Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Some partial backups of posts from the past (Feb, 2004)
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Unidian
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Post by Unidian » Fri Apr 20, 2007 12:12 pm

Kevin,

I'd like to hear him say clearly that it's all just trappings - out of "compassion" - and to show that he wasn't trapped.


Okay, have a look:

The Dalai Lama wrote:I believe that at every level of society—familial, tribal, national and international—the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.


Seems quite clear to me. And it isn't the first time he's said such things.

Also, I've never heard him say that he believes he is the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lamas, so I suspect that he doesn't even believe it himself. But he doesn't make this clear. He is an obscurantist - and there's nothing "compassionate" about that.


He probably doesn't want to spark divisiveness and doctrinal infighting. That seems compassionate enough to me. What purpose would be served by igniting debate in the Buddhist community over reincarnation? It's likely that few minds would be changed and a lot of ill-feeling would be created.

I agree with you there - but I don't think humanists are particularly spiritual or wise.


For me, that depends on how they arrived at humanism. There are shallow, conventional routes, and there are spiritual routes.
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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Apr 20, 2007 12:23 pm

Unidian wrote:He probably doesn't want to spark divisiveness and doctrinal infighting. That seems compassionate enough to me. What purpose would be served by igniting debate in the Buddhist community over reincarnation? It's likely that few minds would be changed and a lot of ill-feeling would be created.


This seems like a reasonable analysis. Kevin, you David and Dan have all mentioned that there are times when being entirely truthful is not the wisest course.
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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Apr 20, 2007 12:57 pm

This link has a chart illustrating the differences between the Buddhist concept of "mind" and the Christian concept of "soul."
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Kevin Solway
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Post by Kevin Solway » Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:18 pm

Unidian wrote:
The Dalai Lama wrote:. . . the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion . . . All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.


To me that just sounds like drivel.

It's like a beauty pagent queen saying "I want to work for world peace." . . . Just empty words.

If the Dalai Lama was compassionate, he would speak the truth, plain and clear. He would tell the truth about what he thinks about reincarnation, for example.

He is an obscurantist - and there's nothing "compassionate" about that.


He probably doesn't want to spark divisiveness and doctrinal infighting.


In that case I don't think he's being compassionate.

In truth, doctrinal infighting by Buddhist groups is totally irrelevant. Really, nothing could be more insignificant in the Universe - and such things shouldn't be given any consideration at all.

Much more is at stake than such petty squabbles.

"Compassion" is nothing more than understanding (and acting on that understanding). The Dalai Lama doesn't display understanding so far as I can see.

That seems compassionate enough to me. What purpose would be served by igniting debate in the Buddhist community over reincarnation?


For one thing it would tend to make anyone who has ever heard teachings about reincarnation, or cause and effect, start to question what it is all about, rather than just blindly accepting a doctrine. That would be a very good thing.

It's likely that few minds would be changed and a lot of ill-feeling would be created.


Ill-feeling is better than stagnant ignorance. It is not so self-satisfied.

I think Jesus was good model as to how to stir things up.

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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:24 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:Ill-feeling is better than stagnant ignorance.


As a qualitative judgment, this is true; however it is only a mind that is ripe for understanding that is able to learn, and ill-feeling is a hardening agent, not a ripening one.
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Kevin Solway
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Post by Kevin Solway » Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:26 pm

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:This link has a chart illustrating the differences between the Buddhist concept of "mind" and the Christian concept of "soul."
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The point of the discussion with Berzin was to demonstrate that the popular Buddhist idea of soul/mind is wrong.

Since all things work in the same way that a fountain does, the kind of reincarnation that Buddhists popularly believe in simply can't happen.

And even on a scientific/physical level, there's absolutely no evidence that our consciousness or awareness survives death.

There's no more evidence for that than that a fountain continues as another fountain after you've switched it off.

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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:36 pm

When you switch the pump off, the water remains in the basin of the fountain (fountain here meaning the mechanism - pump, basin, tubing, jets, sealant, etc.). When the pump is switched back on, again there is a fountain (fountain here meaning the moving water) with the same water. Indeed it is not the same fountain (moving water) as before the pump was switched off, but neither is it exactly the same fountain from moment to moment while the pump is running.
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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:00 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:Since all things work in the same way that a fountain does, the kind of reincarnation that Buddhists popularly believe in simply can't happen.


BTW, although I believe that your fountain analogy is useful enough to help understand the matter at hand, I still recognize that this particular statement is an example of genetic fallacy.
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Kevin Solway
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Post by Kevin Solway » Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:57 pm

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:When you switch the pump off, the water remains in the basin of the fountain (fountain here meaning the mechanism - pump, basin, tubing, jets, sealant, etc.). When the pump is switched back on, again there is a fountain


And if you don't switch the pump back on, there is no fountain at all. That's what death is.

I believe that your fountain analogy is useful enough to help understand the matter at hand, I still recognize that this particular statement is an example of genetic fallacy.


It's not just an analogy, it is exactly the same process.

All things operate by cause and effect, no matter whether they are fountains or anything else like a "continuity of individual subjective experience".

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Post by Jason » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:17 pm

I found very little to like about this show, I had to skip through it. He seemed overly interested in official book-learning(your chances of progress are lower if you can't understand tibetan), and had what seemed like blind faith and heavy reliance on gurus, and also possesed this nasty defeatest attitude about future attainment. Along with that he was seemingly unable to grasp the fountain analogy(or he blinded himself to it, to avoid the implications it could have on his ideas) and he appeared to believe that enlightenemnt would include being omniscient in an empirical way, which is kinda nutty.

In short he managed to come up with a craptastic mix of some of the poorer aspects of religion, academia and the resignation of the "mature", I'm suprised there are any positive comments to be made at all.

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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:21 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:And if you don't switch the pump back on, there is no fountain at all. That's what death is.


The end of the cycle of rebirth is when the pump is no longer switched back on and the whole fountain (both definitions) is smashed into its constituent parts.

Kevin Solway wrote:All things operate by cause and effect, no matter whether they are fountains or anything else like a "continuity of individual subjective experience".


This is true, but it does not subtract from the fact that this is an analogy. It is the difference between A=A and A=/-\.
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Post by clyde » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:43 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:Much more is at stake than such petty squabbles.

What is at stake?

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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:51 pm

clyde wrote:
Kevin Solway wrote:Much more is at stake than such petty squabbles.

What is at stake?


Truth, and the recognition thereof.
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Kevin Solway
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Post by Kevin Solway » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:56 pm

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:
Kevin Solway wrote:All things operate by cause and effect, no matter whether they are fountains or anything else like a "continuity of individual subjective experience".


This is true, but it does not subtract from the fact that this is an analogy.


It's not an analogy. An analogy is "like" something. But I stressed that what I was talking about was exactly the same in every way.

That is, a fountain dies in exactly the same way that we do.

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Post by Kevin Solway » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:57 pm

clyde wrote:
Kevin Solway wrote:Much more is at stake than such petty squabbles.

What is at stake?


The survival of wisdom, the survival of the human race, etc.

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Post by Jamesh » Fri Apr 20, 2007 4:29 pm

If the Dalai Lama was compassionate, he would speak the truth, plain and clear. He would tell the truth about what he thinks about reincarnation, for example.


What if one's judgement was that this would just lead people into another religion, rather than truth?

Take Thailand for example, a removal of this strongest human illusion from an authority figure like the Dalai Lama might just lead to advances into Thailand by the totally irrational Muslim crowd from Malaysia.

Destroy a religion and another takes over. Just as in the West capitalistic greed is the new religion.

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Post by Kevin Solway » Fri Apr 20, 2007 4:55 pm

Jamesh wrote:
If the Dalai Lama was compassionate, he would speak the truth, plain and clear. He would tell the truth about what he thinks about reincarnation, for example.


What if one's judgement was that this would just lead people into another religion, rather than truth?


You mean what if it leads them into even worse untruth?

