[zeph] Digest #4
- Zeph&Frens Digest #4
This is clearly stated in the Abhidhamma.
Happiness arises in many ways.
1. Through satisfaction of greed - immoral
2. Through doing a good deed to help others (ie giving)- moral
3. Through attaining the Jhanas - sublime
4. Through attaining the Insight - supramundane
If we confine to words like happiness, sadness, right, wrong, good, bad etc
there will be no end because these words by itself has many meanings.
Karma is a difficult topic, only the Buddha knows exactly how karma work at
the physical, mental and nibbana (enlightened) levels, the rest are confine
only to the physical or/and mental levels of causes and effects, thus not
complete. Nibbana is beyond both mental and physical levels, thus very
difficult to describe by words.
Vajiro (Richard) Chia: vajiro@...
LEAP OF FAITH
>Christmas; to him, such questionings misses the point that man in hisfinite
>ability to comprehend ultimate mysteries would reach God only by faith,i.e.
>a leap to God; God can never be reached by following the guide of humanpossible;
>reason such as you would in a mathematical proof; up to a point, human
>reason will simply come to an abyss where no further 'progress' is
>such problem is inherent in logic itself when it attempt to deal with suchUn-reason-able (no offence)
A man was selling a tailsman (supposedly to have the power to bless one's
bussiness) to an old woman when he was stopped by the woman's son. " But you
must first prove it's really what you claim." said the son.
"No." reply the man with indignant. "and i'm not selling it anymore. the
tailsman won't work if its owner does not believe in it." " Doooo you
believe in the power of this tailsman, old lady?"
" yes, yes of course i do. Forgive my son for his ignorance."
so the tailsman was bought with the old woman's son mocking : "tell me if it
Sure enough, the old woman's umbrella business was better than usual the
next day because there was a very heavy downpour ('the workings of the
tailsman" thought the woman.)And she went home feeling very smug. " see what
i told you, son. It works!"
" tomrrow's business will be just as good."
However, business was terrible the next day. The weather was exceptionally
good. No one needs an umbrella. The old woman went home feeling very down.
her son comforted her. "It's alright mother. It's a good lesson learnt.
Besides,i earn quite a lot today. we have enough."
" No." reply the woman. " It was my fault. It must have found out that i was
not 100% sure of its power when i bought it. It was my fault for even
doubting it. i hope it'll forgive me."
Noticed something : For fruitful discussion, we need to have common grounds
to which both of us can appeal to. We use words like truth, knowledge, etc
when we don't even know if we mean the same things by those words. If it is
to be serious, it has to be that careful, else we are wasting time.
Without too much elaboration, I will reply some of the questions you asked
>Hi James,Reply: I steal; but I don't get unhappy as a result of these activities.
> I have more questions than "replies."
Buddha's psychology doesn't seems to apply to me. If I get unhappy, it will
be because I get caught, and the action of stealing in itself doesn't give
me dissatisfaction. There is nothing inherent in stealing that gives me bad
>Is it an assumption that you will not feel bad later? What makes you sosure? Are you sure THAT makes you sure? Is it a safe bet? Why?...
Reply: Since you are so interested in this point, and press on it, I shall
humour you: I am a thief (part-time; I will skip the details, unless you
interested in that also). I am talking from first hand experience that I do
not feel bad at all. Quite on the contrary, I feel happy that I make it. You
may say that my education failed me, so on and so forth, that I am base, so
on and so forth, but the fact still remains that I feel happy. You want to
argue with me the "true" meaning of feeling bad and happy.....?
What is good or bad is nothing metaphysical, or even psychological; it is
social, i.e. I don't steal because it is socially inappropriate. As such, it
seems to me that Buddha's precepts are at bottom social etiquettes, or
social common sense.
>Are we social animals who need social common sense? The Buddha's preceptsare intended as moral guidelines for promoting harmonious co-existence.
Reply: "For harmonious co-existence" -- it shows that you understood my
point, though not too happy with the terms I use. Moral guidelines make
sense only in social context.
Anything beyond the social context, such as the mystical element of karma
that get attached to each action and will go beyond the lifetime seems to me
unempirical and unbelievable. I am neither Buddhist nor Christian; my ethics
is anything that will get me to my life-goal, which gives me the greatest
amount of satisfaction.
>Why is karma mystical? Because you had not experienced its workings? Issomething not expereinced always untrue? Is it an assumption that your
ethics will work better than any other's in the end?
Reply: Karma is a concept employed in Buddhism that imply multiple rebirths
after rebirths. There is no solid evidences to support this hypothesis of
Buddha (a scientist of some sort who proposed hypothesis in an attempt to
explain phenomenon like musical or mathematical talent) . What that has been
offered (in the stories of young children claiming to be able to give facts
of some past lives) is lacking in validity and reliablilty. I certainly
don't think I have a past life (or lives) and that what I am today is due to
past lives, and though it is true that something not experienced is not
necessarily untrue, it is also not necessarily true. As to my ethics, don't
worry about it; I have never implied that everything one else should follow;
if you are happy with your Buddhist ethics, it is perfectly fine with me and
I am not claiming that yours is worse off than mine. Don't worry about
better or worse so long as you are happy with yours.
