Is there a real world out there?...

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:46 pm

Hi Binocular,

binocular wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I agree with Chownah and Reflection that all we have to work with is our experience

But this is just a step away from solipsism!

It's not a philosophical statement, it's a practical statement. What do you propose to work with (in a Dhamma sense), if not your experiences?
binocular wrote:
To me, any attempt to confirm or deny that there is a "real world" misses the point. That most of us, in ordinary life, or in more technical areas such as science, use a working model that there is something out there, and that is what we are measuring or experiencing, and use language that builds in that assumption. We don't necessarily take it seriously, but we don't waste time thinking:
"I will go into the laboratory and measure the wavelength of this light that may or may not be real with this apparatus that also may or may not be real. And, by the way, my very concept of wavelength is built on the assumption of ..."

It's not a "waste of time." It's acknowledging the assumptions one works with. It is sometimes indeed counterproductive to do so, but the solution isn't to take them for granted. It's by taking things for granted that we can get into all kinds of problems.

These questions of reality might not be a waste of time in some cases, but I think they are very often a waste of time in the contexts I specified (e.g. making measurements in a lab). They are a waste of time when they take time and effort away from useful action. And I don't think that such philosophical analysis is central to the point of the Buddha's teachings.

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:27 pm

Its a moot point imo. What important is that we continue to pretend there is so that science doesnt stop working.
Joshu was asked,
"When a man comes to you with nothing,
what would you say to him ?"
Joshu replied, "Throw it away!"
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby reflection » Sat Jun 29, 2013 12:39 am

kirk5a wrote:Or heck, going by the logic presented here, there is no way to prove the existence of my own brain. When's the last time anyone saw their own pancreas? Anyone want to deny they have a brain or a pancreas?

From a logical point of view perhaps so. But the case with the Dhamma is, I think we should investigate things in terms of experience more than we use logical analysis. As said before by mike, if this logical/philosophical analysis takes you from investigating experience, it is a probably a good reason to leave it aside. But in my experience this topic is not just a philosophical issue. In some states of mind resulting from meditation the world can seem to be like (in lack of better words) a mirage, like unreal, or perhaps it's best to say it seems very mind made. Those experiences are what got me investigating if there is a 'real world', not the logical or philosophical approach. I'm sure a lot of other Buddhists have had similar experiences and came to the same questions. But I decided that I don't think it's possible to ever know for sure either way. But it doesn't really matter because one thing is sure; and that's our experiences exist.

Another interesting thing is perceptions. Usually we have the perception of walls being solid for example, but it's not unusual that after meditation people see walls bending, and other strange perceptual phenomena. Or maybe the more common one feeling like a body is rising or expanding into space. Things as these at the very least shows how much our view of the world is shaped by our perceptions. What we see is not necessarily what is true. And that could also raise the question; if those very ordinary perceptions are so unreliable, how about the rest? Are they based on anything?
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby manas » Sat Jun 29, 2013 1:09 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Binocular,

binocular wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I agree with Chownah and Reflection that all we have to work with is our experience

But this is just a step away from solipsism!

It's not a philosophical statement, it's a practical statement. What do you propose to work with (in a Dhamma sense), if not your experiences?
binocular wrote:
To me, any attempt to confirm or deny that there is a "real world" misses the point. That most of us, in ordinary life, or in more technical areas such as science, use a working model that there is something out there, and that is what we are measuring or experiencing, and use language that builds in that assumption. We don't necessarily take it seriously, but we don't waste time thinking:
"I will go into the laboratory and measure the wavelength of this light that may or may not be real with this apparatus that also may or may not be real. And, by the way, my very concept of wavelength is built on the assumption of ..."

It's not a "waste of time." It's acknowledging the assumptions one works with. It is sometimes indeed counterproductive to do so, but the solution isn't to take them for granted. It's by taking things for granted that we can get into all kinds of problems.

These questions of reality might not be a waste of time in some cases, but I think they are very often a waste of time in the contexts I specified (e.g. making measurements in a lab). They are a waste of time when they take time and effort away from useful action. And I don't think that such philosophical analysis is central to the point of the Buddha's teachings.

