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philosophical, what are your thoughts on this?

 
 
void123
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2014 05:03 am
@Setanta,
how do you support ur claim?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2014 05:20 am
@FBM,
Hey, no problem--i find you a reasonable person with whom to have a conversation.

Archaeological evidence is not actually your friend. Systematic archaeology is less than 150 years old. For most of that time, people have dug up the tombs of princes, not the graves of paupers. Over the last two decades, however, there has been a greater archaeological interest in the daily lives of people in the various eras under study. The evidence is piling up that for about the last 6000 years (since the rise of temple societies--but this is not a comment on religion) most people have been undernourished, and sometimes malnourished. The evidence comes from their remains. During excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, in a systematic manner (previously is was just exploited as a tourist destination), most of the remains found were of people whose shabby, un-decorated clothing and shoddy footwear suggested they were at least peasants, and probably slaves. Those wearing good quality clothing and footwear, as well as jewelry, showed signs of at least adequate nutrition. The same was true of soldiers whose remians were found. This sparked the interest in studying the archaeological evidence for "ordinary people." As is say, the evidence piles up that most people were not well-fed, or just barely sufficiently fed. The effects of poor nutrition can appear very quickly in any population, too. During the Second World War, military doctors noted the evidence of poor nutrition in the now grown children of the Depression. They were smaller than their fathers who had served in the First World War, had more instances of bone malformation, and many more dental problems. The growth of cities in the subcontinent two thousand years ago means little. People can starve in the city as well as in the country. In the 17th century in England, enclosure began. This was a process of enclosing what were previously commons, where peasants would graze their few head of livestock and put in vegetable gardens. But influential land-holders would go to Parliament and plead economies of scale, and because they had influence and rural peasants had none, Parliament would grant the reight of enclosure, case by case. In the 18th and the 19th centuries, rural roads began to fill with families who could no longer feed themselves, and whose labor was not wanted on the new enclosures, especially those which were used as grazing land. Cities all over Britain increased in population. The terrible famine in Irealns in the 1760s (much worse than the famine of the 1840s) increased the number of people flocking to cities in England looking for any kind of work.

People can starve in cities as well as in the country.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2014 05:23 am
By the way, none of that is intended to be a reflection of Buddhism. These conditions apply everywhere in the world over the last several millennia.
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2014 05:58 am
@Setanta,
Yes, that was very informative. I had a chance to take a course called History of the Near East last year, but one thing or the other forced me to choose something else. After I'd already bought the texts, no less. Anyway, yes, people can starve anywhere, urban or rural. But do you think that starving people were giving their last morsels to monks? I'm not convinced that the mendicants of the Buddha's time did anything to worsen the supply of nutrition to those on the bottom of the economic rungs.

The Pali suttas contain almost exclusively tales of the Buddha having exchanges with kings, Brahmins (upper class), mendicants from other sects, and monks in his. There is hardly any mention - to my reading so far - of him engaging the extremely and involuntarily poor. It seems to me so far that his arising would have been of little consequence to them, except as a way for them to get regular meals by joining up, seeing as how class distinctions were erased in his monastic heirarchy.

Quote:
Buddha’s time saw the rise of the merchant class and the accumulation of great fortunes, measured now in money, rather than in cattle. The merchants became wealthier than the kings, and so the kings fought back by taking more autocratic measures to control commerce and society in general. Thus, within the kingdoms, the main preoccupations were gaining economic and political power.


http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/study/history_buddhism/buddhism_india/indian_society_thought_time_buddha_.html
void123
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2014 06:22 am
@FBM,
ohh
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2014 09:22 am
@FBM,
OK, i've not said that i ". . . think that starving people were giving their last morsels to monks." Nor have i said thta ". . . the mendicants of the Buddha's time did anything to worsen the supply of nutrition to those on the bottom of the economic rungs." I've just pointed out that monks and mendicants were not contributing members of the societies of which they were a part, and which fed them. The most egregious example of this was in Tibet before the 1950 Chinese invasion, when impoverished peasants supported tens of thousands of monks. Once again, i'm not blaming any of this on Buddhism. I'm just pointing out that they are not contributing members of their societies.

Your remarks about the exchanges of Siddhartha with people of the upper and powerful classes reminds me of the faults of history and archaeology until quite recently. Both disciplines have only been concerned with the "big people," until quite recently.
FBM
 
  2  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2014 06:31 pm
@Setanta,
No, I don't think I said that you said exactly that, but it seems implied by, "The con was that which soon embraced his most mentally adroit followers--that the impoverished peasants of Asia would support a large, non-contributing class who merely spouted quasi-religious shibboleths."

If you didn't mean to imply that the monks were a burden on the impoverished peasants, whom you repeatedly describe as having a hard time getting enough food, I hope at least you can see how I was honestly mistaken, given what you wrote, and not intentionally trying to bring unwarranted drama into the discussion.

Also, I don't see anything even quasi-religious about the Four Noble Truths. There is mental unease in life, it's caused by desires and aversions, you can get rid of it, and here are 8 areas to work on to achieve that. No gods, no superstition or supernatural claims. Perfectly mundane, just like anatta and paticca samuppada. Where there are gods and demons and so forth in the Pali suttas, they are discounted as being of help to mankind. Instead, one is to help oneself.

If anything, the Buddha of the Pali suttas was more anti-religious. The prevailing religion of the time, Brahminism, taught that one had to be born into holiness, that it didn't matter whether you had a good character or a bad one, did good deeds or bad, that ritual observances were the way to achieve a better reincarnation (which the Buddha overturned with the concept of rebirth of non-self), and those rituals required animal sacrifices.

Many of the Pali suttas have the Buddha telling brahmins how and why all of that is bullshit. Adrian Kuzminski and Richard Gombrich, two non-Buddhist scholars of Buddhism, working independently, describe in great detail how one of the Buddha's main efforts was to overturn Brahminism and the belief in an eternal afterlife.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2014 04:09 am
@FBM,
If there are three hundred peasant families in a village, and they each give a handful of rice once a month, that can support a monk without causing famine, so i consider your inference from what i wrote unwarranted.

A belief that there is some kind of special understanding called enlightenment, which is superior to ordinary human understanding is certainly superstition if you cannot demonstrate the truth of the assertion. A belief that Siddhartha attained "perfect" enlightenment, i.e., an even more profound understanding than ordinary understanding is certainly superstition if you cannot demonstrate the truth of the assertion. Both claims require that one believe them absent evidence--that is blind faith, the hallmark of religion. If you believe in a rebirth ("non-self" or otherwise), you believe in the supernatural, because the evidence of nature is that when one's heart stops, the only result is decay of the body. Claiming that there is any variety of re-birth contravenes the natural order, and is therefore supernatural. Simply opposing Brahmanism, a single, unique religious doctrine, does not absolve anyone of the superstitious and supernatural aspects of Buddhist beliefs. That's without canvassing the truly silly account of Siddhartha's birth, and all the tales of demons and supernatural powers ascribed to the putatively "enlightened."

Contrary to the claims of Buddhists, bodhisattvas and buddhas do nothing to relieve human suffering to the benefit of all mankind by attaining allegedly heightened states of awareness--unless you assert that you can demonstrate the truth of such a proposition. As Stevie Wonder cogently asserts, When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain't the way. You haven't convinced me that it's not all superstition.

FBM
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2014 07:09 am
@Setanta,
(I do have a bad habit of mispelling that particular word, don't I? "brahmin" for the person, "Brahmanism" for the religion. Maybe this discussion will help me break that habit. Wink )

As I said before, I wholeheartedly agree that Buddhism has more than enough woo and superstition to go around, and woo-peddlers in the West are all-too-eager to amplify and multiply them. Siddhartha was born 2,500 years ago and it doesn't surprise me in the least that the cosmological concepts he spoke of matched his time period. I was reading earlier today where he was teaching Sariputta about "spontaneous generation" of gods and demons in heavens and hells. However, the sort of omniscience that Christians attribute to their god is not a part of the Buddhist concept of Enlightenment. The Buddhist concept is "seeing things as they really are," that is, being stripped of illusions. When one has done that, one knows that there is no future life for the individual consciousness/being. "When liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. He understands: 'Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond."

However, those are incidental to his core teaching, which he repeatedly described as, "I teach only suffering and the end of suffering." (Majjhima Nikaya 22). Alternatively, "To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to purify one's mind—this is the teaching of the Buddhas" (Dhammapada 183).

One need not believe in a supernatural transmigration of anything personal or spiritual in order to conceive of rebirth, as long as you don't make the mistake of believing in discrete selves that endure maintaining a singular identity from birth to death. Which is what the suttas describe. The three hallmarks of existence in Buddhist philosophy include the non-selfness of all phenomena. It is consistent with the conservation of matter and energy. The Bundle Theory, which Hume and others have more recently formulated, is a perfect match for the 5 khandas, even given the archaic formulation of the khanda schema. Since there never was a Self to be transmigrated in the first place, what is reborn is simply impersonal phenomena. What happens today continues to condition future phenomena (paticca samuppada), so there is a quasi-causal (conditional) continuity between past and present, but nowhere in there is any kind of Self, spirit or soul.

None of these core concepts require anything supernatural, and furthermore, no one is ever required to pledge belief in anything supernatural in order to become a Buddhist or even a Buddhist monk. I know because I've done it. Nobody told me I had to conceive of rebirth as a supernatural transmigration of anything, nor believe in anything that goes against what science tells us about the world. Yes, I was surrounded by such beliefs, but they weren't required of me.

