• baker
    3.3k
    Please, understand that, given the shortcomings of my vocabulary, I only use the term "masturbatorial" as a shorthand for "pertaining to the pursuit of pleasure as a primary objective".Michael Zwingli

    It's because of these shortcomings of your vocabulary that it's difficult to the point of impossible to have much of a discussion here. Your knowledge of Buddhism is, at best from tertiary sources, or quartary and further removed. It would simply be too much to go over the whole doctrine in these posts.
  • baker
    3.3k
    Mankind did not evolve as a being which is devoid of desire and/or agon. We evolved from former social mammals which were competitive to the core of their psyches, and which subdued that innate competitiveness only insofar as was necessary to coexist within an evolutionarily advantageous social group. Within the group, competitiveness reigned, as it still does within the core of the human psyche today. Because of this, I feel that Buddhism preaches an essentially unnatural doctrine. I'm not saying that this doctrine is inherently "bad" or "evil", just that it is unnatural.Michael Zwingli

    It is. It's often said that Buddhism "goes against the flow".

    The man who has been able to to relinquish all of his desires and longings in the pursuit of Nirvana seems to have become essentially inhuman to me.

    Yes.

    If one has relinquished or utterly subdued one's essentially human qualities in the pursuit of a cessation of a Samsara which is non-existent in the first place, then all one is left with is bliss, and to have sacrificed essentially human (competitive) purpose for the simple achievement of bliss seems to me a bad trade.

    What I find peculiar in all this is your continued interest in Buddhism. It reveals that your basic understanding of religiosity is shaped by Abrahamic religions, ie. "religion is something you must do".
    Someone unburdened with an Abrahamic past would just shrug their shoulders and dismiss Buddhism with an idle hand gesture. But here you are, obsessing about it.


    the Buddha may be viewed as,
    one guy who had an extraordinary experience
    — I like sushi
    ...but all who have followed him have not have the same experience as experientially as did he, based upon what I have noted above. Have not all but Siddhartha, then, according to the Zen admonition, simply been "wasting their time" on their little black cushions?
    Michael Zwingli

    Yes, yes, the old "I want to be a rightfully self-enlightened Buddha, or nothing. I rather have nothing, be nothing than be merely an arahant."
    That's the ultimate competitiveness, the ultimate risk-taking: refusal to take an established path in favor of "doing one's own thing".

    However, it bears noting that the Buddha himself said things like this:

    "Rahula, all those brahmans & contemplatives in the course of the past who purified their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions, did it through repeated reflection on their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions in just this way.

    "All those brahmans & contemplatives in the course of the future who will purify their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions, will do it through repeated reflection on their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions in just this way.

    "All those brahmans & contemplatives at present who purify their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions, do it through repeated reflection on their bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions in just this way.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.061.than.html

    The Buddha sees himself as part of a tradition and as having discovered something that is already there. He didn't invent anything new.

    "Buddha" is actually a title, not a personal name. A buddha is not unique. There is one buddha per cycle of the Universe. The cycles go on and on, and a buddha is said to appear in each one. This is where a buddha so significantly differs from a figure like Jesus: Jesus is unique, one for all times; if you miss his train, you're done for eternity, you've missed your chance. But in Buddhism, it's not like that. If you don't feel like it this time around, there's always a next rebirth, no pressure.
  • Wayfarer
    14.1k
    If you don't feel like it this time around, there's always a next rebirthbaker

    It can be an unthinkably long time between those opportunities, however.
  • baker
    3.3k
    In Sōtō Zen, which is the first book I read on the subject - the well-known book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind - there is a constant admonition throughout the text, 'practice for no gaining idea.' The message being, if you think you're going to get something - enlightenment, or some great experience - then you're 'wasting your time on your little black cushion'.Wayfarer

    In the short-term, yes.
    Theravada takes a different view on this. Namely, it sees meditation as a matter of skill, developing a skill, mastering a skill. It very much conceives of meditation as a matter of gaining something. One should have goals for one's meditation and should work toward meeting them.

    Thanissaro Bhikkhu talks about this a lot. E.g.

    The Joy of Effort

    When explaining meditation, the Buddha often drew analogies with the skills of artists, carpenters, musicians, archers, and cooks. Finding the right level of effort, he said, is like a musician’s tuning of a lute. Reading the mind’s needs in the moment—to be gladdened, steadied, or inspired—is like a palace cook’s ability to read and please the tastes of a prince.

    Collectively, these analogies make an important point: Meditation is a skill, and mastering it should be enjoyable in the same way that mastering any other rewarding skill can be. The Buddha said as much to his son, Rāhula: “When you see that you’ve acted, spoken, or thought in a skillful way—conducive to happiness while causing no harm to yourself or others—take joy in that fact, and keep on training.”

    Of course, saying that meditation should be enjoyable doesn’t mean that it will always be easy or pleasant. Every meditator knows it requires serious discipline to sit with long unpleasant stretches and to untangle all the mind’s difficult issues. But if you can approach difficulties with the enthusiasm that an artist approaches challenges in her work, the discipline becomes enjoyable: Problems are solved through your own ingenuity, and the mind is energized for even greater challenges.

    This joyful attitude is a useful antidote to the more pessimistic attitudes that people often bring to meditation, which tend to fall into two extremes. On the one hand, there’s the belief that meditation is a series of dull and dreary exercises allowing no room for imagination and inquiry: Simply grit your teeth, and, at the end of the long haul, your mind will be processed into an awakened state. On the other hand there’s the belief that effort is counterproductive to happiness, so meditation should involve no exertion at all: Simply accept things as they are—it’s foolish to demand that they get any better—and relax into the moment.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/joyeffort.html



    Try sitting still for hours on end with your legs crossed watching your breath. It's the very definition of un-fun.

    There is a very famous secular Buddhist/Hindu teacher and very famous retreats are named after him. They teach there to "watch the breath", "bare attention" and such. People sometimes go crazy at those retreats or afterwards.

    It's a cautionary tale of how wrong things can go when a variation of a Buddhist meditation practice is divorced from the ethical and metaphysical system of Buddhism.
  • baker
    3.3k
    It can be an unthinkably long time between those opportunities, however.Wayfarer

    Well, whenever you're ready.

    Like I said earlier, there is no universal should in Buddhism the way such shoulds exist in most other religions. All that the buddhas say is, if you want to be free from suffering, you should do such and such. But beyond that Buddhism is not a religion of commandments the way most other religions are.

    This is a very important point to understand. Buddhism has no grip on you, unlike most other religions.
  • Wayfarer
    14.1k
    Every meditator knows it requires serious discipline to sit with long unpleasant stretches and to untangle all the mind’s difficult issues.

    that's what I was referring to.

    If you're referring to the Goenka retreats, I completed one of those in 2007-8, and have no criticism of them, although there are invariably those who will make a problem out of them. People can make a problem out of anything.
  • baker
    3.3k
    Actually, I think the awakening that Buddhism refers to is not pleasurable, it's exceedingly painful, as evidenced by the suffering that the Buddha himself went through in his six-year solitary sojourn.Wayfarer

    Which he dismissed as a dead end, something that can be skipped.

    It is the abandonment of self-concern, egocentrism in all it forms.

    I don't see it that way at all. Framing it that way sounds like, for one, operating out of a no-self doctrine. It's a view very popular in some of Buddhism esp. in popular Western Buddhism. But it's hard (I think impossible) to support it with the Pali canon, given that there we read things like this:

    “‘This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.’ Thus it was said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, ‘The monk named such-&-such, they say, through the ending of the effluents, has entered & remains in the effluent-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for himself right in the here & now.’ The thought occurs to him, ‘The monk named such-&-such, they say, through the ending of the effluents, has entered & remains in the effluent-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having directly known & realized them for himself right in the here & now. Then why not me?’ Then, at a later time, he abandons conceit, having relied on conceit.

    https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/AN/AN4_159.html


    For two, it echoes the old Mahayana vs. Theravada conflict, and Mahayana accusing Theravada of being "selfish" (and all kinds of inferior). (Just remember that while Mahayana places such emphasis on compassion and liberating all sentient beings before oneself, they also believe that you and all those sentient beings don't really exist.)
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    Was in Mysterium Coniunctionus:I like sushi
    Thank you.
  • baker
    3.3k
    Every meditator knows it requires serious discipline to sit with long unpleasant stretches and to untangle all the mind’s difficult issues.

    that's what I was referring to.
    Wayfarer

    Well, you sounded quite defeated in your previous comment.

    If you're referring to the Goenka retreats, I completed one of those in 2007-8, and have no criticism of them.

    Of course you don't, given how gung-ho you were. :wink:
    I actually admire people who can meditate like that -- the sheer willpower they have!
  • Wayfarer
    14.1k
    Well, you sounded quite defeated in your previous comment.baker

    I sometimes feel it.

    Just remember that while Mahayana places such emphasis on compassion and liberating all sentient beings before oneself, they also believe that you and all those sentient beings don't really exist.baker

    Tosh. That is the nihilist reading of Mahāyāna. But let's not get involved in sectarian disputes.
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    your basic understanding of religiosity is shaped by Abrahamic religions, ie. "religion is something you must do".baker
    Hmmm...I feel that religion is something we must have, certainly. Religion is not a necessity, but it is all but a necessity, as it adds a great deal to the experience of life.
    What I find peculiar in all this is your continued interest in Buddhism.baker
    Find it not so. Buddhism is a fascinating phenomenon. I recognize that it is based on many observations of truth, even if I find the greater scheme faulty. Ultimately, I think that there is more truth in it than in the so-called "Abrahamic religions". Also, since recognize that I have actually very little knowledge of Buddhism, my opinions regarding it are not even approaching firmity. There is much that I would have to learn before I might claim any firm opinions on the subject; much of my interest is surely the product of my ignorance. Herein, I am merely testing my hypotheses by arguing points from my current understanding.
  • Janus
    11.3k
    What I meant was that compared to sex with someone you love it is boring. Personally I never found meditation boring, just mentally and physically difficult. I practiced over a long period and experienced profoundly altered states at times. I've also experienced altered states via psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, Salvia divinorum and DMT. I'm more interested now in learning to let go of attachments and desires, hence why I said I'm going to go back to meditation practice.
  • Janus
    11.3k
    Yes. I already practice walking meditation sometimes, and I also often practice working meditation. Ideally I should be in a meditative state during any activity. Not really possible when reading or watching TV, though. Profoundly absorbed states are possible when listening to music.
  • Wayfarer
    14.1k
    Herein, I am merely testing my hypotheses by arguing points from my current understanding.Michael Zwingli

    :clap:
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    Personally I never found meditation boring, just mentally and physically difficult.Janus
    I know this feeling well. The few times that I have tried to meditate, I found the practice to be, for all practical purposes, beyond my ability. Then again, for reasons that are beyond the scope of the instant discussion, I have never had the benefit of a mind which was able to be restful, or at peace. I assume that such a "defective affect" as my own is generally assumed to be proscriptive of the practice of meditation. I admire and vaguely envy those who have the ability to engage in long bouts of meditation.
  • 180 Proof
    6.5k
    :up: Very much my experience (though my devotion to Zen was brief during the early '80s, then followed by (overindulgent) explorations with hallucinogens until the early 90s – music & walking meditation since).
  • Janus
    11.3k
    :I also have a fairly restless mind. I think one phase of meditation consists in not distracting yourself from that restlessness or just giving into to it; which seems to amount to the same thing.
  • praxis
    4.3k
    I find that being in a relaxed state promotes a meditative state of mind and that's why breathing (slow, through the nose, and with the diaphragm) is so important. Sometimes before sitting I'll listen to a hypnosis tape for relaxation, and it definitely helps.
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    This is silly, as it’s obvious how natural it is for people to cooperate for mutual benefit.praxis
    A caveat: the following reply comes from a misanthrope...

    I must partially disagree. People do all that they do purely for their own benefit, whether said benefit be physical, abstract, concrete, or emotional, with but passing thoughts of mutuality. This holds true for every human relationship in the world, including the mother-child relation. That mutual benefit is often the by-product of selfish desire is the foundation of capitalist economic thought, as expounded by A. Smith way back when (capitalist thought takes the notion that self-centerdnes is the aspect of the human psyche most influential to behavior as a premise, and seeks to harness the power thereof for mutual/societal benefit). Make no mistake, the wealthy philanthropist engages in his philanthropy not primarily in the interest of the lot of others, but rather to achieve the emotional benefits and elevated self-concept that his acts of philanthropy avail him. The idea that human beings are able to be other than self-interested and self-absorbed is, I think, a pie-in-the-sky notion, and is a "useful fiction" with which we universally delude ourselves in order to avoid living in a constant state of horror at how alone we truly are.

    When people cooperate with others, they do so utterly for their own benefit, no mutuality necessary. Unfortunately, I have had to make these observations by taking classes in "the school of hard knocks".
  • praxis
    4.3k
    When people cooperate with others, they do so utterly for their own benefit, no mutuality necessary.Michael Zwingli

    This is self-contradictory, if people don’t benefit from cooperation then they don’t cooperate. Mutuality is necessary, and our natural capacity of reason allows it.
  • baker
    3.3k
    Mankind did not evolve as a being which is devoid of desire and/or agon. We evolved from former social mammals which were competitive to the core of their psyches, and which subdued that innate competitiveness only insofar as was necessary to coexist within an evolutionarily advantageous social group. Within the group, competitiveness reigned, as it still does within the core of the human psyche today.Michael Zwingli

    You've brought this up before, but I hesitated addressing this much.

    In short, if you're eager to compete, religion/spirituality is a brilliant venue to do so. Corporate sharking is small fry in comparison to the power games that go on in religion/spirituality. Pretty much any religion/spirituality, regardless of its doctrine.

    Competing for positions of power within the hierarchy, competing in humiliating others, competing in elevating oneself, competing for financial and other resources within the religious/spiritual organization. It's all just one big competition.
  • baker
    3.3k
    The few times that I have tried to meditateMichael Zwingli

    So what exactly did you do when you "tried to meditate"?
  • Tom Storm
    2.5k
    In short, if you're eager to compete, religion/spirituality is a brilliant venue to do so. Corporate sharking is small fry in comparison to the power games that go on in religion/spirituality.baker

    That's certainly what I have seen over a couple of decades involved in various groups and associations. Whether there is a path to higher consciousness or not, it seems to me that those who are in pursuit of this are no less prone to substance abuse, jealousy, scheming, lying, philandering and ambition than any other group. Although it seems there's something nastier about all this when it's a part of spirituality.
  • baker
    3.3k
    Although it seems there's something nastier about all this when it's a part of spirituality.Tom Storm

    Or maybe that's what religion/spirituality is all about!

    In no other field of life is the mindfuck so complete and so pervasive as in religion/spirituality.

    Your boss or a coworker can ruin your job, or even your career, but you can still have some semblance of a life after that, and could even recover fully. Or a romantic relationship can go awry. But not in religion/spirituality: because that has the potential to destroy you from the inside and the outside, never to recover.
  • Tom Storm
    2.5k
    The idea that human beings are able to be other than self-interested and self-absorbed is, I think, a pie-in-the-sky notion, and is a "useful fiction" with which we universally delude ourselves in order to avoid living in a constant state of horror at how alone we truly are.Michael Zwingli

    This is a very common view. Used to be called cynicism (in the non-philosophical sense). What do you consider to be good evidence for this? Is there a difference between gaining satisfaction through helping others and more rapacious forms of self-interest, like being a slum lord or selling drugs? Are they the same thing?

    I know it's slightly off topic but I'd also be interested in what you mean by 'the horror at how alone we truly are'? What do you have in mind here?
  • Tom Storm
    2.5k
    But not in religion/spirituality: because that has the potential to destroy you from the inside and the outside, never to recover.baker

    :fire:
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    This is self-contradictory, if people don’t benefit from cooperation then they don’t cooperate.praxis
    I might be wrong, but I don't view the matter thusly, thinking that the motive behind all cooperative behavior is selfish. As I noted above, however, I have become quite misanthropic over a period of years, and my view of the matter might be skewed by that fact.
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    Is there a difference between gaining satisfaction through helping others and more rapacious forms of self-interest, like being a slum lord or selling drugs? Are they the same thing?Tom Storm
    No, there is a difference, but that difference is peripheral, not essential. The difference is that he who gains the benefit of a reinforced self-concept or emotional pleasure, or even of good press, by means of altruism, achieves his own selfish ends through a "good" act, through acts of benevolence. At the same time, he who gains concretely, by increasing his wealth or through satisfying other "baser" desires by means of usurious, illegitimate or criminal acts, achieves his own selfish ends through acts of malfeasance. Even so, there is no essential difference between these two situational types, since they are both motivated by and determined for the achievement of selfish ends. There is no motivational difference. I think that the essence of an act is determined by what motivates it, would you not say.
  • Tom Storm
    2.5k
    Even so, there is no essential difference between these two situational types, since they are both motivated by and determined for the achievement of selfish ends. There is no motivational difference.Michael Zwingli

    So they are the same motivationally but one is preferable to the other? So is the way to assess the merits of an act then found in the virtue of the performative deed rather than it's origin?

    I wonder too if finding pleasure in, say, anonymously donating money to a charity is the same type of pleasure as finding pleasure in murdering children.
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