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
Buddhism is as diverse as other religions. There is not "one" Buddhism.
Last fall I went to a number of Buddhist shrines and temples in China. I did not expect to feel much, other my usual sense of awe when I am in an ancient place and pondering about what hands touched and built that place, hundreds or thousands of years ago. But I did feel very moved. A big part of that was, I felt connected to the aspirations and desire for peace of people that developed in complete isolation and absence of abrahamic religions.
There are Buddhists who worship gods, and there are Buddhists who don't. There are Buddhists who believe in reincarnation, and there are Buddhists who believe we are annihilated at death. What moved me the most was the philosophy, an understanding that all is temporary, that all suffer, and suffering is partly due to attachment to temporary things, leading to loss and anticipation of loss. If I could become less attached, I might suffer less. I think that would be good.
Daniel, when you stand in an ancient temple or cathedral, see the beautiful design, the clever engineering, the precious stones and metals and paintings, do you have a sense of awe? I have felt the same way, especially in Thailand and Indonesia. I have a full-of-wonder kind of feeling. Who were the people who built such structures? What were their lives like? Did they build because of devotion?
I am curious about the people who built such monuments. Did they build it out of devotion to an idea, an image, a symbol of commitment to a concept? Did resources pulled out of the community to support the costs of building such a structure come from abundance? Did the builders live in healthy environments, did they have enough food for all members of the community?
I was in a huge cathedral someplace in Europe. I asked my guide if there were remnants or evidence of the condition of the builders who constructed this marvel of engineering and beauty. He took me to a library where we examined old records and drawings of the people and families of workers on the construction. We found reports of starvation, disease, and filth. Looking at the archeology reports, the skeletons revealed signs of heavy lifting, broken collar bones, stress fractures, skeletal signs of muscle and tendon damage. It clearly was not a community of people able and willing to make such a sacrifice. Their lives may have been enriched by building such an edifice, but I wonder if the people would have been better off with food in their bellies, a clean home in which they lived, and proper sanitation?
I visited a mission in Mexico where Indians built a magnificent cathedral with valuable stones, metals and glass. A little investigation revealed that the Indians who did the construction were used as slaves, their skeletons had symptoms of very heavy work, their lives were not improved with the architectural monument demanded of the priests who came along with the Spanish soldiers to plunder their wealth and human power.
When I observe these great structures I wonder if modern people understand the sacrifice others made to create such things. I also wonder if modern people would be able and willing to repeat the work necessary to make it happen.
Joan, I have been listening to lectures on "The Other Side of History", a series about ordinary people in ancient times. That title might be wrong, but it's the general idea. It's much more moving and informative than learning about monarchs, despots, and armies.
Human history is filled with the sacrifices of ordinary people. The remains of their civilizations, temples, walls, aqueducts, and even the small works of art left by people who lived in the stabilized societies following conquest, leave me with a sense of wonder.
We are certainly fortunate to live in modern times, in a society that benefits from the efforts of those before us, and standing not only on the shoulders of giants, but also on the shoulders of slaves.
Daniel, those lectures sound just like what interests me. I can get the album on iTunes, and I have the name of the author so that I can read whatever he has printed until I can get the album. I've got a little problem of gathering together my property taxes, but that will just take a little time; then I can enjoy "The Other Side of History".
Thanks, dear friend. You always have the means to respond to my impatience with people who don't recognize history and its impact on the present.
Here it is - "The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World" with lecturer Robert Garland; the series is from "The Great Courses".
I got it through Audible.com. The cost of the entire lecture series was $14.95 which is amazing considering on the great courses it is $249.95. Ouch. I don't know what it is on I-tunes.
Joan, in reading this thread, I looked up "The Other Side of History" by Garland in Audible.com. I, too, download audio books from them.
Here's the link
"understanding that all is temporary, that all suffer, and suffering is partly due to attachment to temporary things, leading to loss and anticipation of loss. If I could become less attached, I might suffer less. I think that would be good."
~ Sentient Biped
Daniel, I missed this yesterday when I read it. I focused on your first paragraph.
Yes, to suffer may come from attachment to temporary things! To suffer may come from loss or anticipation of loss!
To become less attached may reduce suffering.
The feeling of suffering then becomes a signal from one's body or thinking that something needs attention, perhaps do something more, or less, or differently. To change and to end whatever is the basic cause of the suffering.
In the case of child abuse, the child is helpless to do anything. As an adult survivor of child abuse, there are options one can take to stop cycles of violence in the family.
In the case of spousal abuse, the adult has an option. It doesn't matter which option one chooses, there will always be a price to pay, a consequence. It then becomes a decision of the 3P.
What are the probabilities, possibilities and preferabilities? Do a cost/benefit analysis and make a decision; then live with the consequences of that choice.
...[Karma] gives meaning to my life.
Danie, the Catholic schools my dad put his kids into -- I don't like the implicit consent in the words "the Catholic schools I attended -- required kids to repeat at least daily the words "The purpose of life is to know, love and serve God, and be happy with him forever in Heaven."
That purpose/meaning was as other-worldly as purpose/meaning can be. When I quit Catholicism I needed something worldly to replace it.
While in college, Buddhism was one of the belief systems I considered but the version I saw required me to give up attachments. In my mid 20s, I didn't want to do that.
I chose agnosticism, and in existentialism learned the importance of consequences.
In a graduate school mathematics course I found an activity I would have pursued as a hobby and, amazed, asked my professor, "People will pay me to do that?"
Being happily employed became my purpose.
Now, being a happily retired atheist is my purpose -- a quite worldly attachment.
I agree that one must challenge any philosophy and only follow what will benefit you.
I agree, but want to add and keep the sheriff's attention focused elsewhere.
If you want to oppose a religious belief, are you going to use another religious belief?
That was my dilemma in 1974, if christianity brought so much pain and suffering into my life, how am I to conduct my life if I don't have a guidebook? I have to have a guidebook, I don't know what the right way is, all I know is that what I learned was wrong. The usual search, seek, explore, experiment, examine, compare, contrast occurred.
You know what? I don't have to have a guidebook. My body, mind, and the sense of fairness resides within me. Trust my process.
I did have a lot of guidance along the way, in that I learned all I could about family violence, wrote a thesis, "Toward a Theory of Family Violence: Its Antecedents, Treatment, and Prevention". I wrote a dissertation, "A Splendid Heresy"; I had basic skills with which to bring up three wonderful children.
The added benefit, along the journey to healthy living, I learned how to meditate, mindfulness, and add that to the leadership and organizational skills I learned in graduate and post-graduate education, I have a very nice tool box with which to guide me.
I still have hangups! Well, after all, I am normal! So, get over it.
So, in the end, you realized that it is you and you alone who knows what needs to be done to get the best out of life, eh? Joseph Campbell said the BLISS is everywhere; you just have to learn to see (or realize) it.
Sounds like you have gone through a lot in life.