Just wondering what you guys think about Buddhism. I was reading about the basic structure of it today. The business about 6 cycles, Nirvana and levels of heaven seem easy enough to dismiss, but the day to day process of achieving happiness by working on one's self is kind of intriguing. It has no dieties. It seems to be debatable whether it is even a 'religion'. I like the fact that they believe that nothing is eternal and everything is in constant flux. It could possibly be a way to oppose Christian dogma without declaring atheism "I don't want to hear this, I'm Buddhist".  Anyway, I'm not jumping in it or trying to convince anyone, just looking for opinions. Thanks

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Machines have reactions too. 

A mosquito brain is roughly the size of the periods on this page.  With a brain that size, maybe less than a millionth the size of a human brain, thinking that what goes on in an insect's head has any similarity to how we feel, is due to our human tendency to attribute consciousness to almost anything.  Our awareness comes from literally billions of neurons interacting in complicated ways. 

No "erring on the side of caution" is needed in this case.  One couldn't say the probability of insects being aware is zero, but one in a billion maybe? 

I don't needlessly kill insects either, or spiders.  But if I do need to kill them, I don't have the idea that cruelty is involved.  It isn't.  The reason I don't needlessly kill them is related to what killing does to me.  It's not that it might harm something that could be aware of harm. 

Doesn't it make good sense to drain the swamps, clean out the trash, maintain a clean environment and do everything possible to stop the propagation of mosquitos? 

Does buddhism expect one to simply watch without action when a mosquito is about to plunge its feeding stylet into one's flesh? 

I agree, there are choices we can make and that requires to educate oneself. Being blindly obedient to principles seems to be a foolhardy way to live. 

Ian, that sounds to me like denial of reality. Anytime we give away our power of reasoning we lose the benefits of being alive, evolved from more primitive creatures and able to think and take action. 

I agree with your statement about the 4 truths being giving up living. I interpreted that truth to mean to look critically at suffering, its causes, the remedies, and taking action to make changes. For me, it was not resignation. I read the words, and they provided me the frame from which I could benefit. Smorgasboard philosophy, I know. However, that is how I escaped religion and an abusive marriage. 

As to the fat prince who abandoned his wife and young son, I knew he and his philosophy were dead ends. Being guilty of the sin of wanting things is kind of what kept me bound to an abusive marriage. It was hard to give up expensive vacations to beautiful places, expensive clothes, a fine home, fancy cars, boats, and all the trappings that money can provide. Giving up all that in order to gain safety was a deal well made. 

As it turned out, after years of working at minimum wage jobs, getting education degrees to understand why it was so hard for me to leave, and impossible for my mother and grandmothers to leave abusive men, I did travel, not for pleasure, but for learning the condition of women in 32 nations of the world. I learned about control and helplessness, power and acquiescence, dominance and submission. I also learned I give my power away and I can take it back. 

Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion.  That said, it has its good points and bad points.  

Let's start with Gautama himself.  He had a nice little family; then one day he decided he wanted to know stuff, so he walked out on them.  Hey, dimwit!  Maybe you should look behind you and see that your bereft wife and child are crying for your return, and are destitute without you!

So on goes Gautama, telling everyone else how to end suffering.  His path to happiness is pretty impossible for most people, though I will admit that he's right that in owning nothing and caring about nothing is a sure way to not being sad about losing things.  On the other hand, that doesn't take a genius to figure out.  

Naturally, his philosophy was augmented after his death.  He was elevated to the status of a demi-god.  In reality, we are not entirely sure of what he wrote, and even less sure of his life details.  And, of course, I never met the fellow, so feh.

I have two more reasons to discard Buddhism as worthy philosophy. 

When Gautama left his wife and child, they remained in a community of wealth and privilege and were well cared for. The fact that Gautama left behind a wife and son seems very sophomoric to me. An immature man leaves behind commitments already made without thought of the important role husbands and fathers play in healthy family life. Perhaps it was better he left, perhaps his wife and son faired very well without him, but in my opinion, if the marriage was unhealthy for him, there were other ways than abandonment ... and for what? Who benefited? Who paid a price? Was founding a belief system more important that fathering a son? Could he have done both? I don't know and it is none of my business how he conducted his affairs. However, once he planted the seed that produced a son, he had obligations. 

The second problem I have with Gautama, he did not teach self-reliance as a way of life. He taught rice bowl philosophy. "Let the people feed me because I am worth it. The fact that I exists means you have the obligation to feed me for the rest of my life"

That is about as bad a philosophy to teach a child as I can think of. My job in raising my children was to raise them to become adults, earning their own way in life and making the Earth a little better for others in the process. 

I tend to agree with Napoleon's assessment of Buddhism, a least in the sense of the evil done in it's name in Myanmar, Thailand, and by the Japanese during WW II. I would add to that the evil done in Tibet before the Chinese conquest in 1950. Tibetans were no more than serfs to the ruling class of monks, and were brutalized in inconceivable ways. I'm not excusing the Chinese brutality inflicted on the Tibetans after the conquest, by any means. One brutal master was replaced with another. A status of serfdom (near slavery) was replaced with re-education camps and executions. And, there was the brutal war in Sri Lanka between the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Tamil Hindu's, with the Buddhist majority inflicting decades long discrimination against the Tamils.

As to Buddhist philosophy, my own personal estimation is that I can get more 'deep thoughts' from a Hallmark greeting card than from the mouth of the Dalai Lama.

Pat, that is my understanding of Buddhism as well. I like when I see people know the history before passing judgement. 

Consider the harms that some people do, i.e., the leaders of Myanmar, Thailand, and WW2 Japan, to say nothing of other leaders throughout history.

Which accounts for their harm more, their early upbringing or their early religious belief?

I ask that because I have so often, for decades, heard of Americans looking for religious leaders who comfort them. They find these leaders, accept their religious teachings, but are seldom challenged by these teachings. They then raise their children in these teachings.

Perhaps both upbringing and religion account for the harm they do. Do they account about equally?

In the ASCA (Adult Survivors of Child Abuse) program, it's taught that children adopt behaviors that help them survive, but in these survivors' adult lives these behaviors usually malfunction.

Tom, exactly. Ego Defense Mechanisms are learned strategies for survival that may or may not work as adults. That is what therapy is all about, correcting the ego defense mechanisms learned in childhood that keep them caught in maladaptive behaviors. 

Rational Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy


Joan, I hope you're not saying that Ego Defense Mechanisms -- capitalizing the words implies official acceptance by an organization -- are the only survival strategies adopted by children in abusive homes.

Such strategies can greatly affect the choices people make and be seen as normal behavior.

I wasn't clear enough. ego defense mechanisms are present in human beings for a reason. Children learn them through natural defense strategies that are part of our makeup. It is the same type of thing a fawn does when it crouches in the grass to avoid being seen. It is natural, normal, and life preserving.  It is the thing mammals do to survive the risks of a presence predatory animals.  

They are necessary for survival, however, they can be maladaptive when they are the basis of unrealistic fears in adults. For example, a person terrified of birds, any birds, to the point of not wanting to be in a garden if there are birds around, is maladaptive. I could give many other examples, but I think I made my point.


"Such strategies can greatly affect the choices people make and be seen as normal behavior."

and healthy behavior. 



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