My Stroke of Insight

It might be a rather old one but it is still my favorite TED talk.


Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk was also featured on NPR’s TED Radio Hour. It includes an interview some additional description of her experience.

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so could it be that awakening is nothing more than a just neurological switch to life from the right hemisphere and its nature is purely physical?

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In that case suffering would come to an end after death when the physical body disintegrates completely. But unfortunately there’s this pesky little thing called rebirth…



knowing for certain would make things so much more easier and everything clearer plus it would give evil doers solid incentive to amend their ways from which the world would derive great benefit

why should we guess? what is it good for? or is it a means of putting trust in the Buddha?

I don’t believe we are compelled to. Compelled or not, the condition of not knowing remains for those who do not know.

I can’t easily relate to the idea of trusting the Buddha as an end in itself, nor can I say I’ve yet found such a thing advocated in the suttas.

To the full extent of my ability (that is limited by a known state of not knowing ) I trust the Buddha on this point because his descriptions of other, more testable questions, appear to be magnificently true. Furthermore, as you indicate above, the whole teaching more or less disintegrates if one adopts a full-on materialist perspective. By my reading, on the whole, the suttas operate to a much higher standard of logic than to allow such a glaring detail slide, which in turn supports my confidence that whoever bothered to compose them was, indeed, describing things from a position of direct observation.


if we know for sure or can trust the word easily

obviously it’s all for the sake of realization of the end goal but this nuance is not always spelled out

Monks, there are these seven treasures. Which seven? The treasure of conviction…

And what is the treasure of conviction? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones has conviction, is convinced of the Tathagata’s Awakening: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’ This is called the treasure of conviction.

AN 7.6

i’d rather trust him as an arahant who cannot speak a conscious lie, because knowledge of one thing doesn’t necessarily presuppose knowledge of another

but to loop it back to the topic at hand, it’s not inconceivable that the knowledge accessible to the right hemisphere, including the knowledge of past lives, is being silenced, drowned and supplanted by the discursive mind of the left one

Very good. :slight_smile:

Sorry, but I’ll have to pass on the notion of ‘conviction.’ There are scores of convinced people around the world on a plethora of religions, faiths, beliefs…

Sure, I get having faith or at least having a working hypothesis going into the Buddha’s teaching on rebirth. But having conviction in these sorts of matters before having really experienced them for oneself is a tricky matter. If you really want to look at the question of what you think you really know, I suggest a very interesting book on the subject:

On Being Certain. Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not by Robert Burton

It delves into the sort of incredibly convincing mystical experiences – like that of Jill B. Taylor – that leave people totally convinced.

I’ve always seen it as conviction in an individual as a capable instructor. If they start e.g. denying climate change, I will change my assessment of their ability to think critically. But if they, over time, continue to demonstrate an adroit use of conclusions in the face of critical thinking, I am likely to grow in the conviction that they are capable (it can never be certainty :wink: - e.g. non-returners can be mistaken that they are arahants ).

Practice, practice!

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

True, but what do you lose if you’re wrong? To quote the famous British philosopher group widely known as Monty Python, ‘I mean, what have you got to lose? You know, you come from nothing, you’re going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!’ Believing in rebirth (or God and Christian-style afterlife, for that matter) and following the ethical precepts of your religion to your best ability can make you a better person, and if you turn out to be true in your beliefs, you’ve just won the jackpot :slight_smile:

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Maybe, maybe not.

I see what you mean and I agree to a certain extent. But I have also seen how belief can get one into pretty bad ways. Isis is of course one extreme of absolute ‘conviction.’ Yet I have also personally experienced how other lesser extreme forms of Absolutism can easily turn people into arrogant self centered individuals.
That in itself might not be such a big deal. However, to get to your point, the real problem is that these people think they are spiritually evolving…becoming and turning into ever and greater “good people.”
My point being that I would rather have truth than delusion. It might be harder to live with but the prospect of believing in flying spaghetti monsters I find even less appealing.


being an asshole is much easier and even rewarding, for the same reason falling for sensuality is so tempting, while the movement in the opposite direction is so unnatural and painful, decline is the natural course of things, the path of the least resistance, the majority of human population need a good incentive to not follow it


Why is not believing in reincarnation/rebirth something “materialist”? I have never understood why non-reincarnation believers are labelled as “materialist”.

When the suttas use words that are translated as “birth”, “aging” & “death”, is not interpreting such words in physical ways something “materialistic”?

For example, if “birth” is interpreted as something mental (rather than physical), would not such an interpretation be non-materialistic?

There is nothing to lose because what is not gained cannot be lost.

Its like not travelling on an expensive holiday to visit Rome. You may not gain the experience of visiting Rome but you will not lose anything, such as losing your money.

In MN 60, this attitude is called a “safe bet”, i.e., “gambling on the roll of a dice”. The dice is rolled and two points are scored rather than six points. But this ‘gambling’ in MN 60 was not related to Nibbana. It was related to ‘rebirth’.

This statement here already or implicitly demonstrates “conviction”. Already, there seems to be a conviction the Buddha taught about a certain type of ‘rebirth’ (rather than a different type of ‘rebirth’). Already, this seems constrained by a rigid assumption or definition of the term ‘rebirth’.

This view is certainly valid but what about those that have conviction is some teachings but lack conviction in others, such as those annihilationist wanders that believe Dependent Origination was just a teaching to mock or ridicule the old Brahmanistic teachings? Do such annihilationist wanders have complete conviction in an individual as a capable instructor or only conviction in what they themselves (the annihilationist wanders) decide to pick & choose in their wanderings?


no, because these ARE denotations of physical processes, to non-physical phenomena they’re only applicable by way of metaphor, and so their literal interpretation is completely normal

Yes, Deeele, I’m definitely on board with allowing some room for the possibility of using “birth” to refer to a mental event. I, however, am not suitably studied on the subject and anything I’d have to say on whether there is any textual basis for such an application wouldn’t even equal the value of a fly’s fart. I, personally, am very happy to accept the Venerables’ explanation that “birth” is most typically, specifically referring to “rebirth”.

The reason why I remain warm to the idea you’ve brought forward is because I think it can serve as a really useful practical tool and, being a pragmatist, I can’t see any good reason for not using it as it does seem entirely congruent with the training irrespective of whether it was directly intended in the texts.

As for “materialist”, rather than meaning to use the word in a broad way, I was specifically referring to the philosophical position that holds that everything is 100% generated by material happenings (in our context here it would prescribe that the death of the body means the total ceasing of the person that the bodily activities created - I guess it’s pretty equatable with the annihilationist position of the suttas, eg DN2#21). Quickly looking things up to make sure I had my terms correct, I’ve discovered the materialism might also be called physicalism (although apparently only some would use it as a synonym while others would say its extremely closely related).

Hope this helps. :slight_smile:

This will have to be proved.

I must go now but will return in a few hours to see what you can offer here. :koala:

that’s a pretty presumptuous and even arrogant response, i don’t think self-evident things warrant any proof but maybe someone will volunteer to prove that

I disagree it is self-evident.

Without referring to any other person, with only yourself explaining the sutta definitions from the suttas & Pali dictionaries. please provide evidence “birth” (“jati”) & “past lives” (“pubbe nivasa”) are physical.

Thank you. Dummukha (aka ‘Deele’) :koala:

I contribute the following for starters but allow you to offer your analysis of SN 12.2 & others:

Angulimala, go to that woman and on arrival say to her, ‘Sister, since I was born (jāto) I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.’"

“But, lord, wouldn’t that be a lie for me? For I have intentionally killed many living beings.”

“Then in that case, Angulimala, go to that woman and on arrival say to her, ‘Sister, since I was born in the noble birth (ariyāya jātiyā jāto), I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.’”

Responding, “As you say, lord,” to the Blessed One, Angulimala went to that woman and on arrival said to her, “Sister, since I was born in the noble birth, I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.” And there was wellbeing for the woman, wellbeing for her fetus.

MN 86

Here, bhikkhus, the uninstructed worldling, who is not a seer of the noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who is not a seer of superior persons and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, regards form as self. That regarding, bhikkhus, is a formation. That formation—what is its source, what is its origin, from what is it born (jātiko) and produced? When the uninstructed worldling is contacted by a feeling born of ignorance-contact, craving arises: thence that formation is born.

SN 22.81

To me, this Western Wikipedia definition is hardly logical let alone practical since why would merely the “beginning” of something define its nature? Its like me defining someone as a “child” or “baby” or “zygote” due to these being beginning of their life. They would probably regard this as an insult. Did the Buddha ever use the term “materialist view”? I generally avoid the Western hubris of imputing vague Western philosophical definitions onto the perfection Buddhism.

[quote=“Aminah, post:16, topic:3799”]
in our context here it would prescribe that the death of the body means the total ceasing of the person that the bodily activities created - I guess it’s pretty equatable with the annihilationist position of the sutta[/quote]

The annihilationist position in the suttas (DN 1) is not a Buddhist belief. It is a belief of non-Buddhists. My impression is Buddhism does not teach there is a real or substantial “person”. Therefore, anything I said in my post is not the annihilationist position because I did not ever refer to a “person”. Where as your position is certainly the “eternalist” position because you seem to believe there is a “person” that continues after something you call “death”.

If DN 1 or Iti 49 is read, it may be found each definition of “eternalism” & “nihilism” is dependent upon the view that there is a “person” or “self”. In other words, they both appear to be forms of ‘self-view’ (sakkaya-ditthi) rather than views about permanence (nicca) or impermanence (anicca) per se.

Regards :seedling: