Is Buddhism "Better"? November 23, 2004 by RedStar2000
In the course of polemicizing against religion, I have not, until recently, had occasion to criticize the Buddha racket.
Christianity and Islam grab most of the headlines these days -- and when it comes to intellectual or physical atrocities, they have a "lead" over Buddhism that does not seem possible to overcome.
Still, Buddhism tries. They've been particularly active in recent decades preying on naive westerners -- who've grown appalled by Christianity but who still shrink from outright atheism.
I've actually heard Buddhists say it: "Buddhism is not a religion."
Oh, yes it is!
Thai protesters die in custody
At least 78 people died in southern Thailand after being arrested and loaded into army trucks following Monday's clashes with security forces.
Officials said almost all the dead suffocated as they were taken to an army barracks several hours away.
After clashing with security forces, more than 1,000 protesters are reported to have been arrested.
Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan, a forensic expert for the Justice Ministry, told the BBC that 80% of the victims died from smothering or suffocation and 20% from stress or convulsions.
Army deputy commander Maj-Gen Sinchai Nujsathit admitted that "we had more than 1,300 people packed into the six-wheel trucks" for a journey to Pattani province that took five hours.
First posted at Che-Lives on October 26, 2004
Buddhism is, to all intents and purposes, the state religion in Thailand.
So seriously do they take it that one is not allowed to take Buddhist "relics" out of the country -- they have a whole industry devoted to making replicas for the tourists.
Thus, if you want to see how Buddhism works in the real world, then you have to see what Buddhists are willing to do when they are in the real world.
Just as you can't fairly judge Catholicism by the practice of a few dozen pious monks cloistered in some isolated monastery, it's equally unrealistic to judge Buddhism by such standards.
How do they act when they have the chance to really shit on people?
First posted at Che-Lives on October 27, 2004
Buddhism in practice is different than in theory.
A characteristic it shares with all forms of superstition.
When a Christian kills someone doesn't mean that all Christians kill people, if a Muslim would kill someone doesn't mean that all Muslims kill people, if a...
No it doesn't...it just means that the ones who are really serious about their religion are willing and often positively eager to kill for it.
I understand your concern, but I have also seen how caucasians act when they really have the chance to shit on people, and it isn't any better.
Yes, but the Buddhists (and the Christians and the Muslims and the Hindus, etc., etc., etc.) claim to be "above" that sort of behavior.
They all claim to be about "peace" and "love" and "spiritual growth", blah, blah, blah.
They're all lying.
Of course I agree with you that those who assert that they are motivated by a "racial" ideology also behave very badly...but they, at least, are honest about what they intend to do.
The holocaust did not take place under the banners of "love" and "peace".
Blaming this on Buddhism is like blaming Karl Marx for every atrocity and stupidity enacted in the name of "communism". If you think about it, that is virtually tantamount to blaming Jesus Christ for the Spanish Inquisition; after all, the Inquisition claimed total unquestioning Christianity, as have many tyrants, war mongers and fools for over 2000 years.
You are personalizing here. Marx did not know what Stalin would do "in the name of Marx". "Jesus" did not anticipate the Spanish Inquisition. And I'm sure the "Buddha" had no idea that there would ever be such a thing as a Buddhist army, much less what it would do.
The society envisioned by Karl Marx was explicitly quite different from that of the old USSR.
"Jesus" was a reforming Jew...and did not think of himself as a "Christian" at all.
As far as I know, the "Buddha" was altogether uninterested in "earthly matters" -- he thought they were all "illusions".
How do contemporary Buddhists (Christians, etc.) behave now?
As I said, badly.
Of course you may argue the parallel: that if people like me (communists) were ever in a position to do so, we also would act just as badly ("human nature = bad").
The problem with that "argument" is that it's a dead end. There is, quite literally, "no hope" for anything better.
But historically speaking, it makes no sense. Feudalism was better than slavery. Capitalism was better than feudalism. For that matter, "Stalinism" was better than Czarism.
Religions, however, don't improve...the newest ones are just as bad as the old ones when it comes to how they function in the real world.
Can you really expect every single so-called Buddhist (even if the people in government really are Buddhists) to suddenly change from a severely deluded state of mind to a pure and calm state of mind?
They've had a lifetime's practice at it; in most of Thailand, people grow up Buddhist...it's not a "fad" like it is in the "west". And yes, the government is entirely Buddhist...as is the military. (The military dictatorship in neighboring Burma is also Buddhist and also enjoys persecuting Muslims and using them for slave labor.)
...did you just create this topic to get all the Buddhists here annoyed?
Yes...to get all of you annoyed with Buddhism!
To make you question the "validity" of a faith that simply reproduces the same old shit.
The same reason that I started those threads about "Christian Love" and "Muslim Love"...to open people's eyes about what those people will do when they have the chance.
