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« "zen" cinema | Main | What's Real? »

15 October 2005

Comments

steve

Beautifully felt, thought-out, composed. Amen to all of it.
Wounded faith is the deepest spiritual wound I have ever known.

Olympiada

Beautiful post, I agree. A few thing resonated with me. First of all I actually moved from Buddhism to Christianity! Yes. My mother fell away from the Roman Catholic church and did not raise me in it. I was left to find my own way. So I did, and I became a Neo-Pagan and a Buddhist. I am dismayed that the Catholic religion sees Buddhism as a form of Paganism according to the Catholic encyclopedia. At any rate, I would be interested in talking to those who moved from Buddhism to Christianity. Know any people like that?

Also I like what you said about the gates. I am a surrealist and often drew gates as a teenager. Now I know what they mean. That gate of faith was the last one for me to enter into...and the hardest...the narrow gate, as I am an Orthodox Christian now.

Tikaviro

As I understand, the Buddha encouraged us to experiment with his method (eightfold path). I do agree that faith plays an important role, but direct knowledge of Four Noble Truths through mind-experiment was what the Buddha was after.

Best,

Tikaviro

Dharmavidya

Yes, tho it is worth reflecting what might be meant by "direct knowledge" vis-a-vis "faith". Do we actually have certain knowledge of anything? We believe the earth goes round the sun. We believe the car will start when we turn the ignition switch. We believe that we will sleep tonight and wake tomorrow - what do we know? We have memories of experiences we have had, but they are notoriously unreliable. When are we not actually acting on faith? Experiments yield experience and upon experience we may develop confidence (con-fid-ence = with-faith-ness), but never complete certainty. The fruit of science is provisional belief, not absolute knowledge and Buddhist investigation is probably the same, is it not?

Tikaviro

Hi there,

This is what I call direct knowledge...

When you see a person standing in front of you, it can be argued that that person is not real and that the guy is only an illusion. When you smell something, it can be argued that the smell is only an illusion resulting from hunger. But what cannot be argued is that the picture was there, whether it was a person or not, as well as the smell. You can say with 100% certainty that there is a picture, and there is a scent. They are there, but they do not tell you what they are, whether they are real or not. Your interpretations tell you that a guy is standing in front of you, and that you smell food. However, even if someone tries to convince you that you did not see anything, you believe with 100% certainty that there is a picture, but you cannot prove that you really see a person. In the same way, you can argue with 100% certainty that there is a smell, but you cannot prove if the smell is real.
Basically, people can see, hear, smell, taste, sense, feel both physically and mentally, as well as think all kinds of thoughts. These are what we normally experience everyday. But it is possible to experience a nature beyond the five aggregates that this world is composed of - what we normally experience in life. This is what I mean by direct knowledge. It is possible to experience a “nature” which was unconditioned, never changed, never born or die, and only had the ability know. It occupied no space. It had no color. It also had no self. That “nature” can present itself in a way that cannot be argued. It is like seeing, smelling, hearing, but the difference is that it has one nature only – it never changed, never aged, never died, never born, not me, not self, and is always there even now, at present, just knowing. That is the goal of Buddhism, as far as I understand.

Tikaviro

Just to add to my post above. Seeing the goal of Buddhism is different from having reached the goal, which is to become an Arahan.

Best

Dharmavidya

Dear Tikaviro
Thank you very much. Very interesting. I am broadly in agreement with what you are saying - one could split hairs over the distinction between "faith" and "direct knowledge" and it would probably all boil down to the usage of language. At the same time, if experience is mediated by "pictures" - and I agree that it is - then, suely, none of those pictures can be the unborn itself. All pictures are born. When a person has had a powerful spiritual experience, it changes their life. It gives new confidence and direction - as it did to Buddha. Yet, even Buddha's experience seems to have had content. The four noble truths did not get him to enlightenment: they were the fruit of it. Later he could talk about that content for the edification of his disciples. But those doctrines such as dependent origination and those images such as assault by Mara are not the unborn itself - or, at least, are no more the unborn than anything else is. I think this, therefore, still leaves us ordinary beings at least (buddhas might be a different case) in the position of having faith in the unborn or whatever one might call it. Such faith would be an essential element, for instance, in distinguishing between a spiritual experience and hallucination, which also provides compelling "pictures". Direct knowledge, in your definition, will support and increase faith but may simply be confusing without it. And faith without direct knowledge may still be a sound basis for a spiritual life. From a practical perspective, it would not be much use to take a "nothing less than being an arahant will do" position because this would make Buddhism out of reach to the vast majority of humankind - a very elitist position indeed. We each do our best, but there is something about being human that renders perfection elusive. Thank you.

Tikaviro

Dharmavida,

Thank you. Faith does have a large role in shaping a person’s spiritual life as you pointed out. For me, I don’t have much liberty to learn other religions in detail as I was born in Thailand, and Buddhism became my religion naturally. However, reading Buddhist books and talking to Buddhist monks gave me enough faith to carry on as a Buddhist and try to practice what the Buddha taught.

Regarding direct knowledge, I totally agree that it has to potential to strongly reinforce faith in Buddhism. Apart from arahans, once a person has direct knowledge, it becomes memory. The strength of this memory, the number of times a person has direct knowledge, and the domino effect of the direct knowledge has on a person’s mind determines how for a person has achieved in his/her spiritual path.

I once talked to Ajahn Ban of Wat Doi Dharma Jadi, in the Northeast of Thailand about this, he said that it can happen countless times to a person. And the more it happens to a person, the closer he is to the goal.

Best,

Tikaviro

Dharmavidya

Thank you. Yes, in a broad way this is likely to be so, tho I imagine you would agree that one should not therefore make the pursuit of such experience into a goal in its own right. Thank you for participating in this discussion.

Tikaviro

Thank you for spending time on this discussion. Pursuiting such an experience into a goal can be dangerous, and my Buddhist teacher has never encouraged his students to do so. The focus of the teachings has always be on the nature of the five agregates. If such experience comes, it comes by itself.
Thank you again

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