Is there an afterlife?

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Summerlander
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby Summerlander » 01 Mar 2015 13:51

It is certainly not Siddhartha Gautama's fault and I take your valid point. There is, indeed, literature arguing that the Buddha's philosophy was corrupted over millennia (this wouldn't surprise me) and that he didn't even require people to follow him as he asserted that people could find their own way on their own. He was a philosopher at heart, agnostic and curious about reality, a meditator, and, like any other human being, he was right about some things and wrong about others. He was, in my opinion, certainly wrong about karma. He had charisma and was a highly influential individual, which is why Buddhism spread and survived this long. It is certainly better than the monotheisms.

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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DesertExplorer
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby DesertExplorer » 28 Apr 2015 00:09

I don't know why this slipped my attention. Well, what do you think that Buddha believed and meant about and with the word "Karma"?
Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.

~David Gerrold

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Summerlander
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby Summerlander » 28 Apr 2015 02:30

I think Gautama's most profound discovery was that there is an alternative to the hedonistic path as a means to achieve happiness. This alternative became clear to him when he realised, via meditation, that the self -- or ego -- is an illusion, and that desire is a form of attachment that leads to suffering.

So the Buddha teaches us to introspect, to observe conscious experience without bias, to try to look at the world without the goggles of LIKE and DISLIKE. His valuable lesson can be illustrated with the following analogy: He is like the adult reminding the child that the movie is an illusion and that one needn't become too absorbed. He gets our attention to the fact that the movie is really merely a projection of light and sounds and there is no objective meaning other than cause and effect. Once you can do this you are free in a sense.

Thoughts -- insofar as they arise and appear to trigger emotions and behaviours -- no longer dictate. They are merely observed in meditation. They suddenly appear as just objects of consciousness and the self no longer needs to be defended whatever the cost. The self -- as a supernatural observer hiding behind physical eyes -- does not exist. You can observe yourself thinking and then focus away from concepts to realise that a pristine awareness exists, a mind unclouded by thoughts and judgement free. Once you attain this perspective, however briefly, it becomes easier to be more accepting of that which you cannot control in your normal state and day-to-day life.

Now, karma is not the Newtonian cause-and-effect. Karma -- according to many modern Buddhists -- appears to be a force that either rewards or punishes individuals for what they have done before. If the Buddha thought this is how reality works, like a judgemental "boomerang," he was wrong.

Like I said before, he was just a man. He might have achieved enlightenment, as they say, and perhaps this is the best way to lead a life free of affliction if our perspective is radically altered to that extent, but enlightenment does not equate with omniscience. A profound sense of self-transcendence does not bestow you the knowledge of Einstein or an emulation of Richard Feynman's understanding of quantum mechanics.

The Buddha was venially unaware of such things as science hadn't even taken off at that time. But he was certainly curious and inquisitive about reality -- qualities worthy of a true scientist.

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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DesertExplorer
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby DesertExplorer » 28 Apr 2015 04:12

Summerlander wrote:If the Buddha thought this is how reality works, like a judgemental "boomerang," he was wrong.[ Post made via Android ] Image

Why? Your thoughts and actions really create your reality. If you are a natural negative (thinking) person, then you act negatively, so your perception of reality will be negative as well. But if you think positively and thus act this way, then that will cause you to see positive things happening to you.

Don't you agree?
Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.

~David Gerrold

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Summerlander
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby Summerlander » 28 Apr 2015 08:00

I agree with you to a certain extent. What you state is true in principle and only as a tendency. But you must also take into account, for instance, that a negative person can get very lucky in life in a manner which is purely incidental and does not relate to their frame of mind. Conversely, an optimist can be visited by a hatful of misadventures. And then, there is the scenario where the serial rapist wins the lottery -- which is puzzling to karma believers and the theistic pious alike. (The latter end up justifying the event by saying, "The lord works in mysterious ways.")

