.

    End? No end for the Mahayana, always a new blade of grass to save ... 🤷🏼‍♂️

    I think Buddha was able to teach through experience that it is possible to live without the added stress.

    Indeed 👍🏼

    Just the cessation of suffering, not the cessation of living or discovery or awakening.

    Yep, techniques or lifestyle choices, precepts of simplicity ... 💗

    Just the suffering.

    Well my lesson is lessened suffering ... elimination? ... mmm ... (I luvs my fish) ;)

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Well said @david

    I think it’s reasonable to search for a life without suffering on earth, and to use the dhamma as a tool to help get you there. Whether that means following the Buddhist path exactly and always to the end is another matter — a westerner today is not in the same position as a lay follower or a monk in ancient times.

    Personally I don’t think the end of my path has been written yet. Even if I find myself able to consistently calm my mind, reach jhana and do all those other things, I’m not sure I will find the same things as the Buddha. I don’t have the same deal-seated beliefs that he had from the Indian culture at the time, and perhaps it makes a difference.

    lobster
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I don’t have the same deal-seated beliefs that he had from the Indian culture at the time, and perhaps it makes a difference.

    I’d be curious to hear what deep seated beliefs you think the Buddha had that would make his experience different to yours?

    In my book, the four noble truths holds up as well today as it did 2,600 years ago

    federicahow
  • 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

    Yes, I was about to query the same thing; in fact, the Buddha in his search for Wisdom was more prone to discarding beliefs than having any 'deep-seated' ones...

    how
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    That is very possible. I was just wondering whether one’s belief in rebirth might cause one to see past lives, that’s all.

    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

    He didn't 'believe' in rebirth. He experienced it and taught it as a extant experience... Simply because you term it as a 'belief' doesn't mean he was under the same impression...

    how
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited May 19

    @Kerome said:
    That is very possible. I was just wondering whether one’s belief in rebirth might cause one to see past lives, that’s all.

    On one hand, it is curious that everyone's religious visions seem to stay so consistently in the lanes of their own culture, (Buddhists to theirs, Christians to theirs, etc.)
    on the other hand,
    if we are really as ephemeral as a bubble in a stream, a phantasm, a dream, what else could keep a viewpoint stable enough to be reflective of that teaching but our own cultural background.

    I think the path towards sufferings cessation is better defined by how one relates to phenomena, than any belief or dis belief we carry along with it.

    lobsteradamcrossley
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @how said:
    On one hand, it is curious that everyone's religious visions seem to stay so consistently in the lanes of their own culture, (Buddhists to theirs, Christians to theirs, etc.)

    Exactly. Apparently there have been some cases of Christians seeing Christian imagery in NDEs. I’m not sure if it’s to be believed, but for example in psychosis in a good percentage of cases people experience religious themes even if their exposure to religion was quite minimal.

    I think the path towards sufferings cessation is better defined by how one relates to phenomena, than any belief or dis belief we carry along with it.

    That could be.

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    The Buddhist path is one of self-discovery and is based on your first-hand experience. Your teachers and the writings are only guides, but they cannot walk our path for us.

    And because Buddhism is based on first-hand experience, we do not understand Buddhism from the words of another, nor even from only using logical thinking. After all, if words could convey experience in an adequate way, then we could tell someone who has never had an orgasm what an orgasm feels like .. and they would grasp the whole experience without ever having had it themselves.

    Your friend is trying to "logic" his way through Buddhism, and that is not how to understand Buddhism.
    Besides, we always have free will and choice. If your friend was starting to find cessation and didn't LIKE it, then he could go back to how he previously was.
    But perhaps he is missing the point ... our desires and aversions do NOT cease .. what ceases is their ability to control us, to cause us the discomfort of not being able to choose how we respond to them. So he is attached to things now .. we all will be attached until full enlightenment .. but how much we are controlled BY our attachments can become a matter of choice, and that choice brings freedom from suffering.

    lobsterhowBunksRen_in_black
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