Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20033
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by retrofuturist » Fri May 25, 2018 3:50 am

Greetings,

In the Dhamma, doubt is one of the five hindrances.

Doubt specifically about the Dhamma also causes issues...
AN 4.184 wrote:"Furthermore, there is the case of the person in doubt & perplexity, who has not arrived at certainty with regard to the True Dhamma. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, 'How doubtful & perplexed I am! I have not arrived at any certainty with regard to the True Dhamma!' He grieves & is tormented, weeps, beats his breast, & grows delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is afraid & in terror of death.
Yet, if one has absolutely certainty of their understanding of the Dhamma, and has no doubt about it whatsoever, they may be closing their minds to further advancement...
MN 95 wrote:"Bharadvaja, first you went by conviction. Now you speak of unbroken tradition. There are five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Which five? Conviction, liking, unbroken tradition, reasoning by analogy, & an agreement through pondering views. These are the five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Now some things are firmly held in conviction and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not firmly held in conviction, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are well-liked... truly an unbroken tradition... well-reasoned... Some things are well-pondered and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not well-pondered, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. In these cases it isn't proper for a knowledgeable person who safeguards the truth to come to a definite conclusion, 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless."
What is the "middle way" between the two extremes of experiencing debilitating skeptical doubt, and ensuring that we don't falsely conclude that "Only this is true; anything else is worthless"?

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Saengnapha
Posts: 1350
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Saengnapha » Fri May 25, 2018 4:04 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 3:50 am
Greetings,

In the Dhamma, doubt is one of the five hindrances.

Doubt specifically about the Dhamma also causes issues...
AN 4.184 wrote:"Furthermore, there is the case of the person in doubt & perplexity, who has not arrived at certainty with regard to the True Dhamma. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, 'How doubtful & perplexed I am! I have not arrived at any certainty with regard to the True Dhamma!' He grieves & is tormented, weeps, beats his breast, & grows delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is afraid & in terror of death.
Yet, if one has absolutely certainty of their understanding of the Dhamma, and has no doubt about it whatsoever, they may be closing their minds to further advancement...
MN 95 wrote:"Bharadvaja, first you went by conviction. Now you speak of unbroken tradition. There are five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Which five? Conviction, liking, unbroken tradition, reasoning by analogy, & an agreement through pondering views. These are the five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Now some things are firmly held in conviction and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not firmly held in conviction, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are well-liked... truly an unbroken tradition... well-reasoned... Some things are well-pondered and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not well-pondered, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. In these cases it isn't proper for a knowledgeable person who safeguards the truth to come to a definite conclusion, 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless."
What is the "middle way" between the two extremes of experiencing debilitating skeptical doubt, and ensuring that we don't falsely conclude that "Only this is true; anything else is worthless"?

Metta,
Paul. :)
It is much more effective to be specific about what is in doubt rather than treat doubt as a general state of mind. For example, you don't doubt that you exist and that you really are someone else. By being specific about what doubt is, we see that it is NOT a cloud swarming and encompassing our brain. It is really about thinking and reasoning and the inability to do either, effectively, with our conditioned mind. With all the information of the ages stuffed into our stored memory, is it any wonder that doubt and confusion reign unimpeded?

SarathW
Posts: 9778
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by SarathW » Fri May 25, 2018 4:16 am

[quoteWhat is the "middle way" between the two extremes of experiencing debilitating skeptical doubt, and ensuring that we don't falsely conclude that "Only this is true; anything else is worthless"?][/quote]
Noble Eightfold path.
Of course!
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 2507
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by DooDoot » Fri May 25, 2018 4:22 am

Possibly MN 95 is not referred to accurately in this thread.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20033
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by retrofuturist » Fri May 25, 2018 4:24 am

Greetings DooDoot,
DooDoot wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 4:22 am
Possibly MN 95 is not referred to accurately in this thread.
Many things are possible. Would you like to elaborate, good man?

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 2507
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by DooDoot » Fri May 25, 2018 4:30 am

DooDoot wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 4:22 am
Possibly MN 95 is not referred to accurately in this thread.
I am not intimately familiar with the sutta therefore I'll have to read it, at a later time. But my Dhamma-Radar rang a warning bell. :)

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20033
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by retrofuturist » Fri May 25, 2018 4:37 am

Greetings DooDoot,

Fair enough. What was presented was Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation.

Unfortunately Nanamoli's translation at A2I is merely an excerpt, and doesn't include that particular tract of text.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4092
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 25, 2018 6:36 am

