A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
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Miguel
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A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Miguel » Tue Jul 11, 2017 5:19 am

Since I can remember, I have always been attracted to religion, and specially to the religious discipline of priests and renunciants. When I was a kid, I used to go to church devoutly and watch in astonishment and awe the celebration of the Mass, feeling the silently deep presence of the numinous. During time, however, my ability to have faith faded, and I became progressively reliant on what reason alone can prove or at least understand. Still, such a thing did not took away also my interest in the religious life, and that altogether with the development of my own thought left me intellectually very close to the Buddhist teachings. I know, however, that Buddhism has his own (diminished, indeed, but existent) leaps of faith. Some time ago, in a discussion that particulary our good Binocular and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the Venerable Pesala might remember, that was one of the points we addressed. This leaves me worried, thinking that I cannot be a proper Buddhist if I don't believe in these things, something to which I am actually very reluctant.

My life, on the other hand, has not been in general a happy one. The country in which I was born and live in might have to do something with that, but I have more or less come to believe that most of human experiences are common to all of us. One of these, an unrequited love, is fairly frequent, and it is what has left me thinking about becoming a monk for some time by now. To think about it is no longer a bitter thing for me, but it fills me with a sense of spiritual urgency and a desire for renunciation. I know, nevertheless, that humans, tend to rush in, and I don't want to abandon if I start the path towards ordination, or even disrobe later. To make a decision so serious, I wanted first to hear the opinion of you all,
friends.

Moreover, there is also another relevant fact to be considered: I used to write poetry; now I find myself unable to do so. It might not sound as much, but what it actually implies is that I have not only become less fideist but also, seemingly, less passionate. The exercise of writing those poems justified my whole life, because it turned it into an aesthetical compossition, on which every part had value because of the overall worth of the whole. Now such a thing does not happen, and although I'm afraid that renouncing to the world could be also a subconscious aesthetical decission (which, yet, is for me an absolutely serious thing), I think that such a change is in accordance of what would be expected of a monk.

So, in sum, you have here a religious person that nonetheless can't get himself to believe in things like Heavens or Hells; a person that first thought about ordaining because of a broken heart, but thought about such possibility without frivolity; a person that upholds the great value of the Dhamma and the Vinaya but who also thinks that they are not the only valuable things in the world for everyone; an individual that, if he becomes a monk, he at first would not approve his own reasons and would tell himself to live a little more. If I were ordained I would practice diligently but not with the hope of a better rebirth or the attainment of arahantship, and would avoid committing offences not because I find them to be so, but because they are such as part of what I accepted when receiving my robes and my bowl.

If you find that I failed to give any relevant detail to your judgment, I'm ready to provide it. I come to you asking for open and thorough advice. What do you think about all this, of my motives and situation? Would you, friends, find me a fitting aspirant to form part of the Sangha?

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robertk
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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby robertk » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:16 am

Well the real pupose of joining the order is to work towards bringing samsara to an end: so if you dont believe in rebirth why would you want to join. Is it because the lifestyle appeals?

on the other hand in thailand people ordain for all sorts of poor reasons, your one is no worse than any of those.

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Miguel
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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Miguel » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:51 am

Well, actually I do believe in rebirth, but not in other realms. I consider that, since the causes that form us are in constant change, and that the matter that constitutes us is completely renewed every certain period of time, we do physically experience complete rebirths in this life. Same thing happens to the inner part of ourselves, what can be called our soul but is in truth probably nothing more than the result of causality acting over our internal sensibility. We do change in essence, sometimes completely, and that can also be called rebirth.

