Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

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tharpa
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continuity

Post by tharpa » Sat Aug 11, 2007 12:34 am

OK, so this is really the issue: continuity.

In my personal experience, there is continuity between the person who went to bed last night and the one who woke up this morning. Also when I get up from the desk to refill the teacup I can do so and return, the entire affair involving continuities of all sorts.

That same continuity works with various births in the sense that an infant (whether animal or human or vegetable) does not spring forth spontaneously (although this is surely possible in other forms of birth not dependent upon eggs, wombs and seeds). There is continuity therefore. Such continuity, I suspect though cannot prove, exists within the sperm-egg dance in that just as there is more going on than a biological machine walking over to get tea, so also is there more going on than an egg and sperm connecting. On the literal level, as your post pointed out, there is more going on with clouds and rain than simply clouds (there has to be sky, planetary movements, terrain disposition, wind currents, vegetation etc. etc. )all of which cause 'rain'. Same with eggs and sperms (have to be adult males and females, place and time, preferably a sense of affection, not to mention humour, good health, probably a linguistic system with which male induces female to assume the role of willing receptacle, farms with crops from which our lusty couplers enjoy good health and stamina for, perfect auspicious coincidence being hard to come by in this infinitely-woven web of complex simplicity, 'if at first they don't succeed, they will surely try and try again' - in which case they will need more food. Which depends, of course, on those clouds and rain and all the rest of it.

So what is continuity? Is it really a linear process of a leads to b leads to c? I think this is an oversimplification in our thinking. I prefer contemplating interdependency to 'cause and effect' per se, although fundamentally they are the same. Anything that exists does so as part of infinitely interdependent web of everything else. Just as one jewel can throw off many different highlights, each particular and yet still be only one jewel, one indivisible diamond, so also Totality throws off many individual highlights which appear marvellously intricate and as such unique, even independent, but in fact are simply part of the overall web of being.

[later addition:] The other reason I prefer interdependency is because it is something we can do personally without any leaps or assumptions (or too many). When you say X causes Y it is a bit of a leap because you cannot be sure how many variables you are ignoring or indeed if X does cause Y. Take making a woman pregnant. Is it true to say that ejaculation 'causes' pregnancy? Or female ova? Or passion? Or genetic drive to reproduce the gene pool? Or what? What 'causes' pregnancy? Very hard to say, isn't it. However, it is not hard to look at all that is required without which it could not happen. (This is, come to think of it, similar to the arguments about irreducible complexity.) For example, we can say definitively with the same sort of confidence of being Truth that without air to breath there would be no pregnancy, therefore air is one of the 'causes', although again I don't find that word so helpful because it implies linearity of a to b to c rather than interdependency which is the same, but without the temporal billiard ball fallacy. If we look at any event or situation or process or individual or mind moment or ANYTHING in this world of experience, we can list many things that we KNOW are necessary for that object of contemplation to exist similar to Air for Copulators. (!). This we can understand with a degree of certainty and from that make reasonable deductions without any superstition, dogma or fear/hope based belief systems.

And of course one of the main deductions one gains from contemplating interdependency is the confidence that it is fundamentally true to say that no single person, place or thing exists independently as such even though they appear to seeing as all of them are in continuous state of mutual interdependency. So the reason there MUST be reincarnation is the same reason that there clearly is NO independent, continuous entity. One can say that karmicallly (karma means action or happening) appearances arise because of the mix of interdependent 'causes' all of which together create that particular arising and as long as such causes persist such arising will also persist. We know this to be true because of the truth of interdependency. So again: because there is no independent, solid individual entity, therefore reincarnation must be true since it is happening from moment to moment right now, even as the same person typing or reading the beginning of this sentence types or reads it at the end. [end of insert]

In this context, rebirth is simply the flashing on and off of individuated consciousness. The same process which allows 'me' the continuity between sleeping and waking or fetching cups of tea also is at work in the birthing of 'new' consciousnesses in the form of infants into this world. As such, the whole notion is really not a big deal.

If you want to get into tulkus, then the question really is: are there higher and lower forms of birth, not only inter-species but intra-species. This is a class/hierarchy issue which requires a higher order of context (defining higher and lower) to make any sense. But also, assuming one had that conversation and definitions of superior and inferior made (which is done clearly in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition with many categories and sub-categories), then you get into what are the causes of such conditions. And these causes are also clearly laid out. Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation is probably the most accessible text on this subject and is rightly, in the Tibetan tradition, the root text for most students embarking on a long-term course of studies.

Those who wish to attack the whole thing as silly superstition would do far better to read that text and then attack that text citing precise passages in context than taking snapshots from contemporary media or random interviews here and there plucked out of the raging torrent of multicultural modernity which provides a confusing context for discourse, to say the least, because so many differing a-prioris drive the conversation without being acknowledged as such and therefore, again, one ends up comparing apples and oranges whilst ostensibly discussing grapes.

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Diebert van Rhijn
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Re: continuity

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Sun Aug 12, 2007 12:17 am

Tharpa, a bulky post but I've zoomed in on what I believe was the issue:
So the reason there MUST be reincarnation is the same reason that there clearly is NO independent, continuous entity
This is no reincarnation as commonly understood because if there's no independent, continuous entity to reincarnate in the first place, then there's nothing to reincarnate. The similarities we might encounter in people, places and events can create this illusion but perhaps only tells us something about interdependence and how histories and people 'repeat' underlying bigger patterns, etc. If you want to redefine reincarnation to this appearance then it's fine but the line of reasoning seems really different.
tharpa wrote:In this context, rebirth is simply the flashing on and off of individuated consciousness. The same process which allows 'me' the continuity between sleeping and waking or fetching cups of tea also is at work in the birthing of 'new' consciousnesses in the form of infants into this world. As such, the whole notion is really not a big deal.
Of course there's a continuity perceived through your collections of memories before and after fetching tea. They are so similar that it appears seamless unless the tea was spiked. If aliens replaced your memories and neural pathways while you were busy with the tea (effectively dying and being reborn), what kind of continuity would there be perceived? You might throw away the tea because you prefer coffee now and perhaps experience a complete break-down in functioning, because the break in continuity is too large to deal with.

The only continuity perceived by an on-looker is seeing the same person walking by and then carried off.
Those who wish to attack the whole thing as silly superstition would do far better to read that text and then attack that text citing precise passages in context than taking snapshots from contemporary media or random interviews here and there plucked out of the raging torrent of multicultural modernity which provides a confusing context for discourse, to say the least, because so many differing a-prioris drive the conversation without being acknowledged as such and therefore, again, one ends up comparing apples and oranges whilst ostensibly discussing grapes.
I'd prefer attacking your understanding of the truth in it, than discuss some scripture which is dead anyway. It only lives on in your reading, while it might not be the same teaching anymore. Your reading and understanding of it is way more interesting than the text and might be worth the effort.

However I'm not sure how big our differences on this topic are. For me our discussion started with your saying that "... consciousness is a function of the space principle beyond location and time". Which I do find very vague and possibly avoiding the indications that it's closer to a function of the brain, or a certain scale of complexity and interrelation which we only know right now of existing in the brain. Any suggestion of 'larger' forms of consciousness on different scales (a group, country, planet or cosmos) is a different matter and increasingly difficult to establish definitions for.

To me consciousness is a very earthy, very human thing. To assume more than that we have to avoid the pitfall of mixing religious notions (invisible world, hyper-dimensions, being without relating, causeless cause) with existential philosophy.

tharpa
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by tharpa » Sun Aug 12, 2007 12:52 am

There is no point in discussing a text except with those who have read and contemplating it. So that is a non-starter unfortunately. So you are just left with my remarks, which are not about that text but are remarks of whatever worth.

I think you ducked continuity. I was speaking in a very earthy, practical way. Is it not your experience that you are the same person who got up to go to the toilet who returns to his desk afterwards? That is continuity.

Also in terms of changing the definition: with respect, there is not a single buddhist school from the most basic to the most sophisticated that doesn't very early on deconstruct the notion (and experience) of a solid self. That being the case, the notion of a solid continuous self re-incarnating is totally absurd and I am not aware of a single buddhist school that promotes it. The fact that tirtikas (non-buddhists) who believe in solid, continuous selves assume that the rebirth doctrines are about how solid continuous selves reincarnate from one birth to the next is a commonly held fallacy throughout the ages. This is why, for example, the buddhist teachings are often subdivided into three (or nine) vehicles. The teachings in each vehicle/way/level/approach are geared to make sense to the type of level/style student studying and practicing them. To those for whom reality is solid and real, the Hinayana teachings are the best. In these teachings a table is a table and a person is a person. Confusion and pain are solid, as is the ability to rest in samadhi and cut the chains of attachment.

