Saturday, August 9, 2014

Literal Rebirth and Necessity of Faith

Stephen Metcalf
May 29 · Edited

I do not consider myself a Buddhist. However, I love and greatly value Buddhism. In addition, I appreciate so much of what is presented in this FB group, especially from Soh and Suchness and of course others here also.

What I struggle with sometimes regarding Buddhism, is some of the “dogma” that seem far away from the basic message of the Buddha, but which supposedly advanced teachers claim to be the unassailable truth.

An example would be as follows, which is a partial quote from Malcolm that was posted in a thread in this group a few days ago:

“See a lot of people think that emptiness is the big teaching of the Buddha, but it's not. There were people before the Buddha that recognised there was emptiness, that is why we have the formless ayatana of 'everything is empty'. What is unique to the Buddha is understanding how to get to the view of emptiness without creating a throwing karma in meditation that will impel you into one of these formless ayatanas, one of these formless states where you stay hanging out for gazillions and millions of aeons until you exhaust the merits and then immediately fall into avici hell, where you stay for many more millions of aeons until you finally, slowly, work your way out."

There are two concerns I have:

The first would be that in order to state this as truth, one would have to have a direct experience of this themselves which is basically inconceivable. The only other way to state this with an attempt at authority, would be the trusting of a teacher or another being, but the same criteria would be applied to them: have they experienced this directly? Who did they get the information from? Who is the one that is actually experienced this reality in order to present it as true?

The second is the idea of being sent to hell for eternity for taking a wrong view. Really ?

I struggle with finding such incredibly amazing value and truth in the basic fundamentals of Buddhism, and then having to deal with additional dogma and descriptions of how all of this operates that just don’t make sense other than being creations of individual humans that are not actually based in fact.

Thank you for reading this _/\_
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    Kyle Dixon, John Ahn, Stian Gudmundsen Høiland and 15 others like this.
    Albert Hong In a large sense this is why there is a movement in the modern Buddhist community that places emphasis on Buddhism without Beliefs or the Pragmatic Dharma Movement.

    I'm on the fence though. I see a lot of valuable teachings and structures tossed out without any true understanding on the premise of scientific materialism.

    In my study and dive into dharma, I have found my inherent protestant and materialistic outlook tremendously flawed.

    The irony in asserting Buddhism free from beliefs. That alone makes the whole emphasis questionable.

    But context is everything. To understand that statement would require faith and devotion to the lama's and lineages. It won't be easily accessed other than by going through the journey and path oneself.

    To me dogma is just a code word for mysterious. Can't place a finger on it, hence it must be outside the realm of what I accept.

    It also can be an expression of fear.

    I for what its worth agree about the aeons and formless realms leading to rebirth in hell realms.

    But this context only has meaning without the context its spoken. In this case I take cause and effect very seriously. So its in my incentive to not get caught in the formless realms.

    It is just pragmatic.

    But not many agree. It just sounds like hogwash as well.

    It all depends on the view one is coming from. And I promise you all that you have a view and orientation.
    May 29 at 1:10am · Unlike · 5
    Albert Hong One thing to keep in mind is that there are more modalities of knowing than our usual way of conceptualization.

    This is where we get esoteric.

    And most of the teachings that seem absurd are from different modes of knowing, which create a bridge to our human perception that we can touch and make connections with different depths of knowing.

    If I want to learn a craft I will meet a master. The master may teach me things that I cannot understand that value or meaning of. Yet in time the teachings will make sense if I am diligent in my practice and study.

    Just noodling out another opinion.

    good day!
    May 29 at 1:16am · Like · 4
    John Ahn I agree Stephen.

    It is dogma to believe in how things are without experiencing it yourself.
    Relying on a teacher to learn to improve your perceptions of how things are, is however important. The latter is learning a method.

    We have to be very careful to root out as much beliefs as possible even at the cost of dismissing what respected teachers say. You basically have to treat everything as bullshit, then go from the most basics of what you know. This is imo, the best way to develop your own wisdom, otherwise you will always be fooling yourself between knowing and faith.
    May 29 at 1:29am · Edited · Like · 2
    Kyle Dixon The formless realm is pointing to deep vacuum samadhi states, and hell is really just pointing to negative emotional states in mind, not a literal hell. The six realms of samsara are all states of mind which bind us to our self-perpetuating cycle of confusion.
    May 29 at 1:36am · Like · 6
    Kyle Dixon Attachment to formless realms is cause for rebirth as a god (or deva), which means you are meditating, and you finally reach this exalted state of nirvikalpa samadhi (or god consciousness), and you are elated; "wow I've finally made it, this is liberation!", "I've achieved this, I'm so special", etc. So you become filled with pride and your ego balloons up to be huge. That pride is having the mindset of a god, you think you are superior and have acquired a blissful state you mistake to be liberation.

    However formless samadhi states are temporary, and you always come out of them. So what happens then? "Oh no, I've lost it, I need to return to that state." So the individual grasps at that state, identifies with it, returns to it again and again, like addiction to a drug. And each time they try to make it last longer and longer, which is possible. They can make this state last for quite some time, but in the end they always come back.

    Finally when they figure out that this state cannot be sustained, there is a disappointment, because it isn't liberation, but merely a relative state. So frustration, or even depression, anger, confusion, and so on sets in... that is hell. The struggle to maintain that state, like water falling through your hands, is hell. It's all samsara, and liberation is something completely different.

    So these stories of devas in their formless realms who exhaust their merit and fall to the depths of hell are cautionary tales. They were told for the purposes of warning practitioners of the danger of clinging to experiences in meditation (or any experience) and mistaking them for liberation.
    May 29 at 1:53am · Edited · Unlike · 8
    Dan Brown Shakyamuni Buddha taught the 4 noble truths and the skillful means to realise joy in every moment, inevitably this have great transformative power. All the rest is stuff to help certain people along, you may not need it in which case just leave it. Every path is the same but different.
    May 29 at 2:02am · Like
    Lindsay Funk Kyle, your response makes sense, but it definitely sounds quite different from what Malcolm said. And I've heard Malcolm make numerous other ominous "threats". It seems to me that he sometimes intends to give the impression of a more "literal" hell. I think this is part of the issue that Stephen is addressing.

    BTW, while I'm at it, I'll pose another question for Kyle and Albert (and anyone else who'd like to jump in). Since you both seem to believe in rebirth in hell realms and deva realms, yet neither is liberation or the end of rebirth, could you explain how Buddhahood ISN"T annihilation? It seems that Buddhists spend a lot of time talking about undesirable rebirths (as in all rebirths), but the alternative ends up sounding like either annihilation or a subtle god realm.
    May 29 at 3:30am · Edited · Like · 1
    Logan Truthe Hells and Deva realms are as real as your human life is to you. They are as empty/illusory as your human life is to you. Your five senses are completely limited, why disbelieve the words of an omniscient being like Buddha? Let alone Buddha, but many other less wise beings have encountered such realms in their reality. If they can, why can't you?
    May 29 at 4:32am · Like
    Albert Hong There is a tremendous investment in the materialistic/nihilistic/scientific world view.

