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: Mon Aug 03, 2020 9:34 am
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.
/.../
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!”
No, the moral of the story is that one must never assume that monks are people with whom one could actually discuss Dhamma.
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
.
You're quoting yourself here ...
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Sam Vara
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:42 pm
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.
That's right. I'm speaking the truth by saying that I find the formulation expressed in the OP and subsequent posts to be too baroque to be personally helpful. I'm not making any particular claim as to how things are. If you think I'm making such a claim, state what it is and where I make it, and as usual I'll be happy to show that you are wrong.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:51 pm No, the moral of the story is that one must never assume that monks are people with whom one could actually discuss Dhamma.
One might test that assumption by taking up my offer of an online discussion with monks at Cittaviveka. If you did, I could see whether your approach to them is within the normal standards of politeness, and then whether they did actually discuss Dhamma with you.
binocular
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

Post by binocular »

Sam Vara wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:02 pm
binocular wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:51 pm No, the moral of the story is that one must never assume that monks are people with whom one could actually discuss Dhamma.
One might test that assumption by taking up my offer of an online discussion with monks at Cittaviveka. If you did, I could see whether your approach to them is within the normal standards of politeness, and then whether they did actually discuss Dhamma with you.
And again, you don't read what I'm saying.

I said: "The moral of the story is that one must never assume that monks are people with whom one could actually discuss Dhamma."
No assumption is being made, so there's nothing to test.

I don't assume that monks are people with whom one could actually discuss Dhamma, so I generally don't attempt to discuss with them, other than by inertia or mistake. Like I already said, I lost faith that I could have a meaningful discussion about Dhamma with a Buddhist monk.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

Post by binocular »

Sam Vara wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:57 pmThat's right. I'm speaking the truth by saying that I find the formulation expressed in the OP and subsequent posts to be too baroque to be personally helpful. I'm not making any particular claim as to how things are. If you think I'm making such a claim, state what it is and where I make it, and as usual I'll be happy to show that you are wrong.
What started this subtheme in this discussion was you saying:
Sam Vara wrote: Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:04 pmIt might be, but it would involve some mental gymnastics in order to explain some types of evil. Sexual abuse, for example. There's not much of a threat to the abuser, either perceived or actual.
You said: "There's not much of a threat to the abuser, either perceived or actual."

And that's how you:
binocular wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:36 pmBah, you're just setting yourself up as the judge as to what objectively constitutes a valid threat, for anyone.
Who are you to decide what is "a threat to the abuser, either perceived or actual"? And yet you see yourself fit to decide on such things, when you say:
Sam Vara wrote: Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:04 pmIt might be, but it would involve some mental gymnastics in order to explain some types of evil. Sexual abuse, for example. There's not much of a threat to the abuser, either perceived or actual.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:50 am Who are you to decide what is "a threat to the abuser, either perceived or actual"?
Someone who understands English. The abuser is a threat to the abused.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:37 am
Sam Vara wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:02 pm
binocular wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:51 pm No, the moral of the story is that one must never assume that monks are people with whom one could actually discuss Dhamma.
One might test that assumption by taking up my offer of an online discussion with monks at Cittaviveka. If you did, I could see whether your approach to them is within the normal standards of politeness, and then whether they did actually discuss Dhamma with you.
And again, you don't read what I'm saying.

I said: "The moral of the story is that one must never assume that monks are people with whom one could actually discuss Dhamma."
No assumption is being made, so there's nothing to test.

I don't assume that monks are people with whom one could actually discuss Dhamma, so I generally don't attempt to discuss with them, other than by inertia or mistake. Like I already said, I lost faith that I could have a meaningful discussion about Dhamma with a Buddhist monk.
The claim "one must never assume that monks are..." is itself a testable assumption. People could test it in the real world to see for themselves if one should indeed never assume something about monks, or if one might assume it.

