Apr 10, 2007

Just for the Hell of it

I can't help rather liking Pope Benedict. The man is a bit of an anachronism, but as I've said before, in times like these, anachronism is virtue. He has raised some more controversy by stating that hell is real, causing all kinds of consternation among the modernists, who apparently take objection to the Pope stating Catholic doctrine.

It's fashionable these days in some quarters both Christian and Buddhist to say that hell (and heaven) are just states of mind here in the human realm. This is clearly not what the Buddha taught about other realms. In the Sangarava Sutta (Majjhima 100), for instance, he was asked straight out whether or not there really are gods. His answer was definitive;

When this was said, the brahmin student Sangarava said to the Blessed One: "Master Gotama's striving was unfaltering, Master Gotama's striving was that of a true man, as it should be for an Accomplished One, a Fully Enlightened One. But how is Master Gotama, are there gods? (devas)"

"It is known by me to be the case, Bharadvaja, that there are gods."
As for hell, there is quite a long depiction of the torments in Niraya (hell) found in the Devaduta Sutta, Majjhima 130, complete with many gruesome details. It comes as a shock to many westerners interested in Buddhism that we do have our own fire-and-brimstone literature.

Of course, there are crucial differences between the Christian conception of hell and the Buddhist. Most importantly, the Buddhist hell, and the Buddhist heaven too, are not eternal. They are considered as stations of rebirth. As well, hell was not created by anyone as a place of punishment. It is a natural result of certain karmas, particularly the karma of violence and cruelty.

The rationalists are already objecting; but this isn't a real place. By raising this objection they are revealing their adherence to the naive assumption that this human realm is a real place. So is hell real? What do you mean by "real", grasshopper?

The universe we actually live in, the only one we can ever know directly, is the product of our own mind. True, we get faulty and limited signals from some mysterious "out there" in the form of light waves striking the eyes, pressure on the nerve endings, sound-waves striking the ear. But the world we actually experience is fabricated from this external data mediated through the physical apparatus of our senses and the mental apparatus of perception.

There have been schools of Buddhism that postulated that there is no real external universe. This has not been the position of the Theravada. We admit the reality of an external world, we're just not all that interested in it. Why bother about something we can only know second or third hand?

So, we could say that we dream this human world, but the dreaming is constrained by various inputs of data from an external world. The other realms are also experienced as dreams, perhaps somewhat less constrained by the incoming data. The Zen master Dogen once wrote something about how a man, a demon, a naga and a ghost all experience the same river differently. This is much stronger than the modern psychological interpretation, it does posit quite different states of being. However, there is also no reason to rule out the traditional Theravadin interpretation that heaven and hell are actual "places" existing as whole realms distinct from this plane of reality. In fact, it seems quite naive to assume that this realm is the only one.

The existence of heaven and hell make perfect sense within the system of karma and rebirth. A being is reborn according to their predominant karmas and cravings. If these are of an extreme nature, either towards goodness or evil, then the karmic-resultant will also be extreme and for instance, one who has lived by killing and torturing will be reborn into a sphere of killing and torturing.

However, it must not be forgotten that the point of Buddhism in the end is to escape from all of these insubstantial, impermanent and imperfect realms and end the cycle of karma and rebirth once and for all.

-----------------------------

POSTSCRIPT

Here are a few links for those who haven't raised enough hell yet

The Afterlife in Different Religions
Comparison of Christian and (Mahayana) Buddhist beliefs
Catholic Encyclopedia article on Hell
Tibetan Buddhism article on Hell (scroll down past the Google ads)
Dante's Inferno Test. Which circle of hell is right for you?
And of course, this venerable chestnut; Is Hell exothermic or endothermic?

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hell as a place? Yes, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where nukes were dropped by the kind and compassionate after the Japanese had agreed to surrender. The Buddha, stated that gods did exist, but he did not state that these realms were specific locations.

Take the animal realm for example, it’s a real realm but where is it? Or the hungry ghost realm, the realm of demons, and niraya. We can see animals sharing our own realm, and although we cannot see hungry ghosts it is known that they also inhabit certain environments of our realm, as for demons they also use our realm (smell the sulphur). The Adbidhamma states that animals can be born as humans, and vice versa, so in all probability hungry ghosts and demons can also be born as humans, and vice versa, depending upon their karma. Where are all of these realms? They are all in the mind itself.

Here one has to be careful in thinking that such an idea is simply the Yogacara school of thought. The Yogacara school of philosophy believes in ‘all is consciousness’ (not all is mind) and they also believe in a universal consciousness; something quite different than saying that all experience is within the mind itself. Therefore, attributing the idea of everything is mind to the Yogacara school is erroneous, as it is the common view held by most members of The Sangha.

Anonymous said...

I recommend that Dante test to everyone - it is EXTREMELY worrying! Forget abstract discussions about Hell, I'm worrying right now and it looks pretty much like I'm heading nowhere good by either Christian or Buddhist standards! It definitely caused me to REFLECT DEEPLY on who I purport to be!
Check this out!
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Fifth Level of Hell!

Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Level | Score
Purgatory | High
Level 1 - Limbo | Very Low
Level 2 | Very High
Level 3 | High
Level 4 | Very Low
Level 5 | Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis | Very Low
Level 7 | Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge | Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus | Very High

Anonymous said...

If you want the ideal refuge, then The Buddha stated that anyone who realized the 4th vipassana knowledge (udayabbayanana), knowledge of arising and vanishing, would not fall down into these miserable existences (apaya) after death. This is fairly basic stuff, so it is not an impossible goal for most people.

Anonymous said...

Benedict should know all about hell. His pal Hitler has probably sent him a few postcards.

Anonymous said...

Matthew Fox has his finger on the pulse. Get the skinny on Benedict here http://www.matthewfox.org/sys-tmpl/htmlpage10/

Anonymous said...

Never mind Matthew Fox. Here's the real deal

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ9sJVJMiYM

gregory said...

First Level of Hell - Limbo

Anonymous said...

All realms are simply places in the mind due to impurities in the mind; when the mind is purified through developing awareness and non attachment, birth into such realms is no longer possible as they no longer exist for that being.

Similarly, anger and lust are no longer possible for those who have realized mind purification to the level of Anagami (3rd path knowledge). Not because they are adept at following rules, but because they no longer know what anger or lust is. In fact they could not get angry or feel interested in sex to save their lives, their minds have become free of such attachments.

All realms represent forms of attachment, and while we might describe them as, hells realms negative, heavenly realms positive, they are very similar to the types of attachment we find in anger and lust.

Purify the mind, and you free the mind; end of story.

Anonymous said...

How do you purify the mind?

Anonymous said...

sit in a cave and meditate for the rest of your life and you just MIGHT purify your mind. i think it's the age old donkey and carrot routine. that's my lack of faith speaking. i need to meet an Arahant.

Anonymous said...

sit in a cave for the rest of my life? Isn't awareness available right now without special conditions being necessary practising in the four postures?

Anonymous said...

Take a trip to Thailand, then you can not only meditate (without the cave) but perhaps meet an Arahant too.

Anonymous said...

isn't awareness available without needing to make a trip to Thailand? Isn't it available here and now?

Anonymous said...

sadly, i think awareness may be available here and now but flickering here and there! those arahant are elusive and exclusive. it must be the water in thailand that produces such fine awareness.

Anonymous said...

The water in Thailand has the secret to the here and now awareness. By Jesus that's amazing. They say the water at Lourdes can cure people of any illness. It's mighty stuff. And sure enough Mrs O'Groarty up the lane there was rid of the 'rrhoids from which she was all but martyred but didn't she come back and get run over by a Number 47 outside 'The Shovel'. God works in mysterious ways for sure.
I was in Thailand and people told me not to drink the water. They must have been saving the here and now awareness for themselves! It's powerful stuff by Christ it is. Arahants all over the shop! And there was me like a big mad eejit thinking it just gave you the skitters. Phuckett that's where.

Anonymous said...

M a retired privteer & his 80 year old parrot Stan are playing poker in their shack. The air is thick with steamed virginia leaf from m's pipe & both sniff greedily & appreciatively @ the delightful aroma. In the current idiom they are blissed out.
S- Rod is back
M- Really? -looking around- I dont see him
S- Shh he is incognito, under cover of a holy water salesman.
M- I like rod, he is so funny
S- I like him a hell of a lot better than those boys from the 'thought' police, those baiting....
M- interrupting & winking deeply @ Stan. they look at each other knowingly. M gets up & checks the windows & door.
S- Well anyway someone has him by the thong
M- Incredulous- Rod wears a thong?
S- continuing- I just hope we dont see a Tamasha like that other day
M- If Rod could learn to spin a yarn it would be more fun for all.
S- Raise you 1 pound poppy seed.
Curtain

Anonymous said...

God almighty - 'thought police'?!! Get a grip. By the way, the 'plays' - they stink. You should police some of your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

The blog police are concerned for the welfare of lone monks posing as bloggers. In the future referred to as muggers or buggers depending on the point being made. Incognito from monkdom is disconcerting to say the least. I am not Rod but a good packet sniffer smells a rat or should I say a virtual rat as it were, was, is too perhaps. Maybe, definetely, the blunker is lonely without any Arahants to play with in Thunderbay. Planning any trips to Thailand Venerable shit disturber??? Or should I have said poop stew stirrer to keep from wrong typing???

Anonymous said...

"The blog police are concerned for the welfare of lone monks posing as bloggers."

I am just someone who thinks your 'plays' aren't funny. And for the record you paranoid nut I am not a monk and I don't live in Thunderbay and I've never been in Thailand.

Now here's the point again - your 'plays' aren't funny and there is no such thing as 'thought police' you neurotic mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Bwahahahahaha....just for the hell of it I laugh in my most evil way.

Anonymous said...

no its
meeehawhawhahahahaw!

The ballad of Rod Clampett

Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Rod Poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed
Then one day he was shooting for some food,
And up through the ground come a bubbling crude
(Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea)

Well the first thing you know old Rod's a millionaire
Kin folk said Rod move away from there
Said Canada is the place you oughta be
So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Thunderbay
(Bay that is, swimming pools, movie stars)

Well now it's time to say goodbye to Rod
and all his kin
They would like to thank you folks for kindly dropping in
You're not invited back again to their locality
To Yanks and Brits we must deny our hospitality
‘we’re a gonna hunt us a ‘shit disturber’
With Thought Police everywhere
We’ve got a Buddhist monk to murder…

(Thunderbay Hillbillies, that's what they call 'em now,
Nice folks Don’t Y'all come back again, ya hear?)

Anonymous said...

sheesh

Anonymous said...

RK

I agree with other commenter. I always thought your plays stank. Somehow, they also raise serious concerns about the mental stability of their author ...

Barry said...

RK is right - there is a terrible current in both the 'play' and the comments about 'shit disturber' 'poop stew stirrer'?! 'Venerable Shit-disturber' These are really ugly angry paranoid ramblings. Are you threatening the monk? Are you nuts? What the hell are you doing on a Buddhist blog threatening a monk? Have you completely lost your mind? If you are concerned about who is posting why not post under YOUR real name and give us a link? For your information I said your plays stink. It wasn't the monk. And they really do stink. They are TERRIBLE paranoid infantile and malicious.

Barry said...

Can I suggest to the Bhikkhu that he alter the terms of his Blog comments so that people have to register their email address or give an identity before they get to comment? There are several options open to him through Blogger to do this. I feel it would lead to a more conducive environment and restrict the malicious/threatening posts that have appeared lately.

For some reason some people have taken to posting comments on this blog that are malicious and there seems to be some sort of 'gang war' going on that is frankly bizarre given that this is a Buddhist Blog run by a Buddhist monk presumably for people practising Buddhism or people engaged in some sort of serious spiritual practice or engaged humanist work.

I appreciate that the trouble with posting political material is that it attracts people who aren't involved in any of the above - indeed one person posted that they wouldn't be reading this Blog any longer because you defended Americans! - but there has been quite a lot of angry/threatening nastiness lately and there have been one or two posts from 'anonymous' individuals who seem to be dwelling in their own Hell realm of deranged paranoia.

Anonymous commenting tends to encourage people to post heedlessly without any sense of reflecting on their tone or intent. If people had to register then they would be less inclined to post 'free-form' and be forced to think a bit before they write anything. They would also be accountable if they made any threats and their ability to post could be terminated or appropriate action taken.

I appreciate that this leads to some censorship but it's either that or you accept threats/innuendo/turf wars/paranoid cranks and vendettas - in other words a Buddhist blog becomes some sort of no-go area for actual Buddhists!

You have the option not accept certain comments and you can set up a free account through Google for email and filter comments. I understand that this is problematic given your obvious commitment to openness and acceptance of the pitfalls of an open market place for political beliefs and views. However as someone who runs their own Blog I know what it is like to accept free-form posting and one can be inadvertently become a target of hate.

However, in a Buddhist context the aim is to encourage people to follow a path guided by sila, to take responsibility for their lives and to mindfully conduct themselves toward purification for the overcoming of greed hatred and delusion. Therefore I don't think it unreasonable for you to take the lead in this matter as the relationship between the bhikkhu and the householder is one of example.

The danger of an ambitious new style of Buddhist blog is that its parameters are not pre-defined and certain. But we have entered a difficult area where paradoxically a Buddhist forum has become an arena for nasty vindictive and frankly outrageous and decidedly non-Buddhist hate mongering. When I read the anonymous comment yesterday that referred to you as 'venerable shit stirrer' I was appalled and genuinely worried for your safety and well-being because there was more than a hint of threat to the post and it contains a very heavy innuendo. In your context, operating in an isolated environment dependent on local support, I sincerely urge you to reconsider the 'openness' issue around anonymous commenting.

Paradoxically enough the ugly bout of posting of late has been somewhat more controversial than you original Blog article! I think this is interesting because clearly people want to comment and sometimes people posting make excellent points and raise very pertinent and stimulating issues that are well worth exploring. Also some people do require being argued with and their views challenged. In light of this have you considered modifying your approach to reflect this? You could link your blog to a forum. A Buddhist monk runs a very wonderful forum and website at http://www.hermitary.com/ which explores aspects of Eremiticism and spiritual practice. The drawback is that the monk's forum tends to be dominated by one or two heavy handed Christian evangelical types. (and if 'anonymous' postees from the Bhikkhu's Blog want to vent their paranoid ire then can I recommend they transfer their affliction to the hermitary forum where there are some mighty Christian cranks they can give both barrels to and go out in a blaze of vain glory together in one almighty Armageddon. No please don't as they have a lovely pleasant site and besides which you would need to register to post) However he also runs a 'closed' "Hermit's slate" which is his own on-line journal reflecting on his solitary life. It is a very interesting read. But I am not referring to the content but the style of the site. I have been following this site for some years and I am constantly struck by the positiveness of it and even though there have been some spats the monk involved has moderated it with an admirable lightness of touch. The principle point is that the problems of your site can be rectified by looking at how the arena operates. There is no avoiding people who have mental health problems or limited understanding or who are just ignorant or just have views that we may not like. That is life. But technically it is possible to limit their impact through looking seriously at how the vehicle they have chosen operates in order to lessen their disturbance to the site as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Um just for the hell of it "Venerable Shit Disturber" was/is a joke as the title of this blog entry seems to me to be light hearted. Afterall, let's get real if you can sympathize with Benedict then you are man enough to take some verbal lashing. Innuendo and threat were non existent in my mind. Just plain fun but I have seen many online dialogues go astray because the tone of the "posty" is not always clear. Also, do not make the mistake yourself of thinking that several anonymous posters are one and the same. I also meant to copy and paste the monks own words which were something like "for the sake of controversy" or some such thing. Nevermind, let me find the quote and please stop seeing threats where there are none. I merely threaten the idea that this "politicized forum" is conducive to anyone's peace of mind as we are clearly seeing. Interestingly, there has been some issues in the news of late about threats and such in Bloggerdom. Are you sure you're not jumping the gun in your assumptions of innuendo??? Be well and happy. I kill stupid ideas for fun only. Wholay!!!

Anonymous said...

Quote:
There's been some very heated discussion in the comments section. While it's good to see that the blog is generating some interest and controversy, it's time for everyone to take a deep and mindful breath. Some of the posts have crossed the line into wrong speech. I'm thinking particularly of Rod's nasty characterization of Americans.


Controversy is good? Let's all take a deep breath now. Also, I will call myself Anonymous 666 from now on. Just so you all feel safe. And if you are still afraidy of big bad words and humour I'll be glad to provide all my vitals so you can call the police. I did not right "The Play" I am the kettle calling the pot black. For fun's sake get your head out of your ass. hehe

Barry said...

I didn't like your remarks yesterday and I don't like your remarks today. Why would I? They aren't funny. They aren't amusing but are typically unpleasant.

This is just another example of your weird posts where you cross wire sentimental remarks like "be well and happy" with highly aggressive remarks like "For fun's sake get your head out of your ass" in a bizarre mix typical of someone with no sense of 'the middle'. Like the wife beater who belts his wife then says 'but I love you hun'. So we get the unfunny author of 'plays' followed by the grotesque belligerent indulging in paranoid rants against - of all people - a Buddhist monk. THAT mind shift is the terrain of mental extremes, of the edge, a dark place with no signposts to normality. That isn't somewhere funny, witty or clever, it is the place of danger, illness and excess. It is utterly charmless and ugly.

And for the record I'll be well and happy when you desist from making those uncalled for aggressive remarks.

You are implying that there is something wrong with anyone that doesn't find your 'plays'/posts funny or even vaguely amusing. Anyone who has the temerity to say so finds themselves on the receiving end of your gravely ill-considered, paranoid and brutalised remarks.

I am not interested in you. I don't want to communicate with you. I don't want any dialogue with you. I am not interested in your justifications. I don't want your views and I don't want your remarks. There is no reason for any person to be interested in anyone who enjoys writing the sort of nasty hate orientated ravings that you posted on this Blog yesterday. But above all else there is no reason to be interested in you HERE because you aren't interested in Buddhism. And that's the point.

The quote you have taken from the Bhikkhu is NOT saying 'controversy is good'. All you are attempting to do is justify your comments which were highly aggressive, sinister and paranoid by deliberately misinterpreting a line from the Bhikkhu's post as if in some way his remarks grant you carte blanche. In other words the hideous attack you made on him yesterday was brought on by himself. That's what you are trying to tell us.

There is no need to call yourself 'anonymous 666', just give us your REAL name because I'm pretty sure we are going to be getting threats from you soon. But what would be better still would be to try and consider for one moment why you are posting on a Buddhist Blog in the first place.

You are either very lonely, mentally unwell, incredibly immature and needy or all of this. Or let's put all of them in one bottle and just say 'drunk'.
Your posts seem to have nothing whatever to say about Buddhism or even refer to the original topic but are about you and your endlessly irrelevant self-regarding self-indulgent take on other people posting here. If that wasn't bad enough when you are questioned you resort to demented anger and aggressive paranoia. I am wondering if you have a substance abuse issue or an alcohol problem because your volte faces are typical of people caught up in those problems. It's one thing when you are drunk and another when you are sober.

You are a bully and like all bullies you have issues that don't originate with your victims.

And if you want to start then you need to STOP. It's that simple.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, to conclude my posts through 1,3, and 8, and to hopefully end in a more harmonious note (like from my 911 Turbo, yes folks I did say 911)

It should be noted that The Buddha did not teach any cosmology. This was probably due to the fact that the stages of mind development actually mirror the earlier Vedic cosmology. Meaning that the impurest minds experience the various hell realms, and the highest realms are experienced by Anagami level beings only. This should be fairly obvious.

As for place, this should also be fairly obvious, the same place but perceived differently (as Dogen pointed out).

Anonymous said...

666 here...I have yet to write a play and have never made a threat. In my most compassionate voice I say again, " Get your head out of your ass." Afterall, you could smother up in there and I wish you no harm. You are way off base my friend. Again, you have confused two anonymous posts as the same person which they are not. I also am not Rod who seems to be the focus of some aggressive posts. I find your tone extremely aggressive and camouflaged in intellectual supremacy and ideological elitism. I feel threatened by you and do not appreciate it. Do you see the irony? Anyway, this is all really about dhamma isn't it? I am interested in Buddhism and I find your intolerance of my intolerance unbearable. You have your wires crossed assuming that you will be receiving threats from me soon. Wholay? What's up are you Nostradomas?sp??? Again, I challenge you to find the jokes and the threats and please please please point them out to me? I thought someone's blog was intentionally trying to stir the pot so I joined in. I always regret offending anyone and have learned a very good lesson today. I suspect Ajahn fancies himself a bit of a writer and if it is paranoid and mentally unstable of me to conclude that he may in fact be the author of one or two of the anonymous posts then send me some meds. This is all disheartening to say the least. I came here looking for a teacher.

Barry said...

It is not whether the Buddha taught cosmology or not or where the place is, but the crucial difference was that the Buddha taught that none of the places or states are permanent. The journey from one realm or loka to another is samsara through which individuals are driven by their Kamma and it is therefore the issue of Kamma that remains central and this is where the Buddha taught the importance of sila, samadhi and panna embodied in the Eightfold Path. This is The Way the Buddha rediscovered and one which Buddhist to this day aspire to walk. Sila is therefore the key issue. Car ownership actually has nothing to do with Buddhist practice unless one happens to be Roshi Baker but since you failed to tell us your name then we can only wonder.

Anonymous said...

Who is the we that you are speaking for?

Anonymous said...

Somehow, I don't find you attempts to irony or humour funny at all and I have (may be mistakenly) the impression that you find pleasure in writing them. May be I don't have a sense of humor, yet I love the Daily show and I am told that I am a joyful person in general.

I may be completly wrong but you strike me as someone who is intelligent but whose' self-centerness and indulgence in the power of his own intellect makes him completly clueless about how he or she is perceived by others ... I have met many of this kind of people at the Department of mathematics (and other departments as well but not as much) of Princeton University a few years ago. Some were even good acquaintances ...
Again you strike me as someone who is quite self-assured and find pleasure in his own intellect yet is uncapable to realize a few obvious things ... I may be wrong what I wrote is only my very confused impression ...

Anonymous said...

yes indeed you are absolutely right.

doug rogers said...

I wrote the other day about an essay in BuddhaDharma magazine. I saw the same comment on the blog in a post I cannot now track down, neither can I find that recent issue of the magazine. I must have done something precious with it.

The comment was about how some recent thinking in western Buddhist thought - probably directed toward Stephen Batchelor - reject the teaching of rebirth as unnecessary, and how in your view, this is an error.

I found a few other things in your post of 14 February, 'Mysteries of Consciousness' which also address my ideas on this matter.

I do not disagree with your position on the error of rejecting Rebirth. But I have to say that I am also not completely convinced of it. This may be a problem with my understanding of it all.

You say, "When speaking about brain-waves, Pinker says "a bit like radio transmitters and receivers tuned to the same frequency." Without intending to, he has hit on an alternative metaphor that may be closer to the truth."

"In Buddhist theory, Mind is a separate category from Matter, neither of which is reducible to the other, so we agree with the dualists on some points. However, Mind is also seen as utterly void of substance. There is no "ghost" in the machine. There is a process happening that the machine can tune in to. Brain, I would argue, serves as the physical interface allowing mind to manifest in matter.

Far from mind being a product of brain, the reverse is closer to the truth. Mind in the womb serves as a guiding principle for the unfolding of matter into a new organism."

In my wanderings about the web, I stumbled onto a devoted group of Shamanistically-bent fans of Harry Potter - who were open to my idea of Magic in Rowling's world, as a projection of Mind onto the world, more so than the more Christian of the fans who saw it as something external focused through the individual. Not really a surprise, I suppose. Even many of the Shamanism folk saw it as some external power then channelled through the wizard. But they were at least open to the idea. Anyway it lead me in consequent conversation to explain my actual understanding of things and I was at least obliged to explain.

Mind is what the Universe does. All the causes and conditions come together to birth consciousness. In my understanding then, Consciousness is just a consequence of having a form to contain it. This is rather like Pinker's radio, tuned to a frequency and capable of receiving, like Brain/Body --> Mind. Really there isn't a difference between Brain/Body/Mind. We're bound by the language to make the distinction, and as such, there really isn't a distinct edge we can draw -as to self- between the fingers, the fingers on the keyboard, and the keyboard while in the act.

As far as Mind is concerned, Body is just a filter for sensation. Until a whole lot of neurons come together, there just isn't consciousness. Is there Mind before then? What exactly is reborn? Isn't this anthropomorphization a dangerous and misleading trap? How otherwise to say it? Is this some mal-understanding between English and Pali?

Is mind an effect, spontaneously generated with each sentient form? Or does Mind find form to birth into?

doug rogers said...

I wrote the other day about an essay in BuddhaDharma magazine. I saw the same comment on the blog in a post I cannot now track down, neither can I find that recent issue of the magazine. I must have done something precious with it.

The comment was about how some recent thinking in western Buddhist thought - probably directed toward Stephen Batchelor - reject the teaching of rebirth as unnecessary, and how in your view, this is an error.

I found a few other things in your post of 14 February, 'Mysteries of Consciousness' which also address my ideas on this matter.

I do not disagree with your position on the error of rejecting Rebirth. But I have to say that I am also not completely convinced of it. This may be a problem with my understanding of it all.

You say, "When speaking about brain-waves, Pinker says "a bit like radio transmitters and receivers tuned to the same frequency." Without intending to, he has hit on an alternative metaphor that may be closer to the truth."

"In Buddhist theory, Mind is a separate category from Matter, neither of which is reducible to the other, so we agree with the dualists on some points. However, Mind is also seen as utterly void of substance. There is no "ghost" in the machine. There is a process happening that the machine can tune in to. Brain, I would argue, serves as the physical interface allowing mind to manifest in matter.

Far from mind being a product of brain, the reverse is closer to the truth. Mind in the womb serves as a guiding principle for the unfolding of matter into a new organism."

In my wanderings about the web, I stumbled onto a devoted group of Shamanistically-bent fans of Harry Potter - who were open to my idea of Magic in Rowling's world, as a projection of Mind onto the world, more so than the more Christian of the fans who saw it as something external focused through the individual. Not really a surprise, I suppose. Even many of the Shamanism folk saw it as some external power then channelled through the wizard. But they were at least open to the idea. Anyway it lead me in consequent conversation to explain my actual understanding of things and I was at least obliged to explain.

Mind is what the Universe does. All the causes and conditions come together to birth consciousness. In my understanding then, Consciousness is just a consequence of having a form to contain it. This is rather like Pinker's radio, tuned to a frequency and capable of receiving, like Brain/Body --> Mind. Really there isn't a difference between Brain/Body/Mind. We're bound by the language to make the distinction, and as such, there really isn't a distinct edge we can draw -as to self- between the fingers, the fingers on the keyboard, and the keyboard while in the act.

As far as Mind is concerned, Body is just a filter for sensation. Until a whole lot of neurons come together, there just isn't consciousness. Is there Mind before then? What exactly is reborn? Isn't this anthropomorphization a dangerous and misleading trap? How otherwise to say it? Is this some mal-understanding between English and Pali?

Is mind an effect, spontaneously generated with each sentient form? Or does Mind find form to birth into?

James said...

Why bother about something we can only know second or third hand?

Exactly. That's how Zen sees it as well.