Author Topic: My reply to dukkha = cynicism  (Read 2111 times)

Offline Pixie

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2018, 01:01:07 pm »
Quote from: Zafrogzen
It's ironic because the impression one gets from Theravada descriptions of this life is that it's a nasty, disgusting vale of suffering and distress to be escaped as completely and quickly as possible -- as if there was some other place to go.

That's not the impression I've had myself at all, because as well as having been involved with Vajrayana for a long time, I've also been to a lot of very enjoyable talks and question and answer sessions at a Theravada Thai Forest Tradition monastery and I don't recall the teachers projecting that kind of attitude!


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« Last Edit: November 15, 2018, 01:17:36 pm by 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 VincentRJ

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2018, 06:50:05 pm »
There are a couple of issues on this topic that springs to mind.

First, as already pointed out by others, the term 'dukkha' includes a range of feelings from extreme pain to mild discomfort and anxiety. In our modern society, extreme pain can be reduced without resorting to meditating for long periods on a cushion.

The second issue can be appreciated if we consider the conditions today that the majority of people in the poorest and most undeveloped countries have to endure, dealing with a frequent shortage of food and medical supplies, insanitary conditions, inadequate housing, often no housing at all, and sometimes getting slaughtered as a result of in-fighting between various warring factions.

I can only imagine that life during the times of the Buddha, in India and Nepal, would have been at least as bad for many people, and probably worse.

This second issue struck me when I first visited India in the 1960's, travelling on a strict budget, witnessing the conditions on 3rd class trains, the degree of homelessness, people sleeping throughout the night on the pavements in the cities, crippled and sick people begging for food on the streets, and so on.

When I read the story of Gautama, as a child being protected within the walls of the palace from witnessing the horrors outside, that story and the stories of Gautama's reaction after he first viewed conditions outside the palace, immediately made sense to me, within the context of the conditions I was witnessing in India during the 1960's.

Imagine what a society like 1960's India would be like, in the absence of vaccines, antibiotics, hospitals, modern surgery techniques, pain killers, modern transport, and welfare aid from foreign countries.

Also, consider the far greater infant mortality rate that would have existed during the times of the Buddha, and the far greater mortality rate of mothers during birth, or shortly after.
We know from the scriptures that Gautama's mother, Queen Maya, died after child birth. Of course, the incident is shrouded in mythology, in accordance with the religious culture of the times and location. But from a modern, practical, and rational perspective, it is reasonable to presume that Maya's death, perhaps even during childbirth rather than 7 days later, would have had a profound effect on Gautama when he later became aware of it. He would later realize that he also might also have died had he not been born in the most wealthy and powerful circumstances.

When mothers in poor communities die during childbirth, there's a far greater chance that the child will die soon afterwards, or suffer severe problems, due to a lack of care. Gautama was fortunate that his mother's sister took over the role of foster mother, in a wealthy environment with numerous servants taking care of all chores.

Here's a perspective on the death of Buddha's mother, from a female anthropologist who also appears to be a Buddhist. It's a long read, but worth it. I'll include a few extracts to excite you.  :wink1:
https://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/articles/winterspring2016/death-of-buddhas-mother

"Both the listing of Maya’s virtues and the depiction of the Buddha as unsullied by birth may have served as a bulwark against fears that Maya’s death was due to her being unworthy. By making Maya’s death necessary and Maya’s character faultless, the narrative appears to dispel doubts about why a benevolent and nonviolent Buddha would be born through a process that killed his mother. The text’s lengthy litany of Maya’s faultless actions during pregnancy and her perfect delivery of an unsullied Buddha could be read as an attempt to ward off confusion about her sudden and inexplicable death."

The Buddhacarita describes Maya’s death after the return to Kapilavastu in a brief, elliptical stanza:
"But when queen Maya saw the immense might
Of her son, like that of a seer divine,
She could not bear the delight it caused her;
So she departed to dwell in heaven".


"The lack of mention of Maya’s funeral rites suggests a silencing of an unfortunate event rather than one preordained by an omniscient Buddha, as the later Lalitavistara would have us believe. As Vishvapani Blomfield notes, the brief mention of Maya’s death “strikes a dissonant note, as if an uncomfortable but important fact has somehow survived within the litany of marvels.”

"In the Buddhist Himalayas and in North India, birth and menstruation are considered to be polluting events that symbolically disempower the birthing woman while requiring ritual management by male Buddhist monks or Brahmans. Both Buddhist and Brahmanic beliefs identify birth and female fertility as threatening to a process of purification managed by men putatively tending to local deities. In the Buddhist Himalayas, childbirth is considered polluting to the local protective deities, including clan/guardian deities (pha lha), village gods (yul lha), hearth gods (thab lha), and fertility deities (klu).23 This pollution can be contained as long as a woman remains secluded within her husband’s home and as long as Buddhist monks perform the necessary purification rites in the first weeks after delivery. If a woman delivers in a hospital or her natal home, her lack of seclusion in her marital home threatens local protective deities who can harm mother, baby, and household prosperity. From a feminist perspective, patriarchal practices and traditions oppress women by treating female fertility and birth as highly polluting events in need of male ritual management. In Ladakh, these traditions can make women reluctant to deliver in hospitals, even as they scapegoat those women who have bad outcomes, using karma as an ultimate and unfalsifiable explanation."

"The Buddhist discourse about birth pollution can reproduce a culture of blame in which women are held accountable for their deaths, rather than placing the cause within the structural violence—corruption, poverty, and lack of access to good health care—that makes birth so dangerous in India today".

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2018, 07:25:24 pm »
Quote from: Zafrogzen
It's ironic because the impression one gets from Theravada descriptions of this life is that it's a nasty, disgusting vale of suffering and distress to be escaped as completely and quickly as possible -- as if there was some other place to go.

That's not the impression I've had myself at all, because as well as having been involved with Vajrayana for a long time, I've also been to a lot of very enjoyable talks and question and answer sessions at a Theravada Thai Forest Tradition monastery and I don't recall the teachers projecting that kind of attitude!_/|\_

I came by that impression originally from my own readings in the Pali Suttas, but it’s been reinforced by my interactions with Theravada adherents on this discussion board, where dukkha and the four noble truths are front-and-center.

Just a few posts up from the one you quoted was this, which prompted that response on my part –

"Suffering, as a noble truth, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; association with the loathed is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering — in short, suffering is the five categories of clinging objects."


Or this in another recent discussion here –

"I have seen, bhikkhus, the hell named ‘Contact’s Sixfold Base.’ There whatever form one sees with the eye is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable. Whatever sound one hears with the ear … Whatever odour one smells with the nose … Whatever taste one savours with the tongue … Whatever tactile object one feels with the body … Whatever mental phenomenon one cognizes with the mind is undesirable, never desirable; unlovely, never lovely; disagreeable, never agreeable."

DL said that is downplayed in contemporary Theravada interpretations. No wonder, I doubt it would go over well in modern Western cultures.


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 Pixie

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2018, 10:37:00 pm »
The various "miseries of human existence" are strongly emphasised in "The Four Ordinary Foundations" of Tibetan Buddhism.

More about that can be found here in a section with the same title:

http://promienie.net/images/dharma/books/kongtrul_torch-of-certainty.pdf


 Also, if you look at this website you can see that there's what's known as the "suffering of suffering", "the suffering of change" and "the all-pervasive suffering of conditioning" (which are similar to the comments from the Dalai Lama I posted earlier in the topic.)

http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Three_types_of_suffering

...and finally here's a quote from p.91 of the book "Buddha's Lions - the lives of the eighty four siddhas"

"All existing things which are objects of knowledge are from the beginning, false. Everything experienced by the six sense faculties and the six objects - your seeing and hearing and so forth - is false. So meditate on everything as only falsehood."



Hope everyone has a peaceful day. _/|\_



« Last Edit: November 16, 2018, 02:54:37 am by 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 Dairy Lama

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2018, 02:18:23 am »
DL said that is downplayed in contemporary Theravada interpretations. No wonder, I doubt it would go over well in modern Western cultures.

I think that's the case, and of course "Theravada" is an umbrella term for a wide-ranging collection of schools, teachers and group - traditional, contemporary, secular, etc.

But then don't most Buddhist groups in the west tailor their teachings to a western audience?
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Offline Dairy Lama

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #20 on: November 16, 2018, 02:21:56 am »
There’s not much of that kind of renunciation of ordinary life in Zen. Zen Buddhism was influenced by native Chinese Taoism which is very down-to-earth. Zen is especially appreciative of nature, as evidenced by zen gardens, painting and poetry that reflect a deep appreciation of life, which I don’t think has any parallel in Theravada Buddhism. Zen Buddhist priests and monks also marry and have families.

Zen emphasizes returning to the world (the “marketplace”) after enlightenment. Philosophically zen sees nirvana in samsara as in the saying -- “The coin that was lost in the river, is found in the river.”

It's interesting how BuddhaDharma has merged and adapted to all these different cultures and religions over the centuries.  It's sometimes difficult to explain to people that "Buddhism" is not homogeneous, rather it is diverse and pluralistic, with many different schools, methods and assumptions.
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Offline Chaz

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #21 on: November 16, 2018, 09:29:09 am »
There’s not much of that kind of renunciation of ordinary life in Zen. Zen Buddhism was influenced by native Chinese Taoism which is very down-to-earth. Zen is especially appreciative of nature, as evidenced by zen gardens, painting and poetry that reflect a deep appreciation of life, which I don’t think has any parallel in Theravada Buddhism. Zen Buddhist priests and monks also marry and have families.

Zen emphasizes returning to the world (the “marketplace”) after enlightenment. Philosophically zen sees nirvana in samsara as in the saying -- “The coin that was lost in the river, is found in the river.”

It's interesting how BuddhaDharma has merged and adapted to all these different cultures and religions over the centuries.  It's sometimes difficult to explain to people that "Buddhism" is not homogeneous, rather it is diverse and pluralistic, with many different schools, methods and assumptions.

I've thought the same for years.

Cultural institutions like a religion or belief system grows and propagates from one region to another taking with it bits and pieces  of culture, eventually begins to take on distinct cultural characteristics.  Tibetan Buddhism is a great example, having it's basis in the Mahayana (from China and India) with the addition of Tantra (from India) and the aboriginal religion, Bon.  Statuary game from the Greeks.  There are even elements of material culture passed down from Nestorian Christianity.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2018, 10:31:26 am »
Yes, the cultural influences are quite different from India to China and Tibet but the practice of meditation, particularly samatha/vipassana, is quite similar.

Zen employs breath-counting (anapanasati) to initially calm the mind, followed by shikantaza (just sitting), which is essentially samatha or samadhi, to trigger insight (vipassana).

Zen koans (public cases) are a distinctive development, used to elucidate various subtle intuitions. Tibetan Buddhism also developed a variety of unique meditation techniques.

But samatha/vipassana is still the most basic practice, which apparently runs through all the Buddhist meditation schools.


« Last Edit: November 16, 2018, 10:46:55 am by zafrogzen »
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 philboyd

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #23 on: November 17, 2018, 04:43:15 am »
Does practicing Buddhism alleviate the pressures of cultural and social norms? I believe social and cultural norms are inherently necessary, unavoidable, and not altogether bad. But their effect on an individual can be a sometimes subtle, sometimes profound, stifling affair. Individual human maturation is greatly enhanced by the unbinding of these pressures (dukkha).
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Offline Chaz

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2018, 07:45:07 am »
Does practicing Buddhism alleviate the pressures of cultural and social norms?

I don't think so.  It may reduce or even eliminate attachment to those pressures, but not the pressure itself.

As long as you stay around other people, or remain a part of a functioning society, cultural pressure will exist.

Quote
I believe social and cultural norms are inherently necessary, unavoidable, and not altogether bad.

The just are.

Quote
But their effect on an individual can be a sometimes subtle, sometimes profound, stifling affair. Individual human maturation is greatly enhanced by the unbinding of these pressures (dukkha).

Perhaps, but if that's what you seek, become a yogin like Milarepa.  Go live in the wilderness and eschew human company or contact.
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[/quote]

Offline philboyd

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2018, 10:30:45 am »
You may want to clear your understanding of the word alleviate, perhaps then the context of my post will make more sense.
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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2018, 01:29:22 pm »
You may want to clear your understanding of the word alleviate, perhaps then the context of my post will make more sense.

I double checked and I'm confident of my understanding.

You should know that my academic background is in the field of cultural anthropology.  So, I've read, studied, and even worked professionally in that field.  I'm confident of my understanding of culture and how it affects the indivifual.

I've had a practice for about 15 years and have studied under some of the most important teachers in the US.  I'm confident of my understanding of Dharma.

I'll stand by my post.

Offline philboyd

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2018, 02:38:09 pm »
So glad to hear about your academic acumen!  Congratulations on all your achievement! Thanks for your input, you certainly are persuasive. How did you get to the idea of what I am seeking from a post that merely attempts to explore some of the manifestations of dukkha?
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Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #28 on: November 18, 2018, 04:36:33 am »
Does practicing Buddhism alleviate the pressures of cultural and social norms? I believe social and cultural norms are inherently necessary, unavoidable, and not altogether bad. But their effect on an individual can be a sometimes subtle, sometimes profound, stifling affair. Individual human maturation is greatly enhanced by the unbinding of these pressures (dukkha).
.
Quite the opposite if you are a Buddhist in the West. Others' expectations, both from outside Buddhism and within the Buddhist community, rack up external expectations about how you should speak and behave, often in negative ways. As a teacher I was told by the head teacher that he never would have employed me if he had known I was going to turn to Buddhism. That's how bad it gets. Of course, I wouldn't still be a Buddhist if it didn't have corresponding compensations.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline philboyd

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Re: My reply to dukkha = cynicism
« Reply #29 on: November 18, 2018, 08:02:07 am »
The effects of cultural and societal norms are dynamic. Causing change in individuals to whole systems of belief.
When an individual engages in non-conforming activity, said individual smacks up against these norms. It is at this point that pressure occurs encouraging change or dukkha. If Buddhist practice

(or some other remedy) does not alleviate this pressure, one is left with conforming or living with stress.
I say this in the context of - the pressures mentioned are experiential


« Last Edit: November 18, 2018, 08:04:22 am by philboyd »
Peace

 


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