If I don't murder, it is not because it is against Buddha's laws, or that I
will be unhappy as a result (there will be some peoples whom I will love to
kill), but because it is not relevant to my life goal, if fact detrimental
to my life's goal as it is against society's laws, and all life goals must
work within the context of society. Nothing mystical about it; no bad karma,
no reincarnation, only down-to-this-earth-and-lifetime pragmatic
Helping others is good because I choose do it, and it is not the case that I
do it because it is good; in short, I don't follow precepts of others, I
create precepts that is good for me, and by me (which incidentally may
coincide with what others already have). What is clear though is that
concern for others is not one's primary concern. Sometimes harming the weak
is a necessary but unfortunate consequence of self-improvement or
>Concern for others might not be your primary concern. But it may be so forothers.
Reply: No doubt about that, and don't worry about it.
Reply: It is curious how we use words like 'facts' --- the concept is so
assumed, unconscious and "natural", we don't see the inherent assumptions
contained within, to the extent that we distinguished facts by its very
non-assumption-ness. Are cause and effect factual? But there is no logical
connection between a cause and a effect. It is only the structure of the
mind that tries to make sense of events in the world out there; it is the
conditions for knowledge, i.e human knowledge, i.e. our so-called knowledge
or facts is peculiarly, uniquely, human.
>Is it an assumption that cause and effect is only the structure of themind? Could it be the strcture of YOUR mind that sees cause and effect as
only the structure of the mind? Is your mind structure same as others?
Reply: You have to trust me that the reply of this will take up more time
than I am prepared to give, and equally that I have answer to it. If you are
keen on this, I would prefer that we meet up and talk (instead of type). You
will see what I mean.
We can't assume that what we perceive (through the structures of human mind)
will be things as they are. We see a world out there, and we say it is a
fact that a world is out there, and here I am, I find myself continually
present and standing over against me the one spacio-temporal fact-world to
which I myself belong, as do all other men found it and related in the same
way to it.
>Are you sure all other men relate to this world as you do? How?Reply: If you are aware, this question is closely related to the prior one.
Another problem: although I used the 'I' in the passage quoted above, it is
meant to be used in the general sense, not particularly 'I' am holding this
This 'fact-world' as the word already tells us, I find to be out there, and
also take it just as it gives itself to me as something that exist out
there. It is a fact, we claim, not assumption; and yet it is assumption that
we have made here, which is this: the existence of this world is totally
independent of me; were I not 'here', the 'fact' will remain and the world
would exist nevertheless.
>It might be interesting to note that the Buddha taught interdependence asone of His main teachings- nothing is totally independent; all is
Reply: It is indeed interesting to note. And I agree with him on this point.
This given world is not only a world of physical objects, it is also a world
of sentient beings, other conscious objects, such as my neighbours' smelly
dogs and cats. This assumption of the existence of the world leads us to a
"enlightenment"; the givenness of the 'external' or 'factual' world is so
basic to our knowledge that to question the existence or factualness of this
world borders on nonsense: I can understand why you reply the way you did.
And herein lies the origin of the concepts of "existence", "reality" (real),
"facts". And thus you can question my hallucination because you have the
'facts' to compare with. However, because it is the 'factual' standpoint
which provide these terms with significance, it makes little sense to
question the reality of nature (the world) itself. Thus, 'the world' is that
which provides the conceptual framework for making all judgments about facts
and existence; it, therefore cannot be judged to exist or not to exist
itself. You mentioned about the way things are, the laws of the universe --
that these are facts, and this is entirely consistent with your standpoint
also. But on what basis do you claim that they are facts? Because you can
feel it sensually (i.e. the five senses, or empirical verification)? You
simply assume the validity of these truths or facts you wish to validate.
You attempt to establish necessary truth by empirical procedures. isn't this
your so-called verified assumptions? Verified based on what criteria? Your
"fact themselves" is identified or confused with the requirement that all
knowledge shall be ground in experience.
>What is knowledge? How do we know? As expereinced through the 5 senses plusmind? What is expereince then? Expereince of the 5 senses plus mind? How do
we know if we are tricked by our senses? If there are optical illusions,
then there are surely mind illusions?
Reply: This again is related to the previous question. It has all to do with
so-called theory of knowledge in philosophy. Elaboration will be too long
and time consuming, and yet if it is not elaborated from first principles it
will not do for logical consistency and integrity.
Your "facts" are indeed nothing but unverified assumptions, but they are so
unobvious (or obvious) and natural, even habitual, it is taken for facts. I
ask you again: what is your criteria of something being a fact?
