Author Topic: Stopping striving or not?  (Read 28249 times)

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #50 on: July 27, 2014, 07:09:32 PM »
I wonder if having the ability to recondition/change how we react doesn't still make us an automaton, albeit one with more control over their emotions.

Middleway

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #51 on: July 27, 2014, 11:47:13 PM »
Middleway, "random thought generator" is too simplistic.
I could be wrong but I am not stating these views lightly. We are not discussing kindergarten philosophy here.

we all have the ability to step out of robot mode and make decisions that are not in line with our programming.
Yes, anything is possible.

We can influence other people and change their view of the world.
The king with all his power, wealth and the state resources at his disposal tried everything under the sun to influence Gotama to become an emperor and not a beggar. He could not succeed. How do you explain it?

To sit down to meditate is not an action that is born out of a random thought. To become sober or to become clean is not a random action.
I would like to know your views on how this thought would come about to some and not to others.

If you deny this ability you do many people wrong.
I have great respect to all who spread the Dhamma.  I am very grateful to Matthew for starting this discussion forum and help people like myself with the practice.  I am very thankful for the guy who randomly invented the google search engine which made possible for me to find this forum.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

VinceField

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #52 on: July 28, 2014, 12:36:55 AM »
We can influence other people and change their view of the world.
The king with all his power, wealth and the state resources at his disposal tried everything under the sun to influence Gotama to become an emperor and not a beggar. He could not succeed. How do you explain it?

Something can be possible without it necessarily having to occur every time.  Last year I was having a conversation with some friends at work about some spiritual concepts, including the practice of astral projection, meditation, and altered states of consciousness.  One of my friends dismissed what I was saying because her strict science-oriented belief structure conflicted with the information I was sharing.  Another  friend was hearing some of this information for the first time and allowed it to penetrate.  He steadily became more and more interested in these concepts and we had many subsequent discussions.  He has since adopted a more wholesome and expansive world view which includes spiritual aspects which he previously was not aware of, and has even attempted to reach these higher states of consciousness on his own accord.  The fact that my one friend was not influenced by our conversation does not negate the fact that my other friend was highly influenced. 

Your view on this issue is like claiming that sharks do not attack humans because some people escape a close encounter unharmed.  There is a large list of limbless swimmers who would beg to differ.


To sit down to meditate is not an action that is born out of a random thought. To become sober or to become clean is not a random action.
I would like to know your views on how this thought would come about to some and not to others.

Conditions. 

Middleway

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #53 on: July 28, 2014, 02:03:12 AM »
Last year I was having a conversation with some friends at work about some spiritual concepts, including the practice of astral projection, meditation, and altered states of consciousness.  One of my friends dismissed what I was saying because her strict science-oriented belief structure conflicted with the information I was sharing.  Another  friend was hearing some of this information for the first time and allowed it to penetrate.  He steadily became more and more interested in these concepts and we had many subsequent discussions.  He has since adopted a more wholesome and expansive world view which includes spiritual aspects which he previously was not aware of, and has even attempted to reach these higher states of consciousness on his own accord.  The fact that my one friend was not influenced by our conversation does not negate the fact that my other friend was highly influenced. 

Very good example. Thank you. So, you said those words about some spiritual concepts to your friends; those words (external stimuli) left your mouth and traveled towards your friends and hit their ear drums. Now that's precisely where your influence ended. It is entirely up to your friends' minds to process that information and based on their past experiences (internal stimuli), each of them came to a different thought or conclusion. One dismissed it and the other entertained it further. You are not in control of your friends past experiences. They are uniquely theirs.

Conditions. 

Conditions = external and internal stimuli




Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

VinceField

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #54 on: July 28, 2014, 05:17:09 AM »
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those words (external stimuli) left your mouth and traveled towards your friends and hit their ear drums. Now that's precisely where your influence ended.

In many cases, words are only as influential as the person speaking them is.  In other words, the influence isn't so much in the words as it is in the impression that a person imparts through the wholesomeness of their behaviors and their ability to embody those words.  So a person may be continuously influenced by another, long after any words are exchanged, by simply holding in mind the desirable characteristics embodied by the person of influence.  Like they say, actions speak louder than words.

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It is entirely up to your friends' minds to process that information and based on their past experiences (internal stimuli), each of them came to a different thought or conclusion. You are not in control of your friends past experiences. They are uniquely theirs.

You got it.  No one's arguing with you here buddy. 

Seems you are starting to see the difference between influence and control.  Right on.  :)

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #55 on: July 28, 2014, 06:46:37 AM »
Makes it hard to define an outcome as skillful though. It's more good intentions marrying up with good fortune/coincidence.

shu

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #56 on: July 28, 2014, 08:08:47 AM »
We are not discussing kindergarten philosophy here.

:)


Middleway

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #57 on: July 28, 2014, 12:36:19 PM »
We are not discussing kindergarten philosophy here.

:)


Common now! I started my deconstruction process only six months ago. Cut me some slack, will ya?  ;D

Thanks for the gentle reminder!
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

VinceField

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #58 on: July 28, 2014, 10:11:07 PM »
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Makes it hard to define an outcome as skillful though.

In the Buddhist sense of skill as perhaps being more similar to wholesomeness than its common definition of simply being the learned ability to do something well, I believe outcomes can have wholesome and/or unwholesome qualities in that the outcome helps to produce a wholesome or unwholesome state in those affected by it.  For example, the outcome of daily meditation is a lasting wholesome mental state, or the outcome of punching someone in the face is mutual suffering, which is unwholesome.  But I think it is more appropriate to use the term skillful when describing actions rather than outcomes. 

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It's more good intentions marrying up with good fortune/coincidence.

Perhaps it depends on the situation.  When applied to Buddhist meditation practices, for example, I would say that right effort and skill have a far greater influence on the outcome than good fortune or coincidence, especially as there are limited external factors which come into play.  I suppose the amount of external variables determine the likelihood of the desirable fruition of one's skillful actions, but perhaps true skill is foreseeing any possible complications, whether probable or unlikely, and having a backup plan of action for each.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #59 on: July 29, 2014, 11:45:56 AM »
But I think it is more appropriate to use the term skillful when describing actions rather than outcomes.
Sure. You'd used it earlier for the latter though.
  Perhaps it depends on the situation.  When applied to Buddhist meditation practices, for example, I would say that right effort and skill have a far greater influence on the outcome than good fortune or coincidence, especially as there are limited external factors which come into play.
But there's a lot of external factors at play, how well has your teacher instructed you, how many pre-existing conditions are you carrying into practice with you, etc etc. Right effort and skill is something you can gravitate towards, but the unpinnings of the ease at which one develops those is greatly impacted by many factors outside of an individual's control. That doesn't mean one shouldn't try, but looking at things with a view of "oh yeah, that's me being skilful, and so and so not being skilful" has some flaws, and also some potential causes of hindrances on the path.
I suppose the amount of external variables determine the likelihood of the desirable fruition of one's skillful actions, but perhaps true skill is foreseeing any possible complications, whether probable or unlikely, and having a backup plan of action for each.
That's quite unbuddhist though. If you spent your time calculating variables and envisaging contingencies you'd never be in the moment. The Buddhist backup plan is being calm with the chips no matter how they fall.

VinceField

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #60 on: July 29, 2014, 06:59:36 PM »
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Right effort and skill is something you can gravitate towards, but the unpinnings of the ease at which one develops those is greatly impacted by many factors outside of an individual's control.

Although there are factors which may cause one to gravitate towards certain things, at the end of the day the individual controls what they read, what they study, who they take advice from, what methods they use, and how they choose to use their mind to either cultivate wholesome or unwholesome states.  But it's true, some may have inclinations which deter one from discovering truth and developing wholesomeness.  However, everyone has the power to break free from conditioned behaviors.  Simply follow the buddha's teachings and you are well on your way.

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That's quite unbuddhist though. If you spent your time calculating variables and envisaging contingencies you'd never be in the moment. The Buddhist backup plan is being calm with the chips no matter how they fall.

This is assuming that one cannot engage in skillful thought while still being mindful and present in the moment, or that this thought requires extended periods of contemplation. 