I can understand how you might be reluctant to test it, in that you have simply made it up. You have always been extremely reticent about whatever alleged experiences have led you to spend a decade here complaining about monks (and "religious people", "spiritual people", "Buddhists", "Theravadans", etc, etc...) so my guess is that your experience is limited to a couple of PM exchanges with Ven. Dhammanando. By not ever demonstrating publicly your approach to monks, and how they treat you, you can maintain a critical and resentful stance indefinitely. Which is rather the point, isn't it!
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Sam Vara wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 8:03 am
binocular wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:50 am Who are you to decide what is "a threat to the abuser, either perceived or actual"?
Someone who understands English. The abuser is a threat to the abused.
This is accurate in the reality of common sense, but in our attempts to understand the Buddha's teachings, we sometimes push the boundaries and try to look beyond what is self-evident. You would not consider any attempt to go beyond naive realism a form of mental gymnastic my gut feeling tells me.
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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Bundokji wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 9:01 am in our attempts to understand the Buddha's teachings, we sometimes push the boundaries and try to look beyond what is self-evident.
We certainly do, and sometimes it is justified.
You would not consider any attempt to go beyond naive realism a form of mental gymnastic my gut feeling tells me.
Well, let's test your gut feeling on the anvil of my self awareness! You state the tenets of that notoriously slippery and much misunderstood term, and I'll let you know if I would "go beyond" them.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Sam Vara wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 9:45 am Well, let's test your gut feeling on the anvil of my self awareness! You state the tenets of that notoriously slippery and much misunderstood term, and I'll let you know if I would "go beyond" them.
To simplify:

1- Not every attempt to go beyond common sense explanation of a phenomena such as "evil" is a form of mental gymnastics or at least worthy of such description.
2- You described this particular exercise involving some mental gymnastics to explain some types of evil such as sexual abuse. Your justification that there is no actual threat to the abuser either perceived or actual seems to be based on a common sense interpretation of reality, or a belief that a common sense interpretation in this particular case is the best approach to the example of a sexual abuser. This inference is based on the following reply to me:
All volition is annihilating some feeling, but to call it an "external threat" is a bit too baroque for my taste.


And your reply to binocular:
Someone who understands English. The abuser is a threat to the abused.
So, if i understand you correctly, you are not against every single departure from common sense reality in investigating the truth, but you see this particular attempt as not the best approach to understand the problem of evil or evil action. Would you be willing to elaborate more?
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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Bundokji wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 10:11 am
Sam Vara wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 9:45 am Well, let's test your gut feeling on the anvil of my self awareness! You state the tenets of that notoriously slippery and much misunderstood term, and I'll let you know if I would "go beyond" them.
To simplify:

1- Not every attempt to go beyond common sense explanation of a phenomena such as "evil" is a form of mental gymnastics or at least worthy of such description.
2- You described this particular exercise involving some mental gymnastics to explain some types of evil such as sexual abuse. Your justification that there is no actual threat to the abuser either perceived or actual seems to be based on a common sense interpretation of reality, or a belief that a common sense interpretation in this particular case is the best approach to the example of a sexual abuser. This inference is based on the following reply to me:
All volition is annihilating some feeling, but to call it an "external threat" is a bit too baroque for my taste.


And your reply to binocular:
Someone who understands English. The abuser is a threat to the abused.
So, if i understand you correctly, you are not against every single departure from common sense reality in investigating the truth, but you see this particular attempt as not the best approach to understand the problem of evil or evil action. Would you be willing to elaborate more?
Sure. some of the above is in line with what I have written and what I believe, but some of it is not.

The Buddha said that our unskilful behaviour is rooted in greed, hatred, and delusion. Your initial point:
Would it be plausible to interpret evil action as an attempt to purify consciousness through annihilating a perception of an external threat?
requires that in the case of the evil committed by a sexual abuser, we see this as the abuser trying to eliminate an external threat. It's possible to believe this - its a view - if we introduce the assumption that a victim of abuse (a little child, say) is an actual threat to an adult abuser and the adult abuser correctly discerns this; or that the adult abuser erroneously sees the victim as some sort of threat when they are not; and that by carrying out the abuse, the abuser is in some sense (consciously or unconsciously) attempting to "purify their consciousness".

I find it easier to believe that the abuser is motivated by greed - he wants certain experiences. That fits what the Buddha said in terms of the three roots of the unskilful, and requires fewer unlikely assumptions. The assumptions are unlikely because the victims of sexual abuse are not objectively a threat to the abuser, in that were the abuser to refrain from the abuse, they would not be harmed; and that even if abusers claim that the vulnerable little child, or the non-performing of a sex act with them, was mistakenly viewed by them as a "threat", we would need a lot of evidence that many abusers had this type of explanation (in reality, they dont!) and could in any case more plausibly dismiss this as a form of self-pitying rationalisation.

