Some Questions I have about Buddhism

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
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Artziebetter1
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Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by Artziebetter1 »

Hi guys.Ive posted on this site before and I know I ask troublesome questions but it isn’t my intent to be annoying.

At the moment since my time gone I’m Somewhat following Judaism and while I like it as a religion and I practiced it for 3 years,I do believe that Buddhism could very likely be true.for a while I was into Hinduism but all the scientific errors and contradictions in the Vedas got to me and luckily I can dismiss this now as a option.The bible also has numerous literary and narrative contradictions and rejects evolution wich I believe to be true so Now I’m kind of moving away from abrahamic faiths even if I like practicing Judaism.every religion except Buddhism has these issues but Buddhism doesn’t have a canonical text wich has contradictions or scientific errors and that’s because Buddha’s are omniscient.

Anyway,since I am moving back towards Buddhism I wanted to clear some doubts I have.here it goes:

1.how can the Buddhist concept of infinity hold up to logical scrutiny?It is said that we can go back into infinite regress of lives and that beings are a literal infinite in number.I don’t see how this isn’t wrong.an infinity can never be reached and it cannot be reached in the past.there has to be a starting point to every causal chain like rebirth and karma.

Is this to be taken literally?

2.if minds are individual and reality is a mind projection like yogachara and dzogchen states then how can there be perfect flawless intersubjective agreement?similar karma misses the point of how perfect this truly is.also how did this karma arise?did it arise in a shared environment?must you have an infinite regress for this concept?

3.how do you explain tulkus that aren’t Buddhist or non?like ishwarakotis in Hinduism.or incarnations of Sufi masters in Central Asia?can anyone become a tulku?I heard most tulkus aren’t even necasserily enlightened.

4.can one stay or go to pure land even if they’re cautious about attaining enlightenment?Since enlightenment is a lack of perceptive awareness I am scared of it.could I still go
To dewachen to escape samsara?I probably would want enlightenment if I knew it wasn’t a fully vegetative state and I’ve read the uttaratantra on this topic and the sandhominircanna sutra(sorry if I spelled it wrong I’m on my phone and can’t look it up)and they say a Buddha still has thoughts etc and I heard a Buddha has unlimited awareness even if they don’t have vijnana but I’m still scared of enlightenment etc please don’t take this the wrong way as I’ve noticed people get fussy when I mention this but try to be compassionate and see it from my perspective.

That’s about all my doubts.If I hear some good replies I would be established in my Buddhism and would return permanently.I feel my time out has only actually strengthened my resolve as I realized other religions just aren’t for me.

Thanks guys for letting me post here and ask these questions.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by avatamsaka3 »

I do believe that Buddhism could very likely be true. For a while...
You should practice Buddhism because, through practice, you verify its teachings and benefit from them. It's fine that you have confidence in some texts, but that's not enough.
It is said that we can go back into infinite regress of lives
Which sort of regress?
an infinity can never be reached and it cannot be reached in the past. there has to be a starting point to every causal chain like rebirth and karma.
Why?
how do you explain tulkus that aren’t Buddhist
Never heard of such a person. Within the rebirth view, every normal being is reborn.
Since enlightenment is a lack of perceptive awareness
?
if I knew it wasn’t a fully vegetative state... but I’m still scared of enlightenment etc
It's not.
if minds are individual and reality is a mind projection like yogachara and dzogchen states then how can there be perfect flawless intersubjective agreement? similar karma misses the point of how perfect this truly is. also how did this karma arise? did it arise in a shared environment? must you have an infinite regress for this concept?
?
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Artziebetter1
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by Artziebetter1 »

avatamsaka3 wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 3:22 am
I do believe that Buddhism could very likely be true. For a while...
You should practice Buddhism because, through practice, you verify its teachings and benefit from them. It's fine that you have confidence in some texts, but that's not enough.

Okay

It is said that we can go back into infinite regress of lives
Which sort of regress?


meaning that we can never reach a beginning to our rebirths,this is logically faulty


an infinity can never be reached and it cannot be reached in the past. there has to be a starting point to every causal chain like rebirth and karma.
Why?

say you go back into the number of births;eventually there should be a first to the causal chain as all successive chains have a beginning

how do you explain tulkus that aren’t Buddhist
Never heard of such a person. Within the rebirth view, every normal being is reborn.

People like anandamayi ma or the shankaracharya of the Kamakoti mutt who is a reincarnation of Adi Shankara

Since enlightenment is a lack of perceptive awareness
?
a Buddha has no vijnana
if I knew it wasn’t a fully vegetative state... but I’m still scared of enlightenment etc
It's not.
if minds are individual and reality is a mind projection like yogachara and dzogchen states then how can there be perfect flawless intersubjective agreement? similar karma misses the point of how perfect this truly is. also how did this karma arise? did it arise in a shared environment? must you have an infinite regress for this concept?
?
avatamsaka3
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by avatamsaka3 »

meaning that we can never reach a beginning to our rebirths,this is logically faulty
You haven't given a reason that explains why a world of infinite causes is logically faulty.
say you go back into the number of births;eventually there should be a first to the causal chain as all successive chains have a beginning
Saying this doesn't make it so.
People like anandamayi ma or the shankaracharya of the Kamakoti mutt who is a reincarnation of Adi Shankara
I'm sure these people are worthy of respect in their traditions. But I have no idea why you would consider them tulkus. Rebirth, if correct, is a universal phenomenon that all beings can investigate and experience.
a Buddha has no vijnana
You have no vijnana. Furthermore, the following was quoted for you earlier in a related post:
Buddhahood is the domain of omniscient jnana
and not within the scope of the three forms of prajna.
Therefore the jnanakaya should be understood
as being inconceivable for beings...

Never is their indifference something unaware and
their mighty aspiration is never subject to degradation;
nor is their diligence, their memory, their prajna,
their perfect liberation and perception:
the jnana of liberation.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by Dan74 »

If you start from a premise that the Buddha and all people who have written or edited Buddhist texts must be perfectly omniscient, then there maybe some factual issues. But if you start from a premise that the texts are spiritual guides and the authors, while qualified to guide us on a spiritual path, are not necessarily perfectly omniscient on everything worldly, then there is no problem.

In the former case, people can and do reinterpret the teachings to make them possibly make sense. But it's a bit of a stretch at least, in my opinion.
avatamsaka3
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by avatamsaka3 »

that the Buddha and all people who have written or edited Buddhist texts must be perfectly omniscient
I don't know anyone who holds this view. The Buddha is viewed as omniscient in texts like the one I cited above. Editors and authors may not have been enlightened.
reinterpret the teachings to make them possibly make sense. But it's a bit of a stretch at least, in my opinion.
What doesn't make sense to you?
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by SilenceMonkey »

Buddhahood is not a vegetative state. Maybe you got this strange idea from someone telling you a Buddha “loses their vijnana” and has only jnana, as you mentioned elsewhere... I’m not able to explain these, maybe someone else can.

From what I’ve learned, a Buddha no longer has a mind that creates duality. A buddha’s mind no longer has illusions and therefore does not experience suffering.

Was Shakyamuni Buddha in a vegetative state? I don’t think so. He answered all of his students’ questions with such brilliance and wit! What about Guru Rinpoche? A Buddha is the complete opposite of a vegetative state. They have fully awakened from the darkness of sleep. No more ignorance, only profound and penetrating knowledge - the great omniscience.

Some great beings might choose to meditate in caves for decades or even centuries... deep in the bliss of samadhi. But even this is far from a vegetative state. Although it is beyond us to know what a Buddha does in meditation.

