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Peace in This Life
red
typing_sound wrote in buddhistgroup
I thought I would just do a bit of writing here; my thoughts on Buddhism, particularly 'inner peace'. My way of practising Buddhism is not exactly mainstream, so I imagine I'll write something controversial, which fits in with 'controversial subject week'.
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Everyone looks for good feelings, all the time. It's why we do anything. We do it for the taste of it, unless we are doing something we are forced to do, such as going to work. But the reason we go to work, is to avoid the bad situations we imagine losing our job would bring upon us. So the mind is always trying to control our experience, reaching out for the good and rejecting the bad. You can watch the mind doing this, in almost every moment of your life. (And it's important to see it for yourself. Just reading this isn't enough.) This 'controlling mind' is the nature of pain, for it decides what is good and bad, and it creates good and bad. An experience in itself is neither good nor bad; it is just an experience. That's why some people enjoy things that others hate, and vice versa. The goodness or badness isn't in the object, it's projected upon the object by the mind.

So we seek out what the controlling-mind decides is good. And we can achieve some level of peace and happiness, in the company of what we desire. Maybe we feel at ease with our partner, or in our new job, but when these things are taken away, even for a short time, we become depressed, or experience other negative emotions. It seems, the more happiness we experience, the more pain that follows. This is because the happiness is based upon temporary relationships and situations. Sometimes we can be depressed for years, because the conditions we decided we needed to be happy, are so rare.

It's because of this situation, that there is a need for Buddhism. The aim of Buddhism, in my opinion, is to find happiness that doesn't depend on temporary conditions; a lasting happiness. As our mind becomes more at peace through Buddhist practice, we are more able to let go, and the controlling mind becomes gradually weaker, until one day we can let go altogether.

Once, someone asked Ajahn Chah, "what is the aim of Buddhist practice? What should we be striving towards?" Ajahn Chah replied, "the aim is to let go." Simple as that.

In this practice of peace, we don't need to worry about the future or future lives. If we take good care of this moment, then the future will be taken care of. The future is created in this present moment. This present moment, is where the seeds of the future will be planted. If we find all our happiness in temporary things only, then suffering will eventually be our future. That is obvious.

If we can learn, over time, to let go of the past and future, and look after just this present moment, then most of our suffering is gone just at that. When we are looking after this present moment, we can let go of that too, with acceptance; letting things be as they are; come and go as they please. This is the opposite of the controlling-mind. The controlling mind sometimes manifests as a tight knot in our chest. It is all about grabbing, craving and controlling; making things conform. The mind of acceptance is loosening the knot; letting go; letting things be.

Usually, when we have a pain, for example a physical pain in our foot, we immediately identify the pain as being in the foot, or being in the feeling in the foot. In reality, our discomfort is in the controlling-mind. That painful feeling in the foot, is actually just a feeling, a sensation; neither good nor bad in itself. If we are able to completely let go; completely accept that feeling, there would be no pain or discomfort AT ALL!
It's easy to be sceptical about this, but it's true. You might find you have tried to accept, but the pain remained, so you conclude it doesn't work. But it takes time to learn this. It's a day-by-day thing, that deepens over time.

Meditating formally helps our ability to let go. If we meditate regularly, our level our peace should steadily increase, and hopefully our controlling-mind will lose power, day-by-day. Unless of course, our meditation is another temporary condition for happiness, and we're trying to control it, LOL!


Rob

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I was talking to my mother yesterday and I told her that Buddha's teaching is simply about finding inner peace in this very world, this very life.

I think that everything else in Buddhism is secondary, maybe later add-ons...

Yeah, it's difficult to know. I'm inclined to believe the same as you, but there are a lot of "words of the Buddha" that seems to indicate otherwise. And it's difficult to know what the Buddha actually said. I mean, if you want your religious texts to be noticed, why not sign Buddha's name to them? I think that may have happened with the Mahayana texts. Either that, or they really were kept in another plane of existence for safe keeping!

Either that, or they really were kept in another plane of existence for safe keeping!

Yeah, they were kept in a secret subfolder on the reality's hard drive.

Mahayana guys lived in a different cultural and social context, they simply adapted the teachings of primitive Buddhism to this context.

I am sometimes inclined to think that original Buddhism was not even a religion. More a kind of practical psychological philosophy with an ethical flavour to it.

It was common and perfectly acceptable to put your group's views into the mouth of a respected historical figure in order to give them more authority. It wasn't just Mahayana Buddhists.