We have a sticky thread in the History forum on "the crimes of Stalin" and you or anyone can post as much stuff there as you like.
But Stalin is dead and there really aren't any serious "Stalinists" any more -- the Maoists are about as close as you could come nowadays and they are quite critical of Uncle Joe.
The Buddhists are very much alive...and busy dispatching the unbelievers. Will we see the Buddhist hierarchy condemn the atrocities against the Muslims? Force those responsible to do "penance"? Forbid them entry into the temples?
First posted at Che-Lives on November 9, 2004
You seem to think you know how the world works and that you have got religion all figured out.
It's a relative comparison, of course.
Objectively, my knowledge (like any human's) is extremely tiny...almost too small to measure against the vast storehouse of what humans have discovered about the real world.
But when I measure myself against the nonsense offered up by the godsuckers, I suddenly become "a world-class genius". *laughs*
Buddhists cannot hide behind Buddhism as an excuse to KILL because there is not one scriptural reference that doesn't condemn it and logic is against it.
I see...whereas Christians and Muslims can find "scriptural justifications" for murder.
But you miss my point (as usual in these types of discussions). The fact that Buddhist scripture is more internally consistent in condemning murder does not change the actual behavior of Buddhists in the real world.
Put it this way: suppose we had reliable figures on the murder rates among Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.
Do you seriously want to contend that the murder rate among Buddhists would be significantly lower? That Buddhists as a group behave significantly better than followers of other religions?
We don't, in fact, have such numbers and they are probably impossible to gather. But I began this thread with an unimpeachable news item from the BBC concerning the actual behavior of a Buddhist government and its soldiers.
And your response is identical to those of Christians, Muslims, etc. when co-believers are caught doing something nasty.
Oh, they're not "real Buddhists".
Following your logic, I could say that Communists are the same. Stalin killed more people in his lifetime than Buddhism has, but do I use it against Communists. No, because those actions happen everywhere and it is clear that Religion, Communism, etc. is not to blame.
What are you saying here, "shit happens"? Humans are just "no damn good"?
I suppose when you get down to it, that is one of the central messages of all religions...every human is fundamentally "a piece of shit" -- unless they "seek salvation" in the "true faith", of course.
I'm entirely indifferent if you want to "blame communism" for Stalin's personal (mis)behavior; as a Marxist, I understand that individual personalities are simply not that important in the course of macro-history.
But religion...that's different! It's been very important in macro-history for as far back as we have written sources.
Its social role has been consistent...as an ideology used to justify the tyranny of all ruling classes and always run by racketeers eager to profit from human gullibility.
Your contention that Buddhism is "different" or "better" than the others is special pleading...it totally lacks historical plausibility.
And as the events in Thailand (and other places) demonstrate, it also totally lacks historical justification.
Just because a person goes to temple once a year and gives to monks doesn't make them Buddhist. In fact, these people are quite often not at all interested in Buddhism and are just stuck with what they are brought up with. People who go to Buddhism out of choice are more productive Buddhists. While I agree that Buddhism seems to be turning into a "fad", there are serious practitioners who are not from Buddhist countries. If you are to say such a thing is not true then you are being quite pessimistic. Also just because the government claims to be entirely Buddhist doesn't make it true. It seems that your definition of a Buddhists is merely a cultural thing and is nothing more than something as simple as going to temple now and then.
Sure it's a "cultural thing"...what else would it be? The recent fads for Buddhism in the "west" are also a "cultural thing" for that matter. The "exotic" always has an appeal for the wealthy and bored.
After all, it's not as if we were talking about something that might be objectively true. For example, there's zero scientific evidence for the central Buddhist doctrine of "reincarnation"...which cuts the ground from beneath the whole structure of Buddhist "thought".
All that's left is a series of "commandments" -- do this, don't do that, behave "properly"...all phrased in language sufficiently fuzzy as to permit the necessary latitude for the rulers, of course.
Anyway, let me stress this. You know next to nothing about Buddhism or religion in general. Get some more knowledge on the subject or don't post about something you don't understand.
I don't think the problem here lies in my "lack of understanding" but rather your unwillingness to face up to religion's place in social reality.
Exploitation and oppression cloaked in pious platitudes.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 11, 2004
You may be right that many Buddhists do do bad things, but why do you think that Buddhism is the cause?
Actually "cause" is a fairly complex concept in this context.
The role of religion is to provide divine sanction for whatever "bad things" you already want to do and divine justification for any social order in which "bad things" are done consistently and routinely.
So it's not as if anyone "gets religion" and turns immediately into a "monster" or even just a parasite. But if monstrous or parasitical behavior is useful in the existing social order, then cosmological "justification" is enormously helpful.
Religions always portray themselves as "spiritual" in nature...not concerned with earthly matters. But if that were really true, then there'd be no cathedrals or temples or giant statues, etc. A "true" religion would not only have no need of such extravagant follies but would despise them as grotesque obstacles to "salvation" (or "enlightenment").