    Dharma is an argument against that view. Actually an argument against pretty much everything we consider the world.

    And that isn't pretty or a cute statement.
    May 29 at 4:39am · Like · 1
    Albert Hong The issue is of the deconstruction and construction process of literal or metaphors. Both symbols and referents are questionable in their self assertion of objectivity.

    This doesn't deny their function. But it doesn't assert its reality either.

    Its subtle. Most people who study and practice are eternalist or nihilists. And hence why the confusion.
    May 29 at 4:43am · Like · 3
    Lindsay Funk I hear you, Albert, but then this doesn't really mean anything, does it?

    "I for what its worth agree about the aeons and formless realms leading to rebirth in hell realms."

    And is this or Malcolm's assertion how we should be presenting the dharma in the context of our current perceptions of the aparent human realm?
    May 29 at 4:58am · Like
    Logan Truthe The question is not whether they are real or not, but that these realms can appear in your 'reality' or maybe a better word for that is -- 'experience'. Talking about whether it is real or not is quite irrelevant and you can argue about it all day.
    May 29 at 5:01am · Like · 1
    Piotr Ludwinski " annihilation" of what?
    May 29 at 5:03am · Like
    Stephen Metcalf " Talking about whether it is real or not is quite irrelevant and you can argue about it all day. " I agree Logan. Which is why anyone who speaks it as " truth " should disclose whether they have experienced it directly or they are taking someones word for it.

    You speak of taking Buddhas word for it...... Well, like with Jesus, we actually can not be sure what the Buddha said. I know, another huge discussion but totally relevant.
    May 29 at 5:05am · Like · 4
    Piotr Ludwinski "There is a tremendous investment in the materialistic/nihilistic/scientific world view." and only when misreading dharma from eternalistic/nihilistic pov one can conjure up ideas like buddhahood being annihilation and other very scary misinterpretations
    May 29 at 5:07am · Edited · Like
    Logan Truthe From the video : Yogis of Tibet (forward to 34:30 mins onwards)

    Play Video
    Yogis Of Tibet (2002)- Full Movie
    Support the movie-makers and buy a copy of their DVD : http://www.theyogisoftibe... See More
    May 29 at 5:09am · Like · 1 · Remove Preview
    Logan Truthe From the video:
    Drubwang Rinpoche :

    “Now I have meditated for a very very long time, it is very difficult for me to exactly reflect back and count the years that I have meditated. The reason for this is because although I do appear like a human person outwardly, my mental state is so different, different in the sense that my focus on mundane things is not consistent. When one meditates, from the very day when one decides to go on solitary retreat, one has made a conscious decision to endure all kinds of losses (of) good clothing, good food, name, fame, prestige, all these things, one must be ready to forgo and give up. We are rationed the barest minimum amount of water and roasted barley flour for our sustenance so that we may be able to sit in the meditation posture. Only once in a week, we would have the smallest possible amount of food for our sustenance. You have to persistently make a consistent effort and undergo all kinds of hardship. Without undergoing hardship, one would not be able to experience the mental state of all the glorious past masters. When I meditate, I can see all my former lives, I’ve been born in the realm of hell, I’ve been born as a hungry ghost, I’ve been born many times as animals. All these things become very very clear when one is in meditation. I have gone through the three lower realms of existence many times. In my meditative absorption, I always go through the bardo or intermediate gap which is to say between death and rebirth but there isn’t a great deal of point going into these. When one understands this life and the lives after as one, to such a person, there is no need to go into these nitty-gritty things. When one’s body is already dismantled in one’s meditation, there is no question of death or discarding one’s physical body.”
    May 29 at 5:10am · Like · 2
    Kyle Dixon I believe the six realms can be both literal and metaphorical. The six realms you find on the wheel of life [bhavacakra] I do see as descriptions of emotion and tendencies which bind us to the cycle of samsara. However that does not mean there are not other realms, other worlds and so on, and I am not discounting rebirth at all, for the record.
    May 29 at 5:20am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon The very first time I encountered the notion of the six realms as descriptions of emotional states was from Alan Watts, and from there I have also read it in other texts such as "The Aspiration of Samantabhadra" and so on, and have heard if from my teacher Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Rinpoche actually just mentioned this the other night, since he is giving a teaching on the six lokas and the twenty five spaces of Samantabhadra in this present retreat going on right now, he too referred to the realms as "emotions". But again I am not discounting the reality of other realms, or other beings, or rebirth.

    Here is the explanation from Alan Watts I mentioned above:

    "Let's put it in this way. Perhaps some of you have seen what is a sort of fundamental illustration of the principles of Buddhism, a diagram or maplike thing called 'The Wheel of Life.' And in Tibetan versions of The Wheel of Life you'll notice that the wheel is divided into six realms. And these six realms include Human beings, gods (or perhaps angels would be a better term for devas), spirits of wrath called asuras (personifications of the destructive forces of nature), animals, then what are called 'naraka' or purgatories, 'preta' or tormented, frustrated spirits with tiny mouths and immense bellies. Having, in other words, immense appetite but very little means of satisfying it. And then again, Humans.

    And the basic idea of Buddhism is that awakening - Buddhahood - can be attained only from the Human state. Deliverance from the vicious circle which the Wheel represents: life considered as a vicious circle. The gods are too powerful and too happy to concern themselves to be delivered. At the opposite extreme the people in the narakas - the tormented souls in purgatory as it were - are too miserable, the animals too dumb, the asuras too angry, the pretas too frustrated.

    You can take this wheel, as a matter of fact, not as referring to any actual worlds other than ours of ghosts or gods and purgatories. But you can take these six realms as representing states of the Human mind. And the Human state as representing even-mindedness, what is called in Sanskrit 'upeksha' - equanimity. Now when it is said then that one can become a Buddha only from the Human state, it means you see that a Buddha stands above the gods as being released from the Wheel.

    In very popular Buddhism of course as in popular Hinduism the idea of the Wheel is taken rather literally. It is in other words believed that the individual passes from life to life - and it's rather funny that even though Buddhism denies the existence of an individual soul as an enduring reality, nevertheless in Buddhist countries it is popularly believed that some sort of equivalent of the soul passes from life to life and that if your present life is miserable it is a result of foolish actions in the former life, but if in this life you act wisely your birth in the next life is to be more fortunate. And you may get up, of course, to the Heaven worlds, the world of the gods.

    But Human birth is the thing that is always regarded as most fortunate. Because you can be tied to the Wheel not only by chains of iron - that is to say by acting wrongly - you can also be bound by chains of gold - that is by acting wisely so as to inherit good fruits.

    Now, of course, very sophisticated Buddhists - not only in modern times but in ancient times - did not take this idea of reincarnation literally. They looked upon it in quite a different way. And just as they regarded the Six Worlds as states of the Human mind, so they regarded reincarnation as something happening in this life.

    Those of you who've read T.S. Eliot's four quartets, will remember the passage perhaps where he says that those who have just left the platform of a station on a railway train are not those who will arrive at any destination. Those who, in other words, walked in at the door of the room and are now sitting down in chairs are not the same people as those who stepped in at the door. We are, in other words, constantly changing. Just as we know - physiologically speaking - that our bodies are in all their molecular structure completely changed every seven years or so, so that we are as it were not enduring entities but rather something like a university where the faculty and the students and the very buildings themselves may change completely within a span of years and yet somehow the university - or something by way of a pattern - goes on. And so in this sense freedom from reincarnation would be by very sophisticated Buddhists interpreted as freedom from the illusion that the person who came in at the door is the same one now sitting in the chair. And that in its turn signifies freedom from an emotional habit: the habit of grasping at one's own life, at seeking for continuity.

    And you see the idea of continuity in Buddhist philosophy is that we desire continuity in order to perpetuate our past. In our past, in other words, we have accumulated various things: experiences, material goods, knowledge, virtues, power, so on. And the desire for continuity is the desire for the perpetuation of a past self - or string of selves - with which we identify ourselves. And Buddhist insight involves the recognition that the past is perpetually vanishing. There really is no past to continue. And therefore to cling to it, to identify oneself with it is to perpetuate an illusion resulting in incessant frustration. Resulting, indeed, in that very vicious circle which the symbol of the Wheel represents."
    May 29 at 5:27am · Like · 4
    Kyle Dixon I don't necessarily agree with everything Watts says, but this was the first example for me, hearing (because I listened to this exposition in audio form) of the realms being emotional states.
    May 29 at 5:31am · Like
    Kyle Dixon I copied the Alan Watts transcription from here:
    Phenomenology: Alan Watts on Buddhism
    May 29 at 5:36am · Like · 2 · Remove Preview
    Robert Dominik Chogyam Trungpa also presented Six Realms in terms of emotional states and argued that we could say that we can found ourselves in every of the Six Realms during our lives as humans (including the Animal Realm ). At the same time he didn't dismiss traditional presentations of hell as either extremely hot or extremely cold, formless realms et cetera. Instead he joined these seemingly separate depictions together together in a very vivid, inspiring and helpful presentation. I think I already mentioned the book Transcending Madness, which contains the material from his lectures about Bardos and Lokas
    May 29 at 5:38am · Like · 1
    Robert Dominik Anyway I have no problem with the traditional stories of various Realms. I think that potentiality allows virtually every imaginable kind of experience in Samsara (formless realms and tormenting hells included). Samsara is like a dream - in our dream we can visit hells, heavens, animal world or formless realms no? Even some more wicked realms (actually I heard about some really crazy depictions of various possible samsaric rebirths but it's not my speciality so people interested in that should look in the scriptures/some reliable sources etc.) are possible. Obviously our afflictive emotions "govern" the whole process of transmigration so no wonder that untamed and overwhelming lust might result in a karmic vision of wanting to very badly satisfy great hunger but being unable to - the vision of a Preta. Of course karma comes into the picture here. For example if we engage too much in gossip or lies then people listen to us less attentively or even don't trust us. We can observe such karmic consenquences in a single lifetime. Why dismiss possibility of entering hell for accumulating lots and lots of negative karma due to hurting others because of our massive anger and hatred? Also the depiction of formless realms makes sense when referring to people who cling to formless absorptions and forsake things like compassion and insight into empty nature but only are interested in locking themselves in a fabrication of oblivion. It's good to remember stories about hibernated people who have been found in the caves and who had got stuck in formless absorptions for months/years. Seems legit that one could achieve a karmic vision of such subtle and seemingly stable state for eons and eons. Hey but that's just me. Obviously I'm making many assumptions here. But hey anybody here who'd say he's not making any assumptions would be a hypocrite. We assume that road signs are correct, we trust maps, our doctors. For example I assume that my schedule and dates of the exams on university are correct. I simply trust other students, the university's website and professors. Why? Lots of conditions and circumstances I guess. In the same way I choose to trust people who've been in the Dharmic Business longer than me and actually say that these things might be directly experienced. The longer do I practice (but yeah - I am newbie) the more of this stuff makes sense (not saying that all) and more than often my projections and limited ideas turn out to be a worse option than listening to the advice of experienced masters etc. Also some of the stories might sound like fantasy but hey... 5 years ago I'd say that people changing their body temperature with meditation is bullshit (I love this example). Guess what... Tummo xD
    May 29 at 5:57am · Like
    Kyle Dixon I usually differentiate between (i) the beings of the six realms of samsara and then (ii) the eight classes of beings described elsewhere. The eight classes are definitely literal descriptions of other types of beings, but it is my opinion that the beings of the six realms can go both ways (literal and metaphorical).

    For instance a friend of mine has experienced the raksha class of beings in a vision, and he said they were red in color as described, though they looked that way because they didn't have the top layer of skin that we do so their muscle structure was exposed. He also experienced them in a very specific location where it is said they reside.
    May 29 at 5:58am · Edited · Like · 1
    Robert Dominik But I can agree that the Six Lokas is only a simplified model. Why not 47 Lokas or 54 Lokas? Actually Deva Realm is further divided into specific sub-realms. Classifying Samsaric experiences is like classifying music or animals or plants (according to their uses or being poisonous) IMO. Music is empty - yet it's useful to know what type of music is the band X playing or is played at that concert etc. Poisonous plants have no inherent existence - yet it is useful to know that eating this or that plant might get you killed (or trip balls... or both). Any model has to be useful in terms of practical application.
    May 29 at 6:05am · Edited · Like
    Anzelle Pieretti This is one of the best descriptions I've found on line of the Wheel of Life
    Wheel of Life - Rigpa Wiki
    Wheel of Life (Skt. bhavacakra; Tib. ?????????????????, sipé khorlo; Wyl.srid pa... See More
    May 29 at 6:03am · Edited · Like · Remove Preview
    Kyle Dixon Found this in the six realms link at the bottom of the page Anzelle shared, from Sogyal Rinpoche:

    "Do these [six] realms actually exist externally? They may, in fact, exist beyond the range of the perception of our karmic vision. Let’s never forget: what we see is what our karmic vision allows us to see, and no more…
    Looking at the world around us, and into our own minds, we can see that the six realms definitely do exist. They exist in the way we unconsciously allow our [destructive] emotions to project and crystallize entire realms around us, and to define the style, form, flavour and context of our life in those realms.
    And they exist also inwardly as the different seeds and tendencies of the various negative emotions within our psychophysical system, always ready to germinate and grow, depending on what influences them and how we choose to live."
    May 29 at 6:15am · Like · 5
    Anzelle Pieretti It's amazing when you see how everything in samsara manifests from the three poisons in the center here.
    May 29 at 6:22am · Like
    Greg Goode Stephen , let me ask you a counter-question. Why shouldn't Buddhism teach about heaven and hell realms? Sure, subtle and alternate realms are not compatible with Western materialist science at the present time. But so what? We could say the reverse as well. Is there an obligation of some sort to conform?

