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Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Chomsky Boi

Paramemetic posted:

Breaking habits takes time.

If it takes that long it's possibly not a habit but an addicition.

quote:

Change is fundamental, and I think I have to disagree on the hope and justice bits. We should strive for those things, but not from anger. Doing so out of anger is cultivating suffering. Doing so out of compassion or love is cultivating the end to suffering. The anger itself is a form of suffering, hatred is a poison.

If the universe causes us to cultivate suffering, then we should follow it's example. If our Dao is to suffer, then why not increase it?

quote:

You see, if your enemies have happiness and freedom from suffering, they won't be your enemies any longer. The trick here is that what they think will make them happy and what actually is the cause of happiness is not happiness. People will say "yeah but Nazis want to kill everyone, and you want them to be happy!!! Wow!!!!" But that's not it at all. Rather, Nazis want to kill everyone out of ignorance, grasping, attachment, and aversion. I want them to not have those things anymore. But it's not out of hatred for them.

I understand that, but I don't believe I am the person who can do that. There needs to be an accounting of actions, there needs to be some manner of recompense or forgiveness at some point.

quote:

Compassion is something you have to learn. You don't get good at lifting weights by starting with the heaviest object you can find. You don't get good at cultivating compassion for all sentient beings by starting with "all sentient beings." Start with those close to you that you love and, then those close to you that you don't love, and then you can worry about going further afield.

I'd say it is far easier to care for people who you know than for yourself, who you know too well.

quote:

How can you be kind to others if you can't be kind to yourself? How would you even know what kindness looks like?

Through observation. We can tell what could make us happy, or what would alleviate suffering in others and then attempt to do that to be kinder to folks.

quote:

As Sartre said, "Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance." Nobody asks to be born, but we are responsible for our actions. Is it unfair? No, not really. It's simply cause and effect.

Some of us would sooner die not of chance but of choice. I would say that it is unfair. That just because it is cause and effect doesn't mean there can be no moral lesson attached to it.

quote:

No point in being angry at systems, either, because it's just cause and effect. As useful to be angry at gravity. Instead, hang up the anger, because anger is itself suffering.

Every point being angry at systems. They are what shape us and break us and make us. I'd say it's a far better thing to hold onto the anger and to spit in the eye of the universe if given the opportunity.

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Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



The universe just is. Getting angry at the universe means you have to suffer the anger and you don't even have the possibility to alchemize it into action.

Like my view is to take the idea (this is for illustration) of, "it is loving unfair that the bullshit-rear end universe means that I have to eat on the regular"

And examine the root causes - "It sucks that I'm dependent on eating perishable products derived from dead lives," "it sucks that this complex supply train breaking down puts living beings in distress," "it sucks that Donald Trump is stealing all the biscuits", etc.

And then you can act on those. The anger can be an impetus but if you are seething at the universe, the universe doesn't care.

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Chomsky Boi

Nessus posted:

On your second point, it is definitely possible to get complacent. This is part of the cycle of things arising, persisting, decaying, and going away. The cycle is in a sense inevitable, but the question is how can we make it so that the arising and persisting bring benefit, and the decaying and going away do too - or at least, do as little harm as they may? Something that does a great deal of good, and a little harm - is this better than something that does a little good, and no harm?

On your final point, I get you, and I realize in a sense we're coming at the topic of Buddhist matters with a different perspective. From my perspective I have few to no doubts that it is a valid perception of the universe, and any errant details are likely due to either mistranslation or my incomprehension. (This is stuff like, the various hell realms may not exactly match medieval Tibetan art, etc.) From yours I imagine it is a social construct like any other, and I don't even disagree with you 85, 90% of the way, it is just that there IS a fundamental bedrock I hold as true.

e: I would also disagree on the nuance with the idea of 'getting angry at systems,' because I think Josef means in the sense of social systems, created by humans, vs. things like the passage of rivers, which are morally neutral (if, to a limited extent, also amenable to change).

Glad to hear it!

True, but I'd say (from myself alone) that doing no harm is impossible, ergo it is better to ignore that item of compassion and to move on to other ones.

I am grateful for that. You keep safe!

Thank you. I do mainly mean that yes. However I do find it interesting that there is probably not a single river in the entire world untouched by mankind. Mountains maybe, but rivers and everything else? No longer much that is natural about them, and hasn't been for a good long time.

Nessus posted:

The universe just is. Getting angry at the universe means you have to suffer the anger and you don't even have the possibility to alchemize it into action.

Like my view is to take the idea (this is for illustration) of, "it is loving unfair that the bullshit-rear end universe means that I have to eat on the regular"

And examine the root causes - "It sucks that I'm dependent on eating perishable products derived from dead lives," "it sucks that this complex supply train breaking down puts living beings in distress," "it sucks that Donald Trump is stealing all the biscuits", etc.

And then you can act on those. The anger can be an impetus but if you are seething at the universe, the universe doesn't care.

But if you can prove to people that the universe is fundamentally unjust then it should be far easier to explain change and how hierarchical and "natural" systems can be torn down.

Just because it doesn't care doesn't mean it isn't good. If the universe is unjust and we have to exist inside of it part of the rebellion against that can be little things like hoping for it's end etc.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



Against who are you rebelling? There is no creator to rebel against, in the ultimate sense. (Of course, there are those who create or further systems that cause or increase suffering.)

It is impossible to completely eliminate harm - but you can minimize it. And coming from a perspective of righting a wrong can be motivational. If, for instance, some of the microbial food measures or inexpensive vat-grown animal protein can be realized, in an economic and sustainable way, then we would not need to grow crops (or at least not nearly as many) or slaughter animals (though the process might require the infliction of harm on a small number of animals to begin with).

This is great and meritorious! But you still need to eat.

I think some of our conversation here is moving regularly and often within the same sentence between the "human realm," which is to say more or less the world we live in now, and the "cosmic realm" where we encounter great truths of the underlying nature of reality. They obviously inform each other, but the two scales are not perfect cognates.

e: Like to make an illustration: Say that there is the country of X, and the country of X has an evil king and a weak legislature.

The king of X is a person who is doing wicked things. He can be opposed, rebelled against, perhaps overthrown.

The national systems of country X were created in the past and are amenable to change or dissolution by the exercise of human political and social power.

The existence of the idea of country X is more complicated, but is also amenable to this influence.

The physical terrain of country X, in turn, can be changed, but this has limits because you can only do so much landscaping; you can cutdown forests, or replant them, or allow them to regrow; you can dig irrigation; but you cannot make major influences over the rainfall or the passage of the seasons.

The planet on which country X resides is beyond your power to affect or destroy, or to replace, although we can at least theorize how such a thing could happen, and we have a reasonable summary of the processes that led to the formation of a planet.

The existence of the system of space and physics in which there are planets and stars is beyond our ability to do anything about.

Where do we focus our efforts? Much of what you say reads, to me, as if you are looking at the first three items, and turning to condemn the system of planets and stars, wishing they could not be and calling for rebellion against them. It feels like a wrong address, even if I also feel that you are coming at this from a very good moral place of fierce compassion.

Nessus fucked around with this message at 00:48 on Feb 17, 2020

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Chomsky Boi

Nessus posted:

Against who are you rebelling? There is no creator to rebel against, in the ultimate sense. (Of course, there are those who create or further systems that cause or increase suffering.)

It is impossible to completely eliminate harm - but you can minimize it. And coming from a perspective of righting a wrong can be motivational. If, for instance, some of the microbial food measures or inexpensive vat-grown animal protein can be realized, in an economic and sustainable way, then we would not need to grow crops (or at least not nearly as many) or slaughter animals (though the process might require the infliction of harm on a small number of animals to begin with).

This is great and meritorious! But you still need to eat.

I think some of our conversation here is moving regularly and often within the same sentence between the "human realm," which is to say more or less the world we live in now, and the "cosmic realm" where we encounter great truths of the underlying nature of reality. They obviously inform each other, but the two scales are not perfect cognates.

Just because there is no creator does not mean that there is no system. Just because that system was not set up to prove/ do anything does not mean it is not unjust.

Disagree here. We can and should (and hopefully will) be able to eliminate all suffering.

Hmm, that's fair. I will try and make it more clear when I'm talking about one thing or another. Sorry about that.

Nessus posted:

e: Like to make an illustration: Say that there is the country of X, and the country of X has an evil king and a weak legislature.

The king of X is a person who is doing wicked things. He can be opposed, rebelled against, perhaps overthrown.

The national systems of country X were created in the past and are amenable to change or dissolution by the exercise of human political and social power.

The existence of the idea of country X is more complicated, but is also amenable to this influence.

The physical terrain of country X, in turn, can be changed, but this has limits because you can only do so much landscaping; you can cutdown forests, or replant them, or allow them to regrow; you can dig irrigation; but you cannot make major influences over the rainfall or the passage of the seasons.

The planet on which country X resides is beyond your power to affect or destroy, or to replace, although we can at least theorize how such a thing could happen, and we have a reasonable summary of the processes that led to the formation of a planet.

The existence of the system of space and physics in which there are planets and stars is beyond our ability to do anything about.

Where do we focus our efforts? Much of what you say reads, to me, as if you are looking at the first three items, and turning to condemn the system of planets and stars, wishing they could not be and calling for rebellion against them. It feels like a wrong address, even if I also feel that you are coming at this from a very good moral place of fierce compassion.

We focus our efforts on the first and work up, and the difficulty may get harder as it goes, but fundamentally does not mean that any level is less worthy of rebelling against. It is not wrong to rebel against everything. If the sun shines as warmly upon the unjust as the just then it should be rebelled against.

Josef bugman fucked around with this message at 00:55 on Feb 17, 2020

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



Josef bugman posted:

Just because there is no creator does not mean that there is no system. Just because that system was not set up to prove/ do anything does not mean it is not unjust.

Disagree here. We can and should (and hopefully will) be able to eliminate all suffering.

Hmm, that's fair. I will try and make it more clear when I'm talking about one thing or another. Sorry about that.
Sure, I in turn spoke imperfectly. It is, pragmatically, impossible to completely eliminate suffering in the human realm given the means that we have. This does not mean that material and political means cannot greatly and profoundly reduce the intensity of that suffering. Even under a utopian system, even if we were somehow to make it impossible for people to die, there would still be arguments, discord, emotional upsets, and so on.

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Chomsky Boi

Nessus posted:

Sure, I in turn spoke imperfectly. It is, pragmatically, impossible to completely eliminate suffering in the human realm given the means that we have. This does not mean that material and political means cannot greatly and profoundly reduce the intensity of that suffering. Even under a utopian system, even if we were somehow to make it impossible for people to die, there would still be arguments, discord, emotional upsets, and so on.

Sure, but even those could be reduced to nothing eventually. The creatures that would result would most likely not be capable of being described as "human" of course.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



Josef bugman posted:

Sure, but even those could be reduced to nothing eventually. The creatures that would result would most likely not be capable of being described as "human" of course.
At a certain point you are basically using technological means to create gods or devas; the lineage would just have originated in human entities. It would lead to a lot of person-years of bliss and contentment.

Eventually - in the very long run - it would break down, one way or the other.

This does not mean it is not worth doing, although I suppose you also get into a certain kind of macro-scale value call.

Pyrus Malus
Nov 22, 2007
APPLES

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Chomsky Boi

Nessus posted:

At a certain point you are basically using technological means to create gods or devas; the lineage would just have originated in human entities. It would lead to a lot of person-years of bliss and contentment.

Eventually - in the very long run - it would break down, one way or the other.

This does not mean it is not worth doing, although I suppose you also get into a certain kind of macro-scale value call.

Oh yeah certainly still worth doing.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



I'm Entertain Dog

Goldreallas XXX
Oct 22, 2009



ORPHAN previous life been HORNY SPERM and ABORTION.

Tias
May 25, 2008
Probation
Can't post for 7 days!


Hello thread! I'm actually a practicing norse heathen, but I meditate a lot in the tradition of Reggie Ray, and via him, Chogyam Trungpa. Just hanging out and absorbing good dharma over here!

Tungsten Dreams
Oct 13, 2018


I have a couple of things to ask, this is as good a place to ask as any! maybe even better!

last year my closest friend did and said a bunch of poo poo that SUPER hurt. like WOW I couldn't move for weeks. for background, I'm schizophrenic (so is she) and have a history of major depressive episodes. she did apologise and promise to do better but, she just... keeps doing stupid hurtful poo poo. after a while I stopped sleeping more than an hour a night for a few months; I'd stay up all night crying or too upset to shut my mind up. after month number four I went to bed and I could not. stop. thinking. about the noble truths, I have no idea why - my mom practices buddhism and must have been talking to me about it at some point? and it made me reflect a lot on my own hurt and suffering. I kind of realised that my suffering wasn't unique or special, that I've always been suffering and I've been attached to my suffering and the things which have exasperated it. and I also realised that my suffering was transient and impermanent, and it was caused exclusively by attachment. and then I could sleep again, I've been sleeping well ever since.

it's been a journey but, I eventually weaned off all my medications, gained a bunch of confidence and I feel like I'm actually living for the first time in my life. I have so many new friends, an actual social life, and I feel like I can be loved.

my first question is, a few years ago I asked her to be the best man at my wedding. I don't want her to be anymore. her having that role does and will cause me and others suffering, but asking her not to will cause her suffering. I can't see a way through this that will not cause a net increase of suffering. how can I approach this?

question the second number: is there a certain distance I 'have' (super lovely word I know) to go with approaching enlightenment? if I make progress, will future incarnations of TD pick up the slack? is it wrong to think that the life-me now isn't ready and needs to go back in the oven a couple more lifetimes?

thirdish, I wanted to know more about meditation. in therapy we would practice westernised mindfulness - sitting one the floor, focusing on our breathing, that sort of thing. it wasn't something I took to, and as said earlier in this thread I'm not sold on mindfulness meditation being something that is safe for me to practice given my mental health conditions (I'm stable and happy, and I want to stay that way). in my youth I always thought of meditation as a form of exploring yourself, deep deconstructive thought to induce true realisations of character and 'self'. are there other ways meditation can manifest, or other forms of it?

tia

Mushika
Dec 22, 2010



Grimey Drawer

Thank you for being awesome and for starting a new thread, Paramemetic.

What is merit, and how does merit work?

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



Tungsten Dreams posted:

I have a couple of things to ask, this is as good a place to ask as any! maybe even better!

last year my closest friend did and said a bunch of poo poo that SUPER hurt. like WOW I couldn't move for weeks. for background, I'm schizophrenic (so is she) and have a history of major depressive episodes. she did apologise and promise to do better but, she just... keeps doing stupid hurtful poo poo. after a while I stopped sleeping more than an hour a night for a few months; I'd stay up all night crying or too upset to shut my mind up. after month number four I went to bed and I could not. stop. thinking. about the noble truths, I have no idea why - my mom practices buddhism and must have been talking to me about it at some point? and it made me reflect a lot on my own hurt and suffering. I kind of realised that my suffering wasn't unique or special, that I've always been suffering and I've been attached to my suffering and the things which have exasperated it. and I also realised that my suffering was transient and impermanent, and it was caused exclusively by attachment. and then I could sleep again, I've been sleeping well ever since.

it's been a journey but, I eventually weaned off all my medications, gained a bunch of confidence and I feel like I'm actually living for the first time in my life. I have so many new friends, an actual social life, and I feel like I can be loved.

my first question is, a few years ago I asked her to be the best man at my wedding. I don't want her to be anymore. her having that role does and will cause me and others suffering, but asking her not to will cause her suffering. I can't see a way through this that will not cause a net increase of suffering. how can I approach this?

question the second number: is there a certain distance I 'have' (super lovely word I know) to go with approaching enlightenment? if I make progress, will future incarnations of TD pick up the slack? is it wrong to think that the life-me now isn't ready and needs to go back in the oven a couple more lifetimes?

thirdish, I wanted to know more about meditation. in therapy we would practice westernised mindfulness - sitting one the floor, focusing on our breathing, that sort of thing. it wasn't something I took to, and as said earlier in this thread I'm not sold on mindfulness meditation being something that is safe for me to practice given my mental health conditions (I'm stable and happy, and I want to stay that way). in my youth I always thought of meditation as a form of exploring yourself, deep deconstructive thought to induce true realisations of character and 'self'. are there other ways meditation can manifest, or other forms of it?

tia
On the first question, I think the answer depends somewhat on whether you're getting married in the near future or not. However, if you do not feel that her role in your life is the same as it was then, you will at some point have to discuss this with her. If this is a question of "I like her, but I feel less intimate than I did," perhaps you could ask her to take on a different role in your ceremony which retains some esteem. It's a thorny question.

On the second question, progress is progress. Any practice (in my understanding) will generate merit. There may be some that will produce greater merits than others, and there is always the option to call on Amida to take you to the pure land in your next go-round. On a personal level I would say, don't put yourself down particularly. If you are recognizing practical limitations, that's one thing, but it isn't an "excuse."

On the third question, you are showing excellent discernment in a lot of ways here. Did you have uncomfortable outcomes with it, or was it just difficult for you to accomplish? There are, however, a lot of other dharma practices that you can pursue. I'm a big fan of mantras.

Meditation is good, but it is not all that there is to Buddhism. It sounds as if the core teachings alone were a big help to you!

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



On the topic of texts, I would like to share the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism or "Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai" (BDK). BDK is a Japanese group rooted in Jodo Shinshu and, as best as I can tell, are not funded by anything evil or up to any kind of shenanigans of political influence, et cetera. I found their little collection, "The Teachings of Buddha," very useful to me, because it filled a role similar to that of a Bible -- indeed I found copies of that book throughout hotels in Japan.

They have a shitload of English translations of the Tripitaka available online, along with texts from Chinese and Japanese schools. There is a searchable database of this material here.

Also approachable is their online resources; they will let you order physical copies of various books for money, but you can also read the PDFs for free online. BDK America - there are chapters in other nations too. If you run into issues getting at a BDK PDF due to national blockers or similar, let me know and I will fish it out for you somehow or other.

If you have been interested in the Tannisho, they have a PDF version with commentary by an English translator. Here's the link. They sent me a free copy with my TTOB copy but they seem to be low on print copies... PDFs, of course, are a different story.

Senju Kannon
Apr 9, 2011

by Nyc_Tattoo


南無阿弥陀仏

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Mushika posted:

Thank you for being awesome and for starting a new thread, Paramemetic.

What is merit, and how does merit work?

On the most fundamental level, merit is the fruit of positive karma. Virtuous activities like generosity, tolerance, and so on can be said to generate merit. When you do virtuous actions you get virtuous results, when you do nonvirtuous actions you get nonvirtuous results. Virtuous results bring a reduction of suffering or at least do not create new suffering, while nonvirtuous results bring suffering.

That's the basic idea.

In the Vajrayana, and presumably in other Mahayana schools, there are acts that are seen to be so virtuous that their results "carry forward" as karmic seeds that have not yet fruited. In all Buddhist understandings of cause and effect, there are effects that can happen downstream that only a Buddha can see. But in Vajrayana in particular there is in some schools an emphasis on "gaming" this to benefit sentient beings.

The reasoning goes like this: if I do [virtuous action] (such as taking refuge, completing ngondro, practicing generosity, etc.) then I will accumulate merit. My goal is to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. If I accumulate merit, I will have the support of positive conditions moving forward that will make my practice more likely to achieve a good result.

From there, in the Vajrayana in particular, we work it through what's essentially magic. If generosity accumulates merit, and making offerings to the Buddha is one of the highest and most fruitful forms of generosity, then what if we offer an infinite mandala of all existence to infinite Buddhas? And then what if we do that one hundred thousand times!?

But like all good magic and all good religion, this works on multliple levels: on the one hand, yeah, of course that merit is beneficial and supports us. Additionally, though, repeating this action hundreds of thousands of times really reinforces that whole generosity concept. Similarly, doing 100,000 prostrations generates a lot of merit, but it also teaches humility; doing 100,000 purifications generates merit, but also helps one psychologically move on from their poo poo, and so on.

In East Asian religious Buddhist practice, the "merit market" is basically a means by which wealthy people can exercise generosity to accumulate merit by supporting virtuous activities, patronizing temples or monks, and so on. One of the core ideas is that you do what you can do, so rich people should use that money to support Dharma activities but maybe don't have time to attend retreats, and that's okay. Similarly, people who don't have tons of wealth maybe do have the opportunity to attend retreats, so they should do that and not be expected to contribute money. One example of a merit market type activity is liberation practices where people will make big shows of buying, for example, all of the fish brought in by a haul and releasing them. The practice of "life ransoming" by buying animals marked for death and then raising them is pretty common, but you get into "people being people" when it becomes an ostentatious display. Not exactly the point, but I'd rather people show off by saving the lives of sentient beings than by claiming God loves them more because Number Went Up.

There is also a degree of protection afforded in merit accumulation, in that beings with good merit attain higher rebirths. On one level that's because of the fact that they've done positive things to attain that merit, and so merit is kind of an abstraction of the general concept of "virtue."

Interestingly, beings with lots of merit but no wisdom attain rebirth in the formed god realms, so just being a good person alone is necessary but not sufficient to attain enlightenment. That rebirth is beneficial, it's certainly better than a hell being, but it's better still to both accumulate merit through generosity, compassion, and so on and also to accumulate wisdom through meditation or study.

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Chomsky Boi

Paramemetic posted:

In East Asian religious Buddhist practice, the "merit market" is basically a means by which wealthy people can exercise generosity to accumulate merit by supporting virtuous activities, patronizing temples or monks, and so on. One of the core ideas is that you do what you can do, so rich people should use that money to support Dharma activities but maybe don't have time to attend retreats, and that's okay. Similarly, people who don't have tons of wealth maybe do have the opportunity to attend retreats, so they should do that and not be expected to contribute money. One example of a merit market type activity is liberation practices where people will make big shows of buying, for example, all of the fish brought in by a haul and releasing them. The practice of "life ransoming" by buying animals marked for death and then raising them is pretty common, but you get into "people being people" when it becomes an ostentatious display. Not exactly the point, but I'd rather people show off by saving the lives of sentient beings than by claiming God loves them more because Number Went Up.

This sounds very similar to what happened in the medieval era Europe where people gave vast amounts of land and money to monks until the monasteries became state actors in themselves and started having armies. Usually they also became somewhat corrupt (not in the way that Henry VII or the various different Whig Historians liked to make out ofc) and it meant that eventually people started giving more land/money to the poorer monastaries, thus creating the cycle again.

Each one begins from a place of utter poverty and eventually becomes a stupidly powerful and wealthy temporal society. Does that happen a lot in Buddhism as well?

Yorkshire Pudding
Nov 24, 2006



Josef bugman posted:

This sounds very similar to what happened in the medieval era Europe where people gave vast amounts of land and money to monks until the monasteries became state actors in themselves and started having armies. Usually they also became somewhat corrupt (not in the way that Henry VII or the various different Whig Historians liked to make out ofc) and it meant that eventually people started giving more land/money to the poorer monastaries, thus creating the cycle again.

Each one begins from a place of utter poverty and eventually becomes a stupidly powerful and wealthy temporal society. Does that happen a lot in Buddhism as well?

This was also common in Japan from about the 10th-17th centuries. Some temples became very powerful financially, even having their own independent military. Warlords would sometimes try and buy them off or recruit them to fight their neighbors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C5%8Dhei

Also, please read about Benkei. A famous(ly ugly) gigantic warrior monk who reportedly died holding a bridge in the most badass way possible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benkei

Yorkshire Pudding fucked around with this message at 18:53 on Feb 17, 2020

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Yeah, and I mean, Tibet was a feudal empire up until the Chinese occupation. That has little to do with Buddhism and everything to do with people, though.

Personally, I find getting upset about people doing people things under the guise of religion extremely boring. It's just not interesting. You see it in the more juvenile factions of the pagan community (shoutout to Tias who is a fellow traveler also in the general Religion / liturgical Christianity thread, to whom this will undoubtedly ring true and familiar), for example. In the early days of the Internet there were all kinds of incorrigibly fluffy pagan websites out there with "NEVER AGAIN THE BURNING TIMES" and suchlike, you see it in the ridiculous ivory tower castigations of the Knights Militant of Atheism like Dawkins, and it's just extremely tired. "Wow, Christians did the Crusades and actually it was all about power!" "Wow, Muslims did conquests and killed a zillion people!" Okay, enough! It's nothing to do with the religions, it's everything to do with institutions of man and the fact that men run those institutions and, if nothing else, people are really good at finding reasons to do violence to people in the Out-Group.

So yeah, I mean, there are genocides under the banner of Buddhism happening in the world right now but that isn't something advocated by Buddhism. Yes, monastic institutions, when given imperial mandates or might, have used that power. poo poo, the history of Tibet is all about "such and such lineage got an endorsement from [Mongols/Chinese Dynasties/Became Emperor Themselves], and then they set out to kill all the others. "Dalai Lama" is a Mongolian term, not a Tibetan one - the office exists as the officially endorsed and recognized leader of Tibetan people by conquering Mongols. They used that leverage to ruthlessly suppress and destroy the teachings of other schools, of course they did.

But it has little to do with Buddhism, and everything to do with the problems of state power.

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Chomsky Boi


Oooh, interesting, thank you!

Paramemetic posted:

But it has little to do with Buddhism, and everything to do with the problems of state power.

I'm not saying it was a purely Buddhist thing. I find the intersection of the celestial and earthly to be a fantastic place of simple everyday book keeping and arguments about how much should be done etc. I like seeing and viewing the way in which different societies can end up in similar patterns despite vast differences. The obvious rejoinder is not that we should discard difference and/or religion, only an idiot would think that, but that we should look into it.

But I also like looking at the justifications used, because of how we as people approach things and justify it to ourselves and others.

Blendy
Jun 18, 2007

She thinks I'm a haughty!



Paramemetic posted:

Thanks for this. I tend to dislike the term "secular Buddhism" because to me, all Buddhism is secular. It is about people living in the world, how can it not be secular? I recognize there's a major movement towards a secularized Buddhism in favor of Western materialism. I would argue that it's a stretch to say that the Buddha didn't engage with the religions of his time because a significant amount of the Pali canon is stories of the Buddha dunking on teachers of other religions of his time, and he came to Buddhism only after (and incorporated into Buddhism) attaining many stages of Samadhi through other practices.

Double tl;dr Secular Buddhism is cool but be careful about dogmas of any sort.

In particular I want to be clear that I'm not accusing you, Blendy, of any of those things, or Stephen Batchelor, whose work I'm only passingly familiar with. It's just a sort of tendency and a discussion I've had many times, especially with academics.


Edit: (help, the only unceasing things in the three worlds are the Buddha's compassionate activity and my bad posting)


Edit2: I'm just doing edits at this point because I don't want to do like a quadruple post.

Anyhow, much of this came to me as a matter of necessity rather than as a willful decision. I used to have a practice of about 2 hours a day in meditation and ritual before doing my fulltime work as a Tibetan language translator and personal attendant to my Lama.

Then I had a kid and you know what is not supportive of a fulltime Dharma life? Havin' a fuckin' baby. But boy, let me tell you, nothing teaches practicing compassion quite like having to defend your home from a goblin 12 hours a day, and it helped me greatly to take that practice of Dharma and put it in the context of the real world.

Hey, thank you for the reply as well. I haven't had a chance to get back to this thread and this is on the last page but I wanted to respond since my first post was very brief and slapdash just trying to add in the voice of secular Buddhism. My background is in comparative religious studies and East Asian culture and history focused on Japan. When I said the Buddha did not engage with religion I meant his teachings specifically said that the metaphysical aspect of religion was fine to put belief into as long as it did not get in the way of following proper dharma, even going so far as to say that the gods themselves suffered the same foibles as humans and were too could attempt to achieve nirvana. I think it's an equal stretch to say all schools of Buddhism are secular just because they deal with secular issues, all religions deal with secular issues, it's part of how they attract followers.

Also, not all Western secular approaches are materialistic, Batchelor simply tries to argue that modern Buddhism either religious or "woke modern capitalist Buddhism" can offer the same trap, where you replace focus on the core concept with the dogma or commodification of how Buddism "fits into your life." (Attachment, Batchelor does draw a pretty clear line regarding nirvana being simply true mindfulness and radical acceptance of reality instead of something more spiritual). Alternatively, someone like Kristen Neff approaches the mindfulness and compassion lessons of Buddhism to harness a more clinically tested method of learning self-compassion and mindfulness without dipping into dharma or nirvana.

There is clearly a ton of Western academic and armchair atheist snideness radiating out of secular Buddhism but there are rotten apples in all schools. And people remember the worst more than they remember the best when spreading word of mouth. So I agree that sucks but my point in bringing up secular Buddism is that a lot of people do get turned off by spiritual things OR they have a religion and view Buddism solely as a religion and they don't want to convert, which would lead to the before-mentioned people missing out on a lot of great teachings that could help them.

Though I myself am an agnostic secular Buddist I love all schools because they all have something off and regardless if you believe in it or not religions are really good and creating lore and stories. I want all schools (that are not cults pretending to be good Buddhists) to be celebrated because it's everyone's right to find their own path.

Edit: Also yes Buddhism is a lifestyle, the benefits only truly come from practice. I mean, Corporate Twitter Jack is never going to become a sage and gain the power of flight unless he firmly studies and trains and even then becoming a Bodhisattva is extremely unlikely. I kid but yes Buddism is a lifestyle and I think the best one to adopt while we're stuck in the shul.

Blendy fucked around with this message at 01:02 on Feb 18, 2020

Yiggy
Sep 12, 2004

"Imagination is not enough. You have to have knowledge too, and an experience of the oddity of life."


Josef bugman posted:

Each one begins from a place of utter poverty and eventually becomes a stupidly powerful and wealthy temporal society. Does that happen a lot in Buddhism as well?

The part with the armies, at least within Indian Buddhism no not really as far as I know. Buddhist monasteries (viharas) did however become banking and lending institutions. There is extensive monastic code in the vinaya dedicated to procedures for giving out loans, managing documents, insuring that there are monk witnesses to the signing of loan documents, etc etc. The viharas also curiously served as a sort of retirement community because they had codes and standards for caring for monks. We have vinaya code discussing individuals donating their wealth to the vinaya at the end of their lives in exchange for ordination and the assignment of a younger caretaker monk. Particularly in middle and late Buddhism we see the development of complex societal roles for monasteries that typically conflict with conventional notions of what we think of as the idealized monk/monastery. One of the main reasons that Buddhist temples were targeted by invading Muslim armies wasn’t necessarily because they were branded as idolaters though this was often a convenient story but also in large part due to the fact that they were easy to loot stores of wealth and treasure.

For more info on this check out Buddhist Monks and Business Matters by Gregory Schopen

Yiggy fucked around with this message at 01:16 on Feb 18, 2020

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



Blendy posted:

Edit: Also yes Buddhism is a lifestyle, the benefits only truly come from practice. I mean, Corporate Twitter Jack is never going to become a sage and gain the power of flight unless he firmly studies and trains and even then becoming a Bodhisattva is extremely unlikely. I kid but yes Buddism is a lifestyle and I think the best one to adopt while we're stuck in the shul.
Jack could become a dharma king and institute righteous policies on his website, but he'd lose a lot of money and possibly be deposed if he did.

Blendy
Jun 18, 2007

She thinks I'm a haughty!



Jack could be the bring celestial peaches to the masses as the new super fruit, maybe work with Musk to send some commercial rocket flights to the Buddha's hand. Pose next to where Wukong urinated. Various Xian would probably do well on Cameo.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Blendy posted:

I think it's an equal stretch to say all schools of Buddhism are secular just because they deal with secular issues, all religions deal with secular issues, it's part of how they attract followers.

To a degree, I suppose, though I think there's something to be said for eschatology and so on in other religions where Buddhism is more or less not interested in such.

quote:

Also, not all Western secular approaches are materialistic, Batchelor simply tries to argue that modern Buddhism either religious or "woke modern capitalist Buddhism" can offer the same trap, where you replace focus on the core concept with the dogma or commodification of how Buddism "fits into your life." (Attachment, Batchelor does draw a pretty clear line regarding nirvana being simply true mindfulness and radical acceptance of reality instead of something more spiritual). Alternatively, someone like Kristen Neff approaches the mindfulness and compassion lessons of Buddhism to harness a more clinically tested method of learning self-compassion and mindfulness without dipping into dharma or nirvana.

I'm of course a bit dubious when Westerners define enlightenment in essentially trivial terms like "it's just being fully mindful," because I think that previous Buddhas would have done so if it were the case. On the one hand, historical figures I regard as enlightened are saying "nah, it's not really something you can explain just like that, it's more of a 'just so' than a 'like this'," and then on the other hand we have people saying "oh it's just basically flow state, actually, if you remove the superstitions!" As I mentioned, I'm not terribly familiar with Batchelor's work, but that's certainly the gist of, for example, Sam Harris' work; and hell, though he doesn't claim to be Buddhist we've got Ken Wilber running around claiming to be so fully enlightened nobody in history can compare.

That said, I do want to apologize. I agree with the goals of making Buddhism very accessible to people who don't want to practice the religious bit, because everyone can benefit from basically any application of Dharma, and I don't think it's at all necessary to accept the whole package or none at all. I spent a lot of time in the last thread, in fact, defending the mental perspective on rebirth, and arguing that I don't really care if someone accepts literal rebirth or thinks it's a metaphor so long as they are practicing compassion.

So, I may have responded in a bit of a heavy way. I think you took it the right way, not as a criticism but as a cautious and measured response, but I still think I may have been unnecessarily heavy-handed in my answer to what is ultimately a good thing and a good post. Something of a reflex from engaging with the problems of imperial academia, but you know how that goes, and I appreciate it.

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

Chomsky Boi

Yiggy posted:

For more info on this check out Buddhist Monks and Business Matters by Gregory Schopen

Dang, that sounds really interesting! Will have a look into that, and thanks for the recommendation.

Yorkshire Pudding
Nov 24, 2006



Paramemetic posted:

I spent a lot of time in the last thread, in fact, defending the mental perspective on rebirth, and arguing that I don't really care if someone accepts literal rebirth or thinks it's a metaphor so long as they are practicing compassion.

Not trying to open a can of worms, but how could one not accept rebirth but still accept the dharma, samsara, and nirvana?

That feels a bit like saying “I believe Christ is our Lord and Savior and he forgave of us of all ours Sins, but I don’t actually believe in God or Heaven”?

I get that in the end you’re saying that as long as people are practicing compassion that’s a big net gain, but it seems odd to be able to pick apart one of the big foundations of impermanence.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Yorkshire Pudding posted:

Not trying to open a can of worms, but how could one not accept rebirth but still accept the dharma, samsara, and nirvana?

That feels a bit like saying “I believe Christ is our Lord and Savior and he forgave of us of all ours Sins, but I don’t actually believe in God or Heaven”?

I get that in the end you’re saying that as long as people are practicing compassion that’s a big net gain, but it seems odd to be able to pick apart one of the big foundations of impermanence.

The other models of death and rebirth extrapolate it, not incorrectly, to mental states. When we're angry we're reborn in the hell realms not in the next life but in the next moment. Every passing thought and every passing moment is a death of a transient self and a rebirth of a new self. We are recreating ourselves with every passing thought, because our "self" is just an illusory thing anyhow. The "self" that is hungry is not the same "self" as the "self" that wants a sandwich which is in turn not the same "self" as the "self" that is resolving to go make a sandwich. They are each different selves, flowing one from another in a karmic progression. That progression is the microcosm of the macrocosm that is the cycle of birth, old age, sickness, and dying.

When we become angry, we are reborn in hell immediately. When we cultivate compassion, we are reborn in pure lands immediately.

This isn't a wrong view, and it is in complete accord with what Buddha taught. I don't feel like it's necessary to get caught up on the nature of the transmigration of consciousness if that's a barrier for someone to working with the Dharma. We'll all find out about rebirth in a literal sense soon enough. If someone doesn't want to believe in literal rebirth, but still recognizes that our mental actions and mental habits create and shape our circumstances and realities, then... great! Cool. Go for it.

I'd much rather people do that than say "wow, Buddhism seems cool and all but I just don't think rebirth is real, sorry." Because really, rebirth is difficult to explain anyhow, since the being that is born is not hte same being that dies, but also not different (because of self-other non-duality and emptiness among other things). As such, it's sort of a silly hill to die on in terms of Dharma - but to someone who is only first approaching the Dharma, it is a hill people will die on. So I think it's better to let them sort that out for themselves when they have more experience and the foundations necessary to "get" it, than it is to tell people, "no, you can't Buddhist if you don't believe in the cycle of rebirth as a metaphysical process."

Basically, Buddhism is about a set of practices and taking Refuge and not about making professions of faith and getting hung up on those details is counterproductive.

Paramemetic fucked around with this message at 16:09 on Feb 18, 2020

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



Yorkshire Pudding posted:

Not trying to open a can of worms, but how could one not accept rebirth but still accept the dharma, samsara, and nirvana?

That feels a bit like saying “I believe Christ is our Lord and Savior and he forgave of us of all ours Sins, but I don’t actually believe in God or Heaven”?

I get that in the end you’re saying that as long as people are practicing compassion that’s a big net gain, but it seems odd to be able to pick apart one of the big foundations of impermanence.
Because a lot of people in our broad demographic categories seize up at the prospect of rebirth in the sense of "after I die, another individual with a direct lineal karmic succession to me, personally, will arise, by unknown mechanisms" and this would exclude them from the many benefits of the dharma. If this sounds salty it is mostly because accessing Buddhist teachings in my native language is incredibly heavily informed by this obstinacy, which I personally don't share.

Like straight up, much of why I spoke warmly of BDK in that previous post is that BDK just gave me the goods instead of a bunch of dithering about neurological scans etc.

Yiggy
Sep 12, 2004

"Imagination is not enough. You have to have knowledge too, and an experience of the oddity of life."


It can be easy/convenient to take the certainty we feel in an interpretation after our own readings and assurances from contemporary teachers and then project that backwards on the Buddhist tradition as a whole, but this is often problematic. It is not just westerners informed by science that have struggled with this question, they even find themselves in good company with luminaries of the buddhist tradition such as Vasubandhu.

Indian schools argued both sides and dug deep into the weeds on interpretation and understanding. This is often frustrated by the fact that literal readings of even the Pali cannon evince frequent contradictions because the buddha was not a deontologist philosopher consistently opining metaphysical certainties as much as he was a renunciant ministering to suffering individuals within a particular context. And even then, he was ministering to individuals with differing and inconsistent views on the world around them, sometimes teaching something to one individual that seemed to contradict something he would tell to another.

Here because others have said it better I generously excerpt Etienne Lamotte from an essay of his, Textual Interpretation in Buddhism.

quote:

The letter indicates the spirit just as the fingertip indicates an object, but since the spirit is alien to syllables, the letter is unable to express it in full. Purely literal exegesis is therefore bound to fail. The theme of the letter which kills and the spirit which enlivens is elaborated several times in the Lankavatarasutra, of which we will merely quote a page here:

quote:

O Mahamati, the son and daughter of good family should not interpret the spirit according to the letter since reality is not connected with syllables. One should not act like those who look at the finger: it is as if someone pointed out something with his finger to someone else and the latter persisted in staring at the fingertip [instead of looking at the object indicated]; similarly, just like children, foolish worldlings end their lives as attached to that fingertip which consists of the literal translation and, by neglecting the meaning indicated by the fingertip of literal interpretation, they never reach the higher meaning.

...

If scholars counseled the search for the spirit with so much insistence, it is because the meaning of the texts often lacks clarity and needs to be interpreted. This led to the imposition of the third rule.

The sutra of precise meaning (nitharta) is the refuge, not (the sutra) the meaning of which requires interpretation (neyartha). This distinction is not accepted by the Mahasamghika school, which is of the opinion that “in all that the Blessed One expounded, there is nothing which does not conform to the meaning, and that all the sutras propounded by the Buddha are precise in meaning.” However, that position is not easy to defend, since many sutras contradict each other. Thus, to take just one example, the text of the Bimbisarasutra states: “Foolish worldlings who have not learned anything take the self for their self and are attached to the self. But there is no self (atman) or anything pertaining to the self; the self is empty and anything pertaining to the self is empty.” This text, which denies the existence of a soul, is contradicted by another canonical passage, in the words of which: “An individual (ekapudgala) born in the world is born for the welfare of many.” If those two texts are taken literally, one if forced to conclude that the Buddha contradicted himself. For fear of maligning the omniscient one, the Sarvastivadins, followed by the scholars of the Mahayana, preferred to accept that certain sutras should be taken literally while others should be interpreted. According to Vasumitra and Bhavya, theses 49 and 50 of the Sarvastivadins state that the Blessed One uttered words which were not in accordance with the meaning, that sutras spoken by the Buddha were not all precise in meaning and that the Buddha himself said that certain sutras were indeterminate in meaning.

...

In general, it is considerations of a doctrinal type which enable a decision to be reached as to whether a sutra is precise in meaning or with a meaning to be determined. The Hinayana and Mahayana are in agreement in rejecting the belief in the self and proclaim the non-existence of the individual. However, we find texts in both vehicles in which the Buddha, in order to place himself within his listeners’ range, speaks of a soul, a living being, a man, an individual, and so on. Scholars consider such texts to be neyartha and requiring explanation, if not correction. Conversely, they regard as nithartha and literal the Hinayana texts in which there is a question of impermanence (anitya), suffering (dukkha), and impersonality (anatman) as well as Mahayana passages which deal with universal emptiness (sunyata).

...

The subjective nature of this criterion is immediately apparent and explains the frequent disagreement between scholars: each school tends to take literally the doctrinal texts which conform to its theses and to consider those which cause dilemmas as being of provisional meaning. These are some of the texts which have been disputed over:

...

The Vatsuputriyas, who believed in the existence of an ineffable pudgala, based their authority on the Bharaharasutra, in which it is said: “The bearer of the burden [of existence] is such-and-such a venerable one, with such-and-such a name, from such-and-such a family, such-and-such a clan, etc.,” and other similar sutras which they took literally. The other Buddhist schools, while not rejecting such texts, only accepted that they have a provisional meaning and are not authoritative; they resorted to sutras which are explicit in meaning and formally taught that, within that supposed pudgala, “there are merely things which are impermanent, conditioned, arisen from causes and conditions, and are created by action.”

...

The Treatise by Nagarjuna lists four points of view, only the last of which is absolute; the other three pertain to relative or conventional truth. The buddha did not restrict himself to exactness of wording when expressing himself: (1) From the worldly point of view, he often adopted the current idiom and did not hesitate to speak in terms of beings who die and go to be reborn in the five destinies; he extolled the role of the single person (ekapudgala) who is born into the world for the joy, happiness and benefit of the many. (2) From the personal point of view, the Buddha often tried to adapt his teaching to the intellectual and moral dispositions of his listeners. To those who did not believe in the afterlife {note from yiggy: its often assumed that conventional notions of literal rebirth were universally accepted by the Buddha’s contemporaries and that he too merely accepted the conventions of his time and this is not strictly true} but believed everything disappears at death, he discoursed on immortality and predicted a fruition in different universes; to Phalguna, who believed in the eternity of the self, he taught the nonexistence of a person as a thinking and fruition-incurring being. This might be said to be a contradiction; it is, however, not the least so but merely skillful means (upaya). (3) From the remedial point of view, the Buddha who is the healer of universal suffering varied the remedies according to the diseases to be cured; to the sensuous, he taught the contemplation of a decomposing corpse; to vindictive and hate-filled men, he recommended thoughts of goodwill regarding those close to one; to the deluded, he advised study on the subject of dependent origination. We should never forget that the omniscient Buddha is less a teacher of philosophy and more a healer of universal suffering: he imparts to every person the teaching which suits them best.

To summarize my thoughts on the excerpts in response to the thread discussion:

*Not accepting literal rebirth has almost no bearing on accepting the dharma and its insights on samsara and nirvana. Furthermore, that numerous luminaries from the history of Buddhism have noted that one should meditate on and attempt to approach the spirit of what the dharma is saying, and that an attachment to the literal interpretation is an impediment to insight and development along the path.

*Rather than merely being a hang up of westerners member to certain demographic categories, that this is a perennial concern going back thousands of years, which should give anyone comfortable in their own interpretations some measure of pause. Some Buddhists clung to notions of literal rebirth tenaciously, and it can be easy to understand why. The pudgalavadins needed an entity which carried the karma and merit from one birth to the next because that was in no small part the edifice which the entire monastic institution rested on. You don’t have lay Buddhists paying for donative inscriptions dedicating merit to certain individuals without that. You don’t have the development of viharas and later mahaviharas without that. And yet curiously you have large parts of the tradition reacting against just that. It’s a complex issue, and should be approached with nuance.

Yiggy fucked around with this message at 23:52 on Feb 18, 2020

Conskill
May 7, 2007

I got an 'F' in Geometry.


I was instructed in various strains of existential-phenomenology (a flavor of 20th century philosophy from the western continental school) during my education, and while I've been hesitant to draw parallels I'm curious if anyone with more insight would be willing to talk about the potential of parallels between the insights of people such as Sartre (particularly via his overly large book Being and Nothingness) and Levinas to Buddhism.

My bias here is I've been slowly engaging with Buddhism over the past few years and my limited understanding sends me right back to those thinkers as an intellectual touchstone, and I'm not sure if that is appropriate to cultivating a good grasp of the religion.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Conskill posted:

I was instructed in various strains of existential-phenomenology (a flavor of 20th century philosophy from the western continental school) during my education, and while I've been hesitant to draw parallels I'm curious if anyone with more insight would be willing to talk about the potential of parallels between the insights of people such as Sartre (particularly via his overly large book Being and Nothingness) and Levinas to Buddhism.

My bias here is I've been slowly engaging with Buddhism over the past few years and my limited understanding sends me right back to those thinkers as an intellectual touchstone, and I'm not sure if that is appropriate to cultivating a good grasp of the religion.

I think I quote or paraphrase Sartre or maybe Camus in one of the early posts in this thread. The general answer I give is that I think Sartre for example recognized and observed the same world and came to the same conclusions, but lacked the supportive framework of various meditations and spiritual practices and so on to come up with the solution. So he hit the first noble truth and accurately observed its reasons, and even the second noble truth, frankly.

Those are definitely touchstones for me in relating to Buddhism as well. I also think that having a good idea about phenomenology (if not a perfect understanding because I mean really now) goes a long way. I think it's particularly important to have a very firm understanding of the difference between a phenomenon and a noumenon and to understand distinctions between objects and phenomena and so on just to be able to navigate the language we use in discussing Buddhism. For many people I think they haven't considered that e.g. I'm not able to interact with a phone, only a mental representation of a phone that is based on some sensory inputs and provisionally labeled and so on and so on.

I'm not intimately familiar with Levinas but any existentialist treatment of the problem of the Other is of interest, and from a quick skim Levinas has good takes here. I fundamentally agree with the face to face being a good point to recognize both proximity and distance in the Other. In Buddhism, of course, we eventually determine that the Other is a false distinction, and this somewhat immediately resolves all anxieties from the Gaze and so forth.

In brief, I think existential philosophy acknowledges and recognizes and labels the problems that Buddhism seeks to solve. Sartre was so close, but didn't make it so far as offering a solution to the problems he observed. The transpersonal psychologist in me wants to make this about mind training and a lack of accessibility there but I don't necessarily think that's true. The causes and conditions weren't there for Sartre to solve the unsatisfactoriness, but he does a fantastic job of observing it and makes an admirable attempt at determining how we must go on despite it.

I think that you can use some of those ideas as touchstones but it would be best to relate them back to Buddhism or to see how they are addressed by Buddhism. I'm happy to talk about those things but here we need to get into the domain of examples.

I will also say I have tried talking about these things with my Lama and unfortunately without a pretty robust background in Western philosophy there is often trouble with that.





And I just want to take a minute to thank Yiggy for another fantastic post and another reminder of why HH Drukpa R is always saying that any dogma is a trap, even Buddhist dogma. Thanks!

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

I still can't believe they cast Spock as me. Spock! Can you imagine?

Of course, he was missing a few things.



