Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

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nichiren-123
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Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by nichiren-123 »

This is something that I believe needs to be talked about and which I believe will be helpful for many people.

I was brought up a Nichiren Buddhist by my parents before branching off and developing a strong interest in all forms of Buddhism - both Mahayana and Theravada.
What’s driven me the most to study everything in Buddhism is to try and find the ‘heart’ of Buddhism. In other words, what is the same across all sects and schools once you remove the cultural and ritualistic baggage?
I’ve learned a lot in the last few years. I started out thinking that Buddhism is a perfect and flawless religion but after a lot of critical and honest thinking, I’m seeing that Buddhism isn’t perfect. It’s just one way of practicing the Dharma (by ‘practicing the Dharma’ I mean, in short, aligning ourselves with Reality so as to alleviate suffering and elevate happiness).
The Dharma, being Reality as it is, encompasses the entire realm of existence and Buddhism is just a means (perhaps the best means we have at the moment) of practicing the Dharma. So someone can live free of the label ‘Buddhist’, but still, practice and realize the Dharma.
I have also come to realize that even the Buddha wasn’t perfect. He was just a man, (albeit a highly accomplished man) who made mistakes as anyone else does. He lived in an ancient society 2500 years ago which lacked modern science and had imperfect information on the workings of nature. In other words, he was not omniscient. Arguably, the doctrine of rebirth is one example of error. I can explain my reasoning on this if anyone requests so.
So now my viewpoint is going from ‘trying to understand the heart of Buddhism’ to ‘understanding the Dharma’. We must understand that the Dharma transcends Buddhism. Buddhism is only a toolset used to the end of realizing the Dharma; You pick up a certain tool when the task requires it and then put it down when the task is done. To think you have to be Buddhist to practice the Dharma is like mistaking a house for the tools and machines used to build it. Another example would be the two truths theory; that everything apart from the ultimate truth are essentially just tools to help us navigate daily life and (in the Buddhist context) help guide us towards the Dharma. Finally, there is the zen saying:

“The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon, but if you mistake the finger for the moon itself, then you will never know the real moon.”

Please discuss :smile:
Malcolm
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:01 pm
Arguably, the doctrine of rebirth is one example of error.
Discard that and you have actually discarded the beating heart of the Dharma. Better to be a secular humanist than call yourself a Dharma practitioner.
nichiren-123
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by nichiren-123 »

Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:12 pm
nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:01 pm
Arguably, the doctrine of rebirth is one example of error.
Discard that and you have actually discarded the beating heart of the Dharma. Better to be a secular humanist than call yourself a Dharma practitioner.
I'll give you my perspective and you are welcome to demolish it. In fact, I hope you do :smile:

First off We are made of the 5 aggregates. We need all of them to have an experience. Take anything away and you no longer have a conscious being.
Yes, we are interconnected and constantly evolving. The 'me' now is not the same 'me' from any other instance in time - neither past or future. but there is still a continuum. When it all breaks down for me is at death. Once you die then the continuum of 'you' completely disperses into the external world. Our live's are like waves in the ocean. Each wave needs the entirety of the rest of the ocean to manifest itself and in some sense IS the entire ocean from the relative point of view of that wave. but when conditions change enough then the wave disperses; it recedes back into the mass and that (particular) wave will never come back.
Malcolm
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:22 pm

First off We are made of the 5 aggregates. We need all of them to have an experience. Take anything away and you no longer have a conscious being.
This is questionable, for example, formless realm beings have no material aggregate. They posses consciousness, life force, and a very limited number of mental factors, since they only have one conceptual object for the duration fo their existence.
Yes, we are interconnected and constantly evolving. The 'me' now is not the same 'me' from any other instance in time - neither past or future. but there is still a continuum. When it all breaks down for me is at death. Once you die then the continuum of 'you' completely disperses into the external world. Our live's are like waves in the ocean. Each wave needs the entirety of the rest of the ocean to manifest itself and in some sense IS the entire ocean from the relative point of view of that wave. but when conditions change enough then the wave disperses; it recedes back into the mass and that (particular) wave will never come back.
Well, consciousness is not an ocean, and we are not waves. Our conscious continuums are unique and individual. This is why my karma does not ripen on you, and vice versa. One's continuum does not disperse, as you claim, but it continues on since it has its own unique causes and conditions which cause it to continue. We alone are the heirs of the karma we created, and no one else.
nichiren-123
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by nichiren-123 »

Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:44 pm This is questionable, for example, formless realm beings have no material aggregate. They posses consciousness, life force, and a very limited number of mental factors, since they only have one conceptual object for the duration fo their existence.
The existence of formless realms is contentious but I'm not going to argue it.
What I will say is even if they have one less aggregate, they are still vulnerable to dissolution as any other being is - in fact, it's inevitable as long as the law of impermanence holds.
Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:44 pm Well, consciousness is not an ocean, and we are not waves. Our conscious continuums are unique and individual. This is why my karma does not ripen on you, and vice versa. One's continuum does not disperse, as you claim, but it continues on since it has its own unique causes and conditions which cause it to continue. We alone are the heirs of the karma we created, and no one else.
Your idea of a continuum which never dissolves sounds to me like it contradicts non-self. Also saying it has it's own unique causes and conditions seems to ignore interconnectedness. Our continuum (even though it's internalised) must interact with the outside and be affected by it.
My main doubt is how something like a conscious continuum can retain it's 'flavour' or survive when everything else changes and dies?
Malcolm
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:09 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:44 pm This is questionable, for example, formless realm beings have no material aggregate. They posses consciousness, life force, and a very limited number of mental factors, since they only have one conceptual object for the duration fo their existence.
The existence of formless realms is contentious but I'm not going to argue it.
What I will say is even if they have one less aggregate, they are still vulnerable to dissolution as any other being is - in fact, it's inevitable as long as the law of impermanence holds.
Yes, formless realm beings take birth in lower realms, when they have exhausted the merit which allowed them birth in the formless realms.

Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:44 pm Well, consciousness is not an ocean, and we are not waves. Our conscious continuums are unique and individual. This is why my karma does not ripen on you, and vice versa. One's continuum does not disperse, as you claim, but it continues on since it has its own unique causes and conditions which cause it to continue. We alone are the heirs of the karma we created, and no one else.
Your idea of a continuum which never dissolves sounds to me like it contradicts non-self.
It doesn't contradict the idea of absence of self since our mental continuum dependently originates based on its own unique set of causes and conditions.

Also saying it has it's own unique causes and conditions seems to ignore interconnectedness. Our continuum (even though it's internalised) must interact with the outside and be affected by it.
Everything that arises, arises based on its own unique set of causes and conditions.

My main doubt is how something like a conscious continuum can retain it's 'flavour' or survive when everything else changes and dies?
One's consciousness is a momentary, serial entity, that is, it arises and perishes every instant, supported on its causes and conditions. Hence, it is not permanent, not a self, and continues forever until there are no longer causes and conditions which support its arising.
nichiren-123
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by nichiren-123 »

Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:15 pm One's consciousness is a momentary, serial entity, that is, it arises and perishes every instant, supported on its causes and conditions. Hence, it is not permanent, not a self, and continues forever until there are no longer causes and conditions which support its arising.
Not sure if we are starting to get confused as to each other's meaning so I'm going to express my argument in a different way:

At what point do you separate 'your' consciousness. (both momentary existence as well as the continuous 'stream') from everything else?

You can't cut yourself up apart from anything and claim "This is not going to disperse".
Malcolm
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:24 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:15 pm One's consciousness is a momentary, serial entity, that is, it arises and perishes every instant, supported on its causes and conditions. Hence, it is not permanent, not a self, and continues forever until there are no longer causes and conditions which support its arising.
Not sure if we are starting to get confused as to each other's meaning so I'm going to express my argument in a different way:

At what point do you separate 'your' consciousness. (both momentary existence as well as the continuous 'stream') from everything else?

