The Buddha was not a mystic: Not Believing Buddhism

During the last year I have been told several times that my take on Buddhism sounds much like Stephen Batchelor‘s take.  So I finally bought one of his books:  Buddhism without Beliefs.  Below I quote four paragraphs (pgs 4-5) which illustrate our common insights — I suggest reading the whole thing.

Despite the Buddha’s own succinct account of his awakening, it has come to be represented (even by Buddhists) as something quite different.  Awakening has become a mystical experience, a moment of transcendent revelation of the Truth.  Religious interpretations invariably reduce complexity to uniformity while elevating matter-of-factness to holiness.  Over time, increasing emphasis has been placed on a single Absolute Truth, such as “the Deathless,” “the Unconditioned,” “the Void,” “Nirvana,” “Buddha Nature,” etc., rather than on an interwoven complex of truths.

And the crucial distinction that each truth requires being acted upon in its own particular way (understanding anguish, letting go of it origins, realizing its cessation, and cultivating the path) has be relegated to the margins of specialist doctrinal knowledge.  Few Buddhists today are probably even aware of the distinction.

Yet in failing to make this distinction, four ennobling truths to be acted upon are neatly turned into four propositions of fact to be believed.  The first truth becomes: “Life Is suffering”; the second: “The Cause of Suffering is Craving”–and so on.  At precisely this juncture, Buddhism becomes a religion.  A Buddhist is someone who believes these four propositions.  In leveling out these truths into propositions that claim to be true,  Buddhists are distinguished from Christians, Muslims, and Hindus, who believe different sets of propositions.  The four ennobling truths become principal dogmas of the belief system known as “Buddhism.”

The Buddha was not a mystic.  His awakening was not a shattering insight into a transcendent Truth that revealed to him the mysteries of God.  He did not claim to have had an experience that granted him privileged, esoteric knowledge of how the universe ticks.  Only as Buddhism became more and more a religion were such grandiose claims imputed to his awakening.  In describing to the five ascetics what his awakening meant, he spoke of have discovered complete freedom of heart and mind from the compulsions of craving.  He called such freedom the taste of dharma.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

50 responses to “The Buddha was not a mystic: Not Believing Buddhism

  1. Man… I’m kinda sad to hear that Buddhist awakening isn’t akin to one of your Pokemon evolving. Regardless, Batchelor’s take on it all does seem like something nice to attain to.

    Oh, and I think your blog’s not blocked in China anymore🙂

    Catch you on the flip side, good sir.

  2. Hey Zachary,
    Great to see you back. Yes, Tom at Ephiphenom also was told his site was unblocked. Good to know that the billions of Chinese who read this site are no longer deprived of my foolishness!
    BTW, how did you know about my Pokemon collection?!😀

  3. I read How Japan’s religions confront tragedy yesterday and couldn’t help but feel that some of the Buddhist traditions have strayed from the foundation. I wonder how much of this mysticism has grown due to the influence of other religious traditions.

  4. @ Mike
    As several of my previous posts illustrate (much to the disagreement with many Western Buddhists), most of Buddhism is full of superstition. (see my Mandala post).
    Thanks for the link!

  5. Yes, the “ism” is full of all sorts of odd superstitions, blending of hocus pocus non-sense things, but as Batchelor points out, this is not what the Buddha was alluding too. I think the issue might be that Western Buddhists tend to see ‘Buddhism’ as what the Buddha taught, rather than see ‘Buddhism’ as the countless traditions have grown into.

    But, labels are labels, and sometimes we need labels to identify with. When Batchelor says “Awakening has become a mystical experience, a moment of transcendent revelation of the Truth,” I think whenever we attempt to define what “it” is in grandiose terms, we fall further off the mark when we try to explain it in basic concepts. But both are wrong.

  6. @Sabio Yes, I recall your posts about Buddhism and superstition, and I enjoyed them. Perhaps what I know of Buddha and his teachings has been so filtered through the western world, that I don’t see much superstition in what I know of what Buddha is purported to have taught. I’m going to do some more reading on Buddhism and the Buddhist sriptures. I’m determined to actually start reading again.