The core teachings are roughly what I described before, viz the Four Noble Truths, which the concepts of paticca samuppada, anatta, anicca and dukkha help to flesh out. There is nothing whatsoever supernatural in any of those. They are testable and in my experience to date do not contradict anything I have experienced first-hand, nor what I have learned by studying science. Rebirth as transmigration is only optionally supernatural. To avoid the supernatural interpretation, all you have to do is understand the Bundle Theory.
Setanta
 
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Reply Fri 2 May, 2014 08:58 am
@FBM,
When a human dies, his/her body rots, end of story. The concept of "re-birth," whether or not it entails "non-self" is nonsense, it is gobbledygook. That would entail a supernatural claim, because nature rots the bodies of those who die, period. Not only is there no self, there is no longer any substance (except for fertilizer, depending on how the remains are disposed of).

You have completely failed to address the issue of the concept of "enlightenment" as superstition.
FBM
 
  2  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2014 09:18 am
@Setanta,
a) Why do you think the Buddha recommended meditation on death, visualizing one's own body in various stages of decomposition?

b) We have a whole period of European history called The Enlightenment, and it was focused on the rejection of supernaturalism. If you're entrenched in a supernatural definition of the word, that says nothing about the use of the word with regards to Gautama's awakening. All of those concepts of anatta, anicca and paticca samuppada are the rejection of superstition and supernaturalism.

You have completely failed to demonstrate that the totality of Buddhism is superstition. You have only succeded in demonstrating that select peripheral elements of Buddhism entail superstition, something which I agreed upon from the beginning. I have demonstrated that the core doctrines are free from superstition and are quite empirically based.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2014 10:12 am
@FBM,
That does not address the concept of "re-birth." What is "re-born?" If there is no soul or spirit, what has been "re-born." This is nonsense, mombo-jumbo.

That other people used the term enlightenment is not evidence that they were justified in doing so. In fact, my rejection of the concept of "enlightenment" stems originally from a consideration of the so-called enlightenment in Europe.

As i never claimed that the totality of Buddhism is superstition, i had no obligation to demonstrate such a case. What is your claim for an empirical basis for the concept of enlightenment? You know, if we are to speak of illusion, then absent proof, the claim that there is an enlightenment which will free one from illusion can itself be an illusion.
Romeo Fabulini
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2014 12:34 pm
Quote:
Setanta said: When a human dies, his/her body rots, end of story. The concept of "re-birth," whether or not it entails "non-self" is nonsense, it is gobbledygook.

Prove it..Smile
The body and the soul are completely separate, and when the body dies, the soul flies. Jesus's last words as he died on the cross were "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit"
0 Replies
 
void123
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2014 12:38 pm
@Setanta,
non self refers to absence of separate self
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2014 08:46 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
You haven't convinced me that it's not all superstition.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 May, 2014 02:41 am
That remark is taken out of context. It was a reference to the concept of "enlightenment," and the claim, specifically, that bodhisattvas and buddhas aid all of mankind by their alleged heightened states of enlightenment. And for those claims, you have not convinced me that that is not all superstition--you haven't presented any evidence about alleged enlightenment.
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 May, 2014 04:29 am
@Setanta,
It seemed like a very general statement, but even if we limit it to enlightenment, I'm less interested in convincing you of anything than I am learning something worthwhile.

I don't know if there's a such thing as supernatural enlightenment or not, but I'm strongly skeptical about it, and it doesn't occupy my thoughts about Buddhist philosophy or practice. As for mundane enlightenment, I don't see any obstacles to it. People have reported life-altering psychological experiences for as far back in history as I am aware of. William James wrote a book about it. Reports of ineffable experiences are not uncommon, and people often report an enriched life experience following them. Emotional rapture seems to be a brain state, as are moments of exceptional clarity. I'm sure a neuroscientist would be better qualified to speak of those.

As for mankind being helped by the Buddhas' and bodhisattvas' purported enlightenments, I can see a mundane benefit to the people they teach and others who receive their messages that instruct people how to help themselves, just as an expert in Cognitive Behavior Therapy would.

If you're talking about some sort of mystical aid to mankind by the very sake of their existence, then you're heading into Mahayana territory and I have no truck with that. Theravadin doctrine is that he was a man who lived and died two and a half millenia ago. He hasn't been around since. I once expressed that to a Mahayanist colleague and I thought she wanted to slap me.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 May, 2014 05:40 am
@FBM,
People tend to get overwrought about their beliefs--she may have wanted to slap you.

