(How) do we derive meaning and make life meaningful?

I am interested in how we make sense of the Dhamma? How we determine what is meaningful and, what is not?

My question is not about our specific methods - our analytical tools and techniques. The question is not related to the history of the texts i.e. their development in a religious and social context. My question is not about a critical analysis of the teachings in the light of modern findings.

My question is related to our conditioning - our self-concept and the influence this has on our ability to understand the Dhamma. The stream of chittas is a conditioned process!

Without a proper understanding of the Buddha’s teachings there is no possibility of realising its purpose. We might as well give up and read spy-novels?

What sparked my interest was a comment made elsewhere on this site. The respondent made a distinction between their attitude with regard to science and, how they derived personal meaning - what they found meaningful in the Dhamma.

They seemed to be saying: they turned to science for understanding (the facts) and when it came to finding meaning to - or in - their existence (their ‘lived’ reality) they turned to the Dhamma.

There seemed to be no understanding - or interest - in their response as to how their use of scientific findings was related to what they find meaningful in the Dhamma. This was a prominent Secular Buddhist’s perspective on the place of science in their belief system.

If we don’t understand how our understanding of Dhamma is influenced by our conditioning, our underlying assumptions about our ‘existence’ - the way we are - then how are we going to wake up? This point is also relevant with regard to religious conditioning.

Nibbana is the not-conditioned!

How are we going to make our lives meaningful without understanding the Dhamma in the way that leads to awakening? How are we going to understand the Dhamma if we don’t understand ourselves?

Right-view is indispensable - not an optional extra - this is not a dress rehearsal.

What do you mean by recent scientific findings ? Was it discovered that materialism is correct or has it been totally refuted by recent findings ? From what I know the second is true.

There is nothing meaningful neither according to buddhism neither according to materialism. Buddhism claims life has no meaning, it’s purposeles suffering. Only purpose one can have is to escape it. As for materialist, no matter how they spin it, there is no purpose in life according to materialism either.

Yes, I agree on your first point! I did not mean proven scientific postulates i.e. beyond reasonable doubt. I was referring to a ‘belief’ about scientific findings in general.

If life is (purposeless suffering) then we can make our lives ‘meaningful’ by escaping purposeless suffering. I believe this is what the Buddha taught - this is the ‘purpose’ of the holy-life.

Why would we express an interest in life, death and, liberation if we felt it served no meaningful purpose?

There are materialists who would not argue that it is important to live a meaningful life.

Nihilists may deny ‘meaning’ in any shape or form? However, I suspect they believe their claim of meaninglessness is meaningful - as a postulate! They probably do things for reasons like everyone else? I assume they find their intentions and activities meaningful to them for personal reasons?

I hope that Nihilists are ‘rare birds’ along with sociopaths - there may be a correlation?

This is why I clarified my question. It is not about scientific methods and procedures or science findings. It is not about historicity or, the placement of teachings in a cultural or religious context.

You need to understand my question’s ‘specific’ meaning before you can answer it in a meaningful way. It is about understanding ourselves in a direct way. We need to understand how our beliefs - secular or religious - are conditioned and limited in various ways.

We need to realise that the liberating Dhamma is the ‘not-conditioned’ - the not-born, the deathless - it is not limited in various ways.

As ‘sentient beings’ we are limited in various ways. This includes our discursive understanding of reality.

We need to understand the difference between Dhamma teachings - secular and religious - and the liberating Dhamma (as best we can). This would be an indispensable aspect of right-view?

When we understand the ‘relative’ value and meaning of the teachings we are no longer confused about them - in one important way. We will have some insight into sectarian controversies - how they arise.

This has nothing to do with specific doctrines like - the ‘Arahant’ ideal in contrast to the ‘Bodhisattva’ ideal (as found in the Mahayana). It has nothing to do with the difference between empiricism and other systematic forms of inquiry. Insight is ‘just seeing’ it is a seeing that is direct and transformative. :slightly_smiling_face:

The distinction between the ‘Dhamma teachings and Dhamma-insight’ is a (simple) one that the Buddha clarified for our benefit. It is implicit in the teachings with regard to the difference between a ‘wordling’ and an Aryan - and the differences between Aryan’s. I am astonished that the implications of these ‘core’ Buddhist teachings seems to go unnoticed - somehow. Particularly, in Secular Buddhism and other faith-based belief systems. They can be played-down, reinterpreted - in Secular Buddhism - in a way that the Buddha did not mean or, completely dismissed for untenable reasons. To misunderstand these teachings is to misunderstand the Buddha’s liberating insight - what would be the point in that? :slight_smile::heart_eyes::wink:

To understand not-self you need to develop the precepts, develop samadhi and see the five aggregates- then you will surely see through the delusion of the Self. Alternatively others penetrate this when doing other mindfulness practices -like walking meditation for example. Or they may purely through right contemplation (yonisomanasikara) understand it- this depends the different faculties people have. Focusing on constituents of experience and phenomena, AND the cause and effect nature of these phenomena, and especially how intention (sankhara) arises is particularly helpful in penetrating into not-self.

It is hard to see not-self based on the ignorance of a Self. So seeing (or experiencing), rather than thinking helps- but as Self is not true, the delusion of it is also logically flawed- therefore it can be reasoned and penetrated as well.

with metta

The way I know of how to see through the sense of self is through Jhanas. This provides direct insight into the absence of any sense of self. I believe this is the way the Buddha taught the path in the Suttas. Vipassana traditions are a later development. We know this through the exceptional research and scholarship into the historical development of the Buddhist tradition we can access through this site.

Your comment is relevant to the causes and supportive conditions required for Jhana. The practice in daily life and Jhana are aspects of an interdependent and self-less process. You cannot have one without the other. We require the three-fold aspects of the path to wake-up. The Samadhi dimension of this three-fold discovery is Jhana - the more the merrier! :heart_eyes:

For an example of ‘transpersonal’ insight from the early Buddhist texts (see below).

Everything you have said above Mat is good Dhamma - thankyou for sharing!

Below is an example of the need for liberating insight that goes beyond Sutta-study or any kind of discursive activity - secular or religious.

Straight from the Buddha:

“Ananda, as long as I had not attained & emerged from these nine step-by-step dwelling-attainments [including Nirodhasammapati] in forward & backward order in this way, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the right self-awakening.” - AN9.41

Phalasamapatti is attained by each of the four kinds of noble beings just after attaining the knowledge of the path, and it can be cultivated and extended by them as well. Nirodhasamapatti however, can only be entered by non-returners and arahats.

When we understand the ‘relative’ value and meaning of the teachings we are no longer confused about them - in one important way. We will have some insight into sectarian controversies - how they arise.

How about doing that for these ideas above first ? Let’s say they are relative and have no truth value and that their opposites are actually true.

The way I know of how to see through the sense of self is through Jhanas. This provides direct insight into the absence of any sense of self. I believe this is the way the Buddha taught the path in the Suttas.

There are hundreds of instances where people attaing stream entry (remove the fetter of self view) in the suttas. All did it the same way. There are even suttas where they explain how they did it.

The way is not through jhana or anything of that sort. You’ll never find a sutta of that sort. You’ll just find dozens of suttas where they do something else and attain it.

Many people during Buddha time were practicing austerities or jhanas but none achieved enlightenment, not even stream entry. Neither did Buddha until one night when he did something different.

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Yes, Jhana needs to be understood in the context of the Buddha’s teachings - or those who have come after him who are also Aryan’s, can help us with right view.

‘Awakening’ without Jhana is exceedingly unlikely. It is not me who says this - it is the Buddha who taught this! The only exception we have is the faith-follower with super-human faith. This is the message that is repeated so many times in the Suttas. You must have been reading something else or, you have picked up this idea from ‘who knows where’ - never mind - better late than never! :slightly_smiling_face:

Awakening without jhana is indeed impossible, otherwise we would have a 7th fold noble path not an 8thfold. I was speaking there about stream entry. There is no requirement of jhana for a stream entry. As a matter of fact, if a stream enterer would posses jhana he would become a non-returner. What we see in the suttas is that jhana is related with non-returning and arahantship. Stream entry is just the first step of the path: right view. And we have dozens if not hundreds of cases in the suttas about people achieving stream entry and about how they did it. All did it in the same way. You’ll never find one that did it differently in all 10k pages of suttas.

Please provide me with a single reference in any of the many teachings of the Buddha - in the Suttas where he says: only Non-Returners and Arahants can enter Jhana?

I mean a direct quote, just copy and paste. :slightly_smiling_face: