Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

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undefineable
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Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by undefineable » Sat Sep 05, 2015 11:55 pm

This is an off-topic reply to some posts by Saoshun in another thread, e.g.:
Saoshun wrote:mostly people here who is palying with thoughts will end up in lower realms because of lack of any realization
Also,
Gampopa wrote:Dharma itself can become a cause for the lower realms
A few years ago I reached a relatively comfortable understanding/misunderstanding of sunyata, but have since become convinced that I'm going to burn for incalculable eons and emerge with none of the little progress I've made in dharma, given how I 'progressed' in everyday life before that time, and given how events have panned out since.

I've accepted my condition and feel some 'pride' in that, but it seems to me that my thoughts and mismanaged emotions destroyed my mind and life as much as drugs and alcohol ever could have, and I feel guilt and shame for what I appear to have done to myself, as well as despondency about the future of my mind-stream. Allow me to present a 'case study' which I hope will have some relevance for others. Sorry if what I've written below sounds a bit dreary!

As an autistic boy, I was contented and a bit 'spiritual' but often bored - My parents were new-agey, and I remember having the sense that people were basically 'strands of consciousness', but I never formed the genuine and purely technical 'special interests' that mildly autistic kids generally have. During early adolescence, I felt so wretched -partly due maybe to a family history of schizophrenia, alcoholism and resulting trauma- that I developed the unique strategy of using negative emotions to motivate myself enough to uncover some kind of inner 'normality'. This was in spite and because of the fact that I didn't even recognise the way in which I came across (which was typically autistic as well as comedically attention-seeking) as substantially human - or anything else beyond 'white noise'.

I thought I'd got the better of all this by the time I left for University, but I quickly fell apart socially and turned to Buddhism (at 19) as an alternative and an explanation. I also became more aware of social skills and how they were coming to be demanded across all walks of life, leading to the pathologisation of even the mildest autism; I soon got myself diagnosed with mild Asperger's Syndrome, given the terminology of the day. However, there was little understanding or support for this extended form of autism yet, and many less-sanguine 'aspies' lacked the wisdom to see through the BS. I, for one, assumed I wouldn't be accepted outside my old circle of friends in any way until I finally cured myself of autism, and although I got on socially after I turned 25, I doped myself up on antidepressants throughout my 20s and early 30s. To avoid 'jinxing' either of these things (as well as because of the side-effects of the drug and of the illness mentioned below), I wasn't genuinely prepared to test myself sufficiently to give back much of what I owed to myself and to society, fearing that developing a proper career would lead to others making it clear to me that I was still autistic.

My self-recognition deteriorated, throughout my teens and 20s, to the point where I felt and believed that sentient beings were simply non-existent at all meaningful levels, with myself lacking even the appearance of existence. {Like most people, I couldn't just deal with this by means of a Susan-Blackfield-style equanimity!} However, in my early 30s, frequent dharma study and less-frequent meditation seemed to break through to an overcoming of nihilism and a basic comprehension of sunyata, and my new work supporting autistic adults -besides forming a long-term relationship with an autistic girl- made me abandon my main life goal of overcoming autism. However, it was treatment for a serious illness that really seemed to speed things up:

At 36, then, I'm dealing with the fact that my uniquely unskilful way of dealing with my autism, with its aversion and distorted views, appears to have created negative karma powerful enough to impact this lifetime well beyond the obvious psychological consequences. Naturally, this meant more of what I'd felt aversion toward, well after I'd learned to accept it - The particular 'vipaka' or whatever that I uncovered at 32 was a slow-growing tennis-ball-sized brain tumour which -due to its location- made the negative aspects of my autism worse, removed the positive aspects, and added other cognitive problems due to the brain cell loss and damage (as well as epilepsy) caused by the successful operation to remove all of the tumour.

One positive detail of all this is that the only time in my life when I recall acting purely out of compassion for strangers was the second time I volunteered to have a basic brain scan for autism research: The tumour had grown large enough to show up via its displacement of other brain regions, a similar scan at 28 having appeared 'clear' to the non-specialist researchers at the time; Since I still hadn't noticed any obvious symptoms, the op I had two weeks after the later scan prevented all of the serious consequences of further tumour growth, and I was retrospectively given 1-2 years to live unoperated.

Perhaps this all makes for a good cautionary tale, but I've highlighted the words I've highlighted in 'bold' so as to reinforce the improbability of anyone suffering a similar fate. {I did a huge amount of personal research into the experiences of autists during the 'noughties', and not one of them apparently felt, as I did, that there was some fundamentally normal state that they might be able to access.} Still, the mistakes of adolescence tend to be the most self-destructive and the most likely to remain with a person for life, even though actual suicide, in my case at least, would probably have left less negative karma. {I've given my immediate family hell with conversations relating to the subjects of this post.} My question is: Is it worth practicing dharma under my kind of circumstances when one can see one has progressed beyond the 'intellectual' stage, or will even this only make things worse?

