Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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No_Mind
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Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by No_Mind »

I have started to read Camus. Only read "The Stranger" this far. It is quite fascinating and very different from Buddhism.

That led me to existentialism.

I had read bit of Kierkegaard long ago. I was too young then, had too much life left in me to understand it. Now older and wiser I am different.

Anyway the point being, at times I feel, like Camus, that life is absurd. Not in a way that it should be abandoned and that one should turn hopeless, but that there is no substantial point to it (he enjoyed life to the hilt).

What does a Buddhist do when gripped by existential angst? Do any of you wrestle with it?

It is one thing, unlike fear, lust, anxiety etc., that cannot be healed by mindfulness since it cannot be observed as an arising and falling. Like Nibbana, existential angst is a stable state by itself and does not have peaks and valleys.

I am not a good writer and have trouble relating my thoughts exactly. This short video contains my feelings in a nutshell.



:namaste:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

SarathW
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by SarathW »

The thought, who am I? Who I was? Who I will be?are the result of self view.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

binocular
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by binocular »

No_Mind wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:10 am
Anyway the point being, at times I feel, like Camus, that life is absurd. Not in a way that it should be abandoned and that one should turn hopeless, but that there is no substantial point to it (he enjoyed life to the hilt).
And made plans to be baptized into the Catholic Church and then died in a suspicious car accident.
That doesn't exactly look like "enjoying life to the hilt".

binocular
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by binocular »

No_Mind wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:10 am
What does a Buddhist do when gripped by existential angst? Do any of you wrestle with it?
It is impossible for a Buddhist to be gripped by existential angst. A person gripped by existential angst cannot be a Buddhist.

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robertk
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by robertk »

It is one thing, unlike fear, lust, anxiety etc., that cannot be healed by mindfulness since it cannot be observed as an arising and falling. Like Nibbana, existential angst is a stable state by itself and does not have peaks and valleys
it is rooted in wrong view and comes with associated feelings and thoughts. Or it is aversion.
In any event these phenomena can be known and certainly arise and pass away.

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retrofuturist
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,
No_Mind wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:10 am
Anyway the point being, at times I feel, like Camus, that life is absurd. Not in a way that it should be abandoned and that one should turn hopeless, but that there is no substantial point to it...
That's a sensible attitude that navigates a middle way between bhava tanha and vibhana tanha.

It also accords well with the Dhammic truth about the fabrication of all worldly dhammas, as taught by paticcasamuppada.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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No_Mind
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by No_Mind »

binocular wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 8:29 pm
No_Mind wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:10 am
Anyway the point being, at times I feel, like Camus, that life is absurd. Not in a way that it should be abandoned and that one should turn hopeless, but that there is no substantial point to it (he enjoyed life to the hilt).
And made plans to be baptized into the Catholic Church and then died in a suspicious car accident.
That doesn't exactly look like "enjoying life to the hilt".
Why is becoming/being a Catholic not congruent with living life to the hilt? JFK was a Catholic and by all accounts a lively and playful person. Have you been secretly binge watching too many YouTube videos about Benedictine monks and their life?

How can a car accident be suspicious? Have you ever seen a car wrapped around a lamp post and thought - "Gosh, that is a suspicious looking car?" or did you mean the lamp post appeared to have nefarious intentions? :?

Shall we ask the little Belgian detective with a stiff moustache to investigate?

Image
binocular wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 8:37 pm
No_Mind wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:10 am
What does a Buddhist do when gripped by existential angst? Do any of you wrestle with it?
It is impossible for a Buddhist to be gripped by existential angst. A person gripped by existential angst cannot be a Buddhist.
Prince Siddhartha left the palace because he was gripped by existential angst.

So Buddha was not a Buddhist?

That will not be a conclusion that is completely unprecedented. A decade back Bill Maher found that Christ is the seventh most worshiped entity in Rome and that all archangels and even some saints ranked higher than the Son of God in popularity.

:namaste:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

char101
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by char101 »

People can have two kind of orientation: ego based or task based.

Existential crisis is based on ego: why do I exist, what is my purpose in life, what is there in life for me?

Are these questions even useful? Who actually know the answers to this questions? The Buddha himself taught that life is just a consequence of ignorance.

If you are having existential crisis then I suggest that you approach your life from a task mindset: what useful things can I do right now?

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No_Mind
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by No_Mind »

char101 wrote:
Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:41 am
People can have two kind of orientation: ego based or task based.

Existential crisis is based on ego: why do I exist, what is my purpose in life, what is there in life for me?

Are these questions even useful? Who actually know the answers to this questions? The Buddha himself taught that life is just a consequence of ignorance.

If you are having existential crisis then I suggest that you approach your life from a task mindset: what useful things can I do right now?
That is excellent advice :bow:

:namaste:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

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Bundokji
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by Bundokji »

No_Mind wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:10 am
What does a Buddhist do when gripped by existential angst? Do any of you wrestle with it?
The existential angst is an integral part of the four noble truths which begin with the noble truth of suffering. Even though it is not expressed as "existential angst", it speaks about the human condition such as facing sickness, old age, death, uncertainty (impermanence), lack of ultimate meaning/satisfaction (dhukka), or ultimate futility (endless rebirth - The Myth of Sisyphus).

The main divergence between continental/existential thinkers and Buddhism is how each deal with the human condition. Existentialism deals with the existential angst through embracing it by live passionately inspite of it. Buddhism, as i understand it, acknowledges (rather than embraces) existential angst and through dispassionately investigating it and its causes, individuals can be freed from 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.

binocular
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by binocular »

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Dec 17, 2019 4:36 am
Why is becoming/being a Catholic not congruent with living life to the hilt? JFK was a Catholic and by all accounts a lively and playful person.
Which is what probably got him killed ...
How can a car accident be suspicious?
In that there is reason to believe that it may be a case of suicide.
Prince Siddhartha left the palace because he was gripped by existential angst.
So Buddha was not a Buddhist?
Prince Siddhartha and the Buddha are not the same person (other than legally).

binocular
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by binocular »

char101 wrote:
Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:41 am
Existential crisis is based on ego: why do I exist, what is my purpose in life, what is there in life for me?
Yet career counselors and other counselors and personal coaches, for example, will have you ask those questions of yourself, and expect to have a definitive answer.
Certainly not questions to be put aside.

char101
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by char101 »

binocular wrote:
Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:40 am
char101 wrote:
Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:41 am
Existential crisis is based on ego: why do I exist, what is my purpose in life, what is there in life for me?
Yet career counselors and other counselors and personal coaches, for example, will have you ask those questions of yourself, and expect to have a definitive answer.
Certainly not questions to be put aside.
Indeed, for example rational emotive behavior therapy I believe focus on life values. There are many methods of therapy, that doesn't mean any of them works for everyone. We just need to choose one that works for ourselves. Personally I don't think these kind of questions fit well with Buddhism.

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SDC
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by SDC »

No_Mind wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:10 am
...
Ven. Nanavira in a letter to Dr. M. R. de Silva on the advantages and shortcomings of phenomenology and existentialism:
L. 9|15 wrote:I suggested that a more fruitful approach to the Dhamma, at least for one accustomed to Western ideas, might be made by way of the existential or phenomenological philosophers, who have developed a more direct and fundamental approach to things than that of empirical science with its inductive and statistical methods. These methods give, at best, only probable results; whereas the phenomenologist, not going beyond description of present phenomena, enjoys certainty.
...
It must be emphasized that this is not in any way a substitute for the Buddha's Teaching—all these thinkers are still enmeshed in avijjā. We are not, in fact, interested in this or that particular result of the phenomenological method, but rather with the method itself—direct reflexion. And even when we succeed in adopting the attitude of direct reflexion (in place of the scientific attitude, which consists, precisely, in assuming that there is no such thing as an attitude at all), we still have to understand the Dhamma.

5 September 1961

chownah
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Re: Existentialism and Buddhist Practice

Post by chownah »

SDC wrote:
Tue Dec 17, 2019 4:13 pm
No_Mind wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:10 am
...
Ven. Nanavira in a letter to Dr. M. R. de Silva on the advantages and shortcomings of phenomenology and existentialism:
L. 9|15 wrote:I suggested that a more fruitful approach to the Dhamma, at least for one accustomed to Western ideas, might be made by way of the existential or phenomenological philosophers, who have developed a more direct and fundamental approach to things than that of empirical science with its inductive and statistical methods. These methods give, at best, only probable results; whereas the phenomenologist, not going beyond description of present phenomena, enjoys certainty.
...
It must be emphasized that this is not in any way a substitute for the Buddha's Teaching—all these thinkers are still enmeshed in avijjā. We are not, in fact, interested in this or that particular result of the phenomenological method, but rather with the method itself—direct reflexion. And even when we succeed in adopting the attitude of direct reflexion (in place of the scientific attitude, which consists, precisely, in assuming that there is no such thing as an attitude at all), we still have to understand the Dhamma.

5 September 1961
It is not clear to me who all is included in "all these thinkers"
b]It must be emphasized that this is not in any way a substitute for the Buddha's Teaching[/b]—all these thinkers are still enmeshed in avijjā.
chownah

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