Original Buddhism is a myth. There were likely many Buddhisms right from the very beginning.

Original Buddhism is a myth. There were likely many Buddhisms right from the very beginning.

Interesting. Can you elaborate some more on this topic please?

Buddhism appealed to a wide cross-section of Indian society. It meant different things to different people and different aspects were emphasized. India was in transition from tribalism to a rising urban and merchant class. Buddhism appealed to these groups for different, sometimes contradictory reasons.

Buddhism was a wandering tradition. Received teachings in one area will differ from received teachings in another area. Over time, concepts would be elaborated, different teachings emphasized and codified, and you end up with different Buddhisms.

Buddhism [...] meant different things to different people and different aspects were emphasized.

As we see in this forum it didn't change much in 2500 years.

BTW. What do you think about the demise of Indian Buddhism?

I have always found strange the fact that Buddhism nearly disappeared from India after being one of the main spiritual teachings there for centuries.

Lol. For sure!

The demise of Indian Buddhism was in my opinion inevitable. But I also think so was its expansion to the rest of the planet.

Buddhism is far too open and universal a religion to maintain its identity amid the forces of perennialism and syncreticism such as those that exist in India. Those forces, combined with a loss of socio-political favor and an increasing need to fend against oppressive invaders meant that Buddhism had to dissolve into the greater whole.

That openness, however, meant that the Dharma could and would adapt to any culture that found a need for its teachings. Any folk deity, ritual, or practice could be incorporated into Buddhism comfortably. Monastics, those who maintained the flame of Buddhism for centuries, were able to serve their communities in numerous ways that ensured their survival.

I think what's most interesting is the fact that the order of monastics is so much less relevant today, and yet Buddhism is expanding. I don't find that necessarily troubling (although I have immense respect for the Order), because it can be seen as another way that the Dharma has adapted. Our culture no longer values spiritual middle-men. Our collective experience with the Church has made us bitter and more inclined to seek our own relationship with the Divine (c.f. Protestantism). That same impulse, combined with improved scholarship and the free flow of information has made each of us maintainers of the flame of Buddhism.

The forces of perennialism and syncreticism still exist, of course. We can see that in this very community at times. But our ability to investigate and study all of the teachings of Buddhists throughout history has enabled us to fend against those forces and define exactly what makes Buddhism unique.

The forces of perennialism and syncreticism still exist, of course. We can see that in this very community at times.



You probably find them in my comments sometimes. :D

LOL.

I believe that independently of religious and cultural imprints we all experience the same reality and that human psyche is biologically constrained (don't tell this to Robert).

Thus similar patterns would appear in different religions and spiritual traditions.

I don't see this as something bad, in fact I think that these patterns might be seen as an indication pointing to underlying reality.

If you stop breathing today, you can forget this life. All your work will have been in vain and you'll wish you had prepared for your future lives as Milarepa suggested!

Isn't creating inner peace in your mind, the best way to prepare for future lives?

So the mind is always trying to control our experience

BTW, this is described in Sufism as the "Tyranic Ego" (Nafs al Ameerah).

I don't recognise your version of Buddhism.

Buddha taught that we need to attain release from samsara, the cycle of uncontrolled death and rebirth. He didn't just teach this in the Mahayana scriptures, he taught it in Pali Canon. If you deny it, you are denying Buddha's teachings. The spiritual path begins with renunciation, the wish to leave samsara. I don't see renunciation in your 'system'.

Anyone can seek happiness in this life - in fact EVERYONE even animals and insects seek happiness in this life so what you're wishing for isn't so special. All you're doing by meditating is seeking a more refined form of samsaric happiness which is not what Buddha's teachings are for.

In the Pali Canon, rebirth is overcome by removing its cause: craving. Craving and the "controlling mind" are one and the same. So I'm not at odds with the Pali Canon.

I also don't see how I'm at odds with the Mahayana even. Samsara is not some place; it's in the mind. It begins with craving. As it says in your text, "from craving comes birth". Granted, your tradition has a different understanding of what will bring the end of craving, but I don't prescribe to your tradition.

Even though everyone, including animals and insects, seek happiness in this life, they seek it in temporary conditions, which is what I pointed out. So there's a big difference between that, and what I'm advocating.

Through my meditation I "seek" an end to craving, which is the cause of Samsaric rebirth.

Craving is not the cause of rebirth, ignorance is according to the twelve dependent related links.

