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Buddhism as a model?
Posted: 02 March 2008 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 151 ]  
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homunculus - 01 March 2008 10:37 PM
burt - 01 March 2008 04:08 AM

. . .
Different strokes, but what I wonder is why, seeing nothing of value in Buddhism worth the effort to understand, you jump in to a discussion of the value of Buddhism, other than to vent a bit.

As if you didn’t already know, burt:

When Celsus, Malapert or Salt Creek ridicule or merely correct supersitious nonsense, a lot of people, I suspect, applaud inside. Deep inside. Your take on reality seems to some of us to be as fantasy-driven as that of front-and-center religionists. Many who watch this forum, it seems likely, see you as being far beneath such devout folks as Bruce Burleson. This is not an insult to your abilities or intellectual breadth, burt. Quite the opposite. Few choose to take on your nonsense because they fear you. They might fear Salt Creek, too, but they cheer on his every word.

That’s an interesting expression of your point of view, although I wonder about your attempting to speak for “many of us.”  The question, of course, is one of discernment—can you tell what is superstitions nonsense and what is not?  I think that all of us are in the same boat in that regard, the best we can say is “According to my experience and the beliefs I have based on those experiences, this (pointing a finger) is nonsense.”  Given that, a certain open-mindedness seems the most reasonable attitude, simply ridiculing another persons beliefs or point of view might be taken as a lack of confidence in ones own. 

As far as this discussion of the value, or lack thereof of Buddhism, and of meditation practices in general I do find it interesting that people who have not tried it are so insistent that it is nonsense, useless, a distraction from more important things, and so on.  It’s somewhat like a person who hasn’t bothered to learn linear algebra and calculus saying that they understand quantum mechanics.  Or, to use an analogy that Salty would get: somebody who has never been in a lab saying that experimentation is useless since he already knows how things will come out.  It seems to me that the better attitude is just suspension of judgement: somebody tells me that such and such a practice has allowed them to, for example, dry sheets.  Some people will say “Oh, wow!  That practice of yours is really powerful.”  Others will say “What arrent nonsense!”  More productive is a response: “Somebody has told me that by working in a certain practice it is possible to develop the ability to generate enough metabolic heat to dry a sheet,” followed up by questions of whether or not this is actually correct, whether it has any practical value, and what more general abilities might be developed.  (Of course, if this assertion of sheet drying is not of interest, I can ignore it.)

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Posted: 02 March 2008 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 152 ]  
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Burt, I know of a number of ways to access “Oh, wow!” mental-realm conditions. Anybody with a certain minimal reading/conversing ability also has full access to such conditions. The smoke you tend to blow is entirely familiar to those who have done such reading/conversing, and my point to you yesterday was that you must already understand that your words evoke a certain response among many who read and contribute here. I wasn’t attempting to speak for anybody.

Stay with it in earnest, burt. Preach, teach, show us your stuff. Some will accept it and some will respond with an irate attitude. If you disagree with this fact, then I would say you ignore reality. Ignore that and other realities at your peril.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 02 March 2008 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 153 ]  
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burt - 02 March 2008 03:01 PM

As far as this discussion of the value, or lack thereof of Buddhism, and of meditation practices in general I do find it interesting that people who have not tried it are so insistent that it is nonsense, useless, a distraction from more important things, and so on.

I don’t care so much for Buddhism but I have, on occasion, tried meditation and I find it useful as have other people I know who do not care for woo-woo in the slightest.

What I consider helpful, when talking about meditation,is to strip down the lingo as much as possible.
( and to ignore gravity-challenged lunatics who enjoy the smell of their own farts)

So here it goes;

It is easy to observe that many people are distracted by their own thoughts.
It is not possible to shut down the machinery of your brain but you can, by just sitting on your ass and focusing your attention on this factory of sometimes lofty ideas and tons of useless crap, create a bit of (gasp!) space ( Oh boy, am I going to be paying for this) where your attention is not constantly stuck to your next thought about, say, you and Jennifer Connelly in a hot tub.

