Monday, June 1, 2009

Update: Your turn #3 (this post closes Thursday@10pm)

Last class we talked about the Buddhist revolution: 1- Its pluralism (there are different ways), 2- its universalism (anyone can be saved), 3- The etioloy of Buddhism is pretty simple: There is universal causation: pratityasamutpadda. How to dispel avidya (ignorance), which causes tanha (craving) to cause dukkha (suffering)? The 8-fold path. I stressed the first three: right view/right intention/right speech: from the inside to the outside. Good mental formation leads to good actions. I brought up Husserl's epoché, as a way to dispel the gooey everydayness,* the baggage that each one of us brings into the life-equation: all kinds of protectiveness, assumptions including our personal brainwash. How much of what I take to be ME is really me? We touched briefly upon Sartre's nausée, to Kirkegaard's angst to illustrate the point. For some reason that escapes me now, I mentioned Kafka's idea of inexplicable (Unerklärliche) in this short story. Buddhism suggests that one can become authentic (a helping hand again, from Existentialism: Heidegger's idea of Eigentlichkeit or "one who owns oneself"). Buddhism is not an abstract discourse achievable only by a chosen few. At the end of the class I introduced the Buddhist idea of "self" as a flame, which is very akin to the Existentialist idea of self as process. I stop for now. Go ahead.
*The term in Heidegger's philosophy is Alltäglichkeit, which means the daily routine of life.
A link for Georges Bataille's Theory of Religion here.


JDMR said...

Yay, topic starter again! (not having social life works! lol). Ehem, ok, so I was looking into Buddhism and I found something interesting that hasn't been quite discussed in class: Indra's net. Basically the basis for Buddhist thought.

In Indra's net everything's connected in an interdependent net of cause and effect that allows circumstances to arise, that echoes to the past and future of existence. This is why there is no real self. I infer then that maya (illusion of separated self) exists is because we are immediately familiar with a subjective reality due to our conscience. Meaning, we are born in a small portion of Indra's net, and thus we eventually conclude that we are separate entities of the whole (because we cannot think as a whole...we can only think as an individual, because our minds are in fact tiny conscious parts of that same net--not the net in itself). In the first months (or years?) of our infancy the baby doesn't differentiate between himself and the environment. If the mother cries the baby assumes that he/she is crying, if the father yells, the baby assumes he/she is yelling. Perhaps it's true what they say, "we are born pure but society corrupts us." (Schopenhauer would say women, but that's something else lol).

Moreover, Sartre's existentialism talks about a very similar notion: contingencies. Aspects of the facticity of each one of us that seemingly escape our responsibility. Such as being born with specific attributes (is it our fault?). These contingencies, nevertheless, serve to limit the "area" of our freedom. But they are part of our freedom, so they are a part of us. In other words, we are free within them, but thanks to them. Simultaneously, Joseph Catalano speaks of the conflict between being-in-itself and being conscious commenting on Sartre's Being and Nothingness:

" is true that neither being-in-itself nor consciousness can be the foundation for its own being. A foundation in being would require reasons and laws that would make being's existence totally explainable to itself; it would require a consciousness of one's being, as a totality and unity, in which everything appears as justified. But then, precisely as a consciousness of its necessity, this being would stand at a "distance" from its own necessity and thus be separated from it"In other words, as long as we are conscious of reality, we will never be beings-in-itself. Because consciousness implies another reality. (It's ok, even I'm a bit confused lol). With this, it would not be crazy to state that we are responsible of being born, by default. Sartre did explain this in a more articulated argument, but sadly I couldn't find it in the web. My apologies if you find my statements flawed.

Finally, I'll make a parallel between Sartre's contingencies and, you guessed it! The pratītyasamutpāda! Which is the doctrine of contingency (Indra's net). So much for a parallel. (In case you didn't get it, well basically the ...pratiyasamutpada and sartre's notion of contingencies are analogous, only that Sartre uses the contingency to explain the dynamics of freedom and facticity and the ...patriyasamutpada is the doctrine in which Indra's net occurs due to the contingency of eternal cause and effect.)