According to the concept of Karma, the psychotic rapist or killer should always have his comeuppance. This isn't always observed. Take someone like Jimmy Saville, for example, who lived out his sick and twisted fantasies unscathed and "luckily" died an old man never having to answer for his crimes. Think about the lives Saville ruined, and, if you think his death countervailed his lifetime enjoyment, think again as many of his victims endured worse ends.

In impugning the concept of Karma, I would add that your statement doesn't even support it. karma isn't just about perspective. It isn't about negative or positive individuals focusing on aspects of their lives accordingly. Karma implies much more and ventures into the realm of the superstitious, where nothing happens by chance and objective meaning exists.

And Karma, as a retributive force, is also at odds with the reality that there is no free will (see previous topic on this). The serial killer did not ask for his psychotic brain, and, inasmuch as we would all love to see him pay for his crimes, we must not overlook the deterministic reality where he simply could not help it at the time -- the urge to kill, generated by electrochemical components in his brain which he did not author -- was simply overwhelming!

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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DesertExplorer
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby DesertExplorer » 28 Apr 2015 15:21

Because you spoke specifically, I will do as well. Why the serial killer would be a pessimist? He could be very positive in his life, being glad of his little hobby and spreading his passion into the world. :)

All I mean is that he could have real fun with what he would do and feel very happy. So, it's not what the action may seem to the regular person, but how you make it appear in your perspective.

Another example now. The serial killer who would win the lottery (say just that he is a pessimist this time). You may imply that this possibility could be enough to change his thoughts and therefore actions, alright? But what if it would not be enough? He would have a moment of surprise, excitement, happiness and whatever but he would be used to get satisfaction (more of a state of relief) to murder people. Not enough to make him happy, but nor this to make him stop. He would continue to be a pessimist even if he run a mafia, having a lot of money to make others to do what he once did. But he could be used to think in a specific way, thus making him unhappy.

I really believe that the possibilities of change in this situation (because it happened for him to win the lottery) would be near zero, having in mind the natural psychotic brain of the murderer.


Now, about luck. It's how you perceive it, because Buddha did not believe in that in the mysterious and not explained way we normally believe. It was considered as something that you could create. Yes, you didn't ask about the psychotic brain you have, but there is the possibility of change if you want to see it. But if you don't, then you will continue to believe that this is the way it has to be and you create your own luck as well.
Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.

~David Gerrold

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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby DesertExplorer » 28 Apr 2015 15:37

It's all a matter of how you choose to perceive it. If you believe that there are things that just happen to you, then you will continue to see this, but you are the half reason of this, because you choose to see it that way it comes to you. I can agree that there are things that just come to you, but then it's your decision of how you will let it get in your consciousness. It's all a matter of belief and that indicates the freedom we already have, but we can choose to see it or not see it and that verifies our freedom! ;)
Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.

~David Gerrold

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Summerlander
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby Summerlander » 28 Apr 2015 20:37

The serial killer could indeed be a positive person besides delighting in the murder of other human beings. But this subjective factor about his psyche doesn't necessarily bear a connection to any objective events that might befall him. The ecstasy experienced by an extreme psychopath whilst carrying out a murder has nothing to do with him winning the lottery the following day or getting hit by a bus.

Just to clarify one thing for you, whichever way people view their urges and actions bears no relevance to what happens to them. If you happen to get hit by a meteor, it's not because you were having negative thoughts just a while ago, or that you were daydreaming about the best case scenario and some jealous deity decided to bring you down. That space rock was coming to you regardless! The karma exponent, however, will insist that you were struck by the meteor for a meaningful reason. This is nonsense.

Sure, you can change your perspective about what happens to you. Where most people would curse the day they were injured by a meteor, you could focus on feeling privileged to have made contact -- however violently -- with an object from space and feel even more elated to learn that it was once quite close to Jupiter (which, let's say, for the sake of argument, happens to be your favourite planet). But this has nothing to do with karma's superstitous implications as you'd only be looking at a particular occurrence in an unconventional manner.

If a human being can only experience happiness, however temporary, by killing others, then chances are that this person will never mend. Unless, of course, the fear of incarceration and the urge to avoid it is greater than the one impelling you to kill knowing that the risk of getting caught is great -- in which case, we are still not talking about control, let alone free will, but rather, disparate brain states whose eventuation the individual has no hand in.

