Theravada Buddhism

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Theravada Buddhism

#1  Postby Frank Merton » Mar 17, 2014 9:29 am

Okay I will try to provide a little summary of what it is about and then try to respond to questions and remarks. I am not here to "convert" anyone and don't expect to as I'm not that devout myself.

I will start with a rewording in my own sense of what is called the "Four Noble Truths."

1. We suffer. Suffering is of course not the only thing we do, but we do do a lot of it if you include all the little aches and pains and itches and inabilities to sleep and irritating relatives and so on.

2. If we pay attention we can figure out why we suffer, first in individual cases and eventually in general.

3. Once we have done that it is possible to stop suffering. Even unremitting pain can be had without the accompanying suffering (that's the theory).

4. One way is the path known as the Eightfold Noble Path which if followed is said to bring about an end of suffering.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#2  Postby Keep It Real » Mar 17, 2014 9:45 am

The Divine Light Mission (form Hinduism) has some similarly pragmatic elements - Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today and leave no room for doubt in the mind. It's a shame such helpful advice is clouded by embarrassing mystic elements or I might be tempted to get involved in one of these religions. There's that word though, religion. It just puts me right off. If one could cherry pick without embarrassment that might be a way forward. A case extolling the reasonable and helpful cherry-picked elements of Islam could doubtless be made too.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#3  Postby Frank Merton » Mar 17, 2014 9:53 am

Well one of the instructions attributed to the Buddha is to cherry pick. He makes it clear to accept what seems right and reject what seems wrong, so I guess you could say that the command to cherry pick is built into Buddhism.

The best way I have of seeing it is that we can each teach others and set an example, but we cannot do for others. In Western terms, no one can "save" us but ourselves.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#4  Postby tuco » Mar 17, 2014 10:52 am

Even unremitting pain can be had without the accompanying suffering (that's the theory).


Sounds good.

Eightfold Noble Path which if followed is said to bring about an end of suffering.


This works how?
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#5  Postby hackenslash » Mar 17, 2014 11:11 am

More about 4 please. What is it, in your understanding, and how does it bring about an end of suffering?
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#6  Postby Mick » Mar 17, 2014 11:40 am

Just a note: suffering should have a broader application here. It should include existential suffering; that is, it should include stuff like excessive worrying, angst, and stuff of that sort. Any kind of grasping to that which fleets and is impermanent (which happens to be everything) leads to suffering. The goal then, for Buddhism, is to stop grasping.

This philosophy is in sharp contrast to Plato's.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#7  Postby Frank Merton » Mar 17, 2014 11:54 am

Mick wrote:Just a note: suffering should have a broader application here. It should include existential suffering; that is, it should include stuff like excessive worrying, angst, and stuff of that sort. Any kind of grasping to that which fleets and is impermanent (which happens to be everything) leads to suffering. The goal then, for Buddhism, is to stop grasping.

This philosophy is in sharp contrast to Plato's.
Yes absolutely. I avoided the word "grasping" because I don't like it, and prefer striving or competing as not having such negative connotations. I'm curious about Plato and would appreciate elaboration.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#8  Postby Frank Merton » Mar 17, 2014 12:01 pm

hackenslash wrote:More about 4 please. What is it, in your understanding, and how does it bring about an end of suffering?
This gets touchy; there is a distinction between experiencing something and allowing it to cause you to suffer. The common-sense approach to something that causes you to suffer is to stop doing it or to find a remedy, but if this is not possible it is still possible to not suffer by ignoring the negativity of the experience. I don't know how realistic that is. I have tried it during times of grief and of serious pain and I guess it helped a little and if I had been a more practiced Buddhist it might have helped more.

The point above about grasping is part of this too. We realize that all is change; nothing is permanent; whatever we have no matter how careful we are we will someday lose (if it is only at the time of our death). Therefore be prepared for this certainty. To my mind this opens Buddhism up to an accusation of detachment -- of people not being able to, say, fall in love, because of course sooner or later one will lose the loved one so it is best not to be too attached.

The ultimate point is that by following the program, one accumulates karma. Karma is by the superstitious seen as causing good luck. I see it more simply as what goes around comes around; be kind to people and they probably will be kind back, etc. Criminals may "get away" with it for awhile but society eventually catches them -- that sort of thing.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#9  Postby Frank Merton » Mar 17, 2014 12:08 pm

tuco wrote:
Even unremitting pain can be had without the accompanying suffering (that's the theory).


Sounds good.

Eightfold Noble Path which if followed is said to bring about an end of suffering.


This works how?
The Eightfold Noble Path is a program of meditation, study and right behavior. The idea is that in this life we are happier and have less difficulty getting on, and in the next life the karma we accumulate allows us a better birth situation. I don't know about that -- let's say I'm agnostic with a strong proclivity toward thinking this is what happens. This is not avoiding death -- we die, end of us. What is reborn is a new person with some of us in it.

Of course the Buddha achieved what is called "Enlightenment," and his immediate followers did likewise. In theory anyone can (and in the stories many do). If you are Enlightened then you can enter Nirvana -- a state of timeless bliss (not really non-existence because you are in bliss but nothing otherwise happens). This is derived from Indian religions in general and I personally don't think it is true.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#10  Postby kennyc » Mar 17, 2014 1:18 pm

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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#11  Postby Mick » Mar 17, 2014 3:12 pm

How do you actively seek enlightenment without doing the sort of grasp enlightenment rejects?

Hmmmm.