If by achieving awareness and unity with the universe we need to give up our conscience, how do we know when we're aware? How do we know if we are actually always aware and that our conscience is only the tip of the iceberg of our so called "self." Is the ultimate consciousness...unconscious?

A.T. said...

"If by achieving awareness and unity with the universe we need to give up our conscience, how do we know when we're aware? How do we know if we are actually always aware and that our conscience is only the tip of the iceberg of our so called 'self.' Is the ultimate consciousness...unconscious?"

Excelent comment, JDMR.
In Buddhism, consciousness (in its Cartesian form) is more of a hindrance than an aid. One of Boddhidharma's versicles states: "The mind cannot reach the subtleness of the mind." The Cartesian "cogito" is still at the level of "noise." Deeper consciousness requires incorporating a sort of existentialist Eigenlichtkeit.

Victoria said...

There are some very beautiful Ideas that Buddhism illustrates that I take mostly metaphorically, but I am caught at some very interesting points.
Where does self expression fall into play here? What are these things (art, music, poetry) to Buddhism? If I follow that I should better control my mind, find right mindfulness and follow a greater truth then how does that translate into the arts I hold above all else? I see how poetry could come into effect but how would a Buddhist see a song like “Black Dog” (Led Zepplin)? How would they render that? Would they even judge it as good or bad? Would they like it? Would they hate it? How could they possibly understand it?
I have many questions about how this religion corresponds to these forms of expression, these forms of self evaluation.

Quazo said...

My introduction into Buddhism and Meditation came to me through the teachings of a Professor here at the college. Steering me into a path I had already paved but hadn’t the self confidence nor courage to walk. The more I studied the more external concepts the more I learned about myself. Meditation seemed an exotic practice reserved for only the holy and ever righteous; it wasn’t upon reading a text that he suggested to me (Whose title has escaped me at the moment) that I attempted to meditate myself.
My first attempt was short-lived and I felt discomfort throughout my body as I imitated the postures I’d seen on TV. I proceeded to try it lying down but found myself waking up 2 hours later. Disappointed but not loosing hope, I continued practicing. Finally one evening cross legged with my back against the wall staring at a stone Buddha carving holding a candle, I focused on the flame. Steadied my breath as I observed the flame dancing to the vibration I had just become aware of droning sound waves that appeared omnipresent. My breath had steadied and each inhalation seemed to fill my body with sensation. The louder the droning sound became the quieter everything actually seemed I heard so much and heard nothing at the same time. I recall my eyelids trembling but no longer did I feel control over them, I for the first time in my life felt a dissociation from my physical body.
Then, (I offer this moment for biased debate) the candle blew out (most likely because of the ac vent under which it lay) but of the following I’m certain. The room filled with intense warm light that brought comfort and reassuring, peace and tranquility and for it was at that moment that I knew I was me. Yet this faint realization of my existence in the universe dissolved the second I thought. I reverted to my physical limitations and thought: “I’m meditating this is meditation!!!” but with those words I quickly fell from whatever state of mind I had elevated to and was back in my room staring at a burnt out candle.
I since practice meditation very scarcely, which is an obvious flaw if my intentions are to learn more about this ancient mental exercise. I have not dedicated enough discipline nor have I concentrated on meditating as I’d like but that is a habit I am working on. Nonetheless this first meditating experienced opened many doors to myself that I since have begun exploring.


Deblinger said...

JDMR: "Because we cannot think as a whole...we can only think as an individual."

This perspective reminds me of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand, which we briefly mentioned in class. In Smith's theory, we make all of our decisions as an individual. We do not think about the whole because we cannot see the whole. But by everyone thinking and acting as an individual, we are acting as a whole.

Jorge, your experience on meditation inspires me to try it as well. I feel like it would be so difficult to disconnect myself from the world and turn off my mind. But i guess thinking that I couldn't do it is the first step to failure.