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:55 am

Keep practicing. :twothumbsup:
Buddhism seeks the liberation of all beings, including you.
If still concerned about your destination or capacities, see what you think of Pure Land Buddhism.
Even having one's destination after this life sorted out, there remains the hard work of this very life. So we might as well practice to the best of our abilities, no matter our opinions or worries about ourselves.

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Punya » Sun Sep 06, 2015 6:15 am

:consoling:

Undefineable this seems like your judgemental mind speaking. I practice in the Nyingma tradition and we are encouraged to notice rather than judge. In fact I've heard that signs of progress can be a bad thing so I agree with MT. Just keep practicing and keep it simple.

This is just a thought but you might consider "liking" Phakchok Rinpoches' s Facebook page. Many of his quotes posted there deal with this issue so you'll get regular reminders. One example:
As meditation practitioners, the more you let go of hope and expectation, the closer you will be to recognizing the nature of mind.
Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches
So you come to resemble who whomever you follow.

~Words of My Perfect Teacher

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Mkoll » Sun Sep 06, 2015 7:11 am

Hi undefineable,

Ajahn Sucitto wrote an article called "Unseating the Inner Tyrant" that you may find helpful. Here is the first bit:
Do you ever find yourself dominated by a chain of thought that tells you that you’re not good enough, that you don’t deserve much, and that other people look down on you or tolerate you out of politeness? Do you find yourself snagging on memories of things you did wrong, or relationships that you didn’t get right? Do you feel that you have to be a success in life like you think someone else is – and are consequently critical of yourself? This piece of psychology is called ‘the Inner Tyrant’. The good news is that it’s not just you who has this, and that you can get free of its grip. And the key to this is through establishing, and continually re-establishing, right intent.
May you be well! :heart:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

undefineable
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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by undefineable » Sun Sep 06, 2015 1:30 pm

Punya wrote:I've heard that signs of progress can be a bad thing
I meant progress at the most basic level of understanding what the dharma is about, beacause for many years I didn't have a clue in spite of intensive study. It *might* be worth me trying to find a teacher so that I can find out exactly where and how I'm still off-base.
Last edited by undefineable on Sun Sep 06, 2015 2:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.

undefineable
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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by undefineable » Sun Sep 06, 2015 2:03 pm

Ajahn Sucitto wrote:Do you ever find yourself dominated by a chain of thought that tells you that you’re not good enough, that you don’t deserve much, and that other people look down on you or tolerate you out of politeness? Do you find yourself snagging on memories of things you did wrong, or relationships that you didn’t get right? Do you feel that you have to be a success in life like you think someone else is – and are consequently critical of yourself?

I'm simply stating what I can reasonably see as the probable facts {The kind of brain tumour I had is fairly common as a small and completely harmless lump, but very rare as a large and growing tumour in a man's 20s} - I was good enough until the age of 13, when I started to mess myself up (or maybe when I decided I didn't like computers at age 8); I feel that all sentient beings deserve full enlightenment; and, the next statement in the article is true up to a point for all those with frontal lobe brain damage, especially autists (and I've been more or less told the same about myself by a work colleague). As for being a success in life, I can't see how failing to even seriously attempt this, for Westerners, will not bring rebirth in the lower realms (unless perhaps one has a real talent for dharma practice and uses it to the best of one's ability without breaking any precepts), because one has thereby let one's mind degenerate to an animal level (given how much is done for everyone by technology etc.) instead of heightening one's mental sophistication and actually repaying as much as possible of the debt one has incurred to society and its forebears simply by living amid such material progress. I posted something like this elsewhere, but since it was ignored for what I suspect were good reasons, I'm thinking that "Help Required" may be a better place to ask about this interpretation.

As for being well, I don't consider myself to be mentally ill, but feel that I still had at least a self-induced mental illness until a couple of years ago. Thanks for your concern though :)
Last edited by undefineable on Sun Sep 06, 2015 2:41 pm, edited 3 times in total.

undefineable
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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by undefineable » Sun Sep 06, 2015 2:26 pm

Punya wrote:Keep it simple.
I've always felt that vajrayana practice is beyond my capacities, and appreciate that my screed above makes it clear that I got this right :lol:
Phakchok Rinpoche wrote:As meditation practitioners, the more you let go of hope and expectation, the closer you will be to recognizing the nature of mind
Who says I have hope? Are you referring to my expectation of avici hell?

