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Thread: Distressed at a Buddhist conversation

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    Comic guy Bartholomew's Avatar
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    Distressed at a Buddhist conversation

    I was deeply distressed the other day to hear a Buddhist friend of mine tell me that Buddhism required faith.

    Faith is an artifact of religions that state things which one must accept blindly. Buddhism -- at least my branch of it -- has never made such a demand.

    I made the leap from Catholicism to Buddhism at a very young age. I went from hearing, "God works in mysterious ways," to hearing, "All effects have a cause." Even as a child, who understood maybe a tenth of what went on around him, I was far, far more comfortable with the idea that my world could explored and that I didn't have to worry about faith - my ability to believe in something without condition.

    So when my friend starts talking to me about the mystic law and the true Buddha -- concepts that are unprovable, and (frankly) useless, I got the idea that I was being told that, basically, God works in mysterious ways. I said as much to him, and he told me my faith was lacking.

    ...!

    The Buddha repeatedly said that his followers should doubt and test concepts.

    My friend wants me to help present a Buddhist topic at his meeting on Friday. I'm afraid anything I had to say would thoroughly upset him.
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  2. #2
    From the Law:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith

    "Is the confident belief in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing."


    "All effects have a cause."
    All effects have causes is perhaps more accurate.

    But anyway, I digress. Believe in the Eightfold Path? Is "Nirvana" accurate, or have you abandoned ideas of "nirvana"? Supposedly they escape logic.

    As I had said, a word the Buddhists use is devotion, meaning that one is not wholly attached or unhealthily invested in a particular goal but in developing right-mind and right-action, etc. for this moment now, and trusting or having confidence right then is a leap of faith. Trusting an action without being attached to its consequences requires faith.

    At the same time, faith doesn't really equate in Buddhist philosophy so well as does from the outside looking in. For example, a Buddhist might say that one who sees reality clearly needs neither faith nor belief, because one is experiencing the reality. But, I might say, but you do "believe" it's the experience of reality, then, don't you? Well, no, because I don't believe it, no more than you believe that these letters are black and the background white.

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  3. #3
    Well begun is half done... Mumut's Avatar
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    I'm sorry to hear that, too. I was also sorry to learn there are about forty branches of Buddhism. I don't like variation - I need surity.

  4. #4
    I myself happen to like the variation, though "surity" surely makes communication a lot easier. Faith is especially important in Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism.

    AMC

    ETA:

    Faith is an artifact of religions that state things which one must accept blindly.
    Faith

    But it's been argued that doubt and skepticism are sincere consequences of faith. That is, it's the duty of the faithful to question what is they actually have faith in.
    Last edited by AMCrenshaw; 02-26-2009 at 11:53 AM.
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    I think of faith as a serene confidence in the nature of the Universe. Faith as the Buddhist has releases tensions related to the ego...the illusory stress that one must do this, or terrible things will happen.

    The Buddha taught that terrible things do indeed happen. It is our insistence on defining the value of the world as good or bad which makes it so.

    By transcending this, the Buddhist finds peace through understanding.

    It's not blind faith. It's open-eyed faith. The world will bring awfulness. It's not your fault. Be your nature and seek peace within.

    I spoke a few hours ago with a fairly empirical thinker about the spiritual experience he had watching the Temple of Fire at Burning Man. We were able to understand that this feeling was the same feeling that is called Shiva in India.

    God has been too tainted for him. But the existence of a universal spirit of destruction appealed to him, and is plausible.

    He will never believe in something which could not be proven. But the fire proved something to him, and we found unity.

    These words have been twisted so much people revolt against them. Faith is not the same as obedience.

    Personally, discovering faith was the enlivening moment of my life. It was perfectly rational and remains so.

    In what is my faith? Some anonymous deity or cryptic book? Well...

    My faith is that in a life as miraculous as the one I have lived, there must be a greater pattern governing events. This gives me great comfort.

    Is it God? I sometimes speak of Goddess, or certain polytheistic projections of ineffable concepts. Embracing these has been a human habit throughout all of history. A useful psychological bridge, as well as an instrument for control.

    They are as real as we believe them to be.

    Namaste.
    Last edited by indiriverflow; 02-26-2009 at 12:20 PM.

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    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow.
    (OK, I know it doesn't really rise but we're not that anal, are we?)
    It might help if you exapnd your definition of faith?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bartholomew View Post
    I was deeply distressed the other day to hear a Buddhist friend of mine tell me that Buddhism required faith.
    If you accept your wages in currency and not pigs, then you're exercising faith. If you let a stranger put a drill in your mouth without checking his dentistry qualifications then you're exercising faith. If you jump into an aeroplane without even checking out the pilot behind the closed door at the front then you're exercising faith.

    Faith is endemic to a functional society. Children need it or they'd never learn from their parents. Adults need it or they'd never be able to cooperate.

    Buddhists need it too.

    Perhaps what you're saying instead is that a Buddhist doesn't need superstition. That may be true, yet a lot of Buddhists are very superstitious.

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    Great Scott Member James81's Avatar
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    Buddhism is probably one of the surest "religions" in the world. It's a moral code that doesn't require a god (but CAN be used in conjunction with a god), and it's challenge is to live in the moment, do the right thing in thought and deed, and be mindful of all life.

    I love the philosophy of Buddhism.

    Pick up a copy of "Awaken the Buddha Within" by Lama Surya Das

    Such a great book that explains the basics of buddhism, but also how to apply it to your life.
    Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. --Carl Jung

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    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James81 View Post
    It's a moral code that doesn't require a god (but CAN be used in conjunction with a god), and it's challenge is to live in the moment, do the right thing in thought and deed, and be mindful of all life.

    I love the philosophy of Buddhism.

    .
    Those are exacty the things I love about Advaita. Just that few know about it.

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    SupahStah! jennifer75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James81 View Post

    Pick up a copy of "Awaken the Buddha Within" by Lama Surya Das

    Such a great book that explains the basics of buddhism, but also how to apply it to your life.
    This is on its way to me now, hope it's a good starter.
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...m/bookmooch-20
    jennifer

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    Quote Originally Posted by James81 View Post
    Buddhism is probably one of the surest "religions" in the world. It's a moral code that doesn't require a god (but CAN be used in conjunction with a god), and it's challenge is to live in the moment, do the right thing in thought and deed, and be mindful of all life.

    I love the philosophy of Buddhism.

    Pick up a copy of "Awaken the Buddha Within" by Lama Surya Das

    Such a great book that explains the basics of buddhism, but also how to apply it to your life.
    If we're morphing into a Buddhist book club, I must emphatically recommend Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh.

  12. #12
    SupahStah! jennifer75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indiriverflow View Post
    If we're morphing into a Buddhist book club, I must emphatically recommend Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh.
    See that James? Hmmmm. I'm for it.
    jennifer

  13. #13
    Great Scott Member James81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indiriverflow View Post
    If we're morphing into a Buddhist book club, I must emphatically recommend Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh.
    I'll have to read that.

    Anybody ever read the Buddha Dharma (the buddhist's "bible")?

    I've been wanting to read that but keep forgetting to actually buy a copy.
    Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. --Carl Jung

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    you didn't come and help me kuwisdelu's Avatar
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    I'd say Buddhism does require a few jumps of belief, but there's generally reasoning behind them, so I wouldn't really call it "faith." At least not blind faith.

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    ever seeking GeorgeK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuwisdelu View Post
    I'd say Buddhism does require a few jumps of belief, but there's generally reasoning behind them, so I wouldn't really call it "faith." At least not blind faith.
    Is not a belief in reincarnation just as much blind faith as a belief that there is no reincarnation?

    Quote Originally Posted by indiriverflow View Post



    They are as real as we believe them to be.


    Or maybe we are as real as they believe us to be?
    Last edited by GeorgeK; 02-27-2009 at 12:25 AM.

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    Comic guy Bartholomew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeK View Post
    Is not a belief in reincarnation just as much blind faith as a belief that there is no reincarnation?
    Fortunately, reincarnation is not a Buddhist idea.

    I often see people say transmigration instead, to represent the idea that ego and identity are not preserved, but that energy is.
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  17. #17
    Rebirth! Rebirth!!!


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    Comic guy Bartholomew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AMCrenshaw View Post
    Rebirth! Rebirth!!!


    AMC
    I don't believe in rebirth. Am I just the world's crappiest Buddhist, or what?

