Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
PeterC86
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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by PeterC86 » Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:12 pm

Aloka wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:07 pm
Will wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:14 pm

Great little book called The Island which is full of Buddha's teachings on Nirvana, with many synonyms & definitions.
Here's a link to the PDF:

https://www.amaravati.org/dhamma-books/the-island/



:anjali:
Thanks for posting!

PeterC86
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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by PeterC86 » Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:43 pm

I get the sense that on this forum people cling to the texts as could it be only this and can not be explained differently. Which is allright, but not really the public for which my writings are meant.

Also, there seems to be a view of how someone who has attained Nirvana should behave. In monasteries, there seem to be a lot of rules what someone should and should not do. So, I can imagine that the view is created that you can only attain Nirvana in such a way and one should behave as such.

One must not. Like I said earlier, to me it seems that all these norms, hierarchies, etc. could even be a distraction for people on the path. If you create a lot of fuss around something, people get the idea it is something very big and special. This may even be counterproductive to the path, as people might look too far ahead or see too much in it, while once you get there it seems quite simple and obvious. I am under the presumption that the quality of the teaching makes a lot of difference in how well someone progresses. Quite soon after I got the final insight I thought; why didn't someone explain this in an easier way? I still need proof for this though, but this forum seems to be the wrong place to get it.

Yes living a semi-active live means suffering, if one however does not see why I do that at all, than all my posts here were for nothing. It's not that I really have a choice though. :)

I thank you all for your time and energy and wish everyone good luck on their paths.

A mod can close this topic from my part, or leave it open if people want to discuss further.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by binocular » Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:29 pm

PeterC86 wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:43 pm
Also, there seems to be a view of how someone who has attained Nirvana should behave.

Well, words ought to mean something, and not just anything. If all sorts of things get to pass as "nirvana", then why bother with practice?
If one makes words mean whatever one personally wants them to mean, then we can all just declare to have attained nirvana and go home and have a beer.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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DooDoot
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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by DooDoot » Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:57 pm

PeterC86 wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:43 pm
Also, there seems to be a view of how someone who has attained Nirvana should behave.
Of course. If Nirvana is perfect peace & the highest happiness, why would the mind that has attained Nirvana have the intention to engage in sensual pleasures, violence, cruelty & other common worldly behaviours? The suttas are quite explicit on the behaviours that are naturally impossible for an Arahant to perform.
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by auto » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:27 pm

PeterC86 wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:08 pm
I don't really see the point of your text above. I explained what you have written and asked above in the part you quoted below. I don't get to the chain of DO until chapter 10.
--
What is the point of your reply? I honestly don't know what your intention is. I get the impression you are also trying to figure out if I attained Nirvana or not, am I right?
i clicked the link what was about consciousness.

https://foundationsofhumanlife.com/1-ego-and-emotions/
The word ‘I’ refers to the ego. Being the ‘I’ is a pretence; a creation of our mental evolution. A pretence is a fabrication to make something plausible. Your ego is a bundle of desires with which you identify and, together with learned behavior, forms your personality; in other words, your ‘self’.
When you come aware and then come to know that you are being aware. That 'coming to know..' is equal to taste of food, that is same real, it has a source and can be reached and used same function as you are using to move your hands or eyes.

you don't relate to what i meant with when i asked: Is there someone feeling sensations? i think you weren't able to discern between being aware and knowing that you are aware.

The point is that there is you who is aware of you feeling sensations.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by Vincent » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:10 am

PeterC86 wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 8:43 pm
I get the sense that on this forum people cling to the texts as could it be only this and can not be explained differently. Which is allright, but not really the public for which my writings are meant.

Also, there seems to be a view of how someone who has attained Nirvana should behave. In monasteries, there seem to be a lot of rules what someone should and should not do. So, I can imagine that the view is created that you can only attain Nirvana in such a way and one should behave as such.

