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Bartholomew
08-06-2008, 01:45 PM
I'm curious as to what the Atheists of the board see in store for themselves after death. Reincarnation? Void? Transmigration? Heaven? Hell?

Furthermore, what do you believe you were before birth? Is this the same place or state you believe in after death?

Eeek
08-06-2008, 01:53 PM
I believe there was nothing before, and there will be nothing after. Except, since matter can neither be created nor destroyed, the atoms that make up my body will continue on, in some other role, initially in the soil. But I won't be around to see it happen. Hopefully, some people will remember me, so I will get to live on in that sense too, in their memories. (I should probably stop answering these questions because I'm not really a full-fledged atheist, although I do feel pretty certain about the non-existence of a before- or after- life.)

Mandy-Jane
08-06-2008, 02:52 PM
I believe strongly in reincarnation. I believe I will reincarnate after my death, just as my soul in my present life is a reincarnation of a past life. I believe that we keep reincarnating as long as we still have lessons to learn. There is no heaven; there is no hell; there is just life.

My thoughts, anyway.

Albedo
08-06-2008, 03:24 PM
"I" am an emergent phenomenon in a complex central nervous system, and a product of my genes, environment and upbringing, so before I existed I was nowhere. When my brain stops working I will be gone again. Non-existence isn't a 'place', but it is a state, I guess.

Albedo
08-06-2008, 03:30 PM
However, if the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics turns out to be the correct one, some of my states will last a lot longer than this one of the moment, here. That's an afterlife of a sort, if those states can be said to be "me".

Ageless Stranger
08-06-2008, 05:21 PM
This may sound wacky but, I have a strong feeling I'll either be born again and replay my life with no knowledge of what has happened or I'll emerge onto a different plane of existence, a seperate dimension of sorts. I struggle to believe that the mind dies along with the body.

Despite this, I'm fairly reconciled to the fact that I may just close my eyes one day and be no more, it's really not that frightening a concept.

As for my existence before birth, I believe that perhaps there is some grand collection of thoughts and ideas, a web of mythology, history and concept from which we all have an origin of sorts.

If any of this sounds crazy, all I ask is that you do not contact the guys in white suits.

veinglory
08-06-2008, 06:36 PM
What Eeek and Albedo said.

kuwisdelu
08-06-2008, 10:21 PM
I believe there was nothing before, and there will be nothing after. Except, since matter can neither be created nor destroyed, the atoms that make up my body will continue on, in some other role, initially in the soil. But I won't be around to see it happen. Hopefully, some people will remember me, so I will get to live on in that sense too, in their memories. (I should probably stop answering these questions because I'm not really a full-fledged atheist, although I do feel pretty certain about the non-existence of a before- or after- life.)


"I" am an emergent phenomenon in a complex central nervous system, and a product of my genes, environment and upbringing, so before I existed I was nowhere. When my brain stops working I will be gone again. Non-existence isn't a 'place', but it is a state, I guess.


However, if the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics turns out to be the correct one, some of my states will last a lot longer than this one of the moment, here. That's an afterlife of a sort, if those states can be said to be "me".

These exactly, because I'm too lazy to type. I'm more of an agnostic than an atheist, but without any proof of any kind of god yet, this is what I believe. Once we're gone, we're gone. Our bodies are immortal, as Eeek said, in the sense that the particles--the carbon, the hydrogen, the oxygen and all the other elements that make us up--will continue to exist, and become other things. They'll feed trees and grass, and maybe, even, one day some of them will form another human being. But beyond that, the only way to really be immortal is through others' memories, through what we've written, what we've done, what parts of us will go on. Other than that--when we're gone, we're gone. An afterlife is a nice fairy tale, but until I'm there and I can see it, it's just that: a fairy tale.

Mom'sWrite
08-06-2008, 10:29 PM
I feel comforted by the fact that when I'm gone (meaning my consciousness), I'm gone. My work here is done and folding laundry, cooking, cleaning, paying taxes, worrying, working, organizing, getting everything just right becomes someone else's problem.

I'll be seriously disappointed if there's more after this.

oscuridad
08-06-2008, 10:34 PM
this relates well: Epicure said something like this about death:

'Where death is, I am not. Where I am, death is not. How can I be afraid of that which cannot be where I am?

DeleyanLee
08-06-2008, 11:05 PM
I'll admit, I'm a Pagan, not an agnostic/athiest (though I spent a large part of my life in that camp previously)--but my take on pre- and post-living is the same: I don't think about it. I don't care. I've got enough to consume my thoughts in day-to-day living that I'm very happy to not think or care about what happens on either end of breathing.

No matter I think it is, I'm likely to be wrong because the universe is too wild and weird a place for me to comprehend. No sense in getting my heart set on something just to get the cosmic smack-down for being humanly arrogant and stupid. I'm much happier knowing that when this life finally ends and I don't have to fuss with money or family politics or getting up to do the day job, there's cool stuff to be discovered.

Sarpedon
08-06-2008, 11:42 PM
There was also a popular Roman tomb inscription:

"I was not.
I was.
I am not.
I care not."

Sums it up rather nicely.

Bartholomew
08-07-2008, 12:08 AM
To the [Ok, what do you guys want to be called?]:

Are there any parallel phenomena to this state of nothingness in which you believe? Even in the deepest reaches of space, matter is found, along with light and radiation.

Why do so many people on the edge of death-- say, during a complex surgery, or in a car accident-- claim to have witnessed the exact same phenomena?

I proffer: as the brain is still a very mysterious organ, even to the most enlightened of the medical field, it is unreasonable to reject that the brain may contain some sort of energy that remains cohesive after death.

DeleyanLee
08-07-2008, 12:12 AM
Why do so many people on the edge of death-- say, during a complex surgery, or in a car accident-- claim to have witnessed the exact same phenomena?

I proffer: as the brain is still a very mysterious organ, even to the most enlightened of the medical field, it is unreasonable to reject that the brain may contain some sort of energy that remains cohesive after death.

Actually, surgeons have located the area of the brain where, when stimulated during surgery, the patient experiences the full "near death" scenario (tunnel of light, loved ones, etc). This was some years ago, but I remember there being a big uproar in the New Age community when the report was released.

Doesn't really address your question, but it does appear we're hard-wired for some kind of process for that experience.

Mom'sWrite
08-07-2008, 12:46 AM
Actually, surgeons have located the area of the brain where, when stimulated during surgery, the patient experiences the full "near death" scenario (tunnel of light, loved ones, etc). This was some years ago, but I remember there being a big uproar in the New Age community when the report was released.

Doesn't really address your question, but it does appear we're hard-wired for some kind of process for that experience.


They nailed down the mechanics of deja vu too, although I agree that the brain (all brains, not just the almighty human brain) is an unfolding mystery.

kuwisdelu
08-07-2008, 12:46 AM
To the nihilists:

Not a nihilist, but I'll answer. ;)


Are there any parallel phenomena to this state of nothingness in which you believe? Even in the deepest reaches of space, matter is found, along with light and radiation.

I'm not sure what you mean? Inflation and the Big Bang explain the distribution of matter and energy in the universe pretty well.


Why do so many people on the edge of death-- say, during a complex surgery, or in a car accident-- claim to have witnessed the exact same phenomena?

I don't know. Why do so many people still refuse to believe in alien abduction when so many people report similar abduction experiences? In both cases, I honestly take the wishy-washy way out and say "I don't know--we don't have enough evidence either way to come to any valid conclusion yet." There have been experiments conducted on both phenomena--abductions and near-death experiences--in which participants are monitored while being subjected to artificial electromagnetic stimuli. Many participants reported very similar experiences to abductees and near-death victims during the artificial stimuli. It's certainly possible it's the just way the brain electrochemically reacts to certain situations. I don't rule out the alternatives, though, in either case.


I proffer: as the brain is still a very mysterious organ, even to the most enlightened of the medical field, it is unreasonable to reject that the brain may contain some sort of energy that remains cohesive after death.

Well, I certainly agree the brain is still a very mysterious organ. But I've never heard of it radiating any sort of energy postmortem. I'd say the bigger mystery, the bigger suggestion of god, is how somehow the simple electrochemical firings between axons and dendrites can somehow result in the amazing thing that is the human mind--thought, imagination, innovation, memory, etc.

veinglory
08-07-2008, 12:58 AM
Are there any parallel phenomena to this state of nothingness in which you believe? Even in the deepest reaches of space, matter is found, along with light and radiation..

Yes, it is a state similar to that experienced by the aardvark that is not currently sitting on my lap.

I have explicit spelled out that threads here are not to become forums where atheists of any kind are repeatedly asked to defend the basic logic and/or morality of that perspective. We seem to be drifting into that neighborhood again. I also asked that new thread this month try very hard to be writing-related as this is a genre forum.

Bartholomew
08-07-2008, 02:22 AM
I have explicit spelled out that threads here are not to become forums where atheists of any kind are repeatedly asked to defend the basic logic and/or morality of that perspective. We seem to be drifting into that neighborhood again. I also asked that new thread this month try very hard to be writing-related as this is a genre forum.

I'm atheist. I'm trying to gauge where the atheists on this board stand regarding the afterlife, if there is one.

Also, I must have missed that announcement. Is it in a sticky?

I'm not here attacking atheists. I'm here talking about atheism.


Yes, it is a state similar to that experienced by the aardvark that is not currently sitting on my lap.

But that space isn't empty. There is a very small potential that an aardvark could occupy the space. A much larger potential that, say, a cat might, and an incredibly high degree of possibility that it is currently occupied by air. It seems very unlikely that you have a void on your lap.

My question is not, "does the soul persist?" This question can't be answered. I am asking what leads you to the conclusion that there is nothing, except in this very brief period of life. The concept of eternity [which I define here as infinite time] is a sticky one when you start filling it with one thing, whether that be heaven, hell, nirvana, utter blackness, or even aardvarks.

Ruv Draba
08-07-2008, 03:12 AM
There's a temporary local manifestation of Ruvness that formed and eventually departs. The Ruvness has some cohesion. That cohesion can be loosely called 'I', though this is an operational convenience and largely ill-defined.

The Ruvness might or might not recur, but that's irrelevant to any persistence of 'I', because the 'I' is a construct of mind and doesn't really exist.

CBumpkin
08-07-2008, 03:13 AM
I believe strongly in reincarnation. I believe I will reincarnate after my death, just as my soul in my present life is a reincarnation of a past life. I believe that we keep reincarnating as long as we still have lessons to learn. There is no heaven; there is no hell; there is just life.

My thoughts, anyway.

May I ask some sincere, non-confrontational questions?
Why do you believe strongly in it? What do you base your belief in? Where is the evidence/proof of reincarnation?

Bartholomew
08-07-2008, 03:41 AM
This isn't the sort of discussion I was looking for.

I think I'll just bow out.

Elodie-Caroline
08-07-2008, 04:57 AM
I subscribed to this posting today, after around the first reply, so have read everything said so far.

I'm not an atheist, I'm not religious either, but I do believe in reincarnation. I have known, since I was just seven years old, that I have lived before. I knew at that age that I had lived in the Orient, many hundreds of years ago.
I also know I died in the battle fields of France, in the first world war, that's why I am so interested in that time and in the country of France.
Of course, I can't prove any of this, but no one can prove it's not so either.


Elodie

benbradley
08-07-2008, 05:16 AM
To the [Ok, what do you guys want to be called?]:
People? Posters in teh Atheism and Non-... forum? Human beings?
[quote=Bartholomew;2626950] Are there any parallel phenomena to this state of nothingness in which you believe? Even in the deepest reaches of space, matter is found, along with light and radiation.

Why do so many people on the edge of death-- say, during a complex surgery, or in a car accident-- claim to have witnessed the exact same phenomena?

I proffer: as the brain is still a very mysterious organ, even to the most enlightened of the medical field, it is unreasonable to reject that the brain may contain some sort of energy that remains cohesive after death.
I like the idea that "the burden of proof is on the positive," else we can easily end up discussing the details of many spurious things that may or may not exist.

I'm atheist. I'm trying to gauge where the atheists on this board stand regarding the afterlife, if there is one.

Also, I must have missed that announcement. Is it in a sticky?

I'm not here attacking atheists. I'm here talking about atheism.
Well, technically, this is a forum for talking about WRITING about atheism, but the mods are letting us slide on that. :)

...
My question is not, "does the soul persist?" This question can't be answered. I am asking what leads you to the conclusion that there is nothing, except in this very brief period of life. The concept of eternity [which I define here as infinite time] is a sticky one when you start filling it with one thing, whether that be heaven, hell, nirvana, utter blackness, or even aardvarks.
I am a "reductionist" as I suspect many other atheists are, meaning I see no hard evidence of any afterlife, and thus have no reason to believe it exists. I certainly believe other living beings go on, and that the matter in my body goes on, but the "me-ness" is an emergent phenomenon within my brain and body, and my me-ness corresponds to being alive and conscious.

Author and (former) psychic investigator Susan Blackmore was strongly influential for me about 15 years ago during the time when I was questioning many "spiritual" things. Her book "In Search of the Light: The Adventures of a Parapsychologist" doesn't talk about God, but does about ESP and such. The "God" I was believing in and questioning had "actual effects" in the lives of believers, but I was doubtful. Her book described others she met as being (in my words) "strong believers" in "psychic energy" and whatnot. While she was doubtful but still held out hope by the end of her book, it fully convinved me that the only reason there's even talk about ESP and such is that some people BELIEVE so strongly it's there and can be found, even though no evidence has been found, in spite of a lot of efforts, both good and bad. The analogy between ESP believers and what I was taught to believe was strong, and her book made my beliefs fall like a house of cards: Why believe in anything for which there is no evidence?

Blackmore has written a (skeptical) book on out-of-body experiences titled "Beyond the Body" that I've not read (mostly because I don't "feel the need" to investigate it - it's easier to dismiss it and go on to other things in life) but I found this (more recent) online essay from her rather enlightening:
http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/journalism/NS2000.html
If that page is at all interesting, click on the link near the bottom, "Why I have given up", or this link, for a much longer and detailed article she wrote on the topic:
http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Chapters/Kurtz.htm

I find it a little ironic that I "gave up" my own beliefs and 'spiritual investigations' after (and largely because of) reading her first book, but it wasn't until years later that she herself "gave up."

This isn't the sort of discussion I was looking for.

I think I'll just bow out.
Aww...well, I felt the need to say something, so I responded anyway. Bartholomew, if you don't read this, maybe someone else will find it interesting.

Death Wizard
08-07-2008, 06:54 AM
I believe in rebirth, not reincarnation. In other words, my karmic force will continue on in another life vessel. But I'll be picking up where I left off, not starting at the beginning again.

It's a subtle but crucial difference.

How does your karma choose another body?

How does a falling leaf choose where to land ...

Bartholomew
08-08-2008, 10:42 AM
I'll bow back in. I'm not in a foul mood now. Which helps.



I like the idea that "the burden of proof is on the positive," else we can easily end up discussing the details of many spurious things that may or may not exist.


This is kind of where I wanted to go in the first place.

For some things, the burden of proof is not on the positive, but rather on the thing that seems to rub common sense the rawest.

Basically, when speaking of a possible afterlife, we have two possibilities. Either there is, or is not existence.

Neither suggestion is openly preposterous.

We can easily compare this to an argument for or against the existence of god, and apply the reasoning that the burden of proof must be on his existence, but this is only because a very good portion of us see no evidence that he does, or even can exist.

In the case an afterlife, we examine facts for evidence and find different things, namely:

(1 - Life exists elsewhere in the universe. We've found fossilized micro-organisms on space debris. (I am referring to meteorite ALH84001) We do not know the initial cause of life.

(2 - Life has persisted on earth, for a VERY long time, in a number of forms too numerous to mention.

(3 - [And I could be mistaken, but] doesn't one of the laws of physics dictate that information can never be lost? As in, grind me into meal, bake me, and blow me into dust, but it is still possible to divine that my remains were specifically human? The base components of life, being subject to these rules, would also have to persist on some level.

(4 - Taking 3 into account, there are some studies that suggest a corpse weights less at the moment of death.

For a pro #4 read:

For an anti- #4 read:"Blinded by the light" by P McCrory
http://bjsm.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/38/4/381# 3 is, of course, useless if #4 is bunk. And #4 is one of those incredibly difficult things to test. Which I loathe, but must consider if I am to view the topic objectively. (There are tests which suggest the opposite; that creatures die and then gain weight, which has other implications altogether. Unrelated ones. :))

Now, these bullet points do nothing for the "Heaven" or "Valhalla" arguments for an afterlife. However, the first two at least suggest that life is notsome random occurrence.

If life does not occur at complete random, it becomes feasible that life is somehow, however distantly, a recycled substance. Whether our consciousness ever enters this picture is complete conjecture. I am speaking only of the unique thing we call life.

Without recycled life, one must account for a near infinite supply (existing in an absolutely infinite universe. If your universe is parabolic, round, or donut shaped then the numbers are somewhat lower, but still absurdly plentiful.)

Mandy-Jane
08-08-2008, 10:51 AM
May I ask some sincere, non-confrontational questions?
Why do you believe strongly in it? What do you base your belief in? Where is the evidence/proof of reincarnation?


There is no proof of reincarnation. In trying to answer this question, I've realised that I can't fully say why I believe strongly in it. Except that I am, in my opinion, abnormally fascinated by the past and believe that there has to be some reason for that. I'm strongly drawn to certain periods in history and I believe that's because I've been there. I don't believe that there is just one life for all of us. I just don't, but I cannot give you a logical reason for that.

Ruv Draba
08-08-2008, 01:43 PM
For some things, the burden of proof is not on the positive, but rather on the thing that seems to rub common sense the rawest.That's the burden of political argument, rather than the burden of rigorous proof. :)

Many things we can imagine we don't observe. So any time we invent something in our heads, it behooves us to either show that it's observable, or admit that it's our imagination. Hence the burden of rigorous proof is on the proposer rather than the skeptic.

Of course, there are folks who are swayed by non-rigorous argument. 'Common sense' often refers to popular belief and popular thinking. You often need much weaker arguments to sway someone who already likes a view because of its popularity, than to sway someone who doesn't care how popular an argument is.


doesn't one of the laws of physics dictate that information can never be lost?Our laws of physics are descriptive rather than prescriptive, but there are plenty of examples in nature where information is lost. Your DNA coding disappears when you're cremated, for instance. The composition of fibres in paper (which might tell you where the paper came from) disappears when you burn it. Turn meat into soup and you lose informaiton about the original animal(s) the meat came from. Nobody knows how to get that information back.

There are some studies that suggest a corpse weights less at the moment of death.If this were true (as opposed to urban legend), there would be thousands of biologists trying to work out what matter is lost on death. This would be a huge scientific result. I don't believe that we have such a result; the burden of proof is now upon you.


Without recycled life, one must account for a near infinite supply (existing in an absolutely infinite universe.We know that life replicates itself, recycles the matter from which it originates and also changes its form - we can see these things happen in nature and even duplicate them ourselves. So far this is adequate to explain the continuation of life that we see. The jury is still out though on abiogenesis - how life forms from a soup of unlife - but it's looking promising.

One can argue for additional processes than these, but to convince an educated, skeptical mind, one normally needs to justify why such an argument is necessary and what observations in nature support it.

Bartholomew
08-08-2008, 02:44 PM
Of course, there are folks who are swayed by non-rigorous argument. 'Common sense' often refers to popular belief and popular thinking. You often need much weaker arguments to sway someone who already likes a view because of its popularity, than to sway someone who doesn't care how popular an argument is.

So true.



Our laws of physics are descriptive rather than prescriptive, but there are plenty of examples in nature where information is lost. Your DNA coding disappears when you're cremated, for instance. The composition of fibres in paper (which might tell you where the paper came from) disappears when you burn it. Turn meat into soup and you lose informaiton about the original animal(s) the meat came from. Nobody knows how to get that information back.

Hypothetically, things can move through time in any direction. This implies that information somehow remains stationary after we're in the future. [How else could someone live on a mountain top with a very slight time difference than on the village below without everything vanishing for him?] So while we may not know how to get the information back, it should still be there.



If this were true (as opposed to urban legend), there would be thousands of biologists trying to work out what matter is lost on death. This would be a huge scientific result. I don't believe that we have such a result; the burden of proof is now upon you.

I've found studies that claim all three results. I've further found that the initial study that claims the weight of a soul used somewhat primitive tools. I'd say that one is down the crapper.

Do you want your corpses heavier or lighter? Or do you want them to not change at all? I can give you essays that claim all three. Which leaves it squarely in the hypothesis realm.

I don't think this is as easy a thing to test as you seem to suggest, though. We'd have, and may very well have, scientists baying at doors trying to get dying people at weigh them. But how do they define the moment of death?


We know that life replicates itself, recycles the matter from which it originates and also changes its form - we can see these things happen in nature and even duplicate them ourselves. So far this is adequate to explain the continuation of life that we see. The jury is still out though on abiogenesis - how life forms from a soup of unlife - but it's looking promising.

I think the real reason people ask these questions is bundled nice and neat in this statement. "Why?," we ask. Because if we find no continuity-- no "get into heaven," or "reincarnate in a better place," or, "get a chance to improve on the next go," then we find that the entire purpose of all life seems merely to be to keep living.

And for many, that thought is maddening.


One can argue for additional processes than these, but to convince an educated, skeptical mind, one normally needs to justify why such an argument is necessary and what observations in nature support it.

Side note: If the entire purpose of life--generic life, not the life of the individual--is to self replicate, spread, rinse and repeat, you'd think that, as a species, we would be trying a lot harder to colonize other stars.

My personal goal in life is to accumulate three more electrons per atom in my body than anyone else. I want lights to flicker when I walk past, damn it!

Ruv Draba
08-08-2008, 03:43 PM
Hypothetically, things can move through time in any direction.This is speculative fiction more than anything else.

I've found studies that claim all three results.Anyone can write anything. Making it credible requires making results reproducible. But mass is one of the best understood physical properties we have, and so reproducibility ought to be very easy.

If you believe that life entails a soul with mass then here's an easy test: take a bunch of mice, frogs, crickets etc... put them in a box and kill them. Measure the mass of the box before and afterward. Replace with an animal of your choice. We know that mass doesn't change under ordinary chemical changes, so if you have mass 'magically' leaving the box then that would shake the scientific world.

For humans there are ethical reasons why we don't do such things, but it wouldn't be hard to track mass on a bed, and take into account loss of certain gases. Moreover, we already take a lot of measurements on dead and dying people. This still seems like an easy experiment.

If there's anything credible here I believe it can be found quickly. Find an article in a respected scientific journal like Nature if you'd like to convince the skeptics. Plurality of untested claims doesn't mean that there's credible cause for belief.


I think the real reason people ask these questions is bundled nice and neat in this statement. "Why?," we ask.The why question is a bargaining question. Most magical thinking is bargaining of some sort. We know that people try to bargain in the face of loss and grief; I believe that we bargain too over those parts of life we want but can't have. You only need to look at how children use 'why' to see this.


Because if we find no continuity-- no "get into heaven," or "reincarnate in a better place," or, "get a chance to improve on the next go," then we find that the entire purpose of all life seems merely to be to keep living.I'd argue the reverse: the purpose of a finite life is whatever you make of it. The purpose of an infinite life is unclear to me.

If the entire purpose of life--generic life, not the life of the individual--is to self replicate, spread, rinse and repeat, you'd think that, as a species, we would be trying a lot harder to colonize other stars.If life as a phenomenon has its own purpose (a topic on which I have no opinion), then it may well achieve that purpose with or without humanity. Moreover, humanity may or may not be the appropriate agency of that purpose.

My personal goal in life is to accumulate three more electrons per atom in my body than anyone else. I want lights to flicker when I walk past, damn it!Tried static electricity?:D

Ken
08-08-2008, 04:31 PM
thought of an afterlife helps many people cope with the death of a loved one. So I think we should continue to foster belief in it, even if we suspect deep down that it's a myth. To do so isn't an acknowledgment of weakness on our part, but rather a testimony to the love we bear one another :Hug2:

veinglory
08-08-2008, 05:31 PM
Do you want your corpses heavier or lighter? Or do you want them to not change at all? I can give you essays that claim all three. Which leaves it squarely in the hypothesis realm.

It is in the realm of well-known fable. There was one study was done in Victorian times which mistakes movement (last gasp, contractions, settling) as weight change--because scales measure not weight, but force. Hopefully snopes will write it up one day and we can move on.

veinglory
08-08-2008, 05:35 PM
thought of an afterlife helps many people cope with the death of a loved one. So I think we should continue to foster belief in it, even if we suspect deep down that it's a myth. To do so isn't an acknowledgment of weakness on our part, but rather a testimony to the love we bear one another :Hug2:

This is fine of we assume all people are believers ro even that they would be better off if they were. For athiests it often leave them dealing with grief and people trying to impose their religion on you at the same time on the assumption that they are being helpful.

Higgins
08-08-2008, 06:18 PM
Hypothetically, things can move through time in any direction. This implies that information somehow remains stationary after we're in the future. [How else could someone live on a mountain top with a very slight time difference than on the village below without everything vanishing for him?]



You could propose models where things can move outside the light cone. In fact that's a standard way of showing how spin and causality are related. But it turns out that for Fermions (your basic particles with rest mass) -- all of spin 1/2 -- they can't be on the mass-shell and out of the light cone. You can have virtual particles right on the edge (and this explains a lot about what happens at the edge of a black hole)...but not a real particle. Photons of course travel right on the walls of the light cone.

Here's some stuff about light cones:

http://physics.syr.edu/courses/modules/LIGHTCONE/introduction.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_cone

Mass-shell:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-shell

Anyway...if you want to use special and general relativity (and they both have been tested experimentally a lot) then no "information" stays anywhere but in the field interactions and these are very strongly contained in time.

The way a person in the valley (a slightly different inertial frame than somebody on a mountain) sees the top of the mountain is via photons passing though a gravitational field. The g-field is how the two different frames relate. The photon carries the information in this case. The wavelenght of the photons will be changed slightly (red-shifted from the valley...blue shifted from the peak) within each frame.

Higgins
08-08-2008, 06:51 PM
(3 - [And I could be mistaken, but] doesn't one of the laws of physics dictate that information can never be lost? As in, grind me into meal, bake me, and blow me into dust, but it is still possible to divine that my remains were specifically human? The base components of life, being subject to these rules, would also have to persist on some level.



I think you may be thinking of the hypothetical heat/entropy measurements for a black hole as far as "information" is concerned. I mean obviously I can just erase something very informative and full of
information without violating any physical laws. I'm pretty sure you could annihilate lots of things with a supernova and there would be no way of figuring out what the original molecules were, much less whether they were at some point water in somebody's brain or in the sea.

The base components of life are made out of the same stuff as the rest of the cosmos and no more inherently likely to survive high temperatures than anything else. A bunch of carbon that stores your most precious memory is just like the carbon in a molecular cloud millions of light years from here.

veinglory
08-08-2008, 07:53 PM
Ultimately decay leaves a soup of chemicals that are not innately human, let alone a specifc individual human. i.e. compost. The whole poitn being that this is then taken up and becomes part of another entity just as every part of us had in the past been part of other entities. One or two of my molecules may once have been part of Lincoln's nose, but they aren't now.

Higgins
08-08-2008, 08:05 PM
(1 - Life exists elsewhere in the universe. We've found fossilized micro-organisms on space debris. (I am referring to meteorite ALH84001) We do not know the initial cause of life.

(2 - Life has persisted on earth, for a VERY long time, in a number of forms too numerous to mention.

However, the first two at least suggest that life is notsome random occurrence.

If life does not occur at complete random, it becomes feasible that life is somehow, however distantly, a recycled substance. Whether our consciousness ever enters this picture is complete conjecture. I am speaking only of the unique thing we call life.

Without recycled life, one must account for a near infinite supply (existing in an absolutely infinite universe. If your universe is parabolic, round, or donut shaped then the numbers are somewhat lower, but still absurdly plentiful.)

I don't see how the presence of organic material ("life") suggests that there are afterlives of some sort. In fact it seems to strongly imply the opposite since active, living life as opposed to organic material needs an external energy source. For example, if the sun went dead, all life on earth dependent on photosynthesis would die off pretty soon. When the residial radioactivity that powers the convective currents in the mantle died out so would all the life dependent on hot spots under the ocean or in hot springs.

Higgins
08-08-2008, 08:33 PM
To the [Ok, what do you guys want to be called?]:

Are there any parallel phenomena to this state of nothingness in which you believe? Even in the deepest reaches of space, matter is found, along with light and radiation.

Why do so many people on the edge of death-- say, during a complex surgery, or in a car accident-- claim to have witnessed the exact same phenomena?

I proffer: as the brain is still a very mysterious organ, even to the most enlightened of the medical field, it is unreasonable to reject that the brain may contain some sort of energy that remains cohesive after death.

Just call me Steve. And, no, I'm not dead and I'm hoping not to be alive in my dead brain after I'm dead. Sounds a little un-hygenic to say the least. Plus, how would I explain that when I called my Auntie Luwella?
"Hi, Auntie, I can't talk to you right now. Yes, I'm dead, but unfortunately the energy in my brain has remained cohesive. Go figure. Who knew?"

So you sorta think there is no afterlife for those whose brains gotten "uncohesive"? If the cells are all dead...wouldn't that be uncohesive or at least incipiently very icky? Call me finiky, but I don't want to be around when my brain goes icky.

Higgins
08-08-2008, 09:29 PM
Side note: If the entire purpose of life--generic life, not the life of the individual--is to self replicate, spread, rinse and repeat, you'd think that, as a species, we would be trying a lot harder to colonize other stars.

My personal goal in life is to accumulate three more electrons per atom in my body than anyone else. I want lights to flicker when I walk past, damn it!

I think three more electrons per atom would ionize you. You'd blow up like a small atomic bomb.

Oh...the purpose of life...doesn't it actually vary by the creature? Think of Anomolocaris. Surely it was out to eat trilobites and have weird sex. Well...weird to me, normal (or anomolously normal) for anomolocaris.

http://www.karencarr.com/tmpl1.php?CID=342

Ageless Stranger
08-08-2008, 10:09 PM
"All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."

veinglory
08-08-2008, 11:21 PM
Indeed. I am a great beleiver in the null hypothesis.

Eeek
08-08-2008, 11:34 PM
if we find no continuity-- no "get into heaven," or "reincarnate in a better place," or, "get a chance to improve on the next go," then we find that the entire purpose of all life seems merely to be to keep living.

And for many, that thought is maddening.

It doesn't have to be.

I suspect -- though I don't know -- that the biggest difficulties come when someone who DOES believe in heaven or reincarnation loses that belief. I imagine that could feel like a crushing loss, and indeed could be maddening.

But the belief in a finite lifespan itself is not INHERENTLY maddening, not if that's what you've believed all along, or at least long enough to get used to the idea.

I think it's like being single. If you've always been single, or if you've been single for many years, it's not so bad, and in fact you may see some advantages. But if you just lost a partner, the loss will be agonizing and the prospect of being single will seem horrific, maybe even maddening. With time, that feeling will pass.

So in both cases, I think it's not the absence of something that is so difficult -- it's making the transition from one framework to another that's hard.

veinglory
08-08-2008, 11:37 PM
Also, if the only purpose of life, is life--why can that not be uplifting. Life has a lot going for it.

Ruv Draba
08-09-2008, 03:25 AM
What, may I humbly ask, are the reasons against there being an afterlife?

One doesn't need reasons against; there's just no credible material evidence for.

If you'd like some evidence against though, we know that:

Life recycles its own materials for new organisms, and makes entirely different organisms from those materials;
There's no credible evidence that mind persists in any coherent way after death;
The minds of the aged decay long before they die;
Nobody can find physical evidence of where an afterlife is supposed to occur;
An afterlife seems contrary to how we see matter and energy behaving in all other cases;
Humans don't agree on what an afterlife is supposed to be like;
Humans make stuff up all the time to make themselves feel better;
We know that humans make false promises to manipulate one another's behaviour;
Most humans are not well trained in science and rationality, and many strongly resist such training;
Most humans do not handle the prospect of their ageing and death, or that of their loved ones very well. They often go a bit nuts on the topic: blaming, bargaining etc...In other words, humans have strong motive to lie to themselves and each other, a strong history of doing so, and poor accountability for such lies. Their stories are inconsistent with one another's, unsubstantiated by physical evidence, inconsistent with what we know about the world, and often internally inconsistent too.

If this were not the afterlife but some other matter offered as testimony in a rational forum like a court, you'd have to say that any witness who made such claims wasn't credible.

That's largely what skeptics say too.

Bartholomew
08-09-2008, 03:51 AM
Lots of good posts here.

I got nothin'.

Bartholomew
08-09-2008, 04:08 AM
I've realized something important on this topic--well, no. Something unimportant. Relevant, but far from important.

I'm going to get religious, here. Bear with me.

Buddha accepted a variation of the common Brahmanistic beliefs on reincarnation and karma. But when pressed on the subject, he always danced around the topic. He would give no answers regarding questions about the afterlife, about the eternity of life. He claimed such knowledge was superfluous.

I only now see how this relates to his belief in emptiness. Life persists, and exists in a thousand places everywhere. But I, personally, will only experience it once. "This precious human existence."

In a universe where we have one go at things, how fortunate we are to enjoy these comforts, and not to have, instead, been born insects.

In a universe where we have more than one go at things, how fortunate we are all the same.

It doesn't matter one iota.

Amazing.

I need to go think.

Ken
08-09-2008, 05:45 AM
everyone believes in an afterlife of one sort or another because if death was indeed the end, life would be utterly futile, just on that score alone. Man may manage to deal with the loss of a loved one, but not with the loss of meaning and purpose. So let's put this topic to rest once and for all, before a dramatic dip of membership occurs -- within the human race.

veinglory
08-09-2008, 05:48 AM
everyone believes in an afterlife of one sort or another

Short reply: no

Long reply: I suggest reading the thread, broadening your horzons, and realising which forum you are in.

Ken
08-09-2008, 05:51 AM
:gone:

Eeek
08-09-2008, 06:11 AM
everyone believes in an afterlife of one sort or another

I don't.


because if death was indeed the end, life would be utterly futile, just on that score alone.

Why? And even if it were true, why does life have to be about anything other than itself?


Man may manage to deal with the loss of a loved one, but not with the loss of meaning and purpose. So let's put this topic to rest once and for all, before a dramatic dip of membership occurs -- within the human race.

Surely I can't be the only person in the world who doesn't believe in an afterlife of any kind? (Rhetorical question, actually. I know lots of people who don't.)

Also, why does meaning and purpose have to hinge on eternal life? Do you refrain from putting flowers in a vase because you know they won't be alive next week? If anything, their beauty is more intense because it is so fleeting.

Editing to add -- Again, I jumped into answering before reading subsequent posts.

I actually find these questions interesting, though.

veinglory
08-09-2008, 06:20 AM
I'm dealing with my loss of meaning and purpose quite well, perhaps because I'm a woman ;)

Ken
08-09-2008, 06:23 AM
me: "everyone believes in an afterlife of one sort or another "

I wasn't implying that everyone believes in an afterlife in the religious sense of the term, which is why I tacked on the italisized clause. So please don't take my statement as in anyway undermining atheism. I respect this school of thought and value the opinions, here expressed.

Eeek
08-09-2008, 06:28 AM
me: "everyone believes in an afterlife of one sort or another "

I saw and understood your italics, and I'll repeat what I wrote: I don't. Here it is, with my own italics: I don't believe in an afterlife of any sort at all.

I'm actually baffled by what you wrote. I fully understand that you believe in an afterlife, and that you are glad you have that belief. But why do you think that everyone must be like you in that respect???

Bartholomew
08-09-2008, 06:29 AM
Perhaps Anis meant that even utter oblivion is a sort of afterlife.

Eeek
08-09-2008, 06:34 AM
Actually, on second thought, I guess I do believe in an afterlife in 2 senses:

1) My atoms will continue on, and they will enter the soil and some may eventually become part of the food chain.

2) My influence will survive, for a few more years after my death, in the memories of those who knew me and remember me. And maybe I'll do something during my lifetime (write a book that becomes a classic or become rich and donate a wing to a hospital that will be named after myself -- hey, anything can happen ;)) that will keep my name alive for a few more generations. (Though in a thousand years, everyone now alive, no matter how famous they are now, will be forgotten.)

I won't be around to be aware of either of these, though.

Eeek
08-09-2008, 06:45 AM
OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley, first published 1818

Bartholomew
08-09-2008, 06:47 AM
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley, first published 1818

Love that poem.

Ken
08-09-2008, 06:48 AM
many believe that having children is a way of perpetuating existence beyond the grave, by passing on ones genetic makeup. So in this sense, they do believe in an afterlife as I'm defining it, here, even if they aren't at all religious. Another way of triumphing over death w/o recourse to religion is obtaining fame. This is what I meant by "everyone believing in an afterlife of sorts." "Perpetuitity" might be a better term. ps And just for the record I am not at all religious, though I do believe in a God ... of sorts ;-)

Bartholomew
08-09-2008, 06:49 AM
(Though in a thousand years, everyone now alive, no matter how famous they are now, will be forgotten.)


It's been a thousand years, and we still remember Alexander the Great, Hammurabi of Babylon, Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, and many, many others.

So some of us might well be remembered 1000 years from now.

Eeek
08-09-2008, 06:53 AM
Ok. But in all likelihood, not you or me. ;)

Also, I suspect that the legends around the people you mentioned have become so distorted in a 1,000-year game of telephone, that what we think we know about them may bear little or no resemblance to who they actually were. Some of them may not even have existed at all.

Eeek
08-09-2008, 06:55 AM
Anis, I don't have kids and never will (too old), and I'm not famous. Nothing about me will last in perpetuity. I really don't believe in an afterlife of any sort. And yet, here I am, mustering on.

So when you say that nobody like me can exist, I have to pinch myself, just to be sure that I am, indeed, here. ;)

Ken
08-09-2008, 07:01 AM
I believe your avatar drives home my point about the need for belief in an afterlife of some sort, Eeek.

<--- and mine well may too ;-)

Eeek
08-09-2008, 07:03 AM
You're not listening. Ok, I give up.

veinglory
08-09-2008, 07:08 AM
me: "everyone believes in an afterlife of one sort or another "

Again: no. And if you cannot respect people stating a fairly common componant of atheist belief please don't participate in this area.

Ken
08-09-2008, 07:15 AM
So please don't take my statement as in anyway undermining atheism. I respect this school of thought and value the opinions, here expressed.

.

veinglory
08-09-2008, 07:17 AM
Respect is what you do not what you write. For example: it is believing that posters know more about their own beliefs that you do (or at least pretending you do). So make that a simple: don't post in this subforum, thanks.

ErylRavenwell
08-09-2008, 07:27 AM
We've died so many times already. Do you remember your life as a one-year old or a foetus? Are you the same person as the ten-year-old you used to be? Death, I think, is permanent and happens all the times. Maybe after death, memories of your past lives are retained in one form or another. After all even a photon remembers a past collision with another. Who the hell am I to say there's no afterlife?

kuwisdelu
08-09-2008, 08:33 AM
everyone believes in an afterlife of one sort or another because if death was indeed the end, life would be utterly futile, just on that score alone. Man may manage to deal with the loss of a loved one, but not with the loss of meaning and purpose. So let's put this topic to rest once and for all, before a dramatic dip of membership occurs -- within the human race.

Uhh, no. Some of us don't believe in an afterlife. When you're gone, you're gone. You're nothing. Consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that disappears when your brain dies. And yes, it's possible to believe that without life being "utterly futile". Why would death being the end make life futile?

Me? I don't "believe" in either. What comes after death? I'll find out when I get there, if there is anything. Or I'll not find out, because my consciousness won't exist, if I don't.

Edit: Read your other posts. Okay, I suppose children, memory, etc., can count as a sort of "afterlife"... but that's not what I would call it. You can call it a kind of immortality, I guess. But even then, what about people who aren't remembered?

And what Eeek said. My atoms will persist. Is that an afterlife? I guess it could be. But it'll be of my particles, my matter, my energy. Not my consciousness. Not my "soul". At least I have no evidence for that, anyway. If I am ever presented with substantial, undeniable evidence, I'll change my mind.

Tocotin
08-09-2008, 11:28 AM
I would like to believe in reincarnation, but I find it hard somehow. What happens when I reach the full circle? What happens when humanity ceases to exist, which is very possible... would I be hanging somewhere in the void, remembering all the stupid things I did in my last life, or worse, all my lives (as these are easier to remember than the good things anyway)? I'd better die for good.

Although I'm not sure if I'm a pure atheist. I sometimes think that God/gods exist, I just want them to leave me alone... my beliefs are a complete mess. :D

Eeek
08-09-2008, 01:18 PM
I believe your avatar drives home my point about the need for belief in an afterlife of some sort, Eeek.

I don't know if there's anything more boring than explaining one's avatar, but in case anyone is interested, it is supposed to be a visual pun -- a combination of Munch's "Scream" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream) and the expression "Eeek, a mouse!"

But I suppose Anis is right. If everyone believed they were going to heaven, they would renounce such sinful pursuits as punning. And surely the world (and the afterworld!) would be a better place were it cleansed of puns (the Devil's own choice of humor!)

(Maybe I better point out that the last paragraph was tongue in cheek, lest anyone interprets it as a sign of my need for salvation.)

Seriously, I feel a bit ripped off, because I tried to give honest thoughtful answers to what I initially thought were interesting questions, but that wasn't reciprocated. Also, it really is disconcerting to be told to my (virtual) face that people like me don't, and can't, exist.

I think I need to learn to step back and not engage in conversations that I know (or at least should know) aren't going to go anywhere.

AMCrenshaw
08-09-2008, 11:42 PM
See. All this, for me, can't be answered because I'm not convinced there is something that is distinctly me. So what of me could possibly carry on to an afterlife, even if one existed.

The ego-self is a fiction, a narrative-- some thing we tell ourselves and others. The ego-self is only relational; it cannot exist on its own; it only exists, in detail, in contrast, to what other ego-selves are and are not. Now, when we consider what "creates" (for a lack of a better word) this ego-self, it becomes very difficult-- I repeat-- to distinguish what is me from what has "created" me. People will say that we (or me-ness) is "clearly individuated" by time, space, history, etc. but the important thing to note is that nothing can actually be individuated. That me-ness is implicated in nearly everything. Only through an EGO, a very particular, very delusioned, ego-selfish perspective can I believe I am an individual. What this leads me to think, of course, is that the self as we most often recognize it, does not exist, is an illusion, which makes the afterlife (for that ego-self, at least) preposterous.

However, because the ego-self is, by its own illusory nature, implicated in time, it has a "viewpoint". Anything before this "viewpoint" is the past, and anything after this "viewpoint" is the future. This illusion of the self is what, to my mind, allows for the hope of the afterlife (I.e., the ego-self hopes for, or speculates about an extension beyond what the ego-self has been given: the viewpoint). But this ego-self is an illusion and its hopes are born of delusion. Once that ego-self is shattered, the speculation of the afterlife is unimportant next to the current, present moment, in which All of Time (not to be confused with eternity) exists. And see, here, where All of Time exists, All of Place exists too. So the afterlife, as one might call it, is right here, now-- or it doesn't exist at all. The question should not be: is there an afterlife? But: is there another dimension toward which "my" self moves.

I will answer this in one manner: Nothing here leaves here.

AMC

AMCrenshaw
08-10-2008, 12:24 AM
Eeek, don't worry. But let me say that people may or may not believe in an afterlife, but if they believe that they in particular exist as an individual, there is the ontological assumption that there is life after them, just as there was life before.

Which looks like:

Before "YOU": The universe(or existence, god, etc) - you
During "YOU": The universe(or existence, god, etc) + you
AFTER "YOU": The universe(or existence, god, etc) - you

Make sense?

But, if there's no "you", there's no belief.

Which looks like:

No "YOU": The universe (or existence, god, etc)

Kuwisdelu: "Not my consciousness. Not my "soul". At least I have no evidence for that, anyway. If I am ever presented with substantial, undeniable evidence, I'll change my mind."

I have two forms of argument. First, What exactly/distinctly is your consciousness?

Second, Yes you do have evidence. The fact that what you consider "you" affects what you consider "other" in a way that is not reversible (only re-changeable) is evidence already that "you" exist, in some way, after "your" existence. For example, when I plant a seed in a garden right before I die and then I die and the flower grows, my hands are undeniably still on those seeds, and the pedals of the flower, for it would never have grown there in that exact and very particular way had I not planted them when I did. But my hands are not there in a purely physical way-- which is what you might want for evidence. And if that is the case, then your consciousness shouldn't even be of your concern, being non-physical itself...

AMC

kuwisdelu
08-10-2008, 10:18 AM
I have two forms of argument. First, What exactly/distinctly is your consciousness?

Well that's the thing. No one really knows. To the best of our knowledge it's an emergent phenomenon from the electrochemical impulses in our brain. In the answer to your question, there are many other mysteries. For one, what truly is freewill? When we think, isn't it nothing but electrochemical response to stimuli, reactions between our firing neurons? Are our decisions truly ours, or are they as much a "choice" as the heliotropic sunflower's "choice" to face the sun? How do we really know our "decisions" are any more but a series of electrochemical reactions to stimuli as it is perceived by our brain? Is our consciousness of any more consequence than a tree's photosynthesis?


Second, Yes you do have evidence. The fact that what you consider "you" affects what you consider "other" in a way that is not reversible (only re-changeable) is evidence already that "you" exist, in some way, after "your" existence. For example, when I plant a seed in a garden right before I die and then I die and the flower grows, my hands are undeniably still on those seeds, and the pedals of the flower, for it would never have grown there in that exact and very particular way had I not planted them when I did. But my hands are not there in a purely physical way-- which is what you might want for evidence. And if that is the case, then your consciousness shouldn't even be of your concern, being non-physical itself...

Nope. Well, I don't consider it evidence, anyway. It would be comparable to seeing a cloud that looks like someone's face and reasoning that some magical sky serpent must have shaped that cloud to look like a face. I see a plant growing, and how am I to extrapolate that you planted when a bird or the wind or an animal might have brought it there? I might as well extrapolate that God Himself willed it from the ground, or that Hamlet planted it.

Anyway, this is all getting much more in "Proof of God" territory than "proof of afterlife".

What is there to suggest "consciousness" is any more than an emergent phenomenon of the electrical signals between our synapses that continues on any more than the afterlife of the collective consciousness of a society of termites? Their mounds are pretty complex, anyway.

Eeek
08-10-2008, 12:51 PM
There was an interesting article in the July 28, 2008 New Yorker about scientists looking at what happens inside the brain when people have sudden insights. That's not the same thing as looking at what causes consciousness, but I think it's getting close.

The article, unfortunately, is not online -- only an abstract (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/28/080728fa_fact_lehrer) -- but if you have or can dredge up a copy, it's worth reading. Among the things they found out -- why people often get their best ideas in the shower or when they first wake up, why it helps to let your mind wander, and why you get that sudden feeling of certainty when the correct solution to a problem pops into your head.

I think this is a piece of a bigger puzzle which, as time goes on, scientists will continue to fill in. So my belief is that science will eventually be able to precisely describe consciousness in terms of brain function. Probably not within my lifetime, but at some point.


For one, what truly is freewill? When we think, isn't it nothing but electrochemical response to stimuli, reactions between our firing neurons? Are our decisions truly ours, or are they as much a "choice" as the heliotropic sunflower's "choice" to face the sun? How do we really know our "decisions" are any more but a series of electrochemical reactions to stimuli as it is perceived by our brain? Is our consciousness of any more consequence than a tree's photosynthesis?

I think it is. Lots of involuntary stuff (hair growing, heart pumping, cells doing their cell thang) goes on that we have no more control over than the flower turning towards the sun. But you can decide to hold your breath for several seconds, which a plant can't do. And I think that is a real decision, not an illusion of a decision. The same, I believe, is true for the more complex things that we do. We have the power to override, not everything, but some things. One part of the brain can, at times, override another. One part of your mind can, at times, observe another. You can, at times, deliberately overcome past conditioning. I see it as a simple hierarchy of functions, with the functions on top being genuinely under our control.

There are boundaries to what we can do, so in that sense we don't have total free will. We can't, by an exercise of will, flap our arms and fly. But within the limits of what our bodies and minds are set up to do, I think there are an infinite number of genuine choices that an individual can make.

Unique
08-10-2008, 04:31 PM
Anis, I don't have kids and never will (too old), and I'm not famous. Nothing about me will last in perpetuity. I really don't believe in an afterlife of any sort. And yet, here I am, mustering on.

So when you say that nobody like me can exist, I have to pinch myself, just to be sure that I am, indeed, here. ;)

Consider the diamond.

It's carbon. Just carbon. Formed under pressure and heat, yes, but it started out as a rock.

Before it was a rock, it may have been a giant fern. Or a tree. Or a fish. In situ? No. Of course not. But the carbon came from somewhere. From something alive.

Humans didn't used to be buried in boxes, sealed in concrete boxes and planted in a cemetary. They were returned to the earth.

So what I'm saying is - back in the day - you may not have been "reincarnated" as a fox or a fern. But part of you may have become part of a fox or a fern because you were returned to the earth. As you decomposed within it, you returned to the Circle of Life.

I don't have all the answers but I do a lot of thinking. Not everyone believes the same thing - and that's okay. Sharing is good. Inflicting, not so much.

YMMV. :)

AMCrenshaw
08-10-2008, 06:57 PM
Well that's the thing. No one really knows. To the best of our knowledge it's an emergent phenomenon from the electrochemical impulses in our brain. In the answer to your question, there are many other mysteries. For one, what truly is freewill? When we think, isn't it nothing but electrochemical response to stimuli, reactions between our firing neurons? Are our decisions truly ours, or are they as much a "choice" as the heliotropic sunflower's "choice" to face the sun? How do we really know our "decisions" are any more but a series of electrochemical reactions to stimuli as it is perceived by our brain? Is our consciousness of any more consequence than a tree's photosynthesis?

But my argument is based on the very fact that it is an emergent phenomenon-- that different factors have come together to allow a consciousness to be. Nothing makes it more of a consequence than photosynthesis. However, you can see evidence of what is, to us, distinctly the product of flowers and trees and other plants. Without them, really, we probably wouldn't exist. What I am trying to say is perhaps too much of an aesthetic question for you to take as evidence: but I would say that photosynthesis is in part our consciousness. I hope you follow, even if you don't agree.

The implications of an emergent phenomena are quite interesting. And I think it's worth contemplating,



Nope. Well, I don't consider it evidence, anyway. It would be comparable to seeing a cloud that looks like someone's face and reasoning that some magical sky serpent must have shaped that cloud to look like a face. I see a plant growing, and how am I to extrapolate that you planted when a bird or the wind or an animal might have brought it there? I might as well extrapolate that God Himself willed it from the ground, or that Hamlet planted it.

Daht is pure cynicism! ;)

Let me give a better example. [As a side comment, if you are devoted to the idea of perfectly tensed time, this will not convince you of anything...]

Graham Swift once called humans "the storytelling animal." And then compared us to a specific kind of electric eel that exists out there in the Fens of East Anglia. The eel travels back and forth shedding its skin/scales. Swift would say that our stories work the same way as those scales. Derrida would call these traces of the past. And if you don't believe that traces of the past exist in the "present" moment then you obviously cannot read........anything. But more importantly, anything that is considered past is present now because it is accessed now-- in memory, in history, in observation. So when I read a story by, I dunno, Daniel Corkery, I am inevitably doing something spectacular: I am, in the present moment, accessing the ol' Irish past. Those words, if you believe it, sprang from his consciousness, into his pen and onto a page (that last part is extrapolation :)). And I am accessing the product of a particular philosophic and literary climate that "no longer exists", and yet in that story that precise climate is revealed. In a lot of ways, I think it's obvious that traces of his consciousness (if, of course, it is an emergent phenomena) have survived past Corkery's bodily death.


Eeek: "On some level, everything is connected. But consciousness and awareness exist, I believe, inside individuals, so when we die, those are gone. And I think those do define who we are, so that without them, we no longer exist in any meaningful way."

I will contend that the individual is an illusion of the ego-self. See my earlier post if you are interested.

Most Buddhists refer to death as change and I find that the most accurate. But they don't think about consciousness the same way most of us do.

So.

If you think of yourself as an individual, then you will admit to having perfectly original thoughts not derived from anything but yourself. And so thoughts would be yours. But don't let me, or anyone, mix independent with individual.

"If I went to Chicago last Friday and came back home on Sunday, things I did while I was there will continue to have an influence. But I'm not in Chicago now! If you wanted to have lunch with me in Chicago, and you looked for me, you wouldn't find me, and you would have to cancel your lunch reservations."

I wouldn't find "you", whom society/biology/psychology has allowed/forced me to categorize in certain ways. Your body wouldn't be in Chicago. Which is, I agree, the way we most often think of people. As their bodies.

But is "our" body the only way we exist? [I'm not trying to move into supernatural terms here, either. I think my position is explicit from the earlier comments I've made. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2637353&postcount=72]

AMC

AMCrenshaw
08-10-2008, 08:52 PM
"What I decided was that I preferred to remain on the level of "mundane" reality."

This is, of course, why we won't agree on certain things. :)

No I think for the sake of everyday practicality, all the things you say are correct in that, as someone once said it, I have to be able to identify which fingernails are mine if I bite them. But I advise anyone interested in spirituality to be careful about what they call their own. That's all I'll say for now. Thanks for the discussion!

AMC

Eeek
08-10-2008, 09:08 PM
"What I decided was that I preferred to remain on the level of "mundane" reality."

This is, of course, why we won't agree on certain things. :)

No I think for the sake of everyday practicality, all the things you say are correct in that, as someone once said it, I have to be able to identify which fingernails are mine if I bite them. But I advise anyone interested in spirituality to be careful about what they call their own. That's all I'll say for now. Thanks for the discussion!

AMC

Yeah, it was interesting. Thanks.

Bartholomew
08-12-2008, 07:57 AM
Amazing discussion you two had. Very enjoyable. Seven out of five stars.

By the way, I hate thinking that hard; one of you owes me a new set of brain cogs.



Most Buddhists refer to death as change and I find that the most accurate. But they don't think about consciousness the same way most of us do.


Yep. Change from what into this and then into what? Let the ego go; let the idea of "I" go, and the answer seems amazingly clear. Though after several days of trying to do so, I still cannot find a way to put this into words.

kuwisdelu
08-12-2008, 09:50 PM
Let the ego go; let the idea of "I" go, and the answer seems amazingly clear. Though after several days of trying to do so, I still cannot find a way to put this into words.

This sounds about like what was I was trying to say earlier when I brought up freewill and brain chemistry, but I seem to have failed as well.

AMCrenshaw
08-13-2008, 04:16 PM
Freewill: Anyone, pick any number.


Now think about how many options you had...
Our biology would have you thinking of a number, saying one out loud, or ignoring it to get to the point. There are other options. But they're included in our chemistry. Our development as humans has us communicating in a language. So there are matters of sociology and civilization at hand. I'm sure you can be imaginative enough to see other limits, too. But ultimately, my choices for numbers reached into infinity.

* * *


"Buddhists believe that there is a level of "mundane" reality where we do operate on an assumption that people and things have a separate existence. It's only, they believe, in some sort of higher state that we can pierce that veil of illusion."

You're close. It would be more accurate to say that "mundane" reality is all the reality that exists. However, the reality you mean, I think, is actually "illusion" itself. The distinction between This and That is an illusion, even a practical one. But, there is no higher state because all simply is. (That's Zen Buddhism, by the way, which had been heavily influenced by Taoism.) So when a Buddhist realizes (not finds--it's been there all along) his or her Buddha-nature, it's due to following a very specific path-- the one to Enlightenment, or perhaps Satori. But the Buddhists believe anyone is capable of this and it's not inherently and definitely not ultimately Good or Bad to seek enlightenment.

Bart: Well. What Buddhists would say is that the Ego never really existed (as an essence of its own being) in the first place, so it's not a matter of letting it go. It's more a matter of realizing its state of infinitely interconnected-ness. "Change from what into this and then into what?" This question, the Buddhists might say, derives from a sense that Something is actually Some-thing-ness when it is really Such-ness, or No-thing-ness. Sorry, I have trouble describing it...... So:

This first article is about dependent origination. "All things give rise at once".

http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/1999a/christina.htm

The second is Indra's Net in a nutshell. A poetic/metaphorical view of sort of the same thing. But it reflects (pun!) the way I think about the ego...

http://www.heartspace.org/misc/IndraNet.html

Also, this non-dualism is essentially indescribable. I will try to put it quickly when I say that language is dependent on categorizing things by what they are not. For example, I see two pieces of fruit. Ah hah, but one is orange and citric and the other red and delicious. So one must be an orange and the other an apple. But...they're both fruit.

Non-dualism sees both very clearly and, in the instance of consciousness, it is impossible to communicate directly what consciousness is because the similarities are infinite and the difference is infinitesimal. The other way to look at this, which is, I think, a bit more difficult to convey and perhaps not as ethical unless taken up with a "purity of heart" so to speak, is to say that when the barrier between Self and Other is shattered, the result is clearly Wholeness, clearly an All in One, a One in All. And this is necessarily indescribable because All is, by definition, "without Other".

AMC

Bartholomew
08-14-2008, 03:39 AM
Bart: Well. What Buddhists would say is that the Ego never really existed (as an essence of its own being) in the first place, so it's not a matter of letting it go. It's more a matter of realizing its state of infinitely interconnected-ness. "Change from what into this and then into what?" This question, the Buddhists might say, derives from a sense that Something is actually Some-thing-ness when it is really Such-ness, or No-thing-ness. Sorry, I have trouble describing it...... So:


Well of course it never really existed; but we still form an insane attachment to it. This is why, when teaching newcomers about the concept of emptiness, we start them with concepts like "The computer is empty. The CD is empty." They both have the potential for a function, but that potential requires several things to bring into existence. Electricity. Functioning equipment. Working eyes and ears. They, like us, are Dependant on many thing for existence.

Change from what, into this, and then into what? In what form exists that dormant information trapped within a CD? If cast into the sea, it will never play music. If scratched deeply, it will never play music. Run a magnet over it and again it is ruined. But even in this dormant state, it exists, full and real. Well, as real as anything else.

So if the analogy is a good one--and I'm rather fond of it--what are we before the CD is popped into the player? The sperm is the electricity, the egg is the player--and DNA is the dormant information, perhaps?

Death Wizard
08-14-2008, 06:15 AM
At the heart of true emptiness -- where all distractions are discarded and all illusions revealed -- is a profound bliss and beauty that contains the answers to the mysteries of existence.

Bartholomew
08-14-2008, 09:31 AM
Did Buddhists take over the thread? << >>

Heck yeah!

