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God and Ultimate Reality
Posted: 05 August 2008 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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Whenever I start getting too comfortable with my perception of reality, I can come back to the forum, read a few posts, and ignite my existential angst anew.

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Real honesty is accepting the theories that best explain the actual data even if those explanations contradict our cherished beliefs.-Scotty

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Posted: 05 August 2008 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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McCreason - 05 August 2008 02:23 PM

I would add-

Science- a: knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.

I would say that ‘general truth’ is REALITY. Thus science covers or explains or simply is….reality.

Unsmoked:  Objection!  Your Honor, McCreason is avoiding my questions!

Judge Yoda:  Overruled.  Sit down Mr. Unsmoked.  Mr. McCreason’s responses have been perfectly clear.

Unsmoked:  (still standing)  This is a kangaroo court!  Why are Salt Creek and Sander in the jury?

Judge Yoda:  (looking over the top of his glasses)  Sit down Unsmoked, or I’ll have you placed in comtempt.

Unsmoked:  (still standing - recites a quotation) “If where you stand is reality, then your actions have power!”

Salt Creek: (standing up in jury box)  Haha!

Sander:  (reaching up and pulling Salt Creek by the sleeve).  Sit down.  They’re all fugwits!

Burt:  (another juryman) I want to hear what Unsmoked has to say about living forever.

Judge Yoda:  The jury will kindly keep out of this or I’ll have you all dismissed!

Snake Chic:  (also a member of the jury) Make room for more kangaroos!

Judge Yoda:  Miss Chic, why are you brandishing that boomerang?  Bailiff!  Confiscate Snake Chic’s boomerang!

Unsmoked:  (still standing)  Your Honor, McCreason threatened me with an allegorical boomerang!

Judge Yoda:  (banging his gavel as McCreason gets up and starts to exit courtroom in disgust and the jury starts arguing among themselves)  Return to your seat Mr. McCreason!  Order!

Unsmoked:  (still standing - shouts above general uproar)  I was not equating God and Reality!

Salt Creek:  He capitalized ‘reality’.

Sander:  Fug!

Judge Yoda:  This court is adjourned!  Bailiff!  Put that gun away!  Let her keep the damn boomerang!  Unsmoked, see me in my chambers!

Unsmoked:  (yelling, as the bailiff grabs his arm)  Your memories don’t continue after your brain dies!  Nothing is real!

Sander:  (to Salt Creek and Snake Chic as they exit together) Didn’t the Beatles say that?

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 05 August 2008 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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Didn’t the Beatles say that?

“Happiness is a warm gun”

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Real honesty is accepting the theories that best explain the actual data even if those explanations contradict our cherished beliefs.-Scotty

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Posted: 05 August 2008 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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Unsmoked has definitely smoked. fer sure.

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‘Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity’

‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Posted: 05 August 2008 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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unsmoked - 05 August 2008 04:08 PM

Salt Creek:  He capitalized ‘reality’.

Wrong. He capitalized on reality. Time is money.

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Posted: 05 August 2008 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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unsmoked - 02 August 2008 04:19 PM

Many, maybe most people want to live forever.  They look around and see that in nature, nothing is permanent.  In order to establish the conviction or ‘certainty’ that personal memories can continue after the death of the brain one has to do a lot of mucking - carry a lot of notions and ideas and beliefs.

(Just a note:  I am not interested in arguing for views of the afterlife, etc. outside of Buddhism in this discussion.)

There are views within Buddhism which would argue that “personal memories can continue after death.”  The Buddha was thought to be a reincarnation of past enlightened selves.  Are you at variance with this belief?

[ Edited: 05 August 2008 03:58 PM by John Brand]
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Posted: 05 August 2008 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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SkepticX - 03 August 2008 12:14 AM

I think John is right though. From self-importance comes the fear of death which in turn leads to fear of the lack of control over a clearly potentially deadly environment, and gods are means to convince ourselves we have a powerful advocate who can be perceived as in control. It’s all such folly though. It just seems so completely childish to play this game as if our wishful thinking had any actual effect on reality—as if reality were somehow obliged to indulge our personal sensibilities. It’s the narcissism of a two-year-old being manifest in adults. I guess when the stakes are high enough ...

I would agree that it is childish but attempts to manipulate reality are rampant in our modern world.  For example, look at what happens in Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD):  An individual attempts to create a reality within reality in order to have the feeling of control. Thus, someone will feel better as long as they are washing hands (hand washing compulsion) but is unable to deal with the feeling of being dirty when (s)he is not washing his/her hands.  Freud made the fascinating observation that religion works in this same way: 

... obsessional neurosis [is] a pathological counterpart of the formation of a religion, and … neurosis [is] an individual religiosity and religion [is] a universal obsessional neurosis… [from `Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices’ The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud (London: The Hogarth Press, 1959)]

What Buddhism teaches is that we need to face the fear that we feel when we are not following a ritual.  It is interesting how this is done for those with some form of OCD .  Therapy for the hand washer includes keeping his hands dirty 24 hours a day.  His/her system is overloaded with stimuli as an assault upon his fear.  Eventually, the fear diminishes. This is the kind of thing that happens when one meditates upon what one fears:  The fear is faced in a calm and peaceful way in order to overcome it.

There is a fascinating therapy advocated by the Australian GP Dr. Claire Weekes. Her research on anxiety noted that when an individual experiences some fear, the automatic (R-complex) response is to either flee or fight.  If the person chose to fight the fear, fear builds on fear.  The flight often will mean a flight into neurosis (as above).  But her method advocates floating:

Dr. Weekes’ approach was to reassure the sufferer that the heart is a wonderfully thick muscle that can sustain a very rapid heartbeat for an extended period of time without deleterious effects. The comfort of this knowledge (and similar such advice) serves to lessen the secondary fear and allows the patient to regain confidence in his or her personal survival and ability to address the conditions that initially caused the acute response.

As such, she seemed to anticipate President Franklin Roosevelt’s admonition that: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” She taught her patients and readers to learn to “float” through anxiety attacks and not be concerned with the symptoms themselves or try to fight them (adding yet more adrenaline), using the knowledge and techniques they had learned under her guidance.

This is the idea of Buddhist meditation from my understanding.

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Posted: 05 August 2008 08:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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John Brand - 05 August 2008 07:36 PM

There are views within Buddhism which would argue that “personal memories can continue after death.”  The Buddha was thought to be a reincarnation of past enlightened selves.  Are you at variance with this belief?

John, I appreciate your comments.  Yes, I’m at variance with that belief.  In other posts I’ve suggested that we are all several billion years old since I consider the DNA in the germ cells to be living material.  The fertilized egg doesn’t spring from dead material any more than mice generate from a pile of rags, which is what people thought several hundred years ago (until scientists demonstrated otherwise). 

As you know, the DNA transmitted in germ cells (egg and sperm) is loaded with ‘know-how’ and information - how to build a completely new person and get them up and running, but personal memories are a kind of data stored in the brain, not in our DNA.  We might have our mother’s eyes, or our father’s gait, but not their personal memories.  I realize that there are plenty of fantastical Buddhist stories, and plenty of New Age gurus who will argue differently, and plenty of people who claim to remember past incarnations - claiming that they are Napoleon, or an African princess etc.

When asked where Buddhism stood on this matter, Zen Master Joshu Sasaki, abbot of Mt. Baldy Zen Center commented, “Those of you who believe in ghosts, I’d like to call you all fools!”

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“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 06 August 2008 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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unsmoked - 06 August 2008 12:28 AM

When asked where Buddhism stood on this matter, Zen Master Joshu Sasaki, abbot of Mt. Baldy Zen Center commented, “Those of you who believe in ghosts, I’d like to call you all fools!”

Unfortunately, the worst thing about Buddhism (and woo-woo in general) is the way that it causes some people, including Joshu Sasaki, to go about attempting to establish that the correct way to deal with thinking about nonsense is to think about nothing at all, when the correct way to deal with nonsense is to address it with stuff that is not nonsense,

[ Edited: 06 August 2008 06:22 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 06 August 2008 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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unsmoked - 06 August 2008 12:28 AM

John, I appreciate your comments.  Yes, I’m at variance with that belief.  In other posts I’ve suggested that we are all several billion years old since I consider the DNA in the germ cells to be living material.  The fertilized egg doesn’t spring from dead material any more than mice generate from a pile of rags, which is what people thought several hundred years ago (until scientists demonstrated otherwise). 

As you know, the DNA transmitted in germ cells (egg and sperm) is loaded with ‘know-how’ and information - how to build a completely new person and get them up and running, but personal memories are a kind of data stored in the brain, not in our DNA.  We might have our mother’s eyes, or our father’s gait, but not their personal memories.

I had never heard of this sort of explanation before reading yours.  Provisionally, it makes a great deal of sense.  Allow me, if you will, to explore some of the implications of this regarding woo-woo in general as well as the more specific teachings of early Buddhism.

There is an interesting article in Newsweek (November, 2007) entitled The Ghosts We Think We See by Sharon Begley.  She is discussing cognitive scientific studies regarding phenomena which lie outside current knowledge of the laws of physics or biology:

But “supernatural”—anything that cannot be explained by laws of physics or biology—also encompasses more mundane phenomena. It includes the belief that you can feel someone staring at you from behind, and that if you think about someone he is more likely to phone you (this doesn’t work for getting first dates to call you for a second, however). Far from being pathological, the ubiquity of such beliefs is actually a clue to how the normal mind works, cognitive scientists now realize, for belief in the supernatural arises from the same mental processes that underlie everyday reasoning and perception.

Begley discussion of the dopamine reward helps me to understand what is motivating our minds to “fill in the blanks” regarding perceptions which SC is calling woo-woo.  The article explains that these things can be understood to a certain extent in terms of the emotional response that an individual is looking for when he embraces a pattern which may not any kind of pattern at all.  For example, there is no big dipper but the pattern is readily visible and enables us to make sense of the starry night.

In terms of the ancient ideas of Buddhism, what this means is that we start with a proper understanding of what Buddha has said and, then, try to understand what is being talked about in terms which would be more scientific.  I am suggesting this rather than saying “what the Buddha really meant was ...,” etc..

For example, the concept of karma can be understood in terms of the DNA illustration you have given.  National traits begin from ancestors who habituate certain responses to their environment and pass them on to their children.  I should think we have abundant evidence for this even from breeding and the development of hybrids (but I am ready to be corrected by those who know more about the matter). 

It is clear, for example, that in the Buddha’s era, there was a widespread belief in reincarnation and in a form of the concept of hell.  There are some interesting parallels to Greco-Roman thought in this regard (I am thinking of Plato’s Republic.x, for example).  But the Buddha’s response was not like that of Johsu Sasaki:

unsmoked - 06 August 2008 12:28 AM

When asked where Buddhism stood on this matter, Zen Master Joshu Sasaki, abbot of Mt. Baldy Zen Center commented, “Those of you who believe in ghosts, I’d like to call you all fools!”

Rather, he starts with the supposition of the individual:

”’Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.’ This is the first solace found by him.

“‘Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.’ This is the second solace found by him. Kalama Sutta.17

The important point for the Buddha is not what will happen after death, but what is habituated by the one participating in the present.  I think this is the gem which can be extracted from his teaching as a universal principle.

