Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
vinasp
Posts: 1675
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by vinasp » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:52 am

Hi Nana,

"Ananda, there are eight reasons, eight causes for the appearance of
a great earthquake. This great earth is established on water, the
water on the wind, the wind on space." [ DN 16.3.13 Walshe 1987 ]

So it seems that the Buddha thought that the earth was flat.

Do you believe that the earth is flat?

Do you want all of us to believe that the earth is flat?

Do you think that the Buddha may have been wrong about that?

If he was wrong about the earth, could he have been wrong about other
things?

Regards, Vincent.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 18602
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:14 am

Greetings Mike,
retrofuturist wrote:In other words, rather than headlong believing in nibbana, we can see and understand the characteristics of experience which make it not nibbana.
mikenz66 wrote:I don't understand the point here. Did anyone suggest attaining nibbana by believing it?
I'll refer you to my "rubbish tip" simile I added to my post (seemingly whilst you were responding to it).

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2964
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Goofaholix » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:21 am

mikenz66 wrote:That nibbana is possible. Something that I take on faith.
I think when you observe the cooling of desire aversion and delusion in some measure over time that gives one a taste of nibbana, then it becomes more based on confidence rather than faith.

Sure you can't be absolutely certain that ultimate freedom is possible, but you an have confidence that if it is you're heading in the right direction.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 15230
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:24 am

retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I don't understand the point here. Did anyone suggest attaining nibbana by believing it?
I'll refer you to my "rubbish tip" simile I added to my post (seemingly whilst you were responding to it).
Is that your invention, or does it have some basis in suttas or commentaries?

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 15230
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:25 am

Goofaholix wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:That nibbana is possible. Something that I take on faith.
I think when you observe the cooling of desire aversion and delusion in some measure over time that gives one a taste of nibbana, then it becomes more based on confidence rather than faith.

Sure you can't be absolutely certain that ultimate freedom is possible, but you an have confidence that if it is you're heading in the right direction.
Well, yes, of course, that's how all of us operate. I'm mostly objecting to the labelling of some things in the suttas as "speculative" or "appeals to authority" and some not.

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 18602
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:29 am

Greetings Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:Is that your invention, or does it have some basis in suttas or commentaries?
I think it's my invention (though I vaguely recall Ajahn Chah saying something not dissimilar) ... it just seemed like an apt way of explaining the point I was trying to make.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2964
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Goofaholix » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:32 am

mikenz66 wrote:Well, yes, of course, that's how all of us operate. I'm mostly objecting to the labelling of some things in the suttas as "speculative" or "appeals to authority" and some not.
I think whatever approach we take to questions like these we need to be aware of our own fallibility, grasping at certainty will never overcome this, our practise is a work in progress.

As Ajahn Chah is reported to have said a great deal "mai nair" everything is uncertain.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 15230
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:37 am

retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Is that your invention, or does it have some basis in suttas or commentaries?
I think it's my invention (though I vaguely recall Ajahn Chah saying something not dissimilar) ... it just seemed like an apt way of explaining the point I was trying to make.
In the story I remember Ajahn Chah was talking about people coming to him with their problems. He said was a rubbish bin with no bottom, so he didn't keep any of the rubbish.

I'm afraid I don't understand what you're getting at, but we're probably getting off topic for this thread...

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 15230
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:39 am

Goofaholix wrote: I think whatever approach we take to questions like these we need to be aware of our own fallibility, grasping at certainty will never overcome this, our practise is a work in progress.
We certainly agree on that!

:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
Spiny O'Norman
Posts: 851
Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 8:46 am
Location: Suffolk, England

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Spiny O'Norman » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:00 am

Kare wrote: To keep an 'agnostic' attitude or an 'open mind' in questions with a probability rate very close to zero, is not very rational.
But assessing the "probability" rate is a very subjective process based on limited information, the majority view, and on existing preconceptions and assumptions. We've mentioned the flat earth example, and I'm sure there was a time when the probabality rate of the earth being round was considered very close to zero by most people.

What I'm suggesting is that while saying "I don't know" can be uncomfortable, it's also quite liberating - because most of the time we don't really know.

Spiny

User avatar
Spiny O'Norman
Posts: 851
Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 8:46 am
Location: Suffolk, England

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Spiny O'Norman » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:01 am

vinasp wrote: "Ananda, there are eight reasons, eight causes for the appearance of
a great earthquake. This great earth is established on water, the
water on the wind, the wind on space." [ DN 16.3.13 Walshe 1987 ]

So it seems that the Buddha thought that the earth was flat.
I don't see how you've drawn this conclusion from the quote?

Spiny

vinasp
Posts: 1675
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:49 pm
Location: Bristol. United Kingdom.

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by vinasp » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:13 am

Hi Spiny,

I was interpreting that quote in the light of more detailed descriptions, for
example:

"Ancient Buddhists imagined the universe as essentially flat, with Mount Meru at the center of all things. Surrounding this universe was a vast expanse of water, and surrounding the water was a vast expanse of wind."

"Our world was thought to be a wedge-shaped island continent in a vast sea south of Mount Meru, called Jambudvipa, in the realm of Kāmadhātu. The earth, then, was thought to be flat and surrounded by ocean."

Link: http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhisthi ... ntmeru.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Regards, Vincent.

User avatar
Aloka
Posts: 5634
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Aloka » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:19 pm

vinasp wrote: I was interpreting that quote in the light of more detailed descriptions, for
example:

"Ancient Buddhists imagined the universe as essentially flat, with Mount Meru at the center of all things. Surrounding this universe was a vast expanse of water, and surrounding the water was a vast expanse of wind."

"Our world was thought to be a wedge-shaped island continent in a vast sea south of Mount Meru, called Jambudvipa, in the realm of Kāmadhātu. The earth, then, was thought to be flat and surrounded by ocean."

Link: http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhisthi ... ntmeru.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Regards, Vincent.

That sounds like the imagery from the offering of the 'Mandala of the Universe' in Tibetan Buddhist Ngondro practice.

Kind regards

Aloka :)

Nyana
Posts: 2233
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Nyana » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:41 pm

vinasp wrote: "Ananda, there are eight reasons, eight causes for the appearance of
a great earthquake. This great earth is established on water, the
water on the wind, the wind on space." [ DN 16.3.13 Walshe 1987 ]
Human knowledge of the natural sciences has developed significantly in the last 400 years. Human knowledge of kamma, rebirth, and the noble eightfold path has not. Moreover, geology and cartography are not relevant disciplinary fields for understanding kamma, the recollection of past lives, the vision of the passing away and reappearance of sentient beings, and the noble eightfold path. Therefore, there is no need for buddhas or arahants to have developed detailed models and maps pertaining to these worldly disciplines.

santa100
Posts: 2725
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by santa100 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:22 pm

vinasp wrote:
"Ananda, there are eight reasons, eight causes for the appearance of
a great earthquake. This great earth is established on water, the
water on the wind, the wind on space." [ DN 16.3.13 Walshe 1987 ]

Actually the Buddha's description was quite close to modern scientific description of the structure of the earth. Beneath the outer crust, there're the upper mantle, the mantle, the outer core, and the inner core, and guess what, they're mostly liquid! The problem was that even though the Buddha knew all of this all along, He could not simply use these scientific vocabulary to describe to the people 2500 years ago. Imagine describing Quantum Mechanic to a 3 year-old child. He had to use whatever most conducive to getting the idea across. To describe a black hole sitting at the center of our galaxy sucking in everything around it, He probably had to use the image of a gigantic dark monster with huge fiery mouth eating everthing around it. So, it'd be very careful before jumping into conclusion that the Buddha was wrong on this or that issue..

nowheat
Posts: 529
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:42 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by nowheat » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:29 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Rejecting the actuality of the next world is a wrong view. Equivocating about the next world is a wrong view. It's impossible to attain the first noble path of stream-entry while maintaining a wrong view. Likewise, it's impossible to attain the higher paths and fruitions and full liberation while maintaining a wrong view. In other words, these wrong views are impediments to seeing the four noble truths.
Where does the Buddha say one must accept the actuality of the next world to attain stream-entry?
nowheat wrote:The way the sangha is organized needs to change to survive changes in society, that's sure. Our ability to keep passing on the dhammavinaya is a definite concern for all Buddhists, especially here in the West, where the old models aren't an easy fit with the existing culture.
It's not the dhamma nor the vinaya which needs to change. It's the views of the people who go for refuge in the three jewels which need to change. This is what the path is all about. There is a developmental process. Otherwise, human beings would already be awake and there would be no need for a noble eightfold path.
How does changing the views of the people who go for refuge in the three jewels allow monks to beg alms in places where it is illegal? My point is that times have changed; we do not live in the same society the Buddha lived in when he created his rules.

:namaste:

nowheat
Posts: 529
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:42 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by nowheat » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:37 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:That nibbana is possible. Something that I take on faith.
I think when you observe the cooling of desire aversion and delusion in some measure over time that gives one a taste of nibbana, then it becomes more based on confidence rather than faith.

Sure you can't be absolutely certain that ultimate freedom is possible, but you an have confidence that if it is you're heading in the right direction.
Well, yes, of course, that's how all of us operate. I'm mostly objecting to the labelling of some things in the suttas as "speculative" or "appeals to authority" and some not.
And I, of course, am saying that being able to see from one's practice that something may be possible, and having (as described by others above) confidence that this is so rather than "faith" that this is so, is not "an appeal to authority". That the Buddha says it is possible may boost my confidence in some small measure, but the weight of my motivation is not in an appeal to authority, but in seeing for myself that the path is leading in the direction of equanimity, through studying and working with the rubbish heap, if you will. If the Buddha said it were so, and everything in my experience denied it, I would not still be doing it, so it is nothing to do with faith.

:namaste:

nowheat
Posts: 529
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:42 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by nowheat » Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:02 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Is that your invention, or does it have some basis in suttas or commentaries?
retrofuturist wrote:I think it's my invention (though I vaguely recall Ajahn Chah saying something not dissimilar) ... it just seemed like an apt way of explaining the point I was trying to make.
mikenz66 wrote:In the story I remember Ajahn Chah was talking about people coming to him with their problems. He said was a rubbish bin with no bottom, so he didn't keep any of the rubbish.

I'm afraid I don't understand what you're getting at, but we're probably getting off topic for this thread...
I think retro's point was more or less the same as my point with the story of stopping smoking (he is not describing the story you recall above, but makes a different simile), though his had more layers of detail than mine on smoking. The point being that the practice gives us evidence. I had assumed his simile was in answer to your question "How do you know you're heading in the direction of Nibbana?"
mikenz66 wrote:That nibbana is possible. Something that I take on faith.
retrofuturist wrote:That's one way of getting there... there may be others.

For example, nibbana is asankhara (unfabricated). We can observe sankharas (fabrications) rise and cease.
mikenz66 wrote:Sure, that's the normal thing to do isn't it? Watch rise and fall, etc.
retrofuturist wrote: We can learn to tranquillize the fabrications. We can learn that it is possible to forestall the rising of sankharas.
mikenz66 wrote:Sure, with the cessation of ignorance, clinging, etc....
retrofuturist wrote: In other words, rather than headlong believing in nibbana, we can see and understand the characteristics of experience which make it not nibbana.
mikenz66 wrote:I don't understand the point here. Did anyone suggest attaining nibbana by believing it?

What I meant was that we take the possibility of nibbana on faith, and then we practice. As you say:
retrofuturist wrote: But that doesn't contradict your statement that "There is an appeal to authority by all non-ariyan Dhamma practitioners."
I say it does contradict. This is where the difference is, as far as I can tell. Mike is saying that faith comes first, and then practice bears it out, whereas I would say that practice comes first, then experience, then confidence, and faith has nothing to do with it.

And anyway, it seems to me that Mike's "taking the possibility of nibbana" isn't faith at all. It's accepting a possibility. Faith is *believing* in something, not accepting something as a possible.

:namaste:

User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2964
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Goofaholix » Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:39 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:What I'm suggesting is that while saying "I don't know" can be uncomfortable, it's also quite liberating - because most of the time we don't really know.
Yes it's liberating, and honest. Also one is then less likely to judge others for their failing to measure up to any imagined benchmark on what someone should and shouldn't believe to be a Buddhist.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

User avatar
Mr Man
Posts: 3054
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:42 am

Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Post by Mr Man » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:30 pm

Ña?a wrote:
Human knowledge of the natural sciences has developed significantly in the last 400 years. Human knowledge of kamma, rebirth, and the noble eightfold path has not.
.
Possibly it could be said that the development is that less people now hold "belief" in rebirth, after life, unknown forces, superstition (if that is the case). Hopefully you are not pushing people in to the position of being heretics :)

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 38 guests