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Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

As with all of us, the Buddhism thread passes through a cycle of birth, sickness, aging, and dying. The old thread having aged, I was asked to look towards its future life.

This is a thread about Buddhism.



Okay, I’ve heard of Buddhism and played Sekiro, but want to know more. What’s this all about?

Buddhism is a religion or group of religions focused on following the teachings of a historical man, Siddhartha Gautama, titled “Buddha,” or “awakened one.” The historical Buddha was a prince of the Sakya clan who renounced his family’s throne and went off in pursuit of living a religious life. There are a couple different takes on all this stuff. The consensus amalgamation of the story is this:

The Buddha was born to the King of the Sakyas. As was the standard for rich dudes, he had his astrology done up, and the astrology indicated that he would either become a world-ruling king, or a religious man. His father wanted him to become a world-ruling king, what king wouldn’t? So he kept Siddhartha in a palace where he was shielded from knowledge of suffering entirely. Siddhartha grew up though, and over time came to realize that poo poo sucked outside the palace. He asked his attendant to take him out of the palace over a series of nights, where he witnessed people sick, aging, and dying. This shook him up, so he abandoned his family and kingdom and all his possessions and went off in pursuit of a solution to suffering.

He studied a number of different meditative practices that were popular at the time, mastering each one quickly. However, all of them offered only a temporary cessation to suffering. This not being the goal, he moved on. Eventually, he became an ascetic, practicing self-mortification. He collapsed one day, but was given rice pudding by a local girl. At first he was upset because he had broken his fast, but then as his brain stopped being starved mush, he realized that in fact, not starving to death is good, actually.
He recognized at this point the Middle Way, as well as the causes of suffering, and, powered by the pudding, meditated for 40 days under a Bodhi tree until he achieved perfect enlightenment. He then decided to gently caress off forever, but a bunch of gods begged him and he decided to teach the Dharma.

Okay, so what’s the Dharma?

Boy, what a can of worms. There are a couple different schools of Buddhism. The main schools are the Mahayana, the Vajrayana, and the Theravada.

Theravada is a restoration movement that seeks to return to the original Buddha’s practices, but in so doing strips out a bunch of stuff that was almost certainly part of the historical Buddha’s practices. It is regarded by Mahayana as the “Hinayana,” or “inferior vehicle,” but it is the basis of all Buddhism. Its goal is liberation of the self – that is, attaining enlightenment for oneself, rather than for others.

This is contrasted with Mahayana, the “great vehicle,” which seeks to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings. Mahayana practitioners vow not to achieve final enlightenment until all beings can do so, and so they stick around as bodhisattvas. They also have a more advanced definition of what constitutes a Buddha, with like, ranks and levels and stuff. Don’t worry about that too much!

The Vajrayana is a flavor of Mahayana that uses expedient means (read, sorcery and wizard poo poo) to attain enlightenment very rapidly, in order to better serve the goal of attaining enlightenment for all sentient beings. It uses the method of yogatantra to manifest oneself as having the Buddha qualities and so on.

The thing is, all schools of Buddhism necessarily include what the Buddha taught, which boils down to the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path.

What is the Dharma, Part 2, In Which I Answer the Question

The Four Noble Truths are based on observations the Buddha made. They are not divine mandates or some kind of royal decree, but rather simple observations that we ourselves can make. They are as follows:

1) The Truth of Suffering: All existence is characterized by suffering. All compounded phenomena are impermanent. There are no uncompounded phenomena. Thus, all experience is suffering. There are three kinds of suffering: overt suffering, like hunger, pain, horniness, and so on; the suffering of change, where things we like turn into things we don’t like; and the all-pervasive suffering of conditioned existence, where even where we’re not suffering one of the other two sufferings, our very existence is creating circumstances that will result in suffering.
2) The Truth of the Cause of Suffering: Suffering is a characteristic of phenomena but it is not the nature of phenomena. All phenomena by nature are empty and without essence. Thus, suffering is not an inherent property of phenomena. Instead, it originates with the experiencer of phenomena. Specifically, suffering come from ignorance, attachment, grasping, and aversion. Suffering occurs when we want something that is not the case to be the case (grasping), when we want something that is the case to not be the case (aversion), or when we want something that is the case to remain the case (attachment). We do those things (grasp, attach, fear) when we think that phenomena are real, or when we are ignorant to the nature of phenomena as inherently empty*.
3) The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering: because suffering comes from a discernable cause, suffering can be ended.
4) The Truth of the Path of the Cessation of Suffering: because suffering can be ended, there is a method to ending that suffering. That method is the Noble Eightfold Path.

*I’m a Vajrayana practitioner, and Mahayana and Vajrayana go hard on this “emptiness” thing. You won’t find as much talk about it in Theravadan texts. Don’t sweat it, Buddhism is vast and understanding emptiness is simultaneously the most and least important thing!

The Noble Eightfold Path is a path and set of practices that, if practiced, inevitably leads us to liberation. The Noble Eightfold Path is divided into three components: moral conduct, mental activity, and wisdom or insight.

1) Right view: samsara sucks, everything is suffering, this is bullshit
2) Right resolve: gently caress it, I want to attain enlightenment to end suffering for (myself|sentient beings)
3) Right speech: don’t talk poo poo, don’t get hit.
4) Right action: don’t do things that cause overt suffering. Do do things that don't cause overt suffering.
5) Right livelihood: there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism, but that doesn’t mean you should sell people vices.
6) Right effort: you should work diligently towards attaining enlightenment.
7) Right mindfulness: you should be focused now, on the present moment, and not on non-real realities like the past or future.
8) Right concentration: you should meditate on some poo poo, but the right way, don’t meditate with the goal of cultivating bullshit miracle powers.

The path is pretty straightforward. It both begins and ends with right view and right resolve. You begin with the insight of the four noble truths, which creates the motivation to do the stuff. You do the stuff, and this leads to a greater insight into the nature of existence and the nature of mind. This insight creates a strong motivation towards liberation, and so you do more stuff… and on and on.

It’s a process, a path, and you walk that path. Eventually you’re liberated and, poo poo, that’s great.

But what about those Zen guys?

It’s a flavor of Mahayana that is solves some problems experienced in feudal Japan. The thing about the Dharma is it’s not really culturally bound. Buddha very specifically told people to adapt Dharma to the local cultures so that people could meet with it and engage with it. After all, the goal here is for beings to attain liberation. That will never happen if they bounce off it hard because you’re telling them all their poo poo is wrong.

I will use Tibet as an example. The Tibetan people characterize themselves as “difficult to tame.” They were an empire of horse raiders and warlords. That’s why Tibetans really like their deities and bodhisattvas to be extreme badasses.


Sup everyone, just chilling here on this cadaver practicing my path of peace and compassion towards suffering beings here, with my flaming sword and belt of human heads, as one does.

Zen happens to meet a need in Japan for a Buddhism that was not completely controlled by the imperial class and full of esoteric ritual Vajrayana stuff. A Buddhism that people can do. You see this historically several times, where you have strong returns to “okay but what if we could actually practice Buddhism without becoming a monk?”

In India, becoming a monk even today is pretty easy because there is a culture built around giving to monks. In China this is also the case, there is a whole “merit market” and the wealthy will patronize religious people simply to gain merits. This is not so much the case in feudal Japan or in modern America. So, what to do?

If you’re a Theravadan, what to do is try to live your best life following the five lay precepts in hopes that you can be reborn as a person who can become a monk, and then after you do that a couple hundred times hopefully you can become an arhat.

For Mahayana people, it’s to do that thing but also aspire to become a bodhisattva so you can help others in future lifetimes. Sometimes this includes trying to be reborn in the pure land (heaven, basically?) of a Buddha (usually Amitabha) so you can learn the Dharma without all the distraction of *points to everything, all around*.

For Vajrayana practitioner, you meditate yourself as a deity by recognizing that you’re inseparable by nature from that deity anyhow, reconceive of your body as being 108 peaceful and wrathful deities, and power-level yourself as a bodhisattva using magic.

What’s that about precepts? Are those like commandments?

Nah, Buddhists don’t do commandments, that is very unchill. Precepts are practices that you should do because they will help you cultivate right view and also they are right action and right speech in themselves. There are five lay precepts, but the vast majority of Buddhist practitioners around the world don’t take all five precepts on initially.

1) Don’t kill. Everyone fears death and nobody wants to die, so if you kill people you cause overt suffering. This overt suffering increases the net suffering in the world, and we don’t want to do that.
2) Don’t steal. People are ignorant and have attachment to their things. When we take things that are not given to us freely, we cause people suffering. Because we’re Buddhists, we should not have attachment to things, so what purpose could this possibly serve?
3) Horny is prohibited (avoid sexual misconduct). Our bodies are composited things and so they are impermanent. Banging is just a transient sense pleasure, and so doing a lot of it doesn’t actually accomplish anything. But I mean, do you. What you shouldn’t do is gently caress around on your spouse or do rapes or so on for reasons that should be obvious.
4) Don’t lie. Lying to people prevents them from having right mindfulness. If we lie to others then we prevent them from being able to engage with the world as it actually is. If we lie to ourselves, that’s even more stupid. Don’t lie or be in the habit of lying.
5) Avoid intoxicants that cause heedlessness. Take your drat meds, but don’t drink or do drugs that cause you to disengage from the world in ways that prevent your right mindfulness. When you’re drunk, you might feel better temporarily, but you aren’t engaging with the real actual world. Because you will always return to the real world, there’s no point in trying to hide from that.

Most people world-over practice 1, 2, and 3. The precepts are guidelines that we should try to follow, not commandments. The accountability is to ourselves, and is based on karma – cause and effect.

Wait, karma is a Buddhist thing? Threefold law is some bullshit!!!

Yeah man, threefold law is some bullshit, and has nothing to do with Buddhism. Karma means “action” and is related to cause and effect. That is, when you do an action, there is a result. When you throw an apple into the air, it will definitely fall. When you kill someone, they will definitely die. Karma is not a system of arbitration, it’s not a system of “justice.” Justice is a thing for us to figure out, not a thing of Buddhism. When a wolf eats a deer, is that justice? The deer doesn’t think so! So let’s not worry about justice, and instead deal with what actually happens: when a wolf eats a deer, the deer suffers. The wolf causes suffering and by this action creates karmas of suffering. When the wolf dies, it bears responsibility for those actions. As it nears death, it recognizes that it is not different from deer, and that it is dying. It becomes fearful. From this fear, out of infinite generations of habitual tendency, the wolf is reborn in a lovely place.

What we habituate is what we will do.

When we habituate peacefulness, meditation, calm, happiness, and so on, when we engage with these mental activities, then when we are dying or being murdered or going hungry or so on, we will still feel those emotions. We will not be driven to have lovely experiences.

If we’re a killer, or a liar, or a thief, then when we die we will feel fear, or we will self-delude, or we will grasp after our possessions.

The precepts are about cultivating good mental behaviors because whatever habits we create are what we’re going to fall back on in moments of hardship or at pivotal times such as when we’re gonna die.

There are a lot of different interpretations on karma. Tibetan Buddhists have this whole 40 day thing when you die and your consciousness breaks down into its component pieces and you hallucinate and become an unbounded consciousness then gently caress around for a while before being reborn when the white and red energies merge and blah blah blah gently caress it.

Don’t worry about that stuff when you’re starting.

Think about your habits. When you put on your shoes, what foot do you start with? When you brush your teeth, what hand do you use? You can put the other shoe on first, you can use your other hand to brush your teeth, but if you do it without thinking, you will follow your force of habit. That’s karma. Compound that over many countless lifetimes with regards to “thinking phenomena are real” and you can see what we’re dealing with.

Following the precepts is deliberately reworking our brains/minds to change our habits so that instead of seeing a spider and going “oh god gently caress” and smashing it to death (causing the spider suffering and forcing it to be reborn), we go “oh, word, a fellow suffering being” and then we feel compassion. When we habituate feeling compassion, we create the conditions in which we will experience compassion. No woo required.

Causes and Conditions

The other part of karma is that nothing happens without a precipitating cause as well as appropriate conditions. If you throw an apple seed on the ground, whether or not you get a tree depends on conditions of where it lands. If it lands on rocks, no dice. If it lands on soil, then okay, maybe. If it lands on soil and has water and sunlight, yes! Not only will you get an apple tree if you throw it in soil with water and sunlight, you cannot get anything else. It is impossible that you’ll get an orange tree. It’s impossible that you’ll get pears. Bananas are right out.

If the causes and conditions are there, then you will get the fruit. You already have the conditions of suffering (a composited existence), so if you create causes of suffering, you’ll suffer. By following the precepts, we create causes of not-suffering. If you practice the Dharma, it is impossible that you get anything but the cessation of suffering.
Meditation is part of this. Meditation in Tibetan is “gom gyap,” which means “to press a habit.” You’re just trying to form a habit of thinking about the present moment rather than thinking about non-real realities. Rather than worrying about tomorrow or imagining worst case scenarios or other things we habitually love to do, you are working to be present in the current moment.

We’re just cultivating causes and conditions. Those causes and conditions reduce suffering. It’s a very straightforward system that gets buried in a lot of woo sometimes. I think the most important thing about approaching Buddhism is not getting lost in the woo and staying very focused on the basic ideas of cause and effect, that our mental habits characterize our mental environment, and that if we reduce suffering through our actions, net suffering is reduced, without any need for esoteric systems of justice or retribution.
I’ll probably add some more to this and probably have another post after this one that I’ll put links in and such. I am very fortunate to be part of a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, but because of that I’m not super familiar with a lot of resources outside my lineage, so I will rely on other posters to post their recommendations of materials.

I'll also probably post my hot takes on topics that have popped up lately that I have words about. I'm just a person who has been fortunate to have good teachers, though, so don't worry about me if you think my hot takes are bad, that is okay.

Why the gently caress am I getting reborn all the goddamn time

This process is called the "12 links of interdependent origination," and it goes like this:

1) We're ignorant to the actual nature of reality and consider ourselves to be a "self" rather than recognizing ourself to be an aggregation of properties (called "skandhas," which are form, sensation, perception, mental formation, and consciousness, more in a bit), so we
2) create mental formations generating cause and effect, and this leads to
3) Consciousness, called impelling consciousness (an impulse towards existence), leading to
4) Name-And-Form, the formation of those five skandhas, creating a body and consciousness that considers itself a self, in which
5) the six consciousnesses arise, because our name-and-form has sense organs.
6) Contact occurs between object and organ. Sense objects meet sense organs, leading to
7) Sensation, whichs lead to sense-consciousness-arising-events, i.e., an image hits the eye and the eye generates a consciousness-moment that is "seeing", for all senses plus the meta-cognitive thought that identifies those consciousness-events. So, we see a turtle, the light hits the eye, an event happens, and then we think "that is a turtle" and replace the sense-turtle with the thought-turtle in our mental representation.
8) Craving occurs because we now have thought-objects, which includes the imputed characteristics of things we like and don't like.
9) This leads to grasping, because we strive to never be apart from things we like, and never be with things we don't like.
10) Grasping leads to Becoming, because our actions in seeking out the objects of our grasping leads to our creating karma - we create causes and receive effects, and this process is becoming.
11) Through the power of becoming, we continually experience rebirth any time the causes and conditions are met.
12) Because anything that is born is composited by nature, we must experience aging, sickness, and dying. If we do not resolve the root of ignorance, these last two processes loop eternally.

If, however, we resolve ignorance, then it's like cutting a tree at the roots.

Paramemetic fucked around with this message at 23:29 on Feb 16, 2020

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Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

A reserved post that I will probably use.

How to Learn More

The first thing I would recommend is posting in this thread. This thread has a host of brilliant minds from many traditions and from all stages and parts of the many paths. The Buddha taught that we should take refuge in the community of followers. Instructions from high Lamas are wonderful things, but not everyone has the karma for this right away. We all have the karma to post in this thread. Please ask questions and make comments and discuss the Dharma.

Second, because I'm the OP and get to post what I like, I strongly recommend Walking an Uncommon Path by His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa Jigmed Padme Wangchen. It is not an academic text on Buddhism. It could probably be argued that it's not really a book about Buddhism at all - His Holiness spends an awful lot of time calling out dogmatism of all flavors. It is, however, an incredibly insightful and direct call to practice a form of spirituality that leads one to enlightenment. His Holiness in particular is well educated and has received all of the teachings and so on, but prefers the practice of compassion over high empowerments. There are no Drukpa centers in the US. When he visits, he does things like visit Baltimore after the Freddie Gray riots to offer support for protesters.

If you want an academic discourse, and I mean some real meaty poo poo, like ridiculously dense commentary, I recommend The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, which is Gampopa's treatise on the entire path, with commentary and translation by His Eminence Khenchen Rinpoche from the Drikung Kagyu lineage. I do not recommend this as a "first introduction" to Buddhism, however. It's super dense and spends most of its time talking about incredibly deep doctrines which are overwhelming and distracting.

Okay, having abused my privilege as OP, please look to these well curated lists of resources by some of the fantastic thread regulars.

Nude Hoxha Cameo posted:

Ok here are a few starter links for Soto Zen.

What is (Japanese Soto) zen / zazen:
Dogen’s (the founder’s) description of the practice (Fukanzazenji):
https://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/practice/zazen/advice/fukanzanzeng.html
Dogen’s Zen FAQ (Bendowa):
https://www.wwzc.org/sites/default/files/Bendowa-book.pdf

How to do zazen (Soto-shu):
https://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/library/leaflet/practice/pdf/practice_of_zazen.pdf

Genjokoan (The Koan of the Present Moment; or Actualizing the Fundamental Point)
http://thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/GenjoKoan_Aitken.htm

The Shobogenzo (more Zen, by far, than you ever wanted to know):
Vol 1: http://thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/GenjoKoan_Aitken.htm
Vol 2: http://thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/Shobogenzo_2_NC.pdf
Vol 3: http://thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/Shobogenzo-3_NC.pdf
Vol 4: http://thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/Shobogenzo_4_NC.pdf

For general reference on Buddhism, there's also
What the Buddha Taught:
http://www.dhammaweb.net/books/Dr_Walpola_Rahula_What_the_Buddha_Taught.pdf

And as to Mahayana
Mahayana Buddhism, the Doctrinal Foundations:
https://www.amazon.com/Mahayana-Buddhism-Doctrinal-Foundations-Religious/dp/0415356539

Goldreallas XXX posted:

Here's some links that I find myself using a lot. Many of these are particularly focused on the Tibetan traditions, but there's some other stuff in there too:

84000 - An effort to translate the Tibetan Buddhist canon into modern languages. To illustrate Paramemetic's point about the vastness of the teachings, they're estimating it'll take them 25 years to just get the main sutras and shastras (commentaries) translated.

Sutta Central - A huge collection of texts from all buddhist schools, although it primarily focuses on texts from the Pali Canon.

Access to Insight - A selection of readings from the Pali Canon..

Lotsawa House - A growing collection of translations of texts from the Tibetan tradition.

Lhasey Lotsawa - Another collection of texts from the Tibetan Tradition. This one is overseen by my guru Phakchok Rinpoche, and emphasizes treasure texts revealed by the Terton Chogyur Lingpa and the Seventh Riwoche Jedrung Jampa Trinle Junge.

A Treasury of Lives - An (almost) exhaustive list of Tibetan Buddhist religious figures from Padmasambhava on down. Seriously there are some deep cuts in there.

Himalayan Art Resources - Tibetan Buddhism makes great use of iconography and art as a meditative tool. This is a great resource to identify which heruka you are looking at.