I suppose it will be a tricky thing to measure this but you can observe people who do meditate and compare them with people who don’t.
The next time you watch Sam speak or debate, look at his composure and calmness.

To me, meditation is nothing else but training your mind not be lost in thought as we are prone to do.

.....and Sander ducks under his computer desk…...

[ Edited: 02 March 2008 02:43 PM by Lapin Diabolique]
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Posted: 02 March 2008 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 154 ]  
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What—no delete function?  Double post.

[ Edited: 02 March 2008 12:46 PM by M is for Malapert]
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Posted: 02 March 2008 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 155 ]  
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burt - 01 March 2008 10:35 PM

and just tossing words around won’t help out even if it makes you feel moral and superior.

I hope we’re all doing more to effect change in the world than simply posting here!

And I mean that sincerely.  The rest is all diversion, Burt. All of it,

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Posted: 02 March 2008 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 156 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]somebody tells me that such and such a practice has allowed them to, for example, dry sheets.  Some people will say “Oh, wow!  That practice of yours is really powerful.”

Really powerful?  I doubt that even the researchers would say that, except when writing up their grants for further study.

Really powerful would be making sheets disappear, f’rinstance, not heating them up a few degrees over a goodly period of time.

Others will say “What arrent nonsense!” More productive is a response: “Somebody has told me that by working in a certain practice it is possible to develop the ability to generate enough metabolic heat to dry a sheet,” followed up by questions of whether or not this is actually correct, whether it has any practical value, and what more general abilities might be developed.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s possible.  Our bodies do have trivial but unexpected capabilities they can be trained into; on the other hand, the difficulty of finding true practioners and the secrecy mentioned do give rise to a certain skepticism.  Either way, shrug.

More important, we’ve already seen, over the last few millenia, that no more general abilities can be developed—that is, none which involves overturning the inconvenient laws of physics, such that we are all going to be annihilated both personally and as a species, that life is random and cruel, and that we’re majorly fucking up this earth in the meantime.

As for practical value, we can all be the judge of that.  I’m all for being green, and I’d love to volunteer you and the rest of the woo-woo orchestra to dry my laundry for me.  Or even for yourselves.  I don’t see anyone lining up, though.

I don’t object to meditation per se.  As I’ve said, I find it beneficial to help me sleep and calm down in general.  I was merely pointing out the arrant absurdity of spending decades of time and millions of dollars to explore the phenomenon of sheet-drying by a handful of monks living in a cave somewhere.  The story was just laughable, and anyone with the sense of humor of a goldfish could see that.

The only reason I can think of that others didn’t find it equally laughable is that they have so damn much invested in whatever they can throw up against science. 

Oh boy, do they ever.  And yeah, that was enlightening.  Sheet-drying monks?  Yes!  Yesssss!!  Those physicists are just so stupid and narrow and wrong, aren’t they?  There’s so much they’ve missed, except for enlightened adepts like Fritjof Capra.  [Insert heaping portion of mesclun including words like “scientism”, “ego”, “true self”, “desire”, “attachment”, and so forth.]  Long live What the Bleep! 

Still, I continue to look on the bright side.  For every intelligent person studying monks, that’s one not studying new weapons systems.

Oh wait, though.  It’s not like the monk-researchers had the other choice anyway.

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Posted: 02 March 2008 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 157 ]  
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Sander - 02 March 2008 05:05 PM

. . . I have, on occasion, tried meditation and I find it useful as have other people I know who do not care for woo-woo in the slightest.

I’ve not only tried but continue, on occasion, to rely on self-invented self-hypnosis techniques when things get really challenging for me. I don’t at all doubt the veracity of advocates of meditation itself. What I doubt and even abhor is a reliance on superstitious or supernatural explanations for what may at first glance appear too super for science-style explanation.

[ Edited: 02 March 2008 07:20 PM by nv]
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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 02 March 2008 07:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 158 ]  
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Sander - 02 March 2008 05:05 PM

I suppose it will be a tricky thing to measure this but you can observe people who do meditate and compare them with people who don’t.
The next time you watch Sam speak or debate, look at his composure and calmness.

To me, meditation is nothing else but training your mind not be lost in thought as we are prone to do.