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #61 on: July 29, 2014, 07:35:40 PM »
Although there are factors which may cause one to gravitate towards certain things, at the end of the day the individual controls what they read, what they study, who they take advice from, what methods they use, and how they choose to use their mind to either cultivate wholesome or unwholesome states.
I don't think control is the right word, but I could be wrong. In my view an individual has a limited, conditioned amount of choice over those things.
Simply follow the buddha's teachings and you are well on your way.
Yup. Or just stop. So easy.
This is assuming that one cannot engage in skillful thought while still being mindful and present in the moment, or that this thought requires extended periods of contemplation.
Given that any given instance in time lends itself to an almost infinite number of possibilities, it's not possible to contemplate all those possibilities, and formulate one's response to them, and remain in the moment. You would spend all your time somewhere else.

VinceField

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #62 on: July 29, 2014, 07:56:50 PM »
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Given that any given instance in time lends itself to an almost infinite number of possibilities, it's not possible to contemplate all those possibilities, and formulate one's response to them, and remain in the moment. You would spend all your time somewhere else.

Can one not be mindful of the fact that one is presently contemplating future possibilities?  To be fully grounded in the moment, knowing that one is engaged in thinking?  I have learned from various respectable teachers that one can indeed be mindful while thinking.

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I don't think control is the right word, but I could be wrong.

I simply mean that the choice is theirs alone to make.  They have the final say in determining what path they go down, despite outside influences and preexisting conditions. 

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #63 on: July 29, 2014, 08:47:07 PM »
Can one not be mindful of the fact that one is presently contemplating future possibilities?  To be fully grounded in the moment, knowing that one is engaged in thinking?  I have learned from various respectable teachers that one can indeed be mindful while thinking.
Sure. That's just not that conducive with your idea of planning for every possible contingency at any point in time. I could be wrong, but a Buddhist approach is not to dwell on the future and apply a level of mindfullness/equanimity to life's challenges.
They have the final say in determining what path they go down, despite outside influences and preexisting conditions.
"Final say" seems synonymous with control. Philosophically what you're saying is leaning towards "I", or at least it sounds like it. My perspective is at best you have some ability to regulate how you (emotionally) deal with life. The choices I make generally don't occur in a vacuum, so they're not entirely mine (edit: and are rarely final).
« Last Edit: July 29, 2014, 09:11:51 PM by Dharmic Tui »

VinceField

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #64 on: July 30, 2014, 03:45:36 AM »
My take away message is that it is important to take responsibility for one's thoughts and actions, regardless of what external influences aided in their fruition.  It is a common approach for many to take the role of victim, chalking their experiences and circumstances up to forces beyond their control and feeling helpless and incapable of wholesome change, or not understanding where change is needed because one has not taken responsibility for one's thoughts, actions, and the circumstances which manifest from them.  I believe a skillful approach to life is to recognize and utilize one's power to change one's self and one's circumstances, as circumstances are usually a reflection of the individual anyway. 

I feel that emphasizing the idea that one's self and one's life are largely out of one's hands is a distortion of reality and may pose more of a hinderance on the path than anything else, as it basically goes against the Buddha's teaching that we can liberate ourselves through his instructions.  I believe that the Buddha understood our power to change, hence his teachings and instructions.  Of course, as you said, we must remain equanimous throughout life's unexpected challenges, but it should be understood that these challenges can be skillfully remedied or prevented through one's own power of influence and change, and that one needs not simply endure the entire duration of any given challenge without making any kind of effort to alter the situation, especially if suffering is being caused to others as a result of it as well, despite one's own ability to remain equanimous.  This is compassion.   :)