:anjali:
Mike

:goodpost:

We can't prove beyond a doubt whether there really is a world 'out there', or not. But every one of us can prove beyond a doubt, the reality of dukkha in our lives, and the solution to that problem is more important and pressing than the former.

:anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jun 29, 2013 8:49 am

m0rl0ck wrote:Its a moot point imo. What important is that we continue to pretend there is so that science doesnt stop working.


I used to work in the building trade, and the assumption of a real world was very helpful in terms of not falling off roofs, not getting electrocuted, not chopping off fingers etc. :tongue:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby binocular » Sat Jun 29, 2013 6:11 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
binocular wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I agree with Chownah and Reflection that all we have to work with is our experience

But this is just a step away from solipsism!

It's not a philosophical statement, it's a practical statement.

What do you propose to work with (in a Dhamma sense), if not your experiences?

Instructions and other input from others, for example.

When one's own experience seems unreliable, insufficient or otherwise troublesome, one asks admirable people for input, and trusts them, even if what they say seems to go against one's own experience.


mikenz66 wrote:And I don't think that such philosophical analysis is central to the point of the Buddha's teachings.

Solipsism is the refuge of madmen.

I don't think the Buddha was suggesting solipsism.
To think that Buddhism is essentially solipsistic - then what about all that about the importance of admirable friendship and us being dependent on the teachings of the Buddha for our enlightenment??



manas wrote:But every one of us can prove beyond a doubt, the reality of dukkha in our lives, and the solution to that problem is more important and pressing than the former.

"Proof" exists only in an interpersonal context, directly or indirectly interpersonal.
Directly, in that we prove something to another person; indirectly in that we prove something on terms agreed upon by a particular community.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 29, 2013 9:07 pm

binocular wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:What do you propose to work with (in a Dhamma sense), if not your experiences?

Instructions and other input from others, for example.

Of course. I take that as a given. Still, it's experiences that we work with, based on that advice.

I've no idea why you keep mentioning Solipsism. I presume you mean:
A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing;
also : extreme egocentrism
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/solipsism

I certainly never said that. I said:
mikenz66 wrote:I don't think that such philosophical analysis is central to the point of the Buddha's teachings.

To me, the Buddha taught us how to analyse the dukkha we experience and how to eliminate it. He didn't teach us how to determine to what extent "the world" is real. Not that there is anything wrong with that quest. Some of us spend much of their lives investigating those sorts of issues.

However, the Buddha's teaching was focussed on a particular task:
"... there are many more things that I have found out, but not revealed to you. What I have revealed to you is only a little. And why, monks, have I not revealed it?

"Because, monks, it is not related to the goal, it is not fundamental to the holy life, does not conduce to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment or Nibbaana. That is why I have not revealed it. And what, monks, have I revealed?

"What I have revealed is: 'This is Suffering, this is the Arising of Suffering, this is the Cessation of Suffering, and this is the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html



:anjali:
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby reflection » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:44 pm

I will respond here instead of the thread about venerable Thanissaro's anatta teachings.

binocular wrote:
reflection wrote:I'm not familiar with solipsism, but I said "it's what you have to work with" as a practical advise, not a philosophical point of view.

Solipsism (Listeni/ˈsɒlɨpsɪzəm/; from Latin solus, meaning "alone", and ipse, meaning "self") is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure. The external world and other minds cannot be known, and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist. As such it is the only epistemological position that, by its own postulate, is both irrefutable and yet indefensible in the same manner.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism

I can find some agreement with this from mainly a practical point of view. But it's not just mind, it's also the other senses. And I'm not drawing a definite conclusion, but saying that one can't really experience the outside world without it being translated by these senses. So my advice was practical: it's those experiences we have to look at. Not trying to find out if there is an external world or not.

I remember a story about Ajahn Chah telling his monks who were complaining about noise when trying to meditate: "it is not the sound which disturbs you, it is you who disturbs the sound.". At the surface it seems like a strange statement but I find it is actually quite deep. It's us who create the sound. If the mind doesn't go out to the sound, the sound may as well not exist. It is not even useful to speak about the existence or non existence of the sound at that point.