For those who deconstruct things both intellectually and experientially - the Quinns and Solways etc. - the Mahayana approach makes more sense in which, having understood that all phenomena are appearances as such, the workings of karma are infinitely more subtle, yet no less axiomatic, however the interconnection of all selves with all others is revealed as the ruling paradigm of phenomenal existence at which point the emphasis is on transcendental action and perception, being fully engaged in the world without barriers set up by selfish ignorant patterns, often translated as 'conflicting emotions and primitive beliefs about reality' (in the Gampopa translation by Guenther back in the 1970's.)

In short, I might have been doing a bad job of it, but I have not been changing the usual notion of reincarnation or rebirth (the preferred term) in terms of the buddhist tradition. The whole way this is often discussed here is a bit of a straw man, frankly. Again: the issue is: what is the continuity principle at work when you get a cup of tea? Because that is the same principle at work in terms of any rebirth notion. It's as simple as that. What is more interesting, as I also said earlier, is to start to lift up the flap of the abstract tent involving broad general concept like 'rebirth' and step into the living inner mandala of actual experienced detail, in this case by examining directly: 'what are the differences between various births/situations and what are the causes for those various conditions?' Clearly there are higher and lower situations, or favourable and unfavourable if you prefer. Studying cause and effect in this way leads one to understand that motivation and action provide some of the basis of continuity from one moment to the next in that the ability to manifest in this moment depends upon the karmic inheritance of the previous one. What are the karmic implications of having bodies like the ones we do, with particular senses and faculties, including intellect and speech. What are the causes of such faculties and abilities? This also is part of the study of the 'rebirth' question but again: it is far more interesting just to keep things in the present moment rather than speculating about what happens before the womb or after death, since such appearances are hidden to us once we are in these particular living formats. This last sentence does not imply that 'we' continue as such after death. But of course there is continuity.

Solway's fountain analogy (like all analogies) breaks down. Since there is nothing about the fountain that is meaningful he might as well have said machine. If you turn the machine off it stops, it dies. False. Because the same interconnected agency that turned it on at first, then turned it off, can turn it back on. So the continuity is not about the fountain or machine. It is about the overall situation which continues whether or not a particular person or entity is there or not. So what is that continuity? Or is that too non-existent? And what are the elements that comprise different particularities such as favorable and unfavorable situations?

Rather than simply rebutt, you could also respond: do you have answers to these questions? Then there is more dialog. I don't pretend to have all the answer to this. But I am putting forth that long discussions about how all buddhists don't get it viz reincarnation are somewhat solipsistic because most of the time the objection is a straw man that most buddhists - except beginners or tirtikas - would never go along with anyway. And buddhist teachers from foreign cultures for whom english is still a difficult language are ill equipped to deal with these discussions not understanding fully the assumptions brought to the table by their interlocutors. Again, much wasted time on this.

Since there is no ego there is no 'me' to reincarnate. Every single buddhist school in existence would agree with that. With that as a given, what is rebirth? What do you think? That because consciousness is in the brain therefore we are simply biological machines? That is a valid view to hold.

In any case: I would like to see one example of personal evidence in your experience that consciousness is produced in the brain. Personally, I haven't found one. Or at least that it is only or mainly in the brain, or even that it is only or mainly in the body.

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Diebert van Rhijn
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Sun Aug 12, 2007 2:20 am

tharpa wrote:There is no point in discussing a text except with those who have read and contemplating it. So that is a non-starter unfortunately. So you are just left with my remarks, which are not about that text but are remarks of whatever worth.
There's no point in bringing up a text without giving any specifics in relation to it. That sounds more like appealing to authority. If you have any real insight (ie: not copied over mindlessly) in the matter, such text is trivial compared to it.
I think you ducked continuity. I was speaking in a very earthy, practical way. Is it not your experience that you are the same person who got up to go to the toilet who returns to his desk afterwards? That is continuity.
It doesn't seem earthy to me when you speak of (a single) consciousness beyond or as function of space and time. I never argued about the truth in continuity or interdependent arising, that's the direction you went in on your own.
the notion of a solid continuous self re-incarnating is totally absurd and I am not aware of a single buddhist school that promotes it.
You're now propping up terms 'solid' like you introduced before 'independent' in the reincarnation question. How many people on Earth believe in totally independent things or some kind of solidness that doesn't have relations to the surroundings? The introduction of these qualifiers act like red herrings.

Most traditional Buddhist schools still believe that Buddha actually wrote many of their holy texts as they are, including references to his rebirth. This causes still many followers to interpret it literary.

The real situations around what Buddhist schools believe and not seems to me way more complex. Certainly their use of terms like 'karma' and 'bardo' have varying interpretations, many of them implicating there's actually something that moves on between 'lifetimes'. There are no statistics what the majority beliefs to my knowing. I just go with my own experience on that, if I really have to.
The fact that tirtikas (non-buddhists) who believe in solid, continuous selves assume that the rebirth doctrines are about how solid continuous selves reincarnate from one birth to the next is a commonly held fallacy throughout the ages.
Just as it is a common fallacy amongst ordinary Buddhists.
The teachings in each vehicle/way/level/approach are geared to make sense to the type of level/style student studying and practicing them.
Every religious tradition seems to possess such esoteric branch or level, but it's not as neatly organized as you imply here. To me it seems more like a few understanding teachers trying to make something out of what basically is a big conflicting mess, not just 'introductory levels'.
the workings of karma are infinitely more subtle, yet no less axiomatic
Just as infinitely subtle as the workings of the ego are, I'm sure.
the world without barriers set up by selfish ignorant patterns, often translated as 'conflicting emotions and primitive beliefs about reality' (in the Gampopa translation by Guenther back in the 1970's.)
There's no 'world without barriers' by definition and selfish patterns are just the way all organisms appear to function. Ignorance arises only when there's contradiction in understanding, no matter the 'level' we think or interpret our experiences.
In short, I might have been doing a bad job of it, but I have not been changing the usual notion of reincarnation or rebirth (the preferred term) in terms of the buddhist tradition.
This was not really the issue. I was talking about your view on what 'consciousness' is, not your view on rebirth. Unless I missed the connection somehow.
it is far more interesting just to keep things in the present moment rather than speculating about what happens before the womb or after death, since such appearances are hidden to us once we are in these particular living formats. This last sentence does not imply that 'we' continue as such after death. But of course there is continuity.
Okay, but where does that leave consciousness, if for example we turn the planet into one big parking lot? Without cars or anything else of course.
Solway's fountain analogy (like all analogies) breaks down. Since there is nothing about the fountain that is meaningful he might as well have said machine. If you turn the machine off it stops, it dies. False. Because the same interconnected agency that turned it on at first, then turned it off, can turn it back on. So the continuity is not about the fountain or machine. It is about the overall situation which continues whether or not a particular person or entity is there or not.
But what happens to the consciousness? I think the behavior of the water in a fountain is still a good analogy because in another fountain it could create a very similar pattern. There's no Platonic 'blueprint' causing the water to create this beautiful shape. It's not part of the whole in any degree different that everything is part of it, like the stone of the fountain or some bubble in the streaming water.
It is about the overall situation which continues whether or not a particular person or entity is there or not. So what is that continuity? Or is that too non-existent?
The question was, at least as far as my participation in this discussion goes: can we call it consciousness or not? Continuity appears to be the case or at least we can observe that. If our own consciousness stops, the question stops as well.
And what are the elements that comprise different particularities such as favorable and unfavorable situations?
Other possibly favorable or unfavorable situations.
And buddhist teachers from foreign cultures for whom english is still a difficult language are ill equipped to deal with these discussions not understanding fully the assumptions brought to the table by their interlocutors. Again, much wasted time on this.
There appear still too many Buddhist teachers who don't share the understanding you proclaim. That's just my evaluation and impression and I admit it could be wrong. It's not my work to poll teachers and Buddhists on rebirth, and I'm not aware so such undertaking by anyone. What I do know is that people often project their own understandings on the people they feel aligned with. For example when I was a Christian and always told people most Christians, the educated ones, were very open-minded and didn't believe in an anthropomorphic god or a literal Bible text. Probably because the people I met and the literature I was reading gave me that impression. Later on I have to admit the global reality might have been different than my perception.
Since there is no ego there is no 'me' to reincarnate. Every single buddhist school in existence would agree with that. With that as a given, what is rebirth? What do you think? That because consciousness is in the brain therefore we are simply biological machines? That is a valid view to hold.
Some things are 'reborn' which seem ego-related however. For example patterns of family violence and abuse.

I wouldn't say "simply" biological machines. Why not amazing, mind-blowing, magical, divine machines? :) And then there's always the things we don't know yet and can only speculate about now.
In any case: I would like to see one example of personal evidence in your experience that consciousness is produced in the brain. Personally, I haven't found one. Or at least that it is only or mainly in the brain, or even that it is only or mainly in the body.
To answer that I'd like to see your definition of consciousness. How else to make any shared 'evidence' meaningful? I could say that people with brain damage, without any measurable brain activity left do not show any signs of consciousness. If they would have still any, it's certainly beyond detection which relies on our definition of it of course.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by tharpa » Sun Aug 12, 2007 2:37 am

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
tharpa wrote:There is no point in discussing a text except with those who have read and contemplating it. So that is a non-starter unfortunately. So you are just left with my remarks, which are not about that text but are remarks of whatever worth.
There's no point in bringing up a text without giving any specifics in relation to it. That sounds more like appealing to authority. If you have any real insight (ie: not copied over mindlessly) in the matter, such text is trivial compared to it.
Sorry, don't feel like putting out a 150 page thesis for those who haven't read it. I regard your remark above as a bit childish, as if it is always inappropriate to study past wisdom. If that were the case, Quinn would have had to make up everything on this site from scratch without referring to anything before. Silly.
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
I think you ducked continuity. I was speaking in a very earthy, practical way. Is it not your experience that you are the same person who got up to go to the toilet who returns to his desk afterwards? That is continuity.
It doesn't seem earthy to me when you speak of (a single) consciousness beyond or as function of space and time. I never argued about the truth in continuity or interdependent arising, that's the direction you went in on your own.
Well, that 'continuity' is the same as 'rebirth'. So there is no argument.
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
the notion of a solid continuous self re-incarnating is totally absurd and I am not aware of a single buddhist school that promotes it.
You're now propping up terms 'solid' like you introduced before 'independent' in the reincarnation question. How many people on Earth believe in totally independent things or some kind of solidness that doesn't have relations to the surroundings? The introduction of these qualifiers act like red herrings.

Most traditional Buddhist schools still believe that Buddha actually wrote many of their holy texts as they are, including references to his rebirth. This causes still many followers to interpret it literally.

The real situations around what Buddhist schools believe and not seems to me way more complex. Certainly their use of terms like 'karma' and 'bardo' have varying interpretations, many of them implicating there's actually something that moves on between 'lifetimes'. There are no statistics what the majority beliefs to my knowing. I just go with my own experience on that, if I really have to.
The fact that tirtikas (non-buddhists) who believe in solid, continuous selves assume that the rebirth doctrines are about how solid continuous selves reincarnate from one birth to the next is a commonly held fallacy throughout the ages.
Just as it is a common fallacy amongst ordinary Buddhists.
The teachings in each vehicle/way/level/approach are geared to make sense to the type of level/style student studying and practicing them.
Every religious tradition seems to possess such esoteric branch or level, but it's not as neatly organized as you imply here. To me it seems more like a few understanding teachers trying to make something out of what basically is a big conflicting mess, not just 'introductory levels'.
It is precisely organised in that way. Of course, those who never study texts but only engage in conversations don't know this!
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
the workings of karma are infinitely more subtle, yet no less axiomatic
Just as infinitely subtle as the workings of the ego are, I'm sure.
the world without barriers set up by selfish ignorant patterns, often translated as 'conflicting emotions and primitive beliefs about reality' (in the Gampopa translation by Guenther back in the 1970's.)
There's no 'world without barriers' by definition and selfish patterns are just the way all organisms appear to function. Ignorance arises only when there's contradiction in understanding, no matter the 'level' we think or interpret our experiences.
In short, I might have been doing a bad job of it, but I have not been changing the usual notion of reincarnation or rebirth (the preferred term) in terms of the buddhist tradition.
This was not really the issue. I was talking about your view on what 'consciousness' is, not your view on rebirth. Unless I missed the connection somehow.
it is far more interesting just to keep things in the present moment rather than speculating about what happens before the womb or after death, since such appearances are hidden to us once we are in these particular living formats. This last sentence does not imply that 'we' continue as such after death. But of course there is continuity.
Okay, but where does that leave consciousness, if for example we turn the planet into one big parking lot? Without cars or anything else of course.
Solway's fountain analogy (like all analogies) breaks down. Since there is nothing about the fountain that is meaningful he might as well have said machine. If you turn the machine off it stops, it dies. False. Because the same interconnected agency that turned it on at first, then turned it off, can turn it back on. So the continuity is not about the fountain or machine. It is about the overall situation which continues whether or not a particular person or entity is there or not.
But what happens to the consciousness? I think the behavior of the water in a fountain is still a good analogy because in another fountain it could create a very similar pattern. There's no Platonic 'blueprint' causing the water to create this beautiful shape. It's not part of the whole in any degree different that everything is part of it, like the stone of the fountain or some bubble in the streaming water.
It is about the overall situation which continues whether or not a particular person or entity is there or not. So what is that continuity? Or is that too non-existent?
The question was, at least as far as my participation in this discussion goes: can we call it consciousness or not? Continuity appears to be the case or at least we can observe that. If our own consciousness stops, the question stops as well.
And what are the elements that comprise different particularities such as favorable and unfavorable situations?
Other possibly favorable or unfavorable situations.
And buddhist teachers from foreign cultures for whom english is still a difficult language are ill equipped to deal with these discussions not understanding fully the assumptions brought to the table by their interlocutors. Again, much wasted time on this.
There appear still too many Buddhist teachers who don't share the understanding you proclaim. That's just my evaluation and impression and I admit it could be wrong. It's not my work to poll teachers and Buddhists on rebirth, and I'm not aware so such undertaking by anyone. What I do know is that people often project their own understandings on the people they feel aligned with. For example when I was a Christian and always told people most Christians, the educated ones, were very open-minded and didn't believe in an anthropomorphic god or a literal Bible text. Probably because the people I met and the literature I was reading gave me that impression. Later on I have to admit the global reality might have been different than my perception.
Since there is no ego there is no 'me' to reincarnate. Every single buddhist school in existence would agree with that. With that as a given, what is rebirth? What do you think? That because consciousness is in the brain therefore we are simply biological machines? That is a valid view to hold.
Some things are 'reborn' which seem ego-related however. For example patterns of family violence and abuse.

I wouldn't say "simply" biological machines. Why not amazing, mind-blowing, magical, divine machines? :) And then there's always the things we don't know yet and can only speculate about now.
In any case: I would like to see one example of personal evidence in your experience that consciousness is produced in the brain. Personally, I haven't found one. Or at least that it is only or mainly in the brain, or even that it is only or mainly in the body.
To answer that I'd like to see your definition of consciousness. How else to make any shared 'evidence' meaningful? I could say that people with brain damage, without any measurable brain activity left do not show any signs of consciousness. If they would have still any, it's certainly beyond detection which relies on our definition of it of course.
[/quote]

People without heartbeats also don't show any sign of consciousness. Basically, all that is saying is that people who are dead are no longer conscious and that you need the brain to remain alive (unless you are a French civil servant!). But there are many things needed to stay alive, including intact arteries. Cut off your penis (if you are male) and in very little time you will have no consciousness. This does not prove that consciousness is produced by the penis, although come to think of it...... !

It's your proposal that consciousness comes from the brain so you define what you mean. I thought we were discussing the straw man reincarnation issue mainly but perhaps I have forgotten our original thrust. I am basically talking about mind and body being neither the same nor different. Therefore one cannot be said to be the creator of the other. Which goes back to why because there is no continuous self therefore the only logical explanation for what is going on is continuous moment by moment rebirthing. It is precisely because he is not the same person as the thirteenth DL that he can be the 'tulku' known as the XIVth. Simple.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by Kevin Solway » Sun Aug 12, 2007 8:11 am

tharpa wrote:It is precisely because he is not the same person as the thirteenth DL that he can be the 'tulku' known as the XIVth.
Tharpa, why do you think there are not, say 50 thirteenth Dalai Lama's, or 103? Assuming there is any significant causal link between one Dalai Lama and the next, what do you think keeps those causal connections so narrowly limited that they are constrained to the one person in each generation?

