Much ado about nothingness.


#1

This thread arises from an off topic discussion in this thread, see posts #51 to #55. The discussion was triggered by my sig: “The ultimate truth is that there is no Ultimate Truth.”

[quote=SocaliCatholic]Do you as a scientist believe in the Buddhist attitude of reality or is it something that you found interesting but dont take seriously?
[/quote]

I do take the Buddhist attitude to reality very seriously. Parts of Buddhism are not within the limits of science. Those that are do not present a great obstacle for me. One Buddhist analysis of the material world starts from the Three Marks: Impermanence, Suffering and Soullessness. Everything is impermanent, everything is suffering and nothing has a soul. Within science impermanence, i.e. change, is ubiquitous in the material world. Suffering and souls are both outside the remit of science. Hence I do not see any real difficulties with being a scientist and a Buddhist.

Nirvana, the ultimate goal of Buddhism, is also to some extent testable by science. The Buddha attained nirvana when he became enlightened at about age thirty-five. He died at about age eighty. You do not have to die to attain nirvana, so in principle it is possible to study someone who has attained nirvana to get some idea of what nirvana is like. Certainly some studies of Buddhist practitioners have been done, see Buddhists really are happier for an example.

In some ways Buddhism also uses the scientific method. Buddhism is a very practical religion with an emphasis on techniques that work. When something does not conduce to peace, happiness or the attainment of nirvana then it does not get much, if any, emphasis. Hence the lack of any specifically Buddhist stories about the origin of the universe - when asked the Buddha said in effect “That question is not relevant.”

[quote=SocaliCatholic]It appears that the content of your posts are elegantly logical, yet your signature appears that you might also believe something that is apparently paradoxical.
[/quote]

Logic works within a particular area and is not applicable outside that area. A lot of people assume that the area to which logic applies is equal to the whole universe. I am not sure of that assumption. Logic does apply to a large part of the universe, but I remain to be convinced that it applies to all of the universe. There is still room for paradox. Zen koans are one approach to an alogical description of reality.

The master Tozan was weighing some flax. A monk came up to him in the storeroom and said, “Tell me, what is Buddha?”

Tozan answered, “Here: five pounds of flax.”

I shall leave the last word to the Bodhisattva Vimalakirti:

Then the Bodhisattva Manjushri said to Vimalakirti, “We have all given our teachings, noble sir. Now, may you elucidate the teaching of the the entrance into the principle of nonduality.”

Thereupon Vimalakirti kept his silence, saying nothing at all.

The Bodhisattva Manjushri applauded Vimalakirti: “Excellent! Excellent, noble sir! This is indeed the entrance into the nonduality of the bodhisattvas.”

(Vimalakirtinirdesa sutra Ch 9)

rossum


#2

I think your missing the point about Christianity. Us Christians hope to be in union with God, that is our ultimate goal. a Buddahist(sorry for spelling) is that they just want to achieve nervana, they just want to stay a part of this world. keep in mind this world is temporary heaven is eternaty. This ‘ulitmate true is that there is no Ultimate truth’ is kind of like saying ‘sure do whatever you want it doesnt matter no one care.’ And hey if you want to just stay a part of this world go right ahead, but for me i want to be a part of something greater, God.


#3

Sorry I don’t want to get too deep in this as to offend, but Catholics follow Jesus, & He died and rose again on the third day.
Our God is a God of the living, not of the dead, Buddha died at 80 years of age, and as far as I know he never arose.
So therefore he isn’t the giver of eternal life, God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit only give Eternal life.


#4

[quote=chb03c]keep in mind this world is temporary heaven is eternaty.
[/quote]

Since we are arguing from different sets of scriptures, we will only ever half agree on this. The Buddha said “Impermanent are all compound things”, so we can both agree that the world is temporary. However all of the heavens are also “compound things” and hence temporary. In Buddhism the gods are long lived, but not immortal, similarly anyone who gets to one of the heavens will have a nice time there, but will eventually die and be reborn elsewhere. Of course the hells (sixteen of them: eight hot and eight cold) are all temporary as well.

This ‘ulitmate true is that there is no Ultimate truth’ is kind of like saying ‘sure do whatever you want it doesnt matter no one care.’

If you do whatever you want, without regard to moral law, then you certainly will care eventually. The nature of reality does not impact moral law; moral law is just as real as everything else. The results of your actions will still affect your future:
Not in the sky, not in the middle of the ocean, not in a deep mountain cave can you find any place where you can escape the results of an evil deed. (Dhammapada v127)

but for me i want to be a part of something greater, God.