.....and Sander ducks under his computer desk…...

Exactly, training the mind.  Everything else is add on.  The catch with personal report is that I have no way of knowing how my life would have worked out without meditation and other forms of “spiritual” work.  I do know that if I had not been following an exercise routine and practicing Tai Chi I would be in lots worse physical shape—I do have comparisons on that: when I stop exercising for several months there are several stages.  First off, I don’t feel much different.  Then a few aches and pains, then no difference except that I’m stiffer in the morning and not nearly as flexible.  Starting the routine again, the sequence is reversed.  I assume (but could be wrong) that something similar holds for mental exercises like meditation, but who knows for sure.

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Posted: 02 March 2008 08:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 159 ]  
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You guys keep concentrating on meditation. As Homunculus says, and I agree, the issue isn’t so much the benefits of meditation, if by meditation you are talking about concentration techniques that are used to focus the mind. (Although I will point out that recent research has shown that Franciscan Nuns , while praying, achieve a mental state similar to the one Tibetan Buddhist achieve during meditation. And I doubt many here on this forum would use this information to proselytize on the mental benefits of Christian prayer. Well, maybe Bruce) No, the problem is trying bring Buddhism wholesale to the masses.

As I’ve said before, there are bits of wisdom to be found in most books of ancient philosophy. But that doesn’t mean that we need to embrace those theories in total. There’s a lot of mystical nonsense permeating classical Buddhism.

For instance, Burt, you dismissed my criticism of the use of servants by Buddhist monks. But one thing that you didn’t consider is why these people would choose a life of service (whether they were happy in it or not). Could it perhaps be because of the notions of Karma and reincarnation? Because of their religious indoctrination, these people believe that by subjecting themselves to a life of servitude in order to build up enough karma to be reincarnated into a form closer to “enlightened.” There is also some, admitedly, anecdotal evidence that Buddhist look down upon those born with defects, or who have incurred a disease,  because they must have done terrible things in their past life in order to have been born into such a pitiful state. This seems to be one of the flaws in the “Buddhism is more rational” logic. Buddhist may not believe in a “god,” per-say, but they do believe that the universe has an “intelligence” that judges their actions. Why is Karma any more rational an idea than God?

Or consider the Japanese during WWII. There are some who feel that Buddhism was the enabler of their superiority complex. Certainly, many of the Kamikaze were enticed into suicide by the notion that their souls would transmigrate upon impact. Again, is this enlightenment?

Look, you guys find meditating or chanting beneficial, fine. If people want to incorporate these ideas into a secular western context, OK. But Buddhism its self is every bit as nonsensical, superstitious, and archaic as Christianity, and quoting the sayings of Buddha, as if he is some sort of ultimate moral authority, is every bit as silly and self rightous as quoting Jesus Christ.

[ Edited: 02 March 2008 08:23 PM by Celsus]
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Posted: 03 March 2008 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 160 ]  
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M is for Malapert - 02 March 2008 06:51 PM

The only reason I can think of that others didn’t find it equally laughable is that they have so damn much invested in whatever they can throw up against science.

 

Or perhaps its more because they aren’t against science (as you assume they are) or they realize its not a scientifically sound article, or because the only thing ‘Buddhist’ about that particular type of meditation is that its practiced by Tibetan Buddhist monks.

Those physicists are just so stupid and narrow and wrong, aren’t they?

Of course they are narrow.

There’s so much they’ve missed, except for enlightened adepts like Fritjof Capra.

Theres nothing they’ve missed?

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Posted: 03 March 2008 04:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 161 ]  
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Celsus - 03 March 2008 01:20 AM

You guys keep concentrating on meditation. As Homunculus says, and I agree, the issue isn’t so much the benefits of meditation, if by meditation you are talking about concentration techniques that are used to focus the mind. (Although I will point out that recent research has shown that Franciscan Nuns , while praying, achieve a mental state similar to the one Tibetan Buddhist achieve during meditation. And I doubt many here on this forum would use this information to proselytize on the mental benefits of Christian prayer. Well, maybe Bruce) No, the problem is trying bring Buddhism wholesale to the masses.