I’ve never heard any of this about a Buddha being in a state of meditation... the closest thing I’ve ever heard of is the extinction of consciousness for an arhat in the Hinayana/Shravakayana practicing only for their own liberation. Upon liberation they just go poof, never to reincarnate again. But Mahayana enlightenment is emanation in all realms of existence to help sentient beings out of their sufferings. Suffice it to say, the Mahayana enlightenment is much different than in the Shravakayana.
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Dan74
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by Dan74 »

avatamsaka3 wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 8:29 am
that the Buddha and all people who have written or edited Buddhist texts must be perfectly omniscient
I don't know anyone who holds this view. The Buddha is viewed as omniscient in texts like the one I cited above. Editors and authors may not have been enlightened.
reinterpret the teachings to make them possibly make sense. But it's a bit of a stretch at least, in my opinion.
What doesn't make sense to you?
Most of the biological, physical, seismological and cosmological assertions don't measure up. It doesn't cause me problems, since Dharma practice isn't about that. Plus I am agnostic as to whether the errors stem from the Buddha himself or from the later corruptions.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

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Artziebetter1 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 11:26 pm 1.an infinity can never be reached and it cannot be reached in the past.
It is true that infinity cannot be reached. That is the point. If you go back in the past, you just keep on going back.
there has to be a starting point to every causal chain like rebirth and karma.
Why? If there is a starting point, then the first link in that chain of causality happened for no reason at all. That does not fit with the observed fact that everything happens for a reason.

So, the chain of logic is:
1. We can observe that everything that happens happens for a reason.
2. Therefore everything that happens had a preceding event or circumstance.
3. Therefore there was no first event.
4. Therefore time had no beginning: it is infinite.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by Dan74 »

KathyLauren wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 2:36 pm
Artziebetter1 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 11:26 pm 1.an infinity can never be reached and it cannot be reached in the past.
It is true that infinity cannot be reached. That is the point. If you go back in the past, you just keep on going back.
there has to be a starting point to every causal chain like rebirth and karma.
Why? If there is a starting point, then the first link in that chain of causality happened for no reason at all. That does not fit with the observed fact that everything happens for a reason.

So, the chain of logic is:
1. We can observe that everything that happens happens for a reason.
2. Therefore everything that happens had a preceding event or circumstance.
3. Therefore there was no first event.
4. Therefore time had no beginning: it is infinite.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
The trouble with that is there is very strong cosmological evidence that time does not stretch into the infinite past.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

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Dan74 wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 3:37 pm The trouble with that is there is very strong cosmological evidence that time does not stretch into the infinite past.
Not quite. There is strong evidence for time stretching back until a specific finite moment in the past. Beyond that, it is true, there is no evidence. But, as they say, absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.

More and more theoreticians are asking why the Big Bang happened when it did, and not some time earlier or later. While we cannot get data from an earlier time, they are trying to deduce conditions prior to that event in order to answer the question. Which necessitates an earlier time.

The idea of a cyclic universe is very much a possibility that has not been ruled out: a prior incarnation of the universe collapses into [what, exactly, we don't know] and then a new one starts with a Big Bang. Which would be remarkably in line with Buddhist cosmology.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

1. If, as you say, there must be a starting point to an endless chain reaction of causes and effects, that starting point itself must also be the result of a cause.
If you say that there does not need to be a cause for the starting point to occur, then you negate the assertion that a starting point is needed to begin the chain of cause and effects.

How to resolve this paradox?
Consider that basically, everything is occurring.
Now, consider that there is really no reason that anything ever, ever had to occur or happen. No depth of space, no reality, nothing. Not even time. Not even void. Just, nothing ever happened or existed. If that were the case, there would be absolutely no cause for suddenly “existence” to happen.
However, since “existence” is happening, real, illusory, whatever, then it is simply a matter of deductive reasoning to determine that time and space is beginningless. It all either had to be never happening, or always happening. Since it is all happening now, whatever “it” is, then it must have always been happening.

