little lies, big lies

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:36 am

Brilliant! Thanks for the quote and food for thought.

Perhaps the value of abstractions is that they can be the vehicle for good to get better and move on to being the best. In other words, even though there is no compassion outside of a compassionate act, to entertain the idea of compassion can have the effect of supporting and propagating ever more lofty compassionate acts. This in turn informs a more open ended idea of what compassion could entail within the activity which is its very substance.
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Nyana » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:58 am

alan wrote:Would you care to offer an alternate view?

How about the Buddhist view? AN 5.57:

    I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir...

    To the extent that there are beings — past and future, passing away and re-arising — all beings are the owner of their actions, heir to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and live dependent on their actions. Whatever they do, for good or for evil, to that will they fall heir.

All the best,

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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby chownah » Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:03 am

Edit: I've noticed that the connection to the topic is pretty hard to see....I composed it in response to the comment that some abstractions have value...posted by Prasadachitta. My intent is to underscore that all language is abstraction and that this is at least part of what the Devil was getting at in my view.

Isn't all language abstraction? Isn't every single word an abstraction? Maybe the one word "abstraction" actually is what it says but other than that no word IS what it denotes. And to go further...isn't language used as a shorthand to recall salient aspects of some experience?....if I think "dog" my mind will start generating all sorts of things...not just one static idea....meditation helps us to understand this....take the word "dog" as a meditation object and see what happens....if you are successful in achieving absorption I'm pretty sure that you will end up with some really stripped down mental object not really resembling the ordinary thoughts we have when we think "dog"....maybe you will attain absorption when you just focus on the internal sound of the word.....but this is only a mentally produced sound....but this makes sense in that really the word "dog" has its sound as its nearest referent.............this is what language is all about I guess....whether its "dog" or "justice".......it's all empty......I think.....mabe not.....don't know for sure.....
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby alan » Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:12 am

Hi Nana
Nice quote, but not relevant. It does not address the issues we are discussing.
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:20 am

While there may be that via evolution we have impulses to act with some degree of compassion or empathy, compassion, empathy, love, justice have become highly refined concepts, certainly more so in the suttas and other writings than what we would find by evolution alone, but there is not any ultimate self-existent reality to them, they become by our actions. No neo-platonism here.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Nyana » Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:37 am

alan wrote:Hi Nana
Nice quote, but not relevant. It does not address the issues we are discussing.

Of course it does. You said:

alan wrote:Oh, tilt. I'm sure you are aware that we are the product of the evolution of our brains.

From a Buddhist point of view this is only one aspect of who we are and how we became what we are. We are the product of our kamma. And kamma begins with volitional intention. The body and the brain only comprise one of the five aggregates -- important, yes -- but not the most important.
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Ben » Thu Aug 11, 2011 8:43 am

Hi Geoff,
Ñāṇa wrote:
alan wrote:Oh, tilt. I'm sure you are aware that we are the product of the evolution of our brains.

This sounds like the big lie of scientific materialism to me.................


For some reason, I am somewhat reminded of some recent writings and a radio interview with Sam Harris. I'm not sure whether you include Harris as a 'scientific materialist'. Personally, I find his writings while challenging also refreshing.

Q&A re:"The Moral Landscape"

12. How will admitting that there are right and wrong answers to issues of human and animal flourishing transform the way we think and talk about morality?
What I’ve tried to do in my book is give a framework in which we can think about human values in universal terms. Currently, the most important questions in human life—questions about what constitutes a good life, which wars we should fight or not fight, which diseases should be cured first, etc.—are thought to lie outside the purview of science, in principle. Therefore, we have divorced the most important questions in human life from the context in which our most rigorous and intellectually honest thinking gets done.
Moral truth entirely depends on actual and potential changes in the well-being of conscious creatures. As such, there are things to be discovered about it through careful observation and honest reasoning. It seems to me that the only way we are going to build a global civilization based on shared values—allowing us to converge on the same political, economic, and environmental goals—is to admit that questions about right and wrong and good and evil have answers, in the same way the questions about human health do.

-- http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... am-harris/
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Dan74 » Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:53 am

This is probably left of the field but some thoughts that came to mind while reading this:

We don't need to believe in compassion in order for it to manifest in action. I recall our middle kidling when not yet 2, he was in my arms while walking through a flower shop. We came to a fountain feature with fake smoke coming out. I put my hand in to hear him exclaim "oh no Dad! Hot!" I am sure he was not aware of compassion whether by name or by reputation.

