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An unique experiment - First time on a buddhist forum


#21

Again I don’t understand how you argue as if everything mental is conscious and there is no unconscious knowledge. I can’t tell you where this knowledge ultimately comes from, and sure you can deconstruct all the petty appearances of it, that it’s just a feeling etc. But the conscious part is not my reference. The constant undercurrent is.

To it seems as if someone is standing in the mid-summer sunlight sweating all over and saying “Sure, it seems to me as if it’s hot, but what is the proof? It’s just the feeling of perspiration, just the perception of sweat”


#22

That is not at all what I am saying. In that case, the opinion that “there is hot” is based on being a certain tempreture in that particular day that gave rise to that particular feeling of being hot. Then, that feeling gave rise to a specific opinion.

If there would be no feeling of being hot, a feeling dependent on a certain tempreture existing in that particular day, would such an opinion that “it is hot” possibly arise? If it would be 0 degrees outside, if there would be a feeling of cold appearing because of that, would the opinion that “it is hot” appear ? Of course not.

In the same way, the opinion that there is a self is based on a particular feeling. That is the information that gave rise to that opinion. If that feeling that you too mentioned would not exist, such an opinion that “there is a self” would not arise.


#23

This was the whole point of that sutta SharaW quoted in the other topic: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.01.0.bodh.html
Notice the ending part.

All those views about a self doing this and that, existing after death, not existing after death, feeding on rapture, feeding on divine stuff, etc. etc. etc. - all these opinions about a self are based on that feeling. If you ask the person: Why do you have such an opinion ? They will answer “I just feel it, I just feel there is a self. I can’t say this particular thing is the self, or that particular thing is the self. I just feel it, that’s why I have such an opinion”.

The person thinks “There is this feeling that has arisen. Why would such a feeling that there is a self arise if there would not be a self ?”

This is the logic behind this opinion that there is a self.


#24

Of course it is intuitive to think in this way. But being intuitive does not make it right. If you look at the horizont, if you walk around long distances, etc. - it looks pretty intuitive that the world is flat. Not everything that is intuitive is also correct. Maybe there is more to it than that.

The teachings on no-self are of course counter-intuitive. The Buddha is the only one in the world to have such a doctrine. Even atheist believe there is a self but that self will get anihilated. Nobody else claimed there is no self except the Buddha.


#25

Is this the impasse of our discussion? If I understand correctly you say “Because you can only present conditioned mental phenomena an no ‘real proof’ (and what would that be in your eyes?) what you are talking about (the self, the notion ‘I exist’) is illusionary”.

And I say “Your position doesn’t touch the real phenomenon either! You just deconstruct my indications and are bothered with appearances” Or to stay with my metaphor “You try to explain away the sun by saying that we only have the appearance of the sun and can never see the sun itself”

Basically I maneuvered myself into a Kantian position: Reality exists, but we can’t directly touch it because of our flawed instruments.

That an argument is counter-intuitive or unique is not a sign of quality. If I claim that the earth has 3.7 corners it’s a counter-intuitive and unique claim, not a great one.


#26

You have to learn Buddhism with an open mind and you should have some faith otherwise you are wasting your time.


#27

You should learn Abhidhamma to understand the theoretical aspect of this or do some Vipassana meditation to understand the practical aspect of it.


#28

What I am trying to do is to get somewhere. If you agree that the opinion about a self existing is based on that feeling, then I can move to the next step of my argument.

And I say “Your position doesn’t touch the real phenomenon either! You just deconstruct my indications and are bothered with appearances” Or to stay with my metaphor “You try to explain away the sun by saying that we only have the appearance of the sun and can never see the sun itself”

Basically I maneuvered myself into a Kantian position: Reality exists, but we can’t directly touch it because of our flawed instruments.

Not at all. My argument has nothing to do with that line of thinking, it is not there that it is trying to get. And if you would know my activity mainly on the other buddhist forum, DW, you would know that I am by far the biggest critic of such solipsist/philosophical idealist/postmodernist opinions that can be found on buddhist forums.

That an argument is counter-intuitive or unique is not a sign of quality. If I claim that the earth has 3.7 corners it’s a counter-intuitive and unique claim, not a great one.

Indeed, being intuitive or counter-intuitive does not make an idea right.


#29

First of all thanks for the discussion, and I’m glad that nobody’s head shattered so far :slight_smile:

It’s all too obvious that you want to get there: “Agree to what I want you to say, and then I can go on to the refutation I so nicely planned”.