    ETA; I'd *like* to believe in rebirth, but I think it has a pretty grim prognosis.
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  19. #19
    I often see people say transmigration instead, to represent the idea that ego and identity are not preserved, but that energy is.
    Are you the same person who went to sleep last night? Are you the same person who woke up? The same who ate cereal, drank coffee and orange juice? Is that the same person who is now reading AW forums?

    The answers to these questions are a certain "rebirth" in a nut-shell-- that in a sense we're always dying and always reborn, constantly, as a consequence of constant change.

    AMC
    Last edited by AMCrenshaw; 02-27-2009 at 12:42 AM. Reason: Just don't know when to quit
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    ever seeking GeorgeK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bartholomew View Post
    Fortunately, reincarnation is not a Buddhist idea.

    I often see people say transmigration instead, to represent the idea that ego and identity are not preserved, but that energy is.
    It's that derned sleep deprivation confusing me again

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeK View Post
    Is not a belief in reincarnation just as much blind faith as a belief that there is no reincarnation?
    An excellent point. I will try to answer with regard to my own belief.

    My impression of the world is that archetypes recur. Individuals and cultures come into existence from what came before them, passing into that which follows.

    So I don't know if I "believe" in reincarnation, as for example, an alternative to the Dante cosmogony. Both seem to me to be literary constructs...valuable ways to abstract about a level of existence which transcends physical incarnation.

    Every living body has something animating it. This energy is the cumulative activity of physical and nonphysical manifestations. For example, I owe my life to the food I've eaten recently. I also owe it to the thoughts which kept me from running afoul of danger.

    I had no part I can remember in creating this me; it was generated by the way of the world. My faith inclines me to believe that these forces will again generate the same energy. I do not know what it would mean for me to be alive, but not in my body or graced with my memories. If that fundamental pattern which underlies my true identity was formed before, it will again. In fact, it is even happening right now.

    I think I will leave this convoluted explanation now. I hope I have expressed something intelligible.


    Or maybe we are as real as they believe us to be?
    Indeed. Perhaps our gods are people like us, dreaming us. Who knows?

  22. #22
    Comic guy Bartholomew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AMCrenshaw View Post
    Are you the same person who went to sleep last night? Are you the same person who woke up? The same who ate cereal, drank coffee and orange juice? Is that the same person who is now reading AW forums?

    The answers to these questions are a certain "rebirth" in a nut-shell-- that in a sense we're always dying and always reborn, constantly, as a consequence of constant change.

    AMC
    I'm not the same person between two deep breaths. If that's what you meant by rebirth, then yeah, I believe that. But if you're talking about what happens after the moment of death... x.x

    On a more whimsical note, I want my tombstone to read, "They mixed our bodies up. My neighbor is unhappy."
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  23. #23
    I'm not the same person between two deep breaths. If that's what you meant by rebirth, then yeah, I believe that. But if you're talking about what happens after the moment of death
    Yeah...no. But if you mean, what happens to "me" after the moment of death, then we're not asking the right questions anyway. A Buddhist might say that the change between last night and this morning or last breath is of the same change one experiences in death. As a matter of consciousness, however, if we can't readily identify the "self" we can't really say that we are conscious all the time. You can follow this train of thought to its next stop.

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    SupahStah! jennifer75's Avatar
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    I'm on my way somewhere... I just picked up Thich Nhat Hanh's Peace Is Every Step - The path of mindfulness in everyday life.
    jennifer

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    On that writing-a-new-story high. Monkey's Avatar
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    I'm sorry to hear that, too. I was also sorry to learn there are about forty branches of Buddhism. I don't like variation - I need surity.
    Pretty much every religion is a branch or has branches. Not only that, but I've never found two people whose faith matched exactly.

    For instance, two friends of mine, a mother and her thirty-something son, who live together and study the Bible together, who work out every difference or disagreement in translation they have as soon as they notice them, nonetheless have slightly different takes on their faith. Ask religious questions, and you'll get different answers. Often, the two answers won't be exclusionary, but sometimes they are. I don't believe that to be any sort of indicator of weakness in Christianity--having the Bible actually gives them a very firm foundation--but I do see it as proof that religion is a highly personal thing.

    Is not a belief in reincarnation just as much blind faith as a belief that there is no reincarnation?
    In my opinion, the answer to that question would be directly related to the individual's personal experiences. If you have past-life memories, for example, which one is "blind faith" then?
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