And there is also the fact that every person that is born is, biologically and in its sensibility, just like ourselves, and so we could say that there is a rebirth of our essence, our humanity, in every newborn. So, working towards ending ignorance and delusion, and thus suffering, actually prepares a better rebirth for others like ourselves (which are, in turn, as much like ourselves as we were as children compared to now, for example). The idea that I wanted to convey (my mistake, I should have been clearer) was that I don't believe in any transmigration of consciousness, nor anything of the sort, from one body to another. Although I don't absolutely deny it, I see no reason to think that our deaths will be different of what we experience while being asleep and not dreaming.

robertk wrote:On the other hand in thailand people ordain for all sorts of poor reasons, your one is no worse than any of those.

I must say; I actually found this quite comforting.

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Mkoll
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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Mkoll » Tue Jul 11, 2017 10:31 am

You sound pretty firm in your views. I hope you're at least open to the possibility of them being wrong. There are monks who are initially skeptical of certain teachings but become less so with practice. So being open to change is important.

I am curious about whether (and if so, how) you will answer robertk's question:

robertk wrote:Well the real pupose of joining the order is to work towards bringing samsara to an end: so if you dont believe in rebirth why would you want to join. Is it because the lifestyle appeals?
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Miguel
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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Miguel » Tue Jul 11, 2017 4:32 pm

Mkoll wrote:You sound pretty firm in your views. I hope you're at least open to the possibility of them being wrong.

Off course, Mkoll. In this subject, at least, it would appear to me as irrational to deny as to believe. That's why I, in turn, said:
Miguel wrote:Although I don't absolutely deny it, I see no reason to think that our deaths will be different of what we experience while being asleep and not dreaming.


In regard to robertk's question, I apologize: I completely overlooked it. I would say yes, but that would not cover a more wide and deep range of reasons. Monastic lifestyle does seem interesting to me, as I said before, but I also find most of the teachings to be right and to be wise. I don't pursue nor want to pursue happiness anymore (it's enough for me to have seen that it exists and that others have found it), I just want to achieve a certain serenity and develop my insight and understanding. And there is a lot more up to it. I find, for example, that just by understanding the Dhamma properly and passing in front of people in the streets when going out for alms, one is both offering the example of a serious life of commitment in the middle of this time of overall frivolity and a quiet advice to others. I also think that, in a more worldly view, Buddhism is one great (if not the best) religion, and that spreading it would greatly serve humanity.

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Mkoll
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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Mkoll » Tue Jul 11, 2017 8:22 pm

Miguel wrote:
Mkoll wrote:You sound pretty firm in your views. I hope you're at least open to the possibility of them being wrong.

Off course, Mkoll. In this subject, at least, it would appear to me as irrational to deny as to believe. That's why I, in turn, said:
Miguel wrote:Although I don't absolutely deny it, I see no reason to think that our deaths will be different of what we experience while being asleep and not dreaming.

Glad to hear it. I had to ask because there are many who are incapable of admitting that outright or are closed to the possibility altogether.

Miguel wrote:In regard to robertk's question, I apologize: I completely overlooked it. I would say yes, but that would not cover a more wide and deep range of reasons. Monastic lifestyle does seem interesting to me, as I said before, but I also find most of the teachings to be right and to be wise. I don't pursue nor want to pursue happiness anymore (it's enough for me to have seen that it exists and that others have found it), I just want to achieve a certain serenity and develop my insight and understanding. And there is a lot more up to it. I find, for example, that just by understanding the Dhamma properly and passing in front of people in the streets when going out for alms, one is both offering the example of a serious life of commitment in the middle of this time of overall frivolity and a quiet advice to others. I also think that, in a more worldly view, Buddhism is one great (if not the best) religion, and that spreading it would greatly serve humanity.

Thanks for the explanation. Those are good reasons.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby binocular » Wed Jul 12, 2017 4:52 pm

Miguel wrote:I find, for example, that just by understanding the Dhamma properly and passing in front of people in the streets when going out for alms, one is both offering the example of a serious life of commitment in the middle of this time of overall frivolity and a quiet advice to others.

If you are aware that there are significant discrepancies between what you believe and what Buddhists believe, then how can you imagine yourself
"understanding the Dhamma properly"?
If you are aware that there are significant discrepancies between what you believe and what Buddhists believe, then how can you imagine yourself being a Buddhist monk"?