At the very least, one would have to conclude that genuinely "true religions" are as rare as the proverbial hen's teeth.
Of course, religions "justify" their earthly greed by arguing that the masses are "too backward" to understand spiritual matters, so all the pompous structures and ceremonial babble is "required" to get them to "pay attention" to what they would otherwise ignore. The "church" taxes the believers "for their own good".
Great racket, eh? And it's even better when you can get the secular authorities to back your play with armed force. No big-shot Buddhist monk in Bangkok can be seen to openly call for the eradication of Islam (a competing racket) in Thailand...but a few whispers to government and military authorities can accomplish "wonders".
I don't know much about other religions and I doubt you do, but Buddhism says that the opposite is true. However we are deluded.
What Buddhism calls "delusions" are what Christianity calls "sins". In Buddhist theology everyone is deluded; in Christian theology, everyone is sinful. It's just a difference in terminology.
But you do raise an interesting point here. When Christians do bad things, they are supposed to feel guilt and remorse...and some probably do. When Buddhists do bad things, it would seem that the worse they could feel would be embarrassed...they "made a mistake" as a consequence of their "delusion".
That's rather neat theological footwork...perhaps all ruling classes should convert to Buddhism. *laughs*
What about the government system of the old Tibet? This country was peaceful and the people were happy...
And speaking of delusions...
Tibet under the Buddhist theocracy was a hell-hole of slavery and serfdom...one of the most barbaric regimes on the planet!
What the Chinese should have done was simply remove Buddhism from public life there altogether...demolish all the temples, monasteries, etc. Instead, they bought off a portion of the clergy (who are always for sale) and allowed the racket to continue. So much for their "communism".
Are you telling me that you are judging a religion based on what people who do not follow it correctly do?
Are you telling me that you've appointed yourself "Supreme Monk" (or whatever the hell they call it) for Thailand?
Who are you to judge their degree of "enlightenment" (or lack of same)?
Isn't that between them and "the Buddha"?
For one thing there is zero evidence to disprove reincarnation...
I am not obligated to "disprove" your assertion. If you make a positive statement about the universe -- "people have souls that are reincarnated" -- then the obligation to prove it is on you.
Absence of evidence is evidence for absence.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 12, 2004
Firstly, I would have to say that I agree that religion has become a tool used by society as an excuse for doing bad things. But, I would say that that is the fault of the society and the people and not the religion.
Well, you could start by asking yourself why religion is such a "useful tool" for such "bad purposes"?
How is it that the gods or the prophets or the buddhas never appear with any sort of message that would actually change things?
Whether one goes to "Heaven" or becomes "enlightened", the same old shit goes on...and the prevailing religion has no problem with that at all.
In Christian (Muslim, Jewish) theology, the rulers are "directly appointed by God" and rebellion against them is "sinful on its face".
In Buddhist theology, tyranny and exploitation are "illusions" as is life itself...there's "no point" to rebellion against that which is illusory in the first place. We are enjoined to cultivate an attitude of "calm acceptance" of everything that happens...since none of it is "real".
Either approach leaves the ruling classes unmolested in the enjoyment of their privileges...and leaves everyone else in the shit.
And worse, believing that the fact that they're in the shit is part of the cosmos itself...nothing can ever be done about it.
It's not that there would be no tyranny or exploitation if there were no religions (capitalism is very secular at its roots)...it's that religions provide a crucial prop to the ideological edifice that all rulers seek to construct: "my power is not only legitimate in earthly terms but even the cosmos itself proclaims my right to rule".
Buddhism is unique in the sense that it evades the matter altogether, but the effect is the same. If tyranny, like everything else, is an "illusion"...then every tyrant can sleep easily in his bed.
I would like to know why you think that people use religion for such a purpose and whether or not these attitudes will ever cease to exist within a society.
They use religion because it "works"...it fools enormous numbers of people into accepting what it would be in their interests to reject.
It doesn't work as well as it used to. Both science and capitalism (in their different ways) have done much to weaken religion...and the trend is continuing.
Eventually, anyone attempting to use religious arguments to "justify" earthly choices will be considered a fool. There will still be people who want to do "bad things"...but there will be no religions left to invoke as justification -- and even the attempt to invoke them will be shouted down in derision and contempt.
It's quite possible that this may take place before proletarian revolution occurs.
"In Buddhism, delusion is...a lack of awareness of the true nature of things."
That's not just a "Buddhist" definition...that's the definition that everyone uses.
My point was that Christians think that humans are inherently sinful...but by making an appropriate effort they can overcome their sinful inclinations and achieve salvation.
Buddhists think that people are inherently deluded, but by making an appropriate effort they can escape delusion and achieve "enlightenment".