    We watched Princess Mononoke over the weekend, I hadn’t seen it in too long, and Robyn never had. She loved it. Shinto is the main religion represented in the film and I’ve often found it interesting that Shinto, while having a presence here in the US, is nowhere near as popular as Buddhism, and doesn’t seem to have been influenced anywhere near as much by western viewpoints.

  7. I was struck by this, which seems central to his argument:

    Yet in failing to make this distinction, four ennobling truths to be acted upon are neatly turned into four propositions of fact to be believed. … At precisely this juncture, Buddhism becomes a religion.

    Is he really saying that the definition of religion is “propositions of fact to be believed”, and is he also saying that “truths to be acted upon” is not religion?

    That seems really weird to me. The first I would call a “creed”, and the second I would call a “faith”. In any case, it’s really difficult to follow his line of thinking if he doesn’t precisely define what he means by religion; particularly since he seems to be using a definition that isn’t shared with most other people.

  8. alycliffhanger

    Thinking of enlightenment religiously, believing in it, pushes it out of reach, making it seem very exotic, mystical, and fancy. It becomes very impossible, something little ol’ me could never hope to deserve or attain.

    It’s safer to believe in it as exotic and unattainable, though, because then it’s just a matter of doing good deeds, and hoping for the best after death…

  9. Ed

    Hi Sabio… very nice post. As you know I like Steven Batchelor. I have met him at Steve Hagen’s Dharma Field center a few times. At our last meeting I was telling him of my current “understanding”, which boiled down to, “well then, why do anything at all?” I could not understand all the meditating, bowing, reading, lectures or studying if the bottom line was unlearn-able and unteachable. What I heard most often was something like, “there really isn’t anything one can say about it.” REALLY??? Why then do you keep talking? So, every time somebody would position themselves as knowing more than the rest of us, I would ask my question. So, Mr. Batchelor said, “OK Ed, then that is your koan. You could work with that.” I got my answer and no longer pursue any form of Buddhism.

  10. Ed

    PS… nor do I try to not pursue Buddhism.

  11. “I got my answer and no longer pursue any form of Buddhism…nor do I try to not pursue Buddhism.”

    I like it!

  12. alycliffhanger

    nice, Ed : )

  13. Jen

    I’m currently reading Batchelor’s book–which is to say, I’ve begun and catch odd snatches in rare free moments. I read his Buddhism Without Belief years ago, and this is the approach to Buddhism appeals to me in the most honest way possible.

    Hey, simple freedom from the compulsions of craving sounds good enough to me.

    Thanks for a thoughtful, engaging post.

  14. @ Kyle :
    I think many Western Buddhists do exactly what Batchelor is criticizing:

    reduce complexity to uniformity while elevating matter-of-factness to holiness. Over time, increasing emphasis has been placed on a single Absolute Turth, such as “the Deathless,” “the Unconditioned,” “the Void,” “Nirvana,” “Buddha Nature,” etc., [read: “Mindfulness”, “non-Duality” …”]

    And again, here:

    He did not claim to have had an experience that granted him privileged, esoteric knowledge of how the universe ticks.

    @ Mike :
    Coincidentally, I just sent a friend the list of Miyazake’s films with comments early this morning. See, there is a Buddha!🙂
    Shinto is very nationalistic, thus I don’t think it could spread easily.
    Best wishes on your Buddhist studies.

    @ JS Allen :
    First, I don’t want to get into the “what is religion” discussion — I have done this many other places. Instead, I think he means the word derogatorily referring to superstitions and naive idealism. You may feel that his ideas of superstitions and idealism are wrong, but I don’t think he was trying to use the word to map to your world.

    But that to the side, I think he is deriding “beliefisms”: the notion that all we have to do is believe the right thing and we can rest with a certain security. It is a notion I know you, even as a Christian, do not hold (right?). He is emphasizing praxis, I think — as simple as that. I think he would agree with your “Creed” use, but disagree with “Faith” because of all its connotations of unjustified belief or unsupported belief — whether that is what how you hold that nebulous word or not.