Miguel wrote:I know, however, that Buddhism has his own (diminished, indeed, but existent) leaps of faith.

Whether a leap to faith is necessary or not is related to a number of factors: Some Buddhist schools/traditions require such leaps, some not so much. More importantly, whether one will have to take a leap to faith or not depends on how much work one is willing to invest, whether one is willing to take small steps.
A leap to faith is seen as necessary when no path of actions is seen to the desired goal; or when one isn't willing to walk such a path, or doesn't even want to look for one.

If I were ordained I would practice diligently but not with the hope of a better rebirth or the attainment of arahantship, and would avoid committing offences not because I find them to be so, but because they are such as part of what I accepted when receiving my robes and my bowl.

What do you think: How would people feel when they are taught by a monk who doesn't really believe what he is saying?

What do you think about all this, of my motives and situation? Would you, friends, find me a fitting aspirant to form part of the Sangha?

I think you have some work ahead of you. If you just try to leap to faith somehow, you'll probably be unhappy and the people around you will probably be unhappy about you, and you will probably end up doing more harm than good.

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Miguel » Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:45 am

Mkoll wrote: Glad to hear it. I had to ask because there are many who are incapable of admitting that outright or are closed to the possibility altogether.

Indeed, I have met many of those during my life. It is not very widely understood that not being able to verify a statement does not imply its falsification, and, in addition to that, there seems to be a firm disdain for religion among most people these days. Both of these factor combined make a lot of our fellow humans disparage religion as superstition, which is a most unfortunate confusion. It is also interesting that the thus repressed religious side of some of them tends to appear in other aspects of their lives, specially in politics, where they are prompt to hold salvationist views of history and redemptorist ideas about what are the functions of the State. They become in this way far more dangerous that what they could have been by just quietly practicing a religion in its traditional way and hoping for their reward in an afterlife, without affecting all of us through their actions in the public sphere. I try to stay as far of this kind of people as possible.

Thank you for your remarks, Mkoll. This one was specially interesting:
There are monks who are initially skeptical of certain teachings but become less so with practice.


On the other hand, Binocular:
Binocular wrote:If you are aware that there are significant discrepancies between what you believe and what Buddhists believe, then how can you imagine yourself
"understanding the Dhamma properly"?
If you are aware that there are significant discrepancies between what you believe and what Buddhists believe, then how can you imagine yourself being a Buddhist monk"?
[...]
What do you think: How would people feel when they are taught by a monk who doesn't really believe what he is saying?

Those are understandable questions. I would never have seriously thought about ordaining (nor I would, probably, be here talking with all of you) if I did not agreed with Buddhism in all its fundamental assertions: the Four Noble Truths, and the doctrines of Momentariness, Relative Existence, No-Self, Dependent Origination, and even, in the unorthodox way that I more or less stated before, in Karma. If I said that I would not practice Buddhism expecting a better rebirth or the attainment of arahantship it was not, as I said to Mkoll, because I hold contempt for these things, but because I don't find them necessary to my daily practice: I will consider myself well-served if I can achieve some insight, wisdom, and virtue. And if I also said that I "would avoid committing offences not because I find them to be so, but because they are such as part of what I accepted when receiving my robes and my bowl" (off course I did not meant truly grave offences, but certain ones as, for example, hugging one's mother), it is because I can see the diference between malum in se and malum prohibitum and yet respect the latter. If, then, I wake up one day and find that I have come to believe in Hells and Heavens, and in the excellence of every single rule of the Vinaya, that would be fine; as it would be if such a thing does not ever happen.

