Bound by Ignorance

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Antaradhana
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Bound by Ignorance

Post by Antaradhana » Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:21 pm

Split from "Homage" thread by request
SDC wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:10 pm
binocular wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 4:13 pm
Usually, this is how it is done: an analysis of the pros and the cons, clarifying one's motivation, knowing one's Why. All these need to be resolved, settled, set before one can hope to do pretty much anything, whether it's change a bad habit or start a new career. This is the standard pattern when one is given advice on how to accomplish something.
Yes, that is "usually how it is done". Moving against the grain is unusual. Embedded mechanisms will do nothing but return you to square one over and over. According to the Buddha, the path does not start with things "resolved, settled and set". Your analytic approach is fierce and potent but if you don't reposition it to serve a different purpose, it will always end up maintaining that which is most familiar.
Well said!

Moreover, excessive bias towards intellectualism, typical of people of European culture, can become an obstacle on the Path, which begins with the awareness of impermanence, suffering, conditionality of all phenomena and the understanding that you are in ignorance.
All that is subject to arising is subject to termination, all formations are non-permanent. And that which is impermanent is suffering. Regarding what is impermanent and prone to suffering, one cannot say: "This is mine, I am this, this is my self".

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SDC
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by SDC » Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:40 pm

Antaradhana wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:21 pm
Moreover, excessive bias towards intellectualism, typical of people of European culture, can become an obstacle on the Path.
Not just intellectualism. Any trajectory that has ignorance as its root will start and end in the same place. A shaman with vast knowledge of herbs and treatments will maintain an ignorance of things just as easily as neuroscientist if their actions and thinking only serve to reinforce it.

This is definitely a different topic so if people wish to discuss it further we should do it in another thread.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:59 pm

SDC wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:40 pm
Antaradhana wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:21 pm
Moreover, excessive bias towards intellectualism, typical of people of European culture, can become an obstacle on the Path.
Not just intellectualism. Any trajectory that has ignorance as its root will start and end in the same place. A shaman with vast knowledge of herbs and treatments will maintain an ignorance of things just as easily as neuroscientist if their actions and thinking only serve to reinforce it.

This is definitely a different topic so if people wish to discuss it further we should do it in another thread.
I'm not sure that I understand it, but this looks like an interesting topic. Could you summarise the main point in a new thread? I'd rather not do the honours in case I missed the point!

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SDC
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by SDC » Tue Jul 02, 2019 8:02 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:59 pm
I'm not sure that I understand it, but this looks like an interesting topic. Could you summarise the main point in a new thread? I'd rather not do the honours in case I missed the point!
I was listening to a Dhamma talk by Ven. N Nyanamoli the other day about how death is the ultimate context of life. That no matter what, death is the thing that we are most assured. With that in mind, for normal people, the most general purpose in life is to survive and moreover to survive in comfort - whatever comfort means to the individual. To balance life with that certainty of death.

In general, normal human beings are not looking to end their suffering as the Buddha describes. They live in acceptance with that ignorance because there is not much to indicate otherwise. Even if they are skeptical they have no idea where to go from there. Think about it, if there were no Buddha, we wouldn't know either. With that purpose of survival - and of course the more fine tuned details of success and happiness - the normal person's field of achievement is to be successful in that balancing act.

With all of that in mind, no matter what that person does in life, none of their action is intent on displacing ignorance. So even if their action is "right" in terms of Dhamma, if it's not corresponding to their idea of a "good life", it won't even be noticed as such. They wouldn't recognize how it applies to displacing something they aren't immediately aware of or concerned about. So they are not only confined to their own ideas about success and happiness, they are confined to the model of balancing death with life and comfort.

Destruction of suffering will never arise if conditions remain the same because the mode they are using to provide themselves with purpose and satisfaction is entwined with ignorance; it is they themselves looking back whenever they do inquire where it comes from. To try and overcome that would leave them with notions of quitting, failure, self-destruction, suicide or even death. The possibility would be inconceivable without the Buddha's words.