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #65 on: July 30, 2014, 07:51:54 AM »
It is a common approach for many to take the role of victim, chalking their experiences and circumstances up to forces beyond their control and feeling helpless and incapable of wholesome change, or not understanding where change is needed because one has not taken responsibility for one's thoughts, actions, and the circumstances which manifest from them.
It is also common for one to cast themselves as the protagonist, often ignoring the fortuitous circumstances that afforded them their position which they will crow as being the result of their individual merit. Both positions are equally flawed.
I believe a skillful approach to life is to recognize and utilize one's power to change one's self and one's circumstances, as circumstances are usually a reflection of the individual anyway.
I largely disagree, there are exceptional individuals but most people's circumstances are outside of their choice. Someone poor might rise up the ranks, but for the most part if you're born poor, you die poor. Your position that people's circumstances are more likely a reflection of the individual comes across as incredibly naive (I'm not meaning that as in insult, it just reads as quite obtuse).
I feel that emphasizing the idea that one's self and one's life are largely out of one's hands is a distortion of reality and may pose more of a hinderance on the path than anything else, as it basically goes against the Buddha's teaching that we can liberate ourselves through his instructions.
That sounds like a misinterpretation. Liberation comes from not defining one's self as this individual that is either the villain or the hero or the victim, that achieves or fails at tasks or life. There is no distinct you, and instead you're part of something far more significant.
Of course, as you said, we must remain equanimous throughout life's unexpected challenges, but it should be understood that these challenges can be skillfully remedied or prevented through one's own power of influence and change, and that one needs not simply endure the entire duration of any given challenge without making any kind of effort to alter the situation
This doesn't sound like the Buddha's teaching. Although I'm not a canon-fiend so someone with more knowledge of the Buddha's teachings can happily correct me.

shu

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #66 on: July 30, 2014, 08:25:46 AM »
Vince, I don't believe that "circumstances are usually a reflection of the individual".

From where we are born, to the genes that were passed to us, to the environment we grow up in, to the amount of violence or love or trauma or wisdom we are exposed to as a child, to trillions of other circumstances: we have no say in that.
The culture we grow up in, the ideals that we are exposed to as a child and the ideas that we are encouraged to follow: we have very little say in that.
And how our nervous system is affected by these starting conditions, if we develop phobia or compulsions or some kind of PTSD or come out relatively 'healthy' (whatever that is) we have no say in that, too.

We have very little choice about 99.9% of the circumstances that form our mindset.

Still we manage to coin a phrase like 'selfmade man' and live in the illusion that our standing in life is an outcome of our personal doing. Or we are full of guilt because we were made believe to suck at life. :)

In that light I'm not sure if the idea of 'responsibility' that we developed in western culture is a fair one.

But with all that said: I believe (I want to believe) that - within the confines of all the circumstances we didn't choose - most of us have the ability to make meaningful decisions about our path in life. To choose which seeds we want to grow and which ideas we follow. To go against the programming.

If I understand it correctly this is also the view of the buddha, but I'm not sure. What is his view about 'free will' vs. karma  ('cause and effect')?


Dharmic Tui

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #67 on: July 30, 2014, 09:34:06 AM »
In that light I'm not sure if the idea of 'responsibility' that we developed in western culture is a fair one.
It's inherently flawed and negates the reality that we are a social being. Increases in individualism and personal responsibility are almost paralleled with increases in mental health issues and many other conditions negatively impacting personal well-being. It could be a coincidence, or there could be a reason for that correlation.

shu

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #68 on: July 30, 2014, 10:23:32 AM »
What is his view about 'free will' vs. karma  ('cause and effect')?

To answer my own question and since I can't read pali: wikipedia says about free will in buddhism:

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In Buddhism it is taught that the idea of absolute freedom of choice (that is that any human being could be completely free to make any choice) is unwise, because it denies the reality of one's physical needs and circumstances. Equally incorrect is the idea that humans have no choice in life or that their lives are pre-determined. To deny freedom would be to deny the efforts of Buddhists to make moral progress (through our capacity to freely choose compassionate action).

So (if this quote is right) my view was accidentally quite buddhist.  ??? 

:)

Quardamon

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #69 on: July 30, 2014, 12:07:45 PM »
As a sequel to my original post and my post of the 24th, I want to mention that I went to visit an aunt of mine last weekend. She is the widow of the youngest brother of my late father. (My father was the eldest of six.) At one point she quoted my uncle saying: "The road from idealism to fanaticism is not long. And the road from being a fanatic to being a villain is surprisingly short."  ???
She made me and my son laugh with a remark like: "Where would we be without self-deception." Absolutely not Buddhist - but it is sooo juicy.  :D

Maybe it is time for a black leather jacket and sunglasses.  8)   And cigarettes - Gauloises. (That reminds me of the comic strip on Asterix and Obelix fighting the Romans. A very very serious matter, as you can understand.)