AMCrenshaw
08-14-2008, 08:10 PM
:) I'm not a Buddhist, just a student.

Death Wizard
08-15-2008, 05:11 AM
Did Buddhists take over the thread? << >>

Heck yeah!

Ha!

Just Jack
08-15-2008, 05:16 AM
I'm curious as to what the Atheists of the board see in store for themselves after death. Reincarnation? Void? Transmigration? Heaven? Hell?

Furthermore, what do you believe you were before birth? Is this the same place or state you believe in after death?

I believe that I was nothing before birth, and that when I die, I will again be nothing.

But despite its dark tone, I don't mind at all. I didn't exist for 3 billion years, and I didn't seem to mind...

;)

aruna
08-25-2008, 10:23 AM
I believe in rebirth, not reincarnation. In other words, my karmic force will continue on in another life vessel. But I'll be picking up where I left off, not starting at the beginning again.

It's a subtle but crucial difference.


Deathwizard, I have never heard of anyone claiming that we start form the beginning again. Certainly, this is not the claim of people who use the word reincarnation as opposed to rebirth. It is always a continuation.


Consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that disappears when your brain dies.

I don't see consciousness as being dependent on a brain.

Interesting thread.


The ego-self is only relational; it cannot exist on its own; it only exists, in detail, in contrast, to what other ego-selves are and are not. Now, when we consider what "creates" (for a lack of a better word) this ego-self, it becomes very difficult-- I repeat-- to distinguish what is me from what has "created" me.

Exactly. The ego has no real existence; it;'s really nothing but a bundle of thoughts and will certainly come to an end at death, just as the body will.

I think the problem is that we are so identified with the body and the ego that we cannot conceive of anything beyond those two. Logic tells us that when both die, it's the end; and it certainly is, for those two entities.

I personally believe that there is more to my life than body and ego.

Bartholomew
08-27-2008, 10:12 AM
Exactly. The ego has no real existence; it;'s really nothing but a bundle of thoughts and will certainly come to an end at death, just as the body will.

I think the problem is that we are so identified with the body and the ego that we cannot conceive of anything beyond those two. Logic tells us that when both die, it's the end; and it certainly is, for those two entities.

I personally believe that there is more to my life than body and ego.

Perhaps there is a deep reason that cells divide. Perhaps there is some intrinsic something that we cannot touch or detect in any way. But if I consider this a possibility for the mere sake of my own continuity, I must also consider all sorts of other undetectable things to be possible.

I have had very vivid dreams of the past, with historical details that I only discovered to be historical much, much later. I have dreams of the future that often come to fruition. (Would that I dreamed of lotto numbers. Alas.) So I am open, and hopeful, for proof of the mystic. But I remain always skeptical. Especially since my life is far more important than my death. No discovery on the subject of afterlife will ever help my actual life.

malberque@comcast.ne
08-27-2008, 10:26 AM
Life goes on. And on. And on.
It's all energy. We, and all things, are made up of the same stuff.
Heaven and hell are states of mind.
If I weigh 165lbs the moment before I die of old age, I will 165lbs the moment after.

".....The ending is just the begining."
~Ronnie James Dio

Death Wizard
09-25-2008, 06:20 AM
Deathwizard, I have never heard of anyone claiming that we start form the beginning again. Certainly, this is not the claim of people who use the word reincarnation as opposed to rebirth. It is always a continuation.

Reincarnation assumes that Aruna is reborn as Aruna.

Rebirth assumes that Aruna's ever-changing karma continues to ever-change in a new life vessel.

Nevertheless, it's legitimate to argue that people use the terms interchangeably.

aruna
09-29-2008, 02:03 PM
Reincarnation assumes that Aruna is reborn as Aruna.

Rebirth assumes that Aruna's ever-changing karma continues to ever-change in a new life vessel.

Nevertheless, it's legitimate to argue that people use the terms interchangeably.

Deathwizard, the word reincarnation as used in the Indian/Vedantic tradition NEVER supposes that Aruna is reborn as Aruna. The word is used exactly as you use the term rebirth; I've been in that tradition for at least 30 years and never heard of it used the way you do.

What it means that by the decisions I make today, I am creating a new life for myself, reaping the results of all I have done in this life. I will have a different body, a different personality; I could be a man, I could be born in Africa, or Germany, or America, and it is all a meticulously relevant consequence of the way I have lived thispresent Aruna-life. But I am no more Aruna; though there is an indestructible part of me. my essence, that moves in, it is not the Aruna part.

Definitions are a tricky thing; obviously we mean the same thing but use different words for it.

aruna
09-29-2008, 02:38 PM
OK, I've done a bit of research on the two words, and it seems the difference comes from their use in Buddhist as against Hindu traditions. In Buddhism there is a diffence; for instance, the Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of who he was before; as you say, Aruna returning as Aruna.

This concept does not exist at all in Hinduism; for instance, Krishna is not considered the reincarnation of Rama, but an original divine incartantion. The word reincarnation or rebirth can be used interchangeably; we are here, they say, to work out our prarabdha karma, or the results of past actions presented to is in this life. It is a constant growth; the body dies but the unconscious mind with all its subtle impressions moves on. When we return those subtle mental impressions are right there, giving us a new personality; we have forgotten the past life and face only the consequences, with a new chance for putting things right, and for growth.

AMCrenshaw
09-30-2008, 06:25 PM
Of course in Hinduism, action is bondage. Only Brahman exists, really. The rest is delusion, dreaming. Nonaction is liberation...so karma has very little to do with anything but our bondage. Annnyway.

_ _ _

The way I'd think about rebirth is thinking about yourself as younger: is that younger person still you, or just a trace? Think about yourself this morning. Waking up to read the newspaper or to eat breakfast. Or whatever. Where is that person now? For all intents and purposes, that person is dead. And another person has been born.

My problem with rebirth as Death Wizard (and others before him) have expressed it is that it could be misinterpreted as individual, when the individual in Buddhism is not an individual in the Western tradition. Stated matter-of-factly, we can't really say what the individual is: "Nothing is the self", says the Buddha. Dependent origination would tell us that when we are conscious and in the flesh, we have the unique experience of being able to isolate and "make sense" of what is not isolated, and what presumably makes no sense. The two exist, however, simultaneously-- that is, both the isolation and the connectedness. What this means is that as a person, "karma", is something born into. But if we stop and allow this to remain individual only, the person could really become a Buddhist or some other kind of monk or nun and then seclude him or herself for the rest of time and probably accrue "good karma". I'm more in line with the stance that "karma" exists as a fundamental component of "dharma", or "the law". So that when we are born in the flesh into the world where there is bad karma, if I can call it individual I can also call it universal. That is, everything arises at once: the individual cannot actually be isolated so karma cannot actually be individual. Some would argue that this mode of thinking relieves one of their accountability, but I have two arguments against this. First, if a person realizes this truth (through human empathy with non-human things), they will see clearly the universe. Their actions will come forth from a truthful mind, or from Right Mind and Right View, etc. The second argument is that if we attribute all or most of the accountability to the individual, we lose sight of all or most of the whole (or worse, we might understand that our attempts at finding real purpose or making a good impact are futile). If that is the case, we lose the middle way; that is, we are either still isolating this from that and not seeing the way things really are or we are surrendering to all-is-one, why does it matter what I do. Accountability must be both, of course. Karma must be both. If a Buddha works to "pay off" his karmic debt without leading others to do the same, that Buddha is, in my opinion, a hack.

AMC

Ruv Draba
10-01-2008, 02:24 PM
I personally believe that there is more to my life than body and ego.That being so, why do you call it 'yours'? :D

aruna
10-01-2008, 02:27 PM
That being so, why do you call it 'yours'? :D

Unfortunately I cannot deny that I still have an ego. From which vantage point I speak!

AMCrenshaw
10-01-2008, 06:13 PM
Oh let's not be too silly. Even Buddhists who see through the illusions that "I" creates realize that "I" can be and is a useful tool in daily life. Just as "you" is.

I think that's more of the question (aside from Ruv's mischief): how much does a person value "you" in relationship to "I" ? What makes the ego so powerful is that it allows an unbalanced amount of attention to be focused on itself (which is somehow always isolated and small, yet omnipotent in thought (like Hey, I can survive Death!) and the center of the universe all the same), and yet it never really knows itself. It can't really. It's the same problem we have in certain types of physics [a fun article http://www.levity.com/alchemy/quantum.html]. Our tools are not advanced enough to make total sense of the object (which is a subject...) due to its sophistication. The ego seems to make itself unnavigable.

Most of the labyrinth it creates is smoke and mirrors.

AMC

aruna
10-01-2008, 11:26 PM
Who are you addressing in this post?

Ruv Draba
10-02-2008, 03:02 AM
Oh let's not be too silly. Even Buddhists who see through the illusions that "I" creates realize that "I" can be and is a useful tool in daily life. Just as "you" is.

I think that's more of the question (aside from Ruv's mischief)I wasn't being entirely mischievous. There are certainly elements associated with us that continue past our lives. The atoms of our body find other uses for themselves for example. The impacts of our actions and behaviours have effects on others long after we've forgotten them. We don't normally call those things 'ours' though.

So if you want to believe in an animating force that gets recycled, what makes you think that it has anything to do with your identity? Especially when your 'ego' is illusory, and your memories don't transmit to other creatures (except through speech etc...) What then holds your 'fingerprint' of identity, why do you believe that there's such a fingerprint, and why should you care?

Aruna said that the 'mine' claim is an artifact of ego - good answer. But is it a legitimate claim, or an illegitimate one?

Bartholomew
10-02-2008, 03:30 AM
Especially when your 'ego' is illusory, and your memories don't transmit to other creatures (except through speech etc...) What then holds your 'fingerprint' of identity, why do you believe that there's such a fingerprint, and why should you care?

Aruna said that the 'mine' claim is an artifact of ego - fine. But is it a legitimate claim, or an illegitimate one?

Our nature is to like having things, generally speaking. So naturally, we're hopeful that we'll have the ultimate thing--eternal life, however far removed from our bodies that may be. Hopeful in spite of a bad prognosis.

Ruv Draba
10-02-2008, 04:08 AM
Our nature is to like having things, generally speaking. So naturally, we're hopeful that we'll have the ultimate thing--eternal life, however far removed from our bodies that may be. Hopeful in spite of a bad prognosis.I think so too. It's odd that Buddhism, which seeks to avoid the entanglements of the ego, chose to resolve the biggest entanglement of all by using mythical speculation: mollifying our fear of death with a vague promise of reincarnation.

Perhaps a less egotistical account is this: Life will continue without you - making use of some bits that for a time you called your bits, and perhaps building for a time upon things that you have done -- or perhaps not. But none of those things shall be called you or yours any more, nor are they really you nor yours now -- the invisible and unimportant creature that is your ego has just borrowed them to clothe itself.

Death Wizard
10-02-2008, 07:15 AM
Of course in Hinduism, action is bondage. Only Brahman exists, really. The rest is delusion, dreaming. Nonaction is liberation...so karma has very little to do with anything but our bondage. Annnyway.

This is Hindu but not of the Theravada tradition, the original teachings, in which Kamma (correct spelling) is very much a real and tangible force -- in fact the driving force of all living beings. Kamma attaches itself to thoughts and actions like flakes of ice attach to an avalanche.




The way I'd think about rebirth is thinking about yourself as younger: is that younger person still you, or just a trace? Think about yourself this morning. Waking up to read the newspaper or to eat breakfast. Or whatever. Where is that person now? For all intents and purposes, that person is dead. And another person has been born.

I like this.





My problem with rebirth as Death Wizard (and others before him) have expressed it is that it could be misinterpreted as individual, when the individual in Buddhism is not an individual in the Western tradition. Stated matter-of-factly, we can't really say what the individual is: "Nothing is the self", says the Buddha. Dependent origination would tell us that when we are conscious and in the flesh, we have the unique experience of being able to isolate and "make sense" of what is not isolated, and what presumably makes no sense. The two exist, however, simultaneously-- that is, both the isolation and the connectedness. What this means is that as a person, "karma", is something born into. But if we stop and allow this to remain individual only, the person could really become a Buddhist or some other kind of monk or nun and then seclude him or herself for the rest of time and probably accrue "good karma". I'm more in line with the stance that "karma" exists as a fundamental component of "dharma", or "the law". So that when we are born in the flesh into the world where there is bad karma, if I can call it individual I can also call it universal. That is, everything arises at once: the individual cannot actually be isolated so karma cannot actually be individual. Some would argue that this mode of thinking relieves one of their accountability, but I have two arguments against this. First, if a person realizes this truth (through human empathy with non-human things), they will see clearly the universe. Their actions will come forth from a truthful mind, or from Right Mind and Right View, etc. The second argument is that if we attribute all or most of the accountability to the individual, we lose sight of all or most of the whole (or worse, we might understand that our attempts at finding real purpose or making a good impact are futile). If that is the case, we lose the middle way; that is, we are either still isolating this from that and not seeing the way things really are or we are surrendering to all-is-one, why does it matter what I do. Accountability must be both, of course. Karma must be both. If a Buddha works to "pay off" his karmic debt without leading others to do the same, that Buddha is, in my opinion, a hack.

AMC

Do you meditate? Have you practiced Noble Silence? Have you attended lengthy retreats led by established monks? Have you experienced the blessed peace of emptiness? If so, that's wonderful. If not, you should do so in order to round out your impressive scholastic knowledge. As you know, the real teachings of Buddhism are uncovered by those who walk the path.

Death Wizard
10-02-2008, 07:25 AM
I think so too. It's odd that Buddhism, which seeks to avoid the entanglements of the ego, chose to resolve the biggest entanglement of all by using mythical speculation: mollifying our fear of death with a vague promise of reincarnation.

Perhaps a less egotistical account is this: Life will continue without you - making use of some bits that for a time you called your bits, and perhaps building for a time upon things that you have done -- or perhaps not. But none of those things shall be called you or yours any more, nor are they really you nor yours now -- the invisible and unimportant creature that is your ego has just borrowed them to clothe itself.

I know many are disagreeing with me on this, but the Buddha never promised reincarnation. He spoke only of rebirth -- and his teachings were neither vague nor prommisory. He stated the concept of rebirth as a truth, which was born of wisdom achieved via mindfulness meditation.

Ruv Draba
10-02-2008, 09:55 AM
I know many are disagreeing with me on this, but the Buddha never promised reincarnation. He spoke only of rebirth -- and his teachings were neither vague nor prommisory. He stated the concept of rebirth as a truth, which was born of wisdom achieved via mindfulness meditation.How do you distinguish 'rebirth' from 'reincarnation'? And should we consider 'wisdom achieved via mindfulness meditation' to be differentiable from 'an angel told me', or 'the stars say so' or 'I learned it in a peyote dream'? If so, how?

aruna
10-02-2008, 10:30 AM
How do you distinguish 'rebirth' from 'reincarnation'? And should we consider 'wisdom achieved via mindfulness meditation' to be differentiable from 'an angel told me', or 'the stars say so' or 'I learned it in a peyote dream'? If so, how?

I think we just had the "rebirth vs reincarnation debate"!

I don't know much about Buddhist teachings; I am from thre Advaitic Vedanta tradition, that sees the ego as an outshoot from pure consciousness which is the substartum, not only of the individual, but of everything, including matter; it begins with the simple thought "I" arising as a separate enditiy from that conscousness. Out of the first thought "I" springs every other thought, until "I" is completely enclosed in a cocoon of thought. It is like in a movie theatre, in which pictures are projected on to a screen. Pure consciousness woulf be the light thatcarries those moving pictures, the ego is the pictures we see, which would be nothing without the light behind them. Or water in a glass, which can be coloured with a variety of paints, but still remains water. Filtering out the paint would be the practice of meditation.

My own practice of "filtering out the paint" is to isolate that first thought "I", hold on to it and fllow it back to its source, which is agian that pure consciousness. Sounds hard and is hard, but it can be done and the rewards are immense.

Karma, here, is a result of tendencies engraved on the mind; they can be deepened by dwelling on them, or reduced by turning away form them, back to the original state of pure consciousness. Butr the ego is drawn back to the same old piles of shit, again and again and again, causing action and reaction again and again and again, until er wake up and stop returning to the shit.

Seen this way, God is nothing but that pure consciousness, and al religious practice has only the one aim of bringing the ego back to its source. Everything else, all the dogmas and doctrines, have that single aim and are so much chaff.

Ruv Draba
10-02-2008, 10:32 AM
I think we just had the "rebirth vs reincarnation debate"!Sorry for resurrecting it then (scuse pun). I was in this discussion early, then left it alone for a week or two.

aruna
10-02-2008, 10:34 AM
And should we consider 'wisdom achieved via mindfulness meditation' to be differentiable from 'an angel told me', or 'the stars say so' or 'I learned it in a peyote dream'? If so, how?
Through it is direct experience, as opposed to being told something by an angel or otherwise or a dream from which one has awakened.

In that state the ego-life itself is the dream.

Bartholomew
10-02-2008, 11:06 AM
I think so too. It's odd that Buddhism, which seeks to avoid the entanglements of the ego, chose to resolve the biggest entanglement of all by using mythical speculation: mollifying our fear of death with a vague promise of reincarnation.

Perhaps a less egotistical account is this: Life will continue without you - making use of some bits that for a time you called your bits, and perhaps building for a time upon things that you have done -- or perhaps not. But none of those things shall be called you or yours any more, nor are they really you nor yours now -- the invisible and unimportant creature that is your ego has just borrowed them to clothe itself.

I think the Buddha believed in reincarnation the way the Hindus did. To be fair, though, this really wasn't the focus of his teachings, and he said so on numerous occasions.

And ultimately, the afterlife, or lack thereof, is a silly thing to worry about. We're here, now. We'll be there (or perhaps not) later, and as far as we can prove, nothing will change whatever that outcome is, be it renewed life or oblivion.

Dale Emery
10-02-2008, 11:17 AM
I'm curious as to what the Atheists of the board see in store for themselves after death. Reincarnation? Void? Transmigration? Heaven? Hell?

Void comes closest, but that isn't quite right. I believe that when I die, there's no me, and therefor no void (or anything else) for me.

Dale

Death Wizard
10-02-2008, 09:41 PM
I think the Buddha believed in reincarnation the way the Hindus did. To be fair, though, this really wasn't the focus of his teachings, and he said so on numerous occasions.

And ultimately, the afterlife, or lack thereof, is a silly thing to worry about. We're here, now. We'll be there (or perhaps not) later, and as far as we can prove, nothing will change whatever that outcome is, be it renewed life or oblivion.

The Buddha didn't use the word reincarnation. That said, I'm ready to give this part of the debate up too!

Death Wizard
10-02-2008, 09:51 PM
How do you distinguish 'rebirth' from 'reincarnation'? And should we consider 'wisdom achieved via mindfulness meditation' to be differentiable from 'an angel told me', or 'the stars say so' or 'I learned it in a peyote dream'? If so, how?

Wisdom achieved via mindfulness meditation is the polar opposite of "an angel told me" or your other examples. During mindfulness meditation, you observe phenomena (everything from your breath to emotion to physical sensation) from a state of impartial yet supremely alert attention. There is nothing angelic, woo-woo, or drugged about it. Without prejudgment, you watch and you learn. You watch and you learn. You watch and you learn. Over and over. Tens of hours. Hundreds of hours. Thousands of hours. (Not me on the thousands part.)

If you've never done this before, try sitting comfortably but alertly in a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and concentrate on paying attention to your inhales and exhales as they tickle the tip of your nostrils. Attempt to think of nothing else but this sensation. Within half a second, your mind will wander. When it does, gently return your concentration to the breath and continue to do this whenever your mind wanders for, say, ten minutes. Afterward, assess how this experience makes you feel.

How you will feel is the first grain of sand on a wide, white beach of what mindfulness meditation has to offer.