Buddhism actually makes sense to me. Most religions I find pointless because I cannot get passed the fact that they go against logic. Of course, Triff stressed the fact that Buddhism should not even be considered a religion.

We desire so much in this world that we now are desiring desire. Society has become a competition of who has the latest and best product on the market. And since Buddhism does not explain God nor Teleology (the end), we must make this journey through self discovery. I think desire is good. We wouldn't be human without desire, but I think WHAT we desire is what draws in the problems. We just cannot desire what we don't need (and living in such a materialistic society, most of what we desire we don't need).

A.T. said...

"What are these things (art, music, poetry) to Buddhism?"

Isn't a central tenet of Buddhism that each individual is divine? Therefore, art, music, etc, automatically become expressions of the divine.

Quazo said...

Jose, You just gotta try it out and listen to what your own soul has to say. But it takes dedication, one which i havent fully set myself to attain. The hardest thing is to not think. When i started meditating i realize how many thoughts are constantly flowing through the mind. I always felt each idea had to be addressed, but what meditation has tought me is that there is a time for everything and when you want to meditate eliminate all thoughts, even the ones about not thinking!
some tips i've learned from others is to focus primarily on the breath, then count up to 10, once you reach ten start over. if your mind has lost focus you;ll find yourself counting 87..88..89...oh but then just start again focus your mind. Oh and one last thing; as far as body posture or any of that i've found that being comfortable is important but not to the point you'll fall asleep. and if while you're siting you feel some discomfort, use it for the meditation. dont stop because of it. best of luck see you tomorrow.

Heinz (Hoonze) said...


you mentioned to eliminate the thought of not thinking. As silly as it may sound, that one thought seems to be my biggest challenge when I try or attempt to meditate. I haven't in ages tried to meditate, but when I did there was so much going on within my mind that I just lost focus (if I ever had any to begin with). I guess I really never had focus, nor the proper guidance to achieve a state of calmness from meditation.

Daniel said...

I like the things that we discussed in class about Buddhism. If all people would learn to control themselves, the world would be better and the suffering of many people would be less. One of the things that I love the most about Buddhism is that it encourages their followers to learn and become part of the world around them. In Buddhism everyone can be saved and I think that is great. I do not believe that religions should tell their followers that only they are the chosen few that would be saved. I believe that religions do this just to control people and keep them in their religion.
Wisdom is something that everyone should be seeking for. Buddhism tells their followers that wisdom is a great goal in life. In my personal life, I was raised catholic; I remember my grand-mother telling me that scientists were bad because they were against God, or Jesus. Now, I am an agnostic, but I think that knowledge is always good and any god of any religion should not condemn anyone because they seek for wisdom and knowledge.
I think that learning to control your thoughts is very difficult. However, all the people would suffer less if they did it. I think that most of the people do not know how to control their feeling, their feeling control them, such as anger. If they follow Buddha, people would be better off and I think that they would live happier.

Daniel Gutierrez

Alejandra said...

What impacted me the most about Buddhism is the Eight-Fold path. Though I had heard of it before, I had never really given it much thought. It wasn’t until I realized that the essence of the eight-fold path is that when you internalize good (or evil for that matter), you then project good (or evil). This struck me as simple yet mind blowing. As the saying goes, we judge others by their actions but we judge ourselves based on our intentions. However, don’t our intentions dictate our actions? It is our true intentions that dictate what we end up doing, therefore once we have right way perspective on life (which sounds infinitely easier than it sounds I’m sure), with a little effort everything else should fall into place. Once you can control the way you internalize information and perceptions, you control your judgments, and then you can truly control your actions and therefore your life. "Your life is the sum result of all the choices you make, both consciously and unconsciously. If you can control the process of choosing, you can take control of all aspects of your life. You can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of yourself." - Robert F. Bennet

AndreaC said...