One of the practical things a Buddhist is supposed to do is feel some kind of regret or they will continue to engage into the same delusional acts, which will in turn result in suffering (and I am not necessarily referring to Karma) and further delusion.
If you say so...I don't have the impression that Buddhist "regret" is quite in the same category as Christian "repentance".
To Buddhism, technology and an advanced society is not what is important.
In fact, like all religions, they don't really like that sort of thing at all.
Technology and "advancement" imply, among other things, that ordinary people become indifferent to "spiritual" matters.
How can you run a "spiritual" racket when even the "dummies" can see through it?
Just because people lived in what you call serfdom, doesn't mean that they weren't happy.
I'm sure they were just giddy with joy!
It sounds like the tales that old Southern racists used to tell...about how black people under slavery were "happy".
...however an enlightened person is totally selfless and works purely for the benefit of others.
Like a Christian "saint".
Sorry, I don't believe in that kind of thing.
Pure "selflessness" is a delusion, in my opinion, and not a minor one either.
What exactly does undertake rebirth is a debated question in Buddhism as Buddhism denies the existence of a "self". To my knowledge it is something to do with a subtle mental continuum, which actually fits into quantum physics.
Let me know when they decide. But whatever "it" is, if there's no continuity, then the concept is meaningless.
(I don't think that this has anything even remotely to do with quantum mechanics.)
Anyway, what are we debating here?
The proposition that Buddhism is somehow "better" or "superior" to the monotheistic religions...either theologically or in the actual behavior of its adherents.
New Delhi - The Dalai Lama on Wednesday regretted the misuse of religion as an instrument for bullying others.
If "everything is an illusion" then bullying others is also an "illusion".
If the "self" is an "illusion", then everything the "self" does is also an "illusion".
The "Dalai Lama" cannot even justify his own position in consistent Buddhist logic..."titles" are just as much an "illusion" as anything else.
But some illusions are more useful than others, I suppose.
Religion and ideology, be it Buddhism or Marxism, Catholicism or Liberalism always exists within a certain real context. They are twisted by power-relations, etc. for their own benefit, always - and it is so with any religion, ideology, etc. I defy someone to provide an example to the contrary. Therefore, it is my opinion, that, rather than bitching about this and that specific set of vague ideas which might be used as justification, we ought to start examining the power-relations themselves, which, ultimately, seem far more important.
To be sure, material relationships are far more important than abstract doctrine.
Nevertheless, this is the Religion forum...where people come who want to talk about that stuff and why it is "true" or false.
I try to emphasize the social role of religion...but inevitably I find myself having to dispute theological doctrine as well. There are still people on this board who sincerely think that one of these superstitions is "true"...and that unpleasant fact must be confronted and dealt with.
No one can hope to be a revolutionary until they get that nonsense out of their heads once and for all.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 19, 2004
In Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor describes this trend of viewing as metaphor the mystical elements of the religion and emphasizing instead the practices of Buddhism, which are not meant to show devotion to or worship for any god, but rather to liberate and enlighten the self.
Viewing the most unlikely elements of religions "as metaphor" is an old trick...I think Greek philosophers were using it in the Buddha's own lifetime. Certainly Christian apologists today use it "early and often".
Is it intellectually justifiable?
Well, suppose we took a physics text written and published in 1890 and checked it out. We'd find it containing many gross errors.
But when we finished it and prepared to drop it in the trash, someone said "Wait!"
"Sure, on the surface, it looks like the stuff in that book is all wrong...but suppose we treated it as metaphor?"
As a rule, what is wrong in fact remains wrong metaphorically as well.
The greater obstacle in embracing a Secular Buddhism for an empiricist is the persistence of a mystical element other than deity-worship within the framework of belief that was fundamental to the Buddha’s teachings. Buddhism does espouse a karmic cycle of rebirth, after all. For someone whose perspective is primarily rationalistic, this can seem difficult to reconcile. How can someone who, for example, doesn’t even accept the existence of a "soul" believe that the soul is reborn in a new body again and again?
It's not "difficult to reconcile", it's flat out impossible.
There's not so much as a fragment of scientific evidence in its favor.
There is no soul in Buddhism. There is, in fact, no constant self at all.
Buddhists may not like the term "soul" or even use it at all (translations can be very misleading).
But it is clear that "reincarnation" means that some entity which once lived and then died has been "re-born".
There is continuity or there isn't. If there isn't, then the concept is meaningless.
Whether one believes in Jungian archetypes or cosmic astrology, it is obvious that our existence is just what Buddhism teaches it is -- dependent.
Jungian archetypes? Cosmic astrology?
Can't we just kill a pigeon and "read" its liver? *laughs*
Buddhism then, represents a bank of intuitive knowledge that offers adherents time-tested means to seek out and attain that control and negation of self.
If you wish to "negate your self", choose suicide.
It's been empirically verified that the dead desire nothing at all.
When he finally was able to see the world for what it is, he beheld at once that life was suffering. If there is not disease, then there is senility. If there is not senility, still there is death. And in between these absolutes, is a whole range of discomfort. People feel inadequate. People feel depressed. People are unhappy. People want what they cannot have. Hence the second noble truth, desire is the source of all pain. It is our attachment to the illusions created by what is really an impermanent world that causes us pain.
Even if that were true, it obviously ignores degrees of suffering.
Physical pain trumps all forms of mental pain...at a sufficient level, it reduces humans to the level of screaming animals.
No "illusions" there. Material reality prevails.
But who said people should be "happy" anyway? Still, if that's your "desire", chemically-induced bliss is but a needle away.
Opium always "works" -- material reality prevails again.
The third noble truth was that suffering could be eliminated. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist is to someday join the Buddha in Nirvana, not a place but a state of being. Nirvana cannot explicitly be communicated through mere words, but it is a state beyond the reach of the first two noble truths. It is enlightenment, and its metaphorical power for a Secular Buddhist is obvious (even if it is set as an ultimately unattainable goal), as is the fourth noble truth, which is the path away from attachment and suffering toward enlightenment: the eight-fold path which Buddha taught to his first followers, beginning with right view -- the acceptance of impermanence -- and continuing through right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Start with this: "Nirvana cannot explicitly be communicated through mere words..."
Then how is it "known" that such a "state of being" exists?
Someone says "I've reach Nirvana."
We reply, "Oh, what's it like there?"
And they say, "I can't describe it in mere words."
That ain't much help; words and numbers are all we have to describe things.
Even the Christians and the Muslims have "descriptions" of "Heaven" and "Hell"...as fanciful as they obviously are.
Buddhism just evades the issue.
Then there's all the "right this" and "right that" stuff. What's it supposed to mean in practice? And who decides?
On the basis of what evidence?
The path offers control. Following it can help us escape the trappings of our modern world.
Trappings? Which ones? I like some "trappings" of the modern world quite a bit. Others I cheerfully do without...inspite of all the efforts of all the marketing executives to arouse my interest.
I haven't owned a dummyvision set since 1986 and doubt strongly that I ever will again. I did not require the "eight-fold path" to reach this decision.
Even the celebrities that are venerated by this marketing culture are incomplete. They must spend more and more exorbitant amounts of money to procure more and more esteem and luxury. Are they then happy and complete?
Is anyone? How would we know? Because they said so in a very convincing tone of voice?
Whatever it is that you crave, whatever it is that you feel you cannot live without, will control you.
Well, I'm "controlled" by a need for an atmospheric pressure of around 14 lbs./square inch containing close to 20% Oxygen and the near absence of any immediately poisonous gases.
As far as I know, this "need" also applies to all living Buddhists.
Only the dead escape all "control".
The benefits are demonstrable beyond just the Buddha-calm smile that comes with shamath, the Buddhist principle of calm-abiding acceptance.
Is "acceptance" a "good idea" in the world we live in?
Is it even possible?
Even calm rationality is difficult to achieve on a sustained basis -- those "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" really do provoke "outrage".
Frequently, it's quite justified.
...the growing body of scientific evidence that the practice of meditation can alter markedly the activity in the brain and effect the health of the body.
Everything that we do, including thinking, affects our bodies. We are material entities.
Can "meditation" alter the body in significant ways? I suppose it might be barely possible...but the tales of levitation, heat-generation, etc., I regard as obviously fraudulent.
There was, however, still one desire within him. It is called bodhichitta, the altruistic intention. The Buddha taught, so that others might also escape. The Secular Buddhist must also pursue this principle. In the end there must be something that continues to drive what passes for the self, for the individual. It must be the compassionate drive to pursue the eight fold path, not merely to alleviate one’s own suffering, but to lessen the suffering of all who surround.
That is, to pass on the mythology to others "for their own good".
First posted at Che-Lives on November 17, 2004
Buddhism is more of a way of life than a religion, sure it has the element of an afterlife yet we believe it, just like we believe in the Big Bang theory, yet it's only a theory, why? Because it fits our logic.
Yes, Buddhism is "a way of life" that bears a remarkable resemblance to the "ways of life" of all other religions.
Much babble about "peace & love" when weak and violence against the heathen when strong (c.f., Thailand).
Not to mention the hellhole that was Tibet.
There's no reliable evidence of an "afterlife".
There does seem to be considerable supporting evidence for "Big Bang" cosmology...though I personally remain unconvinced -- I think we need another century of work on the question before we can really "nail it down".
Believing something because "it fits my logic" is the semantic equivalent of saying "I believe because I believe".
Is there any reason to take that seriously?
The world is the creation of our mind, what is correct to some people, might not be correct to some...