    Also, for those who feel odd about these realms and subtle beings, there is a psychological route. You may regard these realms and beings as metaphors and personifications of mental states. Both interpretations are possible.

    If one takes Buddhism on its own terms, there shouldn't be any problem. The standards of evaluation come with the teachings. We don't want "safe-for-Chemistry Class" Buddhism, do we? We don't want a "Buddhism without beliefs" to become a set of "beliefs without Buddhism"!
    May 29 at 6:28am · Edited · Unlike · 7
    Lindsay Funk I think the key phrase in Stephen's post was "unassailable truth." It's often presented this way, which seems incompatible with other, seemingly more essential aspects of the dharma.
    May 29 at 6:34am · Like · 1
    Piotr Ludwinski and these aspects are...?
    May 29 at 6:34am · Like
    Lindsay Funk Well wouldn't emptiness deny the "unassailable truth" of any phenomena?
    May 29 at 6:37am · Like
    Piotr Ludwinski " Well wouldn't emptiness deny the "unassailable truth" of any phenomena?" are you suggesting that "emptiness" is invalidating teachings from Budda about realms, rebirth, karma etc?
    May 29 at 6:40am · Edited · Like
    Piotr Ludwinski I did not ask you. I quoted Lindsay...
    May 29 at 6:43am · Like
    Lindsay Funk Piotr says: "are you suggesting that "emptiness" is invalidating teachings from Budda about realms, rebirth, karma etc?"

    Sort of. Emptiness invalidates the "unassailable truth" of the teachings, while allowing them serve in many other functions. This is a thread about empiricism and dogmatism, right?
    May 29 at 6:50am · Like
    John Ahn Hey Greg Goode, why not discard both beliefs and go from there? I don't think Stephen is suggesting we all become expert chemists.
    May 29 at 6:52am · Like
    Greg Goode No, John, I don't think so either. I'd like to hear more from Stephen more precisely as to what he objects to: an insistence on certain things as truths? Or is it the presence in Buddhism of "'dogmas' that seem far away from the basic message of the Buddha"? as Stephen says? I'm not sure what those would include. Throwing karma, rebirth, heaven and hell realms?

    As for the insistence, there are several cases in Western commentarial literature where respected Western scholar-practitioners have serious disagreements with their Tibetan mentors over exactly some of these issues: rebirth, dharma protectors, etc. The Westerners wish to do without them, and the Tibetans are saying that they are soteriologically important (dharma protectors) or even necessary (rebirth) as part of one's Buddhist practice.

    So Stephen's issue does come up.
    May 29 at 7:31am · Like · 4
    Kyle Dixon Lindsay, emptiness invalidates the 'unassailable truth' (inherency) of everything, indiscriminately... even the purported superior validity of empirical data in comparison to allegedly dogmatic notions such as the ones being discussed.

    The fact that emptiness refutes the inherency of things does not mean it invalidates the conventional application or relative truth of realms, rebirth and karma. Just as it does not invalidate the conventional appearance of this present discussion.

    On top of that I don't think the teachings have presented themselves as 'unassailable truths'. Since the general 'truth' they point to is a lack of inherency, negating the inherent validity of everything except for the teachings themselves wouldn't make much sense. The teachings are more accurately presented as a means, or a method, to address a certain affliction that the buddha saw in the condition of sentient beings. So they are applied as a tool, but are not taken to be a statement of unassailable truth in any sense.
    May 29 at 8:00am · Like · 1
    Robert Dominik Greg Goode wrote: "As for the insistence, there are several cases in Western commentarial literature where respected Western scholar-practitioners have serious disagreements with their Tibetan mentors over exactly some of these issues: rebirth, dharma protectors, etc." <- Names? // "The Westerners wish to do without them, and the Tibetans are saying that they are soteriologically important (dharma protectors) or even necessary (rebirth) as part of one's Buddhist practice." <- I'm personally with the Tibetans on this one.
    May 29 at 8:03am · Edited · Like · 1
    Lindsay Funk Kyle, I completely agree. However, there are a lot of discussions around here about right view, wrong view, and how some particular insight is direct proof of the "truth" of some view. It often seems like "even the purported superior validity of empirical data" is considered valid evidence at times, and not so at other times.

    My mind was kinda blown, for instance, when I heard a pretty deep explorer say that to him everything was permanent. I chewed on this pretty hard, and after a while I could see how this is can be true from certain vantage points (without time, for instance).
    May 29 at 8:27am · Like
    Stian Gudmundsen Høiland Good observation, Stephen. The Sangha is not immune to extremely delusory roleplaying and downright bullshit. How ignorate we are—and how natural that is
    May 29 at 9:00am · Like
    Stian Gudmundsen Høiland I experience two kinds of truths, which could easily be called relative and ultimate. Relative truth is what sometimes dawns with certainty dependent on words—logic, debate, discourse, etc. Ultimate truth can not be spoken (but goddammit do some try—me included).
    May 29 at 9:03am · Edited · Like
    Greg Goode Robert , let me eat dinner first and I will write up a bit about the disputes....
    May 29 at 9:19am · Like · 2
    Kyle Dixon Right view [samyag-d???i] is the first aspect of the eightfold path, which means the other seven aspects rely upon the correct view. Right view in this sense isn't really a valid view in regards to an accurate account of an ontological reality, but is rather the basis for the method or means which is the path.

    There is empirical data which is valid to the nature of the path, recognitions and realizations and so on, but that does not mean it is a claim of an inherent universal truth beyond the path, if that makes sense. When I made the comment regarding "the purported superior validity of empirical data" I was making that comment in the context of considering realms, rebirth and karma to be invalid as opposed to observable empirical data which somehow would be more-so, but only in the context of conventional truth. Both are conventional, and so both are equally lacking in universal truth (or inherency), meaning that in the ultimate sense, empirical data is no more valid than rebirth, realms or karma, they're all equally conventional and ultimately lacking inherent existence. Buddhism states this outright though, and has no issue with this. The teachings consider the entire path to be a mere illusion, and liberation to be lacking inherency as well. The fact that these things all lack inherency doesn't mean they are arbitrary or null and void in their application, that was the point I was making.