Debates don’t work like that. Or rather ‘winning a debate’ could mean two things

  1. winning the audience
  2. convincing the opponent

There is every chance that you can win an audience with your arguments, because they make sense!

But playing the character as I do, you would never win me over with a reductionist approach. I’m telling you “It’s a deep conviction!” and you say “Well, so it’s a feeling?” No, it’s not a feeling, not a thought, not a perception, and not an idea. neti, neti, neti, neti.

Which makes me see an interesting point, going back to sutta time. In these cases I think a debater would realize “It’s no use debating the ontology of a soul, I won’t convince him anyway, so let’s leave aside this question. Let’s talk about what can be observed, perceived and talked about. And let’s talk about if what can be observed ultimately leads to dissatisfaction or happiness. That can be investigated by both parties and might be agreed upon.”

Which in effect would go back to exactly what was discussed in the original post, i.e. the Buddha being a pragmatist and not interested in ontology.


#30

A sensible approach, though it still leaves the question of who or what is doing the observing and perceiving.


#31

Me too. And I appreciate the fact that it’s been a honest discussion. I’m used with postmodernist children tactics when it comes to buddhist forums.

It’s all too obvious that you want to get there: “Agree to what I want you to say, and then I can go on to the refutation I so nicely planned”.

Debates don’t work like that. Or rather ‘winning a debate’ could mean two things

winning the audience
convincing the opponent
There is every chance that you can win an audience with your arguments, because they make sense!

But playing the character as I do, you would never win me over with a reductionist approach. I’m telling you “It’s a deep conviction!” and you say “Well, so it’s a feeling?” No, it’s not a feeling, not a thought, not a perception, and not an idea. neti, neti, neti, neti.

What I am trying to do is something very simple. I am trying to show the reason why the opinion that a self exists is present in humans. It does not exist because of nothing, it exists because of a cause. You can’t say “it’s a deep conviction” - no, it is an opinion. And an opinion is based on some reasoning, on some information.

What I am trying to show is that this opinion is based on the feeling that there is a self that exists. If you honestly ask yourself “why do I have this opinion and not another opinion ?” - what will your answer be ? No matter how you spin it, it is because of that feeling that exists in all of us that you have that opinion. That’s the thing on which that opinion is based.

And there is no refutation that will come if you accept that. Especially not some stupid kind of refutation that you seem to be expecting. I intend on continuing the investigation even further: why does that particular feeling exist there in the first place? etc. There is not some stupid refutation that I’m trying, it is just taking this investigation to the end.

This thing is not refuted in the way that you think it can be: through some killer response. The way the existence of a self is refuted is through actually understanding how all of it works. That’s why when we see the Buddha encoutering such problems, he always replyies "with volitional formations… then this… " It is looking at things from another angle, an angle that one has never looked from before. It is looking at the problem with the scientist eye, asking why do things work like this, what is causing this, etc. Taking it simple and to the end. Investigating the cause and effect, the chain of conditions. Many times they are actually simple things that one has simply not thought about before, such as how feeling exists because of contact. It is like a mechanic looking at an engine.


#32

I think Gabriel is arguing that “feeling” (or “anything”) itself is prove of the existence of self.


#33

Why does such a thing as feeling exist ? Why does feeling exist in humans, dogs, etc. (living organisms) but not in cars, computers, airplanes ?


#34

It exists in dogs. But not in a rock. If I am to follow this line of logic, which I do not myself believe in necessarily.


#35

Apologies if I judged prematurely :pray:

That goes in the right direction. Though it’s not a philosophical inference but an experiential one - nothing in particular tells me that there is a self in action. Everything tells me!

To take a theistic metaphor - for mystics believing in god’s creation it’s not that it’s a feeling that sometimes is there or not. The fact that they experience at all is a constant proof of creation.

‘Scientifically’ you are probably right that it’s based on some sort of opinion, but they don’t see it this way, and neither do I (in character).

And is it that different from the Buddhist anusaya or the ásavás? We have to assume that they are there all the time but you wouldn’t say “here they are, in this feeling” (of course opposite to my ‘self’ they are bad and have to be get rid of)


#36

Very good example. Well, this it is a flawed line of logic, just like the ones used by those mystics believing in god. The information at hand does not necessarily lead to that conclusion.

For example there is an illness that makes people believe everybody in their lives (family members, friends, etc.) have been replaced by almost identical evil clones. For them, everything seems to be poiting to this conclusion. If such a person goes to a doctor and tells him these opinions that he has, should the doctor immediately conclude that indeed all his family members and friends have been killed and replaced with evil clones ?

