1. Standard memberDarfius
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    12 Mar '05 21:56
    Excluding atheists and agnostics. We have plenty of those threads. Any other religions have people here?
  2. R.I.P.
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    12 Mar '05 22:061 edit
    Originally posted by Darfius
    Excluding atheists and agnostics. We have plenty of those threads. Any other religions have people here?
    I'm still waiting for our discussion that got high jacked the otherday! We could talk about something else. I know a little bit about buddhism.
  3. Donationrwingett
    Ming the Merciless
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    12 Mar '05 22:11
    There is someone else on this site who was big into Buddhism, but I can't remember who. Other than that, I don't think we have anyone else besides christians and atheists/agnostics of various shades going at one another all the time.
  4. R.I.P.
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    12 Mar '05 22:13
    Originally posted by rwingett
    There is someone else on this site who was big into Buddhism, but I can't remember who. Other than that, I don't think we have anyone else besides christians and atheists/agnostics of various shades going at one another all the time.
    Yes I know the guy your thinking of but can't remember his name either. Wasn't he training to be a priest or something?
  5. Joined
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    13 Mar '05 10:012 edits
    Well, I might qualify.

    I've been a student of Buddhism for about 25 years, and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation for about that length of time. I have also taught meditation classes for the past 13 years, and am a practitioner of martial arts (shito-ryu karate, and wing-chun kungfu). I've received initiations in Tibetan Buddhism -- through the Karma Kargyu and Nyingma lineages, but most of my study/practice has been in the Zen traditions, both Soto and Rinzai schools. I've also travelled extensively through Asia, and practiced in ashrams in India and Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. My studies and practices of Oriental spirituality and philosophy have not been limited to Buddhism; I've also studied Advaita Vedanta (esoteric Hindu teachings) and Taoism at length as well, some of which has included direct tutelage from Advaita masters, both in India and in North America. I was raised as a nominal Christian, but gravitated to Eastern spirituality as a young man (about 30 years ago -- I am currently near 50). My knowledge of Western religious traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) is solid enough.

    Where shall we begin the debate? 🙂

    (My time is limited, so I may not be able to respond daily, but will try to keep up).

    By way of some brief intro comments, let me say that Buddhism in some respects barely qualifies as a religion, in the sense that it is not, in the strictest sense, based on the worship of deity. It is more properly a philosophy, system of ethics, and a method for achieving wisdom, insight, and peace of mind. While there ARE Buddhist deities within their cosmologies -- particularly the Mahayana and Vajrayana lineages found mostly in Tibetan Buddhism -- the central point of Buddha's teaching is that the "self" (or "ego" in modern psychological dictum) is purely a conceptual construction -- that is, it lacks solid existence in a clearly definable form that is consistent or continuous.

    Because of this teaching, some have mistaken Buddhism as a philosophy of nihilism, but this is a shallow understanding. In fact Buddhism is based on the essential idea that our real nature is already inherently the case, and is intrinsically good. We merely have to rediscover it by disciplining the mind and taming the ego.

    We discipline the mind and tame the ego by cultivating insight. Insight is cultivated chiefly via the practice of meditation.

    Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Dzogchen Buddhism, and Advaita Vedanta all agree that our suffering in life is the result of ignorance of our real nature (an ignorance that is brought about by a number of causes). So where Buddhism differs crucially from conventional Christianity is that it does not require the redemption of the individual person by an external agent (as in the person of Jesus Christ). Islam requires conversion to the Will of Allah, also an external agent, and Judaism involves cultivating faith in Yahweh, the "One True God", again an external entity. While Buddhism holds that the founder of Buddhism, Siddartha Gautama Buddha, was indeed an actual historical person, it does not require "faith" in him or "conversion to his will". Many Buddhists do in fact possess deep faith in Buddha but the central thrust of Buddhism has not much to do with faith. It is based more on the practice of uncovering one's essential wholeness and goodness via the cultivation of insight through meditation (as well as positive actions in the world).

    In that sense, Buddhism can be very attractive to rationally oriented people (common in this age of materialism and science), because of its reduced emphasis on faith and increased emphasis on reason and meditation practice. Buddhism also does not assume that the core of human nature is "flawed", as Christianity does with the doctrine of Original Sin. Christ is necessitated via the actions of Eve in Genesis, when she falls prey to the serpent's seduction, but in Buddhism no such theological basis exists. Whereas Christianity asserts the existence of primordial evil in the form of the serpent, Buddhism holds that all such "evil" is the creation of the human mind via delusion and ignorance, and that the way through such delusion and ignorance is via cultivating the insight needed to wake up out of it. (In fact, the word "Buddha" derives from the root word "budh", meaning in Sanskrit "awake"😉.
  6. Standard memberMaustrauser
    Lord Chook
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    13 Mar '05 11:06
    Thank you for sharing. This was most enlightening and clearly written.🙂
  7. Standard memberDarfius
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    13 Mar '05 16:32
    Originally posted by Metamorphosis
    Well, I might qualify.

    I've been a student of Buddhism for about 25 years, and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation for about that length of time. I have also taught meditation classes for the past 13 years, and am a practitioner of martial arts (shito-ryu karate, and wing-chun kungfu). I've received initiations in Tibetan Buddhism -- through the ...[text shortened]... fact, the word "Buddha" derives from the root word "budh", meaning in Sanskrit "awake"😉.
    Hi Meta,

    I appreciate your response. It was well thought out.

    My first question for you is why Buddhism assumes man is inherently good? Is this based on more than "faith"?

    Secondly, do you believe in any kind of afterlife?

    Also, must one become a Buddhist to become wise, insightful and have peace of mind?

    Regards,
    Darfius
  8. Joined
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    14 Mar '05 01:042 edits
    Originally posted by Darfius
    Hi Meta,

    I appreciate your response. It was well thought out.

    My first question for you is why Buddhism assumes man is inherently good? Is this based on more than "faith"?

    Secondly, do you believe in any kind of afterlife? ...[text shortened]... come wise, insightful and have peace of mind?

    Regards,
    Darfius
    Hi Darfius --

    1. Why does Buddhism assume that Man is inherently good?

    Buddhism postulates the existence of the "Buddha-mind" as the core or essence of all sentient beings. From this premise, it then proposes a path that people can walk in order to uncover or discover this "Buddha-mind" -- which is the essence of clarity, wisdom, goodness, and compassion.

    As for the second part of your question -- "is this based on more than faith?" -- in order to answer that, I have to mention the process of the Buddha's Enlightenment and what he discovered while sitting under the Banyen tree 2,500 years ago.

    The essence of the Buddha's realization can be boiled down to one term -- "non-duality". What Buddha saw was that once he'd sufficiently calmed his mind and seen beyond its confusions, identifications, and projections, there was one unqualified reality "left over", and that was the direct understanding that the ego -- the fundamental sense of seperation and isolation that forms the core of the self -- was nothing other than a collection of thoughts in the mind.

    Once he saw directly into the transitory nature of the ego and the separate self, he then became aware of a much greater, vaster reality that he tacity and clearly understood to be his real nature. The Sanskrit term for this "real nature" is *shunyata*, which has been clumsily translated in English as "emptiness". (A problem with the English language is that it is primarily a technical language, not a spiritual one. Sanskrit is a spiritual language, and so they have all sorts of words that define subtle nuances of spiritual states, words that simply have no parallel in English and so can only be approximately translated).

    "Emptiness" in this case does not equate to "nothingness", as it sometimes mistakenly assumed. "Emptiness" means, in this context, "empty of inherent or solid existence."

    The basic idea is that our natural state or real nature is one of pure consciousness, and consciousness itself cannot be measured or quantified or reduced. According to Buddhism, consciousness is irreduceable and unmeasurable, as well as unconditioned by space or time. The entire universe of space and time as we typically perceive it is a product of sensory input and conceptual construction, lacking any inherent existence beyond that.

    This idea explains, according to Buddhism, how the universe can exist, that is, how we can get past the seeming logical absurdity of how "something came from nothing", sometimes called "ex nihilo" in Latin. The old conundrum of what came "before the Big Bang", or "what was God doing before He created the universe", is addressed in Buddhism via the teaching that all things lack inherent existence, meaning, they are only creations of within our perceptual fields of sensory input and cognition. The key to grasping the "origin of all things", according to Buddhism, is in unraveling the mystery of time. Time is a conceptual construct. It is purely a measurement of the relative movement of objects in space. When it is seen that spatial dimension is fundementally an illusion, then it is automatically seen that time is also an illusion.