    So right view is integral to the path, otherwise the conventional application of the path doesn't work. A very rough analogy would be trying to build a car with the instructions of how to build an airplane. The path cannot lead to the proper result unless it is has a correct view, whether inferential or direct as its foundation.
    May 29 at 9:22am · Like · 3
    Stephen Metcalf Greg, part one of my reply would apply to any system or tradition: Is what you talk about as truth, coming from your direct experience or are you just repeating what others have told you? [ when I say "you", I mean any of us, not you Greg specifically ] Part two will come later.....
    May 29 at 9:24am · Like
    Stian Gudmundsen Høiland I see the issue you're presenting, Stephen. I think it's very relevant, but I recognize for myself that a discussion about it over the internet probably wouldn't go too well (don't mean to discourage anyone in this discussion!).

    I'm willing to wager a symbolic bet that this is going to end up in a foggy mud of "but is there difference between direct experience and what others have told you—what is truth anyway", or some such formulation of just that sort-of-kind-of evasion.
    May 29 at 9:35am · Edited · Like
    Stian Gudmundsen Høiland It's kind of this thing where what's discussed ends up so fictional (and by that I don't mean myth, legend, etc.) and just amounts to useless storytelling.

    People have spent boatloads of effort to learn, understand, reflect, interpret the stories, models, systems, etc., by heart—me included—and it's so intensely alluring to just babble on-and-on-and-on about it. It *does* demonstrate a kind of proficiency and tastes very much like power, but it's just smoke and mirrors.

    Not enough Zen around here, haha!
    May 29 at 9:50am · Edited · Like
    Stian Gudmundsen Høiland I think it was Wha that posted a picture of a paragraph in a book, where one of the corruptions of insight is described—the one called "knowledge".
    May 29 at 9:44am · Like
    Stian Gudmundsen Høiland The discourse of the path, with its particular words and ideas, models and systems, is ambiguous. Superficially this means that the same word or idea can be made meaningful but with different meaning.

    This ends up with the situation where, individually, one obtains a logically sound semantic network that is coherent, self-validating and is fit for use in debate.

    The problem is that different individuals obtain such a consistent and meaningful understanding of the same system but they are nevertheless fundamentally in conflict, because of inherent (oh noe!) ambiguity (or, rather, freedom).

    This is realizable. And a little difficult to put into words: Two different, internally consistent and coherent sets of knowledge based on the same* words, ideas and models, can be (and insight reveals, ALWAYS IS) in fundamental conflict (dukkha: first noble truth & second mark of existence).

    The last stronghold of the delusion that maintains this, is eloquently expressed in Kyle's last comment here. In that comment, Kyle neatly explains the root justification for holding on to the such an individually centered, delusory understanding: the understanding that there really are intrinsic patterns and meanings, one (or some) of which are correct and the rest incorrect (or rather, it’s an argument for actual, specific causation—specific causes have specific effects).
    May 29 at 11:40am · Edited · Like · 1
    Stian Gudmundsen Høiland In the final analysis, my previous comment no more escapes the net of delusion than anything else. It's a description of samsara from the point of view of delusion.
    May 29 at 10:25am · Edited · Like
    Soh Stephen Metcalf:

    "some of the “dogma” that seem far away from the basic message of the Buddha, but which supposedly advanced teachers claim to be the unassailable truth."

    What dogmas? Rebirth? Formless realms? Six realms? All these are taught by the Buddha, so I'm not sure how does it strays from the Buddha's message.

    If we want to know Buddha's message, we have to accept rebirth, or at least, understand his message the way he taught it in which rebirth places a central role (even if you do not believe it). Because what he really taught is the end of rebirth - literal rebirth. I can cite many texts on that one.

    To the Buddha, none of these are dogmas. The Buddha gained the three knowledges which are recalling aeons of past lives, discerning the karmas that lead to sentient beings being reborn in specific realms and specific circumstances, and knowledge of the ending of defilements (liberation). Not only had the Buddha gained these three knowledges, lots of his arahant disciples (numbering in thousands) have gained these knowledges. By this it means anyone who practices his path can gain these knowledges. Is this a dogma?
    May 29 at 11:35am · Like · 1
    John Ahn Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

    -Courtesy of Wikipedia
    May 29 at 11:56am · Like
    Soh But what about science? Is science a dogma? If you say the results of science can be reproducible and witnessed by yourself, then why not rebirth? Lots of people can recall rebirth in samadhi. The Buddha taught you how to do so.
    May 29 at 12:00pm · Like · 1
    John Ahn Scientists don't really claim what they say is incontrovertibly true...
    May 29 at 12:02pm · Like
    Matt James One confusing point is the idea of valid cognition or pramanas. For some traditions, especially Tibetan ones, a valid belief (and it is belief in my mind, as opposed to direct experience) is based on the "testimony of a reliable witness." This is the same authority Vedanta appeals to regarding the Vedas. So who's reliable witness is more reliable?

    On the other hand, this type of teaching can really resonate with some people. Accordingly, who's to say that it is not a valid expression of the dharma?
    May 29 at 12:02pm · Like
    Soh Yes Matt, I was about to write about that..
    May 29 at 12:03pm · Like
    Soh Stephen Metcalf:

    " The first would be that in order to state this as truth, one would have to have a direct experience of this themselves which is basically inconceivable. The only other way to state this with an attempt at authority, would be the trusting of a teacher or another being, but the same criteria would be applied to them: have they experienced this directly? Who did they get the information from? Who is the one that is actually experienced this reality in order to present it as true?"

    It is not that things such as rebirth cannot be directly experienced - it can, but first you have to attain the fourth jhana or similar or higher states of samadhi in order to recall them. If you haven't then well, in order to practice based on right view (in which karma and rebirth is part of it as the Buddha taught), we should infer and accept its presence. How? From the accounts of trustworthy people.