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Sun Aug 12, 2007 12:30 pm

tharpa wrote: Sorry, don't feel like putting out a 150 page thesis for those who haven't read it. I regard your remark above as a bit childish, as if it is always inappropriate to study past wisdom. If that were the case, Quinn would have had to make up everything on this site from scratch without referring to anything before. Silly.
Sorry you got the impression I wasn't raising a serious or advanced point. As you'll see later on I'm still not sure what the reason was you brought up the text and insisted on reading it without further introduction. That would explain my reaction a bit, I hope.
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
Every religious tradition seems to possess such esoteric branch or level, but it's not as neatly organized as you imply here. To me it seems more like a few understanding teachers trying to make something out of what basically is a big conflicting mess, not just 'introductory levels'.
It is precisely organised in that way. Of course, those who never study texts but only engage in conversations don't know this!
You'd be surprised how many of them I'm quite versed in. But in conversations I often avoid them and the usual terminology for a very specific reason: that they're tainted.
People without heartbeats also don't show any sign of consciousness.
And that brick over there doesn't show any sign either while it's part of the hospital wall where the braindead person is lying!
Basically, all that is saying is that people who are dead are no longer conscious and that you need the brain to remain alive
But we don't need arms or legs for that. We can replace the heart and other organs, or hook them up to machines, so at least we know the consciousness is not in there!

I agree that consciousness is commonly related to a functioning body, functioning in its environment. But that's perhaps only because it's unethical to make a brain live in a vat? Do you think a brain in a vat cannot have consciousness? With or without sense deprivation.
I thought we were discussing the straw man reincarnation issue mainly but perhaps I have forgotten our original thrust.
Well, that's my impression too: that you brought reincarnation into it without any apparent reason. I never even disagreed with you about the essentials of rebirth or reincarnation. I was waiting for you to link it with consciousness in some interesting way.
I am basically talking about mind and body being neither the same nor different. Therefore one cannot be said to be the creator of the other.
It's like talking about a house and its inhabitants. The inhabitants do not equal the house, so they are different. Without the house we cannot speak of its inhabitants (perhaps of homeless people). But without inhabitants we still have a house and a case of 'missing inhabitants'. The causal relationship seems clear. The inhabitants do not make the house.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by tharpa » Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:15 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:
tharpa wrote:It is precisely because he is not the same person as the thirteenth DL that he can be the 'tulku' known as the XIVth.
Tharpa, why do you think there are not, say 50 thirteenth Dalai Lama's, or 103? Assuming there is any significant causal link between one Dalai Lama and the next, what do you think keeps those causal connections so narrowly limited that they are constrained to the one person in each generation?
Because you are thinking of the reincarnation as being one person reincarnating into a new body. Although this is possible (it is called transference of consciousness but you usually do it into a corpse and I think few people today know that trick!), it is not what is implied in the 'blessed tulku' tradition for people like DL XIV. There is only one usually (although sometimes they are 'reborn' in multiples such as the Khyentse, Jamgon and other tulkus around today) because only one is needed to sit on the throne of the previous one and perform those same functions.

If you were to be a bit more Victorian or Elizabethan about it, that also would help. For example, when you address a Monarch in the old days you were not talking to an individual but the King or Queen as such and they would reply using the Royal We because their speech was not representing themselves personally (i.e. as in Harry, Liz, Dick etc.) but the entire realm including all subjects therein of which they were monarch. Indeed, in societies with more ordered cultural forms, aka class systems, even husbands and wives lived more for their roles than their individualities. We have the modern view of a person as being an individual with their own agenda, character, role and destiny (largely from the Jewish side of our 'judeo-christian' western culture). This is not the view held by people in olden times nor still-medieval confucian-style societies. They literally don't see life the same way we do but we insist that they do, just like British Imperialists dealing with the savage natives of yore. So we take a notion like tulku or reincarnation, translate it into the modern idiom in which it makes no sense and then throw it back at them saying, 'how ridiculous!'. Which it is. And which is exactly what they think too, by the way, and why most of them prefer not to bring up the subject since it clearly fascinates Westerners who, having barked up the wrong tree, seem determined to piss all over it as well!

One thing that most westerners don't know is that Tibetan is a complex language hierarchically speaking, although in linguistic terms we use the word 'honorific'. They have strict rules of behaviour and speech based on the principles of upper, middle and lower. There are entire vocabularies for same objects or situations using different terms for the same thing depending on the level. A high person is not the same as a low person, so there is a different word for person. The notion of tulku is part of this honorific vocabulary. For us in the west indoctrinated in the notion that there is one solid consistent 'objective' 'reality', such an approach seems flowery. But again: if you imagine yourself living in a more Shakespearian type of world (the world he wrote not necessarily the world he lived in, which is now unknowable in any case), that might help understand. This is why I keep saying you/we are comparing apples and oranges by not properly establishing the vocabulary from the get go. There is a lot of 'lost in translation' going on.

I think I explained in an earlier post last year that if you think of the blessed tulku lineage as being something similar to 'inheriting' the office of the President of the USA. Like once you take the oath of office and sit in the chair behind the desk, which only very few empowered predecessors have done, something happens. And it is not so much to you, but to your role in society, which includes how others treat you. At that point you are no longer Kevin but Mr. President, even to people who have known you for years. If you understand tulku this way, it will make more sense. The Tibetan monastic culture (into which such tulkus mainly are 'born') creates a karmic situation in which someone has to sit on a central throne manifesting enlightened wisdom and compassion. Because they have built it, so to speak, someone arrives to sit there, someone they train from infancy. You can argue about the methods of selection, but most of the older, established tulku lines leave hints and messages before they die. The first one to do this formally, the Karmapa tulku, nearly always left a letter describing name of parents, location and year. That made it easier. But few have the ability to see things in the future this way so obviously in most cases it's a more intuitive process. Whether or not the process is valid and verifiable, the end result, however, is very clear and consistent. The karmic/societal structure they have built needing someone to sit on that throne results in someone sitting on that throne. The entire tradition is an extension of understanding how cause and effect works, which is why I find it ironic that you keep attacking it as an example of not understanding cause and effect. These chaps have been at it for over a millenia and have learned a trick or two, you know, odd as their ways might seem to those of us who have not mastered dream-walking and consciousness-transference but think we are superior because we drive around in petrol-powered mechanical contraptions!
Last edited by tharpa on Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by tharpa » Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:39 pm

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
tharpa wrote: Sorry, don't feel like putting out a 150 page thesis for those who haven't read it. I regard your remark above as a bit childish, as if it is always inappropriate to study past wisdom. If that were the case, Quinn would have had to make up everything on this site from scratch without referring to anything before. Silly.
Sorry you got the impression I wasn't raising a serious or advanced point. As you'll see later on I'm still not sure what the reason was you brought up the text and insisted on reading it without further introduction. That would explain my reaction a bit, I hope.
Well, it was in the context of understanding more about how the rebirth notion is discussed in the original tradition, versus nowadays in radio and TV interviews. If one is interested in the topic, it's a good text to read. I believe to this day it is the most widely read and studied text in the Tibetan advanced training traditions (although its their basic starter text). Good stuff. My point was that to explain the whole thing I would have to write out the whole thing, which is obviously impractical. NBD.
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
Every religious tradition seems to possess such esoteric branch or level, but it's not as neatly organized as you imply here. To me it seems more like a few understanding teachers trying to make something out of what basically is a big conflicting mess, not just 'introductory levels'.
It is precisely organised in that way. Of course, those who never study texts but only engage in conversations don't know this!
You'd be surprised how many of them I'm quite versed in. But in conversations I often avoid them and the usual terminology for a very specific reason: that they're tainted.
Well, you ducked out of that one! The fact is, you were wrong. What other traditions may or may not do is not relevant to the point here that this one is quite sophisticated with multiple levels and thrusts. That is why it remains dynamic and vibrant after 2,500 years. In fact, it's one of the key aspects of the methodology and one of the most fascinating ones to boot.
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
People without heartbeats also don't show any sign of consciousness.
And that brick over there doesn't show any sign either while it's part of the hospital wall where the braindead person is lying!
Basically, all that is saying is that people who are dead are no longer conscious and that you need the brain to remain alive
But we don't need arms or legs for that. We can replace the heart and other organs, or hook them up to machines, so at least we know the consciousness is not in there!
The fact that removing some parts causes death and others does not is not relevant to proving the location of consciousness, nor does it prove there is only one main source of consciousness. Consciousness (the human experience) might be an interdependent thingumajig requiring multiple hardware connections in order to function, of which arms and legs - providing you also have surgeons standing at the ready because of course in the natural world you would bleed to death if someone chopped them off! - are minor contributing factors. However: certain aspects of human consciousness/experience will change when you chop off both arms, and therefore it is conceivable that hands, for example, have a consciousness aspect to them. Certainly most faith healers or massage therapists would say so.
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
I agree that consciousness is commonly related to a functioning body, functioning in its environment. But that's perhaps only because it's unethical to make a brain live in a vat? Do you think a brain in a vat cannot have consciousness? With or without sense deprivation.
I personally have no interest in treating the human body like a machine. If a brain in a vat did have consciousness, I would feel terribly sorry for it, and an it is all it would be. Very sad.
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
I thought we were discussing the straw man reincarnation issue mainly but perhaps I have forgotten our original thrust.
Well, that's my impression too: that you brought reincarnation into it without any apparent reason. I never even disagreed with you about the essentials of rebirth or reincarnation. I was waiting for you to link it with consciousness in some interesting way.
I believe the straw man is part of what started this thread.
Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
I am basically talking about mind and body being neither the same nor different. Therefore one cannot be said to be the creator of the other.
It's like talking about a house and its inhabitants. The inhabitants do not equal the house, so they are different. Without the house we cannot speak of its inhabitants (perhaps of homeless people). But without inhabitants we still have a house and a case of 'missing inhabitants'. The causal relationship seems clear. The inhabitants do not make the house.
[/quote]

Well that last paragraph was the one I found most interesting, and I suspect you did too. But I must confess: I don't understand. Also, you still don't want to volunteer what you mean by consciousness. We have house and inhabitants analogy, though which is consciousness is not clear to me (could be either, no?) and the brain in vat fantasy. What is consciousness?

Furthermore, there has been no link made that I can see between consciousness and the rebirth issue, unless one is assuming (fallaciously) that buddhist notions of rebirth involve Person A reincarnating after death into Body B but still being Person A. That seems to assume some sort of consciousness or soul migrating from one body to another. But I have not read of this doctrine anywhere in any of the buddhist teachings. In any case, apart from this erroneous interpretation, why do you think consciousness is the key thing to discuss in terms of rebirth?

So two questions for our discussion to hone in on:
1. Your definition of consciousness so I can understand better what you mean by that term
2. How it relates to the rebirth-reincarnation topic of this thread?

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fundamentalism as a sub-plot

Post by tharpa » Mon Aug 13, 2007 12:15 am

I thought it was interesting the anecdote in the radio interview with Dr. Berzin how K and Q took pride in not respecting the simple form of standing when a teacher enters or not putting the soles of the feet towards the shrine. Of course there can be some value to stirring the pot, challenging rigidity etc. But at the same time, when two people enter in a conversation, it is far better if there is mutual respect; indeed without it, there cannot be a meaningful, intelligent conversation, one in which mutual learning unfolds.

To the western view, standing when the teacher enters is all about aggrandizing the teacher and debasing the student. Being respectful to a shrine is all about 'worshipping' the powerful gods of the shrine. However, this is a bad 'translation' of the form. To the traditional view, the purpose of gathering together to hear, contemplate and meditate on (so-called) spiritual matters is something to be treated with respect, just as life should be treated with respect, just as each moment of precious life should be treated with respect. So simple forms like standing when a teacher enters (things we in the west used to do un-selfconsciously only 50 years ago and which are still practiced in many societies) are about creating a communal atmosphere of mutual respect and wakefulness. The shrine represents that which is most uplifted, good, pure, accurate and so forth. So treating it with respect is treating those aspects of oneself and one's companions with respect.

There are said to be three types of bad students likened to pots or vessels. Those that are turned upside down into which nothing can be poured, those that are cracked and therefore leak, and those with poison in them, so that even if you pour in nectar it is still poisonous. Anyone behaving like Q and K in a teaching situation in traditional societies would have been politely asked to leave since clearly their intention was to damage the teaching and learning atmosphere for others, which shows disrespect for everyone and therefore disrespects time, which ultimately is the only thing we have as humans. Time is precious. Understand that this is not meant as a persona remark about K and Q, simply that there is a certain language that seems to be not understood. The bottom line: nobody is being forced to be in that room. But if you are in that room, it is good to respect the forms that have developed over a long time designed to encourage the participants - which includes both teacher and students - to fulfill the purpose of their gathering together at that particular place and time.

OK. But what about exposing idiot fundamentalism? Superstition? Worshiping of false gods? To my mind, idiot fundamentalism is when one holds a view rigidly, especially one about others who don't hold that view, and refuses to learn when it is shown that your view holds no water. For example here on this forum it seems to come up regularly (because I only pop in every 6 months or so for a few days) about how stupid all the buddhists are. Why this is of interest for people who are not buddhists (but nevertheless depend upon core buddhist doctrines of interdependent causality, aka pratityasamutpada) is beyond me unless it is that people like feeling superior and the cheapest way to do this is denigrate others. But despite the fact that there is ample evidence that the way buddhist 'beliefs' in 'reincarnation' are not at all what the tradition traditionally holds, and even when buddhists themselves disagree with the characerizations or definitions, the fundamentalist position here holds rigidly. I know that Kevin is never going to change his mind on this. He had some experiences a few years ago with a few people, experiences which he boasts about not respecting at the time (and therefore he was clearly not tuned into whatever they were trying to express, good or bad) and that is that. Discussions of the issue will not be substantive, will not reference classic sources. To me, that is a form of fundamentalism, the key mark of which is the desire to maintain a position no matter what.

Such a posture is one in which there is no more learning. And where there is no more learning, there is most certainly no enlightenment. Teachers learn as much from students as vice versa. In fact, what is going on in a teaching mandala is learning. All involved are learning. Learning is an endless process and clearly one of the most valuable, precious, delightful things about being a human. Some say it is the single most important thing, the reason we are born being to learn. I think there is much truth in this. And those who teach are continuing that learning process, turning the wheel of learning. Learning is not a destination as in accumulating certain data or conceptual understandings that at some point remain fixed, any more than learning to ride a horse means that you never get in the saddle again. No, whenever you ride, you are with the horse, the gait, the passing terrain, yourself. You are learning.

That there are a wide range of understandings and views about consciousness, rebirth and so forth is to be expected, especially given that there are a wide range of views about the nature of self and other, aka reality. Each type of view of self will have a different type of view about the nature of reality and consciousness and all the rest of it. And within each view, there can be learning. So the truth is not so much something static and objective as it is a process of learning to see what one is already seeing and also see both the wisdom and the confusion in that view. In fact, seeing the limitations of any particular view IS wisdom, and that process of seeing is ITSELF learning which is why the teacher is learning by teaching the students who learn by hearing and contemplating and providing the material that is being studied, which is their views and understanding of whatever is being discussed.

So really when arguing about the Tibetan tulku tradition and so forth, it is more important that there be some sort of learning going on than fixed opinions being further reinforced. And you can tell this is happening when no matter what evidence to the contrary is supplied, the view remains the same. I come here to see in what ways I am being fundamentally and idiotic fundamentalist, i.e. where my notions are overly rigid. There is a certain clarity and sanity to the way Quinn expresses the 'philosophic' process. But most of the arguments about what buddhists 'believe' etc. seem to have little to do with that process and more to do with reinforcing idiot fundamentalism of the modernist variety, unable to appreciate the many different modes of perception that are available in the human realm, trying to insist that only one mode is correct.

That view is always wrong and, more importantly, never furthers learning.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Mon Aug 13, 2007 2:31 am

tharpa wrote:(to Kevin)....you are thinking of the reincarnation as being one person reincarnating into a new body. Although this is possible, it is not what is implied in the 'blessed tulku' tradition for people like DL XIV. There is only one usually (although sometimes they are 'reborn' in multiples such as the Khyentse, Jamgon and other tulkus around today) because only one is needed to sit on the throne of the previous one and perform those same functions.
If it's not implied it would be interesting to see a deeper translation of the "search of the new Dalai Lama". Assuming these monks performing it have a higher understanding, why are they're doing the exact things that would imply a person with memories incarnating to most witnesses. Is it all show? Are they bad teachers? Keeping the audience dumb? Is it only symbolic?

Even you still think a person reincarnaring into a new body is possible without a shred of doubt. Why not just believe in simple 'Western way interpreted' reincarnation while you're at it?
Although this is possible (it is called transference of consciousness but you usually do it into a corpse and I think few people today know that trick!),
Everything becomes possible when invoking a "complex hierarchical language" that must be studied in depth before understanding the 'trick'. Don't you see the obscurity invoked that undermines your arguments? Can consciousness be transferred or not? What makes you believe this?
since it clearly fascinates Westerners who, having barked up the wrong tree, seem determined to piss all over it as well!
Westerners believed for a long time in resurrection, heaven, hell and a holy spirit making people 'believe' in scripture. Many have second guessed this tradition with good reason and are tempted to doubt similar religious scripts. And the wise will be cautious seeing that the traditions contain truth but they have nothing to do with a magic show - it doesn't have to oppose science.
They have strict rules of behaviour and speech based on the principles of upper, middle and lower. There are entire vocabularies for same objects or situations using different terms for the same thing depending on the level.
Have you ever wondered that this mega-structure could be based on the basic power-based functioning of society and culture? Guarded knowledge is power. The base of it has not much to do anymore with spirituality, but with declined spirituality, corrupted, obscured and now desperately hiding behind the curtain like a wizard of Oz. Don't touch our holy secrets! It's all we have left! It only works when you don't look or question!
These chaps have been at it for over a millenia and have learned a trick or two, you know, odd as their ways might seem to those of us who have not mastered dream-walking and consciousness-transference but think we are superior because we drive around in petrol-powered mechanical contraptions!
Dream walking is not that difficult and the transference you talk about is a form of make-believe. And that's something that was been mastered in all cultures by all in position of power and influence. I'm not against it by the way, but its' not for truth seekers: they have to go beyond the charade and see the emperors without cloths.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Mon Aug 13, 2007 3:14 am

tharpa wrote: What other traditions may or may not do is not relevant to the point here that this one is quite sophisticated with multiple levels and thrusts. That is why it remains dynamic and vibrant after 2,500 years. In fact, it's one of the key aspects of the methodology and one of the most fascinating ones to boot.
Actually it becomes easier to understand if you get versed in other traditions as well. Because human nature doesn't differ that much cross-culture.

To me Buddhism is not especially dynamic and vibrant - not different anyway from the dynamic or vibes of Christianity or the Islam. It's about what you value in the end, and in this context it should be truth, not sophistication or vibrancy.
The fact that removing some parts causes death and others does not is not relevant to proving the location of consciousness, nor does it prove there is only one main source of consciousness.


It doesn't prove the brain as only source or only possible location. It's just that all indications are that it certainly looks that way so far and that it's best described as such until better descriptions are established.
However: certain aspects of human consciousness/experience will change when you chop off both arms, and therefore it is conceivable that hands, for example, have a consciousness aspect to them. Certainly most faith healers or massage therapists would say so.
Hmm, yeah, of course the whole world has a consciousness aspect to it.

I walked in nature yesterday night, watching this weekend's meteor shower (caught five!) and saw the ISS with Space Shuttle attached come right over my head, combined having the brightness of Venus on her best, moving within 40-50 seconds over the line of view (pretty fast, outshining and outrunning everything else in the sky that night). Then it suddenly faded. I had to look up the ISS to make sure it was it because I'm not a trained star gazer.

That had really a consciousness aspect to it, I can still feel the experience. This is what most therapist know as well and they will work with people's experiences (including the experience of the body) to work on their consciousness of their trouble.
I personally have no interest in treating the human body like a machine. If a brain in a vat did have consciousness, I would feel terribly sorry for it, and an it is all it would be. Very sad.
You are here denigrating the notion of 'machine' before comparing it to a body. Isn't that possibly based on a 'childish' primitive idea of machine as pure robots, toys and tools?

The deeper question was if you can accept the possibility of a brain in a vat or not. If your understanding of consciousness is non-local then it would influence your idea of the possibility and its consequences.
So two questions for our discussion to hone in on:
1. Your definition of consciousness so I can understand better what you mean by that term
2. How it relates to the rebirth-reincarnation topic of this thread?
Well, I'd love to go into it but there are already many other threads dealing with this as it's a recurring topic on this board.

The irony is of course that I only responded to your statements about consciousness with implied some specific (but to me contradictionary) view on what it is and isn't and how it might relate to rebirth. But when questioned you turn the tables and ask me what I mean while not explaining or defending the earlier statements that provoked my participation here.

Here is a summary of what brought me into this exchange:

"man with no brain: Those who believe that mind is rooted in the brain might need to think twice"
[admitted to be "playful interjection"]
"body does not produce consciousness in the way that a batter produces electricity"
"disproven by the quantum crowd"
"consciousness is a function of the space principle beyond location and time"
"it is not produced by various chemical or organic circumstances"

After this post you started delving a string of strawmen with the rebirth topic but didn't seem to address my questions and critic in the earlier post.

But I'll give you my definition of consciousness, which I've worked with in this discussion. From the dictionary actually: "a characteristic of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience and sapience". I'd add reason and logic to that.

Another one would be "ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one's environment", or differentiation, dualism, creation, etc.

What exactly 'mind' then is becomes more tricky but could include all mental faculties including the ones we're not aware of. Mental faculties are characteristics of certain bodies that have reached a certain complexity and need to facilitate such activity.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by tharpa » Mon Aug 13, 2007 7:25 am

Diebert wrote: "Actually it becomes easier to understand if you get versed in other traditions as well. Because human nature doesn't differ that much cross-culture.

To me Buddhism is not especially dynamic and vibrant - not different anyway from the dynamic or vibes of Christianity or the Islam. It's about what you value in the end, and in this context it should be truth, not sophistication or vibrancy."

Well, of course you are entitled to your opinion. But you said earlier that buddhism was not structured the way I said. Clearly you don't know it very well. Nothing wrong with that at all. But better not cast too many lofty judgments about something you are ignorant of, no?

As to the rest, I feel we are getting circular. There were two themes going on in this thread which involved more than your and my interchanges which dominated this last part. So I might have confused you by responding to both themes in the same posts. For that I apologize.

I also am sorry I cannot rise to the questions about brains in vats. I find that sort of hypothetical completely uninteresting.
Furthermore, I can't relate it either to anything experienced nor the discussion. If that is childish from your point of view, so be it. That is pretty much how I view such scenarios from my end. We just have different approaches.

But it is good to know you are discussing consciousness as pertaining to self-experience, which is what I was assuming. It's not a big deal. My initial entry with the no-brain man was really playful and meant to provoke Kevin who often mentions mind and brains! I think it a form of contemporary dogma or superstition. Certainly you have said very little to justify the belief apart from very vague statements. But it is such a widely held belief that hardly anyone has stopped to examine it. When you do, you realise that Quinn is right in his A = A discussions when he mentions how contemporary science can't actually validate anything. This is true. Doesn't mean that the tap won't work when you turn it on. But you cannot prove that the tap is even real, either logically or scientifically. It is good to remember this. Especially since the quantumites have proven scientifically that it isn't there. Since neither the tap nor therefore the brain is there, they cannot be the source of consciousness. Or put it another way: if the body is the source of mind or they both mutually create each other, what is the source of that? What is the source of the brain? And so we get back to rebirth!

