Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
binocular
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Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by binocular » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:29 pm

Have you read Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz?
It's essentially a didactic story, a cautionary tale. The author's point, repeated several times throughout the novel, is that the protagonist's main problem was that he wanted more from life than a sandwich, and it was because of that that he had so many problems in life (poverty, crime, physical disfigurement etc.).

This is a view that might not be very popular today, at least not directly. But modern culture actually does, in many ways, expect people to set the bar for contentment very low and to not expect much from life. Enter modern Zen, and the whole "eat when hungry, rest when tired" and "enjoy every cup of tea". And "stop and smell the roses".

From this perspective, Buddhism (at least Theravada/Early Buddhism), with its quest for the unconditioned, true happiness, seems like a perverse indulgence, a pursuit of idle luxury.

I have been told by some Christians and humanists that seeking some kind of "ultimate happiness", "the unconditioned", "enlightenment" is a waste of time, an idle fancy which good, normal people don't chase after.


What are some arguments in favor of the stance that one shouldn't want more from life than a sandwich?

Does Theravada/Early Buddhism really want too much from life?



Thank you for your discussion.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Dan74-MkII
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by Dan74-MkII » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:45 pm

It seems to me that all Theravada/Early Buddhism wants is the end of ignorance. Sometimes sold as unbinding or the end of suffering/dukkha.

When looked at more closely, it seems to me to be much more about losing than gaining. Losing delusion.

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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by Polar Bear » Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:23 pm

Image
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by chownah » Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:48 am

:goodpost:
Theravada buddhism doesn't do the wanting......it is people who (out of ignorance) not only want too much but want the wrong things......
chownah

binocular
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by binocular » Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:46 am

chownah wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:48 am
Theravada buddhism doesn't do the wanting......it is people who (out of ignorance) not only want too much but want the wrong things......
You know what I mean.

The aim of Theravada/Early Buddhism is nibbana, the complete cessation of suffering, true peace, true happiness. I don't know any other religion or philosophy that would have this as their aim (as a side-effect, yes, eg. Christianity).
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by binocular » Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:48 am

Dan74-MkII wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:45 pm
It seems to me that all Theravada/Early Buddhism wants is the end of ignorance. Sometimes sold as unbinding or the end of suffering/dukkha.
When looked at more closely, it seems to me to be much more about losing than gaining. Losing delusion.
By losing delusion, one does hope to gain something: truth, clarity, peace, happiness.

Otherwise, why would one want to lose delusion? Out of sheer pride and honor?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Dan74-MkII
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by Dan74-MkII » Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:59 am

binocular wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:48 am
Dan74-MkII wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:45 pm
It seems to me that all Theravada/Early Buddhism wants is the end of ignorance. Sometimes sold as unbinding or the end of suffering/dukkha.
When looked at more closely, it seems to me to be much more about losing than gaining. Losing delusion.
By losing delusion, one does hope to gain something: truth, clarity, peace, happiness.

Otherwise, why would one want to lose delusion? Out of sheer pride and honor?
Well, I guess you can look at it like that. Or you can also look at it as simply uncovering what you've already had, but was either unaware or forgotten about. Kinda like cleaning your house up and discovering all sorts of treasures.

Is a springclean too much to wish for? And why wish, when we can simply do??

I'd say that highfalutin notions like 'truth, clarity, peace and happiness' are indeed too much to wish for, and wishing itself often gets in he way, but the reality these words conceal is always here, waiting for us.

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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by Srilankaputra » Tue Apr 23, 2019 7:20 am

binocular wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:29 pm
What are some arguments in favor of the stance that one shouldn't want more from life than a sandwich?
Well, even one sandwich would be suffering if you can't get it. I thought the goal was to want nothing. Want nothing then one would be want for nothing.
O seeing one,we for refuge go to thee!
O mighty sage do thou our teacher be!

Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ,
Tattha tattha vipassati

“Yato yato mano nivāraye,
Na dukkhameti naṃ tato tato;
Sa sabbato mano nivāraye,
Sa sabbato dukkhā pamuccatī”ti.

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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by befriend » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:20 am

This is a good question. When I don't practice the eight fold path I'm not happy when I practice it for one day I am happy. Zen just means meditation there are 7 others path factors one needs in life to become happier or have a sense of well being. Mathew Riccard the Tibetan monk is scientifically the happiest man in the world according to brain wave monitoring as his brain produced more intense gamma waves than anyone previously recorded his secret to this happiness he said was altruism or compassion. Having a sandwich with mindfulness is beautiful but Sharing half your sandwich with someone is beautiful and refraining from indulging in two sandwiches and seeing the sandwich as impermanent suffering non self having gratitude to the chef who made the sandwich there is more to life than just eat when hungry and lie when tired, it's the other 7 factors of the path that we practice that lead to eternal bliss I believe if the defilements are not our true nature and we can diffuse them wouldnt there be some place thing we would get to where there are no defilements and just pure peace?
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

chownah
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by chownah » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:52 pm

binocular wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:46 am
chownah wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:48 am
Theravada buddhism doesn't do the wanting......it is people who (out of ignorance) not only want too much but want the wrong things......
You know what I mean.

The aim of Theravada/Early Buddhism is nibbana, the complete cessation of suffering, true peace, true happiness. I don't know any other religion or philosophy that would have this as their aim (as a side-effect, yes, eg. Christianity).
I think I know what you mean but it is probably not what you think you mean.
The aim of the buddha was to teach the end of suffering.
You seem to be doing your best to make "wanting too much" a group activity and the name of that group is theravada buddhism......this rings hollow to me........"wanting" is a uniquely individual thing and it is mostly people who want to duck the responsibilty for their own "wanting" that try to paint wanting as a group activity.....in this way the responsibility is shifted to the group and usually to whoever or whatever is seen as being the authority figure with respect to that group......while all along it is the individual that is doing the wanting....completely.....100 percent.....I think the most that can be said about theravada and wanting is that with exceedingly rare exceptions worldlings are tied up in wanting (desiring) and the buddha was very clear about where desire sits in his teachings....but.....those worldlings are so hyptonized by their wantings that they don't see what the buddha has to say about desire....they rationalize away the teachings and interpret them in a way that leads them to ignore what the buddha says and to try to "refine" their wants to appropriate ones......hard to find an appropriate want anywhere in the buddha's teachings but that doesn't deter them....
chownah

binocular
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by binocular » Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:54 pm

chownah wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:52 pm
The aim of the buddha was to teach the end of suffering.
Which is extraordinary, so extraordinary that for many people, it seems to be incomprehensible. And redundant, too, since people typically seem to believe that it is impossible to actually end suffering, only temporarily alleviate it, and that, if anything, death (of the body) is the end of suffering -- and that this is "as good as it gets".

Years back, I formulated this nicely, and even a monk didn't agree --
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Mon May 20, 2013 7:50 pm
binocular wrote:The Buddhist proposition is as - excuse the word - outlandish as anything can get.

Ordinarily, many people expect to be miserable their whole life, to be, in Freud's words "commonly unhappy." Ordinarily, many people expect to think that "life as it is usually lived" is as good as it gets. Ordinarily, many people expect to live a life or quiet desperation.

Already the mere idea that we could get beyond that predicament, is categorically, universally, galactically, radically at odds with our usual expectations about life.
I don't think even you know what the above means, so I won't pretend to understand what you're saying.
You seem to be doing your best to make "wanting too much" a group activity and the name of that group is theravada buddhism......this rings hollow to me........"wanting" is a uniquely individual thing and it is mostly people who want to duck the responsibilty for their own "wanting" that try to paint wanting as a group activity.....in this way the responsibility is shifted to the group and usually to whoever or whatever is seen as being the authority figure with respect to that group......while all along it is the individual that is doing the wanting....completely.....100 percent.....I think the most that can be said about theravada and wanting is that with exceedingly rare exceptions worldlings are tied up in wanting (desiring) and the buddha was very clear about where desire sits in his teachings....but.....those worldlings are so hyptonized by their wantings that they don't see what the buddha has to say about desire....they rationalize away the teachings and interpret them in a way that leads them to ignore what the buddha says and to try to "refine" their wants to appropriate ones......hard to find an appropriate want anywhere in the buddha's teachings but that doesn't deter them....
I'll rephrase:
Is cessation of suffering (while still alive and fully functioning) a realistic goal?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:26 pm

binocular wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:54 pm
I'll rephrase:
Is cessation of suffering (while still alive and fully functioning) a realistic goal?
The problem here might be setting up nibbana to be such a wonderful special thing that it seems to be impossibly out of reach. I think it's better to look at it this way:
The purpose of living the spiritual life under the Buddha is extinguishment by not grasping
(MN 24)

Is not grasping a realistic goal?

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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by DNS » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:59 pm

Of course full enlightenment is difficult to attain. I think most Buddhists agree that it is rare, perhaps only a few arahants existing in the last 100 years or so, with a sizeable number of Buddhists saying that there have been none in the last 100 years. However, it is a gradual path. You can see progress and less suffering in general along the path, not a complete cessation all the time, but larger amounts of time with less suffering.

binocular
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by binocular » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:59 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:26 pm
Is not grasping a realistic goal?
No.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: Does Theravada Buddhism want too much from life?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:02 pm

binocular wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:59 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:26 pm
Is not grasping a realistic goal?
No.
Have you never fallen out of love, given up a bad habit, or stopped worrying about something?

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