>Hmm.. beats me at the moment... What is your criteria of something being afact?
Reply: Related to the previous. Anyway, when you think of yours, I will be
interested to hear it.
"Just because one does not have a
verified assumption yet does not mean verification is not possible" -- apart
from sheer hope, how is such verification possible?
>Why is such verification not possible?Reply: Verification must be based on a set of criteria, and like what you
said, it still beats you at the moment, so how is it possible?
Our thinking is interpretation according to a scheme that we cannot throw
off. We see the same story in the Orchard Rd #1 interpreted differently by
Buddhist and Christian, each will draw material from the same story to
illustrate their different respective perspective of faith. And now, we see
in story #4 a Buddhist, who is outside the faith and perspective of
Christianity, trying to make sense of it (in vain, being without the
"correct" spiritual and conceptual framework or 'scheme' in which to
perceive and experience; the meaning of Christmas simply elude amid profound
and deep wonders; it is never a question of which is more "correct" or
"better", they are simply different.)
>If they are simply different- how do we know which is true?Reply: Firstly, I don't even know what you mean by 'true' (got to be
careful, after going this length and I don't wish to be talking in circle).
Secondly, I don't think human reason has a answer to that. Existence is not
a predicate. There is a limit to what human reason can do. If you know what
There can be no unconceptualized experiences and every conceptualization is
already an imposition of an interpretation (or faith), like it or not,
realize it or not.
>Is this "truth"(?) your conceptualisation? Or your experience? If so, whatdoes that imply? That it is an empty statement? If not, what is it? How are
Reply: Just because it is my experience doesn't mean it is a empty
statement. And I don't see why this "truth"(?) should elude you being a
Buddhist; hasn't Buddha argue the non-existence of self through the
assumption of this "truth"?
--Why not? Just because the world has many different people who claim they
know the whole truth and expresses what they believe to be the Truth in ways
contradicting to each other does not mean not one of them is correct.
Reply: Not so much that not one of them is correct as how would you know
which is correct.
>That one is ignorant of which is the truth does not mean it does not existor cannot be known?
Reply: Again, firstly, what do you mean by 'truth'? One just has to
'operationally define' it for any discussion to be intelligible. Secondly,
you always need criteria for judgment; so you tell me, what is your criteria
In other words: what is your criteria for judgment? And in turn: what is
criteria of selecting those criteria? Ad infinitum.
>What is your criteria for saying that all criteria should go on adinfinitum in selection? Everything can be questioned infinitely even if
answered infinitely (or finitely). Do we make peace with our selection of
criteria made best we can or go on and on always asking? How is it relevant,
the asking, to my happiness?
Reply: Firstly, as an example, you say that Buddha is wise and good because
he is so and so. This 'so and so' is what I mean by criteria. Secondly, you
think you can answer infinitely about the criteria of criteria just when
someone question you infinitely? The point is precisely this: that you
can't. Someone can always question infinitely, but no one can answer as
much; it will come to a point when it is no longer the domain of reason, but
choice. It is trying to illustrate the inherent nature of reason, not so
much that I don't want to make peace with my selection. Another point is
this: your happiness doesn't rely on what reason can tell you, it relies on
your choice on how you want or prefer to live, and such choice is never
'rational', if you know what I mean.
And thus the wise Buddha said there is no ultimate truth, i.e no absolute
vintage point to stand on; all is a matter of perspectives, or whose
perspectives, whose interpretations, whose assumptions. Buddha had found his
vantage point; good for him and so be it. You find yours. No ultimate
>If there is no ultimate justificatin, is there anything ultimate about theBuddha? How is He different from us?
Reply: He is a human, just like you and me. He thought about existence and
suffering, he had some ideas about them. For me, there is nothing ultimate
about him except for the choices he made for himself and his life. I choose
my own life. The difference? In the choices.
The person who claims he has the whole truth is indeed the one who suffers
delusion (though this statement may sound like a paradox).
>It might be interesting to note that the Buddha is descibed as all knowing-and He never claimed not to know everything. The word "Buddha" means
"Awakened one." Awakened to what? To everything- reality- at all its levels.
How do we know if all of this world, and this email and our thoughts and
words, with their meanings, and the Buddha and all... are not an amaing
self-contained trick, a magic show put up by a super demon? Do we not place
a million assumptions upon every single thing we experience? What is truth?
Do we just make do with all we can intelligently, choosing our path best we
Reply: If someone adores 'me' and chooses to describe 'me' as all-knowing,
it is their problems and fine with me if that makes their lives happier or
provide a meaning-structure for their lives. And just because someone make
big claims about himself doensn't automatically make their claims true.
These show some signs of personality disorders. "To everything-reality-at
all its levels" -- I don't know what is meant by that, and if I have a
friend who tells me he knows something like that, then chances is that he is
"screw-loose", "living in his own world".