Again, we are talking about electrochemical events in the brain, obeying the physical laws of a deterministic universe, which cause the individual who possesses them to experience a mind in conflict and in search for a solution. The solution is dictated by the strongest urge which is in turn generated by a particular brain state that the person did not pick (as much as the contrary seems to be true). (By the way, acknowledging that free will is an illusion does not rob us of our sense of autonomy -- we should still make the effort and exercise control however illusory.)

But don't be fooled. You don't choose to see things. You either see them or you don't. After being informed about something abstruse, you either remain befuddled or its sense will suddenly become clear. It either resonates with you or it doesn't. You don't choose such experiences. You either feel like trying meditation or you might find the idea of such practice boring from the get-go. Whatever your thinking process, there is always a feeling, a mood, or urge that precedes it. Such mental preliminaries are not selected by a self. They just happen.

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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DesertExplorer
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby DesertExplorer » 28 Apr 2015 21:20

That's what I meant. You can choose the way you perceive the things that happen to you. You can find a meaning about the occurrence of something. I am not sure why Buddha would let you find a meaning, even if it's incriminating yourself and your actions, though. Maybe because the human mind wants to find out a meaning anyway (the personal truth). And thinking that there is no reason for some things is uncomfortable for many people who would want to follow him. I can only guess after so many years. We surely cannot ask him. Unfortunately.. But maybe there lies the freedom. When something happens to you, there is no reason for it to happen, except if you create one.


That's a little off-topic but it has a small connection.

Do you believe that the being born and living circumstances are responsible for creating one's personality or that there are preselected elements in one's self that generate the future formation of their personality? Or maybe both?
Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.

~David Gerrold

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Summerlander
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Re: Is there an afterlife?

Postby Summerlander » 29 Apr 2015 00:13

Perhaps we tend to conceptualise the world for our own comfort. Be that as it may, some of us hold a world view that entails soothing delusions in contrast to those who prefer a clear picture of reality however uncomfortable it may be. Whatever our tendencies, deep down we harbour an aversion for incomprehensibility, and, rather than brook it, this is where our thirst for meaning comes in as our mind craves for answers.

Before the scientific enterprise could manifest and begin to construct plausible theories about existence and the nature of the universe based on empirical evidence, our ancestors were mostly content with fantastic beliefs about supernatural agents having unimaginable magical powers. We invented a cause for an observed effect before truly (and honestly) making attempts to devise a detailed explanation about a world that was -- and still is! -- so alien to us.

Meaning, however speculative, can temporarily fill the cognitive void as it relies on interpretation. The unknown must be, in the least, labelled. What is weird needs identification while it's yet to be explained. What would our world look like without discernment and classification, right?

I suppose Buddha was primarily concerned with breaking the observer-observed (or even subjective-objective) dichotomy as a possible means to mitigate suffering. He knew the ego was a persistent illusion that we need not identify with and doesn't require perpetual maintenance or preservation. He wanted to prepare us for the inevitable: we will lose everything -- from material possessions and loved ones to our health, and, ultimately, our lives. He searched for the frame of mind that could be at peace with this. The solution? Dissociation from the conceptual bias -- that illusory veil through which we interpret reality, and, last but not least, self-transcendence.

Finally, in answer to your question, the personality is birthed by a combination of factors from the genetic to the psychological and environmental in one's life. Your genome can visibly inheret certain physical and behavioural traits from your parents and forebears. At the same time, your upbringing will uniquely differ from that of your parents, and, needless to say, your personal experience departs from that of your siblings, too.

You might come across information that your parents were never privy to at your age which may influence you to be radically different in character. This makes it possible for my mother to be a theist while I'm an atheist, for example.

Personalities are also subject to change. Misfortunes might persuade model citizens to transgress; in extreme instances, individuals can have mental breakdowns; a brain tumour potentially begets a deviant; Alzheimer's can destroy identities etc. etc.

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava


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