2. I have to assume question #2 is asking, “if everything is interconnected, how can karma be individualized?” If I’m misunderstanding that, please correct me.
Ultimately, karma results partly from not understanding fully that everything is interconnected.
Actually, “interconnected” isn’t really the best term. It’s used these days as kind of a substitution for “sunyata” because the term “emptiness” confuses people.
But, using the concept of interconnectedness, your very good question is like this:
Suppose there is a family of orphaned quintuplets, and each one is adopted by a different family, each one growing up never knowing of the other four. One day, they all happen to be riding on the same bus together but have no idea that they are all brothers and sisters. How is it that they each have different last names and don’t realize they are related?
Ignorance. They simply don’t know. Nobody ever pointed out the truth to them.
In the same way that these orphans all have different last names, every being has different karma precisely because they cannot or do not fully, directly realize emptiness (interconnectedness) of phenomena.

3. Everybody is born with the karma of previous lives. Buddhism is merely a methodology for eliminating the causes of suffering and ultimately samsaric rebirth altogether. It didn’t invent rebirth, tulku or otherwise.

4. Enlightenment is not a lack of perceptive awareness or a vegetative state. If you want to experience a Buddha pure land then you can practice to do that, taking either the sutrayana or tantrayana path.

It’s not really necessary to think of the Buddhist path as a religion. The whole categorical concept of “religion” as a thing in itself, as we think about it in west, doesn’t really originally exist in that sense in India and much of Asia. It would sort of be like asking someone which food do they belong to, pizza or spaghetti? And the person who likes pizza wondering if they should convert to spaghetti.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

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KathyLauren wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:28 pm
Dan74 wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 3:37 pm The trouble with that is there is very strong cosmological evidence that time does not stretch into the infinite past.
Not quite. There is strong evidence for time stretching back until a specific finite moment in the past. Beyond that, it is true, there is no evidence. But, as they say, absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.

More and more theoreticians are asking why the Big Bang happened when it did, and not some time earlier or later. While we cannot get data from an earlier time, they are trying to deduce conditions prior to that event in order to answer the question. Which necessitates an earlier time.

The idea of a cyclic universe is very much a possibility that has not been ruled out: a prior incarnation of the universe collapses into [what, exactly, we don't know] and then a new one starts with a Big Bang. Which would be remarkably in line with Buddhist cosmology.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
The Big Bang implies a beginning of time. At least, as you say, for this universe. Whether there were prior universes is a different question, I think, since they would not have a clear causal connection to this one, as far as I can tell.

All that is very interesting stuff for cosmologists and philosophers to ponder. But I fail to see what bearing it has on Dharma practice which was after all, what the OP was about.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

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Dan74 wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:49 pm The Big Bang implies a beginning of time. At least, as you say, for this universe. Whether there were prior universes is a different question, I think, since they would not have a clear causal connection to this one, as far as I can tell.

All that is very interesting stuff for cosmologists and philosophers to ponder. But I fail to see what bearing it has on Dharma practice which was after all, what the OP was about.
"Prior" implies a time earlier than the "beginning". So, logically, time is beginningless.

The relevance for the OP is that nothing in science contradicts the idea in Buddhism that every effect has a prior cause and that there was never any unconditioned first cause. The causal connections may be unclear, but then we are encouraged not to worry about seeking out specific causal connections for specific effects anyway.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by avatamsaka3 »

Most of the biological, physical, seismological and cosmological assertions don't measure up.
Even if the Big Bang theory is correct, it doesn't prove anything about time having a beginning. I'm not sure what you're talking about when you mention other categories of assertions.
Whether there were prior universes is a different question, I think, since they would not have a clear causal connection to this one, as far as I can tell.
And how would you know that?
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

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KathyLauren wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 5:54 pm
Dan74 wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:49 pm The Big Bang implies a beginning of time. At least, as you say, for this universe. Whether there were prior universes is a different question, I think, since they would not have a clear causal connection to this one, as far as I can tell.

All that is very interesting stuff for cosmologists and philosophers to ponder. But I fail to see what bearing it has on Dharma practice which was after all, what the OP was about.
"Prior" implies a time earlier than the "beginning". So, logically, time is beginningless.