    For example, I accept literal rebirth. I trust Buddha's account of his past lives, I trust many of the good practitioners (some in DC) who actually recalled their past lives. Thusness, Sim Pern Chong (aka Simpo in sgforums, I, Thusness and Simpo used to converse there often in the past), and many people have recalled a lot of their past lives in meditation. Sim Pern Chong asides from having deep wisdom/realization of his true nature (i.e. realized I AM, then nondual, anatta, emptiness etc), his development of samadhi and jhanas are also quite advanced. In a chat over lunch, Sim Pern Chong even told me how from a state of samadhi he could trace the karmic results in this life to specific karmic causes in past lives and gave many examples, and he knew people he met in relation in past lives. Having had first hand experience of the cause and effects of karma, this made him treat precepts much more seriously. His past life accounts were really interesting. (Also other accounts by scientist researcher Dr Ian Stevenson etc are interesting) But I shall not digress now. I have no reason at all to doubt Buddha, Thusness and Simpo because I know their character well, and for the latter two, having conversed with them not only online but know and interacted with them personally, they are very sincere, very honest, very insightful people.

    The point I am making is that we have three authorities in Buddhism, as Malcolm stated,

    "Classically in India, materialists (but not Buddhists and so forth) only accepted direct perception as authoritative. However, the Buddha held that there were three authorities: direct perception, inference, and testimony of reliable witnesses."

    "...So what are the parameters of Buddhist logic, or "prama?a"? They are that there are three valid forms of authority: direct perception, inference, and testimony of special witnesses, such as the Buddha.

    Dharmakirti's entire project is to prove that Buddha is a special witness, without recourse to sutras and so on. If one can show that indeed the Buddha is a special witness, then it follows that one can heed what the Buddha says without reservation. You should get Jackson's book "Is Enlightenment Possible" which deals with this very issue, and includes a logical defense of rebirth..."

    Personally I am not someone who readily accepts everything being told, however, I have come to have great confidence and great acceptance of the Buddha's teachings.

    See, this is why, in Buddhism, 'faith' is one of the five powers that leads to awakening (five powers: faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom). Buddhism is something that utilizes faith as part of its practice, we do not just throw out faith and rely solely on direct perception, nor do we solely rely on faith throwing out direct perception, but rather, we utilize faith and the five powers to gain direct perception of the truths that the Buddha taught. This is important because not all truths are readibly available to our immediate five senses - for example, certain truths that can be seen require the development of samadhi.
    May 29 at 12:23pm · Edited · Like · 1
    Soh How can we know or judge whether someone is a 'special witness'? Well, it depends on your own discernment really, we have to exercise our wisdom to judge and discern.

    In a conversation with Thusness many years ago in 2007,

    (12:29 PM) Thusness: now why do u believe in buddha?
    (12:29 PM) Thusness: this is a scientific age, but why do u believe in what buddha said?
    (12:30 PM) AEN: bcos of faith, confidence, and seeing results in practise?
    (12:30 PM) Thusness: before practice?
    (12:30 PM) AEN: mostly faith?
    (12:31 PM) Thusness: can u have faith on anyone?
    (12:31 PM) AEN: nope
    (12:31 PM) Thusness: so what is ur basis?
    (12:31 PM) AEN: i mean not just anyone
    (12:31 PM) AEN: hmm
    (12:32 PM) AEN: dunno i tink a lot haha.. must be honest and reliable?
    (12:32 PM) Thusness: yes...that is the basis
    (12:33 PM) Thusness: can supernatural be proven using hard science now?
    (12:33 PM) AEN: not much
    (12:33 PM) Thusness: can past lives be proven using hard science?
    (12:33 PM) AEN: no
    (12:33 PM) Thusness: therefore from the perspective of an entry practitioner, he starts from faith
    (12:34 PM) AEN: icic
    (12:34 PM) Thusness: faith not base on scientific proof as nothing can be proven
    (12:34 PM) AEN: oic
    (12:34 PM) Thusness: but base on what?
    (12:34 PM) Thusness: on what u mentioned just now
    (12:34 PM) AEN: icic..
    (12:35 PM) Thusness: therefore when we deal with spiritual matters, we have to be sincere
    (12:35 PM) Thusness: we cannot just blah something out
    (12:35 PM) Thusness: because it is based not on science
    (12:35 PM) Thusness: hard science
    (12:36 PM) Thusness: ppl start from faith and trust
    (12:36 PM) AEN: back
    (12:36 PM) AEN: icic
    (12:36 PM) Thusness: a true practitioner should not do that
    (12:37 PM) Thusness: then he will not mislead ppl
    (12:37 PM) Thusness: and whenever he said, it is as if it is truth
    (12:37 PM) Thusness: it is as if it is a form of proof
    (12:37 PM) AEN: oic
    (12:37 PM) Thusness: this is the basis from a spiritual perspective
    (12:38 PM) Thusness: get it?
    (12:38 PM) AEN: ya
    (12:38 PM) Thusness: when buddha say, there is past lives
    (12:38 PM) Thusness: thats it!
    (12:39 PM) AEN: lol
    (12:39 PM) Thusness: that means that even if it is not true, there is a sort of experience that is very similar to such phenomena.
    (12:39 PM) AEN: oic..
    (12:39 PM) Thusness: that is why he said so. This is the basis.
    (12:39 PM) Thusness: more important than science.
    (12:39 PM) Thusness: because he won't anyhow say.
    (12:39 PM) Thusness: get it.
    (12:40 PM) AEN: ya
    (12:40 PM) Thusness: this is the form of understanding u must build
    (12:40 PM) AEN: icic
    (12:41 PM) Thusness: and as true practitioner, we must try to be so too.
    (12:41 PM) Thusness: because it cannot be proven by science it is easy to mislead
    (12:41 PM) AEN: oic..
    (12:41 PM) Thusness: we can't just blah out something we don't experience.
    (12:42 PM) Thusness: for example when i respect longchen experience, i have faith in what he said.
    (12:42 PM) AEN: oic..
    (12:42 PM) Thusness:
    (12:42 PM) Thusness: same for christmas humphrey
    (12:43 PM) Thusness: there can be many theories but to me the basis comes from the trust in the person first.
    (12:43 PM) AEN: oic..
    (12:43 PM) Thusness: it might not be a good book
    (12:43 PM) AEN: icic
    (12:43 PM) Thusness: but what he said, he is accountable
    (12:43 PM) Thusness: like ian stevenson
    (12:44 PM) AEN: oic..
    (12:44 PM) Thusness: it is the sort of proof in science
    (12:44 PM) AEN: icic
    (12:44 PM) Thusness: we do not use hard science method to understand it.
    (12:44 PM) Thusness:
    (12:44 PM) AEN: oic
    (12:45 PM) Thusness: If longchen said he experience brightness, means he experiences it if he is a true practitioner
    (12:45 PM) Thusness: he must be able to do that
    (12:46 PM) AEN: icic..
    (12:46 PM) Thusness: otherwise it becomes a waste of time to speak.
    (12:46 PM) AEN: oic
    (12:46 PM) Thusness: i won't want to tok becoz it would be a waste of time.
    (12:46 PM) AEN: talk about?
    (12:46 PM) Thusness: discuss and exchange experiences
    (12:46 PM) AEN: icic
    (12:47 PM) Thusness:
    (12:47 PM) Thusness: If i were to tell him i experience this, means i experience this.
    (12:47 PM) Thusness: if i can't say, i would say.
    (12:47 PM) Thusness: won't i mean
    (12:47 PM) AEN: oic..
    (12:48 PM) Thusness: this is the trust and faith in Christmas Humphrey.
    (12:48 PM) Thusness: i have in him.
    (12:48 PM) AEN: icic..
    (12:48 PM) AEN: u read his other books
    (12:48 PM) AEN: ?
    (12:48 PM) Thusness: yeah many years back.
    (12:48 PM) AEN: oic which ones
    (12:48 PM) Thusness: same like kristnamurti
    (12:48 PM) Thusness: zen buddhism i think
    (12:49 PM) Thusness: and meditation
    (12:49 PM) AEN: oic y same like krishnamurti?
    (12:49 PM) AEN: oic
    (12:49 PM) Thusness: about 15 ys ago
    (12:49 PM) Thusness: i have faith in krishnamurti that he does not speak in vain.
    (12:50 PM) AEN: oic..
    (12:55 PM) Thusness: then u practice and verify the teachings and further reinforce ur spiritual faith.
    (12:55 PM) Thusness: this is important in terms of spirituality.
    May 29 at 12:06pm · Like
    Soh In another conversation with Thusness - this one is earlier, 2006:

    (5:11 PM) John: Poor fellow, if is trying to get some answers for what he actually does not know but wanted it to be from some enlightened source.
    (5:11 PM) John: Poor fellow, i mean he is trying
    (5:11 PM) AEN: oic..
    (5:12 PM) John: He will never know.
    (5:13 PM) John: There are a few ways he could at least help himself. But due to his character, it is difficult.
    (5:13 PM) AEN: oic..
    (5:14 PM) John: How do you have faith on someone?
    (5:14 PM) AEN: arh
    (5:14 PM) AEN: confident?
    (5:15 PM) AEN: bcos wat he says is real and u can relate to?
    (5:16 PM) John: what happen there is something that u do not know but u want to know and u depend on someone to tell u, must u have faith on that someone?
    (5:18 PM) AEN: hmm
    (5:18 PM) John: Imagine this, if it is a life and death matter. The issue is so serious, but you do not have the key towards it and u know that the information required is kept in a secret database. Someone has the key to it, do u just believe in that some one?
    (5:18 PM) AEN: depends?
    (5:18 PM) AEN: oic
    (5:18 PM) AEN: ya
    (5:18 PM) John: how come?
    (5:18 PM) AEN: bcos its the first step towards understanding it?
    (5:18 PM) John: i would think no.
    (5:18 PM) AEN: oic
    (5:18 PM) John: because it is a life and death matter.
    (5:19 PM) John: if that someone tell u wrongly, what happened?
    (5:19 PM) AEN: hahahaha
    (5:19 PM) AEN: ya
    (5:19 PM) John: u will die.
    (5:19 PM) AEN: lol
    (5:19 PM) John: now if that one is someone u trusted, u will.
    (5:20 PM) John: if that someone is one that u have faith in, because all the while he has not lied, his character and moral...u have faith in him and he told u this, do u belief in him?
    (5:21 PM) AEN: dunnu leh
    (5:21 PM) AEN: lol
    (5:21 PM) John: u might.
    (5:21 PM) John: right?
    (5:21 PM) AEN: ya
    (5:21 PM) John: but u weren't sure...because that someone is not u urself.
    (5:22 PM) AEN: yup
    (5:22 PM) John: u might believe, this is so doing, u bridge to doubt and go beyond...but u still must verify.
    (5:22 PM) AEN: oic
    (5:22 PM) John: if there are 10 steps towards enlightenment
    (5:23 PM) John: u experience the 1 step all the experiences stated, then the second then the third...even u did not reach the 10 level, what happened to ur faith of that person u originally trusted?
    (5:24 PM) AEN: it will be much stronger?
    (5:25 PM) John: yes and when u practice more and it draws ur nearer and nearer ur faith becomes stronger till u complete ur Journey. Even when u get enlightened, ur respect is still there.
    (5:25 PM) John: This is like following the teaching of buddha.
    (5:26 PM) AEN: icic
    (5:26 PM) John: The trust in him and his teachings through practice and verification.
    (5:26 PM) AEN: oic
    (5:26 PM) AEN: ya
    (5:27 PM) John: He told us to verify and know the importance of deeds, saw his past lives and the causes of it. To see the causes of arising and the entire chain is one of the 4 unknowable. We trust and move one.
    (5:27 PM) John: on.
    (5:27 PM) John: Therefore there is progress.
    May 29 at 12:18pm · Edited · Like
    Priscilla Francis perhaps there are many streams of "knowledge" ...all equally valid. i m told that paths and 'experiences' are interdependant. so depending on the path etc .... knowledge/truth is experienced in a variety of ways.

    if the teacher calls it an "irrefutable truth" then perhaps he is trying to instill confidence for the teachings. the student needs to follow a certain mode of thinking for the path to work... so some may need to have a teaching that asserts its own "truth". some others can follow the rules of the path in a "lets see what happens" way without needing any strong claims.

    teacher modifies his stance according to student....

    but m guessing we need to play along with the rules atleast in the begining to make any kind of headway.
    just like when first starting to learn to write we have to conform to grammar and rules etc.
    but look at how the accomplished poets/writers coin their own words and create their grammar and style etc.

    we go by the book when we are laying the foundation... after that the new found wisdom will guide us to the next step and our own experiences of "truth" and we can then relinquish "dogma".

    having said that there are those who dont need rules from the get go...
    like those who play music by ear. they need not labour through rules on notes and chords etc.
    for those blessed ones all "dogma"/teachings is unnecessary.
    May 29 at 12:20pm · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon Stian, whether inferential or direct, every path in the buddhadharma begins with right view. If you negate that then you're negating too much.

    As for the ambiguity of words and principles which relate to the path; that fact is why it is advised that beginners rely on a qualified teacher or mentor. A correct inferential view is important so that the definitive view can be actualized through right application. The definitive view then affirms the inferential view, which is why qualified individuals can communicate their realization in an effective way.

    The correct conventional or inferential view is one that communicates the nature of the ultimate view in an accurate way. This is why those such as Nagarjuna state that it is acceptable to rely on a correct conventional view in order to actualize non-conceptual wisdom. And why they also state that an incorrect view will result in disaster no matter how much the individual practices. Right view, right conduct and right application are the cause (the specific causation) for the result to flower. Every buddhist path states this without exception.