One must not. Like I said earlier, to me it seems that all these norms, hierarchies, etc. could even be a distraction for people on the path. If you create a lot of fuss around something, people get the idea it is something very big and special. This may even be counterproductive to the path, as people might look too far ahead or see too much in it, while once you get there it seems quite simple and obvious. I am under the presumption that the quality of the teaching makes a lot of difference in how well someone progresses. Quite soon after I got the final insight I thought; why didn't someone explain this in an easier way? I still need proof for this though, but this forum seems to be the wrong place to get it.

Yes living a semi-active live means suffering, if one however does not see why I do that at all, than all my posts here were for nothing. It's not that I really have a choice though. :)

I thank you all for your time and energy and wish everyone good luck on their paths.

A mod can close this topic from my part, or leave it open if people want to discuss further.
Hi Peter,
I'm impressed with your article which I think summarizes quite well the human condition in relation to the basic concepts of Buddhism. I read the entire article, but you now seem to have withdrawn it, perhaps because of the criticism received in this thread.

There's one particular issue that I've had difficulty in understanding in the past and which your article helped elucidate; the concept of emptiness. Since I come to Buddhism from a Western, rationalist background, I'm very reluctant to accept anything which doesn't make sense. When Buddhists describe all things as inherently empty of form, or empty of intrinsic existence, my common sense, rationality and logic tell me that such a statement implies that 'material' things do not in reality exist and that we therefore do not exist, which seems a bit absurd.

We are aware that things exist, either because they have a form which we can see, or because they have some inherent property which we can feel, such as gravity, or because they have some inherent property that our technological instruments can detect, such as radio waves.

However, the concept that nothing has form, or inherent existence, in complete isolation from its surroundings, does make sense. For example, I would cease to exist if all the air in my room were removed, creating a vacuum, just as every living creature or plant with a recognizable form would cease to exist, in a vacuum.

A nugget of gold, or a gold coin, is very durable and has a particular form, provided the conditions are right. At high temperatures, the form changes and the gold becomes liquid. The form we used to call a coin, or a nugget, has disappeared. At even higher temperatures, the liquid gold becomes a gas, and its form changes again.

This is how I now understand this concept, but I would phrase it in a different way to the conventional descriptions in the Buddhist texts.
Instead of saying that everything, in reality, is devoid of form or inherent existence, I would say that everything we perceive, through our senses or scientific instruments, has a particular form or characteristic which is dependent upon the current surrounding external conditions and/or the internal conditions.

I would also add that such conditions are impermanent, and are continually changing to varying degrees and at different rates, therefore nothing has a permanent, unchanging form. But it has to have a temporary form in order for us to recognize or perceive it.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by DooDoot » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:49 am

Vincent wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:10 am
When Buddhists describe all things as inherently empty of form, or empty of intrinsic existence...
The above idea appears to be Mahayana rather than Theravada. In Theravada, "emptiness" appears to mean "empty of ego".
Vincent wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:10 am
However, the concept that nothing has form, or inherent existence, in complete isolation from its surroundings, does make sense. For example, I would cease to exist if all the air in my room were removed, creating a vacuum, just as every living creature or plant with a recognizable form would cease to exist, in a vacuum.
Personally, I am not sure how the above intellectualism (which is not a direct insight) leads to liberation; i.e., how it cuts through the mental defilements of greed, hatred & self-delusion.
Vincent wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:10 am
This is how I now understand this concept, but I would phrase it in a different way to the conventional descriptions in the Buddhist texts.
Exactly which Buddhist texts include these ideas?
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by auto » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:48 pm

https://foundationsofhumanlife.com/1-ego-and-emotions/
The word ‘I’ refers to the ego. Being the ‘I’ is a pretence; a creation of our mental evolution. A pretence is a fabrication to make something plausible. Your ego is a bundle of desires with which you identify and, together with learned behavior, forms your personality; in other words, your ‘self’.