I wish you well on your journey up the mountain.

[quote=Stephen-Maguire]I don’t want to get too deep in this as to offend
[/quote]

Don’t worry too much, I am not easily offended. Posting on this board I expect to be criticised from a Christian perspective.

Buddha died at 80 years of age, and as far as I know he never arose.

You are correct, he didn’t arise. In Buddhism living again after you die is the normal process, the difficult thing is to avoid living again after you die:
“Now what do you think brothers? Which is greater, the flood of tears that you have shed on this long journey, forever running round the cycle of birth and death, weeping and wailing because of union with the undesired and separation from the desired or the waters of the four mighty oceans?”

“Insofar, Lord, as we understand your teachings the flood of tears we have shed, not the waters of the four mighty oceans.”

“Well said! Well said brothers! You have understood my teachings well.” (Samyutta Nikaya 12 49)

So therefore he [Buddha] isn’t the giver of eternal life

As I quoted above, all compound things are impermanent so eternal life is not possible in Buddhism. Even if it were possible, it would not be desirable - the ocean of tears would just be even larger.

Catholics follow Jesus

An excellent example to follow:
You shall love your neighbour as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)

Love others as you love yourself. (Bhadramayakaravyakarana sutra 91)

rossum


#5

[quote=rossum]In some ways Buddhism also uses the scientific method. Buddhism is a very practical religion with an emphasis on techniques that work. When something does not conduce to peace, happiness or the attainment of nirvana then it does not get much, if any, emphasis. Hence the lack of any specifically Buddhist stories about the origin of the universe - when asked the Buddha said in effect “That question is not relevant.”
[/quote]

The scientific method involves forming a hypothesis, running experiments to test that hypothesis, then revising the hypothesis based on your experimental evidence. Rinse, lather, repeat, so to speak. The anecdote that you list has absolutely nothing to do with the process of experimentation to determine the veracity of a hypothesis, but rather places an emphasis on accepting what has already been determined.

Peace


#6

No one denies that certain truisms in Buddhism are similar to those in Christianity, yet the two faiths do not necessarily coincide nor are they truly compatible, as you deny the reality of eternal life, which you seemingly identify with an endless, imperfect life, which, as you said, will only produce a bigger ocean of tears. Christians, unlike the pessimistic view of Buddhism, however, view eternal life positively, since for us, it is a life of unending joy in the presence of God.

Gerry :slight_smile:


#7

The ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth.

That statement contradicts itself, since the proposition that there is no ultimate truth totally excludes the possibility of even** one** ultimate truth. A self-contradiction is by its nature false.

Gerry :slight_smile:


#8

First off, I think this is rather brave of you.

My questions are, what permance do moral laws have if the universe is fundamentally based on change? Also, do Buddhists believe in an eternal, beginningless universe, or in a finite one?

Finally, could you explain the Buddhist concept of ‘god’? You seem to mean something quite different from the Christian definition, which includes eternal, omniscient, uncreated, and omnipotent.


#9

Shantih
Shantih
Shantih


#10

[quote=RobedWithLight]The ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth.

That statement contradicts itself, since the proposition that there is no ultimate truth totally excludes the possibility of even** one** ultimate truth. A self-contradiction is by its nature false.

Gerry :slight_smile:
[/quote]


Write on one side of a card “There is a FALSE statement on the other side” and

on the other side write," The statement on the other side of this card is False"

This , to me, make the same sence.


#11

If the statement “There is no ultimate truth” is true,
then the statement itself must be false, since it purports to state an ultimate truth.


#12

[quote=chemcatholic]The scientific method involves forming a hypothesis, running experiments to test that hypothesis, then revising the hypothesis based on your experimental evidence. Rinse, lather, repeat, so to speak. The anecdote that you list has absolutely nothing to do with the process of experimentation to determine the veracity of a hypothesis, but rather places an emphasis on accepting what has already been determined.
[/quote]

My apologies for not making myself clearer, my excuse is that I was running up against the post size limit. Something that is quoted ad nauseam by Buddhists is the Kalama sutta:
"Yes, Kalamas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea ‘this is our teacher’. But, O Kalamas, when you know for youselves that certain things are unwholesome and wrong, and bad, and criticised by the wise, and lead to unhappiness and suffering then give them up … And when you know for youselves that certain things are wholesome and good, and praised by the wise and lead to welfare and happiness then accept them and follow them."
In effect this is “test everything” (Thessalonians I think) writ large.