So now I'll volunteer my version of consciousness whilst apologising again for having lost the thread of the thread earlier: I think with consciousness you have aspects that are tied to particular place and time, including bodies and body parts such as brain, heart and so forth, but also it has elements that are non-local and non-temporal. Consciousness is part of the space or container principle, i.e. it is everywhere and beyond individual consciousness. So there are levels of consciousness (also delineated ad infinitum in the buddhist tradition in arcane texts few nowadays read), but if you ever study the ayatanas, kayas and dhatus such as dharmadhatu, vajradhatu and suchlike, all these are different types or levels or contexts or containers of consciousness, some of which work in the context of sentient beings and brains, hearts and so forth, but some of which are on a more vast or profound level in which individuated sentient beings' notions of consciousness are irrelevant like how although individual waves exist and have clear characteristics as such, at the same time they are not separate from the ocean of which they are a seamless part, and even further all are water. And so on.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by David Quinn » Mon Aug 13, 2007 9:08 am

tharpa,
I thought it was interesting the anecdote in the radio interview with Dr. Berzin how K and Q took pride in not respecting the simple form of standing when a teacher enters or not putting the soles of the feet towards the shrine. Of course there can be some value to stirring the pot, challenging rigidity etc. But at the same time, when two people enter in a conversation, it is far better if there is mutual respect; indeed without it, there cannot be a meaningful, intelligent conversation, one in which mutual learning unfolds.
I agree with this, but I don't really see it happening in Buddhism.

If my standing up when a Buddhist guru comes into the room is meant to indicate "mutual respect", then by rights he should also stand up whenever I enter the room. Yet I have never experienced this in my life. I have never seen a guru stand up in my presence. All of them just sit there like royalty. So in reality, the respect is far from being mutual. It is very one-sided, all geared towards the guru.

In fact, I consider my not standing up in a guru's presence to be the best way of of fostering mutual respect between us. For it undermines the false, ritualistic expectations that are invariably placed on myself and others who meet the guru, and helps make the interactions between us more open and human.

There are said to be three types of bad students likened to pots or vessels. Those that are turned upside down into which nothing can be poured, those that are cracked and therefore leak, and those with poison in them, so that even if you pour in nectar it is still poisonous. Anyone behaving like Q and K in a teaching situation in traditional societies would have been politely asked to leave since clearly their intention was to damage the teaching and learning atmosphere for others, which shows disrespect for everyone and therefore disrespects time, which ultimately is the only thing we have as humans.
I disagree. If the teaching and atmosphere is already being damaged by a constant stream of hollow, egotistical rituals which are designed to bolster the standing of the guru, then one has no choice but to oppose it. One has to clear away the deadening, poisonous atmosphere generated by these practices.

-

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by tharpa » Mon Aug 13, 2007 9:48 am

David Quinn wrote:tharpa,
I thought it was interesting the anecdote in the radio interview with Dr. Berzin how K and Q took pride in not respecting the simple form of standing when a teacher enters or not putting the soles of the feet towards the shrine. Of course there can be some value to stirring the pot, challenging rigidity etc. But at the same time, when two people enter in a conversation, it is far better if there is mutual respect; indeed without it, there cannot be a meaningful, intelligent conversation, one in which mutual learning unfolds.
I agree with this, but I don't really see it happening in Buddhism.

If my standing up when a Buddhist guru comes into the room is meant to indicate "mutual respect", then by rights he should also stand up whenever I enter the room. Yet I have never experienced this in my life. I have never seen a guru stand up in my presence. All of them just sit there like royalty. So in reality, the respect is far from being mutual. It is very one-sided, all geared towards the guru.

In fact, I consider my not standing up in a guru's presence to be the best way of of fostering mutual respect between us. For it undermines the false, ritualistic expectations that are invariably placed on myself and others who meet the guru, and helps make the interactions between us more open and human.
I always find the clarity of your expression bracing. I have two views on this:

First, people from a foreign culture should be skillful in practicing their forms in a 'host' country. The guru convention, for example, is an extension of the teacher convention. When a teacher enters to teach math in most old-fashioned schools the students stand up. So for many Asians that particular ritual is really so ordinary as to not even be considered special. However, it has become so for us modern westerners. Now a guru is a much 'higher' teacher - in those cultures which respect such things which ours does not - so there are even more rituals like bowing, supplicating etc. However, these sorts of things are only supposed to be done when those who are of like mind, i.e. students of the guru. Second: from your description it is impossible to gauge the degree to which they were being inappropriately ritualistic and you were being overly rigid in your modern egailitarianism.

However, your way of establishing mutual respect might work fine between two people, but it shows no sense of art or skill in terms of managing group energy. Such forms have developed throughout human history because they work and they work because ultimately they correspond with basic impulses. When the President enters the room, you stop cutting your nails and stand up and pay attention!
David Quinn wrote:
There are said to be three types of bad students likened to pots or vessels. Those that are turned upside down into which nothing can be poured, those that are cracked and therefore leak, and those with poison in them, so that even if you pour in nectar it is still poisonous. Anyone behaving like Q and K in a teaching situation in traditional societies would have been politely asked to leave since clearly their intention was to damage the teaching and learning atmosphere for others, which shows disrespect for everyone and therefore disrespects time, which ultimately is the only thing we have as humans.
I disagree. If the teaching and atmosphere is already being damaged by a constant stream of hollow, egotistical rituals which are designed to bolster the standing of the guru, then one has no choice but to oppose it. One has to clear away the deadening, poisonous atmosphere generated by these practices.
Well, I think that you should let that group do what they do, wherein many might be learning, and you yourself should leave since clearly you have nothing to learn. But just because you find the whole thing stupid doesn't mean that all such gatherings that come under the generic title heading of 'buddhist' are the same. Frankly, there is no way anyone could know this and anyone who proclaims they do is demonstrating precisely the sort of 'hollow egotism' that you are deploring. Now, this does not mean that I don't agree with you that often this is what is going on. Perhaps even most of the time when co-religionists of any stripe (including secular humanists, scientists, GM lab technicians, as well as buddhists and AA patients) gather together. But not all the time and not with all people. My teacher 'made his bones' deploring the degree to which 'spiritual materialism' - a phrase he coined - was rampant in our culture, especially around foreign traditions with colourful imports like 'gurus'. And I myself have problems with the whole thing including my own participation therein. But it seems to me that your tone is far too harsh and dismissive and based on far too little experience. It lessens the impact of more penetrating philosophical observations.

IMNSHO, of course!

-[/quote]

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David Quinn
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by David Quinn » Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:19 pm

tharpa,
DQ: If my standing up when a Buddhist guru comes into the room is meant to indicate "mutual respect", then by rights he should also stand up whenever I enter the room. Yet I have never experienced this in my life. I have never seen a guru stand up in my presence. All of them just sit there like royalty. So in reality, the respect is far from being mutual. It is very one-sided, all geared towards the guru.

In fact, I consider my not standing up in a guru's presence to be the best way of of fostering mutual respect between us. For it undermines the false, ritualistic expectations that are invariably placed on myself and others who meet the guru, and helps make the interactions between us more open and human.

Tharpa: I always find the clarity of your expression bracing. I have two views on this:

First, people from a foreign culture should be skillful in practicing their forms in a 'host' country. The guru convention, for example, is an extension of the teacher convention. When a teacher enters to teach math in most old-fashioned schools the students stand up. So for many Asians that particular ritual is really so ordinary as to not even be considered special. However, it has become so for us modern westerners. Now a guru is a much 'higher' teacher - in those cultures which respect such things which ours does not - so there are even more rituals like bowing, supplicating etc. However, these sorts of things are only supposed to be done when those who are of like mind, i.e. students of the guru. Second: from your description it is impossible to gauge the degree to which they were being inappropriately ritualistic and you were being overly rigid in your modern egailitarianism.
I don't really consider what I was doing as "egalitarian" as such. It's more a case that I don't think communication can really take place between two people if one of them automatically expects to be treated like royalty. The implicit assumption in all of these ritualistic actions is that the guru has more insight and wisdom than those he meets. So already, even before we are exchanging pleasantries, he is creating a barrier.

I also don't accept that it is a cultural thing. Submissiveness and dominance are dynamics which cut deeper than cultural realities. They are egotistical in nature and far more primal than culture. An enlightened person would never allow himself to be bound to these deeper egotistical dynamics, let alone to cultural norms. The issue of wisdom is far too important and cutting edge to allow egotism or the niceties of cultural etiquette to get in the way.

I don't feel that I should have to battle against layers of cultural tradition simply to talk with someone about wisdom - especially with someone who explicitly declares himself to be a teacher of wisdom, as all these gurus do.

However, your way of establishing mutual respect might work fine between two people, but it shows no sense of art or skill in terms of managing group energy. Such forms have developed throughout human history because they work and they work because ultimately they correspond with basic impulses. When the President enters the room, you stop cutting your nails and stand up and pay attention!
It is the very assumption that a guru should automatically be treated like a president that I take issue with. It is up to the guru to display genuine wisdom if he wants my respect. I'm not going to give it to him simply because his followers believe he should get it.