So it simply manifests, a product of our kamma which includes genetics, evolution and probably a bit more than that. What is it? It is a potential, somewhat like our potential to learn a language which we all possess. In the absence of a language around us we wouldn't learn it, but the potential is there.

An aside in response to Kim.
Kim wrote:If I refuse to recognise my evil side, refuse to feed its impulses by acting on them, they will dwindle away. So we are taught.
Similarly, if I refuse to acknowledge the existence of compassion, it will dwindle away. In such ways do human monsters (Hannibal Lectors, for instance) create themselves.


Not sure if I am reading Kim correctly but not recognizing the "evil side" is exactly the culprit. Facing all of it including the stuff we don't want to see is how we learn to become fully human. Not acting on it, not feeding it, is of course a good idea, but face it we must. Otherwise it will pull the strings quietly and just lie in wait until the opportunity arises (remember Death and the Maiden for instance or Dr Mengele, who was a war hero saving people from a burning tank only to be corrupted by the unlimited power he held over other human beings and his formerly unacknowledged dark impulses).
Kim wrote:Passengers are herded towards the Gates of Hell, weeping and wailing ... until one guy says, 'this is totally unbelievable' and manages to laugh at it, whereupon Hell falls to pieces in front of their eyes and everyone finds themselves back on the train and, soon, pulling into London Central Station. So far so good, but the same guy looks at the grand public buildings of London and starts to laugh again ... and London starts falling to bits in the same way.)

Of course it does - there is no London Central Station (literally, not just in the emptiness sense) :D

Returning to the OP:

Death: YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN'T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME?


It seems to me they don't need to become, they can just manifest. Sure giving them a name or even a notion of "them" is already believing in them, is this necessary? Our kid didn't have to believe in compassion in order to demonstrate it. Indeed thinking about it can sometimes get in the way. On the other hand cultivating it can also be useful up to a point, but then this crutch is also to be thrown away.
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:58 am

Ben wrote:For some reason, I am somewhat reminded of some recent writings and a radio interview with Sam Harris. I'm not sure whether you include Harris as a 'scientific materialist'. Personally, I find his writings while challenging also refreshing.

Q&A re:"The Moral Landscape"

12. How will admitting that there are right and wrong answers to issues of human and animal flourishing transform the way we think and talk about morality?
What I’ve tried to do in my book is give a framework in which we can think about human values in universal terms. Currently, the most important questions in human life—questions about what constitutes a good life, which wars we should fight or not fight, which diseases should be cured first, etc.—are thought to lie outside the purview of science, in principle. Therefore, we have divorced the most important questions in human life from the context in which our most rigorous and intellectually honest thinking gets done.
Moral truth entirely depends on actual and potential changes in the well-being of conscious creatures. As such, there are things to be discovered about it through careful observation and honest reasoning. It seems to me that the only way we are going to build a global civilization based on shared values—allowing us to converge on the same political, economic, and environmental goals—is to admit that questions about right and wrong and good and evil have answers, in the same way the questions about human health do.

-- http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... am-harris/

:twothumbsup:
I like it!
To tie it back to the OP: it would be fair to say that Harris is advocating a rational/logical/scientific approach to questions that Pratchett addresses (equally well, IMO, though I can understand others being unwilling to agree) through metaphor, myth and fable.

:namaste:
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Dan74 » Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:03 am

Regarding the paragraph by Harris, I guess where logical analysis can come in is teasing out the underlying assumptions. They of course will differ and this consensus he speaks of is an unfulfillable dream.

Harris, to me sounds like one of my many colleagues who would like to believe that logic is omnipotent. On the other hand his writings are extremely one-sided and his descriptions read like caricatures. In this way bias creeps into the mind enamoured with logic through the back door - totally unaware and yet so obvious to others.
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:04 am

Dan74 wrote:
Kim wrote:Passengers are herded towards the Gates of Hell, weeping and wailing ... until one guy says, 'this is totally unbelievable' and manages to laugh at it, whereupon Hell falls to pieces in front of their eyes and everyone finds themselves back on the train and, soon, pulling into London Central Station. So far so good, but the same guy looks at the grand public buildings of London and starts to laugh again ... and London starts falling to bits in the same way.)