Madyamaka - A website offering an introduction to Madyamaka philosophy (or at least how its traditionally presented in Tibetan traditions). There's a reading list and a 8 week study program easing you into the key text of Chandrakirti's Madhyamakavatara.

More of a Rant than Reference List

One problem of Buddhism is that there are 84,000 paths to enlightenment, for every conceivable person, because we all have our own unique karmas, causes, and conditions that we must work with. Over 2500 years of bored monks thinking about profound philosophy thoughts has led to a ton of deep and extremely profound philosophical literature. However, when we approach to the Dharma we think that when someone tells us "just practice mindfulness and focus on the noble eightfold path" that they are condescending or brushing us off. After all, they are saying that while sitting in front of 50,000 pages of canon.

The thing is, they're absolutely right. The philosophical stuff is to satiate the minds of bored monks. It's not necessary to the path, if it were, Buddha would have taught it! It's absolutely fine to get deep, I mean deep into this poo poo. I went and learned a whole language and so on to be able to get to the stuff that isn't in English yet and so on. But it's not necessary. I think we can learn a lot from the Christian saint Thomas Aquinas, who, after a lifetime of theological study and writing many books (it was said he'd often have as many as 12 scribes taking dictation of different books at the same time), said "all that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me."

You can get deep into the philosophy, but the profound practice is the one that you need right then. Getting deep into the doctrine of the fundamental treatise of the middle way is a distraction if you aren't cultivating compassion. It's like if you're looking for a particular flower in a field but spend your time studying every blade of grass because there's more of it. There is more grass, but you're looking for a flower! You'll find the flower if you study the grass, but why not get the flower and then enjoy the grass after? Or something, I'm not a brain genius of metaphors.

Anyhow, I recommend getting a basic practice of compassion and generosity and meditation and then see where the poo poo takes you, rather than trying to find The Buddhism For You. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, either. Don't think you shouldn't meditate because you don't have a cushion or an hour or whatever. Meditate for 30 seconds in your car before you go in to work. Don't think you can't make offerings to Buddha because you don't have 7 metal bowls and a statue. Print out a picture or hell, draw a stick figure and label it "Buddha" then pour a cup of water or light a candle or whatever you can do.

The point is, Buddhism as a lifestyle is what gets you enlightenment, not Buddhism as a philosophy or a religion or whatever the flavor of the month is in the academic circles.

Okay, right, poo poo, I'm rambling again. Other posters, please post resources so I can flesh this out.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

A reserved post that I'm less likely to use.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Chinook posted:

Thank you for the awesome post/thread. I like your distilled definitions of the Eightfold Path.

Thanks. I owe much to the previous thread in terms of practice talking about Dharma. I also owe much to my teachers, who have never discouraged me, even when I am getting owned to my bones by my Lama, who never pulls a punch in pointing out areas where I can improve.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Josef bugman posted:

How do some sects of Buddhism feel about suicide?

I know that certain groups consider it okay (the famous picture of the monk on fire being one of the most lasting images of the 20th century) but does the "having no fear of death" or perhaps the longing for oblivion have anything written about?

It's bad, folks.

So, the thing about it is that Buddhists are totally down with death. We're all gonna do it and being afraid of it is dumb. However, a human life is a precious thing. Not innately. Lmao, god no. Human bodies are gross, and make disgusting things. When you take delicious food and put it in your mouth, then take it out of your mouth, we say the food is dirty. When you spit on the dirt, we say we made the dirt dirty. When you die, people will pay a lot of money to get rid of your body. Nobody wants to keep it around! The body is not precious.

The human life is precious, because the human life has the opportunity to practice Dharma and make strides towards enlightenment. In this way, it's more precious than a deer's life, because a deer does not have a lot of time or onus to practice Dharma. A deer still has a Buddha Nature and its life is no less valuable than a person's.

To bring it back to causes and conditions, a deer has the cause of enlightenment because it has a Buddha Nature, but it lacks the conditions to practice Dharma. A human life has the causes of liberation but also the conditions to practice.

So, instead of killing yourself, it's much better to just practice Dharma. If your poo poo sucks completely, at least you can help others. Your poo poo won't get improved by killing yourself, because you will cause suffering to others (your parents, or even if everyone hates you, someone will have to clean up the mess your body makes and will be suffering), and you may not be reborn as a person, but instead as a fuckin' weasel, or something, so nothing gets better from dying. But, while you're alive, you can do things to make other people's lives better.

On top of that, if you have the desire to kill yourself, it's because you want to escape from suffering. But Buddhists know the causes of suffering, and those causes are not how lovely our lives are, right? Our lives are lovely, perhaps unbearably so, but rather than kill ourselves, we should try to use that recognition of suffering to practice mind training.

We're going to die inevitably, so killing yourself is a completely futile act that accomplishes nothing at all. Instead, just meditate, just serve others. You'll be miserable, but if you can make others less miserable, then that's good.

Clinical depression is a real rear end thing of course and can make it very difficult to see these things. It's unfortunate when a human life is lost to depression, it's tragic that suffering like that exists. So as Buddhists we' also have to support people with depression and try to help them by easing their suffering.

A human life is a precious human life when it has the opportunity to practice Dharma, also, which is why a middle class lifestyle is considered ideal for Buddhists - if you're so poor that you have to spend all your time trying just to stay alive, this is unfortunate, because you have no opportunity to practice Dharma; but similarly, if you're so rich that you can't recognize the unsatisfactory nature of your existence, because you can just throw money at every problem, then you'll never recognize your suffering as being something coming from you, and you won't meet that first noble truth. Instead, you'll think that every suffering is just a problem you haven't solved (it is, but not like that).

So basically, don't do a suicide, do see doctors and take your meds, do practice mindfulness, don't judge others who are struggling, but rather take advantage of every opportunity you have to practice Dharma.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Also, because it often comes up, there is a general consensus across all schools that some people should not meditate. This has become a problem since the West has embraced mindfulness as the magic bullet to solve the problem of everyone being miserable under capitalism. People with very bad anxiety and depression should generally not meditate. Meditation involves engaging with your mind very directly, and people with anxiety and depression can often end up reinforcing those depression thoughts or anxiety thoughts rather than ameliorating them. Some people can meditate mindfully and recognize that their depression or anxiety has no basis and that those thoughts are just transient things, but usually only people who have good karma for meditation (we'd say from past lives of practice, but who cares about that) can meditate away a depression. Most people end up just seeing the depression thoughts and habituating them more strongly because they get very distracted by the self-loathing and can't quite get to the root of the thought, or hell, some will even get worse ("I can't believe I can't see the nature of my mind! I'm so loving stupid and useless).

So don't meditate if you have a depression unless you have a good teacher who can tell you when to stop. For Tibetan Buddhists if there is major discouragement like that we generally recommend doing purification practices and focusing on ritual-y stuff rather than doing a lot of meditation if you are prone to those kinds of things; focusing on concrete stuff and not spending so much time "in one's head."

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Blendy posted:

I just wanted to add to the discussion that secular schools of Buddhism also exist, Buddhism is not strictly a religion. The Buddha himself was not concerned with the religions of his time and taught everyone willing to learning, telling them there is no conflict between belong to any religion while also following Buddism. Most of the mythical religious aspects of Buddism came about as Buddhists melded local religions and shamanism into their belief system to attract more followers, for example, Tibetian Buddism is a fusion of Buddist teaching and the Bon religion. Or it picked up those aspects to supplement instead of competing with local views such as in Japan where Shinto did not deal a lot with death rites so Buddhists were like "we got you" and today weddings in Japan (if tradition non-Chrisitan) is Shinto and funerals (non-christian) are Buddhists. For those interested in the philosophy but are not interested in converting or are simply not interested in the religious aspects of various schools, there is still a ton that Buddism can offer you. Here's a link to the Secular Buddist Association: https://secularbuddhism.org/ for a simple summation I also like to recommend the book Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor.

Edit:

I wanted to add one of my favorite Buddist anecdotes about the nature of compassion in Buddism that always made me laugh. A Buddhist monk and a young child who is a ward of the temple are out for a walk. It's a long walk and eventually, the child has to urinate. So the child starts to leave the road to go behind a tree. The monk asks the child, "what are you doing?' and the child replies 'I am going to pee, I need to pee.' The monk gets upset and tells the child 'You can not pee on that tree, the tree has Buddha's nature you cannot foul it.' The child obeys and they continue their rock. The child then spots a stream and begins to dash off to pee in it. The monk again stops the child, explaining the stream also has the Buddha's nature so he can not foul the stream. So again they begin their walk until the child spots a mound of rocks and again dashes off clearly in pain. Again the monk stops and scolds him explaining that the rocks, and the grass, the dirt, and all of nature have the Buddha's nature and cannot be spoiled. So the child walks over and pees on the monk.

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.

That said, there's nothing wrong with taking a Western materialist approach to Buddhism - it is functional without any kind of esotericism at all. It tends to look different and there is often a kind of inherent academic snobbery or cultural imperialism built into it, especially as it floats around the Western academic community. "Ah, you see, the Buddha never taught about spirits existing or nagas or gods, this is just those superstitious Tibetans mixing Good Pure Scientific Positivist Buddhism with their dumb animist superstitions~~~" is an unfortunately not uncommon sentiment from the "Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion" crowd.

You even see this within academic scholarship about Tibetan Buddhism. There's a practice called "chod" in Tibetan Buddhism, "cutting," where you offer yourself as a sacrifice to all the sentient beings, visualizing yourself being chopped to pieces and vivisected and boiled down into a big pot that is used to serve all the hell beings and demons and so on. In one of these practices, in the text, there's the phrase "project the consciousness to the space in front of and above the body, and observe the body." And the word is "phowa," which means "projection." It doesn't mean "visualize your body." It doesn't mean "imagine yourself floating..." Tibetans have words for these things! It says project!

I asked Rinpoche, "does this mean project or does it mean to kind of visualize," and he said "why would you visualize it? Send your consciousness there!*" But then you have the academic crowd going "ah, it's just imagination and psychodrama, the Tibetans didn't really believe in this" because the academic consensus can't synthesize the dialectic between "Tibetans are really wise" and "Tibetans aren't scientific materialists."

* In the basic instructions on calm-abiding meditation with a reference object, it says that you should rest the mind on the object, without any analysis or visualization. In the West a lot of the time we translate that to "hold the object in your mind," which is a big problem! When you rest the mind on the object, you're recognizing the non-spatial nature of the mind as a thing that is not located in space, but moves around. Our Western conception of the mind tends to put it in a place, usually in our head. When we "hold an object in our mind," we are limiting the mind and so actually obscuring its nature (i.e., the mind is something that can hold things, the mind is a place, the mind has properties). When we "rest the mind on an object," we still limit it ("the mind is something that can rest on things") but there is a nuance there. Another problem is that when we "hold the object in our mind" this is a mental activity, it's not resting, it's holding. Calm abiding is just resting the mind, if you're imagining or visualizing or so on the object, you're not just resting it. Finally, part of the exercise is recognizing that the body is not "you" and "you" are not the body and even within this perceptual field of phenomena the distinction between "self" and "other" is completely arbitrary. When "I" see "a pebble," the event that's happening is a pebble eye-consciousness activity is arising, and then a thought-consciousness activity of naming is occurring, and neither of those events happen anywhere in space, they just occur.

So all of those words just to basically say, "be careful about placing Buddhism within a strict framework of scientific positivism because that's just another mental trap." It turns out the framework that's best for building spaceships and splitting atoms is actually kinda garbage for figuring out the nature of mind or the qualia of consciousness, but that's a whole thing for me to get into.

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)

I used to be a big proponent of "Buddhism is a philosophy" and I have never been a fan of Buddhism as a religion - after all, I'm a Westerner myself and so have never had the religious approach that is common throughout East Asia. I am increasingly approaching Buddhism with the idea that "Buddhism is a lifestyle," which is not about buying yard decor from Amazon dot com but more about living the Buddha's teachings in your actual everyday life mindfully. Going to teachings and empowerments and performing meditations and rituals can be part of that lifestyle but if we say that that is our practice, then we're putting our practice in a compartment separate from our day to day life. If Buddhism is our religion then we become "meditation seat Buddhists" who are very pious and wise on the cushion and then get in their cars and motherfuck people who cut them off on their way to their jobs on Wall Street, and it's not very effective. It's better than nothing at all, but I think someone being compassionate and kind and exemplifying the Buddha's teachings in day to day life is better than Twitter Jack spending more than a small family makes in a decade to fly to Myanmar and do meditation for a week.

So that's my thing. Buddhism is a lifestyle which is based on both philosophical and theological conceptions, and that philosophy happens to be perfectly happy in a scientific positivist framework if that's where it has to be, but it is neither better nor worse than spooky ghost smoke offerings Buddhism.

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.

Paramemetic fucked around with this message at 22:00 on Feb 16, 2020

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Josef bugman posted:

Who/what created Dharma? Does it just exist prior to everything else? What set it all in motion (as it were)?

This is a question.

I can only sort of answer from a Tibetan-ish perspective. I think the shortest and most concise answer is actually "the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao" but, you know, wrong flavor.

"Dharma" means "phenomena" but also "path," in the sense that your path, the one you're on, is where you are right now, and that is amongst all this phenomena that is arising and falling around you constantly.

So a dharma is just anyone's gestalt. The Tibetan word for what created it or where it arises would be རང་བཞིན་གིས་། "rang shin ki" - "by its own nature." It exists as a composition of consciousness events. Eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, mouth consciousness, touch consciousness, thought consciousness, all of of these have arising events, without beginning or ending, and we consider the aggregation of these arising events to be "our mind" and we consider this to be "us" and then we differentiate subject from object and end up in samsara.

So everyone has "a dharma" because everyone exists in a field of phenomena that is reality.

"The Dharma" is the actual, true nature of that reality, as taught by the Buddha. It recognizes that those phenomena are without inherent existence but rather exist only through interdependent origination. All phenomena are the result of interdependent cause and effect, without any inherent substance or "reality."

We can recognize the nature of reality by recognizing the nature of our own mind, because our mind is the sort of substrate upon which reality arises. There are some technically terms here like "Dharmakaya" which is the state in which Buddhas exist after enlightenment (the truth body that is the nature of mind free from conceptual elaboration) and the Dharmadhatu (the vast field of all phenomenal arisings prior to conceptual elaboration) and I think that those are both the same thing from different perspectives, but I also know that that is not quite right. It becomes a bit difficult to define, which is why I somewhat avoided getting into the doctrine of emptiness and that kind of philosophical stuff. My lineage founder, Jigten Sumgon, teaches quite rightly that you have to experience things that can't be described because they can't be described by definition, because, well, the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Josef bugman posted:

Simply allow heat death to occur.

Seems inevitable anyhow, no worries.

quote:

That or die continuously so that you cannot be part of the wheel.

That's what we've all been doing, but that's also exactly being part of the wheel. If you want to be free from the wheel of samsara, you have to end the process of birth, aging, sickness, and dying.

One of the things I didn't originally get into in the OP because it's complicated and putting too much poo poo out there makes people pop off is that the whole process of rebirth happens because of ignorance. We have an aversion to death, and we grasp for life (based on the things we've mentally habituated), so when we die our consciousness clings to form and reboots. Death is as impermanent as life. This is absolutely fundamental to Buddhist thinking (and one of my reservations about materialism in Buddhism, but there are interpretations of death and rebirth that talk about mindstates and aren't terrible) and more or less makes the whole point. We escape the cycle of rebirth by recognizing the actual nature of reality and spending our time practicing breaking the habit of reorganizing consciousness in new forms when we die.

This process is called the "12 links of interdependent origination," and it goes like this:

1) We're ignorant to the actual nature of reality and consider ourselves to be a "self" rather than recognizing ourself to be an aggregation of properties (called "skandhas," which are form, sensation, perception, mental formation, and consciousness, more in a bit), so we
2) create mental formations generating cause and effect, and this leads to
3) Consciousness, called impelling consciousness (an impulse towards existence), leading to
4) Name-And-Form, the formation of those five skandhas, creating a body and consciousness that considers itself a self, in which
5) the six consciousnesses arise, because our name-and-form has sense organs.
6) Contact occurs between object and organ. Sense objects meet sense organs, leading to
7) Sensation, whichs lead to sense-consciousness-arising-events, i.e., an image hits the eye and the eye generates a consciousness-moment that is "seeing", for all senses plus the meta-cognitive thought that identifies those consciousness-events. So, we see a turtle, the light hits the eye, an event happens, and then we think "that is a turtle" and replace the sense-turtle with the thought-turtle in our mental representation.
8) Craving occurs because we now have thought-objects, which includes the imputed characteristics of things we like and don't like.
9) This leads to grasping, because we strive to never be apart from things we like, and never be with things we don't like.
10) Grasping leads to Becoming, because our actions in seeking out the objects of our grasping leads to our creating karma - we create causes and receive effects, and this process is becoming.
11) Through the power of becoming, we continually experience rebirth any time the causes and conditions are met.
12) Because anything that is born is composited by nature, we must experience aging, sickness, and dying. If we do not resolve the root of ignorance, these last two processes loop eternally.

If, however, we resolve ignorance, then it's like cutting a tree at the roots.



I've edited this into the OP.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Josef bugman posted:

Then I exist without my consent, and I wish to return this ticket and tell the universe to shove it where the sun shineth not.

Does the fact that only some become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas not imply that there is a malevolence in the cosmos? Is the fact that only some become this through simply moulding themselves into the wheel not a condemnation of the wheel itself?

By this I mean that, if only certain people through time are able to become Buddhas, does that not mean that the universe only "allows" certain folks to get that way. This is deeply paranoid (and I know not actually representative of Buddhist thought) but how do we know that the Buddha is not just a sticking plaster to the wheel of what is?

(I do apologise if this is insulting! I do not mean it to be, I just really like discussions like this!)


Literally everyone becomes a Buddha eventually, because many millions of dudes have dedicated their lives to making that happen. All sentient beings have a Buddha Nature and the potential for Buddhahood, and will eventually realize that Buddha Nature. It just takes a long time.

No maliciousness, malice requires consciousness. The universe is only sentient insomuch as we are sentient and inexorably connected to the universe, which exists only through phenomenal arisings within mind.

If your mind is malicious, then look to sorting that. Anger begets anger, hatred begets hatred. Compassion for sentient beings begins with compassion for ourselves as well.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Specifically, regarding the Middle Way, Gampopa said "believing things have an essential nature is stupid like cattle; believing in nihilism is even more stupid."

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Josef bugman posted:

So, wait, hang on. If we all possess Buddha nature, and the universe is none malevolent, why don't we already all Buddhas? Saying "oh it takes a while" is meaningless if it takes more than 14 billion years and counting.

Breaking habits takes time.

quote:

Anger also begets change, it begets passion, hope and, hopefully, justice. The universe existing, as is, is fundamentally unjust. I think that anger, more than any other emotion, gets a bad rap because it is associated with hatred. But they are fundamentally different and I would argue that anger is a net positive for people.

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.

Punch Nazis, but do it out of love, is what I'm saying. "May all sentient beings, especially those enemies who hate me, obstructors who harm me, and those who create obstacles on my path to liberation and enlightenment, have happiness and the causes of happiness, be separated from suffering and the causes of suffering, and quickly attain complete, perfection enlightenment."

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.

quote:

Also, compassion is for other people. As in literally. Have compassion for others before you give it to yourself.

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.