Now, frankly, I don't quite understood the point you were making here:
Binocular wrote:Whether a leap to faith is necessary or not is related to a number of factors: Some Buddhist schools/traditions require such leaps, some not so much. More importantly, whether one will have to take a leap to faith or not depends on how much work one is willing to invest, whether one is willing to take small steps.
A leap to faith is seen as necessary when no path of actions is seen to the desired goal; or when one isn't willing to walk such a path, or doesn't even want to look for one.

By "leaps of faith" I meant certain specific doctrines that one has to accept in order to properly grasp the whole conjunct and that cannot just be demonstrated a prori, as, for example, the belief that the Noble Eightfold Path is truly the way to be free of all suffering. It certainly can be so (as I happen to believe), but to be actually sure one must take the chance and jump into it.

Binocular wrote:I think you have some work ahead of you. If you just try to leap to faith somehow, you'll probably be unhappy and the people around you will probably be unhappy about you, and you will probably end up doing more harm than good.

In both of these things we absolutely agree. I am only twenty years old, and the least I want to do is to rush in and end both absolutely unhappy and embarrassing the Sangha, or living at its expense without actually believing in what it upholds. Such is, as you see, the reason why I created this thread in the first place. Nothing would be for me more shameful than to make a decision here without thinking it thoroughly first.

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby binocular » Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:11 am

Miguel wrote:Now, frankly, I don't quite understood the point you were making here:
Binocular wrote:Whether a leap to faith is necessary or not is related to a number of factors: Some Buddhist schools/traditions require such leaps, some not so much. More importantly, whether one will have to take a leap to faith or not depends on how much work one is willing to invest, whether one is willing to take small steps.
A leap to faith is seen as necessary when no path of actions is seen to the desired goal; or when one isn't willing to walk such a path, or doesn't even want to look for one.

By "leaps of faith" I meant certain specific doctrines that one has to accept in order to properly grasp the whole conjunct and that cannot just be demonstrated a prori, as, for example, the belief that the Noble Eightfold Path is truly the way to be free of all suffering. It certainly can be so (as I happen to believe), but to be actually sure one must take the chance and jump into it.

(By the way: A leap to faith vs. leap of faith)

I think that a leap to faith is not always necessary. It is true that in some religions (such as Christianity), and even in some Buddhist traditions, a leap to faith is considered necessary.

But I think there are other ways, at least in some religions or in some Buddhist traditions. I don't think one always has to internalize the whole belief system simply on faith before one can begin with the practice. Some religions do have openings, entry points where one can enter in one's current state, with one's current level of faith, however small or limited it may be.

What about my previous post would you like me to clarify or expand?


In both of these things we absolutely agree. I am only twenty years old, and the least I want to do is to rush in and end both absolutely unhappy and embarrassing the Sangha, or living at its expense without actually believing in what it upholds. Such is, as you see, the reason why I created this thread in the first place. Nothing would be for me more shameful than to make a decision here without thinking it thoroughly first.

Okay.

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Garrib » Sat Jul 15, 2017 5:53 am

Miguel wrote:Although I don't absolutely deny it, I see no reason to think that our deaths will be different of what we experience while being asleep and not dreaming.


What do we experience during sleep while not dreaming?

Congratulations on even considering renunciation - whether or not you believe in certain doctrines, there is something basically correct about your recognition that life (as normally lived) is unsatisfactory. The life of a monastic who practices properly is wide open, beautiful; At least that's what I think.

Of course, there are many, many factors for you to consider. As a monk, you would be supported by donations to the Sangha, as you are well aware of. You wouldn't want to be taking those things and not actually practicing for liberation. Those people will think of you as a potential refuge and field of merit. At the same time, i wouldn't want to discourage anyone who sincerely wanted to ordain...I would advise you speak to some senior monks and be honest with them about your beliefs and intentions. I'm sure you can get some great advice that way.

By the way, have you heard of the Buddha's incontrovertible teaching? It has become one of my favorites.

Good luck and no matter what you decide, I wish you the best!!