Of course it does - there is no London Central Station (literally, not just in the emptiness sense) :D

Trivial admission of guilt here: I can't remember the details of the story well enough so I made up 'London Central Station'. :embarassed:
Not feeling too guilty, though: it's at least twenty years since I read it.
... none of which affects the point of the story.

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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby chownah » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:11 pm

I've enjoyed everything I've read by Sam Harris until now.....what was offered above is a real disappointment for me.....all of it seems to be way below his usual standards...for instance:
"Therefore, we have divorced the most important questions in human life from the context in which our most rigorous and intellectually honest thinking gets done."
Maybe he has done this in his life and maybe some others have too but believe me I have not done this....in fact I would say that it is the important questions in human life that have honed my thinking to a type of honesty which encompasses the intellectual and goes far beyond.......I certainly hope that others here have not squandered their most rigorous and intellectual honesty on irrelevant things as Sam Harris has done with his life....that is I think that he has indicated he has done this in his life if we take him to be rigorously and intellectually honest when he says that "WE" have done this.
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby kirk5a » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:40 pm

Dan74 wrote:We don't need to believe in compassion in order for it to manifest in action. I recall our middle kidling when not yet 2, he was in my arms while walking through a flower shop. We came to a fountain feature with fake smoke coming out. I put my hand in to hear him exclaim "oh no Dad! Hot!" I am sure he was not aware of compassion whether by name or by reputation.

That's what I was trying to point out, thanks for the anecdote. When we are aware and sensitive to our fellow beings, compassion happens. It is not preceded by "I believe in compassion." Death has it all backwards. It happens, then we start thinking about it and making it into an abstraction. Possibly to the point where we lose touch with the real thing in favor of our notions about compassion. That's where well-meaning people start acting goofy because they think compassion means this and that.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:59 pm

Dan74 wrote:This is probably left of the field but some thoughts that came to mind while reading this:

We don't need to believe in compassion in order for it to manifest in action.
Maybe not; however, justice can be a very different animal, though compassion is something that for some people is a quality that may need to be developed.

So it simply manifests, a product of our kamma which includes genetics, evolution and probably a bit more than that. What is it? It is a potential, somewhat like our potential to learn a language which we all possess. In the absence of a language around us we wouldn't learn it, but the potential is there.
And you make the of the OP point here.


Returning to the OP:

Death: YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN'T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME?


It seems to me they don't need to become, they can just manifest. Sure giving them a name or even a notion of "them" is already believing in them, is this necessary? Our kid didn't have to believe in compassion in order to demonstrate it. Indeed thinking about it can sometimes get in the way. On the other hand cultivating it can also be useful up to a point, but then this crutch is also to be thrown away.
It needs to be a bit more than simply manifest, otherwise there would not be dictums on cultivating justice and compassion and such qualities. Also, quite frankly, the universe does not give a rat's ass about us. Like the dinosaurs, we could all too easily be wiped away.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Nyana » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:22 pm

Ben wrote:For some reason, I am somewhat reminded of some recent writings and a radio interview with Sam Harris. I'm not sure whether you include Harris as a 'scientific-materialist'. Personally, I find his writings while challenging also refreshing.

Yeah, I've read a couple of short excerpts by Harris, but I don't know enough about him to offer an informed opinion on his views.

My view is that rationalism is important -- an essential psychological developmental stage -- but it isn't the ultimate panacea for all human problems (personal or societal). Which brings to mind Adam Curtis' The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom?

All the best,

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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby daverupa » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:45 pm

Dan74 wrote:In this way bias creeps into the mind enamoured with logic through the back door - totally unaware and yet so obvious to others.


Reading Harris qua philosopher, one does not take his use of logic as an infallible example, but merely as one philosopher's attempt to use it to make their case. Letter to a Christian Nation is well-argued, but his more recent The Moral Landscape seems philosophically disappointing, despite the heady promise of his well-delivered TED talk on the subject. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the idea is held a little clumsily in his hands as yet, the idea he's toying with has interesting promise, a bit like pliable clay in a featureless lump. I refer to the TED talk in toto as his best explication to date.

