Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Bundokji
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Bundokji » Fri May 25, 2018 10:06 am

I think it is when doubt becomes a position rather than a tool
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 25, 2018 10:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:
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. :)
I tend to see it as an amalgam of the Canki Sutta and those similar to it (i.e. the bit about "safeguarding truth"); the Graduated Teaching; and the standard descriptions of the Dhamma as sanditthiko, akaliko, ehipassiko, opanayiko, paccatam, veditabbo vinnuhi.

binocular
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by binocular » Fri May 25, 2018 4:32 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 4:04 am
It is much more effective to be specific about what is in doubt rather than treat doubt as a general state of mind.
Exactly.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by binocular » Fri May 25, 2018 4:44 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 9:50 am
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.
I think this sounds good in the abstract, but a person's actual experience of life is likely going to be so complex that no such testing can be possible, because because of the complexity, the results are going to be all over the place, not allowing for a meaningful interpretation.

The implied issue at hand seems to be, rather, whether one has or should have a comprehensive philosophy of life, or whether it is better/feasible/possible to handle life situations in a more partial, segmented, discrete, fragmented, even moment-to-moment way.

I think that in the West, we are raised to have a philosophy of life, a comprehensive and consistent philosophy of life at that; a comprehensive and consistent narrative about How Things Really Are. It's a narrative that has us have an opinion about pretty much everything, and because of which we expect ourselves (and everyone else) to have an opinion about pretty much everything.

But perhaps one can do without such a philosophy of life. If anything, my experience shows that it is 1. possible and 2. feasible to not have and not pursue a comprehensive and consistent philosophy of life. I find that the big doubts in life emerge because of having or wanting to have a comprehensive and consistent philosophy of life. Without such a philosophy of life , one indeed becomes less cool in some circles, becomes less sophisticated, less interesting to most people. But this also makes life easier in some ways, as it is easier to decide how to act in each given situation.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

justindesilva
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by justindesilva » Fri May 25, 2018 5:49 pm

Whether one agrees or not , I have found that the best way of grasping damma is by studying the basics of buddhism and then verifying our observasions with sutta.
The basics as anicca dukka anatma with four noble truths applied on paticca samuppada ( 12 nidanas) .
Studying the 12 nidanas itself have been exttemely helpful in understanding damma.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 25, 2018 9:56 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 4:44 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 9:50 am
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.
I think this sounds good in the abstract, but a person's actual experience of life is likely going to be so complex that no such testing can be possible, because because of the complexity, the results are going to be all over the place, not allowing for a meaningful interpretation.
This is an excellent example of the Popperian method. You are proposing an hypothesis or conjecture; the idea that "no such testing can be possible". This is a particularly good hypothesis because it is clear and unambiguous, and - more importantly - it avoids mysticism and confusion because it is eminently falsifiable, and it is obvious what we would need to do in order to falsify it.

Having done those things, I falsified it to my own satisfaction. I found that the hypothesis "no such testing can be possible" was false. That testing is possible. Whatever complexity there was, the results were not in fact "all over the place", and it did indeed allow me to make a meaningful interpretation.

paul
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by paul » Fri May 25, 2018 11:05 pm

There is a critical process in MN 95 which is deliberately emphasized in the Nanamoli translation excerpt, where investigation is explained and how dhamma principles are applied to daily life to achieve understanding. As the sutta indicates, what principles are chosen (“preference”) depends on individual choice and temperament. For Western Buddhists often reading can be substituted for ‘teacher’:

“How is truth discovered?
[…]
But the True Idea that this venerable one teaches is profound, hard to see and discover; yet it is the most peaceful and superior of all, out of reach of logical ratiocination, subtle, for the wise to experience; such a True Idea cannot be taught by one affected by lust or hate or delusion."

It is as soon as by testing him, he comes to see that he is purified from ideas provocative of lust, hate, and delusion, that he then plants his faith in him. When he visits him he respects him, when he respects him he gives ear, one who gives ear hears the True Idea, he remembers it, he investigates the meaning of the ideas remembered. When he does that he acquires a preference by pondering the ideas. That produces interest. One interested is actively committed. So committed he makes a judgment. According to his judgment he exerts himself. When he exerts himself he comes to realize with the body the ultimate truth, and he sees it by the penetrating of it with understanding. That is how there is discovery of truth. But there is as yet no final arrival at truth. How is truth finally arrived at? Final arrival at truth is the repetition, the keeping in being, the development, of those same ideas. That is how there is final arrival at truth.”—-MN 95, Nanamoli.

Saengnapha
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Saengnapha » Sat May 26, 2018 4:01 am

binocular wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 4:44 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 9:50 am
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.
I think this sounds good in the abstract, but a person's actual experience of life is likely going to be so complex that no such testing can be possible, because because of the complexity, the results are going to be all over the place, not allowing for a meaningful interpretation.

The implied issue at hand seems to be, rather, whether one has or should have a comprehensive philosophy of life, or whether it is better/feasible/possible to handle life situations in a more partial, segmented, discrete, fragmented, even moment-to-moment way.

I think that in the West, we are raised to have a philosophy of life, a comprehensive and consistent philosophy of life at that; a comprehensive and consistent narrative about How Things Really Are. It's a narrative that has us have an opinion about pretty much everything, and because of which we expect ourselves (and everyone else) to have an opinion about pretty much everything.

But perhaps one can do without such a philosophy of life. If anything, my experience shows that it is 1. possible and 2. feasible to not have and not pursue a comprehensive and consistent philosophy of life. I find that the big doubts in life emerge because of having or wanting to have a comprehensive and consistent philosophy of life. Without such a philosophy of life , one indeed becomes less cool in some circles, becomes less sophisticated, less interesting to most people. But this also makes life easier in some ways, as it is easier to decide how to act in each given situation.
Yes. This is more to the point. A comprehensive philosophy is just a honing of intellect as we see here on this Theravada forum. Honing is grasping and most mistake this for wisdom. You definitely fall out of 'coolness' and will never be accepted by any mainstream club such as Theravada. You become less interested and less interesting.

