Author Topic: The Meaning of Life.  (Read 1798 times)

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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The Meaning of Life.
« on: February 17, 2017, 06:25:03 am »
Read this today on Quora, a science website to which I subscribe.  I thought it might be worthy to share in this Buddhist Forum.
It reminded me of Buddha's teachings regarding emptiness, which is a topic of interest to most Buddhist traditions:

Quote
First though, let’s understand that humans are nothing more than one of thousands of different species on this planet. We, like a bird or a fish or a dog, live here for a period of time and then pass away. But unlike all other species, we are distinct in one thing: We contemplate our reason for being and deduce that there must be reason behind it. Think about it, does a monkey ever ask, “Why am I here?” Does a whale ask “What is my purpose?” Does a goat think “Have I succeeded, am I happy?” NO! No other species dwells on such things. They live their lives moment to moment. They do not plan their meals, they do not set their clocks and create their schedules, overbooking their time, so that they are constantly rushed. Only humans do these things. But why?

It is because humans and humans alone are intelligent enough to believe that there must be more. There must be reason for this. There must be a purpose. And that’s where we are wrong. Now here’s a strong statement that is true: Everything about you , your sense of humor, your intelligence, your creativity, your compassion, your motivation; all of what makes you YOU, will be forgotten within 2 generations of your death. Your children will remember your love, and maybe your grandchildren but after them, you will only be a picture on a wall, or a name in the annals of history. But what makes you who you are, distinct and unique, will be forgotten forever. Just like all other species. Sad.

Think about the most famous people you can. Alexander the Great, Jesus, Hitler, Gandhi…What were they like? Were they rude? Were they fun to hang out with? Were they happy or depressing? Nobody today really knows. They only live on in name and only because they were hugely popular – either famous or infamous. Nearly every single human who has lived and died is forgotten forever and you will most likely be one of them. That’s a fact!

So what’s our purpose? So many people want to know “What is my purpose in life?” The truth is, your purpose is merely to pro-create to ensure the survival of the human species into the future. In the same way all other species pro-create to ensure the survival of their species. To ensure that their genetic codes go on. Because if you don’t pro-create then all that remains of you will be lost with your death. And your life, as important as you’ve convinced yourself it was, was pointless.

The harsh reality is this, in the grand scope of things, most of our contributions are totally meaningless. Do you think that in 1000 years someone will talk about that App you wrote? Or that excel spreadsheet you filled out? Or that business you ran? Will your name even be remembered? In most cases it will not be and we will disappear from all of history and be completely forgotten like so many before us.

So what’s the point then? Why even go on?

The point is this. You are here for a very short period of time and the fact that you are here is an invaluable gift. So if there is stuff that’s hurting you; a bad job, a bad relationship, debt, stress… walk away from it. Don’t let things destroy this precious gift. And don’t buy into the lie that sitting behind a computer for 8 hours a day for a paycheck is going to fulfill you. It won’t. That’s a system built on lies. If there is something you want to do then do it before it is too late. Do it now!

Life will fly by and before you know it, you will be at the end of it. Don’t get to the end saying “I wish I had done this or that. I wish I had seen this. I wish…..

Do it when you can! Before it’s too late. Because life is a gift that can be taken from you at any moment. Treasure it and enjoy it!"


written by Ronald Fox   source:  https://www.quora.com/What-is-your-most-powerful-tip/answer/Ronald-Fox-7

And I totally agree, so long as we do not become in any way attached.

One last thought:  "The truth is the truth (dhamma) no matter what the source."
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 VincentRJ

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2017, 09:36:16 pm »
Okay! Let's pick this apart, for fun if nothing else.  :wink1:

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First though, let’s understand that humans are nothing more than one of thousands of different species on this planet.
Wrong! We are an accumulation over billions of years of trillions of different organisms.

Quote
We, like a bird or a fish or a dog, live here for a period of time and then pass away.
True, as far as I know.

Quote
But unlike all other species, we are distinct in one thing: We contemplate our reason for being and deduce that there must be reason behind it. Think about it, does a monkey ever ask, “Why am I here?” Does a whale ask “What is my purpose?” Does a goat think “Have I succeeded, am I happy?” NO! No other species dwells on such things. They live their lives moment to moment. They do not plan their meals, they do not set their clocks and create their schedules, overbooking their time, so that they are constantly rushed. Only humans do these things. But why?

We might erroneously assume this is the case, perhaps in part due to hubris. I recall it was once declared that humans were the only creatures who used tools. Then it was observed that monkeys used primitive tools, such as sticks to poke into ant holes and withdraw the ants to eat, and used rocks to smash nuts to eat.

I've even observed crows in my back garden, using my ornamental 'bird bath' as a tool to soak bread so that it becomes more palatable.
Squirrels bury nuts in the ground for future use. I'm sure there are many other examples.

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It is because humans and humans alone are intelligent enough to believe that there must be more.

Mere speculation. We can't get inside the minds of other species. We can work out that Bats, for example, have a different method of seeing things. They emit sound waves that are reflected off material objects. How those received reflections of sound waves are experienced in the mind of the bat, is not something we are privy to.

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Now here’s a strong statement that is true: Everything about you , your sense of humor, your intelligence, your creativity, your compassion, your motivation; all of what makes you YOU, will be forgotten within 2 generations of your death. Your children will remember your love, and maybe your grandchildren but after them, you will only be a picture on a wall, or a name in the annals of history. But what makes you who you are, distinct and unique, will be forgotten forever. Just like all other species. Sad.

This is not necessarily true and is not unavoidably true. History in general is a record of past lives. Some records of past lives are in great detail, especially when autobiographies and biographies by others, have been written in a durable format.

If anyone is concerned that their grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren, might forget them, then write your own biography and include digital images of yourself, and store such information on external hard drives, SD cards, and printed material etc.
Those who are interested might unearth such information a thousand years later.
I have a photo, from my father's archives, of my great grandfather, great grandmother and other relatives whom I never met, taken in the 1890's, but there are no biographical writings available, so I have no other information available apart from their appearance on the photo, which shows some very-well-dressed people who are 'keeping up appearances'.

Quote
Think about the most famous people you can. Alexander the Great, Jesus, Hitler, Gandhi…What were they like? Were they rude? Were they fun to hang out with? Were they happy or depressing? Nobody today really knows. They only live on in name and only because they were hugely popular – either famous or infamous. Nearly every single human who has lived and died is forgotten forever and you will most likely be one of them. That’s a fact!

Without honest biographical details, we don't know whether such people you mention were fun to hang out with, rude, happy or depressing. That's true.
Such people can only be judged by their actions, as recorded in history. As regards Alexander the Great, by Buddhist standards he'd be eligible to be reborn as a cockroach. His indiscriminate mass slaughter of women and children in the areas he invaded, would have resulted in a conviction in the Hague, in modern times, for crimes against humanity.

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So what’s our purpose? So many people want to know “What is my purpose in life?” The truth is, your purpose is merely to pro-create to ensure the survival of the human species into the future. In the same way all other species pro-create to ensure the survival of their species. To ensure that their genetic codes go on. Because if you don’t pro-create then all that remains of you will be lost with your death. And your life, as important as you’ve convinced yourself it was, was pointless.

Not true. I appreciate the classical music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Their creations have survived for hundreds of years.

Quote
The harsh reality is this, in the grand scope of things, most of our contributions are totally meaningless. Do you think that in 1000 years someone will talk about that App you wrote? Or that excel spreadsheet you filled out? Or that business you ran? Will your name even be remembered? In most cases it will not be and we will disappear from all of history and be completely forgotten like so many before us. So what’s the point then? Why even go on?

Our contributions are not totally meaningless. Science in general, with its defined methodology, is very meaningful.

Quote
The point is this. You are here for a very short period of time and the fact that you are here is an invaluable gift. So if there is stuff that’s hurting you; a bad job, a bad relationship, debt, stress… walk away from it. Don’t let things destroy this precious gift. And don’t buy into the lie that sitting behind a computer for 8 hours a day for a paycheck is going to fulfill you. It won’t. That’s a system built on lies. If there is something you want to do then do it before it is too late. Do it now!
Life will fly by and before you know it, you will be at the end of it. Don’t get to the end saying “I wish I had done this or that. I wish I had seen this. I wish…..Do it when you can! Before it’s too late. Because life is a gift that can be taken from you at any moment. 

Very true. I can't disagree with that.


Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2017, 04:47:04 am »
Another interesting discussion. At what point does the lack of 'truth' of one or two details in such a statement take away from the overall point, that, in this case, 'we have limited time to use so let's use it in the best way we can'? Personally, I found the Buddhist center I used to attend spent a lot of time 'bigging up' human beings as something apart from the animals. It only got to me occasionally, so I usually let it slide, as the message of the path was still valid.

My own take on 'nothing I do will be remembered' changed when I realised that everything that happens changes the world, no matter how imperceptibly. Whatever we do changes the world. If I do something bad, the world is now a place where that bad thing happened; doesn't matter if no-one else noticed. Not a great philosophy, I guess, but it has meant fewer sleepless nights for me. Everything arises on conditions, even small ones.

Back to the discussion. I think it highlights for me the problems with using Buddhist literature written in another time and in other cultures. At what point is the overall message spoiled by things we don't agree with?
“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 Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2017, 04:22:55 pm »
Quote
Ronald Fox, on Quora:  "So what’s the point then? Why even go on?"

Buddha answered this question with this:

Quote
SN 56.48 PTS: S v 456 CDB ii 1872
Chiggala Sutta: The Hole
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu



"Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there. A wind from the east would push it west, a wind from the west would push it east. A wind from the north would push it south, a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?"

"It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole."

"It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world. Now, this human state has been obtained. A Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, has arisen in the world. A doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world.

"Therefore your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'
"

Purely from a Buddhist perspective, this rebirth as humans is a rare opportunity to learn The dhamma.  So, it will benefit us to take advantage of it.

Is that the meaning of life?  Not sure.  But, it certainly is an opportunity of which we should take advantage to escape these samsaric rounds. :r4wheel:
« Last Edit: February 21, 2017, 04:26:17 pm by Ron-the-Elder »
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 VincentRJ

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2017, 07:26:46 pm »
Quote
Ronald Fox, on Quora:  "So what’s the point then? Why even go on?"

Buddha answered this question with this:

Quote
SN 56.48 PTS: S v 456 CDB ii 1872
Chiggala Sutta: The Hole
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

"It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole."

"It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world. Now, this human state has been obtained. A Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, has arisen in the world. A doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world.

"Therefore your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'[/size]"


Hi Ron,
One of the problems in interpreting such descriptions originating in ancient cultures is the lack of detailed, written, historical texts which describe the 'mindsets' and general understanding that people had about basic issues which we, with the benefits of modern science, take for granted.

For example, whilst I think it's reasonable to assume that most people during the times of the Buddha and earlier, would have made the connection between the act of sexual intercourse and the resulting birth of a child some months later, the biological processes of the male sperm fertilizing a female egg, would have been a complete mystery.

Also, the reasons why pregnancy did not always follow from an act of sexual intercourse, would also have been a complete mystery. I imagine that one explanation would have been that at the time of sexual intercourse there was no 'spirit' hovering around in the Bardo, which could enter the woman's womb.

The Christian concept of the virgin birth also suggests that the general populace in those times imagined that sexual intercourse might have been only a part of the process of birth, and not necessarily an essential part.

I see reincarnation (and rebirth) as concepts which attempt to explain certain puzzling events which are now better explained by modern science.

Nevertheless, ideas and hypotheses about the nature of things, are an essential part of human progress. I don't dismiss them. The problems arise when we try to 'cling on to them' in spite of common-sense alternative explanations.

For me, the interesting aspect of hypotheses about 'rebirth', in the sense that our actions in this life will affect our future lives, is the relevance such ideas might have to our scientific inquiry on such matters.

For example, until recently it had been assumed that inheritable genes are not modified by one's behaviour in this life. However, according to recent research, we are now gradually discovering that this might not be the case. The process is labeled as 'Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance'.