No, the world objectively exists. People can and do have different opinions about it...but there is, in principle, a "true opinion" which we call fact.
Facts are acquired through scientific investigation...not revelation.
There have been about 29 cases of rebirth in the world.
And 2,152 certified cases of demonic possession, not to mention 27,983 documented cases of alien abduction and anal probing.
You suspect I just made those numbers up?
Someone made up your number as well.
It's quite a paradox really...
...Buddha saw all of his past lives...
You know this is "true" because he told you.
That's not evidence.
But what is there to gain when you're dead? Nothing. Only the next life.
But one could always hope that Buddhism will have died out (along with all other religions) when your "re-birth" rolls around. *laughs*
First posted at Che-Lives on November 18, 2004
Life is but an illusion, everything is an illusion since everything is impermanent.
Why do you conflate impermanence with non-existence? All things eventually pass away...but until that happens they exist, do they not?
How is it that you can think of your own existence as an "illusion" in the face of all the physical evidence to support the idea that you do exist?
Candles need fire to burn, such is it with men and a spiritual life.
The last number I heard was that 14% of Americans now say that they have no religion. That's a hell of a lot of candles burning "without fire"...and the numbers are increasing. In Europe, of course, the numbers are far higher.
Your claim that men "need" a "spiritual life" is falsified daily.
Desire is the cause of all suffering...
Let's amend that a bit: unfulfilled desire is the cause of all suffering.
Presumably you would respond that "as soon as one desire is satisfied, another arises."
But, oddly enough, we do not constantly suffer...which would be the case if the Buddhist "explanation" of suffering were "true".
We are capable of, perhaps, infinite desires...but we can also often be satisfied and even content with a finite number of satisfied desires, at least for a while.
I agree that "nothing is permanent"...but some things do last for a considerable period of time.
When you find out that life is impermanent, then your fear of death is gone, you are indifferent to life and death...
Actually, all people of normal intelligence learn that life is impermanent...and yet most do indeed fear death, sometimes to a pathological extent. Death is nonexistence...something that has little appeal to living organisms.
Of course, people who are suffering extremely will welcome death as a liberation from suffering.
Complete indifference to death is, I suspect, a rather rare occurence...though that wouldn't necessarily stop some people from claiming that they felt that way -- particularly if they wanted to impress the gullible with how "spiritually advanced" they "are".
It's possible, no matter how evil or despicable the person or creature is, one should cherish all living beings, as a mother protects her child, her only child, so one should love all beings.
Good grief, why? On the one hand, the Buddha suggests "indifference" to one's own life or death and then turns right around and suggests we should "cherish all living beings". What an absurdity!
Especially since, according to your logic, because life is impermanent, then it doesn't "really exist" anyway. What's the point of "cherishing" that which "doesn't really exist"?
If this logic were carried out even more consistently, we would not attempt to cure any disease...since germs and viruses are also "living beings", it would be "wrong action" to kill them so a human could remain alive.
As always, a close look at any religion lands one in a swamp of confusion.
There have been many Buddhist monks who burned themselves alive in protest to various things and did not scream or cry out once.
I've never seen someone burned alive, have you?
I saw it on the dummyvision during the Vietnam war...but I don't believe the sound portion of the tapes was ever broadcast.
Before we rush into the "spiritually advanced" explanation, there might well be some perfectly ordinary explanations...
1. They could have been drugged up to their eyeballs. Pure heroin was cheap and widely available in Vietnam in that period. No one would have bothered to examine their bodies afterwards -- the "cause of death" was obvious.
2. They could have gone into shock so quickly that they could not scream.
3. Their vocal cords could have been damaged so quickly that they could not produce a scream even though they tried.
I like #1 myself...but there may be even other ordinary possibilities that I haven't thought of.
Some humans do have a preference for "exotic" explanations of phenomena...the ordinary materialist explanations are so "unromantic" or even "boring".
Perhaps...what I like about ordinary explanations is that they turn out to be true with a very high degree of reliability.
First posted at Che-Lives on Novermber 19, 2004
All illusions fade away, I didn't conflate impermanence with non-existence. I don't exist because the soul doesn't exist, what does physical evidence prove? That you have a body,nothing more.
No, you did say that impermanence = non-existence...
Life is but an illusion, everything is an illusion since everything is impermanent.
Well, illusions are things that don't exist, right?
They may "seem" to be real, but actually they are illusory.
Physical evidence just doesn't prove that you have a body. The body has a brain. The brain uses electro-chemical reactions to think and speak and write.
I'm quite agreeable to your statement that you have no "soul"...since no one does -- there's no evidence that such a "thing" exists.
But if you "don't really exist"...who's typing the posts that appear under your username?
And yet many believe in a soul, that is a spiritual life, you don't need a religion to have one.