[quote=RobedWithLight]Christians, unlike the pessimistic view of Buddhism, however, view eternal life positively, since for us, it is a life of unending joy in the presence of God.
[/quote]

Buddhists see our view as realistic rather than pessimistic. There is no point in searching for something that is not there. I mentioned the Three Marks: Impermanence, Suffering and Soullessness. There are three corresponding errors; looking for permanence in what is impermanent is the first of them and looking for happiness in what is suffering is the second.

That statement [my sig] contradicts itself, since the proposition that there is no ultimate truth totally excludes the possibility of even one ultimate truth. A self-contradiction is by its nature false.

Yes the statement is paradoxical, deliberately so. Language is a finger pointing at the moon, it is not the moon. Language is contingent, changeable and not ultimately real. Any attempt to use language to describe ultimate reality is necessarily a paradox whether the paradox is made explicit or not. Hence the words of Vimalakirti I quoted in my opening post. For a more formal philosophical statement of the same thing see Nagarjuna and the Limits of Thought.
There is, then, no escape. Nagarjuna’s view is contradictory. The contradiction is, clearly a paradox of expressibility. Nagarjuna succeeds in saying the unsayable, just as much as the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus. We can think (and characterize) reality only subject to language, which is conventional, so the ontology of that reality is all conventional. It follows that the conventional objects of reality do not ultimately (non-conventionally) exist. It also follows that nothing we say of them is ultimately true. That is, all things are empty of ultimate existence; and this is their ultimate nature, and is an ultimate truth about them. They hence cannot be thought to have that nature; nor can we say that they do. But we have just done so. As Mark Siderits (1989) has put it, "the ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth."
By making the paradox explicit, Siderits was making a statement about the ultimate while at the same time indicating the inadequacy of language to describe the ultimate.

rossum


#13

[quote=rossum] However all of the heavens are also “compound things” and hence temporary. In Buddhism the gods are long lived, but not immortal, similarly anyone who gets to one of the heavens will have a nice time there, but will eventually die and be reborn elsewhere. Of course the hells (sixteen of them: eight hot and eight cold) are all temporary as well.

[/quote]

I have much respect for Buddhism and have done a fair amount of reading. Personally, though, I have never been able to remotely accept the Buddhist cosmology (as you have partially indicated above). Do you personally accept it? (I know, by the way, that one is not required to accept it to be Buddhist…but I’m just curious.)


#14

[quote=RobedWithLight]No one denies that certain truisms in Buddhism are similar to those in Christianity, yet the two faiths do not necessarily coincide nor are they truly compatible,
[/quote]

What do you mean by “compatible”? You mean Buddhists and Christians can’t live in the same town? Or that they can’t visit each others’ communities? Or that if Jesus and Buddha met they would have duked it out? Or that you can’t synthesize the two traditions?


#15

Thank you Rossum, for discussing your views - I feel very close to your point of view.

Long life story aside, I was Zen buddhist for a long while before I converted to christianity some 10 years ago.

Christianity and Buddhism embrace many things together. But as you pointed out (by inferrence), Christianity establishes ‘absolutes’ about realities that we have not or even cannot experience - which places us on a razor’s edge - should they be accepted or not? There is no middle ground.

I would have to say that is the primary fundamental difference between Eastern thought and Judea-Christian tradition - Christianity is like a razor, like a maw of teeth, you either embrace it fully or not at all, anything else is ‘lukewarm’ and thus, vomitus.

Buddhism comes from the ancient Hindu tradition of ‘death and rebirth’ (reincarnation) through eternal change and manifestation. However, its moral precepts are ‘tried and true’ so to speak, much in harmony with Christian love - evil is to be rejected because it is disharmony, an insanity that isn’t fitting for our purpose, which is to be Absolute. It was this realization…a realization of beauty that completely changed me.

I won’t make any attempt to draw you to Christianity however, since persuasion is often met by resistance. Therefore, I will listen and allow you to speak what you wish to say - for there must be a reason why you are here, or maybe there isn’t…perhaps we shall find out.


#16

Wouldn’t that depend on the Christianity you practice? And on how you interpret Christianity?

You could say similar things concerning Buddhism being a razor’s edge – it would depend upon the particular Buddhist tradition/lineage. The Buddha himself spoke of the correct way to practice the teachings as similar to holding a snake: practice it incorrectly, without awareness of its razor edge, and you’ll git [sic] bit.


#17

[quote=rossum]My apologies for not making myself clearer, my excuse is that I was running up against the post size limit. Something that is quoted ad nauseam by Buddhists is the Kalama sutta:
"Yes, Kalamas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea ‘this is our teacher’. But, O Kalamas, when you know for youselves that certain things are unwholesome and wrong, and bad, and criticised by the wise, and lead to unhappiness and suffering then give them up … And when you know for youselves that certain things are wholesome and good, and praised by the wise and lead to welfare and happiness then accept them and follow them."
In effect this is “test everything” (Thessalonians I think) writ large.
[/quote]

Thanks for clarifying - I really don’t know much about Buddhist beliefs and practices.

Peace


#18

Exporter, JimG: Yes you are both right, my sig is indeed paradoxical. I explained the reason for the paradox in my previous post (#12) so I won’t repeat myself.

[quote=JimG]Shantih
Shantih
Shantih
[/quote]

Om mani padme hum
Om mani padme hum
Om mani padme hum

[quote=Lissla Lissar][W]hat permance do moral laws have if the universe is fundamentally based on change?
[/quote]

Moral Law (Karma) is built into the universe in much the way that Gravity is built in. All that I need to know is what the moral law is here and now. Will it change in future? Probably, since everything changes, but that is not a problem as long as I know what I need to know now. I will not be around for ever, so whether or not something is eternal or not does not really matter.

[quote=Lissla Lissar][D]o Buddhists believe in an eternal, beginningless universe, or in a finite one?
[/quote]

The short answer is “All of the above”. As I said in post #1, Buddhists do not see this question as greatly relevant to attaining enlightenment so in religious terms it is generally ignored. Anyone is free to think what they want. The parable of “The Man Shot with an Arrow” is relevant here:
[The Lord said:]'It is as if, Malunkyaputta, a man is shot with an arrow thickly smeared with poison, … and the wounded man were to say “I will not have the arrow taken out until I know the caste of the man who shot it, … his tribe … his clan … his village … his height etc.” [many questions omitted here] That man would die Malunkyaputta, before he learned all that he wanted to know.

'In exactly the same way, Malunkyaputta, any one who says “I will not lead the religious life under the Blessed One until the Blessed One explains to me whether the universe is eternal, whether the universe is not eternal, whether the universe is finite, whether the universe is infinite etc.” [many questions omitted here] That person would die Malunkyaputta, before I had ever explained all this to that person.

‘The religious life, Malunkyaputta, does not depend on the dogma that the universe is eternal, nor does it depend on the dogma that the universe is not eternal etc. [many dogmas omitted here] Whatever dogma obtains there is still birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief and despair, of which I declare the extinction in the present life.’ (Malunkyaputta sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 63)
If I wanted to know about the universe I would ask a cosmologist, not a theologian.

[quote=Lissla Lissar]Finally, could you explain the Buddhist concept of ‘god’? You seem to mean something quite different from the Christian definition, which includes eternal, omniscient, uncreated, and omnipotent.
[/quote]

Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as far more important than gods. Buddhism is mostly indifferent towards gods. The gods are fellow inhabitants of the universe and are, like us, subject to the Three Marks of Impermanence, Suffering and Soullessness. They are long lived, but not eternal: they are born and they die. They are powerful but not omnipotent - no god can give you enlightenment. Since all living things will attain enlightenment all of the gods will eventually become enlightened and attain nirvana. The closest analogy within Christianity would probably be angels or devils.

The only thing in Buddhism which words like eternal or uncreated might apply to would be nirvana. Omniscient is sometimes applied to the Buddha. I do not think that there is anything in Buddhism that could be described as omnipotent.

rossum


#19

Wouldn’t that depend on the Christianity you practice? And on how you interpret Christianity?

I’m not even going to touch this…if Christ is ambiguous to you, then you don’t know anything about Him.

You could say similar things concerning Buddhism being a razor’s edge – it would depend upon the particular Buddhist tradition/lineage. The Buddha himself spoke of the correct way to practice the teachings as similar to holding a snake: practice it incorrectly, without awareness of its razor edge, and you’ll git [sic] bit.

Not so. As rossum has stated above, buddhists only need to know what they need to know to achieve the only thing that matters to them, and that is enlightenment. That is not a ‘razor’s edge’, that is subjectivism. As you can see in rossum explanations, ‘objective reality’ really isn’t objective at all, but a continuum of change and irrelivant occurance.

A buddhist’s only real aim is to ‘disappear’…to find no ‘self’ and to be as all that there is…egoless and undifferentiated.

No, I do not consider that to be a ‘razor’s edge’ of any sort because there is no downside to not being enlightened.


#20

I think you proved my point. To say that the Buddhist’s only real aim is to ‘disappear’ is to git bit by that rascally snake.

:slight_smile:


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