Author Topic: beginner's questions  (Read 357 times)

Offline Arkena

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beginner's questions
« on: May 16, 2017, 03:12:12 am »
Hi guys,

My first post here...

So I have an interest in buddhism , i have been reading The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hahn....he is really brilliant!

I should probably preface my questions with a statement....I have asperger's syndrome which in my case is characterised by depressive and anxiety problems.
When I first encountered the Buddha's teaching i was severly depressed (back when I was 18....now im 33) and made some rather serious mistakes in understanding the positive message of buddhism and could only see for eg: impermanence meant we will die....which became...why should i bother with life...very depressive conclusions as you can see.

Impermanence now means to me things are like a beautiful flower they are born grow...bloom...and eventually return to the earth. So much promise and beauty but an eventual return to when it came.
With practicing mindfulness I can start to see the beauty in each moment and how meditation shows the truth of buddhist teachings.

1)I would like to know how you reconcile a western understanding of psychology and the many great discoveries it has made with the Buddhist understanding of the mind and psychology?
Both have valuable contributions to make to my understanding of my psychology.

2)Also I would like to ask about the buddhist conception of self image, of the ego, of I...I understand it is an incomplete construction of ourself and exists only in our minds is this what buddhists mean when they say it is an illusion? that it is an incomplete conception that only exists in our own minds?

for eg: Self image is partially made up of the reactions we get from our peer group....self image is partially formed from the reflection we gleam in the mirror of other people's reactions...

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2017, 01:51:42 pm »
Quote
Arkena:  "1)I would like to know how you reconcile a western understanding of psychology and the many great discoveries it has made with the Buddhist understanding of the mind and psychology?
Both have valuable contributions to make to my understanding of my psychology. 


Each school of Buddhism has a little bit different  view of  "mind".

The Theravadan view is that the mind is like a bottle.  They see it as but a container.  Mental factors, are seen as the contents of the container:  thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, views, perspectives, etc. 

Buddha taught that the most dangerous of our mental factors are predilections, prejudices, preferences,  desires, addictions and attachments which result in clinging to that which is impermanent.  He describes these in The Four Noble Truths as being responsible for "dukkah", the entire tangled web of suffering that we experience in our lives.

You may want to begin your exploration of Buddhism here, as it basically summarizes Buddha's most important revelations to his followers:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/truths.html

Quote
  Arkena:  "2)Also I would like to ask about the buddhist conception of self image, of the ego, of I...I understand it is an incomplete construction of ourself and exists only in our minds is this what buddhists mean when they say it is an illusion? that it is an incomplete conception that only exists in our own minds?"


Yes.  It is definitely an illusion on many different levels.  First it is inaccurate, because our mind formulates summaries of events.  Even as we live inside this body, have all of our memories of events which arose withing our lives.  At best our self picture is but a synopsis of the infinite details of actual conditions and circumstances as the happened to us.  Like a picture hanging on the wall our "self image" is at best two dimensional and sorely incomplete.

Buddha taught that we have six senses, rather than the five which we were told about in our primary school  education.  The sixth sense is the mind.  Mind is the creator as well as the interpreter of our experiences.  What our senses miss, the mind fills-in, or makes up.  What we are incapable of understanding, the mind makes up stories and versions of what was due to a flawed, incompetent memory, or invents due to an active imagination, or out of what many Asian cultures have called a need to "save face".  The Theravadan School of Buddhism teaches that mind is like a projector of reality with all that that implies having peeked behind the scenes on movie sets.

Resource for further study:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/theravada.html
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Pixie

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2017, 10:35:49 pm »


So I have an interest in buddhism , i have been reading The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hahn....he is really brilliant!


Hello Arkena,

If you like the teachings of Ven Thich Nhat Hahn, I recommend having a look at You Tube where you can find quite a lot of his talks. Some of them are quite short excerpts and are very helpful.

