Secularism must lead to hedonism?

Even refined equanimity is seen as dukkha and is let go of, so it’s hard to see how it’s hedonism either Cyrenaic or Epicurean.

Namo Buddhaya!

Hedonism as in more or less giving himself up to degeneracy or sensual enjoyment.

I think a person like this can’t be fully restrained but he can to an extent be incentivized, in many ways, to behave in a way that wins him good friends. But if all things are otherwise equal he will be much worse off for maintaining the view.

I haven’t done a sociological peer-reviewed study, it’s just my observations IRL. ymmv

A Buddhist or member of another religion might go to the temple for a meditation program or religious service. At the same time, a secularist is likely to go shopping for things they don’t need, go out to a night club, socialize with friends, etc. As I mentioned previously, this does not mean that all secularists or all religionists are like this. There are hedonists who are followers of religions just as there are secular people who are not hedonists.

I just did a quick google search and found this study which appears to support that agnostics and atheist are more likely to pursue pleasures, but certainly not all of them and it differentiates between different types of atheism, for example “New Atheism” etc.

Hedonism is beating all religions with ease.

Bhikkhu Pesala

Namo Buddhaya!

I think this is completely reasonable.

A person can have much incentive to behave moderately in regards to sensual pleasure and i don’t see why they would not be able to enjoy meditative attainments.

People see that sensual pleasure corrupts and all humans enjoy mastering their proclivities & behavior.

Much morality is obviously strategic based on game theory eg

In other games one can prove things like strategies punishing bad behavior are better than those which do not and that strategies with forgiveness are better than those without.

Cooperation is generally the best long term strategy across games and this naturally incentivizes praiseworthy behavior because cooperation is so critical and difficult to win.

They still have fear of shame, guilt, punishment, only lacking in fear of the other world.

I agree.

Though it does seem like the ultimate goal of escaping from suffering is a “hedonistic” goal in the philosophical sense of the term. A hedonistic conception of wellbeing is one on which wellbeing consists in the presence of positive mental states and the absence of negative ones. If positive mental states are not possible, then this entails that complete absence of mental states would be better. For example, I don’t think that it would be inconsistent for someone to be a hedonist and to opt for euthanasia because the remainder of their existence will consist only in suffering. Rather, this conclusion seems to follow from hedonism. Nor do I think that it would be inconsistent for a hedonist to opt for euthanasia because all mental states are suffering (though the position that all mental states are suffering would probably be unpopular).

The case of euthanasia seems somewhat analogous to some conceptions of nibbāna. All states of consciousness are suffering, therefore it is better to not have them at all. The difference with the Epicureans just seems to lie in which particular states are suffering or not.

In any case, it seems to me that a lot of Buddhists want to resist the conclusion that all mental states are suffering. In this case there doesn’t really seem to be a substantive difference with an Epicurean hedonist.

There are also some hedonists who do seem to think that all mental states are suffering (maybe Schopenhauer), though he was influenced by Buddhism.

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Actually when you practice precepts and giving, the result will be a hedonism life.

See example of Yasa in Vinaya.

… While Yasa was spending the four months of the rainy season in the rainy-season house, he was attended on by female musicians, and he did not come down from that house.

On one occasion, while he was enjoying himself with worldly pleasures, he fell asleep before his attendants. He then woke up first, while the oil lamp was still burning.

He saw his attendants sleeping:

one with a lute in her armpit, another with a tabor on her neck, still another with a drum in her armpit; one with hair disheveled, another drooling, still another talking in her sleep. It was like a charnel ground before his very eyes.

When he saw this, the downside became clear, and a feeling of repulsion stayed with him.

He uttered a heartfelt exclamation:

“Oh the oppression! Oh the affliction!”

He then put on his golden shoes and went to the entrance door. Spirits opened the door, thinking, “No-one should create any obstacle for Yasa going forth into homelessness.” He went to the town gate, and again it was opened by spirits. He then went to the deer park at Isipatana.

Just then, after getting up early in the morning, the Buddha was doing walking meditation outside. When the Buddha saw Yasa coming, he stepped down from his walking path and sat down on the prepared seat.

As he was getting close to the Buddha, Yasa uttered the same heartfelt exclamation: “Oh the oppression! Oh the affliction!”

The Buddha said, “This isn’t oppressive, Yasa, this isn’t afflictive. Come and sit down. I’ll give you a teaching.”

Eventually a hedonism lifestyle will be abandoned due to living through it and seen it as suffering and one is seeing a true dhamma.

Problem is how often one can hear true dhamma.

How do we feel about our own demise, demise of what is the question.

Demise of our bodies: same for secular and non-secular, depends on degree of attachment.

Demise of our personality: same for secular and non-secular, depends on degree of attachment.