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


quote:

So there is no exit. We have to keep on, until we have "perfected" ourselves? That seems, to me at least, coercive.

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.

If you want off, that will also require cause and effect. Alas, it's Sisyphean, but one must imagine Sisyphus happy.

quote:

Of course! I don't want to come across as angry at people, that is foolish and bad, I want to be angry at systems. Making people sad or angry for no reason is a bad thing. Do be sure to let me know if I am being bad with the phrases, and I will bear in mind if I'm making folks cross!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

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.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Pretty much shop around, do some research to see what they're into if you like, what their ideas are that you like or don't like. Usually the differences will be either extremely big and immediately obvious in terms of aesthetic and atmosphere (e.g. a Zen center vs. a Tibetan Buddhist center) or else barely evident at all until you've been at it for a while (e.g. between a Kagyu center or a Nyingma center).

You can get some good hot takes in here also just posting "hey what are these guys about," we have a pretty good and diverse representation in the thread.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Goldreallas XXX posted:

Rime means "non sectarian". Historically different sects of Tibetan buddhism have been at each others necks, the Rime movement was an effort from Eastern Tibet to integrate different lineages and streams of teachings from different sects into one another. The guy "Lama Chuck" claims to be a ngakpa (lay yogi) and has connections with Ka-Nying (i.e. Kagyu / Nyingma) and Gelug schools, which is classical Rime. Everyone forgets about the Sakya. Apparently they actually have a geshe (kinda like Gelug equivalent of Dr. of divinity) in residence.

I can't really talk meaningfully about the other centers but that one at least doesn't ring any alarm bells. He actually mentions his teachers and lamas which is kind of rare for yt folk running a center, which is always encouraging.

I will say also that it is a huge, tremendous boost of credibility, to me, that the current spiritual director, in his ngakpa robes, is wearing a red shirt under his zen. There are rules that vary among traditions but when people are pretending at being ngakpas they usually wear a white shirt which has implications in a lot of traditions, more so if it's being done for official portraiture.

I like the place, it looks well organized and well coordinated. I suspect the membership are isolated from seeing how the sausage is made effectively. It seems to be a large enough center to sustain a kid's program, which is great.

I rejoice in the merit of this center.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Yorkshire Pudding posted:

New question: I have really inflexible hips and knees, so even sitting basic cross-legged for me is hard. I basically have to be sitting against a wall or something, which tells me my posture isn’t good.

I bought a meditation bench to sit seiza style, but my issue is that I can feel a lot of stress in my shoulders and neck from my hands having nowhere to sit. My lower back always feels fairly tense, but that may just be me getting used to sitting upright like this. And recommendations?

We tend to get a lot of postural bad habits over time. Regarding sitting, most people have a hard time because they don't sit in the proper cross-legged style, which usually involves a cushion to raise the rear end above the knees, which should be resting on the ground to create a tripod.

For the back, draw the shoulders back slightly "like a vulture" and make sure your head is neutral with your head slightly lowered like you were holding an egg longways between your chin and the top of your breastplate.

Your hands can rest on your knees, or cup them and rest them right about under the navel, held there by the tension of drawing the shoulders back.

Basic posture is knees down, hands on knees or folded at the navel but not resting in the lap, rear end elevated, spine "straight" so that the head is sitting neutrally on the top of the spine which is over the tailbone (naturally curving), shoulders back, head leaning slightly forward as described, tongue touching roof of mouth, eyes resting naturally.



After saying all that though, the most important thing is not having strain or tension on the body. Stability is the second most important thing because if the body is unstable the mind is unstable. If you've gotta sit on a chair with your feet on the ground, that's better than on a cushion where you're uncomfortable or unstable. Remember that many East Asians sit on the floor and crouch routinely and habitually and so don't expect to have the same flexibility and comfort levels. Work with the body you've got.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

NikkolasKing posted:

How important is getting a proper teacher in your opinion? This was a big discussion over on he Dharma Wheel forums back when I found it and posted on it for a while. Some think it's essential that you go and get personal instructions.

In Vajrayana the teacher is the most important thing, full stop. That's because Vajrayana is built around the tradition of you following a teacher and having that teacher be a real influence in your life who can tell you what things you're doing wrong, and who can serve as the representative of the Buddha because the Buddha's gone. You're not supposed to receive the blessings from the teacher, but from the Buddha - but you're supposed to do that by seeing the Lama's nature as inseparable from the Buddha's nature. There's a story of I think a disciple of Marpa who is with Marpa, and Marpa manifests the tutelary deity physically into the room, the whole rear end mandala, and asks the student whom they should prostrate. And the student prostrates the deity, because, you know, a wholeass mandala physically manifested - and Marpa turns it off and calls them an idiot because without the Lama you can't reach the deity.

So in Vajrayana, the answer is "extremely important." But! You can do a lot of things by having devotion to a vague notion of "the Guru" or a lineage Lama, because, well, the Lama is also inseparable in nature from the nature of your own mind. Ultimately, the Lama that you experience is that thing that your mind is seeing as the Lama, so everyone is the Lama who is kind to you, and you can totally do that if you're good as hell.

But like zhar said - is the Lama very necessary? No, every being will be enlightened eventually, but you could save a lot of time with one.

Hiro Protagonist posted:

I was curious what people in this thread thought of Ian Stevenson's work. I've seen some people in the Buddhist community point to his work as "proof" of rebirth as a concept, and the little I've read does seem intelligent, but there are likely huge issues with it that I may not be noticing from a surface reading.

lmao at the merging of topics in my life in this thread.

Okay so I'm pretty familiar with Ian Stevenson's work, mostly his work with mental telepathy and parapsychology, but also with his reincarnation stuff. The evidence is pretty substantial but I would absolutely hesitate to say it "proves" anything.

His work is scientifically robust and it seems to make some pretty strong indicators. The laboratory it originates from, Division of Perceptual Studies at UVA, is perpetually funded by an endowment but he actually did most of his work on rebirth and near death experience stuff with the UVA School of Medicine. Like, those things were being done by physicians and prominent ones at that.

However, with regards to Buddhism? We all have brain worms about wanting to prove stuff because it makes us feel good to be validated and because we're used to being told we're nuts. That's true of Buddhists just as it's true of parapsychologists and so on. But I think it's a bad habit. The proof of Buddhism isn't in whether or not we can establish with the tools of materialist scientific positivism whether or not rebirth is a thing; the proof of Buddhism is in the lives of the Buddha's followers and in whether or not we have a tangible relief of suffering if we follow those teachings.

So Tibetans and other cultural Buddhists tend to like that research because it's a neat validation, but they kinda take it as "well yeah, glad y'all are caught up." It doesn't change lives to read about some small scientific validation. For Westerners though, it holds a lot more clout because, well, we value materialist science as a method of assessing truth.

So what I have to say about Ian Stevenson's work is that I've cited his work and read a lot of it and believe him to be a good researcher and I do not believe there are overt flaws in his methodologies or that he's out to prove anything at all. I think he's an earnest scientific investigator doing earnest scientific investigation.

I think it's loving fantastic that DOPS is fully funded in perpetuity because that laboratory has consistently produced fantastic research with degrees of certainty that far exceed even medical research exactly because any time someone publishes something indicating that psi exists or that consciousness might not be a mechanical process of neurology a million peckerheads who have made their careers as "debunkers" come swarming out of the woodwork to tell everyone how it's impossible because it doesn't explain a mechanism and if you can't propose a mechanism it's not real research or whatever, so you have to have to be able to back your poo poo up hard. Stevenson's work does that.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Thirteen Orphans posted:

Senju believes our dog, because of his merit because he was a good boy was reborn as a human. If I was Buddhist I think I’d agree.

I've seen it said in Tibetan Buddhism that dogs are one of the better animal rebirths because they have the opportunity to gain merit, because they prioritize the happiness of their owners over their own happiness, and because they don't want the ball, they want you to have the ball, but they will go get it for you, even when you drop it across the room.

It's also said that monks that gently caress up their vows but still live lives of good merit will "pop down" for a lifetime as a dog to burn it off, and then bounce back up. This is especially true of monastery dogs, or dogs that live in Buddhist households, since they have the karma of being around the Dharma.

So, what I'm saying is, your dog was a good boy and surely achieved an auspicious birth.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Josef bugman posted:

I was reading a bit ago about the Buddha being against women's ordination/ presence in Buddhism. Is that accurate or am I being daft?

It is not accurate.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

The Mahayana goes hard after Sariputra in a lot of Mahayana sutras, usually having Vimalakirti dunk on him over and over while representing him as a big dummy. This is generally done to score points for the Mahayana while representing the Hinayana as bad, dumb, unable to understand profound doctrines, etc.

I don't know of anyone firing shots at Ananda but it's not impossible.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Max posted:

This documentary may be of interest: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1554456/

It does look interesting yeah. But the word for woman, Bu-med, just means "not boy" so while it's true that woman is considered a lower rebirth, it's not quite like that.

As for women being considered a less fortunate rebirth, the entire need for feminism and the problems of the patriarchy are in fact sufficient evidence to demonstrate that, to my mind. Like it's pretty clear women get the raw deal and while we must work to change that, that it needs changed at all sort of illustrates the point.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

This thread is a very appropriate thread to talk about general meditation and Buddhist-derived meditation practices and so on.

I don't know a lot of meditation teachers and so on though. I practice from a text called Shamatha to Mahamudra which is about, well, mindful calm-abiding meditation as the foundation of Mahamudra. It is a very practical text, but not online.

I don't know if any of Jack Kornfield's teachings are online, but he is good as well. He's a transpersonal psychologist who was a monk.





I actually slid in here to talk about some of my bullshit though, and I think they are thoughts I should share with the thread, because they are sort of where my mind is now and it's adjacent to Dharma.