Also, this is a link to the website of his centre in France "Plum Village".

https://plumvillage.org/


With kind wishes,

Pixie _/|\_
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline Arkena

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2017, 08:48:23 am »
What wonderful links ron the elder!

I will finish the book im reading and be sure to plunge into them  :cheesy:

Ty pixie, yes his talks are really great, ive been meaning to check him out more!

Offline Kodo308

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2017, 11:54:04 am »

So I have an interest in buddhism , i have been reading The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hahn....he is really brilliant!

Yes, and that's a particularly wonderful basic text for Mahayana Buddhism.

Quote
I should probably preface my questions with a statement....I have asperger's syndrome which in my case is characterised by depressive and anxiety problems.

I am also on the spectrum so welcome, welcome! I have found Buddhism a very helpful path to understanding.


Quote

1)I would like to know how you reconcile a western understanding of psychology and the many great discoveries it has made with the Buddhist understanding of the mind and psychology?
Both have valuable contributions to make to my understanding of my psychology.

I wonder what you find discordant between the two? It might help w/answers.

Quote
2)Also I would like to ask about the buddhist conception of self image, of the ego, of I...I understand it is an incomplete construction of ourself and exists only in our minds is this what buddhists mean when they say it is an illusion? that it is an incomplete conception that only exists in our own minds?

The sense of an inherently existent "I" is a mistaken mental perception. That is to say, the sense of an independent, unitary, partless self is delusion. Which is not the same as saying there is no self, only that it does not exist as we habitually think it does. Instead, there is what can be called a provisional self, a self that functions in our day-to-day life, that is responsive to causes & conditions, which means we are not fixed beings, but rather more like rivers of experience & response. Which means the Dharma can be applied & enlightenment realized. Isn't that great?!  :D

To practice the Dharma, it is often said one must first have a healthy ego. A healthy sense of ourselves & our world. So many of us don't when we begin, so the first phase of practice, in my experience, is the process of getting psychologically healthier. Many of the initial practices are very supportive for that.


Offline zafrogzen

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2017, 04:38:26 pm »
Arkena wrote...
Quote
my case is characterised by depressive and anxiety problems.

It seems like an unusual number of individuals with related issues come on this site. I never know what to say, since I have little similar experience and feel at a loss to know how it relates to meditation practice.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Arkena

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2017, 06:34:06 am »

Quote
I should probably preface my questions with a statement....I have asperger's syndrome which in my case is characterised by depressive and anxiety problems.

I am also on the spectrum so welcome, welcome! I have found Buddhism a very helpful path to understanding.


Quote

1)I would like to know how you reconcile a western understanding of psychology and the many great discoveries it has made with the Buddhist understanding of the mind and psychology?
Both have valuable contributions to make to my understanding of my psychology.

I wonder what you find discordant between the two? It might help w/answers.

Quote
2)Also I would like to ask about the buddhist conception of self image, of the ego, of I...I understand it is an incomplete construction of ourself and exists only in our minds is this what buddhists mean when they say it is an illusion? that it is an incomplete conception that only exists in our own minds?

The sense of an inherently existent "I" is a mistaken mental perception. That is to say, the sense of an independent, unitary, partless self is delusion. Which is not the same as saying there is no self, only that it does not exist as we habitually think it does. Instead, there is what can be called a provisional self, a self that functions in our day-to-day life, that is responsive to causes & conditions, which means we are not fixed beings, but rather more like rivers of experience & response. Which means the Dharma can be applied & enlightenment realized. Isn't that great?!  :D

To practice the Dharma, it is often said one must first have a healthy ego. A healthy sense of ourselves & our world. So many of us don't when we begin, so the first phase of practice, in my experience, is the process of getting psychologically healthier. Many of the initial practices are very supportive for that.

I deffinetly need a path to understanding...a manual of happiness.