I have no interested in beating you up, or getting in a pissing contest. It doesn't appear that you want to either. My main beef with the Buddhist concept of enlightenment, as it has been expressed by Buddhists i've known, and as it has been expressed here is an implication that this is some special form of understanding which requires adherence to a belief set to achieve. I don't buy that. Ordinary skepticism can lead one to abandon superstition. I have a problem with the concept of rebirth, as well. What is being reborn? Certainly not the physical body, which rots. If it is a "non-self" rebirth, then what is being reborn? A spirit, a soul--this seems to me to be mystical mumbo-jumbo. As it has been nearly 40 years since i was instructed in Buddhism, i willingly admit that either i have forgotten the nuances of the concepts, or that these concepts differ sufficiently from one version of Buddhist doctrine to another to create a controversy.
void123
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 May, 2014 06:05 am
@Setanta,
skepticism is fundamental in buddhas teaching.
its something to be experience rather than other.
hav you tried meditation
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 May, 2014 07:19 am
@Setanta,
I'm with you. I'm really, really tired of internet pissing contests and I've no interest in trying to one-up you. As far as I can tell, we agree a helluva lot more than we disagree. I would like to pick your brain a bit, as you have some knowledge that I don't, and if you're interested, I'll share what I've read, seen and heard.

As for a non-self rebirth, Adrian Kuzminski has done the best work on that that I've run across so far, but Robert Gombrich has also contributed a great deal. Much of what follows is from them.

But before one can understand non-self rebirth, I think it's necessary to know the details of non-self. There is a conventional definition of "self" and a strict definition. The conventional concept is that a new, singular, discrete being comes into existence at birth (or thereabouts), maintains its unique identity throughout its lifetime, and the same person dies that was born. Conventionally, that's very a useful and perhaps even necessary way to treat experience.

However, strictly speaking, nothing new is created when a baby comes out of a womb (or when its gestating). This is the reductionist approach. Matter and energy are conserved. The baby is the product of the mother's nutrition. Science tells us that all the matter in the human body is replaced every 7 years. Cells (even deep bone cells) wear out and get replaced. So, physically speaking, how is an adult the same person that came out of the womb? S/he isn't.

As for the persistent sense of being a singular self, that's just an illusion created by the sense of continuity that comes from storing memories, feeling sensations locally in a single brain, being called the same name year after year, etc. Paticca samuppada is the observation that present states are conditioned (not strictly causal) by previous conditions. Nothing groundbreaking in itself, until you add to it the concept of anatta. The present (persistent) sense of being a self is the result of the conditions leading up to having this particular kind of brain. This particular kind of brain produces a sense of agency, which is the illusion of the self.

It can be turned off by anesthesia, whacks to the head, etc. But do we say that the person ceases to exist when the sense of self is turned off? No, because our sense of self is projected onto others.

The Buddha's take on this is predictably archaic. Instead of the sense of agency, he analyzed the human experience into 5 khandas, which you are probably familiar with. The physical body and the various kinds of mental experience. Ear-consciousness, eye-consciousness, etc, the contents of which are changing constantly from moment to moment (anicca). Nothing is permanent. Then he says that he sees nothing more to a human than those 5 khandas, and that neither the body nor any consciousness is reborn.

The human, then, is just a bundle of phenomena that are conditioned by previous phenomena. Not a self in the conventional sense. The human isn't a singular, discrete entity that endures from birth to death. But it's not nothing, either. Something is going on, and it's being experienced.

So, finally, we get to what is reborn. It can only be impersonal phenomena, maintaining the conditional continuity of all phenomena. The behavior of one (apparent) being affects its environment. The repercussions bear fruit of some sort in the future. The words you speak today can continue to affect some other consciousness long after you're dead. (Gautama was only interested in human experience, not cosmology.) That effect, if it's strong enough, conditions that person's behavior and is "reborn" in that behavior, with either good, bad or neutral results.

Once you get past the idea of being a discrete entity, it makes logical sense to say that the components of your apparent self are just steps in a long chain of conditioned phenomena, and there is no 'you' anywhere in it. Your grandparents' boinking one night decades ago contains something of "you" in this conditioned phenomenalism, just as what you do today will condition future phenomena that can just as rightly be called "you."

And nowhere in any of that is superstition, as far as I can tell. Now, do I declare that all of this is what the Buddha meant? How would I know for sure? I take the Pali Canon with a grain of salt, just like everything else. However, logically speaking, the combination of anatta, paticca samuppada and anicca add up to this very mundane conceptualization. I don't claim to know whether it's true or not; I'm just presenting my current understanding, but it does appear very logically, internally consistent and does not contravene what I know of modern science, and at least some of which is lately being confirmed by neuroscience.

Jeez, I can be long-winded. Sorry about that, but it's a complex topic. I'd be interested in knowing if you see any weak links in that. I'd appreciate the feedback.
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