As I’ve said before, there are bits of wisdom to be found in most books of ancient philosophy. But that doesn’t mean that we need to embrace those theories in total. There’s a lot of mystical nonsense permeating classical Buddhism.

Thats assuming we couldn’t have a more honest form of Buddhism here in the west. Various sects of Buddhism already betray ‘the rules’ depending on what each group likes or doesn’t like , a new path could do the same and refuse to adopt anything as fact until it was proven, or perform any practice unless it was reasonable or psychological beneficial.

The 5 precepts, 4 Noble Truths and Noble 8fold path all pertain to this life. Abandon kamma, rebirth and every other unproven Buddhist concept and the core of Buddhism would still stand up, would still be beneficial.

[ Edited: 03 March 2008 06:26 AM by meloncolin]
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Second, it is Violently Opposed…
Third, it is Accepted as being Self-Evident.”

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Posted: 03 March 2008 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 162 ]  
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Celsus - 03 March 2008 01:20 AM

You guys keep concentrating on meditation. As Homunculus says, and I agree, the issue isn’t so much the benefits of meditation, if by meditation you are talking about concentration techniques that are used to focus the mind. (Although I will point out that recent research has shown that Franciscan Nuns , while praying, achieve a mental state similar to the one Tibetan Buddhist achieve during meditation. And I doubt many here on this forum would use this information to proselytize on the mental benefits of Christian prayer. Well, maybe Bruce) No, the problem is trying bring Buddhism wholesale to the masses.

As I’ve said before, there are bits of wisdom to be found in most books of ancient philosophy. But that doesn’t mean that we need to embrace those theories in total. There’s a lot of mystical nonsense permeating classical Buddhism.

For instance, Burt, you dismissed my criticism of the use of servants by Buddhist monks. But one thing that you didn’t consider is why these people would choose a life of service (whether they were happy in it or not). Could it perhaps be because of the notions of Karma and reincarnation? Because of their religious indoctrination, these people believe that by subjecting themselves to a life of servitude in order to build up enough karma to be reincarnated into a form closer to “enlightened.” There is also some, admitedly, anecdotal evidence that Buddhist look down upon those born with defects, or who have incurred a disease,  because they must have done terrible things in their past life in order to have been born into such a pitiful state. This seems to be one of the flaws in the “Buddhism is more rational” logic. Buddhist may not believe in a “god,” per-say, but they do believe that the universe has an “intelligence” that judges their actions. Why is Karma any more rational an idea than God?

Or consider the Japanese during WWII. There are some who feel that Buddhism was the enabler of their superiority complex. Certainly, many of the Kamikaze were enticed into suicide by the notion that their souls would transmigrate upon impact. Again, is this enlightenment?

Look, you guys find meditating or chanting beneficial, fine. If people want to incorporate these ideas into a secular western context, OK. But Buddhism its self is every bit as nonsensical, superstitious, and archaic as Christianity, and quoting the sayings of Buddha, as if he is some sort of ultimate moral authority, is every bit as silly and self rightous as quoting Jesus Christ.

Hey, I didn’t say anything about your comments on Buddhist monks using servants, that was somebody else. 

Also a slight correction in terms: there are differences between meditation, concentration, and contemplation.  There are also various forms of meditation (a great difference, for example, between zen meditation and Tibetian meditation on some complex mandala). 

The main point, however: you are right, in the East the various forms of meditation and other practices have been incorporated into religious belief systems that can be just as dogmatic as any Western religion.  I saw an interesting dvd called Fog Ravens where a musical student was talking about his studies of various musical instruments.  One was a flat bell shaped something like somebody seated in meditation and played by striking it with a mallet.  He said that when he first saw it, he said it looked like a buddha.  He was told, no it couldn’t be a buddha because you didn’t strike buddha.  It could be a monk….  And, Westerners who take up Eastern systems often become dogmatic about them, too.  The important point is to discover the benefits, to determine what is of value and what is not, and how various techniques can be integrated into a system adapted to present day culture.  One aspect of this, in my opinion, is rediscovery of Western methods of personal development.  The Greek philosophical schools were not only focused on intellectual development, their studies included gymnastics (physical exercise), music, mathematics, and emotional/moral exercises as well.  This was all pushed underground with the dominance of Christianity.  So, for example, Celsus, you might well prefer the Stoic view of the world to the Buddhist—no claims that life is suffering.  grin

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Posted: 03 March 2008 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 163 ]  
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burt - 03 March 2008 02:02 PM

So, for example, Celsus, you might well prefer the Stoic view of the world to the Buddhist—no claims that life is suffering.