Nice to know people are used to autism here :)

What i find discordant between east and western psychology is how the eastern doesnt seem to talk about self esteem and how to develop a healthy mind in regards to confidence, self esteem, assertiveness etc. Also i find that the eastern doesnt seem to recognise our psychological needs eg: our social needs, our need for things that build our sense of self worth etc. Our biological needs etc. It seems to categorise all things as desires and doesnt seem to recognise the difference between needs and desires. I will be happy to admit im wrong and mistaken but hope this opens up the discourse.

I really hope to get healthier mentally and be able to put aside my tendency to take literally the statements i encounter.

Offline Kodo308

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2017, 07:50:04 am »

What i find discordant between east and western psychology is how the eastern doesnt seem to talk about self esteem and how to develop a healthy mind in regards to confidence, self esteem, assertiveness etc. Also i find that the eastern doesnt seem to recognise our psychological needs eg: our social needs, our need for things that build our sense of self worth etc. Our biological needs etc. It seems to categorise all things as desires and doesnt seem to recognise the difference between needs and desires. I will be happy to admit im wrong and mistaken but hope this opens up the discourse.

I really hope to get healthier mentally and be able to put aside my tendency to take literally the statements i encounter.

Well, self-esteem is a term they don't use, but I think if you look you'll find instructions (at least in the Tibetan tradition) that do serve to support a healthy self-esteem. Such as rejoicing in this precious human life, the capacity to undertake the trainings of bodhichitta, developing positive potentials & basically sitting in the warm glow of them for a bit (known as placement meditation), etc. I think if you let go of the term & look at the results of any particular practice, you'll see some that will definitely support a healthy self-esteem. After all, hatred & ill will is the same whether directed at someone else or yourself.

You might find great benefit in reading some of Chogyam Trungpa's works (I'll try & figure out which titles; there are a bunch) because he did an amazing job of translating classical Buddhist imagery into Western psychological terms.

As for your other concerns about self-care...I'm not sure where you're coming from on that. If you gave examples, I might be able to better elucidate the intention or clear up some confusion for you. Or someone else may. In any case, an aspiring bodhisattva's first priority is to protect their own life, because it is only with this life that we can realize enlightenment. Also, by staying healthy, we reduce the stress in the lives of those who care about us, and are better able to actualize our lovingkindness to the extent we are able.  :hug:

Offline Kodo308

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2017, 11:48:19 am »
"Human beings have a basic goodness, not next door, but in them already. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you can appreciate what you see, without worrying about whether what you see is what should be. You can pick up on the possibilities of basic goodness and cheer yourself up, if you just relax with yourself. Getting out of bed, walking into the bathroom, taking a shower, eating breakfast––you can appreciate whatever you do, without always worrying whether it fits your discipline or your plan for the day. You can have that much trust in yourself..."

–Chogyam Trungpa, Shambala, the Sacred Path of the Warrior

Another one that puts the 6 realms into a psychological framework rather than a literal framework is Transcending Madness: the Experience of the Six Bardos, also by Trungpa.

Some basic advice that I was given years ago on how to approach learning the Dharma: practice what you understand and accept, and set the other stuff that seems outrageous or incomprehensible aside with the thought...I don't understand that right now, perhaps some day I will. In other words, try not to bring up fighting mind, but focus instead on what you do understand. This is not to say don't ask questions, but some of the language in the classical teachings can be triggering or downright incomprehensible. Try not to make it a reason to give up, or reject the Dharma. Just stay with what you can practice.   ;D :pray:

Offline Arkena

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2017, 12:51:03 am »
Arkena wrote...
Quote
my case is characterised by depressive and anxiety problems.

It seems like an unusual number of individuals with related issues come on this site. I never know what to say, since I have little similar experience and feel at a loss to know how it relates to meditation practice.

Ty for your reply Zafrogzen. Its ok nt knowing what to say :)
Not everyone has had the experience with mental health to be able to know how to react mate.

Offline Arkena

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2017, 01:02:41 am »
"Human beings have a basic goodness, not next door, but in them already. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you can appreciate what you see, without worrying about whether what you see is what should be. You can pick up on the possibilities of basic goodness and cheer yourself up, if you just relax with yourself. Getting out of bed, walking into the bathroom, taking a shower, eating breakfast––you can appreciate whatever you do, without always worrying whether it fits your discipline or your plan for the day. You can have that much trust in yourself..."

–Chogyam Trungpa, Shambala, the Sacred Path of the Warrior

Another one that puts the 6 realms into a psychological framework rather than a literal framework is Transcending Madness: the Experience of the Six Bardos, also by Trungpa.

Some basic advice that I was given years ago on how to approach learning the Dharma: practice what you understand and accept, and set the other stuff that seems outrageous or incomprehensible aside with the thought...I don't understand that right now, perhaps some day I will. In other words, try not to bring up fighting mind, but focus instead on what you do understand. This is not to say don't ask questions, but some of the language in the classical teachings can be triggering or downright incomprehensible. Try not to make it a reason to give up, or reject the Dharma. Just stay with what you can practice.   ;D :pray:

I really appreciate you trying to help me dispel my ignorance man. I cant point to anything specific right now as these are things i have obviusly misunderstood and misinterpreted along the way. I do find that the terms used in Buddhist writings arent ones that westerner's would be (by nature of western culture) be naturally able to decipher.

I think due to my autism i am inclined to believe something that doesnt make sense/feels wrong/a wrong interpretation of an idea rather than say i dont get this yet as you have suggested. Ty again for taking the time to dispel my ignorance  ;D

Offline Kodo308

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2017, 09:05:27 am »

Some basic advice that I was given years ago on how to approach learning the Dharma: practice what you understand and accept, and set the other stuff that seems outrageous or incomprehensible aside with the thought...I don't understand that right now, perhaps some day I will. In other words, try not to bring up fighting mind, but focus instead on what you do understand. This is not to say don't ask questions, but some of the language in the classical teachings can be triggering or downright incomprehensible. Try not to make it a reason to give up, or reject the Dharma. Just stay with what you can practice.   ;D :pray:

I really appreciate you trying to help me dispel my ignorance man. I cant point to anything specific right now as these are things i have obviusly misunderstood and misinterpreted along the way. I do find that the terms used in Buddhist writings arent ones that westerner's would be (by nature of western culture) be naturally able to decipher.

I think due to my autism i am inclined to believe something that doesnt make sense/feels wrong/a wrong interpretation of an idea rather than say i dont get this yet as you have suggested. Ty again for taking the time to dispel my ignorance  ;D

Yes, the literal bent of mind can make some things very difficult to understand. The overly poetic & metaphorical language of the Mahayana sutras can be very mind-messing. I have the same trouble (or rather more trouble) with Dogen's writings. He leaves me just wanting to scream "So just say what you mean already!"  :wink1:

How are you with metaphors? Allegorical stories?

Also, it can be helpful to stay within one tradition for study, because each tradition can have a slightly different take on how to understand something. I view these as mostly different teaching styles (pedagogical methods), different points of emphasis, rather than mutually exclusive viewpoints. Often the points are rather subtle. Staying in one tradition merely simplifies initially grasping the overall view.

I know when I started Buddhism, I read a lot of Trungpa & Pema Chodron, one of his students. Her books are very contemporary, & come from a Western POV. They were very helpful during my breakdown after my partner walked out.
 :pray:

Offline Arkena

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2017, 05:12:04 am »
Im ok with metahores and allegories, but they do confuse me at times lol

Im going to stick with the theravada tradition for now i think.

Was trying t get hold of the sutras by book but realised how many there were lol

The http://www.buddhistelibrary.org seems quite good :)

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: beginner's questions
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2017, 09:14:34 am »
Thanks for the Buddhist Library reference DB, Arkena.

Can always use another reference library. :namaste:

_/\_Ron
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

 


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