Hello!, I have a couple of things to share but first and foremost is what I think of Buddhism. Jorge, I loved what you wrote about meditation. Here's my own take on that. I really hope this makes sense...I'm lazy so I just copied and pasted my skype messages on Word then here. Here you all go:

Andrée: Dissociation from physical body.
Andrée: It's like....surprise meditation.
Andrée: Where you're aware of everything.
Andrée: You're aware of how disgusting you are.
Andrée: What a loathsome creature you are.
Andrée: You have no idea of what the hell's going on
Andrée: And that scares you.
Andrée: (Not to be emo but) you even feel like you can cut yourself and you'll be fine.
Andrée: It's like "So?"
Andrée: It's so easy!
Andrée: Everything becomes so easy.
Andrée: And everything moves in slow motion.
Andrée: You see waves.
Andrée: Like...ok maybe not waves.
Andrée: But you can slow things if you want.
Andrée: Because I don't think we're selves.
Andrée: I think we think that we're individuals.
Andrée: But like Jose said, we have freedom but it's thanks to that freedom that we have it.
Andrée: So we're tied.
Andrée: Freedom owns our minds.
Andrée: So what buddhism might be about...
Andrée: I think...
Andrée: There is no such thing as a self.
Andrée: If buddhism is applied.
Andrée: Maybe.
Andrée: Buddhism aims at the whole.
Andrée: We're all part of a whole.
Andrée: It's almost like....
Andrée: "Are you rushing quickly to the earth or is the earth rushing up to you?"
Andrée: Why do we need to fabricate killing machines when we're already built for it.

Andrea Cebrecos (T/R @ 11:40AM)

AndreaC said...

Now that I have the buddhism stuff up, here's the rest.

The following has to do with the words from the midterm. Once I finally grasped all the meanings, I started interpreting. Again, I hope this makes sense to you all.

I'm going to split it into parts since it's too big.


Andrée: So we're brahman??
Andrée: Because brahman is the universal principle of selfhood?
Andrée: So we're brahman and our God is Brahma.
Andrée: So we're made of that.
Andrée: God.
Andrée: And Brahma is the whole.
Andrée: Which we're trying to reconnect with.
Andrée: Doesn't buddhism contradict itself too?
Andrée: You're trying to reach the highest self by becoming whole.

Andrée: Good mental formation leads to good actions.
Andrée: It depends.
Andrée: But of course to means not using that power.
Andrée: Because then it's............mara?

Andrée: We're born as brahman but then become human individuals.
Andrée: Due to Maya.
Andrée: And there are certain materialistic-esque things we have to read in order to reach Moksha.
Andrée: Like, artha, karma, and dharma.
Andrée: We have to be aware of our wealth, pleasure, and duties but not to an obsessive point.
Andrée: Because that is when desire becomes bad.
Andrée: So Karma is a paradox.

Andrée: How would you explain pakritti?
Andrée: It's the matter principle, uncaused causes.
Andrée: But what does that mean?
Andrée: The universe has no cause?

Andrée: Ratnatrata follows three principles.
Andrée: The right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct.
Andrée: And it's the basis of Jaina
Andrée: With right faith you're calm.
Andrée: But right faith can lead to perfection only with right conduct.
Andrée: And right conduct cannot be done consciously.
Andrée: It has to be spontaneous otherwise it's not right.
Andrée: You don't do it to ultimately feel good.
Andrée: Not means to an end.
Andrée: You do it because it's right.
Andrée: And that would be knowledge.
Andrée: But knowledge without faith and conduct is empty.
[3:19:56 AM] Andrée: And that's ratnatraya.

AndreaC said...


Andrée: So Ahimsa is like...
Andrée: The power we have but we can't use it for bad.
Andrée: Nonviolent thought are more important than nonviolent actions.
Andrée: And to achieve that we need Ratnatraya.

Andrée: Karman is What can cause us to be born again thus trapping the free soul.
Andrée: If we don't learn the lesson of doing right for right, not right to feel good.
Andrée: Karman is our baggage.
Andrée: Karman: Bits of material, generated by the person's actions, that bind themselves to the life-monad or soul through many births. This has the effect of thwarting the full realization and freedom of the soul.
Andrée: Through many births.
Andrée: It's the souls baggage.
Andrée: We have free souls that aren't free.
Andrée: It goes back to Ratnatraya.
Andrée: Whether you're doing it right or you're doing it wrong.
Andrée: The way I see it...
Andrée: Either you reach Ahimsa/Kevala or you continue in a circle.
Andrée: Trying to learn.
Andrée: And it could get longer and longer (I guess Kalpa could fit here).
Andrée: You know, just measures the amount of time in which you've lost the game.*
Andrée: And Jiva.
Andrée: One who lives in the body.
[3:50:06 AM] Andrée: That would, I guess.
Andrée: Jiva carries Karman.
Andrée: Not just any baggage, Soul baggage.
Andrée: Jiva is our soul.
Andrée: Us.
Andrée: We're not our bodies.
Andrée: So Ajiva.
Andrée: That's like....
Andrée: Everything physical.s....
Andrée: Ajiva can affect us in ratnatraya.
Andrée: Like....if it's right ajiva or wrong ajiva.
Andrée: Like....
Andrée: Sinners.
Andrée: Do we over do it.
Andrée: Do we indulge for too long.
Andrée: Thus being controlled by our desires.
Andrée: Instead of seeking moderation.
Andrée: Which is right, I guess.
Andrée: Cause I mean, whether we like it or not, ajiva is part of jiva.
Andrée: And it can either help or add to karman.

Andrée: There's no origin though according to pekriti and yet there is.
Andrée: Because, we're not Brahma yet we're part of Brahma.
Andrée: Kevala is like Nirvana.
Andrée: It's like reaching God?

Andrée: Because you detach yourself from your souls baggage.
Andrée: And it's're thinking like God.
Andrée: That's only possible once you accept ahimsa because ahimsa leads to right conduct, right faith, and right knowledge.
Andrée: Right faith leads to calmness and tranquility, but right faith leads to perfection only when followed by right conduct.
Andrée: Right conduct is a necessary condition for right faith.
Andrée: But right faith is not a necessary condition for right conduct.
Andrée: It can be sufficient to accomplish it but not enough.

AndreaC said...

SIdenote: I was chatting with Jose.

Enjoy! =D

Carla Abad said...

Well since many people seem to be sharing their experience with meditation, I'm going to go ahead and mention my own.
I started practicing yoga about a year ago (this practice lasted about a month), but the most difficult part was definitely trying to keep my mind free from any thoughts, especially the thought of not thinking. And then when I learned to concentrate on my breathing, the problem was to try to stay awake.
But I think Jorge got the right message through, the key is to concentrate on breathing and find a comfortable position but not too comfortable.

After reading the Dhammapada in class I decided to read it on my own. I found it's teachings to be --like Alex described the Eightfold Path to be-- simple yet mind-blowing. Today I re-read the first section (Twins) and it struck me how beautifully written and simply stated the teachings are presented.
The only other religious text I had read before was the Bible, and in comparison, the simplicity with which the Dhammapada is presented is shockingly beautiful. Short and sweet.
I know a couple of people who would say that all these teachings we can and should find within the Bible and our own religion, but there is something refreshing about reading different religion's take on the similar subjects.
The length and language in the Dhammapada are inviting to readers, and the way its messages and teachings are conveyed is truly alluring.

AndreaC said...

EDIT: What I mean by surprise meditation is this: sometimes I'll be sitting down (like in class) and suddenly, I'll feel outside of myself. I feel my physical body but I also feel like I'm floating. And nothing makes sense yet, at the same time, it does. And while my mind is going through this experience, my body is on autopilot, making it seem like I'm there when I'm not.

A.T. said...

Andrea: I dig your 4-installment Andrée vs. Andrée dialogue-comment.

This is also paradoxically cool:

"Andrée: Right conduct is a necessary condition for right faith.
Andrée: But right faith is not a necessary condition for right conduct.
Andrée: It can be sufficient to accomplish it but not enough."

You're on to something, girl.

A.T. said...

By the way, kids, regarding tanha (in case you desire not to desire) don't stop it.