    One point to be stressed -- by calling space and time "illusions", that does not mean that their effects are not powerful, immediate, and requiring to be addressed by anyone existing in a physical body. Illusions can be extremely potent and effectual. When someone is asleep and dreaming, you do not violently throw water on their face to wake them up. This teaching does not devalue the world, nor lack respect or compassion for where people "are at". It merely seeks to address the underlying cause of suffering and unhappiness, which is that people come to believe that space and time are real in an ABSOLUTE sense. With this belief comes belief in the ultimate reality of the body, and in how we are nothing more than the body. When we think we're nothing more than the body, then the ego holds sway, with its ruling doctrine that all beings are eternally separate from each other, and thus must be eternally at conflict with each other in order to survive.

    So to sum, Buddha's experience of the "Buddha-mind" -- our naturally awakened condition -- was based on his profound realization that at the core, all things are One, that is, inherently connected, non-dual (not two), and of the nature of pure formless consciousness. This "pure formless consciousness" is wisdom, clarity, goodness, compassion, acceptance, etc. What blocks us from seeing / experiencing this "core" is the mind and its delusions. Therefore, by disciplining the mind via meditation, we have the possibility of clearing away these delusions that are obscuring our core, much like clouds blocking the sunlight.

    2. Do I believe in any kind of afterlife?

    A big question, but briefly, yes. The Buddhist view of the afterlife is that there are six primary dimensions or realms, one of which is the human realm. The "heaven" realm for them is of finite duration, that is, beings who stay there must sooner or later reincarnate in human form again in order to complete their lessons. The "hell" realms in Buddhism are remedial and also finite in duration. Beings whose karma (sum of their Earthly actions) draws them into the hell realms stay there until sufficiently purified (humbled), and then reincarnate again with another chance at spiritually evolving.

    The highest "realm" in Buddhist teaching is Nirvana, but it should be understood that "Nirvana" is not a place. It is a condition of being that is completely free of all delusions. Buddhism teaches that even the heaven realms are still mired in subtle but powerful illusions, based on spiritualized ego.

    My own believes around life after death are based on several decades of studying the matter, via such texts as the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as well as a number of "out of body" experiences I once passed through during certain meditation practices. For myself, the certainty of the survival of consciousness beyond the body is essentially 100%, although admittedly this is subjective and not objectively verifiable.

    3. Must one become a Buddhist to become wise, insightful, and have peace of mind?

    I would say no, certainly not. In my own view, the realization of our deepest spiritual potential transcends any given religious tradition. And it seems to me that the greatest spiritual masters -- Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, Lao Tzu, Hakuin, Bodhidharma, Ramana Maharshi, etc. -- all said essentially the same thing. All were rebels and none allowed themselves to be defined by the religious structures of their time. They spoke to our highest potential only.
  9. Joined
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    bumped up from page 2...

  10. Joined
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    15 Mar '05 13:56
    Originally posted by Metamorphosis
    Hi Darfius --

    1. Why does Buddhism assume that Man is inherently good?

    Buddhism postulates the existence of the "Buddha-mind" as the core or essence of all sentient beings. From this premise, it then proposes a path that people can walk in order to uncover or discover this "Buddha-mind" -- which is the essence of clarity, wisdom, goodness, an ...[text shortened]... e defined by the religious structures of their time. They spoke to our highest potential only.
    You mentioned Jesus was a great spiritual master.
    From what we know about Him:
    He said that He was the only way to the Father.
    He said that He came to die for our sins.
    He said that He would be crucified and rise again.
    He said that anyone who speaks of another way besides through Him and His name was a liar and a thief.
    He claimed to be God who came to earth to die for us, and that is the crime for which he was crucified.

    Now, if He was a great spiritual master, did He speak the truth or was He lieing? Did the scriptures change? If they did change then they must have changed completely, because these are the foundations of what history tells us about Him.

    Isn't it true that you must either believe that He is God or you have to believe that He is a liar and a deceiver who conned the whole world into following a myth ... but definitely you can never say that He was a great spiritual master.
  11. Joined
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    Just so you know Acts, this thread is intended to be a debate between Darfius and Metamorphosis. 🙂
  12. Standard memberAlcra
    Lazy Sod
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    15 Mar '05 14:26
    Originally posted by Metamorphosis
    Hi Darfius --

    1. Why does Buddhism assume that Man is inherently good?

    Buddhism postulates the existence of the "Buddha-mind" as the core or essence of all sentient beings. From this premise, it then proposes a path that people can walk in order to uncover or discover this "Buddha-mind" -- which is the essence of clarity, wisdom, goodness, an ...[text shortened]... e defined by the religious structures of their time. They spoke to our highest potential only.
    Hi

    Interesting post - thanks.

    My questions, are:

    1) Do Buddhists believe in a supernatural being
    2) Is this belief required (I would think that enlightenment can be achieved by not believing).

  13. Standard memberDarfius
    The Apologist
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    15 Mar '05 19:05
    Buddhism postulates the existence of the "Buddha-mind" as the core or essence of all sentient beings. From this premise, it then proposes a path that people can walk in order to uncover or discover this "Buddha-mind" -- which is the essence of clarity, wisdom, goodness, and compassion.

    I see. So would I be fair in stating that Buddhism doesn't offer "the" answer, but rather "an" answer?

    As for the second part of your question -- "is this based on more than faith?" -- in order to answer that, I have to mention the process of the Buddha's Enlightenment and what he discovered while sitting under the Banyen tree 2,500 years ago.

    The essence of the Buddha's realization can be boiled down to one term -- "non-duality". What Buddha saw was that once he'd sufficiently calmed his mind and seen beyond its confusions, identifications, and projections, there was one unqualified reality "left over", and that was the direct understanding that the ego -- the fundamental sense of seperation and isolation that forms the core of the self -- was nothing other than a collection of thoughts in the mind.


    Interesting, but doesn't address my question.

    Once he saw directly into the transitory nature of the ego and the separate self, he then became aware of a much greater, vaster reality that he tacity and clearly understood to be his real nature. The Sanskrit term for this "real nature" is *shunyata*, which has been clumsily translated in English as "emptiness". (A problem with the English language is that it is primarily a technical language, not a spiritual one. Sanskrit is a spiritual language, and so they have all sorts of words that define subtle nuances of spiritual states, words that simply have no parallel in English and so can only be approximately translated).

    Again, very interesting, but I was hoping for more of a debate than a history lesson. 😉

    "Emptiness" in this case does not equate to "nothingness", as it sometimes mistakenly assumed. "Emptiness" means, in this context, "empty of inherent or solid existence."

    The basic idea is that our natural state or real nature is one of pure consciousness, and consciousness itself cannot be measured or quantified or reduced. According to Buddhism, consciousness is irreduceable and unmeasurable, as well as unconditioned by space or time. The entire universe of space and time as we typically perceive it is a product of sensory input and conceptual construction, lacking any inherent existence beyond that.


    I see. So are we all born with this blindness to reality? Is that how objectivity is explained?

    This idea explains, according to Buddhism, how the universe can exist, that is, how we can get past the seeming logical absurdity of how "something came from nothing", sometimes called "ex nihilo" in Latin. The old conundrum of what came "before the Big Bang", or "what was God doing before He created the universe", is addressed in Buddhism via the teaching that all things lack inherent existence, meaning, they are only creations of within our perceptual fields of sensory input and cognition. The key to grasping the "origin of all things", according to Buddhism, is in unraveling the mystery of time. Time is a conceptual construct. It is purely a measurement of the relative movement of objects in space. When it is seen that spatial dimension is fundementally an illusion, then it is automatically seen that time is also an illusion.

    Hmm, Christians believe time is an illusion as well. We believe God created time to make things make sense for us. I'm not sure how Buddhism "explains it better", since it doesn't address how our "consciousness" came into being and what would have happened had Buddha not had that free time.

    One point to be stressed -- by calling space and time "illusions", that does not mean that their effects are not powerful, immediate, and requiring to be addressed by anyone existing in a physical body. Illusions can be extremely potent and effectual. When someone is asleep and dreaming, you do not violently throw water on their face to wake them up. This teaching does not devalue the world, nor lack respect or compassion for where people "are at". It merely seeks to address the underlying cause of suffering and unhappiness, which is that people come to believe that space and time are real in an ABSOLUTE sense. With this belief comes belief in the ultimate reality of the body, and in how we are nothing more than the body. When we think we're nothing more than the body, then the ego holds sway, with its ruling doctrine that all beings are eternally separate from each other, and thus must be eternally at conflict with each other in order to survive.

    Again, Christians do not believe we are just a body. We believe we have a soul--perhaps what Buddhists call consciousness--that is inherently seperate from our body. And we have an answer as to where this came from.

    So to sum, Buddha's experience of the "Buddha-mind" -- our naturally awakened condition -- was based on his profound realization that at the core, all things are One, that is, inherently connected, non-dual (not two), and of the nature of pure formless consciousness. This "pure formless consciousness" is wisdom, clarity, goodness, compassion, acceptance, etc. What blocks us from seeing / experiencing this "core" is the mind and its delusions. Therefore, by disciplining the mind via meditation, we have the possibility of clearing away these delusions that are obscuring our core, much like clouds blocking the sunlight.

    What caused this illusion in the first place? If all those good things (wisdom, clarity, etc.) are our awakened state, why in the heck did we ever go to sleep?

    A big question, but briefly, yes. The Buddhist view of the afterlife is that there are six primary dimensions or realms, one of which is the human realm. The "heaven" realm for them is of finite duration, that is, beings who stay there must sooner or later reincarnate in human form again in order to complete their lessons. The "hell" realms in Buddhism are remedial and also finite in duration. Beings whose karma (sum of their Earthly actions) draws them into the hell realms stay there until sufficiently purified (humbled), and then reincarnate again with another chance at spiritually evolving.

    Are these realms anything more than conjecture? Did Buddha reveal them or were they later "discovered"? Who was the very first soul to be reincarnated?

    The highest "realm" in Buddhist teaching is Nirvana, but it should be understood that "Nirvana" is not a place. It is a condition of being that is completely free of all delusions. Buddhism teaches that even the heaven realms are still mired in subtle but powerful illusions, based on spiritualized ego.

    So once you reach Nirvana, can you elect to stop the journey? Or are you forced to earn it again? Is any of this eternal? In other words, if a huge asteroid hit the earth, would this process continue somehow?

    My own believes around life after death are based on several decades of studying the matter, via such texts as the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as well as a number of "out of body" experiences I once passed through during certain meditation practices. For myself, the certainty of the survival of consciousness beyond the body is essentially 100%, although admittedly this is subjective and not objectively verifiable.

    I believe in consciousness beyond the body as well. Do you have any idea what you would be doing? Especially once you reach Nirvana, any plans? If you would, please elaborate on these "out of body" experiences. What did you do? How did you feel? How did you reach this point?

    I would say no, certainly not. In my own view, the realization of our deepest spiritual potential transcends any given religious tradition. And it seems to me that the greatest spiritual masters -- Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, Lao Tzu, Hakuin, Bodhidharma, Ramana Maharshi, etc. -- all said essentially the same thing. All were rebels and none allowed themselves to be defined by the religious structures of their time. They spoke to our highest potential only.

    If not, then what is the point of being Buddhist? Is it just an option? Speaking of Jesus, He also talked extensively about Heaven and Hell. He said He was the only way to reach Heaven, and that if you ignored Him, you would go to Hell. Is He a liar? Crazy? How do Buddhists address this fact and still call Him a spiritual master?

    Regards,
    Darfius
  14. Joined
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    16 Mar '05 00:57
    Originally posted by Acts29
    You mentioned Jesus was a great spiritual master.
    From what we know about Him:
    He said that He was the only way to the Father.
    He said that He came to die for our sins.
    He said that He would be crucified and rise again.
    He said that anyone who speaks of another way besides through Him and His name was a liar and a thief.
    He claimed to be God who came to ...[text shortened]... into following a myth ... but definitely you can never say that He was a great spiritual master.
    Acts29, I do not accept the Judeo-Christian Bible to be divinely inerrant. I believe it to be the work of a group of men, drawn out over many years. The NT I believe to be a series of writings attempting to capture the memory of a Jewish sage (Jesus) who walked the Earth from roughly 4 BC to 30 AD.

    Basically, I see that there are a few different "categories" of spiritual belief/study...

    1. Fundamentalism, in which in the case of Christianity, means that the Bible is accepted as divinely inerrant and wholly without contradiction. The fundamentalist operates on faith, primarily. Of course, the dark side of fundamentalist faith is rigid condemnation of those who believe and perceive differently. This rigidity is behind most religiously motivated wars. The bloodshed of the intifadas in the Middle East are good examples of this, where Muslim and Jewish fundamentalism clashes with terrible results.

    The positive quality of deep faith is a comforting trust in one's destiny, and in the underyling causes of what can seem to be a terrifyingly arbitrary universe. So faith in itself has the potential to instill meaning to life.

    The negative qualities of faith show up when it overpowers critical thought and the capacity to reason in a healthy fashion. No more really needs to be said here; humanity is full of the history of the destructiveness that can arise from an imbalance between faith and capacity to reason.

    2. Mysticism, which may be said to be a path that attempts to combine a personal relationship with transcendantal forces -- in specific, the universal "life force" that is found in most spiritual traditions -- along with sharp insight and capacity to reason that is not bound by the sluggishness of scientific materialism.

    The "universal life force" has been known by many different names...

    a. Kundalini / Prana / Shakti (in India)
    b. Chi (in China)
    c. Ki (in Japan)
    d. Ruach (in Judaism)
    e. Holy Spirit (in Christianity)
    f. Mannas (in Polynesian cultures)

    and so forth. When one does the research into these various traditions, one ends up being startled by the parallel descriptions of the effects and qualities and subjective experiences connected to this "force". A person who aspires to an individual spiritual path that involves bypassing the ecclesiastical intermediary of organized religions (priest, imam, rabbi, etc.) and involves knowledge of this "universal force" is one walking the path of mysticism, generally speaking (which granted, can take widely varying forms).

    3. The rationalist. This path is often found in students and practictioners of Buddhism or other Eastern paths. Buddhism is unusual in that it places no real empthasis on study / experience of the "universal force". It does not deny its existence, it simply does not focus on it, instead choosing to employ reason and experiential practice in the service of awakening deep insight.

    4. The dilettant (or dabbler). This type can be intelligent enough, but is usually someone "posing" as a person actually interested in spiritual debate when in fact they are more motivated by a need to define and reinforce their identity by "matching wits" against others. That is, the dabbler is more someone still operating out of what in psychology is sometimes called "reaction-formation", a stage in development characterized by the need to simply oppose whatever is said -- you say white, I say black, if you say left, I'll say right, if you say up, I'll say down, etc. This may sound simply adolescent but it shows up with surprising frequencey in any kind of religious debating.

    I mention all these "categories" because I've found that they can be useful to see clearly prior to engaging in debate, as all "types" often employ different languaging and it can be very difficult to actually communicate with each other, let alone "debate" For example, a dabbler is not going to understand a fundamentalist, or vice versa. In theory, a rationalist can understand all types, but in all likelihood he is not going to be able to budge a fundmantalist, or vice versa. Of course that doesn't mean that dialogue shouldn't happen, but seeing this different modes of study and learning can help when frustration arises in trying to "get the other" to see our points of view.

    "Now, if He was a great spiritual master, did He speak the truth or was He lieing? Did the scriptures change? If they did change then they must have changed completely, because these are the foundations of what history tells us about Him."

    From my point of view, about 50% of what Jesus is alleged to have said was not in fact said by him. So I do not believe he was a liar, but I do believe that the scriptures were distorted in places over time. But I'm sure you've heard that point of view many times, and I'm sure it will not effect your faith one iota. Nor would I expect it to. 🙂
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    16 Mar '05 01:14
    Originally posted by Alcra
    Hi

    Interesting post - thanks.

    My questions, are:

    1) Do Buddhists believe in a supernatural being
    2) Is this belief required (I would think that enlightenment can be achieved by not believing).

    Hi Alcra --

    1. If we define "supernatural" as something "beyond the laws of Nature" (dictionary definition), then in the strictest sense, no, Buddhism would not embrace the supernatural. This is because Buddhism addresses the idea that our Enlightened condition is actually our *natural state*. Meaning, when we clear away all mental delusions and confused thinking, via the disciplining of the mind (in various ways), what is then left over is clear and direct understanding of what our fundamental nature is.

    An analogy -- consider a white sheet of paper, covered in black dots. When we look at such a sheet of paper, where does out attention go? Most people will notice the black dots. That is, our attention gravitates toward the foreground of things.

    That's a metaphor for the way we generally perceive the universe via the lens of the ego and separation-based identity. When we learn to redirect our focus from the black dots to the background paper (to continue the metaphor), we become aware of something vaster, deeper, and stable. This "something" is consciousness itself, divested of any conceptual overlay. It is radiant and unqualified, but cannot be said to be "supernatural" because, in a sense, it is the most natural thing there is, our actual inherent nature. Buddhists call this the "Buddha-mind", or, translated, "the awake mind".

    2. Absolutely, enightenment does not require belief in any sort of supernatural agency.

    Buddha was once asked by someone, "Who are you? Are you a god?"

    He said "no".

    The man asked, "are you an angel?"

    He said "no".

    "Are you a devil?"

    "No".

    "Then what are you?"

    Buddha replied, "I am awake."
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