I disagree with the idea that habitual, ritualistic submissiveness towards a guru in a group setting is an effective vehicle for wisdom. More often than not, it is simply a vehicle for group-enforced delusion. Whatever wisdom may have existed in the beginning usually degenerates into a hollow religion when exposed to such dynamics.

DQ: If the teaching and atmosphere is already being damaged by a constant stream of hollow, egotistical rituals which are designed to bolster the standing of the guru, then one has no choice but to oppose it. One has to clear away the deadening, poisonous atmosphere generated by these practices.

Tharpa: Well, I think that you should let that group do what they do, wherein many might be learning, and you yourself should leave since clearly you have nothing to learn.
Disrupting such group dynamics can often be a greater learning experience for those involved. It can help shake the complacency of these people and force them to see things in a new light.

I don't know if you have heard about those enormously intricate sand patterns that Tibetan monks sometimes ritualistically create - usually called "mandalas". They piece together these elaborate sand paintings, which can take many days, and then, as soon as they are finished, they immediately destroy them by messing up all the sand. It is supposed to symbolize the great Buddhist truths of impermanence and non-attachment.

I've sometimes thought that it would be great if someone were to jump in five minutes before the monks were finished and mess it up before they had a chance to complete the ritual. It would send a far more powerful message about the truth of impermanence/non-attachment and would show up the hollowness of the ritual, for I'm sure that the monks would be very upset. I'd do it myself, if I had the opportunity.

But it seems to me that your tone is far too harsh and dismissive and based on far too little experience. It lessens the impact of more penetrating philosophical observations.
That's what they said about Jesus when he overturned all the money-lender tables and commerce stalls which were involved in trading in the temples.

IMNSHO, of course!
Of course!

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Diebert van Rhijn
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Tue Aug 14, 2007 12:52 am

tharpa wrote: Well, of course you are entitled to your opinion. But you said earlier that buddhism was not structured the way I said. Clearly you don't know it very well. Nothing wrong with that at all. But better not cast too many lofty judgments about something you are ignorant of, no?
You are entitled to your opinion about my degree of ignorance on the subject. Perhaps I should quote a few more old texts or drop some more traditional terms to establish my authority first? No wait, I'll submit a complete biography with decades of 'experience' or blessings by 'authorized' teachers or I've to reveal I'm the author of a best-selling book you've heard of. I'm sure that will catch your attention?

It's like the traditional bowing or standing up for a teacher. One first creates and affirms a student-teacher relation which cannot be easily questioned later - a whole context is now there that shapes every conversation and confines it.

As for mutual respect, in a conversation wise people have to be able to be clear, precise and complete in any 'hierarchy' he choses to speak in. Even when simplified the words still have depth and say the same thing as any advanced topic could. There can never be contradiction and as such a conversation in a specific cultural setting, using informal means, has just the same potential as a dialog between 'advanced experts' using 'complex' ideas. What's really important in our lives is not that complex though, it just takes courage to address it, not knowledge.
As to the rest, I feel we are getting circular. There were two themes going on in this thread which involved more than your and my interchanges which dominated this last part. So I might have confused you by responding to both themes in the same posts. For that I apologize.
No problem. It seemed indeed at times contradicting or confusing to me. I never found myself confused though.
I also am sorry I cannot rise to the questions about brains in vats. I find that sort of hypothetical completely uninteresting.
It's a question you don't seem to have the means to deal with right now and I can understand your skipping over it. But is it hypothetical? Your brain sits in a vat too (called skull) or so it's defined. There are many people alive these days who are totally paralyzed and do not even 'feel' the rest of their body or can move or participate. Their minds are still very active though! So I think to brush this off as 'hypothetical' is more a sign of avoiding the harder type of questions that deal with the reality we live in.
Furthermore, I can't relate it either to anything experienced nor the discussion.
That's too bad you cannot see how the functioning of brains might be related to the nature of consciousness as we experience it. It's true we seem to be talking about different things but you brought up the organic brains and the skull in the first place, so I hope you understand I assumed you wanted to discuss nuts and bolts, also after bringing in quantum science, time and space dimensions, and so on. How versed are you in this matter?
Certainly you have said very little to justify the belief apart from very vague statements.
You mean vague like the statement: "consciousness is a function of the space principle beyond location and time". We must have a different idea about what vague means here.
Quinn is right in his A = A discussions when he mentions how contemporary science can't actually validate anything.
It's not supposed to, although many do forget that aspect of science. There's still many scientists and rational people who haven't forgotten that though.
But you cannot prove that the tap is even real, either logically or scientifically. It is good to remember this.
It's good to remember there's no need or requirement to prove the reality of the tap. Not from scientific point of view anyway. The moment the tap starts talking to you - or any other blatant contradiction - it might be wise to investigate a bit further though, you might be dreaming after all!
Especially since the quantumites have proven scientifically that it isn't there. Since neither the tap nor therefore the brain is there, they cannot be the source of consciousness.
You're making that up, I suppose. Or it's a wild belief you quote. I've never heard of such thing apart from some speculation floating around certain scientific circles.

If you want to talk about probability or relativity, fine. But it would redefine the whole notion of being there vs not being there. Not just one side of the coin. In other words: it doesn't change the fact that we're experiencing.
Or put it another way: if the body is the source of mind or they both mutually create each other, what is the source of that? What is the source of the brain? And so we get back to rebirth!
Consciousness, mind, body, that rock, that spider, are all caused. I'm not sure why you select consciousness to be something different. We could just as well say that logic is not caused but beyond space and time. Or any thing contributing to consciousness (an object and a subject).
it [consciousness] has elements that are non-local and non-temporal. Consciousness is part of the space or container principle, i.e. it is everywhere and beyond individual consciousness. So there are levels of consciousness (also delineated ad infinitum in the buddhist tradition in arcane texts few nowadays read), but if you ever study the ayatanas, kayas and dhatus such as dharmadhatu, vajradhatu and suchlike, all these are different types or levels or contexts or containers of consciousness, some of which work in the context of sentient beings and brains, hearts and so forth, but some of which are on a more vast or profound level in which individuated sentient beings' notions of consciousness are irrelevant like how although individual waves exist and have clear characteristics as such, at the same time they are not separate from the ocean of which they are a seamless part, and even further all are water. And so on.
Well, it took a while but you have finally given the details I asked for.

Is consciousness part of the space or container, or does it equal it? If consciousness is everywhere, how does it differentiate itself, how does it experience itself? If it cannot experience itself, how do we arrive at the conclusion it must exist at all in some fashion?

One can assert different 'levels' of consciousness, or different types of beings, angels, devils. One can see the planet as one living and aware being, or the whole cosmos. But this is not different from scientific research, just getting the details about how it all works.

From a more humanistic perspective we have to deal with out own level of consciousness, and our own understanding of it. You should wonder if all these other levels can be called consciousness anyway. Or it's impossible to know if they're not just fragments of our own faculty (imagination) without advancing way further in the workings and traps of our own consciousness.

If you think these arcane texts are giving the whole story, then it's your responsibility to believe that. I can only stress you'll have to verify for yourself at some point, if truth is what you value.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by Carico » Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:01 pm

Since Christianity is the only religion that claims to have direct connection with God through the indwelling Holy Spirit, then all other religions come from the human mind which are thus, human philosophies which makes them by definition, fallible.

The human mind can't fix the human mind, any more than a neurotic mind can change a neurotic mind because it can only think in neurotic terms. And that's why philosophers go round and round in circles like a dog chasing its tail becaus they are trapped in the human mind which is finite and fallible.

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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Sat Aug 18, 2007 7:11 pm

If the Holy Spirit is indwelling, how do you perceive that it is not also of the human mind?

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Re:

Post by Beingof1 » Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:19 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:
Ryan R wrote:I find both your certainty and Elizabeth’s certainty on this matter rather unwarranted.
I do in fact hold that it is entirely possible that our consciousness survives largely intact beyond death, although I've never seen any evidence that it does.

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

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

I have not been online for about a year now. I came to check in and I find your posts wise, honest, and penetrating.

How we do learn from each other is altogether fascinating.

The only thing that could keep someone from learning from you is a repulsing mindset. What you do today, will impact the All for all eternity.

I will not be able to participate - God speed Kevin.

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