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Posted: 06 August 2008 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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Salt Creek - 04 August 2008 01:45 PM

Any idiot with a road atlas can probably figure out that in relation to the highway, the map is not the territory. The best way to illustrate this is that potholes are not normally marked by the preparers of the map. However, the highway is the reality, and is a way to get from point A to point B. In fact, maps are real, too, but they are used in a way different from the highway itself. So intoning pompously that “the map is not the territory” is phony-intellectual crap intended only to make the speaker appear “profound”, and to grab for respect that is entirely unearned.

When I was studying basic physics for pre-meds, our TA opened his first session with a little thought experiment.  He drew a circle and a finger pointing at it, and said, “A finger can be used to point at the moon, but a finger is not the moon.”

This was a real honest-to-goodness Asian Buddhist who could barely make himself understood in English.  He invited us to discuss the concept in relation to our study of physics.  There was a bewildered silence (pre-meds, remember).

I eventually said something along the lines of “the map is not the territory, either” (i.e. paraphrasing Burt) just to save him further embarrassment. 

Nevertheless, he was embarrassed, and made some sheepish remark as he erased the whole thing.

I always wonder what happened to that chap.  I don’t think he had much of a future in physics.

After that opening we stuck to problem solving.  That was fraught with enough emotion to carry us through the quarter (pre-meds, remember—in the days when girls were known to collapse in hysterical tears upon receiving anything less than 99% on a test.  Literally, they had to be carried out of the lecture room, their futures dissolving before their eyes.  Boys were less dramatic: quietly suicidal).

Good times!

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Posted: 07 August 2008 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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Salt Creek - 06 August 2008 10:19 AM
unsmoked - 06 August 2008 12:28 AM

When asked where Buddhism stood on this matter, Zen Master Joshu Sasaki, abbot of Mt. Baldy Zen Center commented, “Those of you who believe in ghosts, I’d like to call you all fools!”

Unfortunately, the worst thing about Buddhism (and woo-woo in general) is the way that it causes some people, including Joshu Sasaki, to go about attempting to establish that the correct way to deal with thinking about nonsense is to think about nothing at all, when the correct way to deal with nonsense is to address it with stuff that is not nonsense,

A while back your signature commented that when the mind is quiet, what you are left with is reality.

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 07 August 2008 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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unsmoked - 07 August 2008 04:20 PM
Salt Creek - 06 August 2008 10:19 AM
unsmoked - 06 August 2008 12:28 AM

When asked where Buddhism stood on this matter, Zen Master Joshu Sasaki, abbot of Mt. Baldy Zen Center commented, “Those of you who believe in ghosts, I’d like to call you all fools!”

Unfortunately, the worst thing about Buddhism (and woo-woo in general) is the way that it causes some people, including Joshu Sasaki, to go about attempting to establish that the correct way to deal with thinking about nonsense is to think about nothing at all, when the correct way to deal with nonsense is to address it with stuff that is not nonsense,

A while back your signature commented that when the mind is quiet, what you are left with is reality.

And when the mind is not quiet, all you are left with is reality.  ohh

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Posted: 07 August 2008 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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John Brand - 06 August 2008 02:58 PM

”’Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.’ This is the first solace found by him.

“‘Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.’ This is the second solace found by him. Kalama Sutta.17

The important point for the Buddha is not what will happen after death, but what is habituated by the one participating in the present.  I think this is the gem which can be extracted from his teaching as a universal principle.

So Buddha was an Epicurean, or I guess given the historical timing, Epicurus was a Buddhist…

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Posted: 07 August 2008 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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burt - 07 August 2008 04:44 PM

So Buddha was an Epicurean, or I guess given the historical timing, Epicurus was a Buddhist…

There is evidence of Greco-Buddhist cultural syncretism due to the campaigns of Alexander the Great (see Tetradrachm of eastern Greek emperor Seleucus I ca.300 BC below).  Some have also argued that Pythagoras spent some time in India due to kinship between his theories and that of Jainism (but there is no evidence of his journey to India beyond this speculation).

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