There might be more to the problem that what looks to be intuitive. There might be a counter-intuitive answer to the problem, such as having an illness that makes one believe that.

So there can be conclusions based on good logic and conclusions based on bad or incomplete use of logic.

And is it that different from the Buddhist anusaya or the ásavás? We have to assume that they are there all the time but you wouldn’t say “here they are, in this feeling” (of course opposite to my ‘self’ they are bad and have to be get rid of)

Well let me give you a clear example of a mental tendency. In my country, people living in the region of Transilvania are very different from other people. They are extremely calm, to the point of ridiculousness. It is quite strange how a whole group of people can all be like that and to such a big extent.

Because of this calmness mental tendency, all that is happening in their life is colored by this. All their experiences are colored by this. For example if they get into an argument at the supermakert, they will behave extremely calm. If they are doing cooking, they are cooking extremely calm. All they do, they do it super super calm. This mental tendency that they have colors every second of their lives.

Or for example in the Oltenia region people are extremelly fiery. If they get into an argument they are gona explode. If they are doing cooking, they are doing it faster and more agitated than the transilvanians, etc. The difference between them is extraordinary.

A mental tendency is something that colors the entire life of a person. All their actions are influenced at at least to an extent by this mental tendency that exists.


#37

That’s exactly what I asked. Why does it exist in dogs but not in rocks or computers ? There must be a reason for it.


#38

The dog and the human have 5 intersecting agreggates. The rock has none, perhaps 1.


#39

Exactly. In the case of living oganisms, there exist contact. In the case of rocks or computer, it does not. To have contact, we need 3 elements. For example a car parking sensor has only 2 elements: the sensor and “the things that are perceived” by the parking sensor. In the case of living organisms we have: the eye, the things that are perceived by the eye and eye-consciousness. “The meeting of the 3 is contact”. Because of this contact, another 3 aggregates arise: feeling, volition, perception.

It is in this way that we reach the non-existene of a self. This is what the whole “higher dhamma” section is all about: explaining in detail all the conditionalities that exist, explaining how the aggregates work like one would explain how an engine works.

Only by seeing all of them in full can one reach the final point where the no-self is understood. We see little by little how every part of the engine works until there is nothing left to cover. At one point, we get to see how even this feeling that gives rise to the opinion that there is a self is also conditioned by other things and part of this engine. And there is only the engine and nothing else.

But this is not all. To do this, we need to look at things from a different angle and also see how they are all impermanent. Not just impermanent in general, but take every little part in detail and see that it is impermanent. The angle of looking at a problem is very important. If we look at a problem from the wrong angle we will never understand it.

And this is in short what the “higher dhamma” section of the suttas is doing. The section is chapter 2, chapter 3 and half of chapter 4 from SN - 1500pag of in detail information. It is also arranged in the same way as Buddha explained things to his 5 ascetic friends for example or other people that attained stream entry after hearing it (and therefore remove self view). There are hundreds of cases of people attaining stream entry in the suttas, all did it the same way, through hearing this higher dhamma. You can’t simply hear that there is no self and chose to believe it, you need to actually understand it.

The first part of this is chapter 2 - the section about conditionality. Then comes the section about aggregates that will explain in detail how the aggregates work. Then, we are presented another angle of looking, that of the sense bases in chapter 4. And there we also find the most difficult suttas about no-self. They are arranged in the same order as Buddha explained them to people.


#40

It is very important to look from the right angle. For example if a bushman would see a car for the first time and try to figure out how it works, he might start thinking things like: This car is a living animal or it is pushed by a spirit. This spirit is good or bad, it’s the spirit of a bird or NO, it is the spirit of a cheetah cause the car is so fast, etc. Or he might say the car is black and therefore this color might be the secret of attracting special spirits that then come and push the car.

This is an extreme example but the idea is that one can simply look at things from the wrong angle and ask wrong things. Even though it might seem that it makes sense for a spirit cheetah to push the car since the car is so fast - even though it has some logic, it is just the wrong angle of looking at things, a wrong line of pursuit.

The angle of looking is very important for understanding a problem. The problem of how the aggregates work is a technical one that requires that angle of looking. It requires a mechanical eye not a mystical eye like that of the bushman or a postmodern eye like that of the bushman hipster friend.

We see this kind of looking from the wrong angle happening all the time when dealing with questions such as how do living organisms such as humans work. The straightforeward way of looking that we apply when trying to understand a car engine is never the first one to be tried when dealing with how living organisms work. We are quick to mystify consciousness or other parts of the engine.