Ven. Sujato's translation goes thusly:
First you relied on faith, now you speak of oral tradition. These five things can be seen to turn out in two different ways. What five? Faith, personal preference, oral tradition, reasoned contemplation, and acceptance of a view after consideration. Even though you have full faith in something, it may be void, hollow, and false. And even if you don’t have full faith in something, it may be true and real, not otherwise. Even though you have a strong preference for something … something may be accurately transmitted … something may be well contemplated … something may be well considered, it may be void, hollow, and false. And even if something is not well considered, it may be true and real, not otherwise.
For a sensible person who is preserving truth this is not sufficient to come to the definite conclusion: ‘This is the only truth, other ideas are stupid.’
https://suttacentral.net/mn95/en/sujato

and Bhikkhu Bodhi's is this:
Bhāradvāja, first you took your stand on faith, now you speak of oral tradition. There are five things, Bhāradvāja, that may turn out in two different ways here and now. What five? Faith, approval, oral tradition, reasoned cogitation, and reflective acceptance of a view. These five things may turn out in two different ways here and now. Now something may be fully accepted out of faith, yet it may be empty, hollow, and false; but something else may not be fully accepted out of faith, yet it may be factual, true, and unmistaken. Again, something may be fully approved of…well transmitted…well cogitated…well reflected upon, yet it may be empty, hollow, and false; but something else may not be well reflected upon, yet it may be factual, true, and unmistaken. Under these conditions it is not proper for a wise man who preserves truth to come to the definite conclusion: ‘Only this is true, anything else is wrong.’
https://suttacentral.net/mn95/en/bodhi

SarathW
Posts: 9778
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by SarathW » Fri May 25, 2018 6:47 am

Guys am I missing something here?
What is the problem?
When I read all three translations I get the same idea.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

User avatar
rightviewftw
Posts: 1773
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:50 pm

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by rightviewftw » Fri May 25, 2018 6:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 3:50 am
Yet, if one has absolutely certainty of their understanding of the Dhamma, and has no doubt about it whatsoever, they may be closing their minds to further advancement...
i also think you are mistaking about the absolute certainty of one who has come to agreement, he has no such absolute certainty. He can say "i see no other possibility" but his range of vision may be flawed so just because he does no see any other possibility it does not mean that there is none.
Only after having realized the Dhamma, he can say "There is no other possibility, only this is true" and know not only that it is he would also know exactly how it is and isn't in regards to qualities.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20033
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by retrofuturist » Fri May 25, 2018 6:58 am

Greetings,
rightviewftw wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 6:51 am
Only after having realized the Dhamma, he can say "There is no other possibility, only this is true" and know not only that it is he would also know exactly how it is and isn't.
Even if one were to regard the Dhamma thusly, others with similar certitude will have different understandings and perspectives on what the Dhamma actually is. Thus, the plethora of interpretations and schools that have popped up over the past 2600 years.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

User avatar
rightviewftw
Posts: 1773
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:50 pm

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by rightviewftw » Fri May 25, 2018 7:05 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 6:58 am
Greetings,
rightviewftw wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 6:51 am
Only after having realized the Dhamma, he can say "There is no other possibility, only this is true" and know not only that it is he would also know exactly how it is and isn't.
Even if one were to regard the Dhamma thusly, others with similar certitude will have different understandings and perspectives on what the Dhamma actually is. Thus, the plethora of interpretations and schools that have popped up over the past 2600 years.

Metta,
Paul. :)
Yes of course there will be people who speak the words but know not the meaning of it. Rarely will they claim 100% certainty tho. It does not matter for one who has arrived at the Dhamma, he or she can have such confidence that gives rise to fearlessness because he knows there is no flaw in in his understanding of that Dhamma, he can Lion's Roar in assemblies to that extent.

I don't think there is a plethora of Dhamma interpretation nowadays either. There are not that many really and afaik several of people are alligned who proclaim a Dhamma, a meditative state that is Nibbana. Then there is the Annihilationists who say that there is no specific meditative attainment marking Stream Entry and Nibbana is more or less the destruction of craving as i understand it. There is the Eternalist camp as well which would be alligned with the Annihilationists to the extent of a supreme meditative attainment not marking the Stream-Entry but disagreeing on the nature of Parinibbana. That is more or less the state of Theravada as i see it.

There are minor disagreements about the interpretation of some other terms but as far as disagreement about the path and fruit, i think that is the general outline.
Last edited by rightviewftw on Fri May 25, 2018 7:44 am, edited 13 times in total.

SarathW
Posts: 9778
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by SarathW » Fri May 25, 2018 7:06 am

Thus, the plethora of interpretations and schools that have popped up over the past 2600 years.
What is the reason?
One is that Buddhist also clinging to their views. The second is the difficulty of finding a good teacher.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4092
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 25, 2018 9:50 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 3:50 am

What is the "middle way" between the two extremes of experiencing debilitating skeptical doubt, and ensuring that we don't falsely conclude that "Only this is true; anything else is worthless"?
I would humbly suggest that one sane and fruitful approach is derived from Karl Popper's philosophy. We provisionally accept a particular view based on one of the mental activities outlined in MN 95, and then subject that view to the test of practical experience. If experience falsifies it, then the view should be dropped or modified, but if we find it to be confirmed, then we gently increase our trust in that view while acknowledging that it can in principle be refuted at any time.

This is the approach that Richard Gombrich takes to his study of the Buddha's thought and language, but can I think prove useful in many other areas of practice. It appears to be in line with MN 95, and also encourages humility and Right Speech when dealing with others, which in turn helps to avoid conflict.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20033
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by retrofuturist » Fri May 25, 2018 9:52 am

Greetings Sam,

I do like that!

I wonder if such an approach has any explicit parallel in the suttas?

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: denise and 72 guests