How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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manas
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by manas » Sat May 12, 2012 9:08 pm

Sam Vega wrote:With a set of ideas derived from a tradition that we accept.

The theists return the compliment, by the way.
(Firstly. I thank everyone for their thought-out replies and contributions. :anjali: Nana and Dave, I will be following up on those links, much appreciated.)

This comment by Sam Vega raises an issue that is actually relevant to us: that just as we Buddhists frame other Paths according to our paradigm, so they frame our Path according to theirs. That is one of those seemingly intractable 'chinese puzzles' that I was trying to work through in this topic. Because I can sincerely state that from my personal experience, the Noble Eightfold Path and virtually everything I read in the suttas increasingly makes sense to me; it is found to accord with reality more and more. But a devout Sufi or Hindu yogi might say just the same things about their Paths! As I said before, some of them seem to have a direct experience of Divine Presence, and while we do have our own explanation for that, they will have theirs, too, and it will be more affirming and positive than ours.
David Snyder wrote:Buddhism holds that anyone can get to heaven leading a moral life and precepts from any religion, but the ultimate Nibbana is through the Buddhist path.
David, that's my perspective also, exactly. What I'm doing is questioning my perspective, holding it up for investigation. How much of our conviction is grounded in actual insight, and how much is from regularly studying suttas, with the words and concepts sinking into our heart and mind, and increasingly residing there, and increasingly framing how we view life? Is what we find to be true - our insight - coloured in any way by what we were looking for? Maybe the same thing happens to the Theists - they also find what they were looking for...

:?:
Last edited by manas on Sat May 12, 2012 9:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Seeking your own happiness,
you should pull out your own arrow:
your own lamentation, longing, & sorrow.

With arrow pulled out,
independent,
attaining peace of awareness,
all grief transcended,
griefless you are
unbound.


(excerpt, Sn 3:8)

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mikenz66
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat May 12, 2012 9:30 pm

manas wrote: This comment by Sam Vega raises an issue that is actually relevant to us: that just as we Buddhists frame other Paths according to our paradigm, so they frame our Path according to theirs. That is one of those seemingly intractable 'chinese puzzles' ...
Yes, as I said here:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 20#p187376" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
mikenz66 wrote: In the Ajahn Brahm talk I mentioned above he bemoans that in the Dawkins/Pell dialogue there seemed to be no attempt on the part of either participant to try to understand where the other one was coming from. As he says, it's more interesting to try to understand another point of view than to simply gainsay it...
:anjali:
Mike

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Sam Vara
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat May 12, 2012 9:53 pm

We might also ask ourselves why we want to explain the experiences of theists. Outside the very narrow specialisms of neurophysiology, we rarely talk about explaining people's experiences. Do we want to do it in order to discredit them, in the sense that such experiences can be "explained away"? Or to demonstrate to ourselves that a tradition to which we subscribe has the capacity to encompass anything thrown at it?
"In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten. In the human kingdom, define or be defined".
(Thomas Szasz)

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manas
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by manas » Sat May 12, 2012 10:00 pm

Sam Vega wrote:We might also ask ourselves why we want to explain the experiences of theists.
Someone who, while a practitioner in another faith before they came to the Buddha-Dhamma, might have had certain quite unique experiences in that previous faith, that still defy rational explanation. They might be trying to work their way through some doubt, wishing to cross over doubt, if you get my meaning.

:anjali:
Seeking your own happiness,
you should pull out your own arrow:
your own lamentation, longing, & sorrow.

With arrow pulled out,
independent,
attaining peace of awareness,
all grief transcended,
griefless you are
unbound.