Plato believed that there are eternal, objective, static and universal forms; they are permanent and that we are to return to this "world" upon death. Buddhism doesn't assert these things. In fact, it outright denies them. They side much more with Heraclitus.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#12  Postby Frank Merton » Mar 17, 2014 3:53 pm

I would guess the Buddha, if presented with Plato's teaching, might say something to the effect that maybe (even probably) such static forms exist as abstractions but even if so we have no access to them and are stuck in a universe of constant change and impermanence.

Enlightenment as something to seek is too abstract for me. I'm more willing to follow most of the path for the more immediate benefits of happiness and peace and having a good intellectual structure for ethical principles.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#13  Postby tuco » Mar 17, 2014 3:58 pm

Frank Merton wrote:
tuco wrote:
Even unremitting pain can be had without the accompanying suffering (that's the theory).


Sounds good.

Eightfold Noble Path which if followed is said to bring about an end of suffering.


This works how?
The Eightfold Noble Path is a program of meditation, study and right behavior. The idea is that in this life we are happier and have less difficulty getting on, and in the next life the karma we accumulate allows us a better birth situation. I don't know about that -- let's say I'm agnostic with a strong proclivity toward thinking this is what happens. This is not avoiding death -- we die, end of us. What is reborn is a new person with some of us in it.

Of course the Buddha achieved what is called "Enlightenment," and his immediate followers did likewise. In theory anyone can (and in the stories many do). If you are Enlightened then you can enter Nirvana -- a state of timeless bliss (not really non-existence because you are in bliss but nothing otherwise happens). This is derived from Indian religions in general and I personally don't think it is true.


So at the end everyone would be in Nirvana thus not suffering? Because that could be done tomorrow.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#14  Postby Frank Merton » Mar 17, 2014 4:17 pm

tuco wrote:
So at the end everyone would be in Nirvana thus not suffering? Because that could be done tomorrow.
That would do the trick.

Problems are people's desires and revulsions and delusions, which cause suffering, people's harmful acts which reduce karma and people's lack of mindfulness, which results in not understanding the difference between something like desire or pain and actual suffering.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#15  Postby Nebogipfel » Mar 17, 2014 9:03 pm

Frank Merton wrote:
Enlightenment as something to seek is too abstract for me. I'm more willing to follow most of the path for the more immediate benefits of happiness and peace and having a good intellectual structure for ethical principles.


I'll drink to that! :cheers:
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#16  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 25, 2014 2:39 pm

Frank Merton wrote:Okay I will try to provide a little summary of what it is about and then try to respond to questions and remarks. I am not here to "convert" anyone and don't expect to as I'm not that devout myself.

I will start with a rewording in my own sense of what is called the "Four Noble Truths."

1. We suffer. Suffering is of course not the only thing we do, but we do do a lot of it if you include all the little aches and pains and itches and inabilities to sleep and irritating relatives and so on.


I tend to feel that Buddhism's form of suffering is meant to be existential, rather than annoyances.


Frank Merton wrote:2. If we pay attention we can figure out why we suffer, first in individual cases and eventually in general.

3. Once we have done that it is possible to stop suffering. Even unremitting pain can be had without the accompanying suffering (that's the theory).


It's problematic because it relies on the external world complying with your internal world. You might be able to block the pain of someone beating you with a baseball bat, but it doesn't remove your suffering.


Frank Merton wrote:4. One way is the path known as the Eightfold Noble Path which if followed is said to bring about an end of suffering.


It seems such a strange concept to me; end suffering. Suffering is part of life. We grow from it, we learn from it, we adapt and achieve new things at least partly in our pursuit of alleviating suffering.

Were I to wave a magic wand and make suffering disappear, would that be desirable?
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#17  Postby quas » May 02, 2014 9:09 am

Spearthrower wrote:It seems such a strange concept to me; end suffering. Suffering is part of life. We grow from it, we learn from it, we adapt and achieve new things at least partly in our pursuit of alleviating suffering.

Seems like the ultimate goal of Buddhism is to cease existing, by freeing yourself from ever being reincarnated/reborn. That's my limited understanding of Buddhism anyway.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#18  Postby trubble76 » May 02, 2014 11:28 am

Frank Merton wrote:Okay I will try to provide a little summary of what it is about and then try to respond to questions and remarks. I am not here to "convert" anyone and don't expect to as I'm not that devout myself.

I will start with a rewording in my own sense of what is called the "Four Noble Truths."

1. We suffer. Suffering is of course not the only thing we do, but we do do a lot of it if you include all the little aches and pains and itches and inabilities to sleep and irritating relatives and so on.

2. If we pay attention we can figure out why we suffer, first in individual cases and eventually in general.

3. Once we have done that it is possible to stop suffering. Even unremitting pain can be had without the accompanying suffering (that's the theory).

4. One way is the path known as the Eightfold Noble Path which if followed is said to bring about an end of suffering.


I reckon 1) to 3) works okay, 4) sounds like a word wank. I think the whole would work better with 4) as "Therefore science and philosophy" (I'm not much of a philosopher myself but I'm told we need it)
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#19  Postby Thorham » May 02, 2014 12:17 pm

Spearthrower wrote:It seems such a strange concept to me; end suffering. Suffering is part of life. We grow from it, we learn from it, we adapt and achieve new things at least partly in our pursuit of alleviating suffering.

Tell that to people who are starving and live in shit. People who are used as sex slaves. People who are tortured to death. How do you grow from that? What does it teach you?

Of course these examples are extreme, but it wouldn't be real suffering if it weren't extreme.
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Re: Theravada Buddhism

#20  Postby Fallible » May 02, 2014 12:25 pm

Ask Viktor Frankl. Someone living in arguably some of the worst possible conditions who nevertheless found that he could choose what to do with his suffering.
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