Yes, many do believe that babble in one form or another. Human "civilization" is still very primitive...we have a very long way to go before we can call our species rational and keep a straight face.
But the balance is shifting against you.
Progress is being made.
Of course we don't constantly suffer, Buddha never said that we suffer all the time but that life is based on suffering.
But the logic of his assertion is that we should "suffer constantly"...or at least all those times when we are not actively fulfilling a desire or asleep. We should be constantly "wanting stuff" and grousing because it's not instantly available.
Maybe if you've grown up "a prince", that description is accurate. I'm sure there are plenty of modern ruling class kids who piss and moan all the time -- "the limo is white and I wanted a black one", "where in the hell is that goddam room service with the champagne", "what do you mean I can't charter a fucking jet before tomorrow morning", etc.
Perhaps such people are "tormented" by their "infinite desires"...I wouldn't know.
Down here at the base of the social pyramid, our desires are much simpler...like enough money to pay the rent and the utility bill on time. Stuff like that.
Like I said earlier, maybe Buddhism is quite appropriate for the wealthy and powerful...but it's of no use at all for the people on the bottom.
Many Buddhists don't consider germs and viruses to be living beings, like a machine they exist but they don't live. We cherish life because it's beautiful, like one would cherish a flower, the flower will eventually die, but we cherish it,why? Because it's beautiful, such as life.
Some of it may be indeed be "beautiful" but much if it is pretty damn ugly.
Do you "cherish" mosquitoes? They carry malaria, you know. (The malaria parasite is also a "living being"!) Anyone who contracts malaria is not going to have "a beautiful life".
Is cancer "beautiful"?
People are fanatical when they protect an idea that they're really into...
A valid observation, no doubt...but so what?
Is their fanaticism justified? Is the idea that they are "fanatically protecting" worth a shit?
Suppose I caught some bastard trying to burn down a public library because he believed that having all those books around encouraged atheism? So I shoot him down like a dog!
That's pretty "fanatical" behavior on my part, no question about it.
But is it justified fanaticism?
Why do you think Tibet is such a hellhole? Because they understand what impermanence is? Because they have no use for expensive material goods and the great luxuries of the west? How stupid of you to say that. The Tibetans are one of the most advanced people in the world, not in technology but in culture and social lifestyle. The Tibetans have done something that no Western mind will ever understand in a thousand years. That is why you say it's a hellhole.
Don't you understand that you can't get away with claims like that on this board?
If no "western mind" can "understand it in a thousand years", then why shouldn't we dismiss it with derision?
By our "western standards", Tibet was a hellhole -- and probably still is, though less of one since the Chinese took over.
And your line about "great luxuries of the west" suggests a query or two: you mean like literacy? Modern medicine? Indoor plumbing and modern sewer systems? Electricity?
Or is it the abolition of slavery and serfdom that disturbs you?
Tell me, if the Tibetans were so "culturally and socially advanced", how come their social institutions were so backward?
You'll have to spin a lot of prayer wheels to answer such questions in a way that will satisfy "western" minds and meet western "standards" of evidence.
In fact, I don't think you can do it at all!
First posted at Che-Lives on November 19, 2004
Illusions exist because you see it and react with it, just as someone fooled by a mirage, but when they realize what it really is, they snap out of this illusion. Illusions are temporary such as all things in life.
Ok, let's at least try to use terminology that we can consistently agree on.
You are claiming that the self is a "mirage", that "life" is a mirage, that the world is a mirage, etc.
All things that exist but are really "unreal".
Why should one adapt one's personal conduct to anything that is really "unreal"?
By this logic, Buddhism itself is a mirage...since it is a product of earthly life, then it must share all the characteristics of earthly life -- the most important being that it's not really "real".
Only the "spiritual" is really "real", right?
If earthly life and all its circumstances are simply a mirage, then an attitude of complete indifference to earthly concerns is a logical consequence.
But that would also have to include Buddhism and all its doctrines...it's the product of humans which means it can't possibly be "true" or "real".
Likewise, it would not matter how you behaved...good or bad. Your behavior "on earth" is not really "real".
Wrong, there are Buddhists around the world who are poor and yet are happy; look at the monks, they're poor yet happy.
No, they are not "happy", they are indifferent. If they are "good Buddhists", then they simply don't care about material deprivation and, in fact, don't even notice it.
Poverty, like everything else, has to be a "mirage".
If you put a Tibetan in New York City, he will look up at the buildings and people, he'll be amazed but not feel belittled or small since he knows that one day all of this will be gone.
Takes the long view, does he?
Well, it's true enough. Stars like our sun grow hotter as they age -- in 500 million years or so, it's thought that the sun will be about 10% hotter than it is now. That doesn't sound like much but it's more than enough to raise the surface temperature on earth to around 400 degrees F...well above the boiling point of water. All surface deposits of water will evaporate and the whole planet will be a cloudy hot dry desert, like Venus is now.