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby lostitude » Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:59 am

binocular wrote:If you are aware that there are significant discrepancies between what you believe and what Buddhists believe, then how can you imagine yourself
"understanding the Dhamma properly"?
If you are aware that there are significant discrepancies between what you believe and what Buddhists believe, then how can you imagine yourself being a Buddhist monk"?
Nice sutta-style phrasing, I won't ask you what you have been reading lately ;)

Why speak about 'belief' when what ultimately matters is experience?

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby lostitude » Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:26 am

Miguel wrote:I know, nevertheless, that humans, tend to rush in, and I don't want to abandon if I start the path towards ordination, or even disrobe later.
Why? What would be wrong with that, and why would it be shameful as you say in another post? It has happened to many monks, some of them are even well-known today. Some have even used their monastic background and experience to set up quite profitable mindfulness-related businesses. So if as a monk you suddenly realized that material life is the real thing and you want to go back to it, you'd have your niche ready for you ;)
And maybe I'm deluded, but giving up one's lay life at 20 is in many respects probably much easier than giving it up at 35 when you have a wife and 3 kids and are at the top of your career after 15 years of hard work. Similarly, giving up monkhood at 30 and 'rehab' into normal life is probably easier than at 45.

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby binocular » Sat Jul 15, 2017 5:11 pm

lostitude wrote:Why speak about 'belief' when what ultimately matters is experience?

That's for the OP to decide.

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby lostitude » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:11 pm

binocular wrote:
lostitude wrote:Why speak about 'belief' when what ultimately matters is experience?

That's for the OP to decide.
Is it really? Belief without experience can lead to the goal?

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby binocular » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:17 pm

lostitude wrote:
binocular wrote:
lostitude wrote:Why speak about 'belief' when what ultimately matters is experience?

That's for the OP to decide.
Is it really? Belief without experience can lead to the goal?

You asked: "Why speak about /.../" and to this I replied that it's for the OP to decide.
Slow down. There's good reason for all those details and repetitiveness.

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Miguel
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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Miguel » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:04 am

Many thanks, Garrib, for taking the time to post a reply and for your good wishes. I absolutely agree with your advice of knocking at the door of an upper floor. I don't personally know any Buddhist monks at all (only some Benedictines, and the last time I had a word with them they where quite scandalized by my commentaries), but I have an idea of where to start looking for.

Now, on the other hand, you got me curious: what teaching is that?

Garrib wrote:What do we experience during sleep while not dreaming?

Exactly! No one knows!

binocular wrote:What about my previous post would you like me to clarify or expand?

Nothing, Binocular. I think that, with your reply, I understand now what you meant about the path. The matter about whether leaps to faith (got your remark on that, by the way) are necessary or not to be proper Buddhists is actually the most important concern I implicitly expressed in my first message, and knowing that there is, at least in some traditions, a beginning for the study of the Dhamma that does not require such things is greatly comforting. For what I can see, here is the place for that. I hope that this also clarifies the issue of belief and experience: I regard the latter as the most important, while trying to rely the least I can in the former, and wanted to know if that would not be considered a wrong view. If I spoke about it in the first place is because I thought that it could have a more relevant place in Buddhism than what I could appreciate for myself.

It seems, however, that you are not fully convinced of the last assertions of my previous post. Wish I had something more than my word to back them up, dear friend.

lostitude wrote:Why? What would be wrong with that, and why would it be shameful as you say in another post? It has happened to many monks, some of them are even well-known today. Some have even used their monastic background and experience to set up quite profitable mindfulness-related businesses. So if as a monk you suddenly realized that material life is the real thing and you want to go back to it, you'd have your niche ready for you ;)
And maybe I'm deluded, but giving up one's lay life at 20 is in many respects probably much easier than giving it up at 35 when you have a wife and 3 kids and are at the top of your career after 15 years of hard work. Similarly, giving up monkhood at 30 and 'rehab' into normal life is probably easier than at 45.