This isn’t really offering much, except relief from annoyance. We pretty much could do without “claims” of any kind. “Claim”, in this context, is a euphemism for “opinion”.

burt - 03 March 2008 02:02 PM

The important point is to discover the benefits, to determine what is of value and what is not, and how various techniques can be integrated into a system adapted to present day culture.  One aspect of this, in my opinion, is rediscovery of Western methods of personal development.

Let’s try to parse this lengthy, content-free incantation. What is is that informs us that whatever it is here is important? Yes, folks, surprise! it is the benefits that are important. It is the notion that burt thinks it is important. Again, it would be nice to get a little breathing room around these incessant claims of importance. The benefits of what is of value? Do benefits accrue from something that has no value? It seems that the main object of value here is again tautology.

As for integrating techniques into a system? Well, um, what else besides a system would one organize techniques into? Ah, well. The system is “adapted to present day culture”. This suggests to me something about the possibilities of marketing methods of personal development, whatever those might turn out to be, though they are not specified here. Nor is what constitutes personal development.  What is important is that the opinions about what constitutes virtue are respectably old, and that should be good enough for us.

burt - 03 March 2008 02:02 PM

Also a slight correction in terms: there are differences between meditation, concentration, and contemplation.  There are also various forms of meditation (a great difference, for example, between zen meditation and Tibetian meditation on some complex mandala).

Well, what the fuck are they? All we have here is a claim that there are differences. All we ever get, it seems, are claims.

[ Edited: 03 March 2008 03:00 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 03 March 2008 07:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 164 ]  
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homunculus - 02 March 2008 11:40 PM

I don’t at all doubt the veracity of advocates of meditation itself. What I doubt and even abhor is a reliance on superstitious or supernatural explanations for what may at first glance appear too super for science-style explanation.

No argument there.

homunculus - 02 March 2008 11:40 PM

I’ve not only tried but continue, on occasion, to rely on self-invented self-hypnosis techniques when things get really challenging for me.

If I understand you correctly we are not talking about the same thing here.
As is evident from some of my posts, I have not always been successful in “saying no” and I am quite familiar with the desire to, and effects of, change(ing) one’s experience by chemical means.
Therefore it is easy for me to see that other people try to achieve a similar effect by contemplating the circumference of their navel or chanting ‘Oooohm’ with a ridiculous grin on their face whilst inhaling patchouli-infested air.

Meditation (and here comes the ghastly phrase) in my experience, falls in the category of what your parents tell you when you are little: When you get angry, count to ten before you act upon it.
Meditation can be a preventive strike against emotional knee-jerk reactions such as anger.
I know it sounds funny coming from me, but then again it is far easier to pass around good advice than it is to take it, but as I mentioned before, take another look at Sam. It is not that he can’t or won’t call a spade a spade but he consistently shows an ability not to be manipulated by his opponents and the responses they try to trigger in him and I have a good hunch that this is related to the way he trained his mind by practicing meditation.

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Posted: 04 March 2008 04:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 165 ]  
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Man ! I do not have my finger on the pulse of the more cynical wing of this forum.
I have been ducking under my desk for days and no verbal clusterbombs have been hurled through my screen.
That makes me feel confident to take it up a notch and explain in great detail my years-long experimentation with aroma-therapy, healing crystals and numerology.

Just let me know when you ladies and gents are ready.

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“You know I’m born to lose, and gambling is for fools.
But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever.”

From the autobiography of A.A.Mills, ‘The passage of time, according to an estranged, casual tyrant.’

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