Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 10:01 am
Copy of an e-mail I wrote to my environmental philosophy professor detailing what seems to be the kernel of Buddhist ethics:
Quote:
Professor Dyke,

You may be interested to know that in Buddhist thought, duhka, or suffering, is caused by trishna, or thirst or desire; to Buddhists, the emotion of trishna invokes the idea that if one were merely to sate one's immediate desires in an immediate fashion, one would be happy; however, because in acting on trishna one (as in Marcovaldo) always runs into consequences one does not expect (after all, it's impossible to account for all possible outcomes and still be able to choose the right one, because there can seem to be many right outcomes if all are accounted for; in fact, one could say that this is not dissimilar to the Uncertainty Principle, wherein one cannot know a particle's direction and velocity at the exact same time, because the very act of detection changes the particle's very nature). Since acting on trishna almost invariably results in an outcome dissimilar to one's preconceived notions of what the outcome ought to be, and this cognitave dissonance between one's ideal world and the real world is a form of duhka, the new state of affairs causes an entirely new set of trishnas as one strives to bring the real world in balance with one's ideal world--as one continues to act on these trishnas, the ideal-real imbalance must necessarily grow (feedback cycle 1), resulting in the accretion of the dissonance of duhka (feedback cycle 2), resulting in greater mental strain and further accretion of duhka--suffering in the form of worries and woes--(feedback cycle 3) in this fashion; that is to say, to Buddhists, the normative human condition is the result of the agglomeration of these (and other) feedback loops, leading to imbalance between what the real is and human perceptions of what the real ought to be: in sum, cumulative feedback cycles cause inherent physical-mental imbalance, and this imbalance is source of human woe. An interesting argument, and it ties in well with the processes of nature you have been describing in class.

Steve

It seems to me, thinking sensibly about this, that in terms of the source of their ethical values, Buddhists are actually more in tune with nature than other traditions. Does this mean that Buddhists are more right than other traditions? What do you think?
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GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 01:42 pm
@hammersklavier,
This dependant on which religious tradition you have in regard to "nature". If you have a traditionally judeo-christian outlook where man was put on earth to subjugate nature, to till and plant, to toil in the soil, so to speak the buddhist POV isn't the very best thing one could think of. If you have a more gaiacentric view of things it is more ethical because because it is symbiotic with nature.

In the Monotheistic traditions, normally God is in direct control over nature/fate/and will. In a more gaiacentric cause and effect system where it is not a being but a system that is creating the hardships it would make sense that the buddhist version is more ethical.

In western cultures people do not often pay credence to the cycle of rebirths in a linear system people tend to prefer that their will is more important than do people who live according to a rebirth cycle. It is much easier to dehumanize the system if one has many chances to work things out.
hammersklavier
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 02:15 pm
@GoshisDead,
My professor liked it enough that he decided to read it in class! :surrender: Since his view is that nature is a series of cyclical interconnected feedback loops and continual human interference in this system will inevitably result in its collapse (and since human existence is predicated by the smooth operation of these cycles, as a corollary, upon its collapse, humanity too will collapse), he was quite taken with it.

My view is that being the lord of nature doesn't mean subjugating it, but rather shepherding it. The idea that lording=subjugating is AFAIK actually a minority view even among Christians, primarily concentrated in the fundamental and apocalypicist subsets.
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 03:36 pm
@hammersklavier,
It was well written and I can see why you prof liked it, you were asking for opinions so I gave one.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 04:46 pm
@GoshisDead,
You've basically explained the first two of the Four Noble Truths: dukkha, the nature of suffering, and trishna, the origin of suffering. The other two being that there is a way out of samsara, a way out of the cycle of suffering, and the fourth that the way out of samsara is by way of the Eightfold Path.

Buddhist ethics seems more concerned with the fourth Noble Truth, the Eightfold Path. The first three Truths being something closer to an explanation on the nature of sentient life; if the first three are true, then the fourth explains how we should act.
0 Replies
 
Thunkd
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Apr, 2009 10:53 pm
@hammersklavier,
hammersklavier wrote:
My view is that being the lord of nature doesn't mean subjugating it, but rather shepherding it. The idea that lording=subjugating is AFAIK actually a minority view even among Christians, primarily concentrated in the fundamental and apocalypicist subsets.


I would disagree with this point. In the judeo-christian faith God gave man dominion over the animals. Looking at judeo-christian cultures, they have used animals as labor, food and a source of materials (i.e. leather, etc.) In some eastern faiths, animals are viewed as sacred and are not used for those purposes.

Quite clearly, the religious culture you come from will determine how you define the concept of nature. As seen above, some cultures will view it as a resource to be exploited while others will not.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2009 04:46 am
@hammersklavier,
The expansion of the teaching of 'trisna' means in practise that we are generally acting out of clinging or craving (greed), or out of dislike and rejection (fear), or 'not-seeing-things-as-they-are' (delusion). (These 'afflictions' are usually symbolised in Tibetan painting by the pig, the snake and the rooster.) And due to our conditioning, we are not aware of this and think it is normal. But this 'normality' is actually a stressful state - hence, 'dukkha', suffering.

Even though you can project this onto the world stage - for example, recent economic events certainly seem the result of greed and delusion writ large - in fact where it is most useful is understanding the moments of your own existence, from one minute to the next. This is where 'the rubber hits the road' so to speak.

There are many ways that one can imagine 'dharma' to be, or many ramifications that one might think it has, but really learning to see it on that level is fundamental. One might have a theory about craving, but meanwhile, this 'craving' (and all the related afflictions) are driving one's thinking about it.

And I think it is quite correct to say that if one were aware in this manner then certainly 'awareness of nature' is certainly much deeper, no question.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2009 05:51 am
@jeeprs,
Pagans had more respect and actually worshiped nature in one form or another and by so doing placed nature above men.Women by this example became prized examples of natures bounty.We are a product of nature and if we ignore its value, we devalue ourselves.Sacrifice was in some way acknowledging natures dominance over them.I have always felt through the history of Hinduism, being an ancient pagan faith, it shaped many Buddhist teachings.
0 Replies
 
Eudaimon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Apr, 2009 10:46 am
@hammersklavier,
I have one question. In Buddhism there has always been a point obscure for me. You are speaking about ethics, avoiding suffering etc. but amongst Buddha's characteristics of being there was... absence of self, that is of one who suffer. If there is no one to suffer, what for is the teaching? Eudaimon.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Apr, 2009 12:11 am
@Eudaimon,
Quote:
If there is no one to suffer, what for is the teaching?


Aha! You should familiarise yourself with the Diamond Sutra which addresses exactly this question.
0 Replies
 
Eudaimon
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Apr, 2009 10:05 am
@hammersklavier,
Well, I shall do it jeeprs but I should like to get some explanation here. Is it not possible?
Anyway, still being self Smile, I should like to express my standpoint. Naturally, suffering appears as tension between the world and men and has its root in desire not to follow it but change for himself. That's true. But the point where thou, hammersklavier, saidst that if one had all his desires satisfied, he would be happy is faked. I do not belong to any religion but let me remember those characteristics of being which I have just mentioned. Buddha taught that everything is unsatisfactory. And I agree with this comletely. Just imagine a man who has all his desires satisfied... He has good food, respect from others, comfortable dwelling, harem of pretty women etc. All these "necessities" being satisfied shall by no means give him happiness. This will only show him that emptiness that he has within. And I dare say that all those things admire us namely because we don't have them.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Apr, 2009 05:17 am
@hammersklavier,
Well put, Eudaimon, I agree with you. I remember a story about one of the Indian Princes, in the day of the British Raj. He had magnificent palaces, and was fascinated by railways. He had a model railway built on his dining room table which would cart all the sauces and condiments around the table for himself and the guests. Apparently it was quite spectacular.

This prince was said to have died at a young age, from boredom.
0 Replies
 
Eudaimon
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Apr, 2009 01:38 pm
@hammersklavier,
Jepprs, I have read that Diamond Sutra that thou advised me but not found an answer. Therefore I need explanations.
Ethics can be considered only conceiving existence of someone responsible for his deeds. There must not be necessary thing as heaven and hell. I personally define good and bad as things that bring happiness or rather avoid suffering: wrath, confusion in mind etc. Thus I understand the doctrine of karma: if one does wrong (which is namely what causes suffering) he shall suffer, but not in future life, or even later in this life but simultaneously with commiting this.
However, even such understanding supposes existence of one who has free will and can experience suffering.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Apr, 2009 05:02 am
@hammersklavier,
I will not endeavour to explain the Diamond Sutra. I don't think it yields its insights so easily.

I would observe, though, that the traditional understanding of karma is that in some respects it is instantaneous, in others, it might take lifetimes to 'ripen'. Certainly in India and China, there was a traditional belief in karma from one lifetime affecting another. I also know that it is not recommended to try and figure it out. You can go nuts trying to do that.

As to who it is that accrues this karma, and acts, that is the eternal question. Maybe the only question.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Apr, 2009 05:34 am
@jeeprs,
I'm a little amused with the notion of desire and happiness..If im hungry and i eat my desire for food has been sated, i am happy, if i don't eat im not happy..If i desire any earthly pleasure or necessity and it is granted, I'm happy.I know its not happiness its satisfying my earthly needs.I am even happier in the company of my wife family and children.I also know they can bring me sadness, that is the price of happiness, through love.If i desire happiness that can never be destroyed , i have a problem, hope is my only answer hope.Trying to deny my humanity is not in my nature, to attempt perfection is the luxury of age when earthly desires begin to wax and they no longer tempt me..Just try not to hurt anyone on your journey.Adopting buddhists ethics in relation to the world and nature would create shangri la but i know greed is stronger than ethics.
Eudaimon
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Apr, 2009 07:18 am
@xris,
jeeprs;57657 wrote:


I would observe, though, that the traditional understanding of karma is that in some respects it is instantaneous, in others, it might take lifetimes to 'ripen'. Certainly in India and China, there was a traditional belief in karma from one lifetime affecting another. I also know that it is not recommended to try and figure it out. You can go nuts trying to do that.


Jeeprs, I think that Karma as requital may take place only instantantenously. Is it not evident? In the ancient times people had rather primitive understanding of good and evil: they thought that certain things like death, deprivation of property, poverty etc., etc. are necessary bad. And karma, understood as the supreme Judge, tended to prevent them from doing evil by means of fear of future punishment. In Christianity and Judaism they called this god but the sense is the same. To me it's obvious that these all are superstitions. Simply because my well-being is entirely in my hands. What can gods or karma do against me in future? Death of friend, losing job etc. are "calamities" only if I am attached to them. Requital is only now, because I can not hit a man now without rage and become angry, say, in 50 years or in the future life.

xris;57663 wrote:
I'm a little amused with the notion of desire and happiness..If im hungry and i eat my desire for food has been sated, i am happy, if i don't eat im not happy..If i desire any earthly pleasure or necessity and it is granted, I'm happy.I know its not happiness its satisfying my earthly needs.I am even happier in the company of my wife family and children.I also know they can bring me sadness, that is the price of happiness, through love.If i desire happiness that can never be destroyed , i have a problem, hope is my only answer hope.Trying to deny my humanity is not in my nature, to attempt perfection is the luxury of age when earthly desires begin to wax and they no longer tempt me..Just try not to hurt anyone on your journey.Adopting buddhists ethics in relation to the world and nature would create shangri la but i know greed is stronger than ethics.


These things admire thee, only since thou identifiest attainment of happiness with attainment of them. In the history we have thousands of examples of people who were deprived of the most "essential" things still being happy. Even more happy than being in possession of them.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Apr, 2009 07:42 am
@Eudaimon,
You can be happy with less but not with nothing.Greed is not a necessity it is a craving..desire is not greed.As humans we have natural desires that need feeding,you describe greed that needs controlling.The monk who abstains is not holy for it, the monk who gives his food away to the poor is holy.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Apr, 2009 06:12 pm
@hammersklavier,
From Deepak Chopra (a Hindu rather than Buddhist view of types of karma): "The Vedic seers made distinctions between different types of karma. The first type is called sanchita karma. This constitutes the entire database of all our past actions. And because the seers did not look on human existence as limited to one physical lifetime, they understood sanchita karma as the vast stockpile of karma that encompasses countless lifetimes in our past.

The second type of karma, prarabdha karma, is the particular actions that are programmed to be experienced in this lifetime. Prarabdha karma is actually a subset of sanchita karma in that it represents a small fraction of the karma from the pile of sanchita karma that is activated and ready to be experienced during the span of a lifetime. ....This is the part of karma that feels like fate and determinism.

Kriyamana karma is action that we create in the moment. It is the choices we make in our life now.

... Agama karma is the action of planning in the future. It is about the goals and intentions we have for what we want to happen in the future. Both kriyamana and agama karmas are actions that represent our creativity and it is the action feels free and undetermined." From Reference

I don't think 'instant karma' of the type you refer to is the only kind, nor that Karma is only manifest in the acquital of actions, and I think it is extremely condescending to attribute the traditional understanding of karma to the "primitive nature of early peoples".

Also I agree that 'desire' in the sense of autonomic desire for sustenance, and even very many of the less basic desires that we humans have, are quite necessary to existence. But translating the word 'TRSNA' simply as 'desire' is misleading too. It needs to be understood in the context of Buddhism as a renunciate philosophy. This is a different perspective to 'what does desire mean to me?' The renunciate has a different frame of reference to the 'worldly person'.
0 Replies
 
Eudaimon
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 09:14 am
@xris,
xris wrote:
You can be happy with less but not with nothing.

Hehe, yes. But the problem is that if had nothing, I should just die. Therefore while I am, I can have not "nothing" but all the time something "something".

---------- Post added at 07:39 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:14 PM ----------

jeeprs wrote:

I don't think 'instant karma' of the type you refer to is the only kind, nor that Karma is only manifest in the acquital of actions, and I think it is extremely condescending to attribute the traditional understanding of karma to the "primitive nature of early peoples".

I consider moral significance of karma. Of course, we may suppose that things we have to deal in this life are predetermined by our past actions... But what ethical meaning does it have?
When I said about primitive understandings of ancient people I meant the first witnesses of existence of karmic doctrine. Before Bhagavad Gita, Buddha, Vedanta etc. it was rather simple teaching. Brahmans taught inferior castes that they shall not struggle against their authority, against present social order but suffer their state with patience hoping for better rebirth in future life. Again, just as in Judaism the idea of God, the doctrine of karma tended to instill fear of future punishment in souls of common men.
hue-man
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 02:27 pm
@Eudaimon,
Does Buddhism teach that you shouldn't be attached to anyone or anything in order to avoid suffering? Does it teach that you should never follow your natural desires or appetites, such as sex?
 

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