Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Some partial backups of posts from the past (Feb, 2004)

Postby Ryan Rudolph » Sat Apr 21, 2007 2:14 am

Elizabeth wrote:

This is not wishful thinking, as my personal wish for myself is that my energy just dissipates. I am quite done with the experience of being alive.


But isn’t this desire solely based on the unlucky predicament that you were born into? If you were born into a luckier situation, would you still hold such a view? Lucky meaning better genetic/environmental conditions.

I can understand your desire to want your energy to dissipate at death, namely because you have experienced such suffering in this life, and I am not denying the realness of that suffering. However, in the big scope of things, the human body is an incrediblely feeble vessel to different degrees, and much of the problem can be blamed on the crudeness of this primitive world at this particular stage of evolution.

Kevin Solway wrote:

Once you turn off its causes, it ceases to exist.


I agree, but this doesn’t bring us any closer to being certain of what happens to consciousness at death. I find both your certainty and Elizabeth’s certainty on this matter rather unwarranted.

I don’t believe anyone can be an expert on metaphysical matters, and have absolute certainty of such things.
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Postby clyde » Sat Apr 21, 2007 2:55 am

Kevin;

You wrote about the Dalai Lama, what he believes and says, and implying that there were grave consequences. I asked what those consequences were and you replied that “The survival of wisdom, the survival of the human race, etc.” I responded that the survival of wisdom and humanity is not at risk because of the views and actions of the Dalai Lama.

What don’t you follow? I don’t believe that the views and actions of the Dalai Lama are critical to the survival of wisdom and humanity. Do you believe that the Dalai Lama’s views and actions are critical to the survival of wisdom and humanity?

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Postby clyde » Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:30 am

I am not a Buddhist scholar and belong to no Buddhist sect or organization. My knowledge of Buddhism is based on my study of sutras, commentaries, and texts, and recently participating on a couple of Buddhist discussion boards; so if anyone wishes to disagree with my conclusions, please do so.

My understanding of the Theravada view on re-incarnation is that they view the doctrine of anatta (no-self) as an ‘expedient teaching’ meant to lead one to the realization of True Self which they believe does re-incarnate until one attains nirvana – or – they accept the doctrine of anatta, but believe that one’s karma continues and causes another being to be born with one’s karma.

My understanding of the Vajrayana (Tibetan) view on re-incarnation is that they accept the doctrine of anatta, but believe that one has a mind-stream that continues from life to life.

Personally, I do not accept the above views and believe that whether it’s True Self, a personal karmic continuance, or a mind-stream, these are subtle beliefs in a self-existent self. Nevertheless, one can see that the views of re-incarnation are bound to views on anatta and karma, etc.

My understanding of the Mahayana view, particularly the Zen view on re-incarnation is that they accept the doctrine of anatta without equivocation and view re-birth as occurring moment-to-moment. This is closer to expressing my view.

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Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:31 am

Ryan R wrote:I don’t believe anyone can be an expert on metaphysical matters, and have absolute certainty of such things.


I agree with the latter part of that, and reference my debate with Victor to point to my position on absolute certainty. However I do believe that a person can have clarity of reason, which would lead a person to being validly as sure about something as a human could be.

Ryan R wrote:But isn’t this desire solely based on the unlucky predicament that you were born into? If you were born into a luckier situation, would you still hold such a view?


For me to have been born into a luckier situation would alter all of the events of causality. We are all parts of the Whole, and if the part of the Whole that was designated as "me" was born into any other set of circumstances, then I would be the result of that stream of causality - not this one. I would be a different being altogether. Whether I would be ready to have my energy dissipated at the end of my incarnation would depend on the particulars of that stream of causality. Have you ever heard an elderly person contentedly say that they have had a wonderful life, but they were ready to die? The same could happen with a cluster of consciousness energy. Whether I would want to return would depend on the sum of causal conditions.
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Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:45 am

clyde wrote:I do not accept the above views and believe that whether it’s True Self, a personal karmic continuance, or a mind-stream, these are subtle beliefs in a self-existent self.


Your phrasing is a little unclear to me. An impermanent soul is not particularly different from an impermanent body. The impermanent soul is not your true self either, but it is truer than your body self. Just as you fall asleep and dream, and may or may not remember previous dreams as you are dreaming, then you wake and your dream world is not so real, your soul falls alive to provide this experience, and wakes into its realm of existence time and time again. Sometimes we have dreams and sometimes we have nightmares, and that is true for the body's dream as well as the soul's life experience. A human life is long, but a soul's continuity is longer - long enough to encompass as many human lifetimes as a human lifespan can encompass dream states. Neither is permanent and neither is "real" - but the soul-body is no less real than the flesh-body because of its impermanence. They are still both artificial constructs of convenience for designation when pointing.
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Postby Cory Duchesne » Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:29 am

Elizabeth wrote:We are pointing at the "it" - the "mind" or "impermanent soul" or "cluster of consciousness energy" or whatever you want to call it, but the "it" is not causality itself -it is only subject to causality.


I think this is where you are in error, as I heard you say something similar to this on a different thread:

Elizabeth wrote: Time and causality are woven into the fabric of the Infinite.


Its wrong to seperate 'it'(things) from casuality - or to seperate time and causality from 'the fabric of the infinite'.

What do you think 'it' is, if not causality? Are you suggesting 'it' (any given thing) has some kind of essence or independent existence?

Do you or do you not agree that all things lack inherent existence?
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Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:33 am

Cory Duchesne wrote:Do you or do you not agree that all things lack inherent existence?


I agree that all things lack inherent existence, but in order to discuss concepts, we must point at various non-inherently existing things. It is just, as Kevin has put it, slices of the cake.
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Postby clyde » Sat Apr 21, 2007 8:01 am

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:An impermanent soul is not particularly different from an impermanent body. The impermanent soul is not your true self either, but it is truer than your body self. Just as you fall asleep and dream, and may or may not remember previous dreams as you are dreaming, then you wake and your dream world is not so real, your soul falls alive to provide this experience, and wakes into its realm of existence time and time again. Sometimes we have dreams and sometimes we have nightmares, and that is true for the body's dream as well as the soul's life experience. A human life is long, but a soul's continuity is longer - long enough to encompass as many human lifetimes as a human lifespan can encompass dream states. Neither is permanent and neither is "real" - but the soul-body is no less real than the flesh-body because of its impermanence. They are still both artificial constructs of convenience for designation when pointing.

First, regarding the use of the term “soul”, I note that you qualify the term with the adjective “impermanent”. I believe most people use the term “soul” to refer to an eternal entity identified as their self, so your usage is somewhat unusual, but I have no objection.

At the beginning of the paragraph you state that the impermanent soul is “not your true self either, but it is truer than your body self”. Does this imply that there is a “true self” and, if so, what is your “true self”? In any case, in what ways is the impermanent soul “truer” than the body self?

In the body of the paragraph you argue that “a soul’s continuity is longer” than a single human life. On what basis do you make this statement?

At the end of the paragraph you state that neither the “soul-body” nor “flesh-body” is permanent, that neither is “real”, and that “both [are] artificial constructs”. OK, I agree.

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Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Sat Apr 21, 2007 8:36 am

clyde wrote:At the beginning of the paragraph you state that the impermanent soul is “not your true self either, but it is truer than your body self”. Does this imply that there is a “true self”


Not necessarily, as the "self" is just an artificial construct, whether you consider the self to be a one inch slice of the pie or a two inch slice. The last sentence in this post will seem to contradict this, but the concept is beyond what words can point to really well. One might say that the self is the whole pie, or any size slice - but that isn't really accurate either.

clyde wrote:what is your “true self”?


we are all part of the greater Whole, which is where "true" points to.

clyde wrote:In any case, in what ways is the impermanent soul “truer” than the body self?


Anything closer to being whole is truer to the Whole. For example, you are your present manifestation. It is truer that you are the sum of all of your manifestations in this lifetime. When you were 5, that was still you. When you are 85, that will still be you. You are all of those selves in between and more, which is truer to the whole than your present manifestation, which is only truest to the moment. The Whole includes all of time, so that is the difference in these two kinds of truth.

Therefore your impermanent soul is truer to the whole, as it includes all of those, and it includes any other lifetimes, and the manifestations of your consciousness energy in between.

You are also all of the components of all of these things. Like a fountain in which the water evaporates, and requires more water to be added, you are those composites of your self, however you wish to define that. Although it is not conventionally considered that the parts that emit from the self, like the evaporated water off of the fountain, are still part of the thing, in a sense, they are - just as our whole self is more truly the Whole. By the time you get to that concept, the word "self" essentially loses meaning though.

clyde wrote:In the body of the paragraph you argue that “a soul’s continuity is longer” than a single human life. On what basis do you make this statement?


It is going to take me awhile to compile adequate evidence for all that (and I'd rather not compile it as a marathon endeavor), so the short answer is personal knowledge and observed evidence. That sucks as an argument, so please be patient while I compile a response that truly points.
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Postby Kevin Solway » Sat Apr 21, 2007 10:26 am

Ryan R wrote:I find both your certainty and Elizabeth’s certainty on this matter rather unwarranted.


I do in fact hold that it is entirely possible that our consciousness survives largely intact beyond death, although I've never seen any evidence that it does.

By the same token, it is entirely possible that when you turn off a fountain, what is essentially the same fountain reappears somewhere else - being a direct continuation of the previous one. Although I've never seen any evidence of that either.

I can't dispute the possibility of these particular things with any certainty.

What the Dalai Lama needs to make clear is whether he believes that reincarnation can be empirically shown, in the manner I describe above, or whether he thinks the reasons for reincarnation are only logical - and certain, for reasons of logic alone.

And in fact, he needs to make it very clear what he means by reincarnation or rebirth at all. For example, does he believe a fountain reincarnates (or is reborn)? And if not, why not?

I believe he avoids the whole issue because he has no clue.
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Postby clyde » Sat Apr 21, 2007 12:23 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:What the Dalai Lama needs to make clear is whether he believes that reincarnation can be empirically shown, in the manner I describe above, or whether he thinks the reasons for reincarnation are only logical - and certain, for reasons of logic alone.

And in fact, he needs to make it very clear what he means by reincarnation or rebirth at all. For example, does he believe a fountain reincarnates (or is reborn)? And if not, why not?

Why does the Dalai Lama need to do these things?
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Postby clyde » Sat Apr 21, 2007 12:31 pm

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote: Anything closer to being whole is truer to the Whole. For example, you are your present manifestation. It is truer that you are the sum of all of your manifestations in this lifetime. When you were 5, that was still you. When you are 85, that will still be you. You are all of those selves in between and more, which is truer to the whole than your present manifestation, which is only truest to the moment. The Whole includes all of time, so that is the difference in these two kinds of truth.

Therefore your impermanent soul is truer to the whole, as it includes all of those, and it includes any other lifetimes, and the manifestations of your consciousness energy in between.

Huh? Are you saying that me at 85 (not yet!) will be a “truer” me than me at 5? And, in any case, hasn’t the body self aged along with the impermanent soul? In fact, hasn’t the Whole aged along with me? So is the Whole “truer” now than yesterday and will the Whole be “truer” tomorrow? (This argument about "truer" is kind of silly, isn't it?)
Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:You are also all of the components of all of these things. Like a fountain in which the water evaporates, and requires more water to be added, you are those composites of your self, however you wish to define that. Although it is not conventionally considered that the parts that emit from the self, like the evaporated water off of the fountain, are still part of the thing, in a sense, they are - just as our whole self is more truly the Whole. By the time you get to that concept, the word "self" essentially loses meaning though.

I think we agree that all things, including the (conventional) self, are composed of parts. It is said that things are not their parts, are not apart from their parts, and not the sum of their parts.

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Postby clyde » Sat Apr 21, 2007 12:44 pm

Let’s examine another analogy which may be truer(!) to the situation: a spontaneous fire. Of course, a spontaneous fire arises from a set of conditions; i.e., appropriate fuel, available oxygen, and sufficient heat. Once started, the fire will burn as long as there is fuel and oxygen. Once the fuel is exhausted, the fire will go out.

Paraphrasing from the Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ,a very short and insightful teaching) the Buddha is reported to have asked regarding the fire that has gone out, “In which direction did the fire go?” To which the wanderer Vacchagotta replied, “That doesn’t apply.” And the Buddha responded, “Just so, any description that you could say about the Tathagata* does not apply.”

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*: The Buddha is said to have referred to himself as the Tathagata, which is sometimes translated as The Perfect One. Here is a definition from Access to Insight:

Tathagata [tathaagatha]: Literally, "one who has truly gone (tatha-gata)" or "one who has become authentic "(tatha-agata)," an epithet used in ancient India for a person who has attained the highest spiritual goal. In Buddhism, it usually denotes the Buddha, although occasionally it also denotes any of his arahant disciples.
-- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/glossary.html
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Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Sat Apr 21, 2007 1:16 pm

clyde wrote:Are you saying that me at 85 (not yet!) will be a “truer” me than me at 5?


No. The you that you were when you were 5, plus the you that you were at 6, plus the you that you were when you were 2, plus the you that you would be at 85, plus the you that you are/were/would be at 20, etc. - all of these "you"s added together makes a truer you than just the you that you are at this second.

Regarding the fire analogy, yes that is a good likening - and does not contradict anything I have said. If Tathagata is at the highest attainment, the final incarnation, and when done, is dissipated - as such, none of the supposed incarnations of the Buddha are the same impermanent soul as the original, although any may have some of the same energy as it was recycled to make new fresh souls. Just as with Kevin's destroyed fountain, some of the water may go to drinking, some to water the lawn, and some to go to another fountain. If the highest attainment is to escape the cycle of rebirth, then either Buddha did not escape the cycle of rebirth or the Dalai Lama is not a reincarnation of the original Buddha. That does not negate the possibility of reincarnation though.
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Postby Kevin Solway » Sat Apr 21, 2007 2:10 pm

clyde wrote:I don’t believe that the views and actions of the Dalai Lama are critical to the survival of wisdom and humanity.


The actions of every individual are critical. And the more influence a person has, the more critical.

Why does the Dalai Lama need to do these things?


He only needs to be more truthful if he is to be of service to Wisdom.
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Postby clyde » Sat Apr 21, 2007 4:20 pm

Kevin;

I’m not certain why you think the Dalai Lama has not made his views known. I’m not a follower of the Dalai Lama or Tibetan Buddhism, but I have read a few of his many books. From my readings I think the Dalai Lama holds a traditional Tibetan Buddhist view, which, as I suggested in an earlier post, is anatta, but a subtle mind-stream that reincarnates.

One book, Lighting the Way, does have a short section in which the Dalai Lama addresses the issue, “The Question of Rebirth”. He gives the basis for his view, but he also writes this,
“Having said that, if the concept of rebirth or, for that matter, any other concept adhered to by Buddhists were to be empirically disproved, given the crucial importance of reason and empirical evidence in Buddhist thought, we will have to accept the new evidence and reject our previously held concept.”

While I recommend this book because of the translations and commentaries on two older Buddhist texts, The Eight Verses on Training the Mind and Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, there are probably other books written by the Dalai Lama wherein he explains at greater length and depth his view of reincarnation. You may not agree with his view, but I don’t think he’s kept it hidden.

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Postby Kevin Solway » Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:41 pm

clyde wrote:I’m not certain why you think the Dalai Lama has not made his views known.


Perhaps his views are, as you say, the traditional rubbish - but I'd like to know for sure. I'd like to know, for example, whether he personally believes that he is reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lamas.

And if his views are the conventional Buddhist ones, why, specifically, does he believe that fountains don't experience rebirth? If his reasons are the conventional ones, then they are rubbish.

As I say, he's probably silent on these matters not because he's keeping his ideas hidden, but because he hasn't a clue. So he's trying to hide his ignorance.

but he also writes this,
“Having said that, if the concept of rebirth or, for that matter, any other concept adhered to by Buddhists were to be empirically disproved


That's like a Christian saying "If the existence of God were empirically disproved, I will cease to believe in Him".

Conveniently, it is literally impossible for science to disprove such a thing. So he's not saying anything at all.
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Postby clyde » Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:02 pm

Kevin;

This seems rather important to you. Are you expecting the Dalai Lama to contact you? If not, the Dalai Lama has written many books, perhaps you should read a few; otherwise, you don't know his views (and either do I), so let's not speculate and denigrate others.

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Postby Kevin Solway » Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:37 pm

clyde wrote:This seems rather important to you.


It is important to me because the teachings of the Buddha are valuable, and the Dalai Lama is obscuring and corrupting them.

Are you expecting the Dalai Lama to contact you?


He would do, if he had a conscience.

If not, the Dalai Lama has written many books, perhaps you should read a few


There is nothing in his books about what I am talking about.
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Postby clyde » Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:31 am

Kevin;

Since you don't know the Dalai Lama's views, you don't know if he is "obscuring and corrupting" the teachings of the Buddha.

If the teachings of the Buddha are truely valuable to you, you might practice them, including the Noble Eightfold Path.

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Postby Kevin Solway » Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:37 am

clyde wrote:Since you don't know the Dalai Lama's views, you don't know if he is "obscuring and corrupting" the teachings of the Buddha.


I believe I know his views well enough.

If he's presenting himself in the wrong light, through his books and teachings, then its up to him to correct that image.

If the teachings of the Buddha are truely valuable to you, you might practice them, including the Noble Eightfold Path.


What makes you think I don't practice it?
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Postby clyde » Sun Apr 22, 2007 3:16 am

Kevin;

You wrote that you do not know the Dalia Lama’s views, now you write that you do know his views. Which is it?

I know almost nothing of your life to judge if you practice the Buddha’s teachings. On this forum I can only experience the manner in which you ‘speak’. Here is a link to excerpts from the teachings of the Buddha regarding Right Speech: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... index.html .

I’ll leave it for you to decide how well you practice.

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Postby Jason » Sun Apr 22, 2007 3:48 am

Kevin Solway wrote:Also, I've never heard him say that he believes he is the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lamas, so I suspect that he doesn't even believe it himself. But he doesn't make this clear. He is an obscurantist - and there's nothing "compassionate" about that.


The way he answers some of the questions here gives me the impression that he believes he is the actual reincarnation of past Dalai Lamas
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Postby Unidian » Sun Apr 22, 2007 5:38 am

Here's one thing I think the Dalai Lama would agree with:

If nothing else, everyone should go read these pages and begin making an effort to practice harmlessness. This one simple precept, expressed courtesy of our own Clyde, could remake this world if people would just take it seriously. It's far from easy, despite its simplicity, and it might require a lifetime to practice competently. But what better way to spend one's life is there?
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Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:18 am

No Jason, I don't think so. It looks to me as though he clearly states that he does not know. I will quote from the link you provided, but add bold to what I am referring to:

Question: About you being the incarnation of the bodhisattva of infinite compassion, Avalokiteshvara. How do you personally feel about this? Is it something you have an unequivocal view of one way or another?

Answer: It is difficult for me to say definitely. Unless I am engaged in a meditative effort, such as following my life back, breath by breath, I couldn’t say exactly. We believe that there are four types of rebirth. One is the common type wherein, a being is helpless to determine his or her rebirth, but only reincarnates in dependence on the nature of past actions. The opposite is that of an entirely enlightened Buddha, who simply manifests a physical form to help others. In this case, it is clear that the person is Buddha. A third is one who, due to past spiritual attainment, can choose, or at least influence, the place and situation of rebirth. The fourth is called a blessed manifestation. In this the person is blessed beyond his normal capacity to perform helpful functions, such as teaching religion. For this last type of birth, the person’s wishes in previous lives to help others must have been very strong. They obtain such empowerment. Though some seem more likely than others, I cannot definitely say which I am.

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