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Punya » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:28 pm

undefineable wrote:
Punya wrote:I've heard that signs of progress can be a bad thing
I meant progress at the most basic level of understanding what the dharma is about, beacause for many years I didn't have a clue in spite of intensive study. It *might* be worth me trying to find a teacher so that I can find out exactly where and how I'm still off-base.
Absolutely it's worth finding a teacher. When I first came to buddhism I didn't get it either.

If you'd like to tell us what tradition you feel drawn to and where you are located people here will be able to make suggestions. If you are not located near a centre there are also online options.
Last edited by Punya on Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:43 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches
So you come to resemble who whomever you follow.

~Words of My Perfect Teacher

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Punya » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:36 pm

undefineable wrote:
Punya wrote:Keep it simple.
I've always felt that vajrayana practice is beyond my capacities, and appreciate that my screed above makes it clear that I got this right :lol:
Phakchok Rinpoche wrote:As meditation practitioners, the more you let go of hope and expectation, the closer you will be to recognizing the nature of mind
Who says I have hope? Are you referring to my expectation of avici hell?
Yes, sorry. The advice is to abandon both hope and fear. And to stop having expectations about your practice. Whether you think positively or negatively about yourself they are all just projections. Please stop beating yourself up and find a teacher.
Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches
So you come to resemble who whomever you follow.

~Words of My Perfect Teacher

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Mkoll
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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Mkoll » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:57 pm

undefineable wrote:
Ajahn Sucitto wrote:Do you ever find yourself dominated by a chain of thought that tells you that you’re not good enough, that you don’t deserve much, and that other people look down on you or tolerate you out of politeness? Do you find yourself snagging on memories of things you did wrong, or relationships that you didn’t get right? Do you feel that you have to be a success in life like you think someone else is – and are consequently critical of yourself?

I'm simply stating what I can reasonably see as the probable facts {The kind of brain tumour I had is fairly common as a small and completely harmless lump, but very rare as a large and growing tumour in a man's 20s} - I was good enough until the age of 13, when I started to mess myself up (or maybe when I decided I didn't like computers at age 8); I feel that all sentient beings deserve full enlightenment; and, the next statement in the article is true up to a point for all those with frontal lobe brain damage, especially autists (and I've been more or less told the same about myself by a work colleague). As for being a success in life, I can't see how failing to even seriously attempt this, for Westerners, will not bring rebirth in the lower realms (unless perhaps one has a real talent for dharma practice and uses it to the best of one's ability without breaking any precepts), because one has thereby let one's mind degenerate to an animal level (given how much is done for everyone by technology etc.) instead of heightening one's mental sophistication and actually repaying as much as possible of the debt one has incurred to society and its forebears simply by living amid such material progress. I posted something like this elsewhere, but since it was ignored for what I suspect were good reasons, I'm thinking that "Help Required" may be a better place to ask about this interpretation.
Isn't the idea of whether you were good until age 13 a view, a story your mind has concocted and that you are attached to? And the idea that one is bound to the lower realms, isn't that the same kind of story? Aren't all the stories we tell ourselves about our lives, whether they are good or bad, in the same vein? Aren't they all born from our mind's conceptual proliferation about "myself"? Since we can't stop our mind's proliferation just yet, can we figure out how to nudge our minds in the direction of believing in and reinforcing those stories that lead to our happiness and well-being rather than suffering?

Some food for thought.
undefineable wrote:As for being well, I don't consider myself to be mentally ill, but feel that I still had at least a self-induced mental illness until a couple of years ago.
That is not what I meant. I meant be well in that I wish that you be happy and free from suffering. That is, free from the mental defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion that we all have unless we're fully enlightened. So all of us unenlightened beings are in the same boat in that respect. :)
undefineable wrote:Thanks for your concern though :)
You're welcome. :)
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

undefineable
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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by undefineable » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:42 pm

In my experience, expectations of practice can pop up while meditating, even if one's general approach lacks this.

The idea of this thread was to be relevant to people with alcohol and and other similar problems as well just me :smile:

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Punya » Sun Sep 06, 2015 11:39 pm

Actually, maybe I should be asking is why the *might*? Do you have reservations about teachers?
Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches
So you come to resemble who whomever you follow.