I put my faith in truth. If you put the truth out there it will either stand or fall - but at least you give it a chance.

If you keep it hidden then it may as well not even exist.

Also, I think it's highly dangerous to tell people lies. or to shield them from truth "for their own good". One day they will come to realize that you have been lying to them all along, and then they will feel very resentful. Many would have preferred to be told the truth all along.

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Post by clyde » Fri Apr 20, 2007 5:33 pm

Whether the Dalai Lama believes in reincarnation or not, or speaks the truth or not; the truth is not in danger nor is the very survival of wisdom and humanity at risk.

clyde

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Post by Kevin Solway » Fri Apr 20, 2007 6:18 pm

clyde wrote:Whether the Dalai Lama believes in reincarnation or not, or speaks the truth or not; the truth is not in danger nor is the very survival of wisdom and humanity at risk.


I don't follow what you are saying here. If people turn their backs on truth and wisdom, how does that not endanger the survival of wisdom?

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Post by Kevin Solway » Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:41 pm

If anyone would like to volunteer to type-up a transcript of the podcast with Berzin, please let us know.

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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Apr 20, 2007 11:25 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:I stressed that what I was talking about was exactly the same in every way.


analogy It is not A=A. Nevertheless, I did grant that it was sufficient to help explain the concept.

Just because you said so does not make it so. You do rely on your own authority, which is fine, but the rest of us must rely on our own authority to think for ourselves as well. You "validate" your authority by stating your self proclamation of your level of consciousness. Fine, I self proclaim that I am more conscious than you are. You are, of course, welcome to refute that by citing specifics. Meanwhile, back to the discussion of this concept of an impermanent soul, in order to make your point, you are going to have to cite something other than "I said so" as evidence.

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:
Kevin Solway wrote:And if you don't switch the pump back on, there is no fountain at all. That's what death is.


The end of the cycle of rebirth is when the pump is no longer switched back on and the whole fountain (both definitions) is smashed into its constituent parts.


You did not argue this - you tried to switch the focus onto the definition of analogy. That is not to the point, therefore it is a poor debate tactic. If you are going to debate my position, please address the topic. If you do not address the topic and just try to switch the focus to hide the recognition that you are wrong, you are using a male tactic of "saving face" - which is just a euphemism for protecting your ego.
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Post by Kevin Solway » Sat Apr 21, 2007 12:32 am

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:Just because you said so does not make it so.


I did explain that all things work by the same laws of cause and effect, therefore nothing is excluded. What holds true for the fountain necessarily holds true for all things.

If you are going to debate my position


I'm not sure what your position is, other than that you want to believe in some kind of a soul that can go from one life to another.

Once the heart stops pumping, and oxygen is no longer delivered to the brain, and the brain dies, thought is no longer supported - just as the column of water known as a "fountain" is no longer supported when its pump is turned off.

That's all there is to it.

Anything you might like to nominate as a "soul" necessarily operates by the same laws as anything else, and is just as easily brought to an end.

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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Sat Apr 21, 2007 1:11 am

Kevin Solway wrote:Anything you might like to nominate as a "soul" necessarily operates by the same laws as anything else, and is just as easily brought to an end.


This is correct. It is just as easily brought to an end, and it just as easily continues.

Kevin Solway wrote:I did explain that all things work by the same laws of cause and effect, therefore nothing is excluded.


I agree. What I disagree with is that I believe that you are not accurately viewing causality in this case.

Kevin Solway wrote: I'm not sure what your position is, other than that you want to believe in some kind of a soul that can go from one life to another.


Obviously, you are not even reading accurately. Let me repeat:

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote: This is not wishful thinking, as my personal wish for myself is that my energy just dissipates. I am quite done with the experience of being alive ... so my logical conclusion that conscious energy could cohere is not tainted by desire.


This is not what I "want to believe" - it is an untainted logical conclusion.