This is a very wise advice. I tend to be a little bit stubborn after I set a course of action (which is, indeed, why I try to think it all very straight before taking a decision), and that's something I have to keep an eye on. Such a thing can be because, coming from a strictly monotheistic, Abrahamic environment, I tend to take religious things with a sometimes excessive zeal. As with the former, I have to remind myself from time to time to take it easier.

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Garrib » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:48 am

You're welcome, Miguel. Thanks for the response.

Miguel wrote:
Now, on the other hand, you got me curious: what teaching is that?



...The Blessed One asked them: “Householders, is there any teacher agreeable to you in whom you have acquired faith supported by reasons?”
“No, venerable sir, there is no teacher agreeable to us in whom we have acquired faith supported by reasons.”
“Since, householders, you have not found an agreeable teacher, you may undertake and practise this incontrovertible teaching; for when the incontrovertible teaching is accepted and undertaken, it will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time. And what is the incontrovertible teaching?...


http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/middle-length-discourses-buddha/selections/middle-length-discourses-60-apannaka-sutta

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anyway - whatever you end up deciding, I'm sure you will do well. You sound like an intelligent and capable young man. Apply yourself wholeheartedly to the path, and I believe that your doubts will resolve themselves with time... If you commit yourself to the path as a Bhikkhu or as a lay person, you just set aside your doubts, at least during meditation - now, this doesn't mean that you necessarily sit around trying to brainwash yourself into believing all kinds of doctrines, but rather that you suspend your disbelief enough to get into deep states of meditation. With your mind now powerful, clear and purified, you can investigate the Dhamma and see if it is true according to your experience. THAT is the essential thing, not just taking things on blind faith - the key is that you should be able to at least say to yourself, I am going to see if these things are true, and I am going to practise in accordance with the teachings, not holding anything back... Why not?? Especially if you ordain - what else are you going to do with all your time??? :)

Best of luck!

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Miguel » Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:46 pm

That's it, Garrib. That is what I have also come to realize. And withholding back judgment it's not just better for me as one to aspires to be counted among the followers of the Buddha, but also from a purely rational perspective. By not having any way to prove if there is another world, or immaterial realms, or cessation of being, one also does not have any way to disprove them. So, the strictly logical way to proceed in this regard is to not hold any view at all on the subject. This is where I am now. And then, when I start practicing, we'll see what kind of evidence comes up.

I sincerely appreciate your trust in me. I'll try my best for it not to be in vain.

Garrib wrote:Especially if you ordain - what else are you going to do with all your time???

:lol:

Best of luck for you too!

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby Pseudobabble » Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:19 pm

binocular wrote:If you are aware that there are significant discrepancies between what you believe and what Buddhists believe, then how can you imagine yourself
"understanding the Dhamma properly"?
If you are aware that there are significant discrepancies between what you believe and what Buddhists believe, then how can you imagine yourself being a Buddhist monk"?.


Let me pose you a question, friend binocular:

What is it that 'Buddhists believe?'

Was Nanavira Thera a Buddhist? Was Buddhadasa a Buddhist?

How about Mahayanists and Vajrayanists?

Are there no disagreements on interpretation in the Sangha?
"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is perception...such are fabrications...such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.'" - Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta


'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.' - Genesis 3:19

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Re: A fitting new member of the Sangha?

Postby binocular » Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:30 pm

Pseudobabble wrote:What is it that 'Buddhists believe?'
Was Nanavira Thera a Buddhist? Was Buddhadasa a Buddhist?
How about Mahayanists and Vajrayanists?
Are there no disagreements on interpretation in the Sangha?

Exactly. I framed my reply the way I did, in that suspiciously general form, in order to draw out these distinctions (and conflicts).
I think a number of problems can emerge when people think of Buddhism as if it would be one big undifferentiated, unanimous, unified whole; and they see themselves as small and unimportant in relation to that whole (and that they might just have to let themselves be rolled over by that whole).

It seems from the OP's reply here that he caught what I was getting at.


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