Furthermore, I find the ability to define wholesome/unwholesome to be an equivalently strong claim to Harris', and I find it hypocritical to criticize his claim about the possibility of a moral calculus when the Dhamma includes a version of one.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby Dan74 » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:26 pm

This reminded me of fellow student who used to be in love with Hesse's The Glass Bead Game and the idea of the supremacy of the intellect. He was a brilliant kid (now a maths professor at Northwestern) and already at 20 he realized the limitations of logic and chuckled at his former folly. Harris's is a lesser mind still enthralled by the glitter of the intellect. But he has the gift of gab so we hear a lot about it.

How do you figure that the Dhamma has a "moral calculus"? The Buddha was a wise and gentle teacher from what I can make out, he gave guidance, not commandments, decrees, laws or statements. His path was the one each has to walk for him (or her) self, discover anew, live rather than calculate or deduce.

Or so it seems to me, unless I've been rummaging through the wrong baskets.
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:45 pm

Dan74 wrote:This is probably left of the field but some thoughts that came to mind while reading this:

We don't need to believe in compassion in order for it to manifest in action. I recall our middle kidling when not yet 2, he was in my arms while walking through a flower shop. We came to a fountain feature with fake smoke coming out. I put my hand in to hear him exclaim "oh no Dad! Hot!" I am sure he was not aware of compassion whether by name or by reputation.

So it simply manifests, a product of our kamma which includes genetics, evolution and probably a bit more than that. What is it? It is a potential, somewhat like our potential to learn a language which we all possess. In the absence of a language around us we wouldn't learn it, but the potential is there.


I have seen this with children too; they learn caution and extend what they have learned, perhaps from some instinct? This is where I wonder if compassion is based in and extended from our survival instincts, such as the morality of right and wrong ‘do unto others what you would have them do unto you’ could derive from basic survival instincts as these are matured with wisdom to knowledge that doing right by others helps to insulate society.

This also reminds me of a book ‘The God Part of the Brain’ by Matthew Alper, where his theory (I am radically abridging this) was that human spirituality is “natures white lie” hardwired into our survival genetics as a coping mechanism for our awareness of death.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby daverupa » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:55 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:I have seen this with children too; they learn caution and extend what they have learned, perhaps from some instinct?


Mirror neurons, I expect.

"The function of the mirror system is a subject of much speculation. Many researchers in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology consider that this system provides the physiological mechanism for the perception action coupling (see the common coding theory)[3]. These mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Some researchers also speculate that mirror systems may simulate observed actions, and thus contribute to theory of mind skills,[6][7] while others relate mirror neurons to language abilities.[8]"

(have a look)

An upcoming conference...

"...will be focusing on empathy and compassion through the lens of the emerging science of empathy, which is demonstrating that we are actually wired for empathy and compassion. Rather than seeing human beings as an outcome of the selfish gene, knowing that empathy potential exists at a neurophysiological level gives us a completely different understanding of human nature. To explore this reality we have brought together a distinguished panel of presenters."

(source)

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: little lies, big lies

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:10 pm

daverupa wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:I have seen this with children too; they learn caution and extend what they have learned, perhaps from some instinct?


Mirror neurons, I expect.

"The function of the mirror system is a subject of much speculation. Many researchers in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology consider that this system provides the physiological mechanism for the perception action coupling (see the common coding theory)[3]. These mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Some researchers also speculate that mirror systems may simulate observed actions, and thus contribute to theory of mind skills,[6][7] while others relate mirror neurons to language abilities.[8]"

(have a look)

An upcoming conference...

"...will be focusing on empathy and compassion through the lens of the emerging science of empathy, which is demonstrating that we are actually wired for empathy and compassion. Rather than seeing human beings as an outcome of the selfish gene, knowing that empathy potential exists at a neurophysiological level gives us a completely different understanding of human nature. To explore this reality we have brought together a distinguished panel of presenters."

(source)

:heart:


Interesting study for the social context of learning and development.

The Science of Empathy is especially interesting should it discover what ‘empathy potential’ is, and if it is an innate part of the human condition. And if such is discovered, why is there a disconnect from empathy and compassion in such cases as range from everyday selfish behavior the extreme of the sociopath.

“Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.” – Charles Lamb — (from the preface of To Kill a Mockingbird)
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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