That is what I meant in the OP. This was put together somewhat hastily, but hopefully the point comes through.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:07 pm

SDC wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:40 pm

Not just intellectualism. Any trajectory that has ignorance as its root will start and end in the same place. A shaman with vast knowledge of herbs and treatments will maintain an ignorance of things just as easily as neuroscientist if their actions and thinking only serve to reinforce it.
Do you see "trajectory" here as being a whole life, or a temporary part of it that coheres together? Is it possible for some of our projects and intentions to spring from wisdom rather than ignorance? This ties in with the point (often made here on DW) that one needs to sort out Right View first, or the rest of the practice will be somehow misguided.

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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by SDC » Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:11 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:07 pm
Do you see "trajectory" here as being a whole life, or a temporary part of it that coheres together? Is it possible for some of our projects and intentions to spring from wisdom rather than ignorance? This ties in with the point (often made here on DW) that one needs to sort out Right View first, or the rest of the practice will be somehow misguided.
There is no reason to assume that a non-Buddhist who doesn't have any concept of the Dhamma will be unable to develop the 10 perfections (dasa pāramiyo) to some degree, but they aren't just going to get lucky and stumble into Dhamma and/or right view as a result of that most basic wisdom. Not independent of the existing Buddha-sasana and otherwise only as a paccekabuddha.

But as I was saying in the other thread, if the stakes do not get elevated, the results won't get elevated either. If a practitioner isn't putting their comfort on the line and deeply contemplating ideas which are severely contrary to normal modes of regarding oneself, those wrong views will never uproot.

Obviously for us as practitioners the degree of access affords us quite a bit opportunity and variability in terms if how far we take things. We have the ability to conceptualize things that seem ridiculous to someone who hasn't prepared any ground. So for us things apply at a much deeper and more effective position in our understanding. It is, of course, our gift as practitioners to have that access, but it can also be a curse if we get intoxicated with mere affiliation and do not make a concerted effort to progress.

My point being, yes there is progress to be made prior to right view and it can be know as progress simply by how it corresponds to the meanings we have read about and heard about. I think I said to binocular in another thread that something like the seven factors can be recognized as growing according to how they are described in the suttas and even if it doesn't make it to right view the progression can be accurate and based on that, a very supreme form of faith can represent that something more legitimate is much closer than it used to be.

So as far as right view being a prerequisite to any motion whatsoever is absurd and dangerous. As faith grows and you start to move, things get discovered and the faith gets displaced by understanding and faith goes onto apply to something else on the horizon. That risk has to be taken. You have to try. If you wait to sort it out, you're going to be doing so in a mode totally rooted in the ignorance that has kept you in samsara up to that point. You may do some solid prep work from that position but to have things change you have to take a chance on incomplete information.

Reckless? Absolutely. But presuming people gravitate towards Buddhism because of disenchantment with the world, it really isn't so much of a risk. For me, I would have rather crashed and burned and gone insane in my pursuit of Dhamma than to stay in that ordinary mode. Depends on what you are willing to put on the line. I guess it is no different than the conditions that cause revolutions. The people have to be so fed up that they are willing to die to bring about change.

My goodness, I'm long-winded today :embarassed:

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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by sunnat » Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:54 am

:anjali: sadhu
Please be long winded more often

binocular
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by binocular » Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:39 pm

SDC wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:11 am
For me, I would have rather crashed and burned and gone insane in my pursuit of Dhamma than to stay in that ordinary mode.
I have a reservation here:
A person can talk the way you do above if the ordinary mode is relatively secured for them. Like that spoiled child who criticizes his family but nevertheless lives under their roof and off their money.

Living without the security of that ordinary mode to begin with, not having that ordinary mode available to begin with -- that is quite a different matter.

If your Buddhist project crashes and burns, you know that you can still go back to ordinary mode. And you can approach your Buddhist project with that knowledge in mind, which gives you a measure of contentment and peace of mind.

