• Janus
    10.1k
    One needs to have trust or faith or a belief that enlightenment is possible. But the goal is liberation not knowledge.

    The hope is that this will come through practice, but it does not always happen. Some Buddhist schools believe that enlightenment can be spontaneous, others believe practice is required. And of course the hope or desire can be the attachment.
    Fooloso4

    One also needs to accept certain assumptions about what enlightenment consists in, and whether it can really can tell us anything about the nature of reality and of life and death.

    If enlightenment is just liberation and involves "knowing how" but no "knowing that", then it could be understood to simply consist in realizing the ability to completely be oneself, and nothing more than that could be justifiably said about it.

    Once someone starts talking about it taking many lives to realize enlightenment then it has become a religion, as faith-based as Christianity, with its promise of resurrection, Islam with its paradise, or any other.
  • Apollodorus
    531


    This is from the Visuddhimagga, a central text of Theravada Buddhism:

    "One who wants to develop the recollection of deities should possess
    the special qualities of faith, etc., evoked by means of the noble path,
    and he should go into solitary retreat and recollect his own special quali-
    ties of faith, etc., with deities standing as witnesses, as follows:
    'There are deities of the Realm of the Four Kings (devacatu-
    maharajika), there are deities of the Realm of the Thirty-three (deva
    tavatimsa), there are the deities who are Gone to Divine Bliss (yama)...."

    Obviously, there was widespread belief in deities.

    I'm neither a Buddhist nor a Hindu, I just remember reading about deities in Buddhist texts when I was doing some research on philosophy. At the time, I was a bit surprised myself as I had thought there were no gods in Buddhism. We all learn something new every day ....
  • Tom Storm
    967
    If enlightenment is just liberation and involves "knowing how" but no "knowing that", then it could be understood to simply consist in realizing the ability to completely be oneself, and nothing more than that could be justifiably said about it.Janus

    Which doesn't sound especially attractive or interesting.
  • Janus
    10.1k
    Buddhism is not a religion. It employs no supernatural elements.god must be atheist

    This is untrue about some forms of Buddhism.

    (Edit: I see @Apollodorus has already corrected you on this).
  • Janus
    10.1k
    It depends on your feeling, I suppose; for me there is nothing more attractive or interesting than the struggle to overcome fears and neuroses, and all the confused views and negative emotions that come with them, and become who you are. Of course I don't believe Buddhism, or any religion or practice, is the only way to go.
  • Tom Storm
    967
    I suppose; for me there is nothing more attractive or interesting than the struggle to overcome fears and neuroses, and all the confused views and negative emotions that come with them, and become who you areJanus

    I'm not so sure there is a you to become exactly. But some people can sure make improvements in how they manage their lives. This can be done in many ways and none of them need to cater in truth or ultimate reality.
  • Janus
    10.1k
    I'm not so sure there is a you to become exactly. But some people can sure make improvements in how they manage their lives. This can be done in many ways and none of them need to cater in truth or ultimate reality.Tom Storm

    Who am I conversing with if there is no you? I agree with you about there being many ways to become more free from neurosis and anxiety; different ways suit different people, and basically that's all I'm talking about.
  • Tom Storm
    967
    Not saying there is no 'you' as such, I'm proposing there is no real you 'who you are' in your words. There are just better or worse functioning versions of you, relative to a criteria. None of them are more or less who you are, it's just that some versions may be easier to be.
  • Janus
    10.1k
    I am not saying the "who you are" is real (actual), but rather potential. For me the criterion is freedom; the ability to live, which as a social being means to be with others, without fear or favour.

    If you are mired in anxiety and concern about how others see you, for example, then your being who you are is inhibited; you are not free but constrained.
  • Tom Storm
    967
    Ok. I prefer who you can be. Who you are implies some kind of essence or truth. Not that this matters two shits... :smile:
  • Janus
    10.1k
    Right, the terminology doesn't matter; it's the freedom that counts!
  • Apollodorus
    531
    This can be done in many ways and none of them need to cater in truth or ultimate reality.Tom Storm

    Religious, philosophical and spiritual systems in general have many layers of psychological and spiritual experience or attainment. Nobody can force "truth" or "ultimate reality" down your throat. It's for the individual "seeker" to decide how much or how little they want to take from a system. Plus, in a proper tradition there would be qualified and experienced teachers or spiritual guides - similar to psychotherapists - who would help you along the path or advise you as to what the best course of action is for you personally. But some Westerners are trying to guide themselves on the basis of what they find in books or online and in my experience this is the wrong approach.
  • Tom Storm
    967
    Agree. And many people follow a tradition or therapy mode for many years without any changes or results.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    And many people follow a tradition or therapy mode for many years without any changes or results.Tom Storm

    Without doubt.
  • Janus
    10.1k
    But some Westerners are trying to guide themselves on the basis of what they find in books or online and in my experience this is the wrong approach.Apollodorus

    I think your experience in this matter can only justifiably speak for yourself and others you may know well enough. In my view there are as many approaches as there are people, and none of them wrong. Success or failure depends on many factors, and it is up to individuals to assess in their own cases.
  • Tom Storm
    967
    In my view there are as many approaches as there are people, and none of them wrong.Janus

    I'm not sure you can say this. Are you saying it is impossible to follow a wrong approach?
  • Janus
    10.1k
    I guess an approach could be inappropriate; say someone seeking spiritual growth joins the Nazi Party. How would you determine that some approach is wrong, per se, though?
  • Tom Storm
    967
    How would you determine that some approach is wrong, per se, though?Janus

    All we can do here is go with a common sense approach. If a pathway involves gassing people - I think we can safely say it is wrong. If it involves harming children: wrong. Etc.
  • Janus
    10.1k
    I certainly agree with that, but I wasn't thinking in terms of 'morally wrong', but rather 'wrong for purpose'.

    So, I'm not convinced any path, whether Scientology, following Da Free John, Osho, Buddhism, Krishnamurti, Christianity, psychotherapy, CBT, Gestalt, or whatever can be said to be wrong, per se, for what we might call personal development. I think they are all just tools, which may or may not be useful (i.e. lead to growth and greater freedom) in any particular case.
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    I had thought there were no gods in Buddhism.Apollodorus

    The Buddhist world was always populated by gods (and demons, yaksas, various other supernatural beings.) But the dogma makes it clear that the Buddha is 'teacher of gods and men'. The deities will ask the Buddha for guidance, making clear that the Buddha is seen as above them. Furthermore he attributes his enlightenment solely to gaining insight into the truth of dependent origination, which was taught to him by nobody and was not gained in reliance on any deity.

    It's incorrect however to say that Buddhism is not a religion and contains nothing supernatural. 'Supernatural' is a boo-word in secular culture, as secularism defines itself by its exclusion. But from the outset the Buddha is understood to have won liberation from saṃsāra, the endless caravan of birth and death, and is therefore described as 'lokuttara', which is literally translated as 'world-transcending', but to all intents is synonymous with 'supernatural'. (It should be noted also that 'metaphysical' is the Greek equivalent of the Latin-derived 'supernatural'.)

    Buddhism has sometimes been called an atheistic teaching, either in an approving sense by freethinkers and rationalists, or in a derogatory sense by people of theistic persuasion. Only in one way can Buddhism be described as atheistic, namely, in so far as it denies the existence of an eternal, omnipotent God or godhead who is the creator and ordainer of the world. The word "atheism," however, like the word "godless," frequently carries a number of disparaging overtones or implications, which in no way apply to the Buddha's teaching.

    Those who use the word "atheism" often associate it with a materialistic doctrine that knows nothing higher than this world of the senses and the slight happiness it can bestow. Buddhism is nothing of that sort. In this respect it agrees with the teachings of other religions, that true lasting happiness cannot be found in this world; nor, the Buddha adds, can it be found on any higher plane of existence, conceived as a heavenly or divine world, since all planes of existence are impermanent and thus incapable of giving lasting bliss.

    The spiritual values advocated by Buddhism are directed, not towards a new life in some higher world, but towards a state utterly transcending the world, namely, Nibbana (Nirvāṇa). In making this statement, however, we must point out that Buddhist spiritual values do not draw an absolute separation between the beyond and the here and now. They have firm roots in the world itself for they aim at the highest realization in this present existence.
    — Nyanoponika Thera
  • Fooloso4
    1.5k
    One also needs to accept certain assumptions about what enlightenment consists in, and whether it can really can tell us anything about the nature of reality and of life and death.Janus

    The Buddhist would say that the assumptions are things you must do away with, one must be able to see past there mental constructs.

    My opinion is that Buddhism makes the same demand as other religions, you must first buy into it, commit yourself to it, if one is to gain what it promises. It is not a commitment that I am willing to make.
  • Tom Storm
    967
    I think they are all just tools, which may or may not be useful (i.e. lead to growth and greater freedom) in any particular case.Janus

    Fair enough. Well there are versions of the above that are morally wrong in less dramatic ways. Gay-hating Pentecostal Christianity, for instance. Is Scientology anything more than a scam that seeks to rigidly control its members? What counts as psychotherapy (we may need to list specific versions)? There are centrally a couple of Freudian schools I know of where therapists sometimes sleep with their patients. Not meant to of course. The fidelity of the model may be inversely proportionate to the morality of the practice. As is often the case with schools of thought.

    How can we tell when someone has experienced personal growth and greater freedom, I wonder? It seems to me that sometimes this is said to be experienced when what is seen by others is a shrinking away from life and a palpable decrease in liberty. Personal testimony is unreliable.
  • Janus
    10.1k
    The Buddhist would say that the assumptions are things you must do away with, one must be able to see past there mental constructs.

    My opinion is that Buddhism makes the same demand as other religions, you must first buy into it, commit yourself to it, if one is to gain what it promises. It is not a commitment that I am willing to make.
    Fooloso4

    I wonder is it really possible to see beyond mental/ cultural constructs? In any case you must believe it is to make following the Buddhist path worthwhile. As you say Buddhism demands commitment, but there is no promise that you will gain enlightenment (at least not in this life). And even if there were such a promise you would only stay with the path until you gained enlightenment (or believed you had) or until your belief ran out.

    Is Scientology anything more than a scam that seeks to rigidly control its members?Tom Storm

    I don't believe it is, but others do.

    How can we tell when someone has experienced personal growth and greater freedom, I wonder?Tom Storm

    I imagine it would be manifest in their behavior and disposition.

    Personal testimony is unreliable.Tom Storm

    I agree that personal testimony gives little reason to believe in such matters; "actions speak louder than words". But when it comes to whether you have achieved a state of greater freedom, apart from your works and actions, I would say that only you are (if anyone is) qualified to judge.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    The Buddhist world was always populated by gods (and demons, yaksas, various other supernatural beings.) But the dogma makes it clear that the Buddha is 'teacher of gods and men'.Wayfarer

    Correct. The evidence stretching from Buddhist texts to religious art strongly suggests that supernatural beings were a not unimportant element of Buddhism. At the same time, Buddha was the supreme spiritual authority. This doesn't elevate him to the status of "God" as in other religions but it would be wrong to say that "Buddhism is not a religion because it doesn't believe in supernatural beings".
  • FrancisRay
    202
    No. A bodhisattva is not yet a buddha, a bodhisattva is not yet enlightened, he doesn't have that status.
    The idea that the unelightened could lead others to enlightenment is absurd.
    baker

    I think it is outrageous that you say these daft things and don't bother to check your facts. It's the very opposite of doing philosophy.

    I'm sorry mate, but I have you down as someone not worth arguing with.

    . .
  • TLCD1996
    68
    Man, if my practice in pursuit of liberation of Nirvana is a self-fulfilling prophecy, I'm a lucky duck!

    The Dhamma is "ehipassiko"; encouraging investigation, inviting others to see for themselves. Since I trust the teachers of this Dhamma, I'll gladly accept their premises and try to follow them as best as I can, because they've helped me a lot over the years and continue to do so. If you don't believe me, that's fine.

    But is it really problematic to believe the teachings? I don't think so. Again, because it's given me good results as far as I can see - that's my own anecdotal reasoning. Second, because my acceptance and trust isn't mutually exclusive from questioning - acceptance doesn't have to be absolute, and indeed teachers would discourage that. However, what this faith (to my understanding) entails is a need to not rest satisfied with result based in rationality alone (a need to go beyond thought), because rationality is just thinking (and thoughts are empty of essence; they arise and then they cease). What do you get when thinking ceases? The 2nd jhana. You can't argue your way through even meditation. The only time argument works is when it actually leads to the stilling of arguments within oneself. Then, finally, one can begin to focus on breathing without getting caught up in philosophy.

    In that case, you don't necessarily need to even start with criticism of the prospect of nirvana. Start with criticism of jhana. We're told that we'll achieve a "happiness not of the flesh" (not necessarily nirvana) by momentarily abandoning the five hindrances (sense-desire, ill-will, dullness, restlessness, doubt), and properly utilizing the faculty of thinking (vitakka-vicara) to maintain a wholesome focused/settled attention on the object of meditation (samadhi). This isn't necessarily just a little sense of relaxation and escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, it's a way of being at ease and experiencing pleasure just by focusing our attention in a particular way. It's an inner happiness, which again is not nirvana! And then we're told this will get deeper once that faculty of thought is stilled. Can you believe that? Well, a lot of meditators do. Does it seem problematic to trust that it's possible and put aside our questioning and just try for ourselves? Maybe so, once we learn that we have to begin changing our habits. No wonder even some Buddhists think Jhana is impossible these days.
  • baker
    1.3k
    Man, if my practice in pursuit of liberation of Nirvana is a self-fulfilling prophecy, I'm a lucky duck!TLCD1996
    Or a sitting one.
  • Janus
    10.1k
    This is entirely right in my opinion; your experience is indeed a good reason for you to believe!
  • baker
    1.3k
    This is entirely right in my opinion; your experience is indeed a good reason for you to believe!Janus
    Experience is not enough, though. It takes a certain self-confidence, a "big ego", if you will, to trust one's experience over and above the comments, instructions, and criticisms of others (in this case, esp. Buddhists).
  • baker
    1.3k
    How can we tell when someone has experienced personal growth and greater freedom, I wonder?Tom Storm
    As far as people are concerned who proclaim to be members of a particular religion, the above can be ascertained, by checking in what way their testimonies of their betterment/improvement are aligned with the doctrines of the religion they profess to be members of.

    It seems to me that sometimes this is said to be experienced when what is seen by others is a shrinking away from life and a palpable decrease in liberty.
    Anyone who has committed to some goal can be described with such words. For example, a highly successful businessman can be seen by others as shrinking away from life and palpably decreasing in liberty. Such is the nature of pursuing goals: one's options in life shrink.
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