This is not using Ockham's razor to pare explanations down to "common sense", and far less "naive realism". (These two terms are very different, although I have seen people mistakenly conflate them). It is using it to pare explanations down to what the Buddha taught. As I said upthread, I have sat through lengthy debates about whether - in Buddhist terminology - what we think of as hatred could always be collapsed into greed (i.e. trying to get rid of stuff is "really" a desire for new stuff) or that what we think of a greed could always be collapsed into hatred (i.e. wanting more stuff is really hating the situation we find ourselves in). Each is as plausible as the other.

How does it help to eliminate our own evil actions if we see them as annihilating a perception of a threat? If we can even formulate this to ourselves, then a moment's reflection would reveal that what we might consider a threat is in fact not. If one can (in a fictional sense, I hasten to add!) formulate one's sexual attraction to children as an attempt to purify consciousness by annihilating a perception of them as an external threat, then one can far more easily formulate it as misplaced desire. Less effort, fewer assumptions, fits the suttas.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Bundokji wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 9:01 am
Sam Vara wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 8:03 am
binocular wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:50 amWho are you to decide what is "a threat to the abuser, either perceived or actual"?
Someone who understands English. The abuser is a threat to the abused.
This is accurate in the reality of common sense, but in our attempts to understand the Buddha's teachings, we sometimes push the boundaries and try to look beyond what is self-evident. You would not consider any attempt to go beyond naive realism a form of mental gymnastic my gut feeling tells me.
The issue was what is a threat to the abuser. Mr. Vara brought up this formulation. Now he's talking about something else.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Sam Vara wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:01 amThe assumptions are unlikely because the victims of sexual abuse are not objectively a threat to the abuser,
And that's how you're setting yourself up as the arbiter of reality.
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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binocular wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:18 am
Sam Vara wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:01 amThe assumptions are unlikely because the victims of sexual abuse are not objectively a threat to the abuser,
And that's how you're setting yourself up as the arbiter of reality.
Are you claiming that in cases of sexual abuse, the victim does objectively constitute a threat to the abuser?
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Re: Evil action and consiousness

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Sam Vara wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:01 am Sure. some of the above is in line with what I have written and what I believe, but some of it is not.

The Buddha said that our unskilful behaviour is rooted in greed, hatred, and delusion.
I do not know if you agree, but training in morality is an aspect of the teachings that is associated with self-view. The Buddha spoke to us using our language, and when describing the roots of unskillful behaviour, as you stated, the Buddha used what appears to be condemnatory language, hence my opening statement to this thread:
From my personal observations, we often deal with the problem of evil not with sympathy, but with condemnation. A more sympathetic way to address evil is to try to understand what is it that people who perform evil acts are trying to do.
It is not clear why the Buddha's use of condemnatory language being similar to worldly ways is not accidental, or that there is more to it that what meets the eye.

While using fewer assumptions is often inline with clear thinking, it is not clear why describing certain behaviors as "unskillful" is not in itself an assumption or an over-simplification.

It is equally unclear why sages and wise people who transcended the world get back to us with teachings on morality? This itself became a cause of skepticism about religions in general, that it is another attempt to make us behave through denying aspects of ourselves. The attempt to incorporate evil as an equal part of nature and therefore neutralize it manifested itself in certain teachings such as tantra which reminds us that we utilize poison to make medicine and that medicines have side effects.
How does it help to eliminate our own evil actions if we see them as annihilating a perception of a threat? If we can even formulate this to ourselves, then a moment's reflection would reveal that what we might consider a threat is in fact not. If one can (in a fictional sense, I hasten to add!) formulate one's sexual attraction to children as an attempt to purify consciousness by annihilating a perception of them as an external threat, then one can far more easily formulate it as misplaced desire. Less effort, fewer assumptions, fits the suttas.
Formulating evil action as an attempt to annihilate a perception of a threat might cause the individual to be more attuned with feelings associated with evil action and therefore avoid it. It depersonalizes evil by presenting it as a confused attempt to deal with inner forces that are not easy to comprehend using common sense rhetoric, therefore less guilt, less emotional tension and less evil.

To defuse tension and attachments using more neutral language seems to work in the human realm.
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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