possible pali word for what you say,

http://dictionary.sutta.org/browse/ā/ālaya

ālayaPTS Pali-English dictionary The Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary
Ālaya,(m. & nt.) [cp. Sk. ālaya,ā + lī,līyate,cp. allīna & allīyati,also nirālaya] -- 1. orig. roosting place,perch,i. e. abode settling place,house J.I,10 (geh°); Miln.213; DhA.II,162 (an° = anoka),170 (= oka). -- 2. “hanging on”,attachment,desire,clinging,lust S.I,136 = Vin.I,4 (°rāma “devoted to the things to which it clings” K. S.); Vin.III,20,111; S.IV,372 (an°); V,421 sq. (id.); A.II,34,131 (°rāma); III,35; It.88; Sn.177 (kām° = kāmesu taṇhā-diṭṭhi-vasena duvidho ālayo SnA 216),535 (+ āsavāni),635; Nett 121,123 (°samugghāta); Vism.293 (id.),497; Miln.203 (Buddh °ṁ akāsi?); DhA.I,121; IV,186 (= taṇhā); SnA 468 (= anoka of Sn.366). -- 3. pretence,pretext,feint [cp. BSk. ālaya M Vastu III,314] J.I,157 (gilān°),438; III,533 (mat°); IV,37 (gabbhinī); VI 20,262 (gilān°). (Page 109)
ālaya - pretence.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by Vincent » Mon Mar 11, 2019 2:14 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:49 am
Vincent wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:10 am
When Buddhists describe all things as inherently empty of form, or empty of intrinsic existence...
The above idea appears to be Mahayana rather than Theravada. In Theravada, "emptiness" appears to mean "empty of ego".
I see. So it's basically the Mahayana concept of emptiness that has confused me. I've searched for a reference in the Pali Canon that addresses this issue of emptiness, and came across the following; Suñña Sutta (SN 35.85). This Sutta does seem to suggest that it is only the human body, the mind, and all the body's organs, which are empty.

So we seem to have a situation where an empty eye can perceive a non-empty object, and an empty ear can hear a non-empty sound, and an empty intellect can interpret such sights and sounds. Right? Still a bit confusing.

"Then Ven. Ānanda went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, “It is said that ‘the world is empty, the world is empty,’ lord. In what respect is it said that ‘the world is empty?’”
“Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ānanda, that ‘the world is empty.’ And what is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self? The eye is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Forms… Eye-consciousness… Eye-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on eye-contact—experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self.
“The ear is empty.…
“The nose is empty.…
“The tongue is empty.…
“The body is empty.…
“The intellect is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Ideas… Intellect-consciousness… Intellect-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on intellect-contact—experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain—that too is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self.
“Thus it is said that ‘the world' is empty."

Personally, I am not sure how the above intellectualism (which is not a direct insight) leads to liberation; i.e., how it cuts through the mental defilements of greed, hatred & self-delusion.
This is not intellectualism for me, just normal thought processes in an attempt to understand the teachings and concepts of Buddhism. Many of the teaching are obvious at the basic, summary level, such as the 8-fold path of 'right view', 'right speech', 'right conduct', 'right livelihood', and so on. No sensible person could argue that wrong views, wrong speech and wrong conduct are preferable. But what constitutes right conduct and right effort, and right mindfulness, and so on, and why it is right rather than wrong, requires some initial thought and explanation.

I tend to go by the advice in the Kalama Sutta, that is, don't accept something as being true just because it's written in the scriptures, or spoken by a teacher or some authority. Work it out for yourself, with help from the wise of course. ;)

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by DooDoot » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:37 pm

Vincent wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 2:14 pm
I see. So it's basically the Mahayana concept of emptiness that has confused me. I've searched for a reference in the Pali Canon that addresses this issue of emptiness, and came across the following; Suñña Sutta (SN 35.85). This Sutta does seem to suggest that it is only the human body, the mind, and all the body's organs, which are empty.

So we seem to have a situation where an empty eye can perceive a non-empty object, and an empty ear can hear a non-empty sound, and an empty intellect can interpret such sights and sounds. Right? Still a bit confusing.
Emptiness is defined as: "Empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self". "Self" is not required to "perceive", "hear", "interpret", etc. I think your statement above shows how far away the writings of PeterC86 are from enlightenment. I suggest to read SN 22.79.
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by Vincent » Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:37 pm
Emptiness is defined as: "Empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self". "Self" is not required to "perceive", "hear", "interpret", etc. I think your statement above shows how far away the writings of PeterC86 are from enlightenment. I suggest to read SN 22.79.
I think you mean an ego, and a conditioned sense of vanity and importance, are not required in order to perceive, hear and interpret an impression. I would agree with that.

But at some basic level there has to be a sense of self in order to understand that your hand is your hand, and not a frog, and is connected to your body through an arm which is also your arm, and not a snake.

I just can't comprehend how any external object could be perceived or sensed in any way through our basic 5 senses and brain, if our eyes, senses and brain were truly empty.

My explanation is that people who lived 2,500 years ago did not have an understanding of the brain, its neurons and synapses, and the processes by which we see, feel and think. Through meditation practices, some of them reached a state of complete peace and calm which they 'metaphorically' described as empty, that is, empty of the usual thoughts of agitation, concern, worry, desire, anger, excitement, and so on, that most people experience to some degree most of the time.

Do you agree with this explanation? Even the ancient Greeks were confused about which organ of the body was the seat of the intellect and the passions, and in control of our sensory system. Some thinkers, such as Aristotle, believed the heart was the main organ that controlled the mind, known as the Cardio Centric view. Others, such as Pythagoras, believed the brain was the organ that controlled the body's processes, known as the Cephalo Centric view.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by DooDoot » Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:12 am

Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
I think you mean an ego, and a conditioned sense of vanity and importance, are not required in order to perceive, hear and interpret an impression. I would agree with that.
The Pali suttas say overcoming ego ends suffering.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
But at some basic level there has to be a sense of self in order to understand that your hand is your hand, and not a frog, and is connected to your body through an arm which is also your arm, and not a snake.
No. Not at all. The above is like saying a sense of 'self" is required to distinguish between Paris and New York or between water & soil.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
I just can't comprehend how any external object could be perceived or sensed in any way through our basic 5 senses and brain, if our eyes, senses and brain were truly empty.
That is why enlightenment has not occurred.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
My explanation is that people who lived 2,500 years ago did not have an understanding of the brain, its neurons and synapses, and the processes by which we see, feel and think. Through meditation practices, some of them reached a state of complete peace and calm which they 'metaphorically' described as empty, that is, empty of the usual thoughts of agitation, concern, worry, desire, anger, excitement, and so on, that most people experience to some degree most of the time.
In other words, you appear to be claiming you are more enlightened than the Buddha who lived 2,500 years ego.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
Do you agree with this explanation?
No.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
Even the ancient Greeks were confused about which organ of the body was the seat of the intellect and the passions, and in control of our sensory system. Some thinkers, such as Aristotle, believed the heart was the main organ that controlled the mind, known as the Cardio Centric view. Others, such as Pythagoras, believed the brain was the organ that controlled the body's processes, known as the Cephalo Centric view.
Obviously you have not studied the Pali suttas. The above sounds like Western hubris, as though the Greeks knew better than Buddha but both are faulty.

Regards
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by Vincent » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:23 pm

Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
I think you mean an ego, and a conditioned sense of vanity and importance, are not required in order to perceive, hear and interpret an impression. I would agree with that.
DooDoot wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:12 am
The Pali suttas say overcoming ego ends suffering.
Ending suffering is a major goal of Buddhist practices, so just about everything is related to that.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
But at some basic level there has to be a sense of self in order to understand that your hand is your hand, and not a frog, and is connected to your body through an arm which is also your arm, and not a snake.
DooDoot wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:12 am
No. Not at all. The above is like saying a sense of 'self" is required to distinguish between Paris and New York or between water & soil.
You need more than a sense of self to distinguish between Paris and New York. You need to be familiar with the characteristics of both cities. However, distinguishing between water and soil is much easier. Even a 3 year old child could do that. ;)

The point I'm trying to make is that a sense of self is required at a fundamental level in order to distinguish between yourself and, for example, the chair you are sitting on.

A state in which the senses and the mind are really empty would be a comatose state, or a sleeping state without dreams. In other words, a complete lack of awareness or consciousness.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
I just can't comprehend how any external object could be perceived or sensed in any way through our basic 5 senses and brain, if our eyes, senses and brain were truly empty.
DooDoot wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:12 am
That is why enlightenment has not occurred.
That's a possibility. Perhaps the main hindrance and obstacle to my achieving full enlightenment is my sense of rationality, logic and common sense which I'm reluctant to give up. However, so far, I haven't found it a hindrance and I don't feel that my sense of rationality and common sense is causing any suffering. In fact it is the rationality I find in Buddhist teachings that attracts me to Buddhism. However, there's a lot of mystical mumbo jumbo that is mixed up with the rationality, and separating that requires a bit of contemplation.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
My explanation is that people who lived 2,500 years ago did not have an understanding of the brain, its neurons and synapses, and the processes by which we see, feel and think. Through meditation practices, some of them reached a state of complete peace and calm which they 'metaphorically' described as empty, that is, empty of the usual thoughts of agitation, concern, worry, desire, anger, excitement, and so on, that most people experience to some degree most of the time.
DooDoot wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:12 am
In other words, you appear to be claiming you are more enlightened than the Buddha who lived 2,500 years ego.
That's impossible to determine with certainty because I've never personally met the Buddha and spoken to him in his own language. All I have are English translations of a continuum of memories that were first written down around 400 years after the Buddha passed away, and written in a language (Pali) which was different to the language that the Buddha used in his teachings.

However, because I'm so humble, I would not claim to be more enlightened than the Buddha in relation to the Buddhist meaning of the word 'enlightenment', which I understand is associated with reaching a state of Nirvana, after which no rebirth takes place, and reaching a state that requires a complete understanding of the truth about life and the causes of suffering.

I certainly don't claim to have a complete understanding of the truth about life. However, I'm quite confident that I know a few things about life, as a result of modern science, that were not known by either Gautama, Aristotle or Plato.
Vincent wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:16 pm
Even the ancient Greeks were confused about which organ of the body was the seat of the intellect and the passions, and in control of our sensory system. Some thinkers, such as Aristotle, believed the heart was the main organ that controlled the mind, known as the Cardio Centric view. Others, such as Pythagoras, believed the brain was the organ that controlled the body's processes, known as the Cephalo Centric view.
DooDoot wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 1:12 am
Obviously you have not studied the Pali suttas. The above sounds like Western hubris, as though the Greeks knew better than Buddha but both are faulty.


Of course I've studied some of the Pali suttas. But I haven't studied all of them. The Tipitaka, or Pali Canon, in English translation, takes up about 40 volumes, or about 20,000 pages. The Sutta Pitaka, containing the suttas attributed to the Buddha or his close companions, is just one of the three divisions in the Tipitaka, but it contains more than 10,000 suttas. It's true I haven't read them all. Have you?

Best Regards

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Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by Nicolas » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:45 pm

Vincent wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:10 am
[...]
Hi Vincent,

As you pointed out earlier from the Suñña Sutta (SN 35.85), "emptiness" refers to the concept of not-self, anatta; all things are empty of self. This means there is no "I" behind things, internal or external.

Material things "exist" in the sense that they appear (to us) as phenomena.
Because all things are impermanent, their existence is only temporary, and so in a sense, they don't "absolutely/always exist", but because they do appear temporarily, they also can't be said to "absolutely/always not-exist".

So, yes, things "exist" in a relative context. Here's a passage from another sutta that you might find interesting:
Puppha Sutta (SN 22.94) wrote: Of that which the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, I too say that it does not exist. And of that which the wise in the world agree upon as existing, I too say that it exists.

And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, of which I too say that it does not exist? Form that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, and I too say that it does not exist. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness that is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, and I too say that it does not exist.

That, bhikkhus, is what the wise in the world agree upon as not existing, of which I too say that it does not exist.

And what is it, bhikkhus, that the wise in the world agree upon as existing, of which I too say that it exists? Form that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists. Feeling … Perception … Volitional formations … Consciousness that is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this the wise in the world agree upon as existing, and I too say that it exists.

That, bhikkhus, is what the wise in the world agree upon as existing, of which I too say that it exists.
Like you said, things can't exist in "complete isolation", because all things are conditioned.

Also, there doesn't necessarily need to be a sense of self to understand that "your" hand and a frog are two different things. Consciousness, sense-base, perception etc. are plenty enough.

Just a few seconds ago, I scratched my beard. There was no sense of self involved, just like there usually isn't a sense of self involved in many activities, like walking.

The brain and the senses keep on functioning, without the need for "I" behind them. If you show a movie in a movie theatre, it will still show even if there's no one in the room watching it. The brain and senses are not "empty" in the sense that there's absolutely nothing going on there, which is why there is no coma. Again, the emptiness is emptiness of self.

The mind can distinguish "chair" from "hand", without thinking that the hand is "mine". (Though they still understand that it is conventionally "theirs", in the sense that it is connected to this body, but the body is not considered "mine".)

When you refer to "mystical mumbo jumbo", what are you referring to? There are many things which could be categorized as "mystical mumbo jumbo" (like "rebirth", kamma, devas) from someone who is a materialist. It is very difficult to change one's fundamental belief-system, it takes a lot for one who has grown up with a materialist paradigm to be open to the possibility that materialism is not correct, and that perhaps, just perhaps, some of the "mystical mumbo jumbo" might possibly be true. You may have no reason to believe that might be the case, as you haven't seen any evidence yet.

PeterC86
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Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2019 7:06 pm

Re: Foundations of Human Life - A road to Nirvana for the West

Post by PeterC86 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:34 pm

Vincent wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:10 am

Hi Peter,
I'm impressed with your article which I think summarizes quite well the human condition in relation to the basic concepts of Buddhism. I read the entire article, but you now seem to have withdrawn it, perhaps because of the criticism received in this thread.

There's one particular issue that I've had difficulty in understanding in the past and which your article helped elucidate; the concept of emptiness. Since I come to Buddhism from a Western, rationalist background, I'm very reluctant to accept anything which doesn't make sense. When Buddhists describe all things as inherently empty of form, or empty of intrinsic existence, my common sense, rationality and logic tell me that such a statement implies that 'material' things do not in reality exist and that we therefore do not exist, which seems a bit absurd.

We are aware that things exist, either because they have a form which we can see, or because they have some inherent property which we can feel, such as gravity, or because they have some inherent property that our technological instruments can detect, such as radio waves.

However, the concept that nothing has form, or inherent existence, in complete isolation from its surroundings, does make sense. For example, I would cease to exist if all the air in my room were removed, creating a vacuum, just as every living creature or plant with a recognizable form would cease to exist, in a vacuum.

A nugget of gold, or a gold coin, is very durable and has a particular form, provided the conditions are right. At high temperatures, the form changes and the gold becomes liquid. The form we used to call a coin, or a nugget, has disappeared. At even higher temperatures, the liquid gold becomes a gas, and its form changes again.

This is how I now understand this concept, but I would phrase it in a different way to the conventional descriptions in the Buddhist texts.
Instead of saying that everything, in reality, is devoid of form or inherent existence, I would say that everything we perceive, through our senses or scientific instruments, has a particular form or characteristic which is dependent upon the current surrounding external conditions and/or the internal conditions.

I would also add that such conditions are impermanent, and are continually changing to varying degrees and at different rates, therefore nothing has a permanent, unchanging form. But it has to have a temporary form in order for us to recognize or perceive it.
Indeed, this is dependent arising. Mental objects (thoughts) are also from dependent arising, through contact from our senses with impulses from our environment. One wants to give meaning to things, because one thinks things exist on themselves and can be given meaning to.

The subscription with the host provider ended, that is why the website is down. I will look tomorrow if I can get a PDF up on this forum. I will just copy paste Chapter 14 here, as I think it may be of use to you.
Nirvana – Liberation from Samsara

After gaining insight into the mutual dependent arising and the emptiness of essence, we are left with consciousness; we perceive something. We now know that if something is formed, for instance a flower, we can’t define it by merely observing its physical appearance. The flower also needs everything around the physical appearance of the flower to be the flower. This means that without the air, the soil, the sun, et cetera, the flower would not exist. Because of this, the flower can’t be truly defined, as it needs everything to exist, therefore, its essence is empty. So because we can’t really define something, nothing is truly formed. If we identify or define something, this is only a mental fabrication. However, we still experience ‘things,’ so these ‘things’ are without form.

An example to explain the above; a young woman and an old woman are both present in the image below. For the young or the old woman to form, our mind has to interpret the lines in the picture. If one forms, the other stays ‘formless,’ but is still there.

Image

The formless women need the picture to exist. The formless women are therefore part of dependent arising and also devoid of an essence. This means that all the formless things are in essence empty and really nothing, just like form objects.

The following example clarifies the scope of the formless. We know that a flower grows out of a seed, we can observe this when we plant a seed and wait for the flower to grow. This means that the flower is already present in the seed, but the conditions for the flower to manifest (form) have not met yet; the flower needs to grow first. We can say that the presence of the flower in the seed is formless, the flower needs to grow first in order to form. However, before the flower has manifested we cannot say that the flower isn’t there. If the flower has grown and someone asks you where the flower came from, you will say; the flower came out of the seed. Because the flower grows out of the seed is the reason we planted the seed.

Just like the seed comes from a flower, we could say that this flower is still formlessly present in the seed. Everything before the moment the seed was formed, made the seed into what it is. So the seed was never not there; it was just formless and had not manifested itself yet. The flower and the seed will never go, as the remains of the flower and the seed will fertilize the soil.

There are thus formless things, without us defining or interpreting them via our six senses. Also through our intuition and instinct, we experience the formless. If we, however, realize that the formless is also in essence empty, since the formless is also part of nature and has arisen dependent from us as well, we do not identify with the formless anymore as there is nothing to identify with. The only identification which exists is our mental fabrication, an attempt to identify with something.

There is really no coming (birth), as the manifestation of form already existed in the formless. Just as there is no going (death), as form will continue to exist in the formless when the form dissolves. If we do not identify with something anymore, we attain Nirvana and liberate ourselves from Samsara. Samsara is the endless cycle of rebirth, which is described in Buddhist texts. This rebirth occurs whenever someone tries to define an experience in form and every time when someone tries to identify with an experience which is not defined in form (the formless).

We are merely a mental fabrication from the attempt to identify and define ourselves out of ignorance. The ignorance that there truly is nothing to identify with permanently. The moment you have let go of the identification with form, you are left with the identification with the formless. Although you do not define a form anymore, you do recognize you experience something. We attain Nirvana when we also have let go of the identification with the formless. We are conscious that nothing is truly formed, as the essence of form is empty. This emptiness means that something is without form. However, also the essence of the formless is empty and is therefore nothing. So nothing is formed, and nothing is without form. Nothing does not come, and nothing does not go. Nothing is permanent; everything is impermanent. We are dissolved into nothingness, as we were nothing to begin with.
Last edited by PeterC86 on Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:30 am, edited 7 times in total.

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