~Words of My Perfect Teacher

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Pinus » Mon Sep 07, 2015 3:35 pm

@undefineable
I can't speak about Dharma. But let me tell you as a human being and from what little experience of emptiness I have: I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that that emptiness, silence, peace of mind - or however you like to call it - doesn't come or go, no matter what. So why should one lose hope? That doesn't make any sense. Don't let anyone tell you there is no hope. There is always hope. That hope lies in our very nature. Karma or not. Consciousness is beyond karma or non-karma. In a sense, we know nothing other than that consciousness. To me, much of the karma-talk is just cynical. Where is the compassion in that? And logic? An earthquake is not selective. Climate change is not selective. So where does karma start? And where does it end? We are all in it together. Is it then all collective karma, and just some is individual? If someone has an accident or gets sick, some say it's 'bad karma'. I can't believe in karma in that cynical way. Besides: if it is a misconception that reincarnates, then the karma that keeps reincarnating along with it is also a misconception. But what does it even matter? The burden increases, then decreases, endlessly, like the weather changes, and the seasons. That's life: cyclical and not cynical! Yet, that consciousness is free from it all anyhow, beyond the cycles of change. So, please don't worry about karma. And all that talk about losing hope. That's nonsense! Emptiness is never absent. Everything may change, except 'that'.

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Mon Sep 07, 2015 5:59 pm

Perhaps a bit OT, but discussion can be worthwhile. Pinus, please feel free to ignore some or all of this. It mostly helps me to think "out loud" like this sometimes.
Pinus wrote:emptiness, silence, peace of mind - or however you like to call it - doesn't come or go, no matter what.
If it does not come or go, then how can it be experienced or known?
Pinus wrote:Consciousness is beyond karma or non-karma. In a sense, we know nothing other than that consciousness.
Consciousness is one of the five skandhas, which are subject to impermanence, non-self, and suffering. So very much dependent on karma. Do you mean something other than this kind of consciousness? We should be wary of positing a knowing, changeless "witness" of some kind, either through the terms consciousness, soul, or emptiness.
Pinus wrote:If someone has an accident or gets sick, some say it's 'bad karma'. I can't believe in karma in that cynical way.
To me, suffering is the key. Certainly the number of eyelashes we have has causes and conditions as well, but my own understanding is too small to see the connection.
But there are two points: lack of understanding doesn't disprove anything, let alone karma; and the teaching that the degree we suffer is entirely a matter of karma, i.e. within the realm of change and influence via the Buddhadharma, is an incredibly optimistic approach, in my opinion.
You won't find that among fatalists or people who say the world is chaotic, dispensing random suffering on unwitting victims.
Pinus wrote:Besides: if it is a misconception that reincarnates, then the karma that keeps reincarnating along with it is also a misconception.
That's my understanding, also. But what a misconception! People kill others and themselves over it.
Pinus wrote:So, please don't worry about karma. And all that talk about losing hope.
There's a Lojong training slogan, "Abandon all hope."
I encourage undefinable to read the various brief writings about it here. You can choose different teachers' interpretations by clicking one of the colorful letters at the top: http://lojongmindtraining.com/commentar ... proverb=26

I also again encourage the OP to read about Pure Land Buddhism, especially nembutsu, if he/she feels incapable of practice somehow.

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Crazywisdom » Mon Sep 07, 2015 9:13 pm

No better place to start walking up than the bottom.
Delete my account

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Pinus » Tue Sep 08, 2015 1:15 am

@Monlam Tharchin

Why so complicated? Do you think buddahood is your very nature or an attainment? If it's an attainment, then it is not it. If it's your nature, you cannot lose or gain it. You may not notice it as such, but your nature remains what it is always. You may think you lost it. But that is not so. You cannot lose your nature. Once one notices the immediacy of empty consciousness - and may it be only for a very short time - one will unmistakably know that one had never lost it, and that one can never lose it. It does not even matter if you have that realization or not. Your nature is not an attainment. It's you. So even if you think you are lost in darkness, you are really not.

As far as that teaching of 'no hope' is concerned, in my view at least, it applies to giving up all the futile aspirations in life. It goes along the lines with total surrender, so that one stops trying to make life perfect, as if it ever would. Giving up hope means giving up the illusion of becoming happy by willfully achieving this and that in life, endlessly. There is always that other next thing. That's a useful practice, because one will not truly focus on the path otherwise. But this does not mean to lose hope in regards to the path itself. That sounds like a very sad and tragic misunderstanding of the practice. And don't take that practice so far, that you deny your human nature and end up depressed. That'll be such a waste. For nothing. You are a human being also, after all. Show some compassion to yourself for a change. Life is tough enough as it is.