Yiggy posted:

*Rather than merely being a hang up of westerners member to certain demographic categories, that this is a perennial concern going back thousands of years, which should give anyone comfortable in their own interpretations some measure of pause. Some Buddhists clung to notions of literal rebirth tenaciously, and it can be easy to understand why. The pudgalavadins needed an entity which carried the karma and merit from one birth to the next because that was in no small part the edifice which the entire monastic institution rested on. You don’t have lay Buddhists paying for donative inscriptions dedicating merit to certain individuals without that. You don’t have the development of viharas and later mahaviharas without that. And yet curiously you have large parts of the tradition reacting against just that. It’s a complex issue, and should be approached with nuance.
This was enlightening, thank you for sharing.

Rebirth is one of those things where it just made total sense to me, so it has sometimes been frustrating to see that it is such a major stumbling block for people in my general nation/culture/population. A lot of this is probably that my dad was a big old acid head and the first religious-adjacent memory I have was him teaching me how the I Ching worked.

glickeroo
Nov 2, 2004



Paramemetic posted:

I'm of course a bit dubious when Westerners define enlightenment in essentially trivial terms like "it's just being fully mindful," because I think that previous Buddhas would have done so if it were the case. On the one hand, historical figures I regard as enlightened are saying "nah, it's not really something you can explain just like that, it's more of a 'just so' than a 'like this'," and then on the other hand we have people saying "oh it's just basically flow state, actually, if you remove the superstitions!" As I mentioned, I'm not terribly familiar with Batchelor's work, but that's certainly the gist of, for example, Sam Harris' work; and hell, though he doesn't claim to be Buddhist we've got Ken Wilber running around claiming to be so fully enlightened nobody in history can compare.

"There are so many who take the dawn for the noon, a momentary experience for full realization and destroy even the little they gain by the excess of pride" - Nisargadatta Maharaj

In this experience the stories that appear during meditation/samadhi can be so beautiful/powerful/clear that it's very easy for one's attention to be drawn to them and allow a mind/ego/false-self to coalesce around them. The ego wants nothing more than to be the "separate" god. However enlightenment isn't something that can be claimed or owned. It just IS. There isn't any ownership or agency or 'I' left to claim anything. No additions.

Thirteen Orphans
Dec 2, 2012

The principles expressed in the martial arts make up the backbone of my philosophy.

How do Tibetan Buddhists treat dreams? Are dreams containing deities, Buddhas, and other spiritual beings considered sacred or extra important? Also, how ubiquitous is dream yoga in Tibetan Buddhism and who practices it?

Goldreallas XXX
Oct 22, 2009


Thirteen Orphans posted:

How do Tibetan Buddhists treat dreams? Are dreams containing deities, Buddhas, and other spiritual beings considered sacred or extra important? Also, how ubiquitous is dream yoga in Tibetan Buddhism and who practices it?

Dreams are important in Tibetan buddhism. They are a valuable insight into the mind, and the effects of practice can most often be first identified in dreams. Sometimes a lama will instruct a student to perform a practice until signs of accomplishment will occur. What these signs are will vary depending upon the practice, but sometimes involve dreams of particular things, like holding a ball, climbing a mountain, seeing a fire, etc. (these are examples, I'm not going to get too specific on things bound by samaya). Lamas will often also interpret dreams to identify their significance to a practitioner. Often dreams about dying or being eaten by monsters are really auspicious! The relative significance of dreams will vary depending on the practice and the lama teaching the student.

Some manuals on the Preliminary Practices talk about practices while one is falling asleep. These are quite similar to the WILD technique used in lucid dreaming, however dream yoga itself is a little different. It is one of the six yogas of Naropa, which also includes Tummo (Inner fire) and Phowa (consciousness transference). These are practices of the completion stage of Tantra, and are generally begun when the practitioner has already done quite a lot of the preliminary practices and has a really deep understanding of buddhist tantra. In Karma Kagyu you'd traditionally begin working on this about two and a half years into your three year retreat (did I not mention this was for the hardcore?). These kind of practices necessitate a deep, close connection with a teacher who would first empower you into the appropriate mandala (I think Vajrayogini, that's the case in Taklung Kagyu anyway), direct you to complete the necessary preliminaries for that mandala, instruct you in the main practice, and answer the questions that emerge during the practice. A lot of this instruction will be tailored specifically to the student's circumstances, so books would be of very limited utility.

Basically, Tibetan buddhists practicing dream yoga are generally going to be veterans of multiple long retreats, who have at least completed ngondro and various other generation stage practices. Of course, each lama is different and some may introduce students to dream yoga immediately, but I've never heard of any.

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Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Thirteen Orphans posted:

How do Tibetan Buddhists treat dreams? Are dreams containing deities, Buddhas, and other spiritual beings considered sacred or extra important? Also, how ubiquitous is dream yoga in Tibetan Buddhism and who practices it?

Dreams are seen as reflections of the mind without a physical body, and so dream content reflects our karmic dispositions. There are specific dream yogas (called mi-lam "dream path" or nyi-lam "sleep path") in both the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions. I'm not an initiate of the practice in particular so this will only be sort of vague and academic.

In both cases, the general process is to first recognize that one is dreaming while one is dreaming. This is done through exercises where one tests the dream content until they recognize that it is a dream. This is of course very difficult, because while we're dreaming we are subsumed by the mentally-generated imagery. Next one starts to transform the dream and change its content. At this point, the student should begin contemplating the nature of dreams and of reality, and how both are illusory and insubstantial, without any essential, inherent characteristics at all. When one has gained mastery over the dream, one can begin to recognize that one's own body is also illusory and insubstantial without inherent reality in both the dream and waking states. At this point, one can merge the practice into one's clear light practices of Dzogchen or Mahamudra.

The core understanding is that dream content is illusory, just like real life - the perceived, phenomenal world lacks any inherent substance or actual reality, regardless of whether or not one is in a dream.

For this reason, Buddhas, dakinis, or other spiritual beings would be considered auspicious to appear in a dream, but more important would be if there was some kind of spiritual benefit from that. For example, if in real life there is a very nice statue of a Buddha, then that's wonderful. If that statue gives some kind of profound spiritual instruction, then that's truly amazing. So, similarly, if you see a Buddha in a dream, then that's really good! Your mind is naturally going to the Buddha, even while sleeping, so this is great. If that Buddha gives you some teaching and that teaching is actually useful and accords with the Dharma, then that's truly great.

Most practitioners who are practicing really devotedly will have dreams where they are practicing. For a while when I was doing Vajrasattva practice, for example, I would find myself practicing the mantra, sitting on high mountains and so on, while dreaming, and even as I woke and drifted in the liminal state I would be reciting the mantra. What this indicates is that the mantra is really working, it's leaving an impression on the mind and forming strong habits of practicing Dharma, and that's a really good thing. It doesn't make me in any way a special being, but it does mean the practice is working in that it's creating a habit of thinking about and doing Dharma things. It's the same if someone dreams about a Buddha - it indicates their mind is really being drawn to the Dharma through some karmic force, which is very good, and if they're practicing, it indicates that that practice is "working" in that it's shaping mental habits of thinking about and seeing Buddhas and so on.

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