The Tibetan is right...though I doubt very much if he knows why he's right...or if he's likely to be right about anything else.
Nor does his correct perception of the impermanence of New York City help him very much right now...where, if he is not careful, he's apt to be mugged while he's gawking at the towers.
Yes, cherish all living beings, and accept inevitability of death.
Many species of "living beings" are hostile to human well-being -- drive them to extinction, say I.
And death may, indeed, be inevitable...but as long as an independent and productive life is attainable, I see no reason to surrender prematurely. If one becomes hopelessly crippled, senile, etc., then a painless death would be an act of mercy.
No fanaticism is ever justified as correct...
Then what of those Buddhist monks who set fire to themselves in protest of the Catholic-dominated "government" of South Vietnam and its "persecution" of Buddhism?
We can't dismiss it with derision because then how can we ever surpass ourselves if we overlook the significant things in life?
More inconsistencies! There's no "self" to "surpass", right? And the only "significant" thing in life is that it's all a "mirage", right?
As for the luxuries of the west I mean playstations, computers, etc.
Well, I agree that playstations are a superfluous toy and the world would not be noticeably worse off if they all disappeared tomorrow.
But I disagree with you about computers. I've had mine for two years...and I think I've learned more in that period of time than I learned in the previous two decades!
I am therefore of the opinion that a personal computer has become a necessity of modern civilized life...anyone without one is reduced to the level of an illiterate peasant.
Of course, computers are still quite primitive and clumsy in many respects...and they cost far more than they should.
But such was the case in the first century of printing as well...books from the 15th and 16th centuries were almost more "works of art" than means of communication.
Someday we'll have the computer equivalent of the paperback book -- a cheap functional tool that will open the world of knowledge to all.
And you won't need a degree in computer science to use it.
They [people in Tibet] have modern medicine and literacy. Things like modern sewer systems and electricity are merely for convenience.
They've only had those things since the Chinese took over...and they're probably still some distance away from getting those basic necessities out into the countryside.
A modern sewer system is not "just for convenience", by the way. Without one, you greatly increase the risk of death from a number of deadly bacteria that flourish in untreated human waste.
Of course, you're supposed to be "indifferent" to such concerns.
Their social institutions were so backward because they didn't know any other way to live.
Then of what use was their "spiritual advancement"? You claim that they understood things that we "westerners" wouldn't understand "in a thousand years".
And with all "that", they couldn't figure out that slavery and serfdom were "not nice"? That making people into slaves and serfs was a rather peculiar way of "cherishing living beings"?
Or is the "vulgar Marxist" explanation closer to the mark? The Buddhist clergy were running a real racket in Tibet -- exploiting the hell out of the superstitious peasantry...until the Chinese invaded and busted it up.
Whereupon the "godfather" of the Buddhist "mafia" fled Tibet one step ahead of the cops, signed up with America's "great anti-communist crusade", and has spent the remainder of his life hustling donations from western suckers and whining about "human rights".
Everyone here knows that I have delivered plenty of harsh criticisms of Mao...but credit where credit is due.
He really did liberate Tibet from one of the worst regimes in modern history.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 20, 2004
Everything is an illusion because nothing is permanent, everything is temporary, like an illusion it only appears for a moment then it disappears.
This seems to be the crux of the matter.
No one denies that nothing is "permanent" or that things change from moment to moment.
But can you legitimately say that because things are not permanent, therefore the best thing to do is treat everything as an "illusion"?
I submit that such an assertion is entirely unjustified.
My "self" is not "permanent"...yet it has existed for 62 years. It's never felt like an "illusion" to me.
Our planet is thought to have existed just under five billion years...and will continue to exist for about another five billion years and possibly even longer.
The universe is currently thought to be about 13-14 billion years old. It's estimated that the last stars (red dwarfs) will not burn out for another 135 billion years or so.
So what is the advantage of acknowledging the fact that nothing is permanent if, in so doing, one ignores the fact that not only is the material world real but it does exist for a very long period of time?
Theological considerations to the contrary notwithstanding, Buddhists behave just like other humans in the material world...they do all the things that other humans do, "good" and "bad". They act as if the world is real.
The real world effects of Buddhism strongly parallel the real world effects of every religion. There's a hierarchy that lives from the donations of the gullible. There's an arbitrary "code of conduct" that the people are expected to observe but that doesn't apply to the rulers. When the opportunity arises, Buddhists will persecute the followers of other religions with the same zeal as a fundamentalist Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, etc.
If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, generally behaves like a duck...
First posted at Che-Lives on November 21, 2004
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|When the superstitious demand "proof" that "God doesn't exist", they are acting in bad faith. It would not matter to them if science could explain "everything" without recourse to the "God hypothesis" -- they would still declare science to be "the work of the devil".
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