    You can blame fundamental conflicts in view (between two internally consistent and meaningful understandings) on the ambiguity of words, but in my opinion when it comes down to it, words aren't the source of conflict, the conflict is in understanding.
    May 29 at 12:37pm · Like · 1
    Soh The Buddha said: "there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb"

    But it is not always the case that someone who does not hold right view will fall into lower realms. The Buddha taught that if one accepts at least that one's deed has consequences, and also if one practices the four brahma viharas (loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity), then, by virtue of one's wholesome karmas, one can still be reborn in higher realms despite not knowing/holding a view whether there is rebirth. (Kalama Sutta)

    Therefore, from a Buddhist perspective, someone who thinks that there is a creator God and that they should be following the commandments etc - such a person can also gain rebirth in higher realms, in the heavens. It is not Buddhist right view, it is a non-Dharmic view, however, it can still lead to some degree of wholesome result. However, rebirth in higher planes - specifically, the brahma viharas can lead to rebirth up to the brahma planes, such rebirths are still impermanent and not the liberation from the cycle of birth and death. This is still a lower scope of practice.

    What Malcolm is saying is not that practicing attaining the formless realms leads to hell - at least, not immediately. Deva realms are higher realms, they are very blissful and enjoyable. Rebirth in lower realms can happen after a long time, but that happens to all sentient beings in general - after a long time too, since we just cycle again and again lost in samsara until one day we make unwholesome karma and end up in the lower realms like hell, however hell birth is not permanent so one gets reborn in higher realms a long time later. It's all just part of the cycle. Unless you become a stream entrant at least, a stream entrant is assured freedom from lower births.

    As the Buddha said, beginningless has been our transmigration in samsaric births and death. We will not find a realm that we have not been before, if we truly could recall our past lives. We have already been through heavens and hells, all of us. And we will go through them again unless we become liberated. And if you truly could recall your past lives, the Buddha suggested, you would become sick of it. (Also many people have made similar sentiments after recalling all their past lives - from some Ajahn Maha Boowa to many other monks, to Thusness)


    "Why is that? From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabrications, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

    That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One's words. And while this explanation was being given, the minds of the thirty monks from Pava — through lack of clinging — were released from fermentations.
    Assu Sutta: Tears
    At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said: "From an inconstruable beginning comes ... See More
    May 29 at 1:03pm · Edited · Like · Remove Preview
    Greg Goode For Robert. Disputes over views.

    Here are two stories of Western scholars who have disputed with their Tibetan colleagues over rebirth and subtle beings. I know and respect both scholars. I've attended conferences with them. I continue to learn much from them. But I don't agree with them on these points.

    1. Georges B.J. Dreyfus is the first Westerner to complete the "Geshe" degree in the Galugpa monastic colleges.

    2. Jay Garfield is the translator and editor of one of the most well-respected translations of Nagarjuna's Treatise (_Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way_).


    CASE 1 - Dharma Protectors (Georges B.J. Dreyfus)
    See Georges B.J. Dreyfus, _The Sound of Two Hands Clapping: The Education of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk._

    Dreyfus didn't believe in rebirth or subtle beings, and it ended up driving a wedge between him and one of his mentors.

    "Philosophically, Gen-la was a traditional Buddhist thinker, and as such he held the classical Indian view of cyclic existence. The existence of past and future lives was, for him, as obvious as their nonexistence is for most Westerners. There was nothing symbolic about this belief in rebirth, which he could support with several arguments (mostly based on the processual and dynamic nature of the mind). He was also convinced, on similar grounds, that human limitations can be transcended, that we can free ourselves from suffering and even reach complete omniscience."

    "After this perfunctory participation had continued for a few months, Geshe Rab-ten decided that it was time to give me a chance for fuller involvement, but he first wanted to sound me out. "What do you think about protectors?" he asked one day in 1976. "I do not know. They may exist but they are not very meaningful to me," I replied. "Like spirits?" "Yes, pretty much." After that, I was never again asked to attend any protector ritual."

    "But I also understand that Geshe Rab-ten was showing me favor in asking to participate, giving a sign that he accepted me as his close disciple. I could not, however, reciprocate his goodwill. I also realize that I paid a price for my choice, for I increasingly drifted away from Geshe-la. Cultural differences have ways to assert themselves and drive individuals apart, despite our best efforts."


    CASE 2 - Causation, rebirth, bodhicitta and full Buddhahood (Jay Garfield)
    See Jay Garfield, "Nagarjuna's Theory of Causality," in _Empty Words_, pp. 69-85.

    Is personal rebirth necessary for enlightenment? Garfield says No, and attributes this so Nagarjuna. His Tibetan colleagues say Yes, citing the vast accumulation of wisdom and compassion necessary to achieve fully realized Buddhahood, which includes omniscience.

    Or are the Gelugpas (including Ven. Geshe Ngawang Samten) being essentialist for saying it can? Are they treating the "mere I" as something inherently existent?

    The Gelugpa view: The Bodhisattva vow and bodhicitta require multiple lives to achieve. They require one believe in rebirth. Without positing rebirth, a person will have no way to account for the necessary accumulation of wisdom and compassion.

    Garfield: The Madhyamika explain causation as empty as only "explanatorily useful regularities," and this ie these cannot do any metaphysical work. Tsong-kha-pa's student rGyal tshab argues that rebirth is necessary to accumulate merit and wisdom over lifetimes, towards the achievement of omniscience. This can only work if the "I" is inherently existent.

    The Gelugpa view: rGyal tshab says that great compassion is not arisen causelessly nor through irrelevant causes. It arises from previous familiarity with things of the same kind. It takes many lifetimes to develop the appropriate wisdom and compassion. If one doesn't believe in rebirth, then one can't see how this kind of compassion can develop, and has no way to account for it. This effectively bars them from the path.

    Garfield: The above argument process cannot work with the Madhyamia's "mere I." The only thing that could bear the requisite karmic accumulations would be a substantially existent "I". In other words, says Garfield, rGyal tshab's description presupposes the very kind of "I" that Madhyamika refutes.

    Basically, for Garfield, a future self cannot be the same "I" as a present self unless it is a substantially existent "I". So how can Buddhahood be achieved? Transpersonally, says Garfield, through the growth in wisdom and compassion over generations of *different* people. Transpersonally, not intrapersonally.

    So, Garfield poses the question: is he being nihilistic for denying that the Prasangika "mere I" can be reborn and accumulate wisdom? Or is the Tibetan view grasping onto true identity for saying that the "mere I" can be reborn and accumulate wisdom. I vote neither.
    May 29 at 12:46pm · Edited · Like · 3
    Stephen Metcalf Soh, Thanks for your answers A lot to read so I will respond after reading !
    May 29 at 2:47pm · Unlike · 1

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