Middleway

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #70 on: July 30, 2014, 05:22:58 PM »
We have very little choice about 99.9% of the circumstances that form our mindset.
Correction - it is not 99.9%. It is 100%.

But with all that said: I believe (I want to believe) that...
What is that makes us "want to believe"?

So (if this quote is right) my view was accidentally quite buddhist.  ??? 

:)

Sorry to bust your bubble, that quote is incorrect. It must have been written by a professor of eastern philosophies with a focus on Buddhism. Unfortunately, he/she does not have good grasp on Buddhism. He/she does not understand what "nibbana" means.

Warning: You are fast approaching the deep end.

Humans have no choice. Period. But our lives are not pre-determined either. They are random. We are like a rain drop falling out of sky from a cloud. We have no control over where and when the cloud will release us. The cloud does not know it either. Our so-called journey towards the ocean will soon come to end if we fall on a concrete parking lot somewhere in a city near the equator. But wait, if the cloud releases enough droplets, we all get together and form a stream and enter a storm drain and maybe some of us reach a creek or a tributary or a river. Again how many rain drops are released from the cloud to make this possible is beyond our and cloud's control. Let us assume that we are fortunate enough to enter a river and get very close to the ocean. We can smell it, we can feel it, we get all excited that we will finally reach the goal. Again, there is a possibility that there might be very heavy rains downstream so much so that the course of the river changes and lands us on a dead end course. Mississippi river is known flow backwards sometimes due to heavy rains. Sorry for being long and boring but I hope you get my point.

In reality, we are not individual drops. We go on interacting/mixing/changing (re-birth) as we go along the drains to the creeks to the river and finally to the ocean. One cannot definitively say that one particular rain drop reached the ultimate goal of reaching the ocean. If Buddha reached Nibbana, we all reached Nibbana. We don't want to accept it because we think we are individuals separate in time and space from the Buddha.

From where we are born,...

This notion of us being born is a lie. I don't recall being born. I am told by this wonderful and nice lady that I was born on such and such day and that she is my mother and that my name is so and so and that I belong to a certain sect of a religion. This brain washing goes on... if we closely reflect on it, we will realize that we are an offshoot of our parents physical matter joining together (sperm and egg). And this will grow into a boy and man or a woman and extend themselves to more offshoots. Our parents have their parents and their parents. We can trace us back to the beginning of life on earth 2 billion years ago. Why stop there, who is the mother of the earth where we all came from? It will take us all the way back 14 billion years ago when this universe randomly popped out of nothing which set the chain of events leading to us today discussing on this forum. Who is the mother of this universe? This universe is the child of a barren woman. It has no self. It does not exist.

When we realize this experientially,  we have reached Nibbana.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Marc

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #71 on: July 30, 2014, 06:13:41 PM »
but we are born, our lifes are not entirely random, the universe exists, and we are separate individuals. So many falsehoods in one post

VinceField

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #72 on: July 30, 2014, 06:14:20 PM »
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Vince, I don't believe that "circumstances are usually a reflection of the individual".

I think the Buddhist concept of Karma is in full agreement with this to the extent that I am referring to.   

shu

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #73 on: July 30, 2014, 06:49:28 PM »
[...],  we have reached Nibbana.

Middleway, for me these words have not much meaning. These are metaphors, a belief, a fantasy that I cannot connect to. It's not helpful for me. If you think, that is the truth, ok.

Quote
Vince, I don't believe that "circumstances are usually a reflection of the individual".

I think the Buddhist concept of Karma is in full agreement with this to the extent that I am referring to.   

I guess if you think of Karma in the context of rebirth/reincarnation, you are right. I don't believe in rebirth as I don't have any experience of it, so I had a more 'secular view' on your statement.

See, I'm not so buddhist after all. :)

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Stopping striving or not?
« Reply #74 on: July 30, 2014, 07:01:16 PM »
I think the Buddhist concept of Karma is in full agreement with this to the extent that I am referring to.
The concept of Karma doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's foundation is the antithesis of what you have said.

 

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