Ruv Draba
10-02-2008, 11:34 PM
Wisdom achieved via mindfulness meditation is the polar opposite of "an angel told me" or your other examples. During mindfulness meditation, you observe phenomena (everything from your breath to emotion to physical sensation) from a state of impartial yet supremely alert attention. There is nothing angelic, woo-woo, or drugged about it. Without prejudgment, you watch and you learn. You watch and you learn. You watch and you learn. Over and over. Tens of hours. Hundreds of hours. Thousands of hours. (Not me on the thousands part.)
DW, I'm familiar with how meditation works and I'm an advocate of it in moderation. I'm aware that it can do several very useful things, principally among them:

Calm us, help clear our perceptions and rid us of emotional and self-interested clutter; and
Make us more aware of who we are

What I'm not at all convinced about however, is that meditation 'puts us more in touch with reality' (not quoting you, but a belief common among born-again Buddhists) past ridding us of our own emotional confusion

In fact, in my observations of people who meditate a very great deal, I perceive the reverse. They find excuses not to care about people, they cease to notice or react to meaning or detail, but rather react to just their own sensory impressions and an increasingly vegetative range of emotions.

I have a bit of support for my view. Firstly, reality is complex and not simple. We learn more by experiencing it and then reflecting on it than by reflection alone. No amount of meditating on horses can reveal how many teeth they have, but looking in their mouths will tell you instantly. Moreover, while meditating on the idea of a horse's mouth may reveal what it means to you, it is extremely unlikely to reveal anything reliable about what a real horse's mouth means to a real horse. For that, you must observe the horse: you can't meditate your way into equine dentistry and if that's true then I'm not persuaded that pronouncements about life, death and the universe are any more reliable.

Secondly, we know from experience that prolonged isolation can lead to psychoses: hermits and solitary confinement prisoners often become mad. The nature of psychoses is that they look real to the sufferer - and psychopathic delusions in particular are often transporting in nature. (Anyone can induce these, by the way, it's easier than many people think)

Lastly, if Buddhists are so enlightened through meditation then why are they so superstitious? How do you account for the prostrations, the millions of prayer-wheels, the magic words that must be repeated over and over and the sacrificial offerings? Do you really believe that these actions are the most effective that an enlightened being can make? Or do you believe that they mainly operate on the practitioners?

From this perspective, I can't differentiate a meditation-induced psychosis from any other form of spiritual rapture. That it feels real to us in our own minds is not in itself an indication of truth. Truth is independently verifiable - and by the nature of truth and knowledge, verification should grow increasingly easy over time.

I am also concerned that for the millions of people who have done extensive meditation without learning anything transcendental about the universe, the only answer is 'to do more'. This looks to me like one of the many self-serving, unfalsifiable propositions that we find in religious and magical practices all over the world: praise the practice if you get the desired effect, blame the practitioner if you don't.

I'm still waiting to be persuaded that meditation to extreme degrees is different from any other magical obsession.

aruna
10-03-2008, 01:25 AM
In fact, in my observations of people who meditate a very great deal, I perceive the reverse. They find excuses not to care about people, they cease to notice or react to meaning or detail, but rather react to just their own sensory impressions and an increasingly vegetative range of emotions.

There are several problems with your post.
First: "Meditation" is not a protected definition. It can mean all sorts of things to all sorts of people. For all I know these people you have observed were not at all meditating according to how I (or Deathwizard) understand it.

I have no idea what these people you have observed were doing, but if the results were negative then the answer is simple: they were not meditating properly. Any serious meditation practice is extremely difficult, a journey on razor's edge, and even the most advanced practitioner has to be constantly alert and aware, as it is easy to slip. A competent teacher is essential.

In almost 40 years of my own practice, of knowing hundreds of people involved in various such practices and spending months and years at a time in one of the most respected centres in all of India, I can still count the number truly qualified teachers on one hand. Most of the scores of teachers oozing out of the woodwork these days -- particularly in the West -- are just playing the guru game, on ego trips. So is it any wonder that the people they teach turn out to be a bit -- well, wacko?

And so I'd even say that very many who claim to be meditating are in fact just off their head. That is my experience, judging on behaviour I have seen and the nonsense some of them spout.

Another thing is this: meditation digs deep into the subconscious mind. It loosens tendencies we have buried there, in order to bring them to the surface so that the meditator can deal with them. There may be periods in a life of meditation where a person feels he or she is worse off than before: periods of intense darkness, the very opposite to what one hoped and expected.

And all it is, is a stage along the way. If the practice is a good one, if the teacher is of any calibre, there will be growth, and the amount of growth usually corresponding to the depth of the darkness. You, as an observer, cannot even begin to understand the meaning of this stage for that person.

For someone who is steadfast and prepared to go through everything the mind throws back, to hang in there through thick and thin, the rewards are immense, and unmistakeable even for the observer. But such people are few and far between; I doubt you have actually met such a person, or you would not speak in such disparaging tones. THEY are the ones on which you can measure the usefulness of meditation, not the nuts. (And nuts abound!)






Lastly, if Buddhists are so enlightened through meditation then why are they so superstitious? How do you account for the prostrations, the millions of prayer-wheels, the magic words that must be repeated over and over and the sacrificial offerings? Do you really believe that these actions are the most effective that an enlightened being can make? Or do you believe that they mainly operate on the practitioners?

Deathwizard will no doubt answer your question from a Buddhist point of view, I'll try to do so from a Hindu POV, for you will find the same discrepancy in Hinduism: superstition, idol worship, weird rituals, you have it.

The explanation is very simple; you are throwing everything into one basket, while in fact these are totally different practices. The peasant who worhsips an idol of stone is practicing his religion according to HIS understanding, HIS deveopment. It is necessary for him, in that it helps to focus his mind and prepare it for meditation. The mind turns outwards naturally, is naturally restless, and all these practices -- worship, ritual, mantras etc -- help to keep it from straying and turn it within.

Once a person has learned to rein in the mind and turn it inward, such externalities fall away. That's why in Hinduism you have this amazing spectrum of viable paths: on the one hand the 300+ gods and goddesses with elephant heads and thousands of arms, demons and fire-breathing monsters; on the other hand you have the most sublime, abstract and incredibly precise understanding of mental functions with subtlest of differentiation with a corresponding vocabulary for aspects of the mind we haven't even heard of in the West.






I'm still waiting to be persuaded that meditation to extreme degrees is different from any other magical obsession.

If you do not feel the need and the urgency to meditate it is obviously not for you. If you ever do feel that urgency you will need no persuading, and you will understand the difference. Till then, it doesn't matter.

Death Wizard
10-03-2008, 01:41 AM
DW, I'm familiar with how meditation works and I'm an advocate of it in moderation. I'm aware that it can do several very useful things, principally among them:

Calm us, help clear our perceptions and rid us of emotional and self-interested clutter; and
Make us more aware of who we areWhat I'm not at all convinced about however, is that meditation 'puts us more in touch with reality' (not quoting you, but a belief common among born-again Buddhists) past ridding us of our own emotional confusion

In fact, in my observations of people who meditate a very great deal, I perceive the reverse. They find excuses not to care about people, they cease to notice or react to meaning or detail, but rather react to just their own sensory impressions and an increasingly vegetative range of emotions.

I have a bit of support for my view. Firstly, reality is complex and not simple. We learn more by experiencing it and then reflecting on it than by reflection alone. No amount of meditating on horses can reveal how many teeth they have, but looking in their mouths will tell you instantly. Moreover, while meditating on the idea of a horse's mouth may reveal what it means to you, it is extremely unlikely to reveal anything reliable about what a real horse's mouth means to a real horse. For that, you must observe the horse: you can't meditate your way into equine dentistry and if that's true then I'm not persuaded that pronouncements about life, death and the universe are any more reliable.

Secondly, we know from experience that prolonged isolation can lead to psychoses: hermits and solitary confinement prisoners often become mad. The nature of psychoses is that they look real to the sufferer - and psychopathic delusions in particular are often transporting in nature. (Anyone can induce these, by the way, it's easier than many people think)

Lastly, if Buddhists are so enlightened through meditation then why are they so superstitious? How do you account for the prostrations, the millions of prayer-wheels, the magic words that must be repeated over and over and the sacrificial offerings? Do you really believe that these actions are the most effective that an enlightened being can make? Or do you believe that they mainly operate on the practitioners?

From this perspective, I can't differentiate a meditation-induced psychosis from any other form of spiritual rapture. That it feels real to us in our own minds is not in itself an indication of truth. Truth is independently verifiable - and by the nature of truth and knowledge, verification should grow increasingly easy over time.

I am also concerned that for the millions of people who have done extensive meditation without learning anything transcendental about the universe, the only answer is 'to do more'. This looks to me like one of the many self-serving, unfalsifiable propositions that we find in religious and magical practices all over the world: praise the practice if you get the desired effect, blame the practitioner if you don't.

I'm still waiting to be persuaded that meditation to extreme degrees is different from any other magical obsession.

There is no such thing as a born-again Buddhist. What you said above is utterly out of touch with Buddhism in the Theravada tradition. I couldn't even begin to respond to this. But you're certainly entitled to your opinions, which of course are every bit as valid as mine. So let's just agree to disagree.

Ruv Draba
10-03-2008, 03:49 AM
Aruna, thanks for addressing my questions. I'll make no bones about it: I consider Eastern mysticism bunkum and it irritates me that we Westerners suck it down so readily. Notwithstanding that, I think that there's a lot of good stuff in Eastern thought. I just wish that we'd be more discriminating in separating the chaff from the wheat. Or alternatively, that we'd apply the same skepticism and rigour to Eastern mystical claims that we've learned to apply to Western claims.

Anyway...



I have no idea what these people you have observed were doing, but if the results were negative then the answer is simple: they were not meditating properly. Any serious meditation practice is extremely difficult, a journey on razor's edge, and even the most advanced practitioner has to be constantly alert and aware, as it is easy to slip. A competent teacher is essential.Okay, but please explain why there are so few competent teachers, given 2100+ years of Buddhist practice, not to mention the even older tradition of Hinduism? I find myself treading still amid the familiar mystic thorns of 'oh, the ordinary magic is fake; you need the special magic.'

I'd like to repeat an earlier point here, Aruna: Real knowledge propagates increasingly over time. Fake knowledge remains exclusive, and protected by elites.

Most of the scores of teachers oozing out of the woodwork these days -- particularly in the West -- are just playing the guru game, on ego trips. So is it any wonder that the people they teach turn out to be a bit -- well, wacko?Well, meditation, prostrations, fasting, prolonged silence, isolation, meaningless repetitive actions and unquestioning obedience to a guru seem emeniently exploitable as brainwashing to me. I would suggest that such exploitation is not just in the West, but also an ancient and refined craft in India too.

Another thing is this: meditation digs deep into the subconscious mind. It loosens tendencies we have buried there, in order to bring them to the surface so that the meditator can deal with them. There may be periods in a life of meditation where a person feels he or she is worse off than before: periods of intense darkness, the very opposite to what one hoped and expected.Heh, but it's also true that when we sit in silence for prolonged periods without meditating that our subconscious goes nuts! Depression under those circumstances is common -- sit in any airport passenger lounge and you can see the effect even with all the distractions. :)

I personally believe that quietude and frequent reflection are very healthy. I'm yet to be persuaded though that prolonged isolation and enforced stillness day after day builds to anything more than loneliness, depression and perhaps eventual psychosis.

For someone who is steadfast and prepared to go through everything the mind throws back, to hang in there through thick and thin, the rewards are immense, and unmistakeable even for the observer.Granted, anyone with the strength of will to do something difficult for long periods of time learns depth as a human being. But are you claiming that the depth and calm are somehow more special than (say) what martial artists, archers, shooters, free-divers manage without obsessive meditation? And if so, on what evidence?

And okay, suppose that we gain some calm from decades of sitting under a tree (as I'd hope we might!): we're still going to die in a handful of decades regardless -- and death is very calming. Meanwhile, how should we propose to turn our decades of enforced inactivity into benefit while we live? And if the benefit is not worth the investment then is prolonged meditation not perhaps more like archery etc... a hobby about which some are passionate, which offers some benefits, but which for most people, is not and should not be a lifelong calling?


But such people are few and far between; I doubt you have actually met such a person, or you would not speak in such disparaging tones. THEY are the ones on which you can measure the usefulness of meditation, not the nuts. (And nuts abound!)This alas, is the 'you need the good magic' argument. Aruna, in this world of mass communication, franchises etc... why cannot the good practitioners be distinguished from the charlatans? Is there a measurable point of distinction, and if so: what is it?


The explanation is very simple; you are throwing everything into one basket, while in fact these are totally different practices. The peasant who worhsips an idol of stone is practicing his religion according to HIS understanding, HIS deveopment.I'm not gonna pick on the peasants here, but I will pick on the spiritual elite who tithe the peasants to build the stone idols so that the peasants have something to gawk at in exchange for their tithes. The spiritual elite are supposed to be devotees and prime beneficiaries of their own spirituality - and presumably they're the cadre containing the good teachers. How can a principled teacher profit from superstition? "Give the suckers what they want" -- is that an enlightened teacher, or PT Barnum carnie lore?


That's why in Hinduism you have this amazing spectrum of viable paths: on the one hand the 300+ gods and goddesses with elephant heads and thousands of arms, demons and fire-breathing monsters; on the other hand you have the most sublime, abstract and incredibly precise understanding of mental functions with subtlest of differentiation with a corresponding vocabulary for aspects of the mind we haven't even heard of in the West.I have great respect for Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Hindus gave us the number zero, some very powerful psychological and aesthetic handles on infinity, and some excellent metaphors about human psychology. Buddhism at its best is a humanistic religion of enquiry, tolerance, openness and humility. And then there's the art and culture, which are some of the richest and most exciting in the world.

But...

I still don't believe that there are any great personal benefits associated with stone idols, prayer wheels, prostrations and prolonged meditation, and I've yet to find a practitioner who can make that case. Instead, they retreat into mysticism, shifting goalposts or if pressed, act superior and tell me I'm not 'evolved' enough. :) [And I'd suggest that anyone who makes that argument is holding onto a lot more ego than they've let go of. :D]

I'm still pondering 'urgency to meditate'. That sounds neurotic to me: 'My meditation's not working! I'd better do more!' That somehow doesn't sound right.

An afterthought: if thinking about our life isn't alleviating our misery, we could try doing something about it instead. :tongue

Ruv Draba
10-03-2008, 03:53 AM
There is no such thing as a born-again Buddhist.That might depend on your perspective, DW.

I know personally two people who became Buddhist after getting scared by the deaths of close family. While they certainly don't call themselves 'born-again', there was a certain quality to their conversion that I think warrants my use of the term.

otterman
10-03-2008, 04:07 AM
I would consider myself an agnostic rather than an atheist, since I recognize my inability to know if God (or a supreme being of some kind) exists or not. But I hope you excuse me if I answer the original question anyway.
I expect the same will happen after I die as did before I was born--and, for the life of me, I can't remember a damned thing.

Zoombie
10-03-2008, 05:13 AM
What do I see as the "afterlife"

I dunnkow. I'll write you when I find out.

IN a slightly less flip response, I'll say that I believe we die, but our actions live on despite us. So, in a way, we never die because our actions and deeds reverberate down the centuries. Which means some people get more of an "afterlife" than some...sadly, I think Hitler has me out classed.

What a jerk.

Death Wizard
10-03-2008, 07:13 AM
That might depend on your perspective, DW.

I know personally two people who became Buddhist after getting scared by the deaths of close family. While they certainly don't call themselves 'born-again', there was a certain quality to their conversion that I think warrants my use of the term.

I could not disagree more. But certainly, disagreement is what leads to healthy debate.

mscelina
10-03-2008, 07:18 AM
I'm glad I read this. LMAO! I'm a writing a death scene in first person right now (not mine--geesch! don't get so excited) and this was exactly the type of discussion I needed to read. Thanks, guys! :)

AMCrenshaw
10-03-2008, 08:13 AM
What I am finding is that Westerners do not like the negative philosophy of Eastern traditions. Buddhists understand that our brain makes "sense" out of "nonsense", even if that "sense" is itself "nonsense". As far as superstition goes, Ruv, Buddhists are humans. I have no proof, but I suspect that not one single conscious human exists that does not have some sort of superstition. If you mean the magic of Buddhism, that is, the Telekinetic/telepathic abilities, etc ascribed to Buddha after he is dead then you will be hard pressed to find a Buddhist who says that those things were Factually, Physically true. What you will hear, of course, is that those things perhaps stand for something that is emotively truthful. If you are referring to astrology and such then I can sum it up with something you said: "The atoms of our body find other uses for themselves for example." There is something very truthful about our lives being "fixed by the stars" (as T.S. Eliot puts it). But a Buddhist, I'm sorry to say, who believes in these things literally is so attached to the readings of sacred texts that he or she cannot deal with ACTUAL reality. This too the Buddha said: Do not mistake the finger for the moon. You don't carry the raft on your back after you've used it to cross the river. Religion, to the Buddhists (particularly Zen) is what happens after we've crossed the river, after we have seen the moon for what it actually is. What is so mystified about that? Oh. Right. Felt experience can't be trusted as much as logic as if the two cannot work in tandem.


Mysticism in a lot of Eastern traditions can refer to something very simple: "What you know (emotively, through felt experience) is what you do not know (logically, through reasoning)".

Ruv. I agree that there are born-again Buddhists. And so do most Buddhists. They just don't call it that. No, they use a different phrase: "Waking up." The essence is the same: transformation of consciousness. The correlation exists in different traditions of both Christianity and Buddhism. There are practitioners who "attain" (a heavy-handed word for anyone who understands Buddhist philosophy. But I'll use it anyway) satori or salvation through acts alone, those who attain it through faith alone, and those who attain through a mixture of both. While some here would say Oh, Faith doesn't exist in Buddhism, I can tell you it does in certain sects, like Mahayana Buddhism (and in some sects it really does not...Zen, for example, thinks of it as devotion rather than faith).

Now. I don't want to be too offensive, but I do want to express my opinion. This:


Real knowledge propagates increasingly over time. Fake knowledge remains exclusive, and protected by elites.

I really, really recommend looking at the word "know". http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/know

Or to knowledge: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/knowledge

Meditation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

I suggest you read carefully and try to find places where meditation is demystified but still is supported by scientific evidence. For example, a lot of meditation allows the body to be more relaxed and there is evidence that this allows people to be capable of focusing at greater lengths of time and with a greater attention to detail. How could that be beneficial? Now, does this mean that there are not "magic" meditations? Not at all. They exist, much like hypnotic techniques...


I still don't believe that there are any great personal benefits associated with stone idols, prayer wheels, prostrations and prolonged meditation, and I've yet to find a practitioner who can make that case. Instead, they retreat into mysticism, shifting goalposts or if pressed, act superior and tell me I'm not 'evolved' enough. [And I'd suggest that anyone who makes that argument is holding onto a lot more ego than they've let go of. ]

A lot of Buddhists agree with you. Thich Nhat Hahn, for example, said that cloistering away in monasteries is a certain kind of obsession and attachment with being-away. The assertion, remember, is that Here and Now is everywhere and all the time. It cannot be another way. So why are they so uncomfortable in society? Because they have convinced themselves that society is the problem and not in their own mind-- or that, by escaping society they somehow can fix it. It's a delusion, and many Buddhists have become socially engaged, choosing to practice where it counts: where there are people suffering. Isn't ending suffering what Buddha was most concerned with in the first place?


Well, meditation, prostrations, fasting, prolonged silence, isolation, meaningless repetitive actions and unquestioning obedience to a guru seem emeniently exploitable as brainwashing to me.

Literally, brainwashing has been pretty well debunked itself. It's American propaganda. However, there is a lot of truth to this, and another example of mistaking the finger for the moon. In my opinion.

Fasting I do and perhaps I could explain why: It has to do with knowledge by experience mixed with knowledge by logic. I used to smoke cigarettes. A lot of them. One time I fasted for a week (I ate a normal meal after the sun went down) and observed the hungers of my body. There were a lot of obvious ones. I got hungry around lunchtime, thought more about sandwiches than normal, etc. But there were other observations, too. Like I always wanted a cigarette when I just got done doing something, anything. Or that when I saw people smoking I wanted to do so as well. Now. I could have read this in a book, or online, on WebMD. And I had. But it wasn't until I experienced my craving and knew it for what it was that I could actually quit smoking. No practical reason to stop smoking, is there?


I'm still pondering 'urgency to meditate'. That sounds neurotic to me: 'My meditation's not working! I'd better do more!' That somehow doesn't sound right.


It doesn't sound right because it isn't right. Thomas Merton said that people who continue to do what doesn't "work" are exactly as you call it: "Neurotic". But, at the same time, there is nothing to attain and that is the realization that must come from felt experience rather than logic (really because logic can't explain it). So people who go to meditation seeking to attain something like nirvana (rather than daily, practical things like focus, calm, etc) simply miss the point of meditating in the first place. The emptiness that everyone speaks of is a matter of realizing our futility in understanding the entirety of the universe in terms of factual, categorizeable knowledge. People who meditate on nothingness are meditating on something, even if it's just an idea. The whole thing is quite complicated, and gets more complicated the more you try "to get it right". Can one single sword, for example, cut itself?

[Ruv. Always a challenge. Thank you.]


Deathwizard:

Do you meditate? Have you practiced Noble Silence? Have you attended lengthy retreats led by established monks? Have you experienced the blessed peace of emptiness? If so, that's wonderful. If not, you should do so in order to round out your impressive scholastic knowledge. As you know, the real teachings of Buddhism are uncovered by those who walk the path.

Not that I should dignify this personalization of an online discussion, but I will anyway. I am a practicing Zen CINO (as Higgins would put it; I follow an ethic Ifind in the Jesus character of the Bible, but I certainly do not believe in God). Meditation, gratefulness, nonviolence, compassion, and lovingkindness (charity) are quick characteristics of "my path". Thank you.

Shadow_Ferret
10-03-2008, 08:20 AM
I'm curious as to what the Atheists of the board see in store for themselves after death. Reincarnation? Void? Transmigration? Heaven? Hell?

Furthermore, what do you believe you were before birth? Is this the same place or state you believe in after death?
Oh, I completely missed this thread.

I believe in death. End. Nothingness. Complete cessation of everything.

And before we were born, the same.

Bartholomew
10-03-2008, 08:50 AM
Lastly, if Buddhists are so enlightened through meditation then why are they so superstitious? How do you account for the prostrations, the millions of prayer-wheels, the magic words that must be repeated over and over and the sacrificial offerings? Do you really believe that these actions are the most effective that an enlightened being can make? Or do you believe that they mainly operate on the practitioners?

Buddhism has been around for a very long time. It's had plenty of time for the accessories of other religions to seep into it. Prayer wheels come from the Tibetan Bon religion, if memory serves.

As for prostrations and chanting, that seems superstitious to you because you do not understand the logic behind it.

Chanting mantras is just another form of meditation; it is a style aimed at people who have trouble sitting quietly. Yes, I'm aware of certain sects of Nichiren Buddhism and Amida Buddhism that attribute more to their specific mantras than mere meditation--but they have rooted these beliefs in things outside the Pali Canon. MANY Buddhists have embraced magical things, because the clergy of their region have added magical things to the curriculum they offer. Just as there are Christians In Name Only-- people who believe in a sort of God they made in their own image, and believe in him because their parents were vaguely Christian-- there are Buddhists who are only so because of their birth and culture. This sort of Buddhist may offer a completely different explanation than mine.

The chanting also comes, in part, from tradition. Most of the original teachings weren't written down until a form of Pali existed as a written language. So they were put into melodic, repetitive poems that made memorization simple. Even after we wrote everything down, memorizing these passages remained common place. Sadly, this has turned into a practice that the Buddha himself criticized of Brahmanism. How many of us, for instance, recite passages in Pali, Sanskrit, or even a modern language like Japanese, and have no idea what they mean? Aside from having possible meditative value, how do these practices help us?

Prostration, offerings of incense, water, fruit, and even money (the money sits on your personal altar for a day. Like the fruit and water, you get it back the same day.) are humility building exercises. Recognizing that one's own self contains the potential for greatness, and then offering respect to that potential greatness, (ideally) brings us closer to bringing it to fruition.

Some of these things just don't work for certain people. But the Buddha taught that we should doubt things that don't make sense. And that if something doesn't prove itself, that we shouldn't embrace it.

So if something he taught doesn't work, don't do it. That's one of the simpler beauties of Buddhism.

Ruv Draba
10-03-2008, 09:08 AM
Bartholomew, AMC, Aruna, thanks for the historical background. Please feel free to add to it as appropriate.

I feel that the superstition and mythology attached to Buddhism and Hinduism contaminates any claims to enlightenment or truth in those religions, and at the same time casts doubt upon the ethics of the leading practitioners. I'm willing to be dissuaded of this view, but I'd need to see compelling evidence.

On the one hand, there's this Western Buddhist notion that 'the details don't matter, as long as the practices are sincere and disciplined'; on the other hand there's what's actually practiced in Asia. (This in part contributes to my earlier comment about 'Born again Buddhism'.)

I cannot greatly see the distinction between chanting sutras or mantras and chanting Hail Marys. I can't see the difference between Buddhist and Catholic prostration. Nor can I see the difference between sacrificing fruit and lighting candles, or fingering rosaries and spinning prayer wheels, nor Buddhist death-vigils and Christian death-vigils.

I agree that self-discipline has value; I'm also fine with symbols. However I disagree that ritualised, ceremonial self-discipline preserves a pure symbolic value when people start attaching karmic opportunism and fear to it -- which is what I've seen in my trips to Asia.

My challenge to practioners is this: If the leaders of these religions are so enlightened as to discern 'real' truth from illusion, why are the mundane practices so benighted that the economies of their Temples make their money (as temples do in general) from superstitious awe, hope and fear? If it is corruption to use fear and deceit to hold the ignorant in submission in a Western religion, how is it less so in an Eastern religion?

I want to put to the practitioners posting here the proposition that our Western notions of the Indian tradition religions are largely reconstructed in the light of Western individualism, lacking in the Asian fatalism needed to produce an 'authentic' Buddhist or Hindu ethos, that they rosily overlook the humanitarian transgressions of the parent cultures and are therefore both naive and romantic idealisations of what is in actuality, a mixed blessing of both enlightened and inhumanly archaic thought -- some potentially good stuff, but a lot of quite appalling stuff too.

I've seen this question dodged in discussion to date, but not seen it answered.

AMCrenshaw
10-03-2008, 09:36 AM
I feel that the superstition and mythology attached to Buddhism contaminates any claims to enlightenment or truth in those religions

Which is silliness to put superstition right beside mythology. Superstition is about belief, purely blind belief might I add. Mythology is stories, Ruv, that are meant to reflect on our condition as humans. It's up to the individual to use a mixture of reason and emotion to figure out what is truthful, and how. Do I think that people are led to believe that mythology is fact? Yes. But, I also believe that literalism is the death of religion. There. I have said it.


any claims to enlightenment or truth

Right. Enlightenment meaning seeing/knowing the way things really are. Sciences are in the best position to do that for us, right? Let's look at what the Buddha supposedly said about our relationship to totality, the universe:




The Sutra on Totality.
(From the Samyutta Nikaya)

Monks,
I will teach you
the totality of life.

Listen,
attend carefully to it
and I will speak.

What, monks,
is totality ?

It is just the eye
with the objects of sight,
the ear with the objects of hearing,
the nose with the objects of smell,
the tongue with the objects of taste,
the body with the objects of touch
and the mind with the objects of cognition.

This, monks,
is called totality.

Now, if anyone were to say,

Aside from this
explanation of totality,
I will preach another totality,

that person
would be speaking empty words,
and being questioned
would not be able to answer.

Why is this ?

Because that person
is talking about something
outside of all possible knowledge.

Hmph. What is the Buddha saying there? Merely mystified BS?


Claims to truth: http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/fourtruths.html

PM or post which, in your opinion, are totally outrageously false.



My challenge to practioners is this: If the leaders of these religions are so enlightened as to discern 'real' truth from illusion, why are the mundane practices so benighted that Temple economies make their money (as temples do in general) from superstitious hope and fear?

Just so you know, not many (at all) Buddhists are "enlightened". Nor does being a teacher make you necessarily enlightened. A temple, like any institution can survive on pretenses. And we know they do! It might be even more corrupt for an Eastern tradition to use these methods. But quite frankly, that is the problem with people [and their egos], not with the teachings.

Anyway, how much "fear" is in Buddhism, Ruv? I'm not sure you know. The worst of it is in Tibetan Buddhism (which we've discussed before) in which the people believe that what happens to an individual happens because the individual deserves it. I've personally argued (from the Zen/Taoist tradition mostly) against this nonsense.

The picture I get is that controlling people by fear is about the furthest thing from Buddhist that you can get. Have you heard the story about the woman who carries her dead child around town because she doesn't believe it's dead? The Buddha says, "I can cure your child, but I need a mound of mustard seeds. Go to every house and ask the people if anyone in their family has died or experience death. If they have not, ask them for a mustard seed." As you can probably see where this is going, everyone had experienced death or had known death. The woman got no mustard seeds, but she was the first woman to become enlightened... Do you see what the Buddha's teaching is pointing to? Why do you fear (even) death? It is born with you when you are born. Buddhism teaches against fear all the time. So whatever organization you are pointing to that uses fear as a tool to control people is probably extremely dangerous; I admit they exist (D.T. Suzuki, a Buddhist, convinced many people that Japan should enter into WWII: one of the first, if not the first, precept is "do not kill any living thing [or sentient being] Go figure).


AMC

Bartholomew
10-03-2008, 09:45 AM
Bartholomew, AMC, Aruna, thanks for the historical background. Please feel free to add to it as appropriate.

I feel that the superstition and mythology attached to Buddhism and Hinduism contaminates any claims to enlightenment or truth in those religions, and at the same time casts doubt upon the ethics of the leading practitioners. I'm willing to be dissuaded of this view, but I'd need to see compelling evidence.

On the one hand, there's this Western Buddhist notion that 'the details don't matter, as long as the practices are sincere and disciplined'; on the other hand there's what's actually practiced in Asia. (This in part contributes to my earlier comment about 'Born again Buddhism'.)

I cannot greatly see the distinction between chanting sutras and chanting Hail Marys. I can't see the difference between Buddhist and Catholic prostration. Nor can I see the difference between sacrificing fruit and lighting candles, or fingering rosaries and spinning prayer wheels, nor Buddhist death-vigils and Christian death-vigils.

I agree that self-discipline has value; I'm also fine with symbols. However I disagree that ritualised, ceremonial self-discipline retains its original symbolic value when people start attaching karmic opportunism and karmic fear to it -- which is what I've seen in my trips to Asia.

My challenge to practioners is this: If the leaders of these religions are so enlightened as to discern 'real' truth from illusion, why are the mundane practices so benighted that Temple economies make their money (as temples do in general) from superstitious hope and fear? If it is corruption to use fear and deceit to hold the ignorant in submission in a Western religion, how is it less so in an Eastern religion?

I've seen this question dodged in discussion to date, but not seen it answered.

No religion is perfect; they're systems of rationalization and morality designed BY humans FOR humans. No system produces perfect people who can do perfect things. If there was one, I'd be doing it. I don't even consider the Buddha perfect---not by any stretch of the imagination. But I respect him, and I pay attention to what he said because a damn lot of it made sense. I will be so bold as to say this is a typical viewpoint amongst Western Buddhists, though I could be wrong.

If the Dalai Lama was enlightened, he could have kept his country. I have zero faith in Buddhist leadership because, at its heart, I don't think it was ever meant to have leadership. Ikeda is nice; he writes nice poems--but he TRASHES the Nichiren-Shu priesthood. And the leader of that priesthood does the same in reverse. A lama, a rinpoche, a leader-- they've got nothing in the Buddhist faith unless they can sit down, one on one with someone, and offer genuine solutions to real problems.

And deep down, I think Enlightenment is a GOAL. There's no "Best" at playing the flute. There's no "Best" at being a husband or a father. So why would there be a "Best" at being a human being?

I agree, much of the Buddhism practiced in Asia right now has deviated so far from the source material as to be neospiritual gibber. I read a dissertation from a self proclaimed Buddha about how he could regrow elderly folks' teeth, for instance. Buddhists in Asia have accepted all the little bits of nonsense that've been passed down from generation to generation. Most of the Japanese Buddhists I've met have only ever read the Lotus Sutra. That's ONE part of ONE sutra, and it's filled with mythical critters, impossible physics, and a very, very difficult message to comprehend--one that is incomplete without the other two books attached to it.

I don't think you can honestly call yourself Buddhist if you haven't read a great deal of the material and considered it. It's sort of like the difference between an Evangelical Activist who can quote specific bible passages, and the average Joe Christian who knows that God loves him.

#

Catholic prostration is actually involved in worship. Buddhist prostration is meant as a sign of respect. Whoop de doo. They're still bowing, and the action means the same thing. And they have the same spiritual effect. They either serve to humble the person, or they do nothing at all.

#

If chanting works as a meditation practice, and for many people, it does, WHAT you chant should make no difference at all. Hail Mary's, Daimoku, Om Mani Padme Hom, Coca Cola-- if you're using the words to bring your focus to the present moment, you're doing what I define as meditation.

There are certain activities that I believe have an intrinsic effect on (some) humans. I believe this because these same activities have been embraced world wide, without much communication between the original sources. Sort of like the mathematical principles that made pyramids the most logical shape for grand structures of the ancient world---I think that chanting (anything), bowing (for whatever reason) and making offerings (to whom or whatever) produce acute effects on certain psyches--and that enough of these psyches exist to have engraved these practices into religions world wide.

Yes, these practices all have subtle, cultural differences. But they're more alike than they're different.

##

Karmic fear is a TERRIBLE thing. The idea that you shouldn't save someone from drowning because it will "create karma" is an absurd rubbish brought about by a tragic misunderstanding of what Karma is.

Karma IS NOT MYSTICAL. The word means action. Action comes from energy, both potential and kinetic. When you apply action to society, you get effects. It is exactly that simple. It isn't meant to be a spiritual system of fairness; such a system only works if one accepts reincarnation.

##


why are the mundane practices so benighted that Temple economies make their money (as temples do in general) from superstitious hope and fear? If it is corruption to use fear and deceit to hold the ignorant in submission in a Western religion, how is it less so in an Eastern religion?

Because evil jerks use religion to control people. Why should Buddhism be immune? Is it special because it has no gods?

I'm Buddhist because I agree with a lot of what I read of the Buddha's philosophy, not because I think it is somehow superior to everyone else's philosophy. The same way I'm marrying my girlfriend because I love her, not because I think she's physically keener and mentally sharper than everyone on the planet. She, like Buddhism, is the best for me.

mscelina
10-03-2008, 09:47 AM
Which is silliness to put superstition right beside mythology. Superstition is about belief, purely blind belief might I add. Mythology is stories, Ruv, that are meant to reflect on our condition as humans.

Mythology is stories now. Before it was mythology, it was religion. Relgious literature (such as the Bible, for instance) is also comprised of stories that are meant to reflect on our condition as humans, is it not?

It is too easy to dismiss mythology as nothing more than fairy tales, but the people who practiced the religions that created those mythologies were just as fervent and devout as modern humans are today with their religous practices. What we learn from studying these mythologies is exactly how similiar those human conditions are in all of the great religions of the world.

Just sayin'...a classicist interlude. Carry on.

AMCrenshaw
10-03-2008, 10:23 AM
Mythology is stories now.

When are we?


Before it was mythology, it was religion. Religious literature (such as the Bible, for instance) is also comprised of stories that are meant to reflect on our condition as humans, is it not?

Obviously true. But "I" exist now, do I not? I'm here. In 2008. What relevance do these stories have now? That's what I have to ask myself. What is not sensible, practical, and/or ethical I cannot incorporate into my daily life (which should be, for me, my religion).


Besides I don't think of the Bible any other way. That's me. The fact that people worshiped (and still worship) the book as the literal or inspired or whatever Word of God tells me two things: that there is pretty significant stuff within those pages, and/or some people have been systematically conditioned and manipulated to think about things in a certain way and cannot be led to think anything else, even if it means they fight to the death to defend their ideologies (again, I turn you to D.T. Suzuki for a non-theist example).

But I don't allow years of Crusades to stop me from reading and getting something useful out of that reading.

AMC

Ruv Draba
10-03-2008, 11:09 AM
Which is silliness to put superstition right beside mythology. Superstition is about belief, purely blind belief might I add. Mythology is stories, Ruv, that are meant to reflect on our condition as humans.I love mythology -- how can any fantasy writer not? Using mythology as inspiration is fulfilling its legitimate purpose. But using mythology as evidence for decision-making is a superstitious action.

Enlightenment meaning seeing/knowing the way things really are.I don't believe so. There are lots of people (many of them writers) who have very strong perceptions, but they're utterly neurotic. I'd describe enlightenment as a veracity of perception, coupled with the wisdom to know how to engage truth and the courage and will to do so.

Sciences are in the best position to do that for us, right?
I believe that science is a critical tool in the arsenal of anyone who would escape his own ignorance, but I don't believe that it contributes substantially to wisdom or courage -- that requires a commitment to seek, to share, to do and to reflect that I think exceeds the self-interested cowardice of many of the ashram types. The best that they can do (I feel) is to digest other folks' wisdom and try to interpret it: a bit like writing-teachers who've never published commercially.


Just so you know, not many (at all) Buddhists are "enlightened".It wouldn't surprise me that some Buddhists are enlightened -- because, I feel that some non-Buddhists are too. My question is whether they got to their enlightenment because of Buddhist tradition, or rather (as every other enlightened soul seems to have somehow escaped their roots) partially despite it? For the rest, I question what Buddhism is doing other than the usual religious pacification, a reasonably healthy diet and a few calming exercises.

Anyway, how much "fear" is in Buddhism, Ruv? I'm not sure you know.Well, I've spent time in Japan, Thailand and Cambodia, and there's a Vietnamese Buddhist monastery just over the road from my home. I've had conversations with monks and laiety, along with dozens of Western practitioners -- including a couple of teachers of national reputation and decades of meditation. I've formed a view based on this and my own documentary research. You may disagree with it if you wish but I suggest that you argue on something stronger than the presumption of my outright ignorance. :D

aruna
10-03-2008, 11:10 AM
Aruna, thanks for addressing my questions. I'll make no bones about it: I consider Eastern mysticism bunkum and it irritates me that we Westerners suck it down so readily. Notwithstanding that, I think that there's a lot of good stuff in Eastern thought. I just wish that we'd be more discriminating in separating the chaff from the wheat. Or alternatively, that we'd apply the same skepticism and rigour to Eastern mystical claims that we've learned to apply to Western claims.

I really should be taking DW's great example and bowing out of this discussion, but there are so many fallacies to your post I feel an utterly overpowering complulsion to reply, lest those fallacies be taken as truths!

First of all: I can assure you that I am very rigorous is separating the wheat from the chaff in Eastern mysticism (another word I hate!)... more so than you, who seem to see nothing but chaff...




Okay, but please explain why there are so few competent teachers, given 2100+ years of Buddhist practice, not to mention the even older tradition of Hinduism? I find myself treading still amid the familiar mystic thorns of 'oh, the ordinary magic is fake; you need the special magic.'