I am repeating myself again to isolate my position:

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote: I have believed that consciousness allows a being to have a certain amount of "choice" regarding what happens to the energy that was previously cycling through their neurons and so forth. Like things tend to have a certain amount of cohesiveness - like how water tends to come down in raindrops rather than mist, or cluster together like how fallen leaves tend to be blown into piles caught against a branch, or clouds form rather than always being evenly dispersed particles - I see no reason that energy should be significantly different. The most significant difference would be that which makes certain energy into consciousness rather than that which powers the monitor or your computer. The will of what a person wants at the moment of death has to have an impact on the energy that is left in that person's body.


If you wish to refute this, please give a logical progression of what you find wrong with my reasoning.

If you want to continue with the fountain analogy,

Kevin Solway wrote:Once the heart stops pumping, and oxygen is no longer delivered to the brain, and the brain dies, thought is no longer supported - just as the column of water known as a "fountain" is no longer supported when its pump is turned off.


Yes, that explains the physiology of the brain. The brain is the seat of the mind, but it is not the mind itself. The energy of consciousness is the mind. When the brain dies, the mind is unseated - just as if someone yanked the chair out from underneath you. Just because your chair is gone does not mean that you cease to be. It just means that you must now take another position such as stand, squat, fall on your bottom, lie down, or find a new seat. If the conditions were right that falling on your bottom would kill you, then being unseated would coincide with your ceasing to be, just as in the final incarnation, the termination of the physical life process roughly coincides with the dissipation of the cluster of conscious energy.
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Post by Kevin Solway » Sat Apr 21, 2007 1:30 am

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:The brain is the seat of the mind, but it is not the mind itself.


I think you are missing the point. It doesn't matter what you nominate the "soul" to be - whether it be "mind", or the brain, or your little finger nail - for it will have causes in just the same way that anything else does. Once you turn off its causes, it ceases to exist. It doesn't become "unseated", and looking for another seat. Does a fountain become unseated when you turn it off for good? No, it's simply gone. Does the fountain become enlightened because it is turned off for good? No, it's just gone. Likewise with us.

The mind is an emergent property of the brain in just the same way that a fountain is an emergent property of a pump, water, spout, etc.

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Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Sat Apr 21, 2007 2:08 am

Kevin Solway wrote:It doesn't matter what you nominate the "soul" to be - whether it be "mind", or the brain, or your little finger nail


These are all words and divisions as constructs of convenience, but focusing on that is like initially pointing, then spinning in circles - you lose the direction of what you were pointing at.

Kevin Solway wrote:for it will have causes in just the same way that anything else does. Once you turn off its causes, it ceases to exist.


That is causality, and that statement is you pointing and then spinning in circles with your finger extended.

Kevin Solway wrote:Once you turn off its causes, it ceases to exist. It doesn't become "unseated", and looking for another seat.


We are pointing at the "it" - the "mind" or "impermanent soul" or "cluster of consciousness energy" or whatever you want to call it, but the "it" is not causality itself - it is only subject to causality. We are not arguing causality here. We are looking at a specific manifestation of causality.

Kevin Solway wrote:Does a fountain become unseated when you turn it off for good? No, it's simply gone.


That is not the part I am pointing at. I already agreed that the shutting off of the fountain for good correlates to the dissipation of the cluster of consciousness energy at the end of its final incarnation. I am pointing at the fountain being turned off and on with the same water in it, and I am not referring to going to sleep at night. This is an example of why this is an analogy, and not A=A.

Kevin Solway wrote:The mind is an emergent property of the brain in just the same way that a fountain is an emergent property of a pump, water, spout, etc.


This is another example of "because I said so" being given as a reason. The mind is an emergent property of the Totality, not the brain. Correlation is not causation.

The brain and the mind of a conscious being are like the wheel and the cart of a wheelbarrow. Without the wheel, it is just a cart, and without the cart, it is just a wheel. A brain without a mind is just a lump of cells. A dead body can have a brain, but it would not have the mind (consciousness energy) it needed to produce consciousness. The wheel and the cart can exist separately from each other, just like the water and the solid parts of a fountain can. The wheel still rolls without the cart, and the cart still holds material without the wheel, but they do not create a wheelbarrow until they are put together in a certain way.
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