Also, this is describing an experience which shows us how the mind can exist without the external world:
The external world gradually disappears from your awareness and the mind will no longer be going to perform any work on the outside. It's as if you've come inside your 'house,' where all your sense faculties have come together to form one compact unit. You are at your ease and the mind is free from all external objects. Awareness remains with the breath and over time it will penetrate deeper and deeper inside, becoming progressively more refined. Ultimately, awareness of the breath becomes so refined that the sensation of the breath seems to disappear. You could say either that awareness of the sensation of the breath has disappeared, or that the breath itself has disappeared.
http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Evening_Sitting.php


Those are more practical 'insights' instead of philosophical ideas which can make us question our assumptions about reality.

Then again I don't think it is important to come to a conclusion about whether there is an external world or not. But I do think it's important to see how fleeting, alterable and unreliable our perceptions of this world really are.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:30 am

Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:
binocular wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:What do you propose to work with (in a Dhamma sense), if not your experiences?

Instructions and other input from others, for example.

Of course. I take that as a given. Still, it's experiences that we work with, based on that advice.

I've no idea why you keep mentioning Solipsism. I presume you mean:
A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing;
also : extreme egocentrism
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/solipsism

I certainly never said that. I said:
mikenz66 wrote:I don't think that such philosophical analysis is central to the point of the Buddha's teachings.

To me, the Buddha taught us how to analyse the dukkha we experience and how to eliminate it. He didn't teach us how to determine to what extent "the world" is real. Not that there is anything wrong with that quest. Some of us spend much of their lives investigating those sorts of issues.

However, the Buddha's teaching was focussed on a particular task:
"... there are many more things that I have found out, but not revealed to you. What I have revealed to you is only a little. And why, monks, have I not revealed it?

"Because, monks, it is not related to the goal, it is not fundamental to the holy life, does not conduce to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment or Nibbaana. That is why I have not revealed it. And what, monks, have I revealed?

"What I have revealed is: 'This is Suffering, this is the Arising of Suffering, this is the Cessation of Suffering, and this is the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html



:anjali:
Mike

:goodpost:

Well said. Solipsism is a view, and it's quite possible not to hold to any views on such matters, recognising as you've done, that it's actually the sense-sphere of experience (loka) that we deal with.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby binocular » Sun Jun 30, 2013 9:47 am

mikenz66 wrote:I've no idea why you keep mentioning Solipsism.

Like I already said: Suggesting that experience is all we have to work with is a step away from solipsism. It's not yet solipsism, but it is dangerously close.


retrofuturist wrote:Well said. Solipsism is a view, and it's quite possible not to hold to any views on such matters, recognising as you've done,

that it's actually the sense-sphere of experience (loka) that we deal with.

And that is a view.


Some here seem to think that simply by "focusing on experience," one can effectively side-step views (and the problems that come with them).
As if our ideas about what "experience" is wouldn't be subject to views.

Experience is something we perceive, and perception is action, kamma, it's not an objective given.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:01 am

reflection wrote:Then again I don't think it is important to come to a conclusion about whether there is an external world or not. But I do think it's important to see how fleeting, alterable and unreliable our perceptions of this world really are.


But without an external world there would be no sense objects and therefore no experience, so I think an external world is a reasonable assumption ( and note the distinction between internal and external in the Satipatthana Sutta ).

I agree with your second point, though again from a practical point of view we have to rely on certain assumptions about perception. For example when working as an electrician the reliable perception of colour is quite important, because if one cuts the wrong wire one is liable to get electrocuted. ;)
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:08 am

Is there a real world out there?...
by Spiny Norman » Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:25 pm
...or is it all "beyond range"?
Retro and I touched on this recently and I thought it might be interesting to explore this question in more detail. Below is an exchange between us which hopefully sets the scene ( copied in from the Contemplating Anicca thread ).
Your thoughts?


Spiny Norman:
Yes, the focus with Theravada vipassana is on experience, but that experience doesn't occur in a vacuum.