In my case, substitute Hindu (Or Vedanta) for Buddhist. Again, the answer is extremely simple: because it is so very difficult. Try to stop thought for just one second, or, OK, maybe two, and you will get an idea of jst how hard. The ego is as slippery as an eel, and one of the greatest banana skins in mystcism is becoming a teacher before you are ready. It's not a case of ordinary vs special magic. The fact is that 99.9% don't want to get past their own egos. And 99.99% of those that do, cannot. That is simply human nature. It is like climbing a perpendicular wall of glass; yet it CAN be done.


I'd like to repeat an earlier point here, Aruna: Real knowledge propagates increasingly over time. Fake knowledge remains exclusive, and protected by elites.

I disagree. Real knowledge is unchangeabe.



Well, meditation, prostrations, fasting, prolonged silence, isolation, meaningless repetitive actions and unquestioning obedience to a guru seem emeniently exploitable as brainwashing to me. I would suggest that such exploitation is not just in the West, but also an ancient and refined craft in India too.

If a "guru" exploits another in any way whatsoever s/he is not a guru. I myself no longer use that word in everyday speech because it has become so corrupted exactlty by those brainwashing types.




Heh, but it's also true that when we sit in silence for prolonged periods without meditating that our subconscious goes nuts! Depression under those circumstances is common -- sit in any airport passenger lounge and you can see the effect even with all the distractions.

Sitting under a tree letting the mind drift is quite a bit different from following the ego right down to its source, consciously uprooting those tendencies that are the cause of our unhappiness.


Granted, anyone with the strength of will to do something difficult for long periods of time learns depth as a human being. But are you claiming that the depth and calm are somehow more special than (say) what martial artists, archers, shooters, free-divers manage without obsessive meditation? And if so, on what evidence?

Yes. (Though I object to the words special and obsessive; but I know what you mean); the goal is more than calm.


Meanwhile, how should we propose to turn our decades of enforced inactivity into benefit while we live? And if the benefit is not worth the investment then is prolonged meditation not perhaps more like archery etc... a hobby about which some are passionate, which offers some benefits, but which for most people, is not and should not be a lifelong calling?

The benefit to us so so immediate, so obvious, that this question is totally redundant! I can only smile...:)


Aruna, in this world of mass communication, franchises etc... why cannot the good practitioners be distinguished from the charlatans? Is there a measurable point of distinction, and if so: what is it?

They can be distinguished. But sometimes you need an experienced eye to tell the difference, and that is why so many beginners fall for charlatans.
there is no measurable point of distinction. ETA I believe there is a study done on Buddhist monks during meditation,which showed up the difference.


I'm not gonna pick on the peasants here, but I will pick on the spiritual elite who tithe the peasants to build the stone idols so that the peasants have something to gawk at in exchange for their tithes. The spiritual elite are supposed to be devotees and prime beneficiaries of their own spirituality - and presumably they're the cadre containing the good teachers. How can a principled teacher profit from superstition? "Give the suckers what they want" -- is that an enlightened teacher, or PT Barnum carnie lore?
Again, your prejudice shows. You are speaking again of charlatans, confusing the with the real thing. The habit of making money from spirituality is actually a Western concept. One easy litmus test, the first one I ever use, is this: a genuine spiritual teacher givess what s/he has to give for free. The moment money comes into the equation, there's a fail grade.

An example is this: I have been going to one of the most respected Ashrams in India since the early 70's. Ever since it's inception in the late 1800, when the master (a mentor, by the way, of C.G. Jung) around whom it was built was alive, it has been free. That is, everything is free, including accomodation and food. I have watched it grow from a quiet little hideyhole which ony a few Westerners knew about, to a powerhouse in terms of attraction. Today, thousands of people flock there; it is bursting at the seams, and you have to book far in advance in order to live there. I spent four weeks there this summer, and, just as it was in the earoy days, I did not pay a penny. There is NO CHARGE. Not for anything. And that is the way it should be, the way it was traditionally in India. People give donations according to their means, but if you can't/don't give anything nobody cares.




I still don't believe that there are any great personal benefits associated with stone idols, prayer wheels, prostrations and prolonged meditation, and I've yet to find a practitioner who can make that case.

Instead, they retreat into mysticism, shifting goalposts or if pressed, act superior and tell me I'm not 'evolved' enough. :) [And I'd suggest that anyone who makes that argument is holding onto a lot more ego than they've let go of. :D]

I would say you are not unbiased enough. If you really wanted to, you would find such a practitioner. But you have already made up your mind that they are all fakes... what to do??? The very first prerequisite is an open mind. For all I know you are very evolved, more so than I am!


I'm still pondering 'urgency to meditate'. That sounds neurotic to me: 'My meditation's not working! I'd better do more!' That somehow doesn't sound right.

On the contrary, it works so well you want to go on, on, on! It's so good you don;t want to stop! Already I am longing for my next trip to India, to get back to it.


An afterthought: if thinking about our life isn't alleviating our misery, we could try doing something about it instead.

Exactly! Meditation is most certainly a doing.



I cannot greatly see the distinction between chanting sutras or mantras and chanting Hail Marys. I can't see the difference between Buddhist and Catholic prostration. Nor can I see the difference between sacrificing fruit and lighting candles, or fingering rosaries and spinning prayer wheels, nor Buddhist death-vigils and Christian death-vigils.

I can't see the difference either. A ritual is a ritual, regardless from which tradition it comes. Buddhist, Hindu and Catholic prostrations all have the very same aim: the surrender of the ego. Fingering rosaries, whether it's a Catholic or a Hindu one, train the mind to keep steady. Singing hymns, whether they are Hindu or Christian, awakens love in the heart. Lighting candles, whether in a temple or a church, helps focus the mind and reminds us of another light, burning within. The goal is to find that inner light, inner love. But first you have to believe it is there!

aruna
10-03-2008, 11:15 AM
Another thing, Ruv, you mentioned that there are Indian charlatans as well as Western ones, and indeed this is true. But in the town in India I always go to Westerns "gurus" outnumber Indian ones at about 5 to 1, even though, naturally, Westerners themselves are only a tiny minority. There is something about the Western mind that wants to see early success, that wants to "achieve" and lead and assert itself, which is far less developed in Indian mentality.

Ruv Draba
10-03-2008, 01:22 PM
I really should be taking DW's great example and bowing out of this discussion, but there are so many fallacies to your post I feel an utterly overpowering complulsion to reply, lest those fallacies be taken as truths!Well, that's how we learn. I appreciate your comments, and I must say that I really enjoy the passion too.

Skipping to context for a minute, it probably shouldn't surprise you to find a strong skeptic in a subforum like this -- it's bound to attract them. :e2point: On the other hand, it's not surprising to find Buddhists and Hindus posting here and not in Paganism or Other. Glad to share with you. :)

I know that it seems somehow unpopular these days for crusty skeptics like me to challenge Eastern mysticism. It seems to have a special privilege of sanctity that Western religions, astrology etc... no longer enjoy. Maybe it's popular romanticism, or the fact that yoga has become fashionable again... I dunno. I think that it's useful - even critical - to challenge all mystical claims from time to time. And from writing and reflection perspectives, I think it does us good as long as we're respectful.


First of all: I can assure you that I am very rigorous is separating the wheat from the chaff in Eastern mysticism (another word I hate!)... more so than you, who seem to see nothing but chaff...Well, please recall that I've acknowledged a bunch of good in Eastern thought, and am happy to spell this out further. I just separate the mysticism from the constructive thought.

Concerning your discernment Aruna, I'm not going to take issue with that. Every devout person of every faith asserts discernment -- yet obviously they can't all be right. The acid test is when we try to communicate our insights and beliefs to others: do we understand our material enough to explain it in frames not our own? Or are we leaning heavily on assumptions that we test too little? That's a challenge for us all, regardless of belief.

The ego is as slippery as an eel, and one of the greatest banana skins in mystcism is becoming a teacher before you are ready.There I must disagree. Our egos are extremely predictable -- in what they want and how they seek it. It is very easy to recognise the operation of ego -- if we have reasonable training and care to look. What can be quite complicated is finding the right treatments for egos that impede us -- because (I believe) we actually need our egos some of the time, and because so much of our cognition interpermeates egotic drives.


It's not a case of ordinary vs special magic. The fact is that 99.9% don't want to get past their own egos. And 99.99% of those that do, cannot. That is simply human nature. It is like climbing a perpendicular wall of glass; yet it CAN be done.It is possible to get so vegetative that you're indifferent to everything. I also reckon that it's possible to die with your thoughts full of love for another and none for yourself. :LilLove: Other than that, I don't believe you. :)

My thesis is that the people who claim (or are claimed) to personally embody egoless thought all the time are either swallowing their own myth, feeding us myth, or allowing others to build myth around them. My support for this is the high frequency of charlatans in all three categories, and the testimony of people all 'round the globe who strive to be selfless, reporting that they constantly slip.

Now I invite you to disprove my thesis by showing me a constructive and reliable test for egoless thought, and clinical evidence that a functional human being has managed to pass this test for decades at a time without also being in a coma. ;) If you don't have such evidence then I'd suggest that what you have is faith or hope that such a thing is possible, and possibly some suspicion that it might have occurred. If so, I'd suggest downgrading this claim from 'fact' to 'interesting possibility' -- which I'd agree that it is. But that being so, I'd also suggest that my counter-thesis is not an unrealistic nor especially closed-minded one.

I disagree. Real knowledge is unchangeable.I think you might have misunderstood, Aruna. When Einstein first wrote a paper on Special Relativity, only a handful of people in the world could understand it. But now, a century later, it can be taught to bright grade-school students. Real knowledge propagates -- it gets easier to understand over time. This is true in science, philosophy, sport, arts, crafts and relationships. We get better at learning true knowledge, assimilating it and using it over time. If nothing else, it should make us deeply suspicious when mystical 'knowledge' is just as hard to master after two millennia as it ever was. No other information in the world operates like that -- except for the lies deliberately mystified and remystified by charlatans.

The 'moving feast' is necessary for charlatans because they can't deliver, but they still want your faith, trust and resources. So straight away, we have a right to say to anybody making such claims: please justify yourself, and demand tangible demonstrations of bona fides and deliverables. And that's pretty much my reason for posting here. The burden of proof is on the self-proclaimed 'enlightened' -- and to my mind they're coming up badly short.



The benefit to us so so immediate, so obvious, that this question is totally redundant! I can only smile...:)Among my various interests are Aikido, archery, rugby and scuba-diving. I know aficionadi (zealots really) who'd argue the same for all of these. :D My counter-argument to them is the same as mine to you: all of these disciplines offer substantial benefit to practitioners. But what makes any one of them so special that everyone ought to devote their lives to it?



An example is this: I have been going to one of the most respected Ashrams in India since the early 70's. Ever since it's inception in the late 1800, when the master (a mentor, by the way, of C.G. Jung) around whom it was built was alive, it has been free.Thank you for the example.


I would say you are not unbiased enough. If you really wanted to, you would find such a practitioner.You're right that I don't want to -- not to say that I don't enjoy talking with and learning from wise people -- I do.


But you have already made up your mind that they are all fakes... what to do??? The very first prerequisite is an open mind. For all I know you are very evolved, more so than I am!No, I've asserted propositions and invited their disproof. I've also expressed views based on investigation and observation -- but that doesn't make them immutable.


On the contrary, it works so well you want to go on, on, on! It's so good you don;t want to stop! Already I am longing for my next trip to India, to get back to it.My scuba and Aikido friends often say the same. :) I have friends who've spent time in ashrams... and some of my friends recount the same as you, Aruna. My question to you is the same as to them: if what you learn is so universally good, why does it only really work in the ashram?


Exactly! Meditation is most certainly a doing.Aw, c'mon Aruna. :poke: Meditation is a thinking. You can meditate on dirty dishes, or you can wash them. One of them changes the state of the dishes; the other just fiddles with your state of mind.

aruna
10-03-2008, 01:29 PM
OK, I googled it for you and found this:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43006-2005Jan2.html


Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have maintained for centuries: Mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow people to achieve different levels of awareness.


The Dalai Lama ultimately dispatched eight of his most accomplished practitioners to Davidson's lab to have them hooked up for electroencephalograph (EEG) testing and brain scanning. The Buddhist practitioners in the experiment had undergone training in the Tibetan Nyingmapa and Kagyupa traditions of meditation for an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 hours, over time periods of 15 to 40 years. As a control, 10 student volunteers with no previous meditation experience were also tested after one week of training.

The monks and volunteers were fitted with a net of 256 electrical sensors and asked to meditate for short periods.


Davidson said that the results unambiguously showed that meditation activated the trained minds of the monks in significantly different ways from those of the volunteers. Most important, the electrodes picked up much greater activation of fast-moving and unusually powerful gamma waves in the monks, and found that the movement of the waves through the brain was far better organized and coordinated than in the students. The meditation novices showed only a slight increase in gamma wave activity while meditating, but some of the monks produced gamma wave activity more powerful than any previously reported in a healthy person, Davidson said.

The monks who had spent the most years meditating had the highest levels of gamma waves, he added.

You would find similar results in any serious Vedantic meditation practice. These are encient techniques that have been proven effective over the centuries. But note the
time involved:
meditation for an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 hours, over time periods of 15 to 40 years

Can the people you know who so underwhelmed you show similar meditation backgrounds? Because I would say 10000 hours and 15 years is a minimum.

aruna
10-03-2008, 02:39 PM
Just a few more short points:


it's not surprising to find Buddhists and Hindus posting here and not in Paganism or Other.

I am not a Hindu, never was; this is the correct forum, as it is indeed about "non-theistic spirituality".


if what you learn is so universally good, why does it only really work in the ashram?

It really does work much better in the ashram. In the West, everything is designed to distract and entertain. I have duties here, bills to pay, shopping to do, and so on. There may come a day, hopefully it will, when I am the same whereever I go and whatever I do. But it seems I still have a long way to go, as the difference between home and India islike day and night.


Meditation is a thinking.
Nope, not the method I practice. It is the uprooting of thought, and believe me, that is hard work! I come out of it sweating!

Ruv Draba
10-03-2008, 05:04 PM
OK, I googled it for you and found this:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43006-2005Jan2.htmlThanks, Aruna. I've seen similar results, e.g. for monks concentrating on a metronome without getting bored. It doesn't surprise me too much that people who spend the same time meditating as a professional musician spends practicing music (say 4 hours a day), are as adept at it as a musician is at music. I don't know much about gamma waves, but there's a bit on them here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_wave).

We all have gamma waves apparently, and they're said to 'be associated with' 'concerted cognitive actions' (ie with intensive thinking), and also REM sleep. Apparently, jumps from 20Hz to 40Hz in the gamma range can occur during generation of 'new insights' -- though it's not clear from the article if that's what was happening with the monks - or that 'new insights' found by peoples' minds are necessarily true ones. It's an interesting factoid Aruna, but I'm not sure what it proves except that prolonged meditation helps you put out more gamma waves when you meditate.

Anyway, we might be getting a shade lost here. For context please recall what I originally asked anyone to demonstrate:
principally, that the 'insights' of meditation have anything to do with fundamental truths of the universe;
that 10,000 hours (say) spent meditating are somehow compensated by such improvements in efficacy, efficiency or resilience that 'ordinary' people (as opposed to professional meditators) should invest such time on this and not just (say) a couple of hours a week; and
that there's anyone living 'egoless' in the world who isn't on their death-bed, in a coma or the like.


Can the people you know who so underwhelmed you show similar meditation backgrounds? Because I would say 10000 hours and 15 years is a minimum.Well 10,000 hours is 4 hours a day for around seven years -- or 2 hours a day for around 14 years. That's pretty intensive. If they were practicing music or playing pool you'd expect that they'd be pretty darn good!

I know of six people who've done around that -- of whom I've met four personally, I think. Two are personal development teachers, one does corporate development, one's a psychotherapist and one's a business consultant. At least three are or have been ashram-junkies with annual trips to India. One's the Dalai Lama, who visited my town in the 80s.

I must say here that they're all interesting people. I'd be happy to have a dinner-party conversation with any of them (no small praise, that -- I'm picky!) But... in terms of being underwhelmed, here's my impression:

One I believe is an outright fraud who just believes his own PR. Another is a cocky, bad-boy psychopath who's been a house-guest of mine. (I quite like him, but I think that he has wobbly ethics) I've been to a talk by the third, but it wasn't memorable. The therapist I know only by repute - but it's from two close friends. From what I've heard I'd class her as reasonably smart, though highly self-absorbed and more'n a shade loopy. The business consultant I've only met twice. He seemed painfully shy and quietly passionate and I couldn't say much more than that. And the Dalai Lama was just disappointing.

In addition I've met... oh heck, I dunno... dozens of other Western people who've spent thousands but not tens of thousands of hours in mindfulness meditations, Vipasana retreats... you name it. I'm not sure what it is about meditation, but from what I've seen it attracts a lot of neurotic intraverts who want the world to come to them by wishing it, and psychopaths who're just looking for confirmation that they control the world already anyway. :tongue Most I'd say need to meditate less and find more constructive and effective approaches to self-improvement. For those particular types, I believe that intensive meditation caters to their weaknesses rather than building on their strengths. The folk I know who noticeably benefit from meditation, benefit from - at the very most - an hour every day or two. Vipasana retreats and the like don't hurt them -- but when they get hooked, I also notice them getting stuck.

Okay, that's my personal experience. I'm not sure what it proves, but you asked.

AMCrenshaw
10-03-2008, 06:44 PM
I don't believe so. There are lots of people (many of them writers) who have very strong perceptions, but they're utterly neurotic. I'd describe enlightenment as a veracity of perception, coupled with the wisdom to know how to engage truth and the courage and will to do so.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi It's somewhere between. I agree with you, though. But you have to remember that in my opinion, being enlightened means consequential action-- or else it's not bodhi in the first place.


It wouldn't surprise me that some Buddhists are enlightened -- because, I feel that some non-Buddhists are too. My question is whether they got to their enlightenment because of Buddhist tradition, or rather (as every other enlightened soul seems to have somehow escaped their roots) partially despite it? For the rest, I question what Buddhism is doing other than the usual religious pacification, a reasonably healthy diet and a few calming exercises.

YES to the first part! But I just told you about socially engaged Buddhism. These Buddhists build homes, package food for the poor, protest senseless wars, teach others their philosophies, etc and Buddhism the religion is what exhorted them to do so.


Well, I've spent time in Japan, Thailand and Cambodia, and there's a Vietnamese Buddhist monastery just over the road from my home. I've had conversations with monks and laiety, along with dozens of Western practitioners -- including a couple of teachers of national reputation and decades of meditation. I've formed a view based on this and my own documentary research. You may disagree with it if you wish but I suggest that you argue on something stronger than the presumption of my outright ignorance.

Sorry if I poked at you. While I haven't been to Cambodia, I have been to Thailand (what an interesting place...), Japan, and S. Korea specifically to study Buddhism. So I do disagree with you plenty. The conversations I've had are documented by 30+ hours of film. My whole mission there was to figure out if Buddhist religions are somehow more "ethical" than Western religions. I found they were not. Mindless repetitions of action, sustained lack of sleep, lack of food, and lack of communication with the outside world turned a lot of the people into zombies (the Rinzai school of Zen really peed me off; they still used a stick to keep their members awake. How could I, a nonviolence activist, find that ethical?) But as I said, Tibetan Buddhism is the one form of Buddhism that puts karmic fear at the front of its doctrine, and worse that they don't call it that. Buddhism is characterized as a philosophy as a mutable, adaptable philosophy. Religion, though, seeks to preserve "What details are Best at a time" and that's simply a delusion they have that runs way way counter to Buddhist thought.


The folk I know who noticeably benefit from meditation, benefit from - at the very most - an hour every day or two.