Many of you know I was an EMS supervisor before I studied Tibetan language and was a fulltime Dharma practitioner for a few years. In fact I've always worked in helping professions. My first job was as an afterschool program counselor, then I was a pharmacy technician for a few years, then I worked as a mental health counselor, back to pharmacy, and then back to mental health counseling, and finally I was an EMT and then full time Buddhist.

I had a son a year and some change ago, and found it very hard to do the fulltime Buddhist thing. I couldn't go upstairs in the morning and meditate for 2 hours with a baby. My practice became shaky and unstable. I couldn't take months to travel to India anymore, or attend to my Lama as necessary. I tried to keep up on translation work, but it hasn't gone well. I still do Tibetan astrology, but I got distracted from that and got caught up too much in the business of it and not enough in the Dharma aspects. The pandemic slammed all of my professional self-employment plans into a wall.

As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has been spreading, I have been racked with monumental guilt and frustration that I'm not on the front line with my former comrades in EMS or pharmacy. I've felt very helpless and useless and like I was part of the problem and not part of the solution. I always took a sort of pleasure in the selfless sacrifice of EMS. It's an awful job with terrible conditions but you can see that you're helping other people very directly. But for me, it was pleasure in the suffering.

Right now, I'm not suffering. I was sick, but it is not COVID-19. My wife has been home from work but we're still getting paid. There is a lot of suffering though, all around, and I was becoming very upset that I wasn't on the front lines, that I wasn't, myself, a part of that suffering.

I went to look if I could renew any of my certifications and get back into the fight, so to speak, and alas - it's too late. I'd have to redo the full EMS course or retake the PTCB, and both of course are things that are indefinitely postponed from the virus. I felt very helpless and useless.

But tonight I realized that this was an error. My Lama has criticized me that I have good wisdom but no endurance - and that's true. Of course it is, he knows me better than I know myself. Mostly I lack endurance because I get distracted, I think. I don't have strong perseverance. I don't have the heart of a lion.

But we have to practice anyhow.

So, I am refocusing on the Dharma. My problem has been that I have been trying to be a Buddhist second, and do all these other distractions first. This has never worked for me. I have always been happiest serving the Dharma. When I was an EMT I always considered it an extension of my practice.

There is a lot of abject suffering. A lot of people have posted in this thread and its previous incarnation about the material conditions of suffering that plague our world. And those are very real sufferings - but we each need to do our thing. I cannot help others right now in the hospital setting. There's no benefit to my selfless sacrifice. That sacrifice is just an attempt to suffer myself anyhow. It's sympathetic suffering. It's grasping, wanting to be part of the thing. Attachment to this self.

But there is benefit to practicing. This life is transient and we will all die. No accomplishment in this lifetime matters except that it propel me to a better rebirth in a future life, or attain liberation so that I can best benefit sentient beings. In short, I am turned once again to the spiritual calling that has been the constant in my life since I told my mother I wanted to be a chaplain when I was 8 years old.

So, anyhow, that's where I'm at. If you're feeling frustrated that you can't help right now, I encourage you to be there for your friends. You can help by enduring. You can help by not suffering, and showing others the peace that comes from the Dharma. You can help by showing others lovingkindness and compassion in a time where most are gripped by fear or anger.

Take care of others in the best ways you can, show compassion to others, and take care of yourself. You don't need to try to be anything special. Rejoice in the merit of those who are helping materially - that's the key lesson I had forgotten. Such an easy practice but my head gets caught up in too many thoughts.

You can benefit countless sentient beings by simply not being afraid, and showing that it is possible to live without fear. By reflecting on impermanence and recognizing it, you will not be afraid. By not being afraid, you will show others that they, too, can not be afraid. This is the best benefit you can do anyone, because that will bring them in contact with the Dharma and help propel them towards ultimate liberation from suffering rather than some short term benefit.

Okay, that is enough of my selfish post. I hope it is of some benefit to someone.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Also! His Holiness the 37th Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche compiled a practice of Logyonma (Parnashavari) from the practices written by our lineage founder, the incomparable Dharma Lord, Jigten Sumgon.

quote:

At present, all regions of the world are affected by a terrible epidemic. May this compilation of the quintessences from the Parnashavari sadhanas written by Drikung Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, arranged accompanied by singleminded supplications to him, first of all pacify the epidemic, and furthermore, the karmic, afflictive and cognitive obscurations, and joyfully lead us to the supreme state of complete awakening.
This was well-arranged by Gyalwa Drikungpa Tinle Lhundrup in the American Drikung Centre Kyobpa Chöling in the Iron Mouse Year 2020 on the fifteenth day of the month of miracles and entered into the computer by Könchog Chöwang.

If you're interested in practicing it, or just reading it, or just looking at a Tibetan practice text, here you go.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

They have an explicit plan and they make that plan clear and the plan seems actionable. If the sponsors are legit then it would seem legit. You can check with some of those sponsors (Shambhala, Lion's Roar, etc.) easily enough.

As for what's most effective, it's really really hard to say. There's a lot that needs to be done, and I would say that if the plan you're seeing matches what you think you want to help with, go for it.

I would rather see concrete plans for the exact goals a charity wants to accomplish than vague "we support doctors by providing PPE" promises that don't list specifics.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

I don't know Arizona geography so I have no idea where Prescott Valley is but the Garchen Buddhist Institute is there. It's primarily a retreat center but I believe they likely have regular services as well? Tibetan Buddhist, on the liberal side of orthodoxy (Garchen R. will do online empowerments, for example, the efficacy of which is debated) but Garchen R. is a very traditional teacher within the Drikung Kagyu lineage. He tends to teaching from the Yangzab cycle of Dzogchen rather than the more traditionally Kagyu Mahamudra, but he's a very well respected lineage master and responsible for a huge number of centers.

So, I don't know where it is relative to Phoenix, but there's that.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Buried alive posted:

Hey Guys. I've been perusing Buddhism for a while and I've recently gotten more into it, in my own ways, what with needing a way to deal with climate change providing motivation and the pandemic providing opportunity and all.

One of those ways was to join a Kik group, just to chat and get my feet wet. Some of the people there seem to be SUPER into the idea of other religions being wrong, that certain aspects of other Hindu religions involves consorting with demons, passionately rejecting metaphysical arguements about God, and one of the guys there (who is from Sri Lanka) seems to have quite the hate-boner for anything Hindu in general. Apparently there was a lot of conflict and supression of Buddhism by Indian (or maybe British Colonialist) forces in Sri Lanka in recent history, so it's understandable, but drat. I've also seen a lack of nuance towards other topics in some of the discussions. For example, trying to point out that just because someone thinks X should be legal, that is not the same as saying someone should therefore go out and do X.

.. Some of that is me venting I think, but I'm going to leave it there for discussion and commentary (or not) anyways. My concern is that I've definitely got an appealing vision of Buddhism (and Buddhists) in general mostly engaging in calm inquisitiveness towards such issues. While others (including mods) do intercede to try and calm things down, the fact that these flare ups exist is causing me to bounce off super hard. I guess I'm trying to suss out exactly why. I can feel myself wanting to discuss some of these issues, but a kik chatroom just feels like a poor format to do it in. Especially one where people are getting all up in arms about issues to begin with. Some of it might be miscommunications caused by whatever ESL or cross-cultural issues could be present. Some of it might be me clinging too tightly to my aforementioned appealing vision. Some of it might be the fact that my view of the world in general is doubtless influenced by growing up as a straight white dude in a (supposedly, anyway) 1st world industrialized nation that was a colonizer rather than a colonizee. In the spirit of trying to turn these experiences into a lesson.. I don't know. Wtf do I do next? Just spend some time brooding meditating on why it bothers me so?

P.S. There is a zen place near me that I've been meaning to check out for a while. Maybe I'll finally do that in a month or so when it's deemed safe to do things outside again.

What Nessus said is more or less on the money. Remember that Buddhists are people. All Buddhists are bad Buddhists or else they'd be Buddhas. The monks will be given to sectarianism. Buddhism specifically rejects some of the core conceits of Hinduism and while those differences are reconcilable with some apologetics, the vast majority of practitioners are not going to be doing advanced metaphysics - they're going to be practicing what they're told to practice by their parents and maintaining their religious traditions as best as they know how. In the West in particular we have great access to education and to learning about these kinds of things, and there's no zealot like a convert. So, we'll often study a lot of doctrine with a lot more acuity than lay followers who are just following the religion of their parents and may not be giving it much more thought than "this is what we do in our religion." A Catholic example would be the difference between someone who was raised Catholic but didn't go to a Catholic school, say, and someone who converted and went through RCIA. The convert will likely have a lot more nuance in his or her understanding of canon simply because they've thought critically about it by way of learning about it.

We're not imperializing or colonizing those spaces when we learn about them, but we have to avoid a kind of arrogance that sometimes happens where we judge people for not having that nuance or for having different understandings of doctrines. The religion is being approached on a different level and in a different way. Westerners love to say Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion, but then we have consternation when people practice it as a religion.

Emergency Exit posted:

This is interesting and surprising to me because I have ptsd from a traumatic childhood, severe depression, anxiety and adhd, but have found such profound relief and relaxation in mindfulness and meditation (through cbt) that it's actually led me to exploring and wanting to learn more about Buddhism now after years of practice of some of these concepts. Honestly it's not an exaggeration to say that these concepts in therapy were, for me, literally life saving.

It certainly is very beneficial for a lot of people, but it really comes down to, well, a person's karma. Some people will touch to that meditation practice and they can use it to unknot their problems. They can see that depression is a transient state that will eventually end and so is just something to move past. They'll see past traumatic experiences as gone and no longer real, and so they can unravel those things. They'll gain insight into the mind and the things that arise in it and so learn to control the mind's tendency to jump from one thing to another, which can help with ADHD. Other people see that depression and cannot separate it from themselves, and through meditation they identify with it. They revisit the traumatic experience when they rest their mind, and so they cannot unravel it. They recognize the thoughts arising but can't let them go and so become agitated. It just depends on the person individually. There is research being done somewhere as to why that is, because it's something that Western psychology is noticing now that we've taken a lot of Buddhist meditation technique and applied it clinically, but I don't know where that kind of research is or what kinds of findings are being made.