    So I think he is not speaking to the audience you imagine and instead most of his readers would understand the import of his message — even if you would disagree with that too.

    @ Aly :
    Exactly — well said.

    @ Ed :
    Thanx, I just quoted someone so no credit to me.🙂
    I don’t know the “unlearn-able” notion that may be in Batchelor’s thoughts — I would have to hear a quote. For me, it does not seem he is going that way. I know he teaches seminars in meditation and I am imagining that he sees potential value in it. But I may be wrong. I guess I will just have to finish this book.

    Since “Buddhism” is fuzzy, pursuing or not pursuing is meaningless to me unless someone spells out what that means. So in that sense, I get what you mean. If you meant something else, you’ll have to clarify it for me. I am, I must confess, a bit allergic to cute quips. They are like poems and let the reader and the author think whatever they want and never really communicate — even if they both feel something. So, unlike Mike and Aly, your aphorism left me without understanding — but then maybe I lack the poet’s heart.

  15. Right, I was only clarifying that by “religious” he meant “creed” to point out that he’s making a false dichotomy. He’s acting as if Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism are mainly about doxis, while (authentic, according to him) Buddhism is about praxis. I think that’s a false dichotomy. One could argue that all three of the religions he mentioned place more emphasis on praxis than does Buddhism. I think he demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the function of creeds. Creeds, in the case of Islam and Christianity, were simply a tool used to ascertain social belonging to an organization, since both thrived on conversions (unlike, say, Judaism). They were not, and are not, central to the praxis of the religion.

  16. @Sabio – Yes, some are, some aren’t. When he says “Yet in failing to make this distinction, four ennobling truths to be acted upon are neatly turned into four propositions of fact to be believed.” I don’t know why people would believe a proposition to be true if they haven’t understood it for themselves. While I certainly see some Western Buddhists doing this, like someone said before, why even bother? To look at his quotes a bit more:

    “Religious interpretations invariably reduce complexity to uniformity while elevating matter-of-factness to holiness. Over time, increasing emphasis has been placed on a single Absolute Turth, such as “the Deathless,” “the Unconditioned,” “the Void,” “Nirvana,” “Buddha Nature,” etc., rather than on an interwoven complex of truths.”

    Yes, many traditions do, which is unfortunate. Those that emphasis one side of the story completely miss the entire point. I actually think, unlike Batchelor, that many Western Buddhists over complicate it all by doing things like quoting Buddha as if he were a holy figure, digging into the enormous amount of texts in the Pali Cannon and Tripitaka reading literally into them, quoting them like scripture and over playing the entire “religious” part too much. Many are quick to ostracize and show disdain for those who take a different approach, as I’ve learned first hand.

    “A Buddhist is someone who believes these four propositions.” – So does this mean I am not a Buddhist?

  17. @ Jen
    Thanks. If this book goes well, I hope to enjoy his next too.

  18. Ed

    @ Sabio… happy to respond. But first, what do you mean by my aphorism? “Why do anything at all?” Or, “I no longer pursue Buddhism nor do I not pursue it.” I always enjoy dialogue with you but am unsure of your question. Thanks…

  19. @ JS Allen :
    Much of Christianity is simple “beliefism” but so is much of Buddhism. Praxis is key for all of us, eh? I think “right belief” permeates much of evangelical Christianity. I think he is pointing at any religion that bases salvation on confession and belief even to some degree.

    @ Kyle Lovett :
    I am guessing Bachelor would actually agree with your point about over-complicating but that he was speaking about a different issue. But I am not sure yet – just started the book!🙂
    I don’t think he is talking about “believing” those 4 propositions but was typifying others, no? That part was a bit confusing, now that I look at it. Thanks.

    @ Ed
    Ah, your aphorism that I was referring to was:

    I got my answer and no longer pursue any form of Buddhism nor do I try to not pursue Buddhism.

