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What is enlightenment and nirvana?

edited August 2010 in Faith & Religion
After my previous questions regarding karma and rebirth, I began to wonder what enlightenment and nirvana would be (or mean) in a buddhism stripped of the more mystical (or spiritual?) interpretations of karma and rebirth.
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Comments

  • edited June 2010
    Enlightenment is to transform the mind in such a way that one becomes completely selfless, and lives in perfect harmony with reality.

    Nirvana (noun) is the state of peace that is the result of 'enlightenment' (verb). It is something more than this, but can not be expressed adequately in words. The mind can see, can know, reality in the same way as what light looks like, what lime tastes like, what incense smells like.

    Those are just one way of putting it. Many will have different views on how to describe them both.

    Namaste
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited June 2010
    In Buddhism, it's much better to think about phenomena as activities, events or processes rather than things or places. The way it’s presented in Theravada, samsara, literally "wandering on," is the potential for the arising of human [mental] suffering, while nibbana, literally, "extinguishing," is the cessation of that potential. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it, "Samsara is a process of creating places, even whole worlds, (this is called becoming) and then wandering through them (this is called birth). Nirvana is the end of this process (emphasis mine)." Nirvana is "realized only when the mind stops defining itself in terms of place ... it's realized through unestablished consciousness."

    This may be a bit of nonsense, but in one of the ways I like to look at it, the conventional viewpoint explains things through subject, verb and object whereas the ultimate viewpoint explains things through verb alone. In essence, things are being viewed from the perspective of activities and processes. This, I think, is incredibly difficult to see, but perhaps what happens here is that once self-identity view (sakkaya-ditthi) is removed, the duality of subject and object is also removed, thereby revealing the level of mere conditional phenomena, i.e., dependent co-arising in action. This mental process is "seen," ignorance [of the four noble truths] is replaced by knowledge and vision of things as they are (yatha-bhuta-nana-dassana), and nibbana, then, would be the "letting go" of what isn't self through the dispassion (viraga) invoked in seeing the inconstant (anicca) and stressful (dukkha) nature of clinging to false refuges that are neither fixed nor stable (anatta). Nibbana isn't the unconditioned as much as it's the unconditioned.
  • edited June 2010
    Would it be safe to say (to either of you) that what is occuring is a transformation of any mystical (or spiritual) language into the terminology of pyschology? That what it sounds like so far. If this is mistaken, could you help me understand how it is other than, or beyond, the psychological framework.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited June 2010
    Would it be safe to say (to either of you) that what is occuring is a transformation of any mystical (or spiritual) language into the terminology of pyschology? That what it sounds like so far. If this is mistaken, could you help me understand how it is other than, or beyond, the psychological framework.

    In a sense, yes. While I think Buddhism has always been what you'd call psychology, it's only been relatively recently (at least in the West) that its more technical terms have been understood and translated in ways that make this clear. I think this shift is due in no small part to the decades of excellent scholarship that has been brought to bear on the texts and the religious-historical context in which they took shape.
  • edited June 2010
    Would it be safe to say (to either of you) that what is occuring is a transformation of any mystical (or spiritual) language into the terminology of pyschology? That what it sounds like so far. If this is mistaken, could you help me understand how it is other than, or beyond, the psychological framework.
    The 'subconscious' is that which is transformed. When we speak of Non-Self, we mean the trends of mind based on ignorance (of reality) that occur in the subconscious and lead to our frustration/suffering. Buddhism doesn't generally use subconscious as the word, but that is the best modern way to express the concept (IMHO).

    Everything that has happened in your life is represented by your current frame of mind (in the subconscious). The subconscious processes all information from your senses as well as thought (including memory and beliefs) from moment-to-moment. If we understand reality in a different way at this 'machine level' of the mind, what we perceive both in thought and from our senses will change to reflect our new-found wisdom.

    All of our conscious thoughts and actions begin in the subconscious. If someone throws a ball at you, the information goes to the subconscious where it is processed faster than lightning and you act. Because we don't have direct control over the subconscious, we must go about awakening to reality through study and practice (insight meditation is very important); these things are done actively and the subconscious slowly adjusts until it 'clicks' in a moment of pure selfless insight.

    This is my perspective, so take it with a grain of salt or more. :)

    Namaste
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited June 2010
    in a buddhism stripped of the more mystical (or spiritual?) interpretations of karma and rebirth.
    Would it be safe to say (to either of you) that what is occuring is a transformation of any mystical (or spiritual) language into the terminology of pyschology?.

    Why are you concered about the "mystical" or "spiritual"? Elswhere someone was posting about seeing Buddhism in a "scientific" light instead of a "spiritual" one. That is not a choice between two views, it is a choice within one. How about niether?
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited July 2010
    After my previous questions regarding karma and rebirth, I began to wonder what enlightenment and nirvana would be (or mean) in a buddhism stripped of the more mystical (or spiritual?) interpretations of karma and rebirth.


    I used to think it was somewhat different from what I now think. NOW I think:

    enlightenment = waking up to the true nature of self and existence
    nirvana = freedom from being pushed around by attachment and aversion

    BUT ... ask me in another 10 years, and I'm sure I'll understand it differently!

    No matter what you set in your mind as your understanding, as you learn and progress, those understandings will change.
  • edited July 2010
    BudDha wrote:

    [Lankavatara Sutra]: "This Truth-essence which is discoverable in the enlightenment of all who are enlightened, is realizable as the regulative and sustaining principle of Reality, which forever abides. The Transcendental Intelligence attained intuitively by the Tathagatas by their self-realization of Noble Wisdom, is a realization of their own self-nature, -- in this sense the Tathagatas are permanent. The eternal-unthinkable of the Tathagatas is the "suchness" of noble Wisdom realized within themselves. It is both eternal and beyond thought. It conforms to the idea of a cause and yet is beyond existence and non-existence. Because it is the exalted state of Noble-Wisdom, it has its own character. Because it is the cause of highest Reality, it is its own causation. Its eternality is not derived from reasonings based on external notions of being and non-being, nor of eternality nor non-eternality. Being classed under the same head as space, cessation, Nirvana, it is eternal. Because it has nothing to do with existence and nonexistence, it is no Creator; because it has nothing to do with creation, nor with being and non-being, but is only revealed in the exalted state of noble Wisdom, it is truly eternal." - http://www.purifymind.com/LankavataraSutra.htm


    .
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited July 2010
    After my previous questions regarding karma and rebirth, I began to wonder what enlightenment and nirvana would be (or mean) in a buddhism stripped of the more mystical (or spiritual?) interpretations of karma and rebirth.

    In simple terms enlightenment means awakening, seeing things as they really are, cutting through delusion. Liberation from suffering is a useful bonus.;)

    P
  • edited July 2010
    To attain enlightenment is to be free! Free from living in samsara. Nirvarna is your home when you are enlightened! A place of peace, free from our delusions!!
  • edited August 2010
    Richard H wrote: »
    Why are you concered about the "mystical" or "spiritual"? Elswhere someone was posting about seeing Buddhism in a "scientific" light instead of a "spiritual" one. That is not a choice between two views, it is a choice within one. How about niether?
    I am not concerned about either the mystical or the spiritual. But it seems that there is a dichotomy of interpretations of Buddhist doctrine, one that sees them speaking of metaphysical realities and another which reduces these concepts to naturalistic psycho-social phenomena. Of course you can choose to interpret these things as you wish, but I was curious how the concepts of enlightenment and nirvana worked within the naturalistic paradigm, hence the question.
  • edited August 2010
    Thank you for offering that explanation. It illustrates quite nicely that despite some pleas for there being a diversity of views on the subject, they do seem to fall along the lines between psycho-social reductionism and the mystic metaphysical. Of course, there are other ways one can analyze the matter, but since my biggest obstacle to Buddhist doctrines is my inability to accept as true their metaphysical interpretation, due to what I see as contradictory instances and general incredulity, it makes sense for me to approach it this way, at least in the beginning.

    (Sorry, that last part was more in response to Richard H than you. I'm not sure why I used/abused your otherwise helpful post to make a platform for my response to him.)
  • edited August 2010
    porpoise wrote: »
    In simple terms enlightenment means awakening, seeing things as they really are, cutting through delusion.
    I have difficulty with this. First of all, what are things as they "really are"? Things are as we perceive them (since we will never know them as we do not perceive them). I can understand seeing things differently, all that requires is a different perspective, but to value one of these perspectives as "real" and the other as, what, false/artificial/wrong? That doesn't make sense to me unless you think your new perspective somehow attains objective truth, and then the question becomes, how do you know it is objective truth, independent of yourself, when all you have is yourself to assess the truth value of the claim?

    Again, the same problem occurs when discussing delusions. They are only delusions if you have rejected them, otherwise they are your perceived reality. Criticism of delusions can only occur outside of the perspective that holds them, which again raises the question of why one would abandon the perceived truth of these beliefs for another set of beliefs. The only reason I an think of is perceived internal consistency of ones beliefs, unless it makes claims about physical systems, in which case I can see it falling afoul of predictive failure.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2010
    I have difficulty with this. First of all, what are things as they "really are"?

    Only meditation can tell anyone that.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited August 2010
    I am not concerned about either the mystical or the spiritual. But it seems that there is a dichotomy of interpretations of Buddhist doctrine, one that sees them speaking of metaphysical realities and another which reduces these concepts to naturalistic psycho-social phenomena. Of course you can choose to interpret these things as you wish, but I was curious how the concepts of enlightenment and nirvana worked within the naturalistic paradigm, hence the question.
    The mystical/spiritual, and the naturalistic views are in practice views-as-such. It is the attachment to a view that is the issue. It is natural to think that meditation practice must default to a view (and metaphysical assumption) of some kind, but this is not the case. All views become skillful means. Even the view of groundless. It sounds slippery talked about it in this way, but disciplined meditation opens up a solid, clear, Earth quality that cannot be reduced to any view.
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    ...it seems that there is a dichotomy of interpretations of Buddhist doctrine, one that sees them speaking of metaphysical realities and another which reduces these concepts to naturalistic psycho-social phenomena.

    It's not a dichotomy. They are not mutually exclusive. They can coexist quite peacefully.
  • edited August 2010
    seeker242 wrote: »
    Only meditation can tell anyone that.
    Or only nothing will tell you that, since meditation isn't going to take you out of your eyeballs and all of the cognitive dispositions we bring to every observation made. Honestly, I don't know what meditation will tell you. Maybe it will give you some extra time to think about yourself, the patterns of your actions and the observed consequences of these patterns, but I am fairly clear it isn't going to get you out of your own head.
  • edited August 2010
    Richard H wrote: »
    The mystical/spiritual, and the naturalistic views are in practice views-as-such. It is the attachment to a view that is the issue. It is natural to think that meditation practice must default to a view (and metaphysical assumption) of some kind, but this is not the case. All views become skillful means. Even the view of groundless. It sounds slippery talked about it in this way, but disciplined meditation opens up a solid, clear, Earth quality that cannot be reduced to any view.
    Skillful means? I'm going to assume this means something like useful metaphors. That sounds fine, I like metaphors, they take what we are familiar with and extend that experience to things that are new or otherwise unfamiliar to us. As for meditation not being a view, I suppose, since you can bring just about any perspective to meditation, it seems to me more a technique. But it doesn't remove the rose colored glasses we're all wearing. Thinking that is what gets you into all sorts of metaphysical mumbo jumbo.

    Edit: Sorry, that came across as a little hostile. But I really don't think trying to claim the ability to achieve some type of objective knowledge is a viable option. The question even arises how we would know we had hit upon objectivity, since it would be objectivity as known by us. That would make it no different than any other subjective perspective available out there.
  • edited August 2010
    fivebells wrote: »
    It's not a dichotomy. They are not mutually exclusive. They can coexist quite peacefully.
    Of course they can. I mean, you can think rebirth and karma describe metaphysical properties while also holding the psychological perspective. But that isn't how I've seen it described to me. I'm not saying these are contradictory, but rather that some people think of these doctrines as simply psycho-social phenomena, while others want to check off more boxes and add metaphysical reality to the mix as well. My question was aimed at understanding what these doctrines mean for the former group, since it seems a little more self evident what they mean to the metaphysical group, since they have the luxury of using these terms in more literalist ways.
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Well, I think "psycho-social" is a reasonably accurate term for the theory of it. This series of podcasts describes in great detail a psychologization of the Mahayana Buddhist mythology.

    On a practical level, I think it's different than most contemporary psychological approaches, which seem to mostly expect transformation to arise from merely understanding the mechanisms of the pathology. For instance, in CBT, you basically try to "talk yourself out of" a destructive story. For a lot of people, this doesn't work and I think the reason is that it's working on an intellectual level, when the foundation of the story is actually emotional. In Buddhist practice, the theory describing samsara is relatively simple and transparent, and it is the practice of meditation which builds capacity to step out of samsaric mental phenomena, through a non-intellectual process.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Hi sad clown. You do not come across as hostile at all. By skilfull means I am referring to view in Buddha Dharma as being a means to an end, that end being the cessation of suffering. Meditation is not a means for coming to an objective knowledge/view. Meditation is a means for realizing the Third Noble Truth, cessation of Suffering. In cessation of suffering (if it can be put that way) views are not absolutized because the content of thought does not eclipse thought as a simple sensory experience. We are grounded in immediate sensory experience as it presents, including the arising and passing of thought. Coming to that grounding is the practice if meditation, not uncovering an objective knowledge/view. If you have enough cause and confidence to engage in meditation practice (with a teacher and fellow meditators is best) this will come to make sense, but just thinking about it will not because you cannot think the direct experience of thought as a simple sensory occasion, for obvious reasons. Meditation needs to be practiced. This is not an anti-intellectual stance, it is just making a distinction between thinking about practice and doing practice.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Or only nothing will tell you that, since meditation isn't going to take you out of your eyeballs and all of the cognitive dispositions we bring to every observation made. ..but I am fairly clear it isn't going to get you out of your own head.

    So you are saying that the Buddha was simply wrong? You think you are smarter than the Buddha? :)
    Or only nothing will tell you that

    Exactly! :) But what is this "nothing" that can tell you that? In Buddhism it's called Sunyata
  • edited August 2010
    Or only nothing will tell you that, since meditation isn't going to take you out of your eyeballs and all of the cognitive dispositions we bring to every observation made.

    Actually, that is precisely what it does.

    To put it into natural rather than metaphysical terms:

    Something outside your body occurs. You see, hear, taste, feel something.

    You/we don't experience the sight, sound, taste directly. It enters us via our physical sense (ears, mouth, skin, eyes) and then it gets processed via our filters. It gets labeled, categorized, colored by biases, our current emotional state etc.

    After the thing occurs and is processed by those filters then it enters our awareness. The untrained mind believes it is seeing reality as it is, but this is not the case, clearly.

    Meditation on a single object leads to concentration and mindfulness. It also leads to experiencing 'things' in a way that they enter our awareness before they are filtered. That labeling, filtering part of our mental faculties still does what it does, but the 'thing' makes it through to our awareness *before* the labeling, filtering does. So, when the labels and biases enter our awareness the meditative mind sees those labels, feelings etc. arise apart from the 'thing' itself.

    In other words the biases and filters are seen for what they are, biases and filters. The thing itself is seen for what it is, 'the thing'.
  • edited August 2010
    seeker242 wrote: »
    So you are saying that the Buddha was simply wrong? You think you are smarter than the Buddha? :)
    If I didn't know better, I would say that your rhetorical question is the intellectual version of , "my daddy can beat you up!" But to answer, I don't have to be smarter than the Buddha, since I have the advantage of other really smart guys who have helped me work this issue out in a pretty convincing fashion.

    As for the Buddha, who knows if he is wrong. I can't even get agreement on exactly what he meant, so I'm not at that stage in the investigation to make those sorts of judgments. Besides, I wouldn't want to be too agressive in applying labels like right or wrong, when things like this don't usually make themselves that cut and dried. You end up getting all self righteous in your application of anochronistic measures and miss the value of the message.
  • edited August 2010

    As for the Buddha, who knows if he is wrong. I can't even get agreement on exactly what he meant,

    LOL, I remember those days well. They weren't all that long ago. I am not sure what, exactly, got me to looking at Buddhism, but I think it was just boredom and intellectual curiosity. I recall going from one website after another just getting more and more frustrated because it seemed every website was saying something different.

    I think that is just the difficulty that arises when trying to convey experiences to others with words.

    Hang in there, it clears up in time and in particular I would say much clears up with meditation and just a slight effort at putting the 8 fold path into action. It's not necessary to know 'the most correct' way of meditating and it's not necessary to have a 'perfect' understanding of the 8 fold path.

    We all start from where we are.
  • edited August 2010
    username_5 wrote: »
    Actually, that is precisely what it does.

    To put it into natural rather than metaphysical terms:

    Something outside your body occurs. You see, hear, taste, feel something.
    OK, I could have asked lots of questions, but I'll start with this statement. How do you know that something outside your body occurred? I mean, you can adopt naive realism and simply trust that your sensations are the products of external forces, but then you've given up any expectation of proving your view.

    Also, at this point, I am, as you were, simply satisfying some intellectual curiosity. I am certainly not at a point where I feel Buddhism sufficiently compelling to motivate me to invest time and energy in things like meditation and understanding the 8 fold path.
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    "Things as they really are" is a confusing way to describe it, because it suggests that meditation leads to some kind of ontological understanding. A better way to say it might be that it leads to a clearer observation of how one relates to experience, and subsequently, a shift in that relationship.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Through meditation we rest with experience as it presents. That is all we have, imagining an ultimate reality behind that takes us into abstraction.
  • edited August 2010
    OK, I could have asked lots of questions, but I'll start with this statement. How do you know that something outside your body occurred? I mean, you can adopt naive realism and simply trust that your sensations are the products of external forces, but then you've given up any expectation of proving your view.

    I don't understand the question.
    Also, at this point, I am, as you were, simply satisfying some intellectual curiosity. I am certainly not at a point where I feel Buddhism sufficiently compelling to motivate me to invest time and energy in things like meditation and understanding the 8 fold path.
    That's fine, but speaking from my own experience it wasn't until I sat in mediation a few times that I started to understand things from an experiential point of reference. An intellectual understanding of 'the basics' helps, but ultimately the truth of the teaching is determined on the basis of whether or not it does what it says it does. The teaching says there is suffering, it has a cause, it has a cure and the cure is the 8 fold path. The 8 fold path isn't a set of propositions to be decided on intellectually, but experientially.

    I understand you are on an intellectual quest and wish you well with it, but you can never know whether a cause-effect claim is true unless you make an effort to bring about the cause to see what the effect is. It is fine if bringing about the cause doesn't interest you; I am pointing out the limits of conceptual thoughts and logic in testing a cause-effect claim.
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    username_5 wrote: »
    I don't understand the question.
    sad is making a valid point. We experience physical sensations from which we infer external physical phenomena, but these inferences are far from ironclad. The only thing we can really be sure of is the experience of the moment.
  • edited August 2010
    fivebells wrote: »
    sad is making a valid point. We experience physical sensations from which we infer external physical phenomena, but these inferences are far from ironclad. The only thing we can really be sure of is the experience of the moment.

    Thank you for that clarification.

    I think what confused me was I didn't understand the words in relation to the question.

    sad said: Originally Posted by the sad clown viewpost.gif
    Or only nothing will tell you that, since meditation isn't going to take you out of your eyeballs and all of the cognitive dispositions we bring to every observation made.


    Rightly or wrongly I thought Sad was suggesting that one can't use meditation to be aware of what the senses are perceiving without being tinted by our filters. I explained that it could be used for that purpose.

    In response I was asked how I could know the experience was outside my body. I get it now, but still don't understand how the question relates to what was being discussed ;)
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    You're right. Sorry, I only skimmed the post where you explained that.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2010
    If I didn't know better, I would say that your rhetorical question is the intellectual version of , "my daddy can beat you up!" But to answer, I don't have to be smarter than the Buddha, since I have the advantage of other really smart guys who have helped me work this issue out in a pretty convincing fashion.

    As for the Buddha, who knows if he is wrong. I can't even get agreement on exactly what he meant, so I'm not at that stage in the investigation to make those sorts of judgments. Besides, I wouldn't want to be too agressive in applying labels like right or wrong, when things like this don't usually make themselves that cut and dried. You end up getting all self righteous in your application of anochronistic measures and miss the value of the message.


    Actually, it is more like "My daddy has great wisdom that you and I can not even fathom. Therefore, we would all be well advised to listen to what he has to say and take his words very seriously." Something more like that. :) Sorry if my original comment came off as unpleasant to you. :) Not my intention. :)

    He has already answered, for himself, ALL the questions that you and I have and he has told us how to get these answers for ourselves. You're never going to get agreement on exactly what he meant because to understand what he meant requires something other than simply thinking about it.

    You said "since meditation isn't going to take you out of your eyeballs and all of the cognitive dispositions we bring to every observation made....but I am fairly clear it isn't going to get you out of your own head"

    All I was trying to say really is that The Buddha said that this IS PRECISELY what it does. He said the exact opposite of what you said above. However, I'm curious as to how you can say "meditation isn't going to take you out of...cognitive dispositions" and how you can be "fairly clear it isn't going to get you out of your own head" if you have never experienced it before? Of course, you don't have to believe it if you don't like. However, I do believe it would be very unwise to dismiss it without even trying it.

    Respectfully,

    :)
  • upekkaupekka Veteran
    edited August 2010
    I am certainly not at a point where I feel Buddhism sufficiently compelling to motivate me to invest time and energy in things like meditation and understanding the 8 fold path.

    but we can do a little experiment

    close the eyes for a while
    see (not think) what is in the mind

    can you see the difference between 'seeing' the things in the mind and 'thinking' of the things in the mind?

    do this experiment until you grasp the difference of 'seeing' and 'thinking'

    then you can decide whether you like to spend the time to learn meditation or not
  • edited August 2010
    username_5 wrote: »
    sad said: Originally Posted by the sad clown viewpost.gif
    Or only nothing will tell you that, since meditation isn't going to take you out of your eyeballs and all of the cognitive dispositions we bring to every observation made.


    Rightly or wrongly I thought Sad was suggesting that one can't use meditation to be aware of what the senses are perceiving without being tinted by our filters. I explained that it could be used for that purpose.

    In response I was asked how I could know the experience was outside my body. I get it now, but still don't understand how the question relates to what was being discussed ;)
    Let's not be disengenuous, especially since one can simply go back and look at the thread to see what I was actually saying. Seeker242 told me that only meditation will reveal to me what things are as they "really are". You already had started down this track by promising things as they really are.

    Now, it is true that I have other objections, but the discussion never even got that far, since there seemed to be a persistence on seekers part that objective reality was somehow at hand for one who meditates. So yes, I do have a problem with filterless observations as well, but could never got that far other than to initially mention it. Seeker simply switched tactics and tried to shut down the discussion by asking if I was smarter than the Buddha, but even username_5's response quoted me saying meditation wasn't going to take you out of yourself and responded that in fact it would, thus perpetuating, rightly or wrongly, my impression that they were somehow arguing for objective knowledge of reality.

    So, if this isn't what you are arguing for, that is fine, we can then discuss filterless experiences. Perhaps here too is simply a misunderstanding. My understanding is that without concepts we have only an undifferentiated continuum of sensation. It is only our concepts that allow us to organize and atomize this torrent into thought. This criticism goes back to David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Now, I suppose one could try, and perhaps even succeed in experiencing sensations without concepts, or at least differentiating between the experience and the concepts we apply to it, but then my question would be why would you want to do that? It doesn't seem to me that it would give you any insight, in fact, all I can tell that it would do is completely shut down any understanding.
  • edited August 2010
    seeker242 wrote: »
    Actually, it is more like "My daddy has great wisdom that you and I can not even fathom. Therefore, we would all be well advised to listen to what he has to say and take his words very seriously." Something more like that. :) Sorry if my original comment came off as unpleasant to you. :) Not my intention. :)
    You understand what "intellectual version" means, right?
    He has already answered, for himself, ALL the questions that you and I have and he has told us how to get these answers for ourselves. You're never going to get agreement on exactly what he meant because to understand what he meant requires something other than simply thinking about it.
    You sound like a devoted follower. You helped me realize again that Buddhism is a religion, and not simply a philosophy.
    Of course, you don't have to believe it if you don't like. However, I do believe it would be very unwise to dismiss it without even trying it.
    Spoken like a true religionist. Christians and Muslims tell me the same thing, but my question is still, why would I want to try it if you haven't convinced me that it is worth trying. I don't just go randomly trying things. I have to have one of two things going on, either a) I have a perceived need that xyz (insert the name of your favorite religious/metaphysical solution) claims to resolve, or b) I have been convinced by argumentation that there is at least a good probability of achieving a desirable outcome from xyz's prescribed behavior.

    I don't have any suffering that I'm not willing to put up with, and you haven't done a very good job of making an argument that changes my mind.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Hi sad clown. I for one do not want to convince you of the value of Buddhism, that's your business. The impression I get is that you want to be convinced, or maybe your just bored?. How about this... Don't "try" Buddhism. Buddhism is, as you said, a religion. It was start by a guy 2500 years ago and has evolved over time. There is no way of meeting your test of truth. I would suggest you take what you think is worthwhile from Buddhism and carry on your way. It may not be your thing.
  • edited August 2010
    So, if this isn't what you are arguing for, that is fine, we can then discuss filterless experiences. Perhaps here too is simply a misunderstanding. My understanding is that without concepts we have only an undifferentiated continuum of sensation.

    Yup.
    It is only our concepts that allow us to organize and atomize this torrent into thought.
    Yup.
    This criticism goes back to David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Now, I suppose one could try, and perhaps even succeed in experiencing sensations without concepts, or at least differentiating between the experience and the concepts we apply to it, but then my question would be why would you want to do that?
    To see reality as it is ;) (I am not talking about seeing God or time travel to the big bang or anything like that)

    The untrained mind only sees filtered reality, not the reality itself without the filters. The untrained mind believes the filtered reality is reality. Being able to differentiate the reality from the filters allows us to learn about how our mind works. How it causes us to suffer. How it reacts with clinging to that which our filters say is likable and how it reacts with aversion to that which our filters say is not liked. Even how it reacts with indifference to that which our filters haven't put into a like|dislike box.

    We can also learn how our beliefs and actions have been conditioned over time by not being able to differentiate between filtered perception and reality.
    It doesn't seem to me that it would give you any insight, in fact, all I can tell that it would do is completely shut down any understanding.
    That is because you haven't experienced it. You are trying to imagine something outside your experience. If you don't believe such a thing is possible or you believe it is possible, but a waste of time then that is your thinking and Buddhism isn't for you.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2010
    You understand what "intellectual version" means, right?

    I do understand what "intellectual version" means yes. I also understand that the real answers about Buddhism can not be found in it.
    You sound like a devoted follower. You helped me realize again that Buddhism is a religion, and not simply a philosophy.
    I am a devoted follower, yes. :) Because I have seen these things proven to be true for myself. :) It's not a matter of "blind faith". Buddhism is a religion yes, it is much more than just philosophy. However, if you feel like you don't want to practice it, that is entirely up to you and you alone. But you're fooling yourself if you are expecting to be able to truly understand it without doing so. It's simply not possible.


    Spoken like a true religionist. Christians and Muslims tell me the same thing, but my question is still, why would I want to try it if you haven't convinced me that it is worth trying. I don't just go randomly trying things. I have to have one of two things going on, either a) I have a perceived need that xyz (insert the name of your favorite religious/metaphysical solution) claims to resolve, or b) I have been convinced by argumentation that there is at least a good probability of achieving a desirable outcome from xyz's prescribed behavior.
    It's not up to me to "convince you" of anything. I was pointing out that you are jumping to conclusions about something that you have never experienced. Whether you believe that or not is up to you.

    I don't have any suffering that I'm not willing to put up with.
    Whenever a person left a meditation retreat early and gives an obviously false excuse, The Zen Master always used to say "Ahh, more suffering is necessary! Then he will be back!"
  • edited August 2010
    I don't have any suffering that I'm not willing to put up with, and you haven't done a very good job of making an argument that changes my mind.

    It's not his or anyone's job to make an argument that changes your mind.

    You are on a Buddhist forum asking questions. Several people are doing the best they can to answer your questions. If you don't like the answers or don't believe the answers, that is your preference and your belief. Nobody is going to begrudge you that, but neither is anyone going to get down on their knees and beg you to see things the way they do.

    I would recommend a well reviewed intro book instead of a forum if you want to pursue answers in much more detail. There is a recommended reading thread around here somewhere if you want recommendations.
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited August 2010
    seeker242 wrote: »
    Whenever a person left a meditation retreat early and gives an obviously false excuse, The Zen Master always used to say "Ahh, more suffering is necessary! Then he will be back!"
    Charlotte Joko Beck says sometimes people need to be kicked around by life a bit more, and they don't begin serious practice until they have no choice. I think many of us can relate to that one. :)
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Now, I suppose one could try, and perhaps even succeed in ... differentiating between the experience and the concepts we apply to it, but then my question would be why would you want to do that? It doesn't seem to me that it would give you any insight, in fact, all I can tell that it would do is completely shut down any understanding.
    When the concept is, for instance, "I am a hopeless loser," this differentiation becomes very useful. Without the differentiation, depression leads to "I am a hopeless loser" as an ontological belief about myself. With the differentiation, the "I am a hopeless loser" story becomes a set of physical, emotional and mental experience which I can disidentify from. Then I can take the physical, emotional and mental components apart, watch them support and feed each other, and learn to rest as I watch this happen. And in this resting, somehow the whole construct falls apart. (I actually went through this this morning.)
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Richard H wrote: »
    Charlotte Joko Beck says sometimes people need to be kicked around by life a bit more, and they don't begin serious practice until they have no choice. I think many of us can relate to that one. :)
    Please remain where you are, Sad Clown. A squadron of Suffering Police have been dispatched to your location, and will arrive shortly.
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    username_5 wrote: »
    I would recommend a well reviewed intro book instead of a forum if you want to pursue answers in much more detail. There is a recommended reading thread around here somewhere if you want recommendations.
    Buddhism Without Beliefs would be a good choice.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2010
    fivebells wrote: »
    Please remain where you are, Sad Clown. A squadron of Suffering Police have been dispatched to your location, and will arrive shortly.


    ROFL. :lol: And one of them is named "The Grim Reaper". However, when he gets there, then it is already too late... Best to prepare for his arrival beforehand. :D
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited August 2010
    fivebells wrote: »
    Please remain where you are, Sad Clown. A squadron of Suffering Police have been dispatched to your location, and will arrive shortly.
    You can suffer plenty, you can go through all kinds of hellish states and never look to Buddhist practice as an option. You can look to Buddhist practice as an option and never do it no matter how much you suffer. For sure.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Richard H wrote: »
    Charlotte Joko Beck says sometimes people need to be kicked around by life a bit more, and they don't begin serious practice until they have no choice. I think many of us can relate to that one. :)

    Yes. :) But unfortunately, they sometimes chose the "easy way out" and commit suicide. Prayers for JW...
  • edited August 2010
    username_5 wrote: »
    To see reality as it is ;) (I am not talking about seeing God or time travel to the big bang or anything like that)
    I'm not talking about seeing god or time travel or the big bang either. But I still have a problem with seeing "reality as it is".
    The untrained mind only sees filtered reality, not the reality itself without the filters. The untrained mind believes the filtered reality is reality. Being able to differentiate the reality from the filters allows us to learn about how our mind works. How it causes us to suffer. How it reacts with clinging to that which our filters say is likable and how it reacts with aversion to that which our filters say is not liked. Even how it reacts with indifference to that which our filters haven't put into a like|dislike box.
    And here is my problem with claiming to see reality itself. There is no such thing as reality itself, there are only perceptions of reality. What makes your unfiltered reality more real than my filtered reality? I can see how recognizing how our concepts shape that reality can help us understand at least some of our cognitive limits and how our minds work. I can even understand how we can be unaware of how our beliefs can unwittingly lead to negative consequences and the like. But none of this disqualifies the perspective for being any more real than any other perspective.

    In fact, it could even be true that there need be no connection between what might be thought of as a more real perspective and happiness/peace/non-suffering. For instance, I could take comfort in belief that benign fairies were actively controlling everything around me.

    But I get the feeling that we are still not talking about the same thing, at least not precisely the same thing. When I talk about concepts, I am not only talking about certain beliefs about the world and my place in it, but even fundamental concepts like space/time and causation. Perhaps you do mean these as well, but without these I don't see you really having much of a reality, because without these structures to our experience, there are no "things" or "connections" between these things. It's more like the world just puking into your brain everything at once. I still don't understand the value of wanting to swim around in that, let alone calling it more real than me sitting here being able to tell that the lamp next to me is red and that the computer in front of me has a pleasant spring to its keys when I press them.
    We can also learn how our beliefs and actions have been conditioned over time by not being able to differentiate between filtered perception and reality.
    Again, I see no reason to differentiate between "real" and having concepts help me organize my sensations. These concepts are no less real than the sensations they organize. We might find them less useful to us if measured by whether they cause us suffering or not, but if you are going to apply the rule of "reality" then I can see no way of saying one is more and the other is less.
  • edited August 2010
    seeker242 wrote: »
    I do understand what "intellectual version" means yes. I also understand that the real answers about Buddhism can not be found in it.
    Sigh, but clearly you don't understand how to read, since that isn't what I was saying.
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited August 2010
    There is no such thing as reality itself, there are only perceptions of reality. What makes your unfiltered reality more real than my filtered reality?
    I roughly agree with you, but I would say that all we have to go on is perceptions of reality. To say that there is no such thing as reality is itself a kind of ontological statement which is also hard to justify in these terms.
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