For my own part, I ended up getting a provisional EMT certificate back from the state and I found out I can renew my full one if I can get a 24 hour refresher done before June 30. The whole experience has been a bit wild for me, I think I'm going to pick up where I left off before I went to UVA to study Tibetan and become a critical care paramedic. We'll see how it goes, but I'm trying hard not to grasp too much on it or obsess over getting the "provisional" knocked off my EMT certification. The strictly Buddhist approach of letting things be well enough didn't seem to work out this time. Too much grasping after wanting to be in the thick of things, so I've just put myself in the thick again.

I'm writing this now exactly because I've been up for just under 24 hours - I'm working a pair of night shifts and wanted to go in fresh so I'm sleeping in an hour or so. If anything I've written is incoherent or babbly or seems poorly thought through, well, I've been up for 21 hours.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Yorkshire Pudding posted:

Qurantine Book Report: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

I just finished this book after picking it up more than a year ago and bouncing off it the first time. While the sections that actually talked about practical advice for dying and helping people who are dying were quite good, the rest of it was a side of Buddhism I very much disliked.

Sogyal Rinpoche is a good writer, and it is obvious that he is learned, but if this is Tibetan Buddhism/Vajrayana I am very much not into it. Having just come off of The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings, which was great, this book felt like the Buddhist equivalent of a "Book of Witchcraft Spells". I've always practiced my Buddhism in what is I guess a very 'Western' style, in that I don't get too much into the cosmology or any that. So maybe that's why it's so jarring to see a renowned master spend pages talking about how your body will turn into a rainbow when you die if you practice enough, and how if you stick a needle in a recently deceased person then you might actually suck their "spirit" through the hole and then they can't depart through the top of the head and achieve enlightenment.

I'm also very, very wary of religion in general, and what initially drew me to Buddhism in my teens was the whole "if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him" philosophy. So to see such a huge focus on "Ah you must have a Master from a verified lineage and this Master is even more important than the Buddha" is pretty discomforting. I understand the importance of having a teacher and a Sangha, but this style really feels more cultish with it's secret esoteric practices. Especially when you hear those practices just written down, it feels like that South Park episode where you learn that Scientologists believe that Xenu dropped souls out of a 747 into volcanos and that why people get sad.

I was actually looking forward to reading Walking an Uncommon Path, but I waited 5 weeks for it to be delivered before being told "sorry we must have forgot to deliver it", so that won't happen soon.

I've also had huge trouble meditating recently also, maybe because of everything that's going on. It's been about 10 days since I've had a session that I felt was good, and I can barely sit down for more than 5 minutes without thinking "Okay this isn't working I should quit".

Sorry for the overly negative post. Hope everyone else is doing okay out there.

Nothing wrong with this.

So, I haven't read the Book on Living and Dying. I'm a phowa practitioner so I have specific things I try to do to make sure my consciousness pops out the top of my head when my number is punched and that book may touch on phowa as those are the instructions people are given, but I don't know. I know Sogyal R has had some controversies but can't speak to that either.

Back in the day, Tibetan Buddhism was called "Lamaism." There are some tough bits there. Tibetan Buddhism struggles with an internal conflict: its practice origins are tantric but it also has a lot of monasticism. The tantric practice depends on a teacher. You can read about the Buddha's teachings but often we have blind spots. For example, my Lama has told me that I have "great wisdom, but poor endurance." He's not wrong! And that criticism helps me. Because he knows me very well, he can say things like "Para is like a Tibetan yak- very faithful and diligent, but to have to lead him by the nose. Otherwise he will just eat grass." Fair! And that's what the Lama should do. The Lama has to know us to help us become a suitable vessel for the transmission of wisdom through both instruction and the esoteric blessings of the lineage.

If the Lama is like a snow covered mountain, then devotion is like the sunlight, and through that devotion the blessings of the lineage and Lama can come down to us.

The Lama isn't higher than the Buddha but they should be seen like a Buddha for a few reasons. One is that the Buddha is long gone, but the Lama is here to drop sick burns on us until we improve ourselves. Another reason is that if we visualize the Lama as a Buddha then the teachings and blessings come to us as if from the Buddha. If we do not visualize the Lama so, then we only receive the blessings from some dude. When we can purify the image of the Lama in our minds, we are purifying our minds. After all, the Lama is just like any other arising phenomena in our minds, empty and without inherent existence.

So any Tibetan Buddhist text will have that emphasis on the Lama. It only becomes tricky because who is the Lama? The head of a lineage? Everyone wants some big name Lama. Everyone wants to be the student of some Rinpoche. Within the monastic institution, one lama is usually your monastic preceptor. You can have many lamas. Usually the "root lama" refers to whoever introduces you to the nature of your mind, but not really just anyone who does the formulaic pointing out instructions. It's the person who does it and it takes. This is the Lama. And before you show that level of devotion, it's said you should test the Lama how a merchant tests a gold coin.

The magic stuff is all there of course. I'm practicing Loma Gyonma for protection from infectious disease for myself and my friends and all sentient beings, for example. I mean poo poo, I do Tibetan astrology. But it's importantly meant to benefit people with little realization like myself. Buddhas don't need astrology because they can perfectly see cause and effect. Astrology is for normal people who need help deciding things or predicting dangers. The magical techniques in the tantra are a form of spiritual alchemy. On one level it's psychological, on another level there's a kind of spiritual anatomy with the winds and so on. All of this is just consciousness stuff. They are tools meant to help us discover the nature of our minds and then from there they aren't strictly necessary, because if we're stable in knowing the nature of mind we are pretty close to liberation.

In any case, that's all just by way of explanation because I don't know if Sogyal R is clear about that. Sometimes Tibetans don't explain underlying reasons and just say devotion is most important and it is disturbing to westerners who want more meat than that. But it's comforting for Tibetans to know they can just rely on the Lama and not worry. One of the first phrases I learned in Tibetan was "if one does not have a stable place to rest the mind, they cannot have any peace." The Lama is that stable place to rest the mind.

Anyhow, it's okay to not be taken in with all that. But also maybe don't be scared off of it all. It's not so bad as all that but the layers aren't always discussed. If you'd like, I can send you a PDF of a book by my Lama that goes deep into the philosophy of a 7 verse text called the 7 Supplications of Tara by my lineage master. Just hit me up via PM. It might help to see that it's not all just vague esoteric twaddle. But maybe just the Tibetan tradition isn't your cup of tea. That's okay, the Buddha taught 84000 heaps of Dharma. If one doesn't work, try another!

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Thirteen Orphans posted:

Paramemetic, how did you come about finding your Guru? Not in a wholly spiritual sense, like a conversion story, but more like, did you start showing up at the temple and eventually you crossed paths and you asked him, are most people at your temple disciples of the same Guru so you just joined, etc? Would you say your experience is common for Western converts? Hopefully my question isn’t too personal, I’m interested in the mechanics of finding the Vajrayana Guru for Westerners.

Not too personal at all.

I was introduced to Tibetan Buddhism and took a fancy in it but there was nothing around for a long way, so I just read and learned what I could. Then I moved to a place that had a Tibetan Buddhist center. I asked to take refuge from the spiritual director there, who apparently normally only does so in formal group ceremonies, but who gave me refuge right there, in private. After some weeks, I talked to him about lineages and so on, saying I didn't feel a particularly strong connection to this lineage, but we agreed it was best to practice here.

Over time, that developed more and more, with him coming to know me better and trust me and me coming to rely more on the lineage and recognize that he's the guy.

Funnily enough, the lineage I did feel a connection do is the Drukpa lineage. I only much later found out that my Lama was originally a Drukpa, but joined the Drikung order when he left Tibet.

So in a way it all came back around.

Anyhow, the point is that it wasn't an instantaneous "oh, it's this guy" thing. I didn't seek out a high Lama or some particular special Rinpoche out of any intense spontaneous feeling of devotion. I grew into familiarity with him and he became my Lama over time. Similarly, he spent a long time evaluating me - I was his attendant for many years and still would be but it is much harder with having a kid now and so on. So I spent a lot of time with him, and it was then, in those private moments, not really when he was sitting on the throne giving formal teachings, that I learned the most.

He gave me the pointing out instruction slowly over time, in an informal way, which is, amusingly, the more traditional way to do it. The formal ways of doing those things came much later as things developed into a monastic tradition.

But anyhow, it wasn't a thing where I met him and went "ah, this is him, the master." I would say the master-disciple or teacher-student or whatever relationship is a relationship like any other, and sometimes it's a flash of inspiration and instant and passionate and all that, and sometimes it just develops over time as you get to know a person more. So "trying the Lama like a merchant tests gold" is about being very thorough in getting to know a Lama and in them getting to know you.

Regarding most people at my temple... not really? Most of them are students of the center's founder who had left the current spiritual director in charge before I came, or they consider themselves students of higher-ups in the lineage. My teacher now has a following all over the world, but he has told me glibly he considers me his only actual student at our center. Again, that doesn't mean others don't learn from him, of course, but there's an element to that student-teacher relationship that is more complex than just "the guy who tells me what practices to do" or "the guy who teaches me philosophy."

Edit: I don't think the experience is terribly common for Western converts because of either shyness or an unwillingness to surrender personal pride and deliberately subordinate oneself. I think most Westerners tend to study a lot and really get into the philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism, tantra and so on, but then struggle at the part that is "I should make sure the Lama's firewood pile is full all winter" or "it's not right that the Lama should carry his own bag" or so on. That element of the relationship doesn't really have a cultural equivalent in the West that I can think of, so I think people have a hard time with it.

Tibetan culture is a face culture, so for example you wouldn't normally suggest something to the Lama. It would be strange for an inferior to say "you should do this thing." So instead in Tibetan if you're speaking to a social superior (like the Lama) you might make suggestions like "I'm not sure, but this might work" or even "I might not have understood, but I think you said we should...?" and things like this, where credit for a good idea is given to the superior who makes the decision. Westerners don't work well like this, we really like credit for our good ideas and want everyone to know about it. So I always treated this as an opportunity for practicing letting go of that status stuff. But because I can navigate that cultural stuff I think it did help make the thing work for me more. I've seen a lot of Western students butt heads with their Lamas over things like that when really it's much better to just go "okay, sure."

Paramemetic fucked around with this message at 03:32 on Apr 17, 2020

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Big mood on those questions. Talking to people is fine and a good alternative to reading books. The only thing to watch out for is people not knowing what they're talking about - and that goes for books, too.

Generally despair or revulsion at the world is used to push us to renounce from the world and so pursue the path of nonattachment. You don't want to do it just on its own. It has to be a part of that bigger striving towards escaping attachment and aversion.

I'd write more but I have to get moving. But do keep posting and have discussions here, it's very good.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

When people are training to develop compassion for all sentient beings, they start with their families, then friends, neighbors, then enemies, and then all sentient beings. Because if you can't cultivate compassion for people you know, how can you cultivate compassion for those you don't know?

How can you cultivate compassion for others if you cannot even consider yourself an object of compassion?

That doesn't mean being selfish, but you're also a suffering being. If you can't see yourself as a suffering being deserving of compassion, how can you see others, whose experiences you don't know, as suffering beings deserving of compassion?

So have compassion for others, but also have compassion for yourself.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Personally I made a lot of progress on the idea of doing more by recognizing that there aren't different classes of practice. The preliminaries and the actual practice are one in the same. Basic meditation is the enlightenment practice. It's not something you do so you can do something else. We're very used to this kind of thinking in the West. We have to take x, y, and z prerequisites and then we can start working on the real thing. Buddhism isn't like that. You do x, y, and z... And that's it. No degree. And no graduation. But eventually you're out.

It's tricky, but it lets you relax into it. That relaxing into it, that letting go of a feeling of progress, that determination without any end point? That's part of the result. Eventually you just realize, "oh, hey, I'm doing this."

... And then you go get your EMT certification back because you're a big dummy and you start working night shifts again lmao. But anyhow that's what has helped me.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Travic posted:

Thanks. I'll look into that when I get home.

I started reading "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" by Daniel Ingram since its available online. I'm afraid I couldn't follow it. One of my biggest problems is that I am an incredibly literal and scientific minded person. Books talk about "The self does not exist." And all I can think of is that I'm a collection of about a trillion cells working together via chemical reactions. 260lb of mostly water. Extremely literal. That particular book talked about the vibrations of the world and I'm not sure what he means. Thermal energy vibrations? Yeah all matter vibrates, but I'm not sure that's what he means. Stuff like that.

How do I break in to thinking differently?

Focus on your actual experience. We're trained in a lot of stuff we can't observe. The sun is a giant ball of plasmas and the light we see started 8 minutes ago? Yeah that's true... But is that what we're actually experiencing? Or is that what we've labeled the experience? What is it like to stand in the sun? Is it like being bombarded with radiation? Really?

We're a bunch of cells and water, absolutely. But is that what we experience ourselves to be? Really? Other people are also cells and water... Is that how we interact with them? Why not? Being present in the moment and looking at our experiences with fresh eyes is very useful. Looking at why we experience things how we do, and what we actually experience versus what we're taught we're experiencing, is huge.

You've got to bridge that phenomenal gap. You're describing the scientific material reality... But that's not what you experience. Children don't think of themselves as cells and water, but they experience something like a self. What's up with that?

I've talked to monks who think it's weird the moon doesn't have an atmosphere and who actually asked me how I know stars are like the sun but further away. When you explain red shifting and things they just go "huh, welp" and go on with their days, because that's not how they experience it so it's just kind of noise. There's a sort of primacy of phenomenal experience that Buddhism is keen on that I'm sure is a challenge for some people but again it's liberating. Thought is an electrical impulse rocketing through a network of fatty tubes but we don't know how it becomes consciousness and we can't account for this feeling of experience despite all. So be with this experience of things. Don't worry what it is, pay attention to what it's like.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Travic posted:

And meditation is emptying your mind of all thought?

Nah, it's being with the thoughts as they happen. You can't stop thoughts any more than you can stop waves on the beach, they're just a phenomena that arises, an experience that happens. But you can stop letting them lead you around and recognize that they're just a thing that happens, like an itch or a sound. A bird chirps. A thought happens. For some reason we think the chirp comes from the bird and the thought comes from us. But the experience of the bird chirping doesn't come from the bird, and the experience of the thought happens to us, it doesn't come from us.

Tibetan is a good language for Buddhism. Instead of an active thing, thought is grammatically passive. It's not "I am thinking about buying a new car," but "the thought of buying a new car has arisen." It's just a thing that happens, not something we're doing.

So meditation isn't about achieving a place where no thoughts arise; it's about recognizing that they just happen and not indulging them. Fewer thoughts come when we stop indulging them, though. If you feed pigeons every time you sit down at a bench, over time more and more pigeons come. If you stop someday, it will take a long time, but eventually the pigeons stop coming over.

We've been habitually feeding the pigeons of thought for countless lifetimes. Meditation is recognizing the pigeons don't actually need us. Eventually, the number of pigeons that come will be much less, because they aren't getting what they want - they aren't having attachments and aversions indulged or cravings met. So meditation is just practicing recognizing thoughts as the phenomena they are instead of thinking of them as something that we do and which we have to indulge.

You've got a habit of thinking of things scientifically but you learned to do that over many years of education and now those are the kinds of thoughts that arise. Actually, though, you're just some cells and thoughts happen to those cells. Some you indulge and some you don't. Meditation is recognizing those things until you actually recognize your mind's true nature. But for now it's just watching and observing accurately and not acting on the habit of following your thoughts.

Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Travic posted:

So: My skin is warm, my clothes are soft, my seat is soft, my shoes are tight (on my feet. ), there is a hissing sound (a fan, but I just focus on the sound not what's making it), my foot is tingling, etc.

Hell yeah, this sounds like what it's like to be in a place.

quote:

It sounds a lot like undoing the filter the brain is using. Nerves stop conducting information unless its new or something changes. This sounds like undoing that filter and manually asking the nerves for an update.

Uh oh, this doesn't sound like what is like, this sounds like mental imputation and trying to figure things out. Figuring things out will never let you control them but it will let you indulge a habit of thinking that lets you feel like you have certainty.

What was the moment like where the thoughts pivoted from observing what experiences are arising, to labeling, naming, analyzing, and controlling? From going "oh I am feeling my shoes are tight" to "my nerves are conducting signals!" ? Because one of those you're experiencing, and one you're imputing and analyzing to describe something.

With practice you'll start observing that happening. That practice is meditation. Then with more practice you'll be able to go "oh that's just labeling and analyzing, okay" and let those thoughts pass without getting carried by them. Then they will come less frequently and then ultimately stop.

We're not trying to reexcite suppressed action potentials here, we're just being wholly in the moment.

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Paramemetic
Sep 29, 2003






Fallen Rib

Travic posted:

Interesting. By indulging do you mean like focusing on them. I'm sitting meditating and the thought of how much I hate being alive and how hopeless the world is pops up. Instead of grabbing that thought and dwelling on it ("Holy poo poo things are bad what is the point in trying.") I just let it flow down the river and maybe not even watch it pass?

Yeap, that's exactly it. Indulging means going "yeah I'm hungry... Okay so what can I eat...I need to go to the store...I want to buy this this this..." As long as we do that it will never stop. It's entirely possible to go "I'm hungry. But I'm meditating right now and I probably won't starve. Okay." And then you rest your mind again and eat later.

Our normal habit is to grab thoughts and follow them, but we just want to let them be. We don't go try to catch every bird that chirps but we have the habit of trying to follow every thought that arises.

quote:

Big question time. I am a veterinarian so thinking and analyzing is kind of my livelihood. You said you're an EMT so I assume I can still perform at my job?

Yeah, of course! Veterinary medicine is very good livelihood. You reduce the suffering of animals and the people what attach to them. You have to have medical knowledge and understanding of disease processes to do this. For the purposes of diagnosing a dog that got hit by a car, it's very useful to understand that the lack of sensation in the left hindpaw probably indicates there isn't a signal being conducted down the spinal column. You don't have to throw out the material knowledge of the world.

When I feel my heartbeat I don't think about SA node pacemaking overdrive suppressing the automaticity foci of the ventricles. I just feel my heart beat. When I focus on my breathing I'm not worried about cellular respiration or the drive to clear CO2. I'm just being with a process that is happening. There's a time to analyze and a time to not analyze.

You can play with a dog one moment and just enjoy its unbridled enthusiasm for the world and its desire to get ball and earn scratches, and then in the next moment put that aside and use your expertise to determine if the nodules on the dog that the owners brought him in for are benign.

The analysis thoughts aren't inherently good or bad, but we can look at them when they arise. Sometimes they're good, like when you're working. Sometimes they're not so good, like when you're thinking about meditation. In one case they help you treat another sentient being with compassion. In another case they just distract you from being in the moment.

In EMS there's a time for recognizing the early signs of shock, and there's a time for just holding someone's hand and saying "stay with me now we're gonna be at the hospital soon." But you don't ignore the disease process knowledge just because you're doing the human thing at the moment - you just don't chase it obsessively.

Ultimately, it's about not being distracted. If what you're doing needs that physiological knowledge, it's not a distraction. If you're eating a clementine or just being wholly present sitting in the tub, then it is a distraction if you're thinking about I dunno maintaining BGL or vasodilation or something.

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