[zeph] Digest #5
- Zeph&Frens Digest #5
I think it is quite a remarkable insight that man may have created God out
of loneliness. For someone like Zeph facing existential crises, God is one
possible route to find meaning. God's origin could well be psychological,
rather than metaphysical. It doesn't matter anymore if one can prove the
existence of such entity (anyway, can the existence of anything be proven as
if existence is a predicate?) so long as it provides the person with a good
psychological adaptive framework to cope with life. The idea is that if it
works for me to be happy, then it is true, i.e. true for me, which is all
(S)hian: Can a false belief bring true happiness? Or true delusion?
Zeph, being human, understandably tries to
understand everything in his human terms by his human logic
S: What logic can we use except human? We should do the best we can, as
-- he may not succeed if there is really a God who created man (and his
purpose for creating man? are we to answer that from a human perspective if
He is really real? If He is really real, we overestimate our human's ability
to find him by human reason; He may choose that we can know Him only by a
leap of faith; and don't ask why He should choose this way of knowing Him
because if He is real, it is not for us to question His way of doing things
in certain way).
S: How can one love what cannot be questioned? Can such love be true? How
something one doesn't really love and respect be the centre of one's life?
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.....?
S: Please give us details on your thefts and the kinds of joy you derive
from committing them.
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.
S: You should read "Karma", "Rebirth" and "The Six Realms" in "Be a Lamp
Upon Yourself" that I passed you for some info on the above. (To
Singaporeans: This book is available free @ Awareness Place) See also
on Rebirth & http://www.ntu.edu.sg/studorgn/Buddhist/library.html on Karma
and Rebirth (Chapter 5)
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),
S: You should read up the chapter on Emptiness and Dependent Origination in
"Be a Lamp Upon Yourself" to find out on the "unreality" of existence. See
also http://www.ntu.edu.sg/studorgn/Buddhist/library.html on the Law of
He (the Buddha) is a human, just like you and me. He thought about existence
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.
S: As we know, the Buddha historically did not behave as a human being, and
denied being one. He did not behave as one as there were none as expressedly
wise and compassionate, none as revolutionary. And He explicitly said He had
transcended humanity and gender limitations.
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.
S: Yup- and vice versa.
These show some signs of personality disorders.
S: What is disorder? The ones who aren't convinced of another's true
enlightenment or the one who claims to be truly enlightenment?
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".
S: If one is content with all being paradoxical, is one ultimately trapped
If everything can and is to be questioned to the endless end, "answers" are
Metta: shian: amituofo@...
I find it very interesting to read the replies of so many friends because it
really impresses upon me how very different our schemas of things can be, so
that one's explanations of one's stance cannot remain what it is without
quite "twisted" or "misunderstood" or "coloured" by the interpretations of
the receptor's own familiar schemes of interpretations, may that be his
philosophical viewpoints (such as Buddhism or Christianity; philosophical in
the sense that that is how he view the "ultimate reality") or own personal
experiences (which is unique and different, with the implication that even
if others have same experiences, they may see it differently). I am not
saying that mine is the best; what I do say is that we can be so different.
Some good-will Buddhist friend thought that I may be trapped by
self-actualization, when it is precisely self-actualization that the
humanist school of psychology thinks the sign of a healthy human being. It
is curious he (not sure whether it is a he or she, but let's not argue
whether I am a MCP) uses the word "trapped" with its negative connotation
and undertone, and it can't be understood (at least by me,) unless I
understand a little bit of where he is coming from, i.e. the Buddhist
outlook that self is a delusion and that it is a origin of suffering.
Knowing his way of interpretation, I begin to appreciate his kindness and
good will, never mind whether his psychological viewpoint of what cause
suffering is similar to mine. CQ also thinks that there is no such things as
creating precepts for oneself, for the precepts are already found in the law
of nature. "So James may want to create another religion with his created
percepts?" --- I find that most amusing and humorous. Incidentally, if he
had understood what I have been writing, he would have appreciated that
creating a religion so that others would follow is the last thing I ever
want, or even think of. "But Buddha 'discovered' the precepts, and there is
Buddhism" -- so CQ may thinks, and therefore if James is thinking
of creating precepts, then he must be thinking of creating a new religion,
maybe with the name Jamesism. Before I go on to comment, I like to say that
terms like "law of nature" is very vague, or perhaps ambiguous, and as such
I am not sure if my comments will be missing the sense of CQ. For one thing,
I sincerely don't think there is any law of nature whether it applies to
morality or nature. When it is conventionally applied to physics, it simply
means a tendency that is so high in probability that we may conveniently
refer to it as law. Physicists do not see them so much as laws as good
approximations to the world as perceived (or interpreted) by a human
perceivers. E.g. so-called laws of gravity of Issac Newton turned out to be
mere approximations and was sort of 'replaced' by Einstein's, who claimed
that his was also approximations, and that the world as we humans perceived
it is "coloured" by some categories of the mind, such as "cause and effect",
on which the humans depends on to make sense of the world. On these issues,
the interested readers may want to read David Hume's "A Treatise of Human
Nature", Rene Descartes' "Meditations", and most importantly, Immanuel
Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason", which has influenced Einstein
tremendously. As recommendations, I do not propose reading commentaries of
these works, for the usual reason that commentators assume their personal
beliefs and viewpoints into their commentaries (and sometimes the process
can be very unwitting and unconscious), which make the originals redundant;
one should read the original works themselves first. As to the moral realms,
I do not think there is such things as laws too; e.g. it is not a nice thing
to lie, because relationship should ideally be based on trust and integrity,
and I don't lie because there is a certain quality of relationship that I
want, and not because I fear breaking the laws will give me bad karma which
will come into fruition, if not in this life time, then in other life times.