It's now beginning to look as though what we eat, the air we breathe, or even the emotions we feel, influence not only our genes but those of our descendants?

For those with a scientific bias  :wink1: , the attached article explains the issue in some depth.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4020004/

Oops! I forgot to directly address your original quote. If it's a sheer coincidence that one achieves the human state, then surely the same degree of coincidence applies to achieving any of the millions of other animal states.

We tend to sometimes look at the behaviour of other animal species with disdain. We are so much smarter and more honourable and more wonderful. But this, I suspect, is a mere projection of our own emotions and interpretations onto other creatures who have little connection or awareness of our situation.

For example, an ant hill consists of a mound of 'dirt'. That very label itself creates a prejudice or bias. From the ants' perspective, they are not living in a mound of dirt, but a pure, nutritious, life-sustaining city. The ants in fact probably lead much healthier lives than we do.

Here are some facts about ants.
"There are more than 10,000 different species of ant.
Female ants work to maintain the colony but the male's role is solely to reproduce with with queen ant. After he has fulfilled his purpose, he dies.
Some species of ant can carry more than 50 times their own body weight.
The total weight of all ants on the planet is roughly equal to the weight of all humans currently alive.
Ants have existed since the Cretaceous period, more than 130 million years ago."


What is also interesting is that a third of the ant workers are nurses looking after the 'queen ant' and her eggs. Another third are cleaners, and the rest are foragers, collecting food outside the colony.

Also interesting, is the observation that ants tend to interact mostly with workers from the same group. Even if the colony’s entrance and brood chamber are close together, studies have shown that nurses and foragers stick to their own company and seldom mix.

What is not known, however, is the degree of envy that a worker ant might have for the role of the nurse ant looking after the queen. "Why have I been born a worker ant! I want to be the queen. If I can't be the queen, then I want to be a nurse?"  :wink1:

I suspect that ants have no such problems with envy. They live in the present, act totally naturally, and in a sense are true Buddhists.  :wink1:


Offline VincentRJ

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2017, 10:50:12 pm »
Quote
If it's a sheer coincidence that one achieves the human state, then surely the same degree of coincidence applies to achieving any of the millions of other animal states.

I think I should correct the above statement before anyone else does. In terms of probability, the chances of being born as an ant are very much greater than the chances of being born as a human, because ants are so prolific. There are a mere 7 billion humans on the planet, whereas there must be many trillions of ants.

On the other hand, there is a very slim chance of being reborn as an Orangutan because there are so few Orangutans on the planet. They're currently in danger of extinction. 

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2017, 02:45:53 am »
Quote
VincentRJ:  "I suspect that ants have no such problems with envy. They live in the present, act totally naturally, and in a sense are true Buddhists.  :wink1:"

Humans are definitely the only creatures on the planet guilty of anthropomorphism.   :lmfao:  Your description of ant colonies and their social interactions was quite thorough, and reminds me of many manufacturing organizations with which I have worked in my career before retiring, except for the males dying after mating with the queen.

Quote
VincentRJ:  "until recently it had been assumed that inheritable genes are not modified by one's behaviour in this life. However, according to recent research, we are now gradually discovering that this might not be the case. The process is labeled as 'Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance'."

While I am not as up on TEI as I should be, (Thanks for the article.) in my field of environmental health and safety, those working in this arena were starkly aware that there were many environmental influences, which could affect human DNA.  And, if those influences could mutate somatic (body) cells, then they could also change haploid (reproductive ) cells.

And, you are quite right, ancient societies could not have been aware of these human reproductive facts, because we humans were not even aware of the existence of DNA until the 1800s  when the study of molecular biology was just getting its start:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_molecular_biology

Now, it has occurred to me in the past during my Buddhist studies that The Buddha himself couldn't have been so all-knowing if he wasn't aware of these things, but, like many teachers, he may have taught us all that we know, but he didn't teach us all that he knew.  Buddha explains in this regard in The Simsapa Sutta:

Quote
At one time the Blessed One was staying at Kosambii in Si.msapaa Grove.[1] Then the Blessed One, taking a few Si.msapaa leaves in his hand, said to the monks: "What do you think, monks? Which are the more numerous, the few leaves I have here in my hand, or those up in the trees of the grove?"

"Lord, the Blessed One is holding only a few leaves: those up in the trees are far more numerous."

"In the same way, monks, there are many more things that I have found out, but not revealed to you.[2] What I have revealed to you is only a little. And why, monks, have I not revealed it?

"Because, monks, it is not related to the goal, it is not fundamental to the holy life, does not conduce to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment or Nibbaana. That is why I have not revealed it. And what, monks, have I revealed?

"What I have revealed is: 'This is Suffering, this is the Arising of Suffering, this is the Cessation of Suffering, and this is the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.' And why, monks, have I revealed it?

"Because this is related to the goal, fundamental to the holy life, conduces to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment and Nibbaana, therefore I have revealed it.

"Therefore, monks, your task is to learn: 'This is Suffering, this is the Arising of Suffering, this is the Cessation of Suffering, this is the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.' That is your task."

So, I have learned to reserve my judgement of The Historical Buddha until such times as I attain enlightenment.

Like you, however, I remain skeptical in this regard.

This skepticism has led me to think that perhaps I should abandon The Theravada and migrate in my study and practice more towards what I will call Dawkinism, referring to Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, who has written a great deal about Buddhism and religions in general.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDKzq2nZtVA

« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 05:13:21 am by Ron-the-Elder »
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 stillpointdancer

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2017, 04:25:31 am »
I didn't think of the Buddha as all-knowing. Wouldn't that raise him to the status of some kind of God? He showed us a path, but there aren't any footsteps to place ours in. That's not the kind of teacher he was. For me, there is no revealed knowledge, but a set of practices for us to have a go at for ourselves. Why pretend he knew stuff that would be impossible for him to know? Seems silly to me, but others think that it is important, judging by some of the threads I've read.

In terms of 'The meaning of life', I think that Buddhism doesn't promise to reveal the meaning of life in terms of knowledge to pass on, but to give you the skills to 'see' it for yourself in a different way to that. Anything else, such as stuff developed by people who came after the Buddha, is peripheral to the main message. Maybe that's why so many followers of different types of Buddhism 'cling' to their type, and try to track it back to the Buddha some way. There isn't any authoritative 'knowledge': no 'facts', just ways of trying to understand the path from different remembered teachings, which he mostly tailored for individuals anyway.

And as much as I love science, it can't answer the question, 'What is the meaning of life?' It could try to survey what people think it means, but is outside the remit of science. Maybe something there for anthropologists. On the other hand, it's a good question for the arts and spiritual fields of human knowledge to explore.

“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 Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2017, 05:45:08 am »
Quote
Stillpointdance:  "And as much as I love science, it can't answer the question, 'What is the meaning of life?


Looks like none of us can.  So, what do we do now?  Since we are on a Buddhist website, perhaps we can make progress in this regard by doing some research as to his position as to the meaning of life.  But over the years, the only answers I have found from The Historical Buddha is this story of the sea turtle.  I cannot think of another single sutta, or dhammapada story, or a Jataka Tale, which covers the topic.

Perhaps Buddha was as stumped as we are!  Is that possible for a Buddha?

Then there is the sutta regarding The Hand Full of Simpasa Leaves, which tells us that we are just wasting our time thinking about such things and should stick to studying, learning and following The Noble Eight Fold Path, which most Buddhists I have found have difficulty quoting, let alone following.

So, maybe we should begin there:  Perhaps life, a beneficial life, is all about studying, learning, and following The Noble Eight Fold Path.

Let's begin:

Noble Eight Fold Path: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn45/sn45.008.than.html

Quote
SN 45.8 PTS: S v 2 CDB ii 1524
Magga-vibhanga Sutta: An Analysis of the Path
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1996


I have heard that at one time the Blessed One was staying in Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery.

There he addressed the monks, saying, "Monks."

"Yes, lord," the monks responded to him.

The Blessed One said, "I will teach & analyze for you the Noble Eightfold Path. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded to him.

The Blessed One said, "Now what, monks, is the Noble Eightfold Path? Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

"And what, monks, is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the stopping of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the stopping of stress: This, monks, is called right view.



"And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.


"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.


"And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, monks, is called right action.


"And what, monks, is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This, monks, is called right livelihood.


"And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen. (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.


"And what, monks, is right mindfulness? (i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (ii) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iii) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iv) He remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. This, monks, is called right mindfulness.



"And what, monks, is right concentration? (i) There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. (ii) With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. (iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This, monks, is called right concentration."




That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted at his words.
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 Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2017, 06:05:02 am »
Quote
"And what, monks, is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the stopping of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the stopping of stress: This, monks, is called right view.

Well, I have heard scientists like Dr. Carl Sagan say that the human mind is the universe becoming aware of itself.  Could this be the meaning of life?  Self Awareness.  But, according to Buddha's teachings regarding Dependent Arising, Impermanence, Emptiness and Anatta, there is no self, or at least no stable, permanent self,or ego.  Even awareness is subject to what science calls the law of entropy.  It is decidedly perishable even if dwelling in a supportive environment such as is provided by our planet Earth.

But is the conclusion true?  Isn't what I will call "generational self awareness", attained through human reproduction and nurturing, teaching, and raising offspring a means of achieving some small modicum of at least "temporary self awareness", much like we are practicing now with each other? 

Sure, certainly for a fact when the sun goes super-nova , even our DNA will be destroyed, burned in the nuclear fires of an expanding star we call the sun. I mention this because some scientists postulate that DNA is eternal, but even it is decidedly perishable within the nuclear furnaces of stars, and subject to spaghettification when crossing the event horizon of a black hole (supermassive or not!)

So, didn't Buddha kind of miss an opportunity when he spoke his dissertation about the rarity of human birth in his turtle and yoke in the sea analogy to also explain that we humans also have a relatively short opportunity to learn the dhamma in this human form, not only with our individual limited life-spans, but even generationally?

Is this another example of un-Buddha-like behavior on his part, which cannot be explained by his story of The Simpasa Leaves?

Did he have "The Right View"... or not?
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 06:27:09 am by Ron-the-Elder »
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 Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2017, 06:41:06 am »
right resolve, right speech, right action, and right livelihood,

These components of The Noble Eight Fold Path I will call social suggestions.  They assist us, if practiced, in getting along with each other.  In that way they are much like most of The Abrahemic Ten Commandments.  But, based on our history of getting along together, I can't conclude that either of them have been very effective in helping us get along.  We seem to be a vicious and greedy species prone to destroying anyone with whom we disagree.  Not that there is anything wrong with any of these social suggestions.  I think the failure of their effectiveness at social control is purely due to our vicious and greedy nature.  It is this heinous human nature which explains why we seem to understand, and practice them poorly.  At least this is my life-time experience, given the open warfare and hidden atrocities of  WW-II, The Exterminations of The Jews under Hitler, The extermination of millions of Cambodians under Po Pot, The extermination of millions of White and Red Russians under Stalin, The extermination of millions of Chinese under The Japanese, and later by Chairman Mao, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, and now The Islamic Militant Jihadii Wars that seem to have no end.  And based upon that history's trend line, there are no doubt more to come.

Buddha explained that there is a solution to such violence, and it basically boils down to "don't participate in it."  This was a reasonable thing for him to say, since he became a pacifist.  It was a surprising thing for him to say, given that he was raised in a warrior clan, called The Sakyans.

My favorite example of his position regarding violence is often called "The Simile of The Saw:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.than.html

Quote
"Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves.

"Monks, if you attend constantly to this admonition on the simile of the saw, do you see any aspects of speech, slight or gross, that you could not endure?"

"No, lord."

"Then attend constantly to this admonition on the simile of the saw. That will be for your long-term welfare & happiness."

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One's words.


So, is just learning to get along with each other, learning not to kill each other when we disagree the meaning of life?  It would be a good start in my estimation.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 06:59:04 am by Ron-the-Elder »
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 Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2017, 08:22:15 am »
Right effort?

With regard to the meaning of life, my life's effort has been focused upon what could be summarized as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:



Early childhood memories inform me that most of my efforts were directed towards   not getting killed by street cars as I crossed the road from elementary school, or beat-up by neighborhood, or school bullies, and making certain that I got home on time for dinner so that my mother wouldn't spank my young ass for being late for dinner.  This is what Maslow labeled "survival" and "safety".  So from this respect I guess at that time my personal meaning of life was attaining survival and being safe, or at least not dying or being attacked and killed by human, or science-fiction monsters or aliens.

Buddha's position in this regard, according to my understanding of his teachings, is that we were born in an environment within the 31 Planes of existence, which was full of pitfalls that could land us in anywhere from horrific circumstances in the hell realms to human realms, which were tolerable if we paid attention to how to survive and to cope, to deva realms, heavens, and highly esoteric realms where bodies were not necessary and it is only mind which matters.  But none of these planes of existence was nibbana.  All these 31 Planes were within samsara.

So, I guess, from this perspective the meaning of life might be that we have much to learn about the nature of existence, that much, if not most, of it is truly not pleasant, and all of it is impermanent.

« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 08:25:58 am by Ron-the-Elder »
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 Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2017, 08:45:17 am »
Right mindfulness and Right concentration.

These steps along the path seem to be where most of us Buddhists spend our time.  When asked, I place much emphasis on studying and becoming intimate with the nature of our own minds, during the practice of meditation and mindfulness.  It sounds bizarre that we spend most of our lives not even being aware of what degree and depth of ignorance we have for most of our lives with regard to the effect of what I have heard some Buddhists call "The Monkey Mind":

Quote
SN 47.7 PTS: S v 148 CDB ii 1633
Makkata Sutta: The Monkey
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997
Alternate translation: Olendzki

"There are in the Himalayas, the king of mountains, difficult, uneven areas where neither monkeys nor human beings wander. There are difficult, uneven areas where monkeys wander, but not human beings. There are level stretches of land, delightful, where both monkeys and human beings wander. In such spots hunters set a tar trap in the monkeys' tracks, in order to catch some monkeys. Those monkeys who are not foolish or careless by nature, when they see the tar trap, avoid it from afar. But any monkey who is foolish & careless by nature comes up to the tar trap and grabs it with its paw. He gets stuck there. Thinking, 'I'll free my paw,' he grabs it with his other paw. He gets stuck there. Thinking, 'I'll free both of my paws,' he grabs it with his foot. He gets stuck there. Thinking, 'I'll free both of my paws and my foot,' he grabs it with his other foot. He gets stuck there. Thinking, 'I'll free both of my paws and my feet as well,' he grabs it with his mouth. He gets stuck there. So the monkey, snared in five ways, lies there whimpering, having fallen on misfortune, fallen on ruin, a prey to whatever the hunter wants to do with him. Then the hunter, without releasing the monkey, skewers him right there, picks him up, and goes off as he likes.

"This is what happens to anyone who wanders into what is not his proper range and is the territory of others.

"For this reason, you should not wander into what is not your proper range and is the territory of others. In one who wanders into what is not his proper range and is the territory of others, Mara gains an opening, Mara gains a foothold. And what, for a monk, is not his proper range and is the territory of others? The five strands of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable by the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Sounds cognizable by the ear... Aromas cognizable by the nose... Flavors cognizable by the tongue... Tactile sensations cognizable by the body — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. These, for a monk, are not his proper range and are the territory of others.

"Wander, monks, in what is your proper range, your own ancestral territory. In one who wanders in what is his proper range, his own ancestral territory, Mara gains no opening, Mara gains no foothold. And what, for a monk, is his proper range, his own ancestral territory? The four frames of reference. Which four? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves... mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This, for a monk, is his proper range, his own ancestral territory."

So, I guess from this analogy of The Monkey, we might learn that still another meaning of this life we have been given is that we need to learn and observe the limits of our capacities in this human form.  Yet as humans with our amzingly plastic brains, and our seemingly unlimited curiosity, we continue to exceed those evolutionay, and environmentally derived capacities as demonstrated as we continuously stretch the limits of our intellectual & technological footprints.  Perhaps this is why we dare to dream that we posess "Buddha Nature.", will eventually escape the bounds of this planet migrating into the larger universe.  Buddha did not contemplate this, but he did encourage us to unbind and release from our mental fetters and to be released into the limitless realms of a Tathagatta.

Could this be the meaniing of life:  "To discover and express our Buddha Nature?"  "To evolve into Tahagattas?"

If only we could concentrate properly on the problem and with the powerful tool we call mind, solve it? :-P

I don't know about you, but concentration has always been one of the weak points in my practice, especially when delicious candies and cakes are around, or when a striking woman walks by, or when a car I am following on a long highway drive stops suddenly in front of me for no apparent reason!   :eek:
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 08:54:00 am by Ron-the-Elder »
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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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2017, 08:47:19 am »
Perhaps life, a beneficial life, is all about studying, learning, and following The Noble Eight Fold Path.

Or perhaps something else?

In the Mahayana a benefical life would be one that this of benefit to beings.  That could be trying to follow a set of rules, such as the 8FP, much like some Christains might.  It could also mean dedicating meritorious activity and practice to the benefit of beings.  This could be reciting the Heart Sutra, or performing tantric practices, or simply meditating.  It could be feeding the homeless, or even picking up trash on the highway.

So, engaging in Right Speech is fine, but isn't beneficial until it is beneficial to beings.  And don't  be bottled up by conceptualized notions of what is "right".  Offering an insult could be as benefical as a compliment. A harsh reprimand could be better than obsequious praise.  Tilopa hit one of his students with a shoe and that led to the foundation of the Karma Kagyu lineage.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 12:31:06 pm by IdleChater »

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Re: The Meaning of Life.
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2017, 12:52:52 pm »
Dedication of Merit, or Transference of Merit is an important concept in Buddhist practice.  It's vital in the practices of the Mahayana and while not unknown in Theraveda, it doesn't seem to be anywhere near in importance as in Mahayana.

DoM is one of the things that really drew me to the Mahayana.  Theraveda, it seems, was all about study and beating each other up with sutra quotations and how much was known.  The Mahayanna, as embodied in the concept of DoM, seemed more altruistic and in keeping with what I saw as one of the underlying spirits of the Buddhas teaching - Enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings.

While following a perscribed practice is can be potentially meritorious, I was taught that without a conscious dedication of a practice's merit, there could be no merit accumulated for anyone and without that accumulation, full, supreme realization is impossible.  So all practices were taught with an accompanying dedication.  Dedication could be made at the end of a meditation practice by reciting verses such as this one used in the Shambhala tradition:

By the confidence of the golden sun of the great east,
May the lotus garden of the Rigden’s wisdom bloom.
May the dark ignorance of sentient beings be dispelled,
May all beings enjoy profound brilliant glory.


Shantideva's dedication is very powerful:

May all beings everywhere,
Plagued by sufferings of body and mind,
Obtain an ocean of happiness and joy
By virtue of my merits.
May no living creature suffer,
Commit evil or ever fall ill.
May no one be afraid or belittled,
With a mind weighed down by depression.

May the blind see forms,
And the deaf hear sounds.
May those whose bodies are worn with toil
Be restored on finding repose.

May the naked find clothing,
The hungry find food.
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks.

May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy.
May the forlorn find hope,
Constant happiness and prosperity.

May there be timely rains
And bountiful harvests.
May all medicines be effective
And wholesome prayers bear fruit.

May all who are sick and ill
Quickly be freed from their ailments.
Whatever diseases there are in the world,
May they never occur again.

May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed.
May the powerless find power
And may all people think of benefiting each other.


All tantric practices use a dedication and the close of the practice.

Teachers in the Mahayana recommend dedicating merit often and with regularity.

I find this to a very meaningful way to conduct one's life.

It's far more meaningful for me than trying to follow some impossible set of rules, like I did when I was a Christian.  I found this to be empty of meaning and with little redeeming value, especially for others.  I found it better to do what I was able to do, no more and then for the sake of others.  That was enough.

 


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