This too is well-documented in my research to be proven quite true. An hour or two every day is spot on so long as it is fairly regular.



Now I invite you to disprove my thesis by showing me a constructive and reliable test for egoless thought, and clinical evidence that a functional human being has managed to pass this test for decades at a time without also being in a coma. If you don't have such evidence then I'd suggest that what you have is faith or hope that such a thing is possible, and possibly some suspicion that it might have occurred. If so, I'd suggest downgrading this claim from 'fact' to 'interesting possibility' -- which I'd agree that it is. But that being so, I'd also suggest that my counter-thesis is not an unrealistic nor especially closed-minded one.

So you think the ego is a scientific function that can be tested to exist? It depends how you definite it. If it's the being that says "hey idiot, you need to eat and then moves to eating" then I would say we can't ever be ego-less or we would die. Ruv, did you read my earlier post? It's about knowing what the ego is and avoiding most or all of the traps it lays. That is self-discipline that leads to the most ethical behavior possible because it seeks to avoid the selfish, self-preservative nature of the ego. We can't be ego-less; that's an ongoing problem. The myth is that it goes up in a cloud of smoke. Also, as you would suggest, ego-lessness would suggest that they are totally selfless. But that's not Buddhist thought, either. It's that nothing-in-particular is the self. And besides that, the Buddha said: "Why would I shoot you with an arrow? It would be like shooting myself with an arrow." So...why would the Buddha help others if not to also help himself?

I think some study into Buddhist philosophy (rather than Buddhist religion) might give you a clearer picture of what Buddhism could be. The stance you've taken is "against" religion, and so Buddhist religion as well. The philosophy is different. Changing. It doesn't ignore what is factual. There are a hundred books out about Buddhist philosophy without belief. If you are actually interested, look at them. They all have good examples of people who live lives at peace while helping others find peace, too.

(meditation is an action; but it's not much of one; thinking is an action, too; but it's not much of one. going out into the world and doing things to ease suffering; there is action)

aruna
10-03-2008, 10:18 PM
Oh Well. I always knew I wouldn't convince you! Never mind.
Unless you can actually get into another's mind such discussions really are futile.



My thesis is that the people who claim (or are claimed) to personally embody egoless thought all the time are either swallowing their own myth, feeding us myth, or allowing others to build myth around them. My support for this is the high frequency of charlatans in all three categories, and the testimony of people all 'round the globe who strive to be selfless, reporting that they constantly slip.

I'm sorry your experience with meditating, or so-called meditating, people has been so negative. With me it was the opposite. I was fortunate enough to encounter two or three men and women who were so extraordinary in every way, so loving and giving, so naturally happy and wise, strong and fearless, so truly GOOD without trying to be good, so free of trivial needs and selfish
wants; people who lived this out in loving action: transforming the lives of others, not only internally but externally, building hospitals and schools, feeding the poor, providing jobs for the jobless and training for the uneducated, and actually living out the saying "I am my brother's keeper" that that I knew this is what we humans are meant to be, this is the goal of life; and I knew I wanted to be that way as well. And I have to say that in the years gone by I have been transformed, slowly but surely, and am a far better person for my practice.



Now I invite you to disprove my thesis by showing me a constructive and reliable test for egoless thought, and clinical evidence that a functional human being has managed to pass this test for decades at a time without also being in a coma.

Evidence? I have none. There is no such test, and there is no need for one. I have no need to prove anything to anyone!
However, according to my own practice there is no such thing as egoless thought; for thought IS ego. Remove thought, and nothing but being remains.

Death Wizard
10-03-2008, 10:33 PM
To me, "Born Again" insinuates a supernatural element. The supernatural goodness/magnificence of Jesus (or whichever God we might be discussing) floods into your body and you are born again. In Buddhism, there are no supernatural elements, other than stories and parables that are clearly such. True Buddhism is not a supernatural-based religion. Anyone who argues this simply does not know what he or she is talking about.

Buddhists don't go to a temple and suddenly become filled with rapture. They sit down, cross their legs, and work at it. Waking up isn't sudden. It's long, hard, even painstaking work. And it's not all happy and positive. It's simply what it is: the understanding and recognition of what truly is.

AMCrenshaw
10-03-2008, 11:25 PM
Waking up isn't sudden.

This may be a difference in tradition, but I'm pretty sure it is sudden. Have you heard of the fountain mind poem written by a zen master? In Buddhism, literally anyone at anytime can be enlightened because being enlightened is really a simple thing. It's we who make it complicated.

AMC

Death Wizard
10-03-2008, 11:31 PM
This may be a difference in tradition, but I'm pretty sure it is sudden. Have you heard of the fountain mind poem written by a zen master? In Buddhism, literally anyone at anytime can be enlightened because being enlightened is really a simple thing. It's we who make it complicated.

AMC

You bring up a good point: Enlightenment can be sudden, true. But only a fraction of a fraction of a percent of people attain that blessed state; and again, it is not bestowed upon them by a supernatural superpower. For the rest of us, it's a lifetime of hard work to even scratch the barest surface of enlightenment.

Ruv Draba
10-03-2008, 11:58 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi It's somewhere between.Of all the Buddhist mythological figures, I like the Bodhis best -- but I also like Herman Hesse's Siddhartha (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddhartha_(novel)) too. Just row the dang boat. :D

I just told you about socially engaged Buddhism. These Buddhists build homes, package food for the poor, protest senseless wars, teach others their philosophies, etc and Buddhism the religion is what exhorted them to do so.Well see, I'd consider those compassionate people who happen to also be Buddhists. One of my friends is a compassionate person who happens to be a Hindu and a devotee of Sai Baba. He looks much like one of these Buddhists except.. y'know, he's a Hindu and a devotee of Sai Baba.:ROFL:

My whole mission there was to figure out if Buddhist religions are somehow more "ethical" than Western religions. I found they were not. Fun mission! :) I think that Western observers (or is it just James Hilton's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hilton)romance?) have done a real number on themselves with idealism about the dear, inscrutable, terribly wise Buddhist monks. There are of course some very compassionate and enlightened Buddhist monks to be found as with every religion -- but it's also not hard to find autocratic, entitled, ignorant Buddhist clergy pretty much everywhere.

But as I said, Tibetan Buddhism is the one form of Buddhism that puts karmic fear at the front of its doctrineI'm thinking more of the practice. When practicing Buddhists are praying daily because of fear of ghosts, disease, bad luck, storms, bad harvests etc... then I'd say that there's a gulf between the Western ideal of Buddhism and the Eastern practice of it. I don't personally know any Westerner who practices Buddhism (or even thinks about it) the same way that Asian people typically do.

Buddhism is characterized as a philosophy as a mutable, adaptable philosophy. Religion, though, seeks to preserve "What details are Best at a time" and that's simply a delusion they have that runs way way counter to Buddhist thought.But that's true of all religious thought because all it's grounded in really is custom and myth -- both of which are mutable. You can see parallels in the paganisation of Christianity for instance, or Sufi mysticism, Judaic kabbalism or the emergence of 'Westernised' Buddhist thought. Custom dictates what scriptures are viewed as canonical, how they're interpreted, how they're practiced -- and custom can change and merge.



So you think the ego is a scientific function that can be tested to exist? It depends how you definite it.Well, Freud coined the term (or actually, he just pinched it from Latin). It's part of his psychological model, and if we want it to mean something else, then we'd better relabel or qualify it.

I think some study into Buddhist philosophy (rather than Buddhist religion) might give you a clearer picture of what Buddhism could be.I can't help but feel that I'm repeatedly being judged 'ignorant until proven godly' here.

Did I not say from the outset that I respect a lot in Eastern thought? What do you imagine that I was reading in my trips to Asia? Or do you think that I was just spouting mollifying platitudes? :tongue Lemme offer a single example. The Buddhist Eightfold path (pinched as it was in part from the Hindu path) warns against sensual desires. No surprises there -- many religions warn against getting too materialistic.

But in its broad interpretation Buddhism includes desire for power and fame in its view of materialism. Those are two that see very little admonishment in Western religion -- especially fame. I can recall sitting up in bed in a Shinto hotel in Tokyo one night, reading what was the Buddhist equivalent of a 'Gideon Bible' chewing this over. Power I agreed with right away. In our cultural myths, lust for power nearly always leads to corruption or arrogance and thence something bad. But fame... why would a desire for fame be a universally bad thing? In Western myth fame is the 'reward' we get for being conspicuously 'good' in our society. It's a godlike reward that the ancient Greeks and Romans warned about -- but only because the gods were jealous of it. Christian thought believes (or acts like it believes) that fame is a sign of greatness -- the Bible contains virtually no famous nobodies -- Simon Magus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Magus) being the only one that comes readily to mind. We have Germanic, Celtic and Romantic myths that all serve up fame as a reward for the great -- especially the tragically great. Most writers seek fame. I was then a scientist and most scientists do too. We all know stories of stars like Marilyn Monroe who die at the height of their fame, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule... So what's the problem with fame, I wondered?

What I worked out eventually (and it's perhaps far more obvious to those who watch reality TV shows or read celebrity gossip mags these days) is that an ardent pursuit of fame distorts you, flattens you, makes you chase a myth of yourself. When people become famous it's not the whole person that does so -- just the myth of that person: Albert Einstein will forever have wild woolly grey hair -- not the short-cropped dark hair that he had for most of his life. He'll be remembered for his intelligence, pacifism and mild eccentricity but not for (for example) his broken childhood family, or his failed first marriage. If pursuing fame becomes your profession (as it does for many celebrities), you'll have to renegotiate your social contract entirely, but also renegotiate your ethical accountabilities to truth, candour and courage. We know that scientists who pursue fame get sloppy in their work (anyone remember the Cold Fusion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion) guys?), and that writers who pursue fame (as opposed to becoming famous for pursuing writing) go to jail like Jeffrey Archer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Archer).

It took me some months of chewing it over and challenging the pro-fame bias we have built into Western mythology, but I finally got it. So, yay Buddhism. :)

The stance you've taken is "against" religion, and so Buddhist religion as well.The stance I've taken is against mystification, obfuscation, superstition, deceit and charlatanry. It just happens that religion tends to include those things (and not just religion of course). Those parts of religion that don't include those things -- if they also happen to be humane, insightful and true -- get two thumbs up from me. The parts that include the murky stuff get challenged until they either yield up some accountability and honesty or slink off into a corner to play with their toes. (I don't claim any great virtue from my position by the way -- it's pretty much an outgrowth of my INTP (http://typelogic.com/intp.html) intolerance for imprecision and poor rigour. It makes me allergic, and I must either say something at the time, or twitch internally and fake a smile until the moment passes. :tongue)

meditation is an action; but it's not much of one; thinking is an action, too; but it's not much of one. going out into the world and doing things to ease suffering; there is actionOnce in a while I should acknowledge when we agree on something -- we certainly agree on this. :D

Death Wizard
10-04-2008, 12:10 AM
Aw, c'mon Aruna. :poke: Meditation is a thinking. You can meditate on dirty dishes, or you can wash them. One of them changes the state of the dishes; the other just fiddles with your state of mind.

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time practicing mindfulness meditation under the instructions of a highly realized teacher would not make statements such as these.

"Fiddles"? No. And again, no.

Ruv Draba
10-04-2008, 12:25 AM
To me, "Born Again" insinuates a supernatural element.Well, hopefully Jim you're Buddhist enough to know that I'm not responsible for your interpretation of my words delivered from my own context. And I surely hope you're Buddhist enough not to believe that words connote only one thing. :D

I've been leaving you alone in this discussion because you said you didn't want to engage me. If you've changed your mind, please let me know and I'll respond directly.

AMCrenshaw
10-04-2008, 12:28 AM
I can't help but feel that I'm repeatedly being judged 'ignorant until proven godly' here.

Ruv, sorry. It's that the canon of Buddhism is growing constantly (Can you really say that of Christianity?), and it may benefit you to read not only the old stuff but the new stuff too. Not to say you haven't exactly, but I'm not sure how you could be missing certain things about, say, the nonsuperstitiousness of Zen Buddhists or Taoists who make up a lot of good practical nontheistic philosophy.


When practicing Buddhists are praying daily because of fear of ghosts, disease, bad luck, storms, bad harvests etc... then I'd say that there's a gulf between the Western ideal of Buddhism and the Eastern practice of it.

I wonder if this sort of superstition is rooted in myth, and perpetuated by poverty and institutionalized ideology. Something for me to think about.


I don't personally know any Westerner who practices Buddhism (or even thinks about it) the same way that Asian people typically do

Plum Village is full of people who practice Buddhism in the Eastern tradition (it's in the documentary we're working on), and it's quite scary. Thich Nhat Hahn, the founder, no longer really visits. The people sit around all day and every fifteen minutes a bell rings and everyone stops what they're doing and listens to it. I asked a nun, "How is this practical?" She said, "We are mindful of the present moment" and I said, "You were just talking to me." "Listen to the bell." Her name was Sister Such-ness. Are you kidding me? I'm thinking. I have had writings with Thich Nhat, like pen-pal stuff, because a professor of mine did his artwork and nothing he spoke about, none of his philosophy should lead to what was going on in that place.

All the things you mention you are against I am as well. I think in America (I can say for sure) right now you would find a lot of small, hidden away, sometimes quiet groups who gather around this sort of skepticism, knowing that their fundamental intention is toward the bettering of human lives and not immediate personal gratification in the form of salvation, or even in the form of enlightenment. Whether or not I "have it right" isn't really relevant. I for example only act out of the natural compulsion to end people's pain. I try hard to do this through understanding. Christianity is my root (though I have abandoned what I think are silly notions of God) and Buddhism has helped me think inductively about the world.


AMC



INTP. That's what I am. It's a relatively small population.

AMCrenshaw
10-04-2008, 12:38 AM
For the rest of us, it's a lifetime of hard work to even scratch the barest surface of enlightenment.

This sort of talk for me is as good as idolatry, or objectification. Enlightenment is not a stone floor you can hit with an axe. It is, like nirvana, called unattainable for this precise reason. So what a lot of people foolishly work at is attaining a sense, grabbing onto an object they've grasped onto, but which is nothing at all in reality. Enlightenment cannot be a goal; one cannot say, "today I shall seek enlightenment" for that's like trying to bite your own mouth. The thing about enlightenment is that it is what is obvious; there is nothing blessed about it except in the minds of people who objectify what is not an object. If what you seek is to know reality, why then do you seek castles in the air?

AMC

Death Wizard
10-04-2008, 12:46 AM
Well, hopefully Jim you're Buddhist enough to know that I'm not responsible for your interpretation of my words delivered from my own context. And I surely hope you're Buddhist enough not to believe that words connote only one thing. :D

I've been leaving you alone in this discussion because you said you didn't want to engage me. If you've changed your mind, please let me know and I'll respond directly.

I was referring to Born Again as a general concept, not as my interpretation of your words.

Death Wizard
10-04-2008, 12:52 AM
As a group, we obviously come from different schools of thought and learning. The last thing I want to do is argue with people about something so precious to me. I don't know why I get into these discussions, other than it is human nature to defend things of meaning.

aruna
10-05-2008, 12:46 PM
one point, re ego and terminology:

Well, Freud coined the term (or actually, he just pinched it from Latin). It's part of his psychological model, and if we want it to mean something else, then we'd better relabel or qualify it.

Many words get absorbed into everyday vocabulary and change their meaning over time, one of them being the word ego. I doubt that it is ever used in the strictly Freudian sense except among Freudian psychotherapists. I certainly don't use it that way.

I would prefer to use the Sanskrit word Ahamkara, which is more exact, but then nobody would understand me! "Ego" comes close enough

Ruv Draba
10-06-2008, 03:39 PM
one point, re ego and terminology:[8<--Snip--8<]
I doubt that it is ever used in the strictly Freudian sense except among Freudian psychotherapists.Etymonline (http://www.etymonline.com)quotes two usages: one old usage meaning 'conceit'; the other, Freudian usage which has also made its way into popular culture. In the Freudian sense it means "that organized part of the personality structure which includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions" (from Wikipedia on ego (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego)). Turns out that my earlier post was mistaken by the way: Freud used 'Ich' in his original writing; his English translator turned 'Ich' into 'ego', which already had the earlier meaning of 'conceit'.

If there are additional meanings of specific religious significance, I'd repeat my earlier suggestion that they're narrow enough to be worth defining separately.

Tor Hershman
10-26-2008, 01:45 AM
The exact same nothingness as before birth - I will not be and nothing will have ever been.

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor Hershman

fullbookjacket
10-26-2008, 07:58 AM
The exact same nothingness as before birth - I will not be and nothing will have ever been.

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor Hershman

Umm...your consciousness did not exist before your birth (although it can be argued that your consciousness goes back before birth until at least the formation of your brain) and will certainly not exist after you die, but that doesn't mean there was only nothingness prior to or after your capacity to be aware of it.

INTPwriter
12-21-2010, 08:17 PM
This may sound wacky but, I have a strong feeling I'll either be born again and replay my life with no knowledge of what has happened or I'll emerge onto a different plane of existence, a seperate dimension of sorts. I struggle to believe that the mind dies along with the body.


But, if you have no knowledge of anything before, does that really mean that you would be you "born again"?

Maxx
12-21-2010, 09:15 PM
I'm curious as to what the Atheists of the board see in store for themselves after death. Reincarnation? Void? Transmigration? Heaven? Hell?

Furthermore, what do you believe you were before birth? Is this the same place or state you believe in after death?

And of course, Heaven is a lot like North Carolina in the Spring.

richcapo
01-09-2011, 04:45 AM
I'm curious as to what the Atheists of the board see in store for themselves after death.Nothing. Nothing's in store for me.
Reincarnation? Void? Transmigration? Heaven? Hell?If by "void" you mean nothing, then it's void for me.
Furthermore, what do you believe you were before birth?A fetus.
Is this the same place or state you believe in after death?I came from nothing, I go to nothing is what I believe. Don't like it, but that's the way it is for me. Now, I suppose if you can have life without God, you can have afterlife without God -- and I like that idea -- I just see no reason to believe in it. Pity, though. I'd love to go to Disneyland after I die.

_Richard

wheelwriter
01-16-2011, 09:06 AM
I envision nothingness after death. I'd love to be wrong (and I hope some of my religious friends would buzz me up). The logistics of Heaven always seemed too complicated. What if I died and my husband remarried? Would we eventually all hang out together in Heaven? Me. Him. His newer wife. Doesn't seem so heavenly. I believe you live on through other peoples' memories of you. I'm also a fan of trying to create "Heaven" here on Earth since I don't believe it exists elsewhere.

PrincessofPersia
01-16-2011, 12:49 PM
I second living on in the memories of those whose lives you've affected. However, I am open to the possibility that there is more than we can understand, and that there is no definitive way to know until we experience whatever it is.

RavenMoon
03-01-2011, 09:20 PM
I believe there was nothing before, and there will be nothing after. Except, since matter can neither be created nor destroyed, the atoms that make up my body will continue on, in some other role, initially in the soil. But I won't be around to see it happen. Hopefully, some people will remember me, so I will get to live on in that sense too, in their memories. (I should probably stop answering these questions because I'm not really a full-fledged atheist, although I do feel pretty certain about the non-existence of a before- or after- life.)

I feel the same way. I imagine death being the same as before I was born, a state of non-existence. Nothing wrong with that, I wasn't aware of my non-existence (how could I be?)


I believe strongly in reincarnation. I believe I will reincarnate after my death, just as my soul in my present life is a reincarnation of a past life. I believe that we keep reincarnating as long as we still have lessons to learn. There is no heaven; there is no hell; there is just life.

My thoughts, anyway.


I've actually been looking into Buddhism (a philosophy which I highly applaud), but I think that was one of the things that kept me from committing to it. I was wondering if your view of reincarnation was Buddhist in anyway?