The relevance for the OP is that nothing in science contradicts the idea in Buddhism that every effect has a prior cause and that there was never any unconditioned first cause. The causal connections may be unclear, but then we are encouraged not to worry about seeking out specific causal connections for specific effects anyway.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Yes, indeed "prior" is a very poor term.

Beginningless does not have to mean "infinite past" though. As Hawking explains in The Brief History of Time, an open interval has no beginning, but is very much bounded.

Prior was meant as lying on a different time continuum altogether. It would be better to say there is no prior and subsequent. Nor can causality be understood in conventional sense when it comes to cyclical universes. I am not pretending to know how that would work, but AFAICT, our universe, with its space-time and causality arises and passes away with our universe.

As for every effect having a prior cause, this is certainly conventionally true as we can readily observe. As you say, one doesn't need to seek out all possible causes or follow the chain back into unfathomable past.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

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avatamsaka3 wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 6:02 pm
Most of the biological, physical, seismological and cosmological assertions don't measure up.
Even if the Big Bang theory is correct, it doesn't prove anything about time having a beginning. I'm not sure what you're talking about when you mention other categories of assertions.
Whether there were prior universes is a different question, I think, since they would not have a clear causal connection to this one, as far as I can tell.
And how would you know that?
It does imply that, since space-time arises at the Big Bang.

As for other things, assertions about moisture-born beings, Mount Sumeru, there is a Sutra 'explaining' earthquakes, astronomical events as a battle of gods in heaven, etc. Both Theravada suttas and Mahayana sutras are replete with such anachronistic assertions, while advanced understanding of the physical world is noticeably absent.

Then again the Buddha taught about Simsapa leaves... https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

So I take Him at His word in that sutta and go on from there.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

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1.how can the Buddhist concept of infinity hold up to logical scrutiny?It is said that we can go back into infinite regress of lives and that beings are a literal infinite in number.I don’t see how this isn’t wrong.an infinity can never be reached and it cannot be reached in the past.there has to be a starting point to every causal chain like rebirth and karma.
The opposite is actually true. You cannot find a definitive beginning or end of anything - even phenomena. They end only in the sense that our conventional labels end - when a cup breaks the cup is no more. However, the components of the cup (chemicals it's made up of, the chemicals that make up those chemicals, the causes of those chemicals etc.) have no perceivable beginning or end outside of their conventional designations, they are part of a chain of cause and effect that has no identifiable edges, center, beginning or end.

Similarly, scientists don't claim the Big Bang began everything, they just don't know what preceded it. According to some Buddhist notions, Karma from a previous universe generates the conditions of the next.

Try the analysis for yourself.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

“Beginningless” also means “immeasurable”.
More importantly, also suggests that our concepts of linear time are nothing more than mental constructs which shouldn’t be clung to. When we talk about how old the universe is, a second is the same thing as an hour or a million years, because everything only happens right this moment now. There is no trillionth of a nanosecond which cannot be divided into even shorter durations of what we imagine to be linear time.
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Sun Sep 20, 2020 7:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Some Questions I have about Buddhism

Post by avatamsaka3 »

It does imply that, since space-time arises at the Big Bang.
You cannot prove that space-time arises at that point. The word you are using is "imply". The word I used is "prove".
Then again the Buddha taught about Simsapa leaves... https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html So I take Him at His word in that sutta and go on from there.
In this case, the OP mentioned the topic of the infinite quality of the universe, in connection with his search to find the truth about Buddhism. It's not a topic I would bring up on my own. But in order to help the guy, I am discussing it. The Buddha's teaching on the simsapa leaves is beautiful, but be aware that the Mahayana tradition "has quite a few more leaves in its hand" than you suggest. For instance, many Nalanda masters and other great Buddhist thinkers have indeed asked questions about the nature of the cosmos, and specifically about the nature of time. This kind of investigation can be central to the path, but I admit it is not directly relevant to the path most people are walking today.
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