Why does this matter? It's pointless speculation and it only gets you bogged down in speculative metaphysics, a thicket of
Views.


If realism is correct and there is an external world, or if anti-realism/idealism is correct, there is still dukkha regardless.


On a side note if a bus hits you at 100mph you will die, regardless of if it's all mental or all physical
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby reflection » Sun Jun 30, 2013 11:14 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
reflection wrote:Then again I don't think it is important to come to a conclusion about whether there is an external world or not. But I do think it's important to see how fleeting, alterable and unreliable our perceptions of this world really are.


But without an external world there would be no sense objects and therefore no experience, so I think an external world is a reasonable assumption ( and note the distinction between internal and external in the Satipatthana Sutta ).

I agree with your second point, though again from a practical point of view we have to rely on certain assumptions about perception. For example when working as an electrician the reliable perception of colour is quite important, because if one cuts the wrong wire one is liable to get electrocuted. ;)

I agree it is very reasonable, but not important for the practice. And at least the world and our experience of the world are very much connected. So the Buddha called the six senses "the world" in many suttas. In my eyes pointing to the importance of us creating 'the world'.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby binocular » Sun Jun 30, 2013 4:43 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
reflection wrote:Then again I don't think it is important to come to a conclusion about whether there is an external world or not. But I do think it's important to see how fleeting, alterable and unreliable our perceptions of this world really are.

But without an external world there would be no sense objects and therefore no experience, so I think an external world is a reasonable assumption ( and note the distinction between internal and external in the Satipatthana Sutta ).
I agree with your second point, though again from a practical point of view we have to rely on certain assumptions about perception. For example when working as an electrician the reliable perception of colour is quite important, because if one cuts the wrong wire one is liable to get electrocuted.

I think that part of the problem is that we tend to come from the position of naive realism - basically we think that the world pretty much is the way we perceive it to be -
"Naïve realism, also known as direct realism or common sense realism, is a philosophy of mind rooted in a theory of perception that claims that the senses provide us with direct awareness of the external world."

I don't know enough about Eastern philosophy; but maybe, culturally, Easterners in general start off with different assumptions about how reality exists than we in the West do.
Such comparative East-West studies are becoming popular. For us Westerners it seems to be hard to understand the Eastern mindset, as we still approach it with our usual Western assumptions.


Richard Nisbett's book The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently ... and Why[1] proposes that the passion for strong ontology and scientific rationality based on forward chaining from axioms is essentially a "Western" phenomenon. The ancient Greek passion for abstract categories into which the entire world can be taxonomically arranged, he claims, is prototypically Western, as is the notion of causality.

“ In the Chinese intellectual tradition there is no necessary incompatibility between the belief that A is the case and the belief that not-A is the case. On the contrary, in the spirit of the Tao or yin-yang principle, A can actually imply that not-A is also the case, or at any rate soon will be the case…. Events do not occur in isolation from other events, but are always embedded in a meaningful whole in which the elements are constantly changing and rearranging themselves. [In the Chinese approach to reasoning,] to think about an object or event in isolation and apply abstract rules to it is to invite extreme and mistaken conclusions. It is the Middle Way that is the goal of reasoning. ”

He claims, in other words, that the law of the excluded middle is not applied in Chinese thought, and that a different standard applies. This has been described by other thinkers as being hermeneutic reasonableness.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Geography_of_Thought
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:47 pm

clw_uk wrote:Why does this matter? ...On a side note if a bus hits you at 100mph you will die...


I think you've answered your own question.
;)
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:51 pm

reflection wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:But without an external world there would be no sense objects and therefore no experience, so I think an external world is a reasonable assumption ( and note the distinction between internal and external in the Satipatthana Sutta ).


I agree it is very reasonable, but not important for the practice.


I'm not sure it's that simple, given that "external" in the Satipatthana Sutta basically means "other people". So the practice isn't entirely introspective.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby binocular » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:30 pm

For example, if one is to practice the brahmaviharas, one has to posit that there are other living beings out there toward whom one practices this or that sublime attitude.

