And it is part of Buddhist thought, quite explicitly, that our feelings are not reliable guides to reality, in a sense. They’re not entirely trustworthy.
Buddhism says that we should be skeptical of our feelings. They are not necessarily truthful guides to reality and indeed that we should be skeptical of some of the thoughts and the perceptions that feelings foster.
Evolutionary psychology also says a certain kind of skepticism makes sense. Because we are not necessarily designed to see the truth. And in some cases our, our minds are actually designed to see what are literally illusions [to protect us from potential dangers. Example: we hear something rustle 100 times and assume it’s going to attack us every time. 1 time it actually is a threat. Natural selection prefers that we treat all 100 times as a threat even though our environment nowadays has much fewer threats and living in that illusion produces so much suffering. Natural selection doesn’t select for happiness; it selects for survival.]
Buddhism on Enlightenment
While the path from bondage to deliverance, from worldliness to spiritual nobility, is a graded path involving gradual practice and gradual progress, it is not a uniform continuum. Progress occurs in discrete steps, and at a certain point — the point separating the status of a worldling from that of a noble one — a break is reached which must be crossed, not by simply taking another step forward, but by making a leap, by jumping across from the near side to the further shore.
Prior to the penetration of the truths, however well endowed we may be with spiritual virtues, we are not yet on secure ground. We are not immune from regression, not yet assured of deliverance, not invincible in our striving on the path. The virtues of a worldling are tenuous virtues. They may wax or they may wane, they may flourish or decline, and in correspondence with their degree of strength we may rise or fall in our movement through the cycle of becoming. When our virtues are replete we may rise upward and dwell in bliss among the gods; when our virtues decline or our merit is exhausted we may sink again to miserable depths.
Once we have grasped the fact that all conditioned things in the world, being impermanent and insubstantial, can never give us total satisfaction, we can then lift our aim to the unconditioned element, Nibbana the Deathless, and make that aspiration the pole around which we order our everyday choices and concerns.
My Note: SURRENDER
continued info: http://www.buddhanet.net/audio-lectures.htm
Buddhism: a practical way of dealing with the reality of suffering’
The third possibility would seem to be that these questions are somehow by their very nature unanswerable.
In simple terms the questions are unanswerable because they assume, as absolute, categories and concepts-the world, the soul, the self, the Tathagata-that the Buddha and the Buddhist tradition does not accept or at least criticizes or understands in particular ways. That is, from the Buddhist perspective these questions are ill-formed and misconceived. To answer ‘yes’ or ‘rio’ to any one of them is to be drawn into accepting the validity of the question and the terms in which it is couched-rather like answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a question such as, ‘Are Martians green?’ One’s answer may be construed in ways one had not intended. Thus the Buddha tells the insistent Malunkyaputta that whichever one of these views he might embrace, the real work remains:
It is not the case that one would live the spiritual life by virtue of hold~ ing the view that the world is eternal. Nor is it the case that one would live the spiritual life by virtue of holding the view that the world is not eternal. Whether one holds the view that the world is eternal, or whether one holds the view that the world is not eternal, there is still birth, ageing, death, grief, despair, pain, and unhappiness-whose destruction here and now I declare.
Buddhist thought suggests that it is beings themselves who must take ultimate responsibility for their suffering. This may come as rather depressing news, but on the other hand, to anticipate our discussion of the third and fourth truths, precisely because our suffering is something that we must each bear a certain responsibility for, it is also something that we can do something about.
This way of looking at things has sometimes been perceived by people brought up in an intellectual and cultural tradition in part moulded by Christian thought as a rather bleak view of affairs, contrasting with the message of the saving Christ proclaimed by Christianity. Yet it is important to appreciate that in its own cultural context this is most definitely presented and perceived as a message of hope.
As John Ross Carter has put it, there is no need of a saviour not because suffering humanity is its own saviour, but because of the efficacy of Dharma when made the integral basis of one’s life.
‘the thirst for the· objects of sense desire, the thirst for existence and the thirst for non-existence’
Yet in a world where everything is always changing, in a world of shifting and unstable conditions, craving of whatever kind will never be able to hold on to the things it craves. This is the origin of suffering
Craving is understood to crystallize as ‘grasping’ or ‘attachment’ (upiidiina): the various things we like evoke desires in us; these turn to cravings; ‘as a result of our craving we grasp at things and try to take possession of them; in short, we try to call them our own. Buddhist texts provide a stock list of four kinds of attachment: attachment to the objects of sense desire, attachment to views, attachment to precepts and vows, attachment to the doctrine of the self
My Commentary: so many people are searching for a clear, concrete answer to their questions. Often, they’ll even think they’ve found it. This sort of clinging is more subtle but just as dangerous as our clinging to sense desires.
The ultimately significant thing in all this is craving and attachment rather than whatever is the object of that attachment and craving. Thus it is not the objects of sense desire that cause us suffering, but our attachment to those; it is not views, precepts and vows, and the doctrine of self that in themselves cause suffering but our attachment.
My Commentary: remove the object and we’ll simply find another object to cling to. I see this in myself. I’m constantly trying to escape the present moment. To distract my mind. 1 day my distraction of choice might be a mobile game; the next, i might make a rule against mobile games and turn to messenger as a distraction; the next, I’ll turn to netflix, coursera, it never ends. I must cut the craving and clinging, itself, at its root, not simply change the objects. I keep telling myself “if only I change the object — stop using messenger, remove myself from technology, go offline, isolate myself, and live in a cabin for a month alone altogether.” but I need to go deeper.
This is not to say that all views, precepts and vows, and doctrines about the self are regarded as equal in Buddhist thought. Certain attachments are most definitely considered more harmful and more productive of suffering than others. Thus an attachment to the first of the five Buddhist precepts, the precept of not harming living creatures, is not to be considered as of the same order as an attachment to the habit of killing creatures. Indeed, deliberately killing living creatures is regarded as a particularly unwholesome act, and to the extent that attachment to the precept of not harming living creatures prevents us from killing, it is a positive good; nevertheless, as long as it remains an attachment-an abstract principle we tenaciously cling to-it too must remain a contributory cause of dul;kha. The problem ·is that we can become attached to even useful and helpful things, even to the practice of the Buddha’s teaching:
This does not mean that in relinquishing his or her attachment to the precept of not harming living creatures the Buddhist saint suddenly starts harming living creatures. Rather the Buddhist saint does no harm to living creatures not out of attachment to some precept or ethical principle he or she has undertaken to live by, but because of rooting out any motivation that might move him or her to want to harm living creatures. Thus as well as indicating the, as it were, horizontal range of craving and attachment, Buddhist thqught draws up a vertical hierarchy of attachment which the Buddhist practitioner progressively relinquishes as he or she follows the path.
At this point it begins to become quite apparent just how and why craving leads to suffering. There is a discrepancy between our craving and the world we live in, between our expectations and the way things are. We want the world to be other than it is. Our craving is based on a fundamental misjudgement of the situation; a judgement that assumes that when our craving gets what it wants we will be happy, that when our craving possesses the objects of its desire we will be satisfied. But such a judgement in turn assumes a world in which things are permanent, unchanging, stable, and reliable. But the world is simply not like that. In short, in craving we fail to see how things truly are, and in failing to see !;low things truly are we crave. In other words craving goes hand in hand with a fundamental ignorance and misapprehension of the nature of the world.
Try as we might to find something in the world that is permanent and stable, which we can hold on to and thereby find lasting happiness, we must always fail. The Buddhist solution is as radical as it is simple: let go, let go of everything.
My Commentary: including dharma itself? Yes, but let that go at the end of the path after you’ve used it to remove every other attachment.
But where English translations of Buddhist texts have ‘he attains nirval).a/parinirval).a’, the more characteristic Pali or Sanskrit idiom is a simple verb: ‘he or she nirval).a-s’ or more often ‘he or she parinirv~a-s’ (parinibbiiyati). What the Pali and Sanskrit expression primarily indicates is the event or process of the extinction of the ‘fires’ of greed, aversion, and delusion.
My Commentary: the distinction is important bc one implies that something is found whereas the traditional meaning is that everything is let go, the fire is out. Not finding something, but letting go of everything.
After a being has, as it were, ‘nirval).a-ed’, the defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion no longer arise in his or her mind, since they have been thoroughly rooted out (to switch to another metaphor also current in the tradition). Yet like the Buddha, any person who attains nirval).a does not remain thereafter forever absorbed in some transcendental state of mind. On the contrary he or she continues to live in the world; he or she continues to think, speak, and act as other people do-with the difference that all his or her thoughts, words, and deeds are completely free of the motivations of greed, aversion, and delusion, and motivated instead entirely by generosity, friendliness, and wisdom.
My Commentary: I’m not sure I believe in this *permanent* state of nirvana. It seems to betray the reality of impermanence. Maybe I’m just clinging to the idea of impermanence too though…
The earlier tradition tends to shy away from such definition, although, as we have seen, it is insistent on one point: one cannot say that the arhat after death exists, does not exist, both exists and does not exist, neither exists nor does not exist. The ontological status of nirval)a thus defies neat categorization and is ‘undetermined’
one should not say more than that nirviil)a is the absence of the defilements. With the development of the Mahayana philosophical schools of Madhyamaka and Y ogacara we find attempts to articulate the ontology of nirviil).a in different terms-the logic of ‘emptiness’ (sunyatii) and non-duality (advaya).
For, as we have seen, the tradition is clear on one point: nirviil).a, as the postc mortem condition of the Buddha and arhats, cannot be characterized as non-existence, but nor can it be characterized as existence. In fact to characterize it in either of these ways is to fall foul of one of the two basic wrong views ( dr~fi/di!!hi) between which Buddhist thought tries to steer a middle course: the annihilationist view (uccheda-viida) and the eternalist view (siisvata-1 sassata-viida ). Thus although the schools of Buddhist thought may articulate the ontology of nirviil).a in different terms, one thing is clear, and that is that they are always attempting to articulate the middle way between existence and non-existence, between annihilationism and eternalism. And it is in so far as any formulation of nirviil).a’s ontolgy is judged to have failed to maintain the delicate balance necessary to walk the middle path that it is criticized.
Although some of the things one might say about nirviil).a will Four Truths 79 certainly be more misleading than others,. ultimately whatever one says will be misleading; the last resort must be the ‘silence of the Aryas’, the silence of the ones who have directly known the ultimate truth, for ultimately ‘in such matters syllables, words and concepts are of no use’.
What remains after all is said-and not said-is the reality of nirval).a as the goal of the Buddhist path conveyed not so much by the attempt to articulate it philosophically but by metaphor. Thus although strictly nirval).a is no place, no abode where beings can be said to exist, the metaphor of nirval).a as the destination at the end of the road remains vivid: ‘the country of No-Birththe city of Nibbana, the place of the highest happiness, peaceful, lovely, happy, without suffering, without fear, without sickness, free from old age and death’.
My Commentary: I simply don’t buy the idea of a destination. Because of this, I don’t think I can subscribe to Nirvana.
Something I’ve been personally struggling with: https://www.coursera.org/learn/science-of-meditation/discussions/weeks/1/threads/R060VXa_EeaAMhJFLX_1yQ/replies/okFzI3eGEeaV6A5uEqTDTw