Not everyone has that luxury. Some people actually realize they have to succeed in their Buddhist project, because if they don't, they have nothing to go back to, and have wasted their opportunities for anything new (for this lifetime, at least).
Last edited by binocular on Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by binocular » Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:47 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:07 pm
Do you see "trajectory" here as being a whole life, or a temporary part of it that coheres together? Is it possible for some of our projects and intentions to spring from wisdom rather than ignorance? This ties in with the point (often made here on DW) that one needs to sort out Right View first, or the rest of the practice will be somehow misguided.
Ven. Thanissaro has a different approach, noting how one works/has to work on all eight factors simultaneously, work on all eight fronts, the small progresses then mutually reincoforcing each other. So that it's not the case that one would first figure out Right View to completion, be done with it, and then move on to the next factor, working on one at a time until one completes it.

The commonsensical point that one first needs to have a sufficient understanding of the theory before one can move on to the practice still stands, though. Were it not for the widely spread anti-intellectualism, these things would be far easier.

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SDC
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by SDC » Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:52 pm

binocular wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:39 pm
If your Buddhist project crashes and burns, you know that you can still go back to ordinary mode.
I didn't/don't have this luxury at all. You're giving me too much credit.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:20 pm

binocular wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:47 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:07 pm
Do you see "trajectory" here as being a whole life, or a temporary part of it that coheres together? Is it possible for some of our projects and intentions to spring from wisdom rather than ignorance? This ties in with the point (often made here on DW) that one needs to sort out Right View first, or the rest of the practice will be somehow misguided.
Ven. Thanissaro has a different approach, noting how one works/has to work on all eight factors simultaneously, work on all eight fronts, the small progresses then mutually reincoforcing each other. So that it's not the case that one would first figure out Right View to completion, be done with it, and then move on to the next factor, working on one at a time until one completes it.

The commonsensical point that one first needs to have a sufficient understanding of the theory before one can move on to the practice still stands, though. Were it not for the widely spread anti-intellectualism, these things would be far easier.
Yes, that's pretty much my view too. I think the important thing is to trust in one's ability to make positive changes. That seems to be the essence of Right View, and enables one to make some progress and gain confidence without having it all worked out in advance.

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SDC
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by SDC » Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:25 pm

binocular wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:47 pm
The commonsensical point that one first needs to have a sufficient understanding of the theory before one can move on to the practice still stands, though.
You'll only know for sure what is sufficient in retrospect, after you start pushing. It is impossible to know beforehand. If it was possible, there would be no need to develop the framework of saddha.

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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by binocular » Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:45 pm

SDC wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:25 pm
You'll only know for sure what is sufficient in retrospect, after you start pushing. It is impossible to know beforehand. If it was possible, there would be no need to develop the framework of saddha.
I mean "sufficient" in the sense that "things make sense" at that point, at least theoretically; sufficient so that one can begin implementing the theory.

As opposed to having some verbal knowledge, internalizing some claims -- but which one notices that they don't even fit in together logically, much less having some idea where to begin working.

A sufficiently good theoretical understanding is like a plan one makes for a multi-step task, before one begins doing that task. Of course, later on when doing the task, it can become apparent that in the plan one has not accurately foreseen this or that. But that's not the problem, one can adjust as one goes. The problem is when to begin with, the plan doesn't make sense, doesn't even remotely seem actionable or realistic. That's when it's useless, and an obstacle.


Unless we're talking about Zen, where they make a point of making such inactionable plans. But we're not talking about Zen.

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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by binocular » Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:47 pm

SDC wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:52 pm
I didn't/don't have this luxury at all. You're giving me too much credit.
You have a solid job, a family, a good reputation ... right?

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SDC
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Re: Bound by Ignorance

Post by SDC » Wed Jul 03, 2019 3:03 pm

binocular wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 2:47 pm
SDC wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:52 pm
I didn't/don't have this luxury at all. You're giving me too much credit.
You have a solid job, a family, a good reputation ... right?
Your presumption that I could fall back on those things and accept a normal mode of understanding without being broken and distraught could not be more wrong.

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