You're addressing an effect, not the fundamental cause.

The clue is in the name, 'twelve dependant related links'. They are a chain, each link depending on every other link. Without craving, there can be no birth.

It is more of a network than a chain.
There is no awakening without ignorance and craving, no enlightenment without birth and suffering.
Buddha got enlightened because he experienced dukkha, without this experience there would be no Dharma today.
Lotus growing on a pile of dung, dung is an excellent fertilizer...

Ignorance gives rise to craving and craving gives rise to birth, but you're addressing only another effect of ignorance, just as birth is. Why not stop ignorance and be done with it? Until you do this there is no end to rebirth and suffering.

Even if your method could abandon craving (which I doubt), what you're doing is equivalent to someone who has a cold thinking that stopping their runny nose will make the cold vanish, or someone chopping off the tops of the weeds above ground while allowing the roots to remain.

In any case, the results of any spiritual action depend on the motivation with which you do it. Even spiritual actions that are motivated only by the wish for happiness in this life are worldly. Since you do not actually recognise the existence of future lives and have no wish to be free from the suffering of those lives but only to experience peace in this life, the results of your actions will be happiness in this life but suffering in the future. What's the point? Why don't you just practise what Buddha taught instead of adapting it to accommodate your doubts?

Why don't you just practise what Buddha taught instead of adapting it to accommodate your doubts?

-Because I'm a badass.

I suppose your idea of ignorance is different to mine. Your meaning of ignorance would be conceiving things to be inherently existent, right?

Ignorance in my 'model' would be not identifying the correct source of suffering, which is craving, or the controlling mind. That's true for the Theravada as well. Craving is the source in the Four Noble Truths. I see that in my own heart, in my own experience. Any talk of another source is just concepts to me, since that is outside of my experience.

Personally, I don't recognize the Mahayana or Vajrayana as "what the Buddha taught", because if I did that, I'd have to accept as true some very fanciful things. I'm inclined to accept the more likely reality.

Even so, I refuse to "just practice what the Buddha taught", because not even Buddha wanted that. Free enquiry and all that. If something is unreasonable to me, or does not accord with common sense, then I won't just blindly follow it. My main teacher is my own experience.

Truth be told, I do find some of the Buddha's teachings unreasonable, even the ones in the Pali Canon. If that makes me not a Buddhist, then so be it. I could care less. Buddhist or not, I am related to Buddhism, and so are my methods, so I'll continue to participate in this community.

Since you do not actually recognise the existence of future lives and have no wish to be free from the suffering of those lives but only to experience peace in this life, the results of your actions will be happiness in this life but suffering in the future.

If you take the seeds out of the ground, the tree can't grow. It doesn't matter what your motivation was, because the seeds are out. If craving is gone, there is no suffering. It doesn't matter what your motivation was for removing craving, because craving is gone. It's a very basic 'cause and effect'.

You can argue I'm denying Buddhist views on karma, and you wouldn't be wrong. I don't believe in karma at all, actually.

I don't believe in karma at all, actually.

As a moral mechanism of retribution or as causal relationship?

Because I can hardly see how one can negate causality...

I believe in cause and effect, if that's what you mean. But karma in Buddhism is never just cause and effect, is it? Karma in Buddhism is whatever goes around, comes around. If you do something bad, something bad is going to happen to you in the future, or in your future life.

In Manjushrisword's tradition, the Kadampa tradition, each action places a seed-like imprint on our mind, which later ripens as an experience, even if it takes many lifetimes to ripen. That's also the Gelugpa view.

I believe in cause and effect, if that's what you mean.

Yes that is what I mean.

But karma in Buddhism is never just cause and effect, is it? Karma in Buddhism is whatever goes around, comes around. If you do something bad, something bad is going to happen to you in the future, or in your future life.

Is it really the way Karma is presented in the early Buddhist scriptures?

And is it the way the Karma is understood by all Buddhist schools of thought?

In Zen there is a saying: "Bad monks don't go to hell, good monks don't go to heaven."...

In the Kadampa tradition, each action places a seed-like imprint on our mind, which later ripens as an experience, even if it takes many lifetimes to ripen. That's also the Gelugpa view.

Yes I know, the Alaya vijnana hard drive on which all the data are recorded in order to create another virtual reality, very much elaborated in scriptures such as the Lnkavatara Sutra.

But we both know that Buddha has never been to Sri-Lanka...