The experiencer is already falsified.

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rightviewftw
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by rightviewftw » Sat May 26, 2018 5:05 am

I read dealing with cognitive dissonance by embracing it, having flexible morals and justifying not practicing comperhensively.
Isn't this what the world is doing in general? Imperfection normalized, immersion in sensuality, practicing just to get by and not attaining anything transcending the plane of sensuality such as jhana let alone the path fruition. Of course for someone such as this, of inconsistent morality, being bent on sensuality going beyond doubt might seem inconvenient and even impossible.

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Way~Farer
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Way~Farer » Sat May 26, 2018 6:24 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"?

Metta,
Paul. :)
I think the question might really hinge on the distinction between 'seeing things as they are', and 'having a belief or view'. The kind of niggling doubt that is categorised as a hindrance is really a kind of mental affliction or disturbance, similar to the other hindrances. But the effect is, to undermine making an effort or commitment to the path. 'Why should I bother', or 'I'm not worthy of this practice' or 'this practice doesn't work' are typical doubts.

But I think the subject of the second quote is actually about 'attachment to views' - rather than to the practice of Dhamma. It is being attached to or clinging to the idea as a body of doctrine and something you identify with.
The early Abhidhamma emphasizes that a view is incorrect if it becomes an object of attachment, not because it is untrue. From the Abhidhamma perspective, Ditthi is exclusively connected with a mind (citta) rooted in greed (lobha-mūla). Views occur in four types of consciousness
rooted in greed.
Fuller, The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism, p 79.

Whereas, what can't be criticized (and isn't, in either passage) is 'seeing things as they are'.

I would think one of ways that this would manifest would be in not being attached to the idea of Buddhism, perhaps.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Sam Vara » Sat May 26, 2018 6:50 am

Way~Farer wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 6:24 am
I think the question might really hinge on the distinction between 'seeing things as they are', and 'having a belief or view'. The kind of niggling doubt that is categorised as a hindrance is really a kind of mental affliction or disturbance, similar to the other hindrances. But the effect is, to undermine making an effort or commitment to the path. 'Why should I bother', or 'I'm not worthy of this practice' or 'this practice doesn't work' are typical doubts.

But I think the subject of the second quote is actually about 'attachment to views' - rather than to the practice of Dhamma. It is being attached to or clinging to the idea as a body of doctrine and something you identify with.
Good point, Way~Farer. I think the answer to Retro's question, that "Middle Way", is outlined later in MN 95:
“But Master Gotama, how do you define the preservation of truth?” “If a person has faith, they preserve truth by saying, ‘Such is my faith.’ But they don’t yet come to the definite conclusion: ‘This is the only truth, other ideas are stupid.’ If a person has a preference … or has received an oral transmission … or has a reasoned reflection about something … or has accepted a view after contemplation, they preserve truth by saying, ‘Such is the view I have accepted after contemplation.’ But they don’t yet come to the definite conclusion: ‘This is the only truth, other ideas are stupid.’ That’s how the preservation of truth is defined, Bhāradvāja. I describe the preservation of truth as defined in this way.
But this is not yet the awakening to the truth.”
https://suttacentral.net/mn95/en/sujato

Until we have awakened to the truth, we can preserve or safeguard that truth by acknowledging that we hold it provisionally, merely as a result of the processes listed in the sutta. I love this formulation, because it refers both to our respect for what the Buddha knew and we don't (i.e. we don't, out of vanity, claim to know for sure what we only know conditionally); and it also protects our own truthfulness (i.e. we avoid the dark kamma of verbal misrepresentation).

James Tan
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by James Tan » Sat May 26, 2018 6:56 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 6:50 am

Until we have awakened to the truth, we can preserve or safeguard that truth by acknowledging that we hold it provisionally, merely as a result of the processes listed in the sutta. I love this formulation, because it refers both to our respect for what the Buddha knew and we don't (i.e. we don't, out of vanity, claim to know for sure what we only know conditionally); and it also protects our own truthfulness (i.e. we avoid the dark kamma of verbal misrepresentation).
:thumbsup:
:reading:

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Way~Farer
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Way~Farer » Sat May 26, 2018 7:29 am

“If a person has faith, they preserve truth by saying, ‘Such is my faith.’ But they don’t yet come to the definite conclusion: ‘This is the only truth, other ideas are stupid.’
Ought to be in the ToS on both Wheels. :smile:

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Sam Vara
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Sam Vara » Sat May 26, 2018 7:40 am

Way~Farer wrote:
Sat May 26, 2018 7:29 am
“If a person has faith, they preserve truth by saying, ‘Such is my faith.’ But they don’t yet come to the definite conclusion: ‘This is the only truth, other ideas are stupid.’
Ought to be in the ToS on both Wheels. :smile:
:twothumbsup:

And note how it also applies to personal preference, tradition, reasoning, and settling on views after reflecting on them. And possibly any other basis for our opinions, short of saccanubodhi, or actual awakening to the truth.

(Although I agree with the spirit of your point, I wouldn't literally incorporate this into the ToS. If people want to claim that they actually know something beyond all doubt, I'm fine with that. I'll merely adopt what MN 95 says as a personal guide.)

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Way~Farer
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Re: Doubt, Dhamma and the Middle Way

Post by Way~Farer » Sat May 26, 2018 7:45 am

No, I get that. It was a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s definitely a sutta to bookmark and refer to as circuit-breaker for a certain kind of debate.

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