How can one practice metta if one believes that others don't really exist or don't matter??
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby chownah » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:23 pm

binocular wrote:For example, if one is to practice the brahmaviharas, one has to posit that there are other living beings out there toward whom one practices this or that sublime attitude.

How can one practice metta if one believes that others don't really exist or don't matter??

One has to posit that there are living beings in the World and to understand what is the World read the Loka Suttas and The All Sutta.
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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Jul 01, 2013 4:01 pm

Is there a real world out there?...

out where?
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

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Re: Is there a real world out there?...

Postby Mindstar » Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:58 am

Just found another gem...


Bhikkhu_Samahita wrote:Friends:

Upon Reality all True Explanations will have to Converge!
Why so? Reality is one and indeed the very same.
True complete explanation must thus also be one & same!

Standard, internally Consistent and Orthodox, yet still highly Controversial for some:
Quantum Mechanics & early Theravada Buddhism agrees on at least 3 crucial points:


1: The concept of "Static Reality Out There" is violated at the absolute level!
Some attributes of the object like location, speed etc. cannot truly be said really to
be existing BEFORE observation, or INDEPENDENT of observation! Rather there
is a POTENTIALITY of multiple possibilities for these attributes to occur, out of
which only one particular one manifests, when INTENTIONAL observation collapses
this wave of potentiality into a new real actuality! This momentary EVENT Buddhism
calls a Dhamma = Basic mental state of a fundamentally dual mind-matter coincidence!
When there is looking and observation phenomena happen! When not looking they don't!
Conventional 'Reality' may thus be known better only as a particular mode of perception...
Not as an Absolute Fact!

2: The concept of "Separable Locality in Space" is violated at the absolute level!
The same phenomena can both be "individual" and "multiple" even at same time!
Individual phenomena can have more than one spatial location at the same time...
Two things spatially separated -even by 1/2 a universe- is still causally connected
as if they were entangled 'outside' or independent of space and time. Conventional
space and time may thus also be known better only as particular modes of perception...
Not as Absolute Facts!

3: The elements of Consciousness and its content Information are fundamentally REAL!
Consciousness cannot ever be set aside, since it not only is an obviously indispensable
requirement and inseparable part of any observation and phenomenon, but it is also an
irreducible fundamental element of any process of being (read becoming) alive, that cannot
be explained by or cut up into other parts! Consciousness is on the mental side, what space
is on the material side: Both can contain and display all, but they do not themselves have
any other characteristic, than their primary essence: Naked awareness & empty spatiality...
Consciousness and information are the absolute facts, and the fundamental and irreducible
reals other things, whether mental or material, are made out of & unambiguously based upon!

Some Comparable Concepts from Quantum Physics and early Theravadin Buddhism:

Quantum Physics says:
Things are in a state of superposition of multiple probabilities of which only one occurs
exactly at the moment of measurement! Before observation things are undetermined,
potential and not yet real!

Theravadin Buddhism says:
This 'Universe' starts and ends all within this ~2 meter
frame of a body...! Only when consciousness is present,
can solidity, fluidity, heat & motion manifest themselves…
When consciousness is absent, the ‘world’ therefore ends!

Quantum Physics says:
The observer participates thus in the very creation
of the object & is therefore not fully separable from it!
No observation is possible without affecting the object...

Theravadin Buddhism says:
The truth about reality is ONE, and neither two nor three!
Subject and object is a unity, and not a diverse duality...
Observation is desire driven and thus kammically creative.

Quantum Physics says:
Things can be non-locally entangled! Things that are spatially widely separated,
can still causally and instantly affect each other and act correlated!

Theravadin Buddhism says:
The sage can be both here and there simultaneously...
He can become one, & he can become many of any form!
He can instantly know other's thoughts where ever he is.

Wherever he goes, there he is unafraid.. Wherever he sleeps, there he is unalarmed!
The nights and days does neither touch nor burn him. He sees nothing in this world
that is to be kept or lost.. Therefore his mind dwells in goodwill and gentle kindness
towards all beings until he falls asleep.
SN I 110
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