(excerpt, Sn 3:8)

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Cittasanto
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat May 12, 2012 10:02 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:What I've always wondered is if people like this have achieved some spiritual accomplishment, such as stream entry or once returner.
Accomplishment in samādhi, but probably not the noble states. For a sotāpanna (or higher), there is unshakable confidence in the Triple Gem.
Dont forget the sammaditti :)
One of the misconceptions about Buddhism is the equating of the New Age idea that "All roads lead to the same mountaintop."
to an extent they do all try to aim for the same area, "happiness," although the final destination is/can be different.
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Sam Vara
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat May 12, 2012 10:19 pm

manas wrote:
Sam Vega wrote:We might also ask ourselves why we want to explain the experiences of theists.
Someone who, while a practitioner in another faith before they came to the Buddha-Dhamma, might have had certain quite unique experiences in that previous faith, that still defy rational explanation. They might be trying to work their way through some doubt, wishing to cross over doubt, if you get my meaning.

:anjali:
Yes, I hadn't thought of that one. I would think that this is rare, but entirely honourable and understandable. My advice in such circumstances would be to explore the ways in which the "new" (i.e. Buddhist) tradition deals with those experiences. Try them out, see how the new perspective makes you feel. Resist the temptation to dismiss the experiences, but listen to what the heart says about the new perspective.

It is of course difficult to be precise without knowing the nature of the experiences. I would imagine Buddhism copes with, say, loving feelings or faith better than it copes with notions of an imperishable soul or permanent damnation.

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reflection
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by reflection » Sat May 12, 2012 11:13 pm

The mind can do all kinds of things. Some people are convinced they are Jesus, Napoleon or the queen of England. Some people swear they have been abducted by :alien:s. Some have seen Allah, some see the virgin Mary, some see Krishna. And all think they are right. This doesn't show anything besides the fact that the mind is great in convincing us of certain experiences. Another proof of this is the questioning of witnesses. Police agents know that witnesses can swear they have seen something, which actually didn't happen at all.

The only thing we can do is trust our practice of the path will eventually show the truth and keep making sure we are not just convincing ourselves it is the truth. Because that wouldn't be an honest research into the nature of things. We should just see experiences as experiences and let them go. Even if we think we are enlightened, we should let that go.

And that's what I think is so special about Buddhism, that it says delusion is quite a natural thing that needs to be seen through.

:namaste:

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Rui Sousa
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by Rui Sousa » Sun May 13, 2012 11:41 pm

I agree that many experiences can be explained by samadhi. While listening to mystical experiences by theists I can recognize the description of the Jhanas, but the mental factors that define the jhanas are interpreted in the reference framework of the theistic religion: it is the presence of God.

Which is not completely untrue, Metta and a focused mind are strong characteristics of beings in the Deva worlds, where Brahma lives. I accept that Christians can reach the Jhanas through Metta meditation, and call it a binding with God.

I would say that in Buddhism there is a different explanation for that experience, but would praise such person and practice.
With Metta

Nugget
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Re: How do we explain the experiences of Theists?

Post by Nugget » Mon May 14, 2012 1:43 am

manas wrote:Just as an example, I will relate an experience of the Christian mystic Teresa of Avila.
Her experience of religious ecstasy in her encounter with the angel is described as follows:

“ I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.[4]
Here is a prayer which seems to come from quite a pure heart, as far as I can tell:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

~The bookmark of Teresa of Avila
Now although Christianity is possibly the last faith I would ever follow, as it seems to excel regarding the necessity of sacrificing one's intellect and suspending disbelief in order to be followed, I cannot deny a certain power and purity in these words, which as far as I know were quite sincere. From her perspective, God was very much a reality.


Your quotes brought to mind these portions of the the Maha Saccaka Sutta:
Extreme forces carved up my stomach cavity, just as if a butcher or his apprentice were to carve up the stomach cavity of an ox... There was an extreme burning in my body, just as if two strong men, grabbing a weaker man by the arms, were to roast & broil him over a pit of hot embers. And although tireless persistence was aroused in me, and unmuddled mindfulness established, my body was aroused & uncalm because of the painful exertion. But the painful feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.
"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. I discerned, as it was actually present, that 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.' My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, 'Released.' I discerned that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

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