Evil action and consiousness

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
binocular
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

Post by binocular »

Bundokji wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:07 amThe primacy of feelings seems to be linked to nama-rupa, an association that cannot be explained through history, culture or economy.
Sure, in the abstract/general.

But in practical application: People don't grow up nor live in a social vacuum. They learn to feel in accordance with social norms; people become acculturated to perceive things in a particular way, which can differ from one culture to another.

(Assuming here that there is no "true you" who "feels and perceives genuinely, without social conditioning".)
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Sam Vara
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:48 am
Sam Vara wrote: Sat Aug 01, 2020 1:04 pmYes, that's the kind of mental gymnastics I meant. Accepting the premise that all sexual abuse is about power, and then accepting that abuse occurs because the abuser somehow feels disempowered. Like an old shed held up by poles and planks, with enough extra premises any proposition can be made to stand up.
For a buddha, there are no threats. For the unenlightened person, there are various threats.

An unenlightened person engages in various forms of mental gymnastics.

Unenlightened persons sometimes try to overpower others by taking for granted that their own perceptions of (what constitutes a valid) threat don't involve mental gymnastics, while those of other people do.
This is leading in to further convoluted gymnastics, which I'll refrain from participating in.
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Bundokji
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:22 am Sure, in the abstract/general.

But in practical application: People don't grow up nor live in a social vacuum. They learn to feel in accordance with social norms; people become acculturated to perceive things in a particular way, which can differ from one culture to another.

(Assuming here that there is no "true you" who "feels and perceives genuinely, without social conditioning".)
The perception of pain as repulsive is not explained adequately through social theories. Probably, this is where distinguishing feelings from emotions becomes useful.

This fatalism is somehow acknowledged in the teachings. The arrow of physical pain cannot be transcended, not even by the Arahant, hence the focus on alleviating the mental stress associated with it.
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: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:00 am
Sam Vara wrote: Sat Aug 01, 2020 1:55 pmYes, I think I do. It was the "threat" aspect that I was referring to, in that a "threat" would normally be something that endangered that sense of subjective unity. Greed that is heedless of others, as when people just want to enjoy themselves at the expense of others, doesn't seem to fit that quite so well.
You mean like when people make fun of someone who has freckles, is poor, or some other undesired personal characteristic?

People like this can be said to feel threatened by boredom; or by loss of social status which they fear could occur if they wouldn't ridicule certain people.
Yes, I remember a very lengthy debate at Cittaviveka on this theme. Is unskilful action motivated by greed, in that all action wants to attain some new less painful goal? Or is it all motivated by hatred, in that the actor dislikes the current set-up?

There was no conclusion. Different ways of looking at defilements work better for different people. Personally, I have difficulty conceiving, say, gross sexual abuse as "an attempt to purify consciousness through annihilating a perception of an external threat". But other people might find that a good explanation.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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If we are unable to imagine pain but being repulsive, an intellectual answer or a theory might explain why it is this way (to ensure our survival for instance), but this explanation would not change the nature of pain being repulsive.

The teachings of the Buddha claims that the reality of the senses lacks essence. That means, the repulsiveness of pain is contingent, not primary. Had this hypothesis been true, then the Arahant would be able to transcend both physical pain and the stress associated with it, and yet, we are told that Arahants do not transcend physical pain.

If the repulsiveness of pain is contingent, what is it contingent on? The significance of whether feelings have an essence or not can be equally traced back to feelings which determines what is real hence the focus on its essence-less nature does not make a lot of sense. If someone claims that feelings have no essence, then we can go ahead and slap them to see how genuine their statement is.
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.
binocular
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Sam Vara wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:26 amThis is leading in to further convoluted gymnastics, which I'll refrain from participating in.
Bah, you're just setting yourself up as the judge as to what objectively constitutes a valid threat, for anyone.
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binocular
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Bundokji wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:29 amThe perception of pain as repulsive is not explained adequately through social theories. Probably, this is where distinguishing feelings from emotions becomes useful.

This fatalism is somehow acknowledged in the teachings. The arrow of physical pain cannot be transcended, not even by the Arahant, hence the focus on alleviating the mental stress associated with it.
So in your opinion, what exactly is the prospective sexual abuser feeling? Physical pain?
And the drug addict going through withdrawal -- is that solely physical pain?

Where's the line between physical pain and mental pain?
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binocular
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Bundokji wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:57 pmHad this hypothesis been true, then the Arahant would be able to transcend both physical pain and the stress associated with it, and yet, we are told that Arahants do not transcend physical pain.
But the question is, how bad is an arahant's physical pain?

Perhaps even the worst physical pain that is felt without the accompanying mental pain is ... bearable.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:36 pm
Sam Vara wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:26 amThis is leading in to further convoluted gymnastics, which I'll refrain from participating in.
Bah, you're just setting yourself up as the judge as to what objectively constitutes a valid threat, for anyone.
No, as I said, I'm just refraining from further participation in that particular point. I'm not judging anything, or anyone.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:39 pm
Bundokji wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:29 amThe perception of pain as repulsive is not explained adequately through social theories. Probably, this is where distinguishing feelings from emotions becomes useful.

This fatalism is somehow acknowledged in the teachings. The arrow of physical pain cannot be transcended, not even by the Arahant, hence the focus on alleviating the mental stress associated with it.
So in your opinion, what exactly is the prospective sexual abuser feeling? Physical pain?
And the drug addict going through withdrawal -- is that solely physical pain?

Where's the line between physical pain and mental pain?
I cannot imagine a belief in an essence (or lack of) without reference to feelings, and essence is also linked to purity or lack of. If there is no belief in an essence, then what is there to purify?

Also the way pain is (repulsive) is not subject to our will/volition. We believe that we can use our will/volition to control it or to change it, but not to change its nature. Even if we change its name, it will continue to be painful.

I am not sure what is the line between physical and mental pain. The line does not have to have an ontological basis, but a cause for reflection by the practitioner that mitigates the hype. Our imaginations about the ideal (Arahants) and our desire to imitate them or see the world through their eyes is another mitigating effect.
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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Bundokji
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:42 pm
Bundokji wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:57 pmHad this hypothesis been true, then the Arahant would be able to transcend both physical pain and the stress associated with it, and yet, we are told that Arahants do not transcend physical pain.
But the question is, how bad is an arahant's physical pain?

Perhaps even the worst physical pain that is felt without the accompanying mental pain is ... bearable.
Possibly higher spiritual attainments has less focus on feelings as the consciousness of sin has been transcended. Maybe our understanding of dukkha is distorted and an outcome of our deficient mental states, not of the ultimate goal of the spiritual life.
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.
binocular
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Bundokji wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:06 pmI cannot imagine a belief in an essence (or lack of) without reference to feelings, and essence is also linked to purity or lack of. If there is no belief in an essence, then what is there to purify?
And if there is an essence, how can it be dirty, ie. such that it would need purifying? And if the essence is dirty, isn't the dirt then essential to it, and purification is impossible and efforts to purify futile?
Also the way pain is (repulsive) is not subject to our will/volition. We believe that we can use our will/volition to control it or to change it, but not to change its nature. Even if we change its name, it will continue to be painful.
Yet people have come up with the notions of "good pain" and "bad pain".
E.g. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/orthopa ... /pain.html

As for the inherent repulsiveness of pain: Speaking from personal experience with chronic pain, I find that the sense of repulsiveness subsides after some time. But if one takes steps to cure the underlying reason for the pain, and does so early enough, the pain can go away completely, which leaves the problem of pain unresolved.

Another issue with the repulsiveness of pain is that the repulsiveness actually seems to be about not being able to do things as one has done them thus far, and about the repulsiveness of having to do things in a different way than thus far. For example, there are people with chronic back pain that they got from lifting heavy things inappropriately. And yet they feel absolutely repulsed by lifting things in any other way; they find it too demeaning to squat, with a straight back, and lift with their legs. In their mind, it's better to continue to lift the old way and to have back pain (and risk permanent damage to joints, bones, and muscles), or not lift things at all.
Last edited by binocular on Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Bundokji wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:11 pmMaybe our understanding of dukkha is distorted and an outcome of our deficient mental states, not of the ultimate goal of the spiritual life.
How else could it be, for unenlightened beings?
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:34 am
Bundokji wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:06 pmI cannot imagine a belief in an essence (or lack of) without reference to feelings, and essence is also linked to purity or lack of. If there is no belief in an essence, then what is there to purify?
And if there is an essence, how can it be dirty, ie. such that it would need purifying? And if the essence is dirty, isn't the dirt then essential to it, and purification is impossible and efforts to purify futile?
Because it has an essence it is dependent on its opposite, the human logic goes. It is akin to cleaning your room which would eventually gets dirty which begets more cleaning ad-infinitum.

The idea of essence is what makes the world real or significant. Our inability to describe this essence in a precise manner, or that we can dispute its existence at the intellectual level does not make it less real for all the practicle reasons. If you encounter a wild animal you experience fear and you set all arguments about the existence of an essence or lack of aside.

In Bhikkhu Payutto's book "Good, Evil and Beyond - Kamma in the Buddha's Teachings", the following story is relevant. It shows the role of feelings in constructing our reality:
Tit Porngn went to visit the Venerable Abbot of the nearby monastery. At one point, he asked:

Eh, Luang Por, the Buddha taught that everything is not-self, and is without an owner – there is no-one who commits kamma and no-one who receives its results. If that’s the case, then I can go out and hit somebody over the head or even kill them, or do anything I like, because there is no-one commit-ting kamma and no-one receiving its results.”

No sooner had Tit Porng finished speaking, when the Abbot’s walking stick, concealed somewhere unknown to Tit Porng, swung down like a flash. Tit Porng could hardly get his arm up fast enough to ward off the blow. Even so, the walking stick struck squarely in the middle of his arm, giving it a good bruise.

Clutching his sore arm, Tit Porng said, “Luang Por! Why did you do that?” His voice trembled with the anger that was welling up inside him.

“Oh! What’s the matter?” the Abbot asked offhandedly.

“Why, you hit me! That hurts!”

The Abbot, assuming a tone of voice usually reserved for sermons, slowly murmured: “There is kamma but no-one creating it. There are results of kamma, but no-one receiving them. There is feeling, but no-one experiencing it. There is pain, but no-one in pain ... He who tries to use the law of not-self for his own selfish purposes is not freed of self; he who clings to not-self is one who clings to self. He does not really know not-self. He who clings to the idea that there is no-one who creates kamma must also cling to the idea that there is one who is in pain. He does not really know that there is no-one who creates kamma and no-one who experiences pain.”

The moral of this story is: if you want to say “there is no-one who creates kamma,” you must first learn how to stop saying “Ouch!”
Yet people have come up with the notions of "good pain" and "bad pain".
E.g. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/orthopa ... /pain.html

As for the inherent repulsiveness of pain: Speaking from personal experience with chronic pain, I find that the sense of repulsiveness subsides after some time. But if one takes steps to cure the underlying reason for the pain, and does so early enough, the pain can go away completely, which leaves the problem of pain unresolved.
The notions of good pain and bad pain proves that we cannot imagine pain but being repulsive. Here the terms "good" and "bad" are adds on to the original essence or meaning that the word pain came to describe. Similarly, the sense of repulsiveness is referenced in a way that conveys that the nature of pain is stable. This is why i said in my previous post:
Also the way pain is (repulsive) is not subject to our will/volition. We believe that we can use our will/volition to control it or to change it, but not to change its nature. Even if we change its name, it will continue to be painful.
In other words, your description of your personal experience with pain does not change the nature of pain, which is painful. Anything we do is an adds-on to the original meaning of pain. At least, this is the way i am reading it.

Here, the idea of philosophical zombies might be relevant. They act as if they feel, but they do not. Their lack of this subjective quality "quailia" which can also be defined as "of what kind" is what makes us describe them as zombies.
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.
binocular
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

Post by binocular »

Sam Vara wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 3:01 pmNo, as I said, I'm just refraining from further participation in that particular point. I'm not judging anything, or anyone.
Of course not. You're just "telling it like it is", speaking the truth.
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