My concern is only in the common sen
se effects of certain behaviours and attitudes in the context of
interpersonal relationships. For me, it is not laws; it is choices. (But
even for the sense and meaning of the word "laws" itself, we may differ).
Incidentally, when I read the precepts of Buddha, I see that there are many
of the things he said which coincide with what I think is socially
appropriate also; though I don't see them in the absolute terms, and I
definitely don't see the breaking of them will relate to whether I will
becomes dogs or cats or the Pope in my next life. And incidentally, I don't
argue for the sake of winning (I mean, who is so vain?), as CQ may think; it
is to bring out what I think, never mind if you ultimately agree or not, for
I believe each to his own and we can still live fruitful and meaning lives
in our own different walks. If I am a beginner in Buddhism, and therefore,
according to CQ, Buddha has this to say to me: there is ultimate truth, then
I has this to say to Buddha: there is none. At this point, the Buddhist will
say that I am suffering from delusion and ignorance. Does it matter?
Firstly, people have all sorts of labels based on their subjective (in the
sense that it is theirs) philosophy; the Christian will say I am a sinner,
the Muslim will say I am a infidel, the puritans will say I am immoral or
corrupt...etc. So? They are not wrong, i.e. based on their criteria, or
their faith, or their philosophy, or their worldview, or their moral views,
or their moral premises, what-nots: I am indeed what they say, based on
their standpoint. That is, their standpoint. Do I worry myself to death? Do
I accept the teaching of Buddhism because it is claimed to be the ultimate
wisdom? This is funny... If I say 'no', the Buddhist will think this confirm
their viewpoints, that I am indeed in delusion, very deep one, a very sick
man who doesn't know he is sick, which is the sickest of all. Well, well...
what can I say, need I say anything? Secondly, what really matters is to
live, enjoy and appreciate life, regardless of an
y philosophy or faith. If the Buddhist outlook enhances the life for CQ,
then good for him. If the Christian framework is good for another, then so
be it. Why argue about who is in 'real' delusion? Who really has the
'ultimate'? Anyone claiming to be 'ultimate' logically can't be contradicted
for if he is the ultimate, he sets the ultimate standard and criteria; any
disagreement would simply means one is still in delusion. But normally, we
don't argue with the such (unless we have idle time in our hand, and a
certain curiosity equally idle); we let him be and the world still goes on,
albeit with quite a number of such 'ultimates', some of which can be found
in the mental institutes all over the world. If I see a young monk who
decides to spend the rest of his life in deep meditation in a secluded
monastery, it is not for me to advise him against it although, in my heart
of heart I may think it is a waste of life and delusional; but, who knows,
though I will definitely not like this kind of lifestyle, he may like it,
for what is good for me may not be so for him; each to his own and let him
be. What is ultimate here, though, is his choice: I can try to persuade him
the goodness of a different lifestyle, a family for example, he may nod his
head in meditative silence, even agree with me that it is good to have a
wife and children, but he may still stay put: he agrees, but that is it: he
chooses to be a monk. That is ultimate. If ever Buddha is ultimate, it is in
this sense: that he chose to be a monk. It became his mode of being. In my
view, base on experiences (though I don't claim to be that old to have seen
'everything') and reflection, there is no such things as "right" and "wrong"
way to choose and act; one choice is as good as another. There is no human
nature to which we can appeal to guide our behaviours, nor a God, for God is
dead, and to be (i.e. to exist as a human being) is to be free. As a human,
we first (in the ontological sense) find that we exist before anything else,
before any precepts, guides,
different ethics. Then we choose. I may come upon the Dhamapada (by chance,
for if I am born in a Christian family, the book I will see would be the
Bible), then I choose it to be my precepts; but the key point here is that I
choose; there is no guide or criteria upon which I can rely on to choose
whether it should be the Bible, or Koran, or Dhamapada; I just choose, there
is no shoulds. One man's choice is just as good as another's. There is no
better-worse dimension with regard to choosing, deciding, or acting, for if
there is, there must be some criteria to determine in a particular case that
one alternative is better than another. I don't believe there is such
criteria. One just chooses. To suggest criteria, guidance, or rule of
behaviours, precepts, would be to imply a limitation to freedom, which is
the foundation for all moral values. But the truth is that 'my' freedom is
the only [unique] foundation of values. There is absolutely nothing above
it. Absolutely. Any posited value, rule, precepts, etc would belie this. We
are our actions and choices, nothing more or less. Who we are is what we do.