You can't cut yourself up apart from anything and claim "This is not going to disperse".
Since there is never a time when we did not have the innate grasping of our continuum as a self, it has always been distinct, since there is no beginning of consciousness or anything else. The logic of dependent origination forbids any sort of first cause or prime mover-- all causes are effects, and all effects are causes in their turn. Our consciousnesses are distinct because we apprehend them as a self and what belongs to a self. But the more practical point is this-- my karma is my karma and ripens on me alone, even after I attain realization and until buddhahood is attained. One cannot speak of what happens to a buddha's mind after the breakup of their aggregates, since this is one of the 14 questions to which the Buddha refused to respond. When I taste a lemon, there is no taste of sour in your mouth. This is because our psycho-physical continuums are distinct, with distinct physical and mental sense organs, etc. Even when the aggregates break up at death, because of the innate grasping to self, the mind immediately appropriates a new series of aggregates. This is why the aggregates are referred to in Sanskrit as upādāna-skandhas, addictive aggregates—we appropriate them because we are addicted to the three afflictions, driven by the obscuration of knowledge that is the innate grasping to I, me, and mine. Even tenth stage bodhisattvas, while they are not subject to birth in the three realms, still have the knowledge obscuration, the most subtle grasping to "I, me, mine."
nichiren-123
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by nichiren-123 »

Even when the aggregates break up at death, because of the innate grasping to self, the mind immediately appropriates a new series of aggregates.
Can you explain that in more depth?
Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:36 pm
nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:24 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:15 pm One's consciousness is a momentary, serial entity, that is, it arises and perishes every instant, supported on its causes and conditions. Hence, it is not permanent, not a self, and continues forever until there are no longer causes and conditions which support its arising.
Not sure if we are starting to get confused as to each other's meaning so I'm going to express my argument in a different way:

At what point do you separate 'your' consciousness. (both momentary existence as well as the continuous 'stream') from everything else?

You can't cut yourself up apart from anything and claim "This is not going to disperse".
Since there is never a time when we did not have the innate grasping of our continuum as a self, it has always been distinct, since there is no beginning of consciousness or anything else.

There is a beginning to consiousness. It's a dependently originating phenomena which only arises when conditions are correct. It does have a beginning which is sometime before birth. It has a beginning in the same way any other phenomena does. You can't tell me that an ocean whirlpool does not have a beginning...

The logic of dependent origination forbids any sort of first cause or prime mover-- all causes are effects, and all effects are causes in their turn.

OK, so you're saying all things are inextricably linked. That cause and effect are relative. Yes, I agree with you there. That's part of interconnectedness.

Our consciousnesses are distinct because we apprehend them as a self and what belongs to a self.

I've heard that before but never understood so could you explain that to me?
My current point of view is that our consciousness is separate because it's an internal process (occurring in a brain), that it needs the brain (as one condition) to manifest consciousness. No brain. No consciousness.


But the more practical point is this-- my karma is my karma and ripens on me alone, even after I attain realization and until buddhahood is attained.

This is a half baked idea... is karma caused by the illusion of self? This is happening to 'me' therefore it's 'mine'?
nichiren-123
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by nichiren-123 »

Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:15 pm
My main doubt is how something like a conscious continuum can retain it's 'flavour' or survive when everything else changes and dies?
One's consciousness is a momentary, serial entity, that is, it arises and perishes every instant, supported on its causes and conditions. Hence, it is not permanent, not a self, and continues forever until there are no longer causes and conditions which support its arising.
Isn't the brain a cause and condition for consciousness? Isn't a living body a condition for consciousness?
I know you could presuppose formless beings having no consciousness but think about it: aren't we human beings conscious because of energy? Our consciousness is an electromagnetic field supported by the physical substratum structure of our brains. That's not conjecture, it's science.
My point is that even a 'formless being' need's some sort of substratum to maintain its consciousness.
Malcolm
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 8:42 pm
Even when the aggregates break up at death, because of the innate grasping to self, the mind immediately appropriates a new series of aggregates.
Can you explain that in more depth?
Your mind appropriates your aggregates as I, me, and mine, right now. What makes you think it will cease doing so after you have died and this life's aggregates have broken up?


There is a beginning to consiousness. It's a dependently originating phenomena which only arises when conditions are correct. It does have a beginning which is sometime before birth. It has a beginning in the same way any other phenomena does. You can't tell me that an ocean whirlpool does not have a beginning...
There is no beginning to a give person's consciousness, since the series is conditioned, it cannot have an absolute beginning. Phenomena do not have real "beginnings." They only seem to from the perspective of our observation. But you cannot find a first cause for any given phenomena at all.


Our consciousnesses are distinct because we apprehend them as a self and what belongs to a self.

I've heard that before but never understood so could you explain that to me?
My current point of view is that our consciousness is separate because it's an internal process (occurring in a brain), that it needs the brain (as one condition) to manifest consciousness. No brain. No consciousness.
Well, this is a physicalist view. If this is your view of consciousness, you have left the Dharma far behind. For you, death is liberation.
Malcolm
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:00 pm
Isn't the brain a cause and condition for consciousness? Isn't a living body a condition for consciousness?
Not according to Buddhadharma.


I know you could presuppose formless beings having no consciousness but think about it: aren't we human beings conscious because of energy? Our consciousness is an electromagnetic field supported by the physical substratum structure of our brains. That's not conjecture, it's science.
My point is that even a 'formless being' need's some sort of substratum to maintain its consciousness.
That is an awfully big inference. But no, consciousness is not the electromagnetic field of our brain. If it were, all electromagnetic fields would exhibit volition and self-determination. Further, it would be possible to create intelligence, if consciousness were merely a matter of emergent physical properties.
nichiren-123
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by nichiren-123 »

Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:16 pmWell, this is a physicalist view.
Spiritualism can't exist without Physicalism. It's temporary existence in the Tiantai threefold truth. Having said that, I guess the Tiantai middle way shows that you can't have Physicalism without spiritualism???
If this is your view of consciousness, you have left the Dharma far behind.
Dharma is truth. Reality. That's what I'm looking for.

For you, death is liberation.
If that were true I'd top myself right now. But I don't like that idea, lol.
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by shagrath »

Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:36 pm Since there is never a time when we did not have the innate grasping of our continuum as a self, it has always been distinct, since there is no beginning of consciousness or anything else. The logic of dependent origination forbids any sort of first cause or prime mover-- all causes are effects, and all effects are causes in their turn. Our consciousnesses are distinct because we apprehend them as a self and what belongs to a self. But the more practical point is this-- my karma is my karma and ripens on me alone, even after I attain realization and until buddhahood is attained. One cannot speak of what happens to a buddha's mind after the breakup of their aggregates, since this is one of the 14 questions to which the Buddha refused to respond. When I taste a lemon, there is no taste of sour in your mouth. This is because our psycho-physical continuums are distinct, with distinct physical and mental sense organs, etc. Even when the aggregates break up at death, because of the innate grasping to self, the mind immediately appropriates a new series of aggregates. This is why the aggregates are referred to in Sanskrit as upādāna-skandhas, addictive aggregates—we appropriate them because we are addicted to the three afflictions, driven by the obscuration of knowledge that is the innate grasping to I, me, and mine. Even tenth stage bodhisattvas, while they are not subject to birth in the three realms, still have the knowledge obscuration, the most subtle grasping to "I, me, mine."
mind=blown

Can you recommend some books/resources to go deeper into understanding how karma works, that conscious continuums, etc?
Malcolm
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:31 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:16 pmWell, this is a physicalist view.
Spiritualism can't exist without Physicalism. It's temporary existence in the Tiantai threefold truth. Having said that, I guess the Tiantai middle way shows that you can't have Physicalism without spiritualism???
Beings in the interval between this life and the next have mental bodies will all organs complete.

If this is your view of consciousness, you have left the Dharma far behind.
Dharma is truth. Reality. That's what I'm looking for.
Well, you won't find that in science. You are better off studying the Dharma systematically, and learning the distinction between the two truths. Then you will have a proper basis for understanding their inseparability. But there is no inherent reason why consciousness must depend on a material body.




For you, death is liberation.
If that were true I'd top myself right now. But I don't like that idea, lol.
[/quote]

This is because you have the innate grasping to I, me, and mine.
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rory
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by rory »

1.If you don't believe in reincarnation and don't believe that the Buddha is the axis of Buddhism you should be posting in Open Dharma this is really not the place.

2. If you want to understand Buddhist philosophy you have to do the work. I suggest you go to the library and read something like this: Buddhist thought : a complete introduction to the Indian tradition
Paul Williams with Anthony Tribe.
London ; New York : Routledge, 2000.

and then this: Mahāyāna Buddhism : the doctrinal foundations
Paul Williams.
London ; 24New York : Routledge, 2009.

3. Then if you wish to understand Buddhism as a religion; find a knowledgeable priest/sensei and study under him/her.

gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:00 pm Isn't the brain a cause and condition for consciousness? Isn't a living body a condition for consciousness?
No, brain activity only creates neuro-electric patterns that are experienced by awareness as phenomena.
You might say, the brain cooks up the food but awareness eats it.

For example, fear is actually our experience of a particular molecule that is released by the endocrine system, when triggered by the brain.The physiological result is that our heart rate increases, we perspire, and we get “goose bumps” (hair follicles become erect).
What what we experience as anger is an almost identical molecule.

Now, one might argue that this simply proves that the brain is the basis of consciousness. But who is the one experiencing the brain activity? We need to define “consciousness” to answer that. The “who” (“me”) illusion is precisely what Buddhism
Addresses.

Some say that consciousness arises only with objects of consciousness. However, if we break down any organism into its cells, we see that those cells all interact with phenomena beyond their own existence. For example, our immune system works because white blood cells attack bacteria. But they have no brains. They don’t “think” about what’s good and bad in the body. They have no consciousness, but we can apply the word ‘aware’ to them in a very basic way. I prefer to say, “awarity” which is my own word for intentional interaction on a pre-brain level.
You can also look up the biological term, “taxis”.
Be kindness
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Re: Learning the Dharma and the limits of Buddhism

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

nichiren-123 wrote: Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:22 pm
I'll give you my perspective and you are welcome to demolish it. In fact, I hope you do :smile:

...we are interconnected and constantly evolving. The 'me' now is not the same 'me' from any other instance in time - neither past or future. but there is still a continuum.
No continuum. Only the illusion of a continuum.
That’s the whole point... there is no continuum.
Then what is happening that arises as the illusion?
A very quick series of separately arising “nano-moments”,
each one looking very much like the previous one, and also serving as the template for the next one.
Except each one is slightly different.
It’s like movie film, which is a series of still images projected in rapid succession so as to produce the illusion of continuous movement.
When it all breaks down for me is at death. Once you die then the continuum of 'you' completely disperses into the external world.
When the continuum theory is rejected, the idea of consciousness ending with the death of the body is also rejected. Why?Because the “you” (as we think it is) never truly existed to begin with.
Consider that every seven years, every cell of your body has died and been replaced. By the time you are 21, you’ve actually taken rebirth in three different bodies.
Based on that, and since the brain is part of the human body, we can determine that the “me” and even consciousness itself, does not require a consistently existing body.
What’s more, the mind changes even more often than the body does.

Our live's are like waves in the ocean. Each wave needs the entirety of the rest of the ocean to manifest itself and in some sense IS the entire ocean from the relative point of view of that wave. but when conditions change enough then the wave disperses; it recedes back into the mass and that (particular) wave will never come back.
That’s true. Or, you could say that each being is like a drop of water that splashes up into the air for a moment.
Ultimately, fully realizing this inseparability is buddhahood. The apparent coming and going of life and death all occur within the illusion we experience as samsara.
The Tibetan word for a gap is ‘bardo’ and it is used to describe the period between one’s last breath of this life and the first heartbeat of their next. But, as one Lama remarked, “life and death are both one long bardo”.
In other words, you might say life is the opposite of death. But life-and-death is also the opposite of “beyond life-and-death”

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