  20. @Sabio – Ok, sending some traffic your way. I think I beginning to understand more from where you are coming from, so I wrote it up in a post…..or maybe not.🙂

  21. In your title, “Buddha was not a mystic”, how are you defining mystic/mysticism?

  22. Batchelor is right when he says the Buddha was not a mystic. He is wrong when he says that with the Four Noble Truths it becomes a religion. That is when is it becomes a philosophy. There is a difference between the two. There is nothing “religious” about the 4T. It is a point of view. If it seems reasonable to someone, that’s great, but there is nothing to “believe” in.

    Batchelor like many Westerners interested in Eastern philosophy is layering his own Western religious prejudices onto the subject. This is not to say that Buddhism has not taken on a lot of religious trappings, many of which are more cultural in nature than anything else, or that some traditions have not strayed from the foundation. But what folks like Batchelor fail to understand is that a philosophy has to be about something, and if you deconstruct every component, you have nothing.

    Buddhism without a distinctive point of view just becomes meditation or yoga. Is that the point? To reduce everything to a boring sameness? I am all in favor of de-mystifying Buddhism, but it seems to me that such an endeavor requires firmer footing that Batchelor is on and it does not require dismissing the core ideas that make Buddhism Buddhism.

    It is amazing to me that Batchelor, someone who has translated Shantideva and Nagarjuna, would write something like “Absolute Turth, such as “the Deathless,” “the Unconditioned,” “the Void,” “Nirvana,” “Buddha Nature,” etc. rather than on an interwoven complex of truths.” But they ARE an interwoven complex of truths. In the final analysis, they all amount to basically the same thing. Except maybe for Absolute Turth, cuz I don’t know what a turth is . . .

  23. @Sabio It’s good to be back, my fellow fool🙂

    And I was referring to my own Pokemon collection, unfortunately.

    ::hangs head in shame::

    Out of curiosity, why are so many responses to this entry blaming the “ism”-ification of Buddhism on Western influence? From my own personal experience, Tibetan Buddhism in some of its purist forms is still riddled with ritual, rank, and other stuff that’s being dismissed as overcomplicated twaddle.

  24. @ Adam :
    Hey dude. The sentence was Batchelor’s — last paragraph first sentence. “Mystic” is indeed a word used in lots of ways. I am not sure how he would define his use of “mystic”, but the context of his sentence seems to spell it out a little:

    “The Buddha was not a mystic. His awakening was not a shattering insight into a transcendent Truth that revealed to him the mysteries of God. He did not claim to have had an experience that granted him privileged, esoteric knowledge of how the universe ticks.”

    @ David :
    I think Batchelor is saying that the 4 Ennoblements (I loved his choice of wording) are critical in understanding the practice (praxis) of curing anguish (again, an interesting translation of “dukkha”). I think it is a frozen, dogmatic, superficial view (doxis) that he is criticizing. But, as I have said, I have to read further. But again, from what I have seen, I think his points are very good correctives.

    I don’t think his ‘deconstruction’ is absolute but I imagine you must be right about his inevitably layering his understanding with Modernism — it is hard for all of us to avoid layering (if not impossible).

    By the way, did you read Batchelor’s background — it seems he has deep experience (“footing”) perhaps? Am I mistaken?

    I think Batchelor was pointing out the “Monistic” tendencies among some Buddhists to focus on distilled, abstract, mystical notions by cherry picking phrases like “Buddha Nature”, “The Void”, and others. I am imagining he must feel that such notions (agreeing with you) are, instead, valuable only as interwoven complex tools.

    Oh, and thanx for pointing out the funny typo, I fixed it. But “Turths”, btw, are a species of turtles in New York that live off of fecal matter– I think.🙂

    @ Zachary Overline :
    LOL. I agree, the “ism-ization” is universal. We all cloth our practices and do our best to fit them to our neurotic tendencies. Well, most of us — I do. And I agree, and I think Batchelor does, that it happens in both the East and the West because both are heavily populated by homo sapiens.

  25. Sabio, yes Batchelor has had some “deep” experience. I agree with many of the things he writes, although with his arguments I think he fails to make the “deeper” point and that, combined with the fact that people tend to latch onto the more startling aspects, leaves folks confused.

    I do not think that Batchelor is a terribly original thinker. Most of his points have been made by others before him. For instance, the quote beginning with “The Buddha was not a mystic” is strikingly similar to a passage from Trevor Ling’s book “The Buddha” published in 1973. It’s too long to quote here, I may do a post about this today, because rather than just labeling this stuff as religious, Ling goes on to offer another way to view it which is far more helpful in the long run.

  26. Ed

    @Sabio… this is a very thoughtful thread. Your guests that are commenting are excellent. I am enjoying it a lot. Nobody has ever accused me of speaking an aphorism before. Thanks! :-} I was not trying to be cute or even to appear to be intelligent. I just stated my experience.

    I worked with the Koan (problem), “why do anything at all?” Meaning if the answer is here, i.e. no answer at all and if we are already “It” (whatever that is?)… and further if it can’t be described or defined, then why the hell talk so much about it??? Why the robes, books, bowing, foreign languages (foreigners are magic) and why all the religious fuss? After a long time I “got” my answer. Not yours or Aly’s or Mike’s.

    My answer was a personal insight. It can’t be communicated at all. So I was very careful not to accidentally start my own church… (kidding). But my so-called conclusion is that I no longer go to the zen center, read zen books, go on Buddhist retreats or the like. Nor do I avoid such.

    I hope this is an acceptable answer. But I fear not. If I understand your statement correctly it wont be. This (my aphorism) can only communicate directly to me.

  27. Sabio, I was amused by and agree with what you say to Zachary about our human tendencies to make “isms” out of our more compelling thoughts. Like you say, it’s going to happen if you get too many homo sapiens talking to each other. I wonder if whales create “isms” and, if not, how they cured themselves assuming they ever were afflicted with them.

  28. Thanks, Sabio . . . I learned a new word and got a topic for a blog post.

  29. Max

    I very much enjoy the back and forth on this. It’s a great topic which I don’t have much to add to since it seems Batchelor’s point is pretty clear. The four noble truths are a path of action or a way of being, not a belief system. A lot of it is based on his idea that the reincarnation aspects of Buddhism are beside the point the Buddha was really trying to make. The dharma is all about living effectively here and now and being a force for good in this world – while we live in it.

    I can’t get enough of Stephen Batchelor. Perhaps my favorite to date is his Living with the Devil, a series of essays describing deep insight into the dichotomy between good and evil as expressed in the Buddhist concepts of Buddha and Mara nature. As much as I love reading him I’m even more enthralled with listening to him. My local sangha has a wonderful website with thousands of hours of dharma talks by scores of teachers. There are a half dozen or so by Stephen Batchelor, including a couple on the topic of Buddha vs Mara nature I would highly recommend as worth a listen more than once. The website is here:
    and Batchelor’s talks are here:


  30. @ David :
    I have only a small data set on how people react to Batchelor’s writings and they are all favorable. I guess the question is what are you don’t want to loose. But I agree that for careful discussion, using broad terms can sometime be very counter productive.

    @ Ed :
    Now your aphorism makes sense to me. It seems it helped you to let up on pursuit of a lot of the silliness of religion and relax into certain forms of natural contentness. That would be my secular re-interpretations. And how can that be anything but excellent.

    @ Dan Gurney :
    LOL about “Whalisms”. I just bought “Inside of a Dog” and hope to learn about “Dogisms” too.

    Thanx Max :
    That was a great summary and perfect links — thank you kindly.

  31. The quote from your post, especially the last paragraph, reminded me of Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Even after Siddhartha hears Gotama speak, he walks away and learns how to practice living through his own experiences.

    I haven’t read anything by Batchelor, but I can see how his points could have been “made by others” before (as suggested by David and others). I am curious to see how he suggests remedying Buddhism of the mystic elements, if that’s his goal.

    But then again, maybe the Buddha would smile at how Batchelor gets to it in the first four or five pages, where it took Hesse about 160 pages of storytelling.

  32. Ed

    @ Sabio… I feel that I responded here as completely as I can… but one thing; Batchelor, like Steve hagen and his teacher, Katagiri Roshi, when pinned down about the essence of their teaching, all come to the point of saying something like,”It can not be described, written, given or learned”. They all say, like the ancient masters,”you must get it for yourself… it is a direct pointing to the heart of each human being”.
    To which I always wonder, then why do you have a zen center? Why do you write books? Why lecture?

    Well, Katagiri Roshi, who was also my first zen teacher, wrote a book titled “You Have To Say Something”. Steve Hagen edited that book. But my suspicion is more like “You Have To Make a Living Somehow”. :-}

  33. Max

    I haven’t read a lot of different teachers’ written works as of yet, but my feeling is that the best writing on Buddhism is more along the lines of poetry than a pragmatic how-to guide. Batchelor’s writing seems to fit that description for me. Much of what guidance he does offer is in what not to get stuck on; beliefs, doctrines, etc. If the question for a teacher is “why write books” then the equivalent question for the student would be “why read”. My answer is because it’s a joyful activity that harmonizes well with the real task of developing greater awareness.

    That said, I do sometimes think that the livelihood of a good teacher seems almost too good – as in, why didn’t I think of such a great gig as that?

  34. Ed

    @ Max… Well said. thanks….

  35. @ Andrew:
    Batchelor is set to the side for a while. But I think he practices Buddhist teachings without the “mystic” element — that is his “suggested remedy” — practice.

    @ Ed & Max:
    I loved the cynicism! The problem with cynicism is that it is always pregnant with truth!😉

  36. If a being has suffered greatly in samsara, The movement away from former conditions may be mystical to that being….In meditation all thought is released as soon as it arises… One may realize the phenomena of ego and how it prevents experience… If transcended by releasing it into it’s own field one gains knowledge that is beyond the concepts of reason…. It is “direct knowing” and it is indeed mystical… The bodisattva then uses this mystical wisdom for the benefit of all beings…. The Buddha did not teach to “fix things” but “see clearly.. Forrest Somma

  37. dan

    only the Sutra can tell why you are talking about ‘Buddhism’. without them, no Zen, no Bacthelor, no any intellectuals or psicologist that made a job out of their roaming ideas about this and that, paid to spoke nonsense.

  38. Sorry, dan, that was hard to understand.

  39. I would argue that Batchelor’s book is actually a re-interpretation of Buddhism to cohere with the intellectual prejudices of most educated people in the West. Since Immanuel Kant there has been a profound suspicion, if not outright rejection, of all metaphysical truth claims (even though Kant himself constructed an argument for the existence of God and was himself a Christian). The assumption is that our only access to truth is through the scientific method- even though that truth claim is itself an unprovable assumption by its own standards. There has been a revival of metaphysics among leading philosophers over the last 20 or 30 years and Batchelor fails to take this into account. Really his assumptions are not much different to those of a Richard Dawkins or a Sam Harris. Besides: even though Batchelor hates metaphysics he himself has an implicit metaphysics, in that he assumes that there is no supernatural reality, something he could not possibly know.

  40. @ Michael Lee,
    Here is what I hear you saying:

    “There is a god. We can know this god by our intuitions, our minds even if there is no outward evidence (Science — which is overrated). And Bachelor, a neo-Buddhist, is blind to all this, just like those Atheists – Harris and Dawkins.”

    Is that close?

  41. That is not close at all. In philosophy there is something called inference to the best explanation. I think that what classical theism means by “God” is the best explanation for everything that we know (including scientific knowledge). If we ask the question: why is there something rather than nothing and why does the universe in its deepest structures display such astonishing complexity and order and why is there consciousness and a sense of “ought” (none of which can be exhaustively explained by science): I think the best explanation for all that, and much more besides, is a Mind (ipsum esse subsistens). This is not the god-of-the-gaps because these are not questions that science could answer.

    Science is not overrated. The task of science is to make sense of physical processes in the world; and it does a good job of that. But there are all kinds of things that science cannot deal with qua science, such as historical truth, moral truth, etc, and why there is being and rational intelligibility at all. Science presupposes these things in order to get going, so to speak.

    What do we mean by evidence anyway? You seem to assume that evidence is the preserve of science; but this is obviously false. Historians, for instance, use evidence is constructing arguments that are not scientific, just as philosophers do. Evidence, it seems to me, is facts about the world that are then used to construct models that picture the way things are. Let’s take a fact. Your wife has been acting coldly toward you for several months; she goes missing in the evenings and when you ask where she has gone she says with her friend Jennifer. You ask Jennifer; but she denies that she’s even seen your wife. What is the best explanation for all this? Surely it would be proper to construct a theory? It would be none scientific though. It looks like you’re wife might be having an affair; that’s a reasonable conclusion. Other possibilities are available too- but an affair looks like the most probable. I think we use certain facts about the world in constructing models of the world; and that is not exclusively the domain of science.

  42. @ Michael Lee,

    Well, good, I’m glad I checked.

    But let’s examine your new statement.

    (1) Definition of “God”
    There is huge varieties to that definition. not sure there is such a thing as “classical theism” except as a convenient argument tool.
    But for argument sake, let’s go with your definition (call it classical or not):

    God = the explanation for everything we know.

    Which I find very, very odd. But let’s keep going.

    (1) You seem astonished by complex order — yet cellular automatons make this illusion obvious.

    (2) Why is their consciousness? Puzzling but so were many other phenomena of the past

    (3) Why is there a sense of “ought” — jeez, that is easy to explain — instinct and much more.

    (4) Calling that supposed “explanation for everything” “Mind” does not do anything except try to make some metaphyscial ontology (a spooky thing).

    (5) I am a big critic of the bias and agenda in the work of people doing stuff they call “science” and of the human mind in general. So any critiques of science don’t bother me. I don’t look at empiricism as the only source of usable knowlege by any mean, but it does not take me to a spooky zone either. Just simple stuff.

    I think you have some weird notion of science — a specialized definition. But I am not a defender of weird abstract ideas — including things called “science” — I like to be specific.

    (6) “Historical Truth”, “Moral Truth” — no idea what these are. But I am suspicious that whatever they are definitioned to be will entail a set up to prove what was sought out to be explored — “Mind” in this case, or for some “God”. Chose whatever abstract notion you wish.

    It seems you have me typified some way. Not sure what it is. Maybe as a science worshipping atheist. How did you find this blog, may I ask?

  43. Forrest Somma

    The great extension of our experience in recent years has brought to light the insufficiency of our simple mechanical conceptions and, as a consequence, has shaken the foundation on which the customary interpretation of observation was based.. Niels Bohr >>> At its core Buddhas sole concern was the ending of suffering…It is the liberation of consciousness itself as it returns to its source while alive.. Consciousness always proceeds matter and never the other way around. Thus, Buddhas realization was “all is mind” and that the mind may or may not know what is outside itself but it can know itself. Consider: no matter how powerful one’s mathematical formulas might be at the fundamental level, quantum mechanics tells us that it is impossible to predict accurately how a particle might behave in a given situation. Grasping at the independent existence of things leads to affliction, which in turn gives rise to a chain of destructive action, reactions and suffering.. There are conditions that can not be proven but can become “self evident”..Buddha did not answer questions put to him about god or the soul or the ‘beginning ‘ of the universe because the answers would not directly lead to the ending of suffering…

  44. @ Hey Somma,
    Well, there we have some Buddhist Evangelism. Its been a while since I’ve been preached too that way — last time was some Soka Gakkai Buddhist folks in Japan.

  45. Forrest Somma

    My comment was as much about physics as Buddhism; About the difference between measurement and that which can be ‘directly known;” like the question of consciousness itself, that you raise in your post, which is a good and valid question. Actually I re-read the post and am not sure where you get the idea of ‘preaching’ from as much, as the view that in general, as much as I like science also it can only take one to the window, but not through it… Other means are required with it. Science can only measure the window and theorize its quantum nature of the other side, just like the ‘container and the contained’.. Other means are required to pass through it or even define it in an authentic sense. The existence or lack of existence of a god cannot also be proven. Just like we were taught Mars was a dead, dry world; until liquid water was found on it… Atheism is just another belief, Just the other side of a belief in a god where the laws of physics break down around that god… So my purpose was not to convince you or anyone else to follow the Buddhist path or define anyone’s ‘reality’ only define my own by light of your responses…. Its called a different viewpoint, not a ridged standard of opinion.

  46. @ Somma

    (1) Atheism is the disbelief in Theism — an obvious mistake. Just because I am not a stamp collector, does not mean you can deduce all sorts of things about me.

    (2) There are lots of different contrary types of Buddhism — there is no one sort of Buddhism, any more than there is One sort of Christianity. No matter what their believers want to think or propagate.

    (3) See my post “Using Science to market Buddhism.

  47. Forrest Somma

    The problem of describing the subjective experiences of consciousness is complex indeed. For we risk objectivizing what is essentially an internal set of of experiences and excluding the necessary presents of the experiencer. We cannot remove ourselves from the equation . No scientific description of the neural mechanisms of color discrimination can make one understand what it is like to perceive, say the color red. We have a unique case of inquiry : the object of our study is mental, that which examines it is mental ans the very medium by which the study is undertaking is mental. The questions is whether the problems posed by the situation for a scientific study of consciousness are insurmountable. Although we tend to relate to the mental world as if it were homogenous- a somewhat monolithic entity called ‘the mind’- when we probe more deeply, we come to recognize that this approach is too simplistic. As we experience it, consciousness is made up of myrid highly varied and often intense mental states. Dharmakirti’s writing his critique ( writing from the 7th century C. E. ) involves demonstrating a fundamental inconsistency he perceives in the theistic standpoint. He shows the very endeavor of accounting for the for the origin of the universe in theistic terms is motivated by the principle of causality , yet- in the final analysis- theism is forced to reject this principle. By positing an absolute beginning to the chain of causation, theists are implying that there can be at least ” one cause,” which is itself outside the law of causality..Text’s like The Kalacakra Tantra; written thousands of years ago explain that space particles, or particles composed of space are the source of all matter in the universe. It also speaks of advanced concepts like ” The Principle of Efficacy.” Which includes phenomena such as causes, whoes function is to produce an effect, ans effect, which function by following after their related causes… Authentic Buddhism has almost nothing to do with Christianity…. Nor do those involved in authentic modes of equipoise in Buddhism feel a need to convince others of anything..Lastly, Though not to define others experience if someone telly you they ‘believe’ in Buddhism it is like saying “I believe there were genetic changes made in proto-humans 100,000 years ago by ancient aliens.” Thats a belief and it may be ‘truth ‘ to you but it cannot be a proved ” actuality”….. Buddhism is not a belief or faith system. Buddha taught to ” Test my words”… Profound really.. The later” Physics” happened to follow the truth taught by early Buddhist, not the other way around.. Christianity is a belief system and the faithful are commanded to convert others…Unlike Buddhism, it has a long bloody history and unlike Buddhism the practice has not ended the followers suffering…

  48. @ Somma:

    There is not “Authentic Buddhism”.

    I hear Christians and Muslims also say, “Christianity/Islam is not a religion.”

    Saying “Buddhism is not a belief or faith system.” is false.

    See my diagram here and again, realize there are many contrary forms of Buddhism.

    Buddhist battles raged in China and Japan.

    You have an idealized form of Buddhism.

    You might do well to read this book to see how the West has sterilized, homogenized and Protestantized Buddhism.

    You sound like a Buddhist Evangelist

    Please try to interact a bit with my comment instead of sermonizing.

  49. Jyo

    Buddha was ‘Sammāsambuddha’. so he cannot be mere mystic.🙂

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