There is no essence or nature in us. Our 'essence' is freedom itself. I
respect Buddha for his inward strength to control all passion so that he
could becomes "actualized" to what he had chosen for himself.
> Kathi: There is no mystical element in Karma. It is just plain cause andReply: Hi Kathi, thanks for your reply. But I am not sure on what basis do
> effect. If the doctrine of Karma is unbelievable, then you cannot explain
> the many varieties of experiences in an individual's life. What you sow
> you must reap. This can be readily demonstrated in the gross plane. But
> in the subtle realm of the mind, it can only be understood by metaphysics.
> Your ethics cannot give you happiness because you are still searching for
> that life goal that can grant you that ultimate happiness. And I'm sure
> you have not found it.
you think that I have not found my life goal, that my ethics cannot give me
ultimate happiness? Unless you wish to claim that you have ultimate wisdom
and compassion? I reply you because, although it is, to put it a bit bluntly
(please excuse me for this, but I don't know how else to put it), not of
your concern whether I have a life goal or that I have found it, you appears
to me spontaneous and cheerful. Maybe that is how you really think base on
your understanding of Buddhism, that anyone not Buddhist is necessarily
unhappy? Honestly speaking, I appreciate your speaking out, for I begin to
appreciate how pervasive and unconscious "cultural" or "religious" bias can
be in influencing their judgement, and the more spontaneous, the more
natural, direct and revealing. At least, you spoke your mind.
> Kathi: Good or bad has to be metaphysical, because it cannot beReply: I am not sure if I understand the word "metaphysical" in the same way
> objectified. Therefore, the subject is involved in the determination of
> what's good and bad. There is nothing social about it unless you examine
> the consequences of the actions which affect society.
as you do. But I have already answered this somewhere in my previous
> Kathi: You don't murder because you don't want to be murdered. HelpingKathi: Suppose I steal something from you. How would you feel? If you
> others is good because you've been helped before and you want to be
> helped. It is a circle heh? I agree with you that harming is necessary
> but not necessarily the weak.
> feel fine, then it is ok to steal from others. Whatever viewpoints youReply: I don't murder because I choose not to murder, not because I don't
> take, see it from the Self of everyone.
want to be murdered. I help others because I choose to help others, not
because it is good. It is good because I do it, not I do it because it is
good. (This point is subtle, and I don't blame you if you can't catch the
implication of the point). My action determines that the action is good, not
the other way round. That is, if I murder, then murder is good, else why
should I do it? That is sincerity at its deepest level. That is the way
thing is ontologically. Whatever we do, we have chosen as being superior to
all other options. If I steal, it is logical to say that others can likewise
steal on me, even if values are produced by freedom.
Kathi: Oh really? Now tell me for a fact that you don't exist. Deny it
> and you have to cease this discussion. Haha...think thru it.Kathi: Don't you think that this discussion is useful? If you think so,
> then that would contradict your above contention.Reply: I think you have misunderstood me to say that I think I don't exist.
My concern in the passage is not what you thought it to be. I do think this
discussion is useful, especially with someone like you. I love to hear from
> Kathi: Not necessarily. That depends on what truth is. So are youReply: So, do you think I am deluded? I may not accept blindly in everything
you have to say to this, but I think it will be interesting to hear your
answer. Maybe you can also 'enlighten' me as to what truth is?
Kathi: If it is so, then how can I trust you? Since this discussion is
> taking place within the realm of the five senses. There is no room evenReply: My concern over the passage you quoted is not that I deny the five
> for this discussion to take place. If everything is not a fact, then that
> includes your viewpoints too, right???
senses or the categories of our human understanding; it is precisely the
opposite, that we humans are like that. So, not to worry that you are
talking to a ghost. My contention is that our so-called facts are actually
confused with such. In philosophy, we want the indisputable truth by
doubting everything, and until we have evidences, we can't accept it; but
the problem comes when we consider what do we constitute by evidences.
Empirical validity? Or what? Anyway, it is a long story. Your many questions
marks somehow give me the impression you are thinking very hard and are very
excited about the issues.
Kathi: What is Truth? Ans: Truth is!
Reply: Cheers !!!