I guess I've not studied the early scriptures on karma much. I'm just speaking from what I've gathered from Theravada teachers and the like. What do you think is the meaning of karma in the early Buddhist scriptures?

I think the meaning of karma was designing acts and their concequences.

The righteous acts were supposed to have beneficial consequences leading to satisfaction and happiness.

This did not mean that righteous acts were supposed to trigger some magical effect...

But karma in Buddhism is never just cause and effect, is it?

Karma is just a special case of cause and effect. The simplistic, pop-culture notion of karma you mentioned is not exactly the best one in terms of coherence and plausibility.

Thanks. What is your view on karma then?

In a nutshell: Intention. Our choices condition our behavior and can lead to pleasant or unpleasant experiences.

More sophisticated explanations need to account for Buddhist tenets of impermanence and anatta, and tend to take place at the level of the five skandhas rather than at the level of persons. But they're coherent with the general principles of causality found in Buddhism.

My take is that when I do mean/hateful things to others, they get in a bad mood and will go do mean hateful things...But, if I can practice loving kindness, they will be happier and share that with others. Overall,it is better for the universe (and my family) when I practice.

This is mainly based on personal experience, I haven't read a lot of old texts yet.

Nice post by the way, I agree that living in the present is a valuable lesson.

You can argue I'm denying Buddhist views on karma, and you wouldn't be wrong.

Yes he would. Nothing you've said contradicts the principles of karma.

That would be fine if removing craving didn't depend on your motivation, but it does. No belief in future lives, no renunciation, no three higher trainings, no removable of the causes of suffering, no end of suffering.

Your belief that craving can be removed regardless of your motivation is a wrong view. That alone is a delusion and will prevent you from achieving your goal. That goes double for your wrong view denying the existence of karma.

If you rely on your experience alone as your Teacher, you'll be stuck forever as ignorance clouds our minds (mine too). If that were not so, we could liberate ourself without having to be taught how to do so but we need to rely upon a trusted guide - Lord Buddha is such a guide. I'm sorry to say this, but your 'pick and mix' approach to Buddha's teachings won't lead to the result you desire.

What were you trying to accomplish by debating me? Are you just arguing for the sake of arguing, or did you think there was a chance I'd just suddenly agree with you? You should know by now, that I won't just believe something because someone said it. But still you provide these matter-of-fact arguments, without providing conclusive reasons to back them up. What happened to skilful means?

I'm not trying to be mean by saying that. I wouldn't have said it to a newer Buddhist. I think you are an advanced practitioner, so it's beneficial for another Sangha member to encourage self-reflection (as you have done for me.) I argue for no reason as well sometimes, so I'm not trying to belittle you.

Thank you though, if you were just trying to help me. You know, there was a time when I felt 100 percent convinced in the things you are, and I would try to help others as well. But things change. What once seemed set in stone, became like water. There's a humility to be had, when we realize how little we actually know, and how the little we do know, can easily turn out to be something else.

Understanding is like that, always changing. The problem is the mind's tendency for a false sense of certainty. As soon as we are certain about something, that usually means we've closed the book on learning. As you have said, ignorance clouds our minds; we cannot trust our mind's certainty.

My reasons for posting is to help but also to stop misconceptions about what Buddha taught being spread. There's a lot of people practising mindfulness meditation these days which I'm happy about because it will give them temporary happiness but it will not release them from suffering. Contrary to what people like Stephen Batchelor say, there is no 'Buddhism without beliefs' because it ceases to be what Buddha taught or is only a very small part of what needs to be understood.

Please, don't take offence from what I said, I'm just sharing my own understanding as you are. I didn't expect you to accept what I say but it's not just for you, it's for anyone who reads this thread.

I both agree and disagree with what you said about certainty. I think we need certainty but not complacency. On the basis of faith, we can explore Buddha's teachings more deeply and gain genuine experience of them. The danger is thinking that an intellectual understanding of the teachings is sufficient to help us, and we stop studying and meditating on the same words that we've read before, thinking 'I know' just because we understand it intellectually.

However, the worst fault is non-faith because it just closes the door completely to realization. People do not engage at all with that which they do not accept.

My conclusive reason for all that I've said is that Buddha is an omniscient being who has perfect knowledge and experience of the path to liberation and who can guide us practically to this experience, principally through his teachings. I understand that you may not accept that and I'm not asking you to, it's my personal understanding through trying to practise the teachings.

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