Also: karma doesn't matter to your nature. Once you are on the path, you can forget about karma anyway. Dead weight. Why look down in the valley when you go uphill? That makes no sense. So don't worry about karma. Worrying about karma and suffering is for people who are not on the path. Once you are on the path, forget about that stuff and concentrate on the path. Drop all that tragic baggage, once it has fulfilled it's purpose. Laugh it off instead of geting fixated on suffering. Why would anyone do that to oneself? Fix your mind on your nature. Not to attain it, but ro realize that it is your nature always. There is nothing to lose, and nothing to gain - only to re-cognize. That's all. It is the silence despite the presence of sounds and thoughts. It is stillness despite action. It is peace of mind despite turmoil and tragic circumstances. It is empty despite the presence of awareness-contents. 'That' does not come and go. That is present always, including now. That's why your nature is hope.

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Jesse » Tue Sep 08, 2015 1:28 am

A simple exercise: Try to find a self to whom all these past actions/thoughts and experiences belong. Seriously, if you can find a self I'd be surprised.. so since there is no self to whom these experiences belong, why are you keeping the negativity of the past with you?

Is it helpful? Drop the past and move on, starting with today, and tomorrow.. do the same thing. Every time you screw up, is just a chance to start again. I've made so many mistakes personally, that I felt I needed to give up on Buddhism/Dharma, because I was too 'bad' of a person to be Buddhist etc. Which is such nonsense. Buddhism is MADE for people just like us, people who screw up, people who have bad karma, it's intended to free people just like that.

Also, Why would you quit practicing just because you've reached a difficult phase in your practice? This is normally where we grow, and it may suck but the main contributing factor in spiritual growth is making mistakes, and misunderstandings that cause us alot of pain, ..so long as you keep your mind open to change, and keep practicing that pain will drive you to the truth eventually and you'l be a better practitioner for it.
“Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires, but by the removal of desire” – Epictetus

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Tue Sep 08, 2015 1:44 am

Pinus wrote:@Monlam Tharchin

Why so complicated? Do you think buddahood is your very nature or an attainment? If it's an attainment, then it is not it. If it's your nature, you cannot lose or gain it. You may not notice it as such, but your nature remains what it is always.
Just sounds like a soul to me, that's all I'm saying, an eternal, changeless essence that notices and is aware.
"Noticing" sounds like the ordinary consciousness of the 5 skandhas. With noticing, there is also not-noticing, dependent upon conditions, hence conditioned, hence not an unconditioned true nature.

I feel "no hope" is useful for the OP because the aspiration to have a better life, a proper and correct practice, is very much bound up in hope and fear.
Hope gets glorified in some cultures. Christianity is predicated on it.
It's time to do away with hope. It keeps us imagining and planning, visiting the future, criticizing the present, yearning for the past, instead of accepting the future, present, and past as impermanent ideas.
Maybe we're saying the same thing.
Pinus wrote:Once you are on the path, you can forget about karma anyway.
Then why cultivate morality?
Pinus wrote:Worrying about karma and suffering is for people who are not on the path.
Pinus wrote:Drop all that tragic baggage, once it has fulfilled it's purpose. Laugh it off instead of geting fixated on suffering.
Suffering is the basis of the Four Noble Truths. Right View also includes an understanding and awareness of how karma functions in our daily lives.
Do you mean one can practice Buddhism without these things? Or could you explain your statement a bit further for me?

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by Pinus » Tue Sep 08, 2015 9:35 am

@Monlam / everyone

I did not speak about a soul, nor about Christianity! I also believe we aren't speaking of different things. Perhaps it's just different use of language.

I do not need Buddhism for ethics. To me, it's common sense.

But let me give you another example to illustrate my point: the first thing I learned about Buddha was that he chose the middle path. He left all that self-torture and dogma of the time behind, ate well, and found a way to be unimpressed by the memories, visions, 'deamons' that occurred to him during meditation. Neither acceptance nor rejection. Dark passage or not. Just sat there with an unmoved mind, unimpressed. He let it all go. I didn't read about going into extremes, sliding down a dark path, clinging to karma or suffering, or sitting there with a grim face.

But if someone has a different understanding of it, that's fine with me. I acknowledge other's views. I'm just offering an alternative perspective. Everyone can make up one's own mind. I think it's important that people are offered a choice. Especially those who are in a difficult situation. It can make a great difference for a suffering person to be offered different pathways on the same path. They'll lead to the same realization in the end anyway.

Thank you for the discourse.

Signing off for a while. Work takes precedence.

Take it easy,
Pi
Last edited by Pinus on Tue Sep 08, 2015 10:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Progressing in Buddhism after 'messing up' life

Post by srivijaya » Tue Sep 08, 2015 10:03 am

undefineable wrote:My question is: Is it worth practicing dharma under my kind of circumstances when one can see one has progressed beyond the 'intellectual' stage, or will even this only make things worse?
How for you do you define progress beyond the intellectual stage, as I think that is a key remark.

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