Now where things become more distinct and secular vs non secular deviate is things like what about original ideas or even something more core to our being that we can’t exactly pin down. Speaking as someone who is agnostic to reincarnation, lokas, devas etc

Our core may live on if others saw something in it that’s worth preserving and emulating. Or they may not even continue because of us but because someone else with the same “core factors” did a better job at inspiring others.

At the end of the day we may have ww3 , life no longer sustained on earth and none of the above would be preserved by anybody.

So I guess positively affecting a loved one now through these core factors is what matters most.

A life is the length of one thought. We are born, live, die and are reborn over and over in this current “life” and ever-changing body. Now you can see how the karma of hedonism plays out in “future lives”. Attachment, as it exists in hedonism, is suffering whether “life after death” is believed or not.

It seems to me that non-belief in rebirth is not belief in cessation. One might be agnostic and just say that one believes that one doesn’t know.

I don’t think it is non-belief in rebirth that would render the Buddha’s teaching obsolete, but non-belief in the suffering character of human existence. In that case, however, one probably does not care about Buddhist teachings in the first place, saying that they are “pessimistic”.

As I recently pointed out in another thread where this was discussed, I believe many of the Buddha’s teachings still make a lot of sense for non-believers in rebirth. But they should still look at the full body of the teachings and not just try to “have it their way”, as in insisting that rebirth was somehow not a central aspect of the Buddha’s teachings.

I would say that the 8fold path makes sense even if you don’t believe in the complete cessation of suffering in this life.

I have pointed out in another thread that suicide is still not an option, even without belief in rebirth. This is because, speaking allegorically, by doing so you “lose” to Mara, and if there is such a thing as immediate Kamma,it may result in a botched suicide attempt and lead to enormous suffering. And even if technically your kammic responsibilites are only personal, one may still have consideration for others, but that is a difficult topic (since enlightenment would possibly include the letting go of these feelings).

Do you think that the goal promised by following the Noble Eightfold Path is enough motivating for someone who doesn’t believe in rebirth ?

For example, let’s say Jackie. It’s a fiction of course. Let’s say he is bilionaire, has many sensual pleasures around and has a successful career. He has 60 years and he doesn’t believe in rebirth at all.

Can you motivate him to follow the Noble Eightfold Path without having him have Mundane Right Views first ?

Can you say to him “hey Jackie, abstain from s**, give up alcohol and parties, and so on” ?

And if he tells you “listen man, your philosophy about nibbāna that’s your stuff ok ? Me I’m really happy to enjoy life and rest forever once my life comes to an end”, what will you tell him ?

Anyway, for soneone who doesn’t believe in rebirth, what is the difference in his views between nibbāna and death ? Ahahah

If he really feels that way, then yes, I would let him be. If he does not feel that he is suffering, fine! Congratulations!

But I think reality shows that such people are more often than not pretty desperate. Look at Elvis, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and such people. They get completely messed up and all about them really screams for meaning. Some of them would probably be more open to the Buddha’s teaching about suffering than regular people are.

Nibbana (the end of greed, hate and illusion) as opposed to Parinibbana (final death) even for non-believers in rebirth can imo mean a significant reduction of suffering, a way to protest at life’s misery and possibly be of very healthy influence on others.

These are not definate answers. I haven’t come up with a complete system of alternative teachings, nor will I. But I honestly believe one does not have to abandon the path if rebirth is the only issue.

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May I ask you some last yes/no questions please ? :slight_smile:

So, for you, when the Buddha taught rebirth and right view, he was actually engaging in idle chatter, right ?

If you could write him a letter, would you advise him not to waste time teaching rebirth and right views and just to go straight to the Noble Eightfold Path ?


He may well have been right. But I can’t change the fact that I personally do not believe that anybody can know for sure what happens at/after death.


I would however die to hear his advice for me.

“He holds wrong view and has an incorrect perspective thus: ‘There is nothing given, nothing sacrificed, nothing offered; there is no fruit or result of good and bad actions; there is no this world, no other world; there is no mother, no father; there are no beings spontaneously reborn; there are in the world no ascetics and brahmins of right conduct and right practice who, having realized this world and the other world for themselves by direct knowledge, make them known to others.’” AN 10.211 (Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Do you agree that you have wrong view according to the suttas ? :slight_smile:

I am not sure if you know that the evidence for rebirth is overwhelming. For example, many researchers have studied children who report memories of a previous life individual, where these reports have been verified by tracing the individual that died. Thousands of such cases (NOT just a handful) have been investigated. Science generally ignores this evidence because it goes against materialistic beliefs. If you check out the following discussion from the University of Virginia, you might get an idea.

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If I have, then